Intelligent Design on Trial
Ever since the year 1925, there has been a very controversial battle over the teachings of Intelligent Design in public school systems because many people feel that it has a religious motive. In Dover, Pennsylvania a major court case began when the school board decided that alternate theories, including Intelligent Design, of human existence would be mentioned other than the traditional evolution theory. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was the most common belief among many people not only in the Dover area, but all over the world. In the year 1925, a high school biology teacher was convicted for teaching an alternate theory to evolution for human existence, and it turned into a major federal court case. The reason that many people do not believe in the theory of Intelligent Design is because they feel that it has a religious motivation. This was the major statement for the plaintiffs in the Dover court case, while the defendants argued the exact opposite.
Intelligent Design is best described as a purposeful design by an
intelligent being rather than from an accident or undirected natural processes. Advocates of this theory claim that it is a scientific theory, and hope to redefine science to accept supernatural explanations. This theory was a problem for the parents of the students in the Dover school district. On October 18, 2004 the school board voted 6-3 to add the statement “Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design” to their biology program. The teachers would introduce both ID and evolution and did not say that the students had to believe in the alternate theories, but left the decision of what was accepted to them. The trial between the plaintiffs, or the parents of the students, and the defendants, which was the school board, began on September 26, 2005 and was the first direct challenge brought into the US federal courts against a public school district.
The idea that was most commonly accepted was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. His book, The Origin of Species, was published in 1859, and stated that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. This book was controversial because it contradicted the religious beliefs that underlay the then current theories of biology. Darwin’s theory says that in species that sexually reproduce, no two individuals will be identical. A lot of this variety in offspring is inheritable, and may affect ones ability to survive in a given environment. He says that those who are less adapted to their environment will have less of a chance of surviving and less likely to reproduce. One of the main points of Darwin’s theory is that a slow process results in populations that adapt to their environments over time and ultimately form a new species.
The history of legal efforts involving the teaching of evolution began with the Scopes Trial in 1925. On May 5, 1925 a high school biology teacher was charged with violating the school statute which prevented the teaching of evolution. John Scopes was found guilty on July 21 and was ordered to pay a fine of $100.00. This was not the only time where the teachings of evolution were brought to court. In the 1968 trial of Epperson vs. Arkansas the Supreme Court said that the Arkansas statute that prohibited teachings of evolution was invalid. In the trial of Segraves vs. California State in 1981, the court rules against Segraves who said that the class discussion of evolution prohibited his and his children’s free exercise of religion. Again in the 1982 case of McLean vs. Arkansas B.O.E. the court declared that “creation science” was not a science and should not be taught in public school systems. Still culminating is the 1987 case of Edwards vs. Aguillard the supreme court said that the Louisiana “creationism act” which prohibited teachings of evolution in public schools, except when accompanied by instruction in “creation science” was unconstitutional. Some of the final cases were in 1990 and 1994 in Webster vs. new Lennox School and Peloza vs. Capistrano Unified School District.
Parents in the Dover School District argued that Intelligent Design had religious motivations and should not be taught in a public school. Eleven parents in Dover, Pennsylvania argued that Intelligent Design was not scientific, but that it was religion, or creationism, in disguise. The parents also argued that teaching Intelligent Design violated the constitutional separation of church and state. The plaintiffs and court said that the board members of the public school in Dover were lying to hide their true motive, which was said to be to promote religion. The main reason that these parents did not want the school to teach Intelligent Design was because they felt that it was not a scientific theory, but more of an opinionated theory that the school was trying to force upon their children.
The court case in Dover became one of the most known cases around this area. Both the plaintiffs and the defense had very strong arguments that caused a lot of controversy among the people. The plaintiffs argued that Intelligent Design is a form of creationism and that the school board violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. This clause says that congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. The plaintiffs attorney, Eric Rothschild, compared the definition of creationism and Intelligent Design and came to the conclusion that they were both the same thing. He argued that Intelligent Design was not science in its infancy, basically saying that it was not science in any way. On the defensive side the school board argued that they were only trying to enhance the children’s science education and that it was a modest change to their curriculum. The intelligent Design lesson did not have any religious agenda. These were the main arguments presented to Judge John Jones in the Dover, Pennsylvania trial.
In the end of this trial the judge ruled that Intelligent Design was religious and was banned from the Dover school district. I would agree with the Dover school board because I feel that there should be more than one theory of human existence offered to students. The students were not being told that they had to believe in ID, they were just being informed that there were other alternatives to the classic theory of evolution. I do not think that the school board had religious motivations in teaching ID to their students. Although the theory does not have much scientific evidence in it, it does not specifically say that God created the universe; it says that a higher and more intelligent being created us. This is why I agree with the school board of Dover, and not with Judge John Jones.