Intelligent Design on Trial

Article excerpt


It's unfortunate that intelligent design is standing trial in Pennsylvania. Scientific theories require decades, sometimes centuries, to develop, to withstand scrutiny before they are accepted as legitimate. Trying to force acceptance - or denial - quickly is an end-run around the scientific method and the spirit of free inquiry. Whatever the lower courts decide about whether intelligent design can be mentioned in public schools, the controversy will probably reach the Supreme Court, which will be asked to determine what is scientific and what is not.

Clearly, the Dover Area School District, by forcing the issue with its requirement that teachers read a four-paragraph "statement" identifying intelligent design as an alternative theory to Darwinian evolution, has done neither science nor students any favors. Intelligent design is a proposition in a state of infancy, and has not earned a place in public school curriculums. A wide range of alternative propositions are never taught precisely because there is no structure to challenge prevailing opinion. That doesn't mean the alternatives are wrong; but students should learn first the best explanation, given what is known. Despite its many flaws, Darwinian evolution remains the standard.

It's no surprise that 11 Dover parents, with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is ever eager to advance atheism as secular theology, sued the school district on the grounds that intelligent design is "a 21st century version of creationism." In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public schools violates the Constitution's establishment clause, separating church and state. …