Teaching Intelligent Design: Incumbent Dover PA school board fails reelection

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Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The Dover, Pennsylvania school board became the first to mandate inclusion of Intelligent Design in a public school biology curriculum. For this year's November 8 election, Republicans fielded a pro-Intelligent Design slate of candidates including some returning candidates who had previously voted to include a statement about Intelligent Design in the biology curriculum. A mixed slate of Democrat and Republican candidates came forward as an alternative group of school board candidates, the Dover CARES coalition. They proposed to remove Intelligent Design from the biology curriculum but allow discussion of Intelligent Design in courses dealing with philosophy and comparative religion.

All eight open school board seats were won by Dover CARES coalition candidates. Two candidates who had previously voted as school board members to include intelligent design in the public school science curriculum received the fewest votes in Tuesday's election. One of the newly elected board members is Bryan Rehm, a parent of a Dover school student. Rehm, along with ten other parents, initiated a law suit against the school board for its decision to insert Intelligent Design into the science curriculum.

In October 2004, the Dover school board decided that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory that should be mentioned in biology classes that include discussion of biological evolution as part of the course content. The board mandated that a statement should be read in those classes stating "Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life," and "The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families."

The school board's statement on Intelligent Design directs students to the book Of Pandas and People as a source of information "for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves." This book is published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, a non-profit organization founded for the purpose of "promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective."

Parents of some Dover public school students filed a lawsuit against the school board, charging that including the school board's statement on Intelligent Design was an attempt to introduce religion into the science curriculum. The book Of Pandas and People says, "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency." The original complaint in the law suit against the school board claimed that "Intelligent design is a non-scientific argument or assertion."

The US District Court Judge John Jones, who heard the non-jury case, hopes to make his ruling by the end of the year. The evidence phase of the trial ended on November 4, 2005.

A local Dover newspaper, the York Daily Record, editorialized that Dover voters should take trial testimony into account during the general election when they could cast votes for school board members along with other elective offices.

Biology teachers in the Dover schools have refused to read the school board's statement on Intelligent Design to students because the Pennsylvania state code for education states that "The professional educator may not knowingly and intentionally misrepresent subject matter." In a letter to their administrator, the teachers stated their view that "Intelligent design is not science." School administrators have been reading the school board's Intelligent Design statement to students in Dover public schools.

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