Dover school board member Heather Geesey: “You can teach creationism without its being Christianity,”

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The York Daily Record reports on the testimony by Dover Board Member Heather Geesey who wrote a letter to the editor stating:

Dover Board Member Heather Geesey Wrote:

“You can teach creationism without its being Christianity”

But things only got better…

Geesey testified that she recalled Buckingham and fellow board member Alan Bonsell discussing intelligent design at the June 2004 meetings. That contradicted her sworn deposition, in which she said board members hadn’t named what alternatives should be presented to balance evolutionary theory.

When Walczak questioned the discrepancy, Geesey said her letter to the editor, along with Eveland’s, had jogged her memory.

Even the judge seemed confused by the testimony and proceeded with questioning the witness himself.

At the end of cross-examination, Jones was not satisfied and he began to question the witness himself.

Saying he was confused, Jones asked her to explain specifically how the letters triggered her memory. “I ask you because intelligent design is not mentioned in either letter,” he said.

Interestingly enough Geesey could not even define the concept of Intelligent Design

n court Friday, she agreed with Walczak that she hadn’t thought much about the concept and said she had taken the word of fellow board members Buckingham and Bonsell.

“Bill and Alan said it was a scientific theory,” she said.

Fascinating stuff

Quote of the day

“I don’t know what you could possibly hope to achieve.” — Judge John E. Jones III, to Dover lawyer Patrick Gillen on Friday. Gillen had asked Jones if he could question school board member Heather Geesey after cross-examination ended and Jones himself had questioned Geesey, telling her he was confused by her testimony.

35 Comments

In the immortal words of Karl, that’s Frickin Awesome.

For the record, Geesey’s complete letter to the NY Times is also included in the article PvM cites. Here it is:

GEESEY’S LETTER

Following is the complete letter to the editor written by Dover school board member Heather Geesey and published in the June 27, 2004, York Sunday News:

This letter is in regard to the comments made by Beth Eveland from York Township in the June 20 York Sunday News. I assure you that the Dover Area School Board is not going against its mission statement. In fact, if you read the statement it says … to educate our students so that they can be contributing members of society.

I do not believe in teaching revisionist history. Our country was founded on Christian beliefs and principles. We are not looking for a book that is teaching students that this is a wrong thing or a right thing. It is just a fact.

All we are trying to accomplish with this task is to choose a biology book that teaches the most prevalent theories. The definition of theory is merely a speculative or an ideal circumstance. To present only one theory or to give one option would be directly contradicting our mission statement.

You can teach creationism without its being Christianity. It can be presented as a higher power. That is where another part of Dover’s mission statement comes into play. That part would be in partnership with family and community. You as a parent can teach your child your family’s ideology.

—HEATHER GEESEY

Since Buckingham used the Oxytocin defense, perhaps Geesey could use the twinkie defense?

“I don’t know what you could possibly hope to achieve.”

I think we can all see where this is heading. With each passing day, the judge seems more and more sympathetic to the plaintiffs.

I predict that the Christian right will wait for the inevitable ruling in favor of the plaintiffs to come down and then will start sliming John E. Jones III like there’s no tomorrow. Doesn’t he realize that the US is founded on Christian principles?

Also: Isn’t there a superhero whose secret identity is John Jones, a.k.a. J’onn J’onzz, THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER? It’s obvious to any God-fearing American that this judge is an alien implant.

In the immortal words of Karl, that’s Frickin Awesome.

your aquateen undies are showing ;)

Oh, great. Look who just ruined Halloween. You know you’re like the A-bomb! Everybody’s laughin’ and havin’ a good time until you show up. Then boom! everything’s dead.

The definition of theory is merely a speculative or an ideal circumstance.

That’s definitely ripe for attack by the intelligent, educated segment of society.

Who wrote “The Moon Rulez #1” on MY FRICKIN CAR?!

Maldonado’s articles quote Buckingham as saying: “Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?” Bernhard-Bubb’s articles state, “Nearly 2,000 years ago someone died on a cross, shouldn’t we have the courage to stand up for him?”

Outside the courthouse, Dover lawyer Ed White said the differences prove the stories were inaccurate.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys say it proves the reporters were not sharing notes, as the defense has said.

Unless the reporters were using transcripts of a stenographer (none was present) it would not be surprised that at least one would not get the sentence exactly right. But even if two people with pen and notepad don’t get the sentence exactly right, that they got the exact same meaning and similiar wording while working independently is extremely strong evidence that cross comment was really stated. (And that is ignoring the other witnesses.)

That the judge acted in the way this article says that he did, is certainly good news. And this is after Buckingham’s clear perjury. That the board members wish not to come clean about their use of the “C” word, is certainly good evidence.

Plum wrote

It’s obvious to any God-fearing American that this judge is an alien implant.

Hey don’t bring us Aliens into it it’s nothing to do with us, well except for those anaMartians but they deny WE exist.

Hec why worry any way, kids can’t distinguish what’s real and what’s not, they really don’t know that there’s a difference between Aliens and Marg Simpson so why not just drop science altogether and just call it “weird stuff” there’s a perfect text book out already called “The Men Who Stare at Goats”

http://www.jonronson.com/goats_nytimes.html

“Bill and Alan said it was a scientific theory”

The blind leading the blind…

What really scares me is the part of her letter where she talks about America being a Christian nation. It scares the hell out of me, I mean literally freezes my blood:

“Our country was founded on Christian beliefs and principles.”

I’ve heard that phrase before, but only on the History Channel, on black and white film, in German.

Gott Mit Uns.

Ssssssh! Don´t invoke the LAW… ;-)

““Bill and Alan said it was a scientific theory,” she said.”

Well there you have it, dumb and dumber,

tweedle-dee, tweedle dumb..

Quite the authorities

We could ONLY HOPE the judge was J’onn J’onzz. Then he’d just read everyone’s mind, and one peek into Behe and his ilk, well.. says it all, really.

Behe and his ilk have minds?

:)

Maybe it’s that thick Dover accent that makes “Intelligent Design” sound like “Creationism” to people from out of town.

I predict that the Christian right will wait for the inevitable ruling in favor of the plaintiffs to come down and then will start sliming John E. Jones III like there’s no tomorrow.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what Judge Jones rules. All that matters is what the Supreme Court does with the case.

I read somewhere that the motives were important in this case. IDists in the US clearly have religious motives, it’s inescapable. Ummm, isnt it?

These people seem to be embracing ignorance to an alarming degree for a bunch of school-board members. She’s happy to get behind a concept that’s rejected by the scientific meainstream on the word of a couple of colleagues without bothering to lift a finger to check its scientific status.

If this is an example of the sort of critical thinking they’re expecting their schoolkids to use when faced with this issue (or indeed, any issue), it speaks volumes for what they’re really trying to achieve. The argument from authority run wild.

If this is an example of the sort of critical thinking they’re expecting their schoolkids to use when faced with this issue (or indeed, any issue), it speaks volumes for what they’re really trying to achieve.

Of course, we’re way way way beyond “if” in late 2005.

These ID peddlers are morons, professional liars and/or reality-denying fanatics. All that matters is the outcome: spread the Word, sell some Bibles, affirm their religious beliefs, and everyone else can rot in hell (gays and commie atheists, especially).

Rubes like this Geesey character simply cannot understand how anyone could find her position on these matters so revolting. After all, Geesey knows that the Bible is scientifically accurate because her preacher told her that it was. She knows that the US is founded on Christian principles because she read that in a magazine endorsed by her church.

Is anyone claiming that these Christians could be wrong or misrepresenting the truth about anything? Geesey is flabbergasted by the possibility.

I mean, yeah, Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart got in trouble – but they weren’t Christians when they did those things that they did. How does Geesey know that?

Her preacher told her so. And she read it in a magazine endorsed by her church.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what Judge Jones rules. All that matters is what the Supreme Court does with the case.

Not quite true. As the trial judge, Judge Jones would be accorded a lot of deference (except in the case of clear error) as to matters of fact. Appellate courts generally decide matters of law (but also mixed matters of law and fact). Judge Jones’s rulings as to intent, motivation, etc., for the school board would probably be let stand (as well as his determinations as to the matter of whether ID is properly science).

But with the Supreme Court you have nowadays, you never know what they’ll do (see, e.g., Dubya v. Gore).

FWIW, IANAL though.

Cheers,

In fact you can’t teach creationism, or ID, or the designer-free phony “critical analysis,” with it being Christianity, or Judaism, or any religion that says “thou shalt not bear false witness.”

Sir Toejam wrote:

“In the end, it doesn’t matter what Judge Jones rules. All that matters is what the Supreme Court does with the case.”

I (a non lawyer) strongly doubt this case will be appealed by TMLC for several reasons:

1. Several key defense witnesses may have perjured themselves. This would taint any appeal.

2. The testimony of the defenses expert witnesses actually harmed their case rather than helping it. This weakens any appeal based upon a ruling that “misconstrues the facts” of the case.

3. The DI will put whatever pressure they can to have TMLC not appeal the case. However, given the current tension between these two, the DI may have no influence.

4. Given how badly the defense has gone for this case, and given the ample legal precedent on Establishment cases, Judge Jones should be able to make a ruling that is very “appeal proof”.

5. Money. While the TMLC is doing this case pro bono, the Dover Board may be held liable for the plaintiffs legal fees. Appealing the case will only increase this potential liability.

On the other hand, should Judge Jones make a ruling in favor of the defense (highly unlikely), the plaintiffs can make a strong appeal.

I am cautiously optimistic that we may end up with a major win; a ruling against ID without an appeal. This would make future ID cases harder to win or appeal.

Shenda,

With the caveat that IANAL, here’s my pessimistic 2c:

A Dover loss could actually be better for the DI in the long run. Sure, they would have preferred if Dover and other followers abandoned the direct references to ID and used the DI’s designer-free strategy in the first place. But a Dover loss may be what it takes to get IDers and even classic creationists to see that a much sneakier approach is necessary. Granted, the “big tent” will still be unmistakable with unabashed YECs raving about designer-free “don’t ask, don’t tell” approaches, and pro-common descent IDers making excuses for YECs. But “big tent” association alone might not be enough to keep a few sentences of misrepresentation or a phony “critical analysis” out of public school science class on “establishment” grounds.

Note, By “Dover loss” I mean a Dover Board loss, and mainstream science win.

Sir Toejam wrote:

“In the end, it doesn’t matter what Judge Jones rules. All that matters is what the Supreme Court does with the case.”

uh, I didn’t write that.

“uh, I didn’t write that.”

Ooops.…. It was ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank. My apologies to you both.

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!

Shenda

But “big tent” association alone might not be enough to keep a few sentences of misrepresentation or a phony “critical analysis” out of public school science class on “establishment” grounds.

They already tried the “critical analysis” BS, in Cobb County. They already lost.

I think they are very nearly out of options. Their only hope, at this point, is a Supreme Court that decides to chuck precedence and rule that religion can be taught in schools, and “separation of church and state” is as porous as the government wants it to be. And if THAT happens, then “science education” will be the LEAST of our problems.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter what Judge Jones rules. All that matters is what the Supreme Court does with the case.”

uh, I didn’t write that.

But you SHOULD have. (grin)

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank Wrote:

They already tried the “critical analysis” BS, in Cobb County. They already lost.

What about Ohio? Note: I thought they won, but went back to the OSC site, and am now confused. Is the phony “critical analysis” being taught or not? From what I can tell, the real “critical analysis” proposed by OCS was rejected.

What about Ohio? Note: I thought they won

No, they didn’t win. They were forced to retreat to a secondary position – one which is already under challenge and which, in view of the Coob case, won’t stand up.

From my website:

The topic of the Santorum Amendment was brought up in Ohio as the result of another legal effort by the Discovery Institute to force “intelligent design theory” into school classrooms. In early 2002, the state of Ohio was carrying out a review of its statewide science curriculum, when chemist Robert Lattimer objected to the prominence of evolution in the science standards, and lobbied for inclusion of “intelligent design theory” as a “scientific alternative” to evolution. The effort attracted the attention of the Discovery Institute, which unleashed all its lobbying abilitites in an effort to push ID “theory” into the Ohio science standards. Friendly legislators introduced a bill into the state House of Representatives which would “require that whenever an explanation for the origins of life and its diversity is included in the instructional program of a school district or educational service center the instructional program shall encourage the presentation of scientific evidence objectively and disclose the historical nature of origins of life science and any material assumptions on which the explanation is based.”

The bill read:

“Sec. 3313.6013. It is the intent of the general assembly that to enhance the effectiveness of science education and to promote academic freedom and the neutrality of state government with respect to teachings that touch religious and nonreligious beliefs, it is necessary and desirable that “origins science,” which seeks to explain the origins of life and its diversity, be conducted and taught objectively and without religious, naturalistic, or philosophic bias or assumption. To further this intent, the instructional program provided by any school district or educational service center shall do all of the following:

(A) Encourage the presentation of scientific evidence regarding the origins of life and its diversity objectively and without religious, naturalistic, or philosophic bias or assumption;

(B) Require that whenever explanations regarding the origins of life are presented, appropriate explanation and disclosure shall be provided regarding the historical nature of origins science and the use of any material assumption which may have provided a basis for the explanation being presented;

(C) Encourage the development of curriculum that will help students think critically, understand the full range of scientific views that exist regarding the origins of life, and understand why origins science may generate controversy.” (Ohio House Bill 481)

The Discovery Institute brought out all its big guns in Ohio, including such luminaries as Johnson and Dembski, but in the end, the legislative bills all failed. Not only did the Ohio board not include “intelligent design theory” in its standards, but it specifically excluded it by name. Although students under the new science standards should be able to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory”, the board noted, “The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of Intelligent Design.” (Ohio Board of Education, December 10, 2002)

“Intelligent design” advocates, however, seized on the words “critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory”, and immediately re-introduced “intelligent design theory” through the back door, using a new strategy that has become known as “teach the controversy”. Now, instead of attempting to push “intelligent design theory” into schools, the Discovery Institute and its supporters have been forced to retreat to the much weaker notion of teaching the alleged “scientific problems” with evolution instead. The new strategy drops any mention of “intellgient design”, and instead attempts to argue that somehow, somewhere, something must be wrong with evolution.

As part of the new strategy, members of the Ohio Board of Education proposed a “model lesson plan” that was largely written by Discovery Institute members and supporters, entitled “Critical Analysis of Evolution”. The model lesson pointed out the same supposed “scientific problems with evolution” that the Discovery Institute had been preaching for years. Included in the model lesson plan were “goals” such as:

“Describe one piece of evidence used to challenge evolution and explain why it is important.

Compare and contrast the supporting and challenging information regarding the aspect of evolution you studied.

Evaluate the scientific data supporting and challenging areas of evolution in light of the scientific method. In other words, is the data that is used to support or challenge evolution consistent or inconsistent with the scientific method? Are there any limitations? (NOTE: steps of scientific method: Observation, hypothesis, test, retest and conclusion)”

The model lesson plan included links to several Internet websites from the Discovery Institute and other supporters of intelligent design “theory”. These websites were later dropped after heavy criticism. Also dropped was a direct reference to the anti-evolution book “Icons of Evolution”, written by Discovery Institute member Jonathan Wells.

In March 2003, the Board passed a modified version of the lesson plan which, while erasing all of the references to intelligent design “theory”, nevertheless accepted most of the Discovery Institute’s “teach the controversy” strategy and included many of the supposed “scientific criticisms of evolution” that have been trotted out for years by the Discovery Institute and other creationists. Several court challenges are already pending to the Ohio lesson plan.

By the way, since many of the new folks here may not have heard of (or seen) the Cobb County case, I offer the following commentary on it. In many ways, it is even more lethal to IDers than the Dover case will be:

From my website, at http://www.geocities.com/lflank :

Some Thoughts on the Cobb County Disclaimer Stickers Decision

by Lenny Flank

(c) 2005

In going through the text of the judge’s decision to ban the Cobb County, Georgia stickers, I found some points that could be potentially interesting and useful precedent in Dover, as well. OK, actually they are legal precedents that will kill ID’s “teach the controversy” strategy. Completely and utterly.

The text of the judge’s decision is a pdf file at:

http://www.aclu.org/Files/OpenFile.cfm?id=17310

(the PDF is a scan of the printed decision, and alas it is loaded with typos and OCR errors–I’ve tried to correct all of these.)

Some interesting points in the decision:

The judge has killed the “disclaimer stickers” on several different and independent lines of reasoning, any ONE of which, all by itself, would be enough to kill it on “establishment clause” grounds, and all of which, together, make it virtually impossible for the fundies to win any appeal of this case. But it is interesting that these lines of reasoning also apply to the “teach the controversy” being pushed by the intelligent design advocates in Dover.

Beginning on page 35 of the judge’s decision, we find:

“There is no evidence in this ease that the School Board included the statement in the Sticker that “evolution is a theory, not a fact” to promote or advance religion. Indeed, the testimony of the School Board members and the documents in the record all indicate that the School Board relied on counsel to draft language for the sticker that would pass constitutional muster. Thus, the presence of this language does not change the Court’s opinion that the Sticker survives the purpose prong of the Lemon analysis. Still, the informed, reasonable would perceive the School Board to be aligning itself with proponents of religious theories of origin.”

This is important. Discovery Institute and other intelligent design creationists makes lots of noise about how their viewpoint is all “science” and has no religious aim or purpose. In the Freiler v Tangipahoa case in Louisiana, which also involved a “disclaimer sticker”, the stated purpose of the law as written also claimed to be secular and without any religious aim or purpose. The law specifically stated that its purpose was to “encourage critical thinking”. The judge in that case, however, concluded that the stated purpose of the law was, in his words, “a sham”, and that “the primary effect of the disclaimer is to protect and maintain a particular religious viewpoint, namely belief in the Biblical version of creation. (US Circuit Court, Freiler v Tangipahoa, 1999) This evaluation of the stated legislative purpose of a creationism law was also shared by the Supreme Court, which stated, in its Aguillard decision, “While the Court is normally deferential to a State’s articulation of a secular purpose, it is required that the statement of such purpose be sincere and not a sham.” (Edwards v Aguillard, 1987) In ruling that the Louisiana equal-time law did in fact have a religious purpose, the Supreme Court in effect concluded that the stated purpose of the law was “a sham”. But in the Cobb decision, the judge expands upon and strengthens this conclusion, by pointing out that *even if* it is accepted that the stated purpose of the law was not just a “sham” and is really and totally true and EVEN IF IT HAS NO EXPLICIT RELIGIOUS PURPOSE, it STILL fails the Lemon test if it has the EFFECT of advancing religion.

This has application to the Dover case as well as any future case the IDers might bring (since the history of ID/creationism is nothing more than a search for some wording in the law that will pass Constitutional muster). Even if a court in Dover were to rule that the DI’s “teach the controversy” policy had a secular aim and was NOT intended to be religious in nature (as the DI argues), it would STILL fail the Lemon test if a reasonable informed person would conclude that it aligned itself with “proponents of religious theories of origin”. As we have seen, ID proponents speak openly at every available opportunity about their “religious theories of origin” and how ID supports them. And, as the Cobb judge ruled, that is enough right there to kill it as unconstitutional. No matter how hard they try, the ID/creationists will NEVER find a suitable legal language or wording in any proposed law that will allow them to do exactly what the Constitution says they CANNOT do — use public school classrooms to advance their religious beliefs by pretending those religious beleifs are really “science”.

In the next paragraph, we find another independent criteria for finding the stickers unconstitutional, and it too applies directly to the Dover “teach the controversy” strategy:

“The Sticker also has the effect of implicitly bolstering alternative religious theories of origin by suggesting that evolution is a problematic theory even in the field of science. In this regard, the Sticker states, in part, that “evolution is a theory, not a fact, concerning the origin of living things” that should be “approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.” This characterization of evolution might be appropriate in other contexts, such as in an elective course on theories of origin or a religious text. However, the evidence in the record and the testimony from witnesses with science backgrounds, including the co- author of one of the textbooks into which the Sticker was placed and Defendants’ own witness, Dr Stickel, reflect that evolution is more than a theory of origin in the context of science. To the contrary, evolution is the dominant scientific theory of origin accepted by the majority of scientists. While evolution is subject to criticism, particularly with respect to the mechanism by which it occurred, this Sticker misleads students regarding the significance and value of evolution in the scientific community for the benefit of the religious alternatives. By denigrating evolution, the School Board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the Sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories.”

This too is important. The judge is ruling that the simple act of implying or stating that evolution is a substandard theory or in some sort of crisis or is “problematic”, is misleading about the scientific value and significance of evolution, and when such “denigration” is done for the purpose of benefiting “religious alternatives”– EVEN IF THAT ALTERNATIVE IS NOT SPECIFICALLY REFERENCED, then it is illegal.

The sole and only POINT of “teach the controversy”, of course, is to denigrate evolution as “problematic” (indeed, “teach the controversy” itself consists solely of telling students about all these putative “problems”), and mislead people about its significance and value, all to the benefit of a religious alternative. That, too, is enough right there to kill it as unconstitutional.

A few paragraphs later, we find a third independent reason for killing the disclaimer stickers that also applies directly to the “teach the controversy”:

“In addition to the foregoing, the Sticker targets only evolution to be approached with an open mind, carefully studied, and critically considered without explaining why it is the only theory being isolated as such. The School Board members convincingly testified at trial that they believed all scientific theories should be critically considered, and they also stated that they singled out evolution because it was the topic causing the controversy at the time. The Court finds the School Board’s explanation to be rational and does not declare the Sticker to violate the purpose prong of Lemon However, because the administration suggested alternative language that did not place the emphasis so heavily on evolution, albeit after the Board adopted the Sticker, the message communicated to the informed, reasonable observer is that the School Board believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution. In light of the historical opposition to evolution by Christian fundamentalists and creationists in Cobb County and throughout the Nation, the informed, reasonable observer would infer the School Board’s problem with evolution to be that evolution does not acknowledge a creator.”

This is the strongest argument against the “teach the controversy”, and will probably be the one cited when it is killed in court. The sticker singles out ONLY EVOLUTION for criticism and “critical thinking”, for the simple reason that evolution, and not other areas of science, are the historical targets of religious opposition. The “teach the controversy” strategy also targets evolution, and ONLY evolution, specifically. And ID rhetoric makes it crystal clear that the source of this targeted opposition to evolution is that it “does not acknowledge a creator” (or designer, or whatever else they want to call it). This, too, is enough all by itself to kill the “teach the controversy” tactic.

Further on in the decision, we find:

“Due to the manner in which the Sticker refers to evolution as a theory, the Sticker also has the effect of undermining evolution education to the benefit of those Cobb County citizens who would prefer that students maintain their religious beliefs regarding the origin of life. As Plaintiffs argue and Dr Miller, the co-author of the science textbook, testified, the use of “theory” in the Sticker plays on the colloquial or popular understanding of the term and suggests to the informed, reasonable observer that evolution is only a highly questionable “opinion” or a “hunch “. The Sticker thus has a great potential to prompt confusion among the students. While there may be an educational benefit to students spending time learning the general difference between a theory and a fact as a scientific matter, teachers have less time to teach the substance of evolution. Thus, although evolution is required to be taught in Cobb County classrooms as a technical matter, distracting tangential issues effectively dilute evolution instruction to the benefit of the anti- evolutionists who are motivated to advance their religious beliefs.”

While this reasoning doesn’t impact directly onto Dover and “teach the controversy”, it does so indirectly. In essence, the court is ruling that the sticker’s inaccurate statement about “just a theory” requires teachers to use up class time to explain why “just a theory” is inaccurate, thus “diluting evolution instruction”. I think the same reasoning can be applied to all the “criticisms of evolution” that the IDers want to have taught — NONE of these “criticisms” is accepted as valid science by anyone in the scientific community. They are all inaccurate and have no recognized place in science, and therefore requiring them to be taught would just dilute the teaching of evolution by using up class time to explain that they are inaccurate (to the benefit of the anti-evolutionists and their religious beliefs).

The final line of reasoning against the disclaimer stickers also can be applied to the “teach the controversy” argument:

“Defendants persuasively argue that the Sticker in this case does not explicitly reference any alternative theory of origin, religious or otherwise. Nor does the Sticker explicitly urge students to consider alternative theories of origin or remind them that they have the right to maintain their home teachings regarding the origin of fife. Nevertheless, the Sticker here disavows the endorsement of evolution, a scientific theory, and contains an implicit religious message advanced by Christian fundamentalists and creationists, which is discernible after one considers the historical context of the statement that evolution is a theory and not a fact. The informed, reasonable observer is deemed aware of this historical context.”

In essence, what the court is saying is that even if the actual language of the law doesn’t directly reference any specific alternative theory or religious viewpoint, if the “historical context” of the law indicates that it is based on particular religious wishes, then it is unconstitutional. This issue was also raised by the Supreme Court, “ “There is a historic and contemporaneous link between the teachings of certain religious denominations and the teaching of evolution (10). It was this link that concerned the Court in Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), which also involved a facial challenge to a statute regulating the teaching of evolution. In that case, the Court reviewed an Arkansas statute that made it unlawful for an instructor to teach evolution or to use a textbook that referred to this scientific theory. Although the Arkansas antievolution law did not explicitly state its predominate religious purpose, the Court could not ignore that “the statute was a product of the upsurge of ‘fundamentalist’ religious fervor” that has long viewed this particular scientific theory as contradicting the literal interpretation of the Bible. Id., at 98, 106-107 (11). After reviewing the history of antievolution statutes, the Court determined that “there can be no doubt that the motivation for the [Arkansas] law was the same [as other anti-evolution statutes]: to suppress the teaching of a theory which, it was thought, ‘denied’ the divine creation of man.” Id., at 109. The Court found that there can be no legitimate state interest in protecting particular religions from scientific views “distasteful to them,” id., at 107 (citation omitted), and concluded “that the First Amendment does not permit the State to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma,” id., at 106.” )Edwards v Aguillard)

The DI’s “teach the controversy” rhetoric doesn’t mention any alternative theories or religious views (all of those already having been ruled illegal to teach on church/state grounds), but the historical context of “teach the controversy” is crushingly clear to anyone – it is just the latest in a long string of attempts by fundies in general and Discovery Institute in particular, to blot out the teaching of evolution because it conflicts with their religious views. This is especially clear after considering the previous (religious) objections to “scientific materialism” and “darwinism” that Dembski, Behe and Johnson have been writing about publicly for years. This too, all by itself, is enough to kill “teach the controversy” as unconstitutional.

So, in order to win in Dover, the “teach the controversy” advocates will have to demonstrate that (1) “teaching the controversy” does not have the EFFECT of advancing religion even if it does NOT have that explicit aim, (2) “teaching the controversy” does NOT denigrate evolution in favor of any religious view, even if that religious view is NOT explicitly stated, (3) “teaching the controversy” does NOT single out evolution specifically because of religious objections that evolution allegedly denies a creator (or “designer”), (4) “teaching the controversy” does NOT take time away from the effective teaching of evolution by forcing teachers to spend time on “criticisms” that are not recognized as scientific or substantive, *AND* that (5) “teaching the controversy” does NOT have a readily viewable historical context as religious opposition to the idea of evolution. (All of this assumes that the judge buys the DI’s argument in the first place that ID is “science” and isn’t about religion at all, and the judge doesn’t simply conclude, as the Freiler judge did, that the DI’s entire argument is just “a sham” to hide their religious goals.)

In my view, there is simply no way that the Dover advocates (or anyone else) will be able to get over all five of those hurdles. I doubt they can get over ANY of them. Yet only *one* of them is enough, all by itself, to kill the IDers.

And making things even easier, the Dover School Board members have obliged us by making statements to the press such as:

“If the Bible is right, God created us. If God did it, it’s history and also science”. – Dover School Board member John Rowand (Washington Post, Dec 26, 2004, p A01)

“Our country was founded on Christianity and our children should be taught as such.” – Board Member William Buckingham (Washington Post, Dec 26, 2004, p A01)

“Nearly 2000 years ago, someone died on the cross for us. Shouldn’t we have the courage to stand up for him?” – Board Member William Buckingham (New York Times, Jan 16, 2005)

In the irony of all ironies, the Dover School Board selected as the legal representative to argue its case (that the policy is all about science and has nothing at all whatsoever to do with religion or Christianity) in court, the Thomas More Law Center, which lists as its Mission “Defending the Religious Freedom of Christians”. A letter I sent to the Law Center asking why they were involved with the Dover case if, as they argue, it is a scientific issue and not one of religion or Christianity, has so far gone unanswered.

Pardon the pun, but they haven’t got a prayer of winning.

The judge hasn’t ruled on the Dover case yet…but THE VOTERS HAVE! All 8 school board members up for election were soundly defeated.

Maybe you can teach Intellichimp Design Cretinism without Christianity, but you cannot teach it without GOD. There must be a supernatural being to intelligently design the universe, no ordinary mortal could do it. Therefore, Intellichimp Design Cretinism is religion, since it requires a supernatural being.

Kansas Board of Education members are going to be nervous this morning…they’re NEXT!!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on October 29, 2005 6:03 PM.

Slate: Monty Python’s flying creationism was the previous entry in this blog.

Pharyngula: An evolutionary prediction is the next entry in this blog.

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