Monkey See, Monkey Do

Students board bus at the end of the school day at Dover Area High School, Pennsylvania, 10-26-05, the school district involved in the Intelligent Design case (judge ruled including it in the science curriculum would be unconstitutional). AP

Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal issues for CBS News and CBSNews.com and in this commentary, takes a look at Tuesday's ruling saying the theory of Intelligent Design has no place in the science curriculum of a public school.



It is never a good sign when the judge in your case rules that your testimony was "marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath," calls your arguments a "sham," or says that he is writing a particularly comprehensive ruling "in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question" he faced as a result of your position in your case.

These are things a federal trial judge writes while he is ruling against you in virtually every conceivable way - while mocking your evidence. These are things that even a Bush appointee to the bench writes in a case about religion when he believes you have tried to pull a fast one on the Constitution.

And these are just a few of the pointed things that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III included in his pointed, thorough 139-page order that stopped cold an attempt by supporters of the notion of Intelligent Design to try to wedge it into the bloodstream of a small public school system.

Intelligent Design, Judge Jones emphatically declared, is nothing more than creationism in disguise - "creationism re-labeled" is how he put it - and is therefore no more appropriate for public school classrooms under the first amendment's Establishment Clause than Bible recital itself.

He also completely rejected the arguments made by the Dover (Pa.) Area School District that Intelligent Design - which posits that some "master intellect" (wink, wink) is responsible for nature's delicate structure - is a scientific theory worthy of competition with the theory of evolution." Arguments against evolution are not arguments for design," Jones ruled, as he shot down the school board's positions one by one by one.

The closely-watched case turned out to be a legal rout for the plaintiffs, a group of parents and other residents of Dover who went to court when their elected school board officials announced in 2004 that starting in 2005, teachers would be required to tell their ninth-grade science students that (in so many words):
  1. Darwin's theory of evolution had "gaps… for which there is no evidence;"

  2. that Intelligent Design "is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin" and that there was a book - Of Pandas and People" - available "for students who might be interested" in it; and

  3. "students are required to keep an open mind" but that "the school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families."
This disclaimer, Judge Jones ruled after a six-week long non-jury trial, impermissibly and unconstitutionally "singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resources, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere."

Other than that, though, Judge Jones had no problem with the move the school board tried to bust down the wall that separates church and state.

  • Lloyd Vries

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