Intelligent Design Decision and Academic Freedom

This is a link to the Dover, Penna decision that ruled that Intelligent Design is creationism in disguise and could not be taught in the public schools due to the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment.

Excerpts From ‘Intelligent Design’ Ruling

By The Associated Press
Published December 20, 2005, 11:48 AM CST

Excerpts from U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III’s ruling that struck down a school board’s decision to require biology students in Dover, Pa., to hear about the concept of “intelligent design”:

“We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the Establishment Clause.”

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“Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.”

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“Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.”

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“The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

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“The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”

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“After a searching review of the record and applicable case law, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.”

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“The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications.”
Copyright © 2005, The Associated Press

The following is a “reprint” of a recent posting I contributed here on the topic.

The effort to purge the teaching of evolution in biology classes is a kind of American Wahhabism: An effort to sneak religious instruction, in the dress of secular reasoning, into science courses. The threat to academic freedom is that professors and other teachers should determine their course content. On the university level, supposedly free from state-wide curriculum requirements, academic freedom, if it means anything, is the autonomy to define one’s teaching in front of a classroom. While peer revue is useful in assessing teaching competence, academic freedom must not be tethered to external constituencies that have not earned the right to be in that professor’s classroom.

Evolution states that life shares common ancestry and that survival and development are the product of random mutation and natural selection. Humans are not descendants of apes but apes and humans share some kind of common ancestral link.

Intelligent design is a form of creationism that was outlawed by the Surpreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) that forbade the teaching of a god as creator of the universe in the public schools. The Scopes monkey trial in Dayton, Tenn. in the 1920s resolved nothing in the growing battle between secularism and clericalism in the U.S. Intelligent design proffers the notion that evolution is too limited in explaining patterns or complexities that can only result from an intelligent designer: namely a monotheistic god who designed the world and created its outcomes. While I.D. does not mention God, that is its essential guiding principle.

Academic freedom is a bulwark in preventing any ideology or faith from intruding and subverting the very notion of liberal education and the pursuit of truth.

For the record:

I would not prohibit a science teacher from discussing Intelligent Design in a social context but would be concerned if it were taught as science. It may very well be an interesting topic when evolution is taught.

I would not require a teacher or a student to accept evolution. Yet evolution should be taught by a competent biology teacher as the prevailing theory of “creation” in the scientific community. It should not be taught as mere theory; it is not a hunch or a guess but almost unassailable, in its core posits, as Darwin’s gift to the world.

Eliminating the teaching of evolution in a biology course would raise issues of teacher competence. Mandated excision of generally accepted biological theories would raise issues of external publics destroying the academic enterprise due to religious fanaticism. Teachers voluntarily refusing to teach evolution would be a form of student abuse in that a core concept of a teacher’s discipline is abandoned due to ideology. Again, a teacher may not accept evolution but to simply avoid teaching it would raise questions of competence and capacity to educate adequately one’s students.

Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (I.D.E.A.) Centers are sprouting up at universities such as Cornell and the University of Illinois. They are pushing for I.D. Students have a right to demand courses and course content but they do not have the authority to dictate outcomes. Academic freedom gives students a voice that should not be silenced; yet it gives professors the final judgment on course content. Or at least it better

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