Thoughts on Dover

The Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (KvD) trial is about to head into its second week. The plaintiffs’ case so far has included several fact witnesses attesting to the pro-creationism bent of the school board since about 2002 and the harm that has been experienced since the implementation of the DASD “intelligent design policy”. Expert witnesses have confirmed that the book, Of Pandas and People, used by the DASD, is simply creationism with a new label applied, and that what content is has is not science.

Over the last couple of months, those watching the actions and rhetoric of the “intelligent design” advocates cannot but help but notice a precipitate increase in stridency and vituperation in the articles they post online or put out as press releases. They are very likely trying to soften the blow they know is coming this next week, as the plaintiffs bring Dr. Barbara Forrest to testify about the history of the “intelligent design” movement. Dr. Forrest has written extensively on this topic, and is a careful scholar. What her studies — and her source documents — show is that “intelligent design” is just the “creation science” playlist of arguments, re-labeled and cynically re-packaged to avoid the clear legal prohibition against teaching creationism as science.

Surely the ID advocates have known that the “intelligent design” label was in trouble, else they would not have stopped pushing it and started pushing the “critical analysis” label in Ohio in 2002. I think that they were hoping to avoid a test case directly on “intelligent design”. But the KvD trial not only links “intelligent design” with “creationism”, but also links the newer phrase, “gaps and problems in evolution” with “creationism”. The possibility for a drastically inconvenient ruling in this case, from the DI’s perspective, may have colored its relationship with the Thomas More Law Center.

However the trial is decided, though, I think the “intelligent design” label is a casualty. Any future litigant amenable to “intelligent design” would then have to work against all the material now known that links “intelligent design” and creationism; this, I submit, will be too large a burden for such a litigant. Don’t expect the Discovery Institute to concur; they are very likely to commission Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf or a similarly adept denialist to proclaim that all is well with “intelligent design”.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.