Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Primer For Tomorrow's Dover Intelligent Design Trial

Tomorrow in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a trial will begin in federal district court on the Dover Area School District's policy on intelligent design. Intelligent design has become a flash point in the war over the role of religion in American society, and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District seems destined to become a symbolic battle. Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an excellent summary of the opposing views. At the heart of the case is a statement that the school district requires biology teachers to read to ninth-grade students:
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. 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. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, "Of Pandas and People," is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.
Resources on the trial are proliferating. A particularly good source for all the primary legal documents, background and developments is the website created by the National Center for Science Education. The Discovery Institute has set up a website linking to background from the pro-intelligent design point of view. Bloggers are covering developments extensively. Ed Brayton's Dispatches From the Culture Wars is one blog that has been following the case for some time. Finally, among the flood of articles, Live Science's series on evolution vs. intelligent design seems particularly useful.