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Evolution Decision Expected Soon

Intelligent Design theory (i.e., theory opposing evolution and asserting that someone must be responsible for creation, namely, God) graphic
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Plaintiffs' lawyers and scientists who worked on the federal "intelligent design" trial say a ruling in the landmark case will likely come Tuesday.

Judge John E. Jones III's response to six weeks of testimony could determine whether the concept - which attributes the origin of life and the emergence of highly complex life forms to an unidentified intelligent force - can be mentioned in public school science classes.

CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen says the principals in this case are not the only ones waiting for the judge's decision.

"A trial court ruling is never binding on any other court but you can bet that every other judge who has to face this dispute over intelligent design will pore over this ruling for clues about how to rule," says Cohen. "I expect an appeal here no matter which side prevails, which means I expect this legal fight to continue for at least a year or so. What I don't expect is for the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved."

Plaintiffs' attorneys are planning a news conference in front of the courthouse where the case was heard this fall. Scientists from the National Center for Science Education, which assisted plaintiffs in the case, are flying in from California for the decision.

"We feel very good about the case we presented," said Eric Rothschild, the plaintiffs' lead attorney.

Defense lawyers said they will wait and see.

"There's not much that we can do," said Richard Thompson of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center. "It's out of our hands."

The Dover Area School Board voted a year ago to require students to hear a statement about intelligent design before learning about evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and it refers students to an intelligent design textbook for more information.

Eight families sued to have a statement about intelligent design removed from the curriculum, arguing that it is biblical creationism in disguise and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Jones could issue three rulings, legal experts have said.

He could rule in support of the school district's decision that intelligent design in high school biology class does not violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, thereby paving the way for the concept to be introduced in public schools across the country.

Or he could decide that intelligent design is unconstitutional because it is religion disguised as science.

Jones could also decide that school board members were motivated by religion when they voted to include intelligent design in the biology curriculum, but avoid ruling on whether intelligent design is legitimate science.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com