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An "intelligently designed" ruling?

In a 139-page opinion that reads more like an ACLU brief than a carefully analyzed judicial decision, Federal District Court Judge John E. Jones III has ruled (incorrectly) that the Intelligent Design policy adopted by the Dover Area School District of Pennsylvania is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

In one respect Judge Jones is correct: it is difficult to separate Intelligent Design (ID) from its religious implications. If we open our minds to the possibility that an intelligent designer exists, then all sorts of possibilities present themselves: that this intelligent designer knows us and cares about us; that this intelligent designer has a plan or purpose for us; that this intelligent designer has intervened into the cosmos on our behalf; that this intelligent designer has revealed more about himself, his plan, and his will through special revelation such as the Bible. But ID only opens our minds to these possibilities. At that point ID teaching stops, and the student is free to explore further as he or she sees fit. ID suggests that the evidence points to an intelligent designer. ID does not speculate about who or what that intelligent designer may be.

Judge Jones utterly misses the fact that Darwinian evolution also has religious implications. Acceptance of Darwinism profoundly affects one's view of such religious questions as the existence and nature of God, the truth or falsity of Scripture and the interpretation thereof, the origin of man, the nature of man, the existence of the human soul or spirit, the existence and nature of natural law, and many others.

Some religions, including but not limited to conservative Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, and most forms of Islam, are consistent with ID and inconsistent with Darwinism. Other religions, including but not limited to liberal Christianity, Reformed Judaism, most forms of Buddhism, Secular Humanism, Unitarianism, atheism, and agnosticism, are consistent with Darwinism and inconsistent with ID.

Judge Jones claimed outrage over a brief statement from the school board advising the students that evolution is only a theory and inviting them to explore alternatives, saying it has the effect of advancing religion (never mind which religion). But he is oblivious to the fact that an entire science curriculum that uncritically accepts Darwinism and excludes even the mention of alternatives has the effect of advancing those religions that are consistent with Darwinism and inhibiting those that are not.

One underlying error of the Dover decision is its mis-definition of science. Incredibly, Judge Jones says that "while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science" (p. 64), and "we express no opinion on the ultimate veracity of ID as a supernatural explanation" (p. 89). Why is ID not science? Primarily because ID "violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation" (p. 64). But ID does not necessarily presuppose a supernatural being; rather, ID argues that the evidence points to the existence of an intelligent designer. If I walk into my office and find that, instead of the usual disarray, all my papers are neatly stacked in order, I am not going to assume that natural forces like air currents somehow put them in place. I am going to assume that an intelligent designer (possibly my wife, definitely not me!) came in and organized them. Likewise, ID argues that the complexity and order of the universe is better explained by postulating the existence of an intelligent designer than by assuming it was all done by random forces of nature.

Another underlying error is Judge Jones's assumption that he, rather than the Dover School Board, has the authority to define science, and that he is better able to define science than they are. (And because he is locked into his narrow view of science, he brands as liars those school board members who insisted that their concern was science rather than religion.) And Judge Jones is far from alone in this error. One reason we are facing the tyranny of the federal judiciary is that too many federal judges assume that their jurisdiction and their expertise are unlimited. They forget that omnipotence and omniscience are the attributes of ... well, let's just say the Intelligent Designer.

At this point, Dover is only a federal district court ruling and is binding precedent only in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. But a clear effort is being renewed to force Darwinism upon our children, and school officials who resist that effort risk being pilloried by the federal courts.

We should applaud the Discovery Institute that has spearheaded the ID concept, the Dover School Board that took a courageous stand at great personal sacrifice, and the Thomas More Foundation that came to their defense. This decision should reinforce the belief that we cannot trust government schools to teach our children without undermining our values and our worldview. To ensure that our children are taught properly, we should consider the form of education our Founding Fathers believed in and practiced--private and home schools.

John Eidsmoe, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, is Senior Staff Attorney with the Alabama Supreme Court.
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Author:Eidsmoe, John
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Jan 23, 2006
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