Posted Sept. 27, 2005 – Eleven parents are suing the school board in Dover, Pa., for requiring teachers to cast doubt on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and offer “intelligent design” as an alternative.
Many scientists say that biological evolution is an established fact, supported by overwhelming scientific evidence, adding that evolution's mechanism is well explained by the process of random mutation and natural selection that Charles Darwin described 147 years ago. Darwin's theory – updated and confirmed by recent genetic discoveries – eventually will answer all or most questions about the origin and history of life, they say.
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But researchers say most Americans don't agree, arguing that living things are too complex to be explained by natural forces alone and only a higher power – God or an unnamed "intelligent designer" – could create life and empower it to evolve into the myriad species of organisms on Earth today.
Eric Rothschild, attorney for the plaintiffs, argues that the board imposed a religious view on public-school students after the board’s directors demanded that biology teachers present a one-minute statement promoting the intelligent-design concept as an alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which it describes as flawed.
The crux of the four-paragraph statement to 14-year-old biology students reads: “Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence."
In 1987, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that creationism – the belief that Earth and its beings were created by God and not by natural selection – could not be taught in public schools since it violated the separation of church and state.
More than 30 states are considering measures to teach alternatives to evolution, according to Reuters. The Harrisburg case is the first to challenge such initiatives in court and is widely expected to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court, regardless of the outcome.
The Dover parents and their supporters in the scientific community and at the American Civil Liberties Union argue that the intelligent-design concept is simply a retooled effort to introduce the God of Genesis into biology class.
But a lawyer from a Christian non-profit group representing the school board countered that the case was really about “free inquiry in education, not a religious agenda.”
The intelligent design movement has been gaining momentum with more than two dozen state and local authorities across the United States seeking to incorporate intelligent design into school curricula over the last year. It received a further boost when President Bush suggested last month that pupils should be taught intelligent design and evolution “so people can understand what the debate is about.”
Now it's your turn to debate. Should students be taught "intelligent design" or evolution? Or should they be taught both? Click discuss now to talk about it.