Dover Intelligent Design Decision Criticized as a Futile Attempt to Censor Science Education

SEATTLE — “The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won’t work,” said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, the nation’s leading think tank researching the scientific theory known as intelligent design. “He has conflated Discovery Institute’s position with that of the Dover school board, and he totally misrepresents intelligent design and the motivations of the scientists who research it.”

“A legal ruling can’t change the fact that there is digital code in DNA, it can’t remove the molecular machines from the cell, nor change the fine tuning of the laws of physics,” added West “The empirical evidence for design, the facts of biology and nature, can’t be changed by legal decree.”

In his decision, Judge John Jones ruled that the Dover, Pennsylvania school district violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by requiring a statement to be read to students notifying them about intelligent design. Reaching well beyond the immediate legal questions before him, Judge Jones offered wide-ranging and sometimes angry comments denouncing intelligent design and praising Darwinian evolution.

“Judge Jones found that the Dover board violated the Establishment Clause because it acted from religious motives. That should have been the end to the case,” said West. “Instead, Judge Jones got on his soapbox to offer his own views of science, religion, and evolution. He makes it clear that he wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur.”

“Anyone who thinks a court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in another world,” continued West. “Americans don’t like to be told there is some idea that they aren’t permitted to learn about.. It used to be said that banning a book in Boston guaranteed it would be a bestseller. Banning intelligent design in Dover will likely only fan interest in the theory.”

“In the larger debate over intelligent design, this decision will be of minor significance,” added Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin. “As we’ve repeatedly stressed, the ultimate validity of intelligent design will be determined not by the courts but by the scientific evidence pointing to design.”

Luskin pointed out that the ruling only applies to the federal district in which it was handed down. It has no legal effect anywhere else. The decision is also unlikely to be appealed, since the recently elected Dover school board members campaigned on their opposition to the policy. “The plans of the lawyers on both sides of this case to turn this into a landmark ruling have been preempted by the voters,” he said.

“Discovery Institute continues to oppose efforts to mandate teaching about the theory of intelligent design in public schools,” emphasized West. “But the Institute strongly supports the freedom of teachers to discuss intelligent design in an objective manner on a voluntary basis. We also think students should learn about both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

Drawing on recent discoveries in physics, biochemistry and related disciplines, the scientific theory of intelligent design proposes that some features of the natural world are best explained as the product of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. Proponents include scientists at numerous universities and science organizations around the world.