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Discovery Institute’s Position on Dover, PA “Intelligent Design” Case

It's about Free Speech, Not Church and State

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the ACLU is suing the school board of Dover, Pennsylvania for adopting a policy that requires students to be informed about the theory of intelligent design. The ACLU claims that the Dover policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by promoting a religious doctrine. While Discovery Institute does not support efforts to require the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it also strongly opposes the ACLU’s attempt to censor classroom discussion of intelligent design. Dr. John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, has released the following statement explaining the Institute’s position:

“Eighty years ago the ACLU went to court in Tennessee to defend the right of John Scopes to teach his students about evolution. Today, the ACLU is betraying the principle of academic freedom by seeking a government-imposed gag-order on teachers and students that would prevent even voluntary discussions of intelligent design in the science classroom. All Americans who cherish free speech should reject the ACLU’s effort to decide the debate over evolution through court orders rather than the free marketplace of ideas.”

“Apparently the ACLU has come to believe that some ideas are just too dangerous for students and teachers to discuss. On the one hand, it insists that the First Amendment protects a teacher’s right to teach evidence supporting Darwin’s theory. On the other hand, it claims that the same First Amendment forbids teachers from discussing dissenting scientific theories. It looks like the ACLU believes that free speech only applies to one side of the evolution debate. This is a blatant double-standard.”

“Discovery Institute strongly opposes the ACLU’s effort to make discussions of intelligent design illegal. At the same time, we disagree with efforts to get the government to require the teaching of intelligent design. Misguided policies like the one adopted by the Dover School District are likely to be politically divisive and hinder a fair and open discussion of the merits of intelligent design among scholars and within the scientific community, points we have made repeatedly since we first learned about the Dover policy in 2004. Furthermore, most teachers currently do not know enough about intelligent design or have sufficient curriculum materials to teach about it accurately and objectively.

“Rather than require students to learn about intelligent design, what we recommend is that teachers and students study more about Darwinian evolution, not only the evidence that supports the theory, but also scientific criticisms of the theory.”

Click here for more information about Discovery Institute’s education policy approach.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Associate Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Associate Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.