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PA School Board Mandates "Intelligent Design"

Rural Pennsylvania Dover Area High School sophomores Katie Froman and Brittany Cook, wait for their ride across the street from their school in Dover, Pa. While several states and school districts have debated how to teach evolution, Dover is thought to be the only one in the nation to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.
Katie Caught Smoking Underage
Katie Caught Smoking Underage
DOVER, Pa. - When talk at the high school here turns to evolution, biology teachers have to make time for Charles Darwin as well as his detractors.

With a vote last month, the school board in rural south-central Pennsylvania community is believed to have become the first in the nation to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power.

Critics call the change in the ninth-grade biology curriculum a veiled attempt to require public schoolchildren to learn creationism, a biblical-based view that credits the origin of species to God. Schools typically teach evolution, the theory that Earth is billions of years old and that life forms developed over millions of years.

The state American Civil Liberties Union chapter is reviewing the Dover Area School District case. Its Georgia counterpart, meanwhile, is fighting a suburban Atlanta district's decision to include a warning sticker in biology textbooks that says evolution is "a theory, not a fact."

"What Dover has done goes much further than what's happened in Georgia," said Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU. "As far as we can tell, Dover is the first school district that has actually mandated intelligent design."

From farmland to suburbs
The district enrolls about 2,800 students. It encompasses the small, rural community of Dover borough, about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, and a patchwork of farmland and newer suburban developments in several surrounding townships.

The revision was spearheaded by school board member William Buckingham, who heads the board's curriculum committee.

"I think it's a downright fraud to perpetrate on the students of this district, to portray one theory over and over," said Buckingham. "What we wanted was a balanced presentation."

Buckingham wanted the board to adopt an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins," as a supplement to the traditional biology book, but no vote was ever taken. A few weeks before the new science curriculum was approved, 50 copies were anonymously donated to the high school.

Although Buckingham describes himself as a born-again Christian and believes in creationism, "This is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else," he said.

Dissenters resign
Two of the dissenting board members, Carol Brown and her husband, Jeff, were so upset that they resigned after the 6-3 vote on Oct. 18.

"We have a vocal group within the community who feel very strongly in an evangelical Christian way that there is no separation of church and state," Carol Brown said. "Our responsibility to is to represent the viewpoints of all members of the community."

Statewide science-curriculum standards approved by Pennsylvania's state Education Board merely ask students to "analyze data ... that are relevant to the theory of evolution."

When the standards were revised three years ago, the board considered language that would have required students to consider evidence that did not support evolution, but the board dropped the idea after critics alleged it would have led to the widespread teaching of creationism in public schools.

Creationism repackaged?
Critics of intelligent design contend it is creationism repackaged in more secular-sounding language.

"Creationism in a cheap tuxedo," said Nicholas Matzke, project information specialist for the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which advocates for the teaching of evolution.

Even the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports scientists studying intelligent-design theory, opposes mandating it in schools because it is a relatively new concept, said John West, associate director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture.

"We're completely against anyone who says you should downgrade or limit the teaching of evolution," West said.

Uncertainty in school
Dover biology teacher Jennifer Miller said the curriculum changes have left her uncertain about how to approach her evolution lesson.

"If you put the words 'intelligent design' into my curriculum, then I have to teach it," said Miller, a 12-year veteran. "I'm not sure what that means as to how in-depth we have to go. ... I'm looking for more direction from the school board."

Neither Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa, who oversees the district's curriculum, nor Superintendent Richard Nilsen responded to telephone calls and e-mail messages.

Jonathan Tome, whose three sons attend Dover schools, applauded the measure.

"You can't be hypocritical with these kids, teaching them one thing but not another," said Tome, 43.

But sophomore Courtney Lawton said she didn't have a problem learning only about evolution in biology class last year.

"I just think they should keep it the way it is, and they shouldn't add anything about a higher power," said Lawton, 15. "People who believe differently, they might feel like they're being segregated."

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Not exactly 13.Nov.2004 05:34

Mike stepbystepfarm <a> mtdata.com

The doctrine of "Intelligent Design" is NOT the equivalent of "Creationism".

What you need to understand is that Biology, like any other science, does not concern itself with HOW the "laws" governing the universe came into being. All the sciences do is studyt the universe and try to understand the laws and principles by which it appears to work. Any consideration of where these laws "came from" (or even if that question makes sense tos ask) would be OUTSIDE of science. For example, consider these three (competing) "theories" about "desing":

A) The diety X delcared the laws of Nature "so may it be!".

B) The laws of Nature are the way they are beciase a committee of divine beings drew them from random out of the magic hat with the proviso that any laws drawn out not consistent with those already drawn was discarded.

C) That's just the way the universe is.

Do you understand? No matter which of these were true (if any of them) would not change ANY observation you could make about the universe. There is no physical evidence you could find that would help you decide which of these (if any of them) were true, and you could be just as good a Biologist and believe just as firmly in "evolution" holding to A, B, or C << in the case of "A" the diety X decreed the laws of evolution, in "B" evolution was drawn at random, in "C" that's just the way it is >>

"Creationism" is another kettle of fish entirely because in effect it says that our observations of reality are wrong. Says that the universe did not "evolve" over billions of years but instead was created a few thousand years ago in its presetn state including within this creation the illusion of being ancient. To the extent that "creatinism" does not include the special provision "and this illusion was created in such a way as to make it impossible to detect (a "perfect" illusion) then "Creationsim" is scientific, albeit "bad" (wrong) science.

"Inteligent Design" doesn't belong in the Science classroom not becuase it is wrong but because it is outside Science (WHERE the laws of Nature come from is not Science). To the extent that "Creationism" might contain that special provision "observation of reality is useless" it also "outside Science" and doesn't belong in the Science classroom since Science only talks about (is the "realm of discourse") of the observable. To the extent "Creationism" does not claim any special priveledge of non-disprovability, it may be discussed in the classroom according to the usual rules of Science. An "alternative theory" is supposed to make its claim by suggesting some observation it can explain better than the usual theory and the "Creationists" are welcome to try doing that.

NOTE: If "Intelligent Design" is to be taught in schools it belongs in the "Religion" class. While schools shouldn't "teach religion" they presumably do (or one could argue should) teach ABOUT religions. Believers in "Intelligent Design" are actually rather common among scientists, how many scientists reconcile their religious beliefs with their science, and so would belong in that curriculum (where the students are taught "comparative religion" -- who believes what.

Mike is right and wrong 06.Oct.2005 19:01

Peter peter@saltshakers.org.au

Mike is right that ID is not 'Creationism', BUT he is very wrong when he says it is not science. Science certainly is about how things are, not who made them. ID is science because in testing what we have it is clear that there is 'design' and 'order' - there is NO random chance and haphazard accidental evolution. Scientists around the world are now saying that because they find design they find scientific evidence of design. Intelligence cannot come from nothing. So what does intelligence come from? The fear about acknowledging 'intelligence' and design is that it is hard not to go to the next step and look for the designer. Some may look to intelligent aliens but intelligent people also realise that they must come from somewhere or something too. Deciding from where the intelligence comes from is 'faith' or 'religion' acknowledging that intelligence exists and is designed into our structure IS science.