red scare in the early 1950s, there was hue and cry about
schools which taught Communism as anything other than a
dangerous unamerican ideology. The liberal establishment -- in
particular, the American Civil Liberties Union -- rushed to
defend teachers' right to do so and the notion that education
requires students to be exposed even to unpopular ideas. Now
many of the same advocates of academic freedom have circled the
wagons against the threat of something called intelligent
The A.C.L.U. and 11 parents are in federal
court in Harrisburg suing the rural Dover, Pa., area school
district to protect their children from harmful confusion
wrought not by teaching them about intelligent design, but by
exposing them to a rather innocuous disclaimer advising that not
everyone agrees with everything contained in or applied by
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and that a book presenting
one alternate view is available in the school library should
they want more information.
The trial hasn't generated the level of
media hype that the celebrated Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 did,
but it seems to have a whole lot of scientists and public school
educators trembling in fear for their professional lives.
Creationism cloaked in a not very convincing disguise, they say,
is howling at the door and, with a politically right-leaning
Supreme Court shaping up, threatening to huff and puff and blow
down the wall separating church and state.
In preparation to write this commentary,
Delaforum asked some local school spokespersons for their
positions on the issue. Rob Ziegler, on behalf of the Brandywine
School District, said, "We
[state] standards in the science courses. At this time,
intelligent design is not, nor will [it] be included in the
science curriculum." Pati Nash said the Red Clay district "follow[s]
the state science curriculum, which does not include a
discussion of intelligent design." Ron Gough, of the Delaware Department of
Education, has not responded.
the offending disclaimer in full:
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require
students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and
eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a
Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues
to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a
fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A
theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a
broad range of observations.
Intelligent design is an explanation of the
origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference
book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might
be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent
design actually involves.
With respect to any theory, students are
encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the
discussion of the origins of life to individual students and
their families. As a standards-driven district, class
instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve
proficiency on standards-based assessments.
to be not much more than a statement of relevant facts. It
doesn't express an opinion in support of -- or in opposition to
-- intelligent design. So, what's to be afraid?
a quest for truth through observation, experimentation and
reasoning. Just as that process was applied to a then-novel
viewpoint when naturalist Darwin published
Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
in 1859, it would seem equally incumbent to apply it to the
views expressed in legal scholar Phillip Johnson's 1991 book,
Darwin on Trial.
Pandas and People was published in 1989 and is not now
available in the New Castle County public library system
investigation can't be done, the folks in the white lab coats
say, because Darwin is science and Johnson is religion. Johnson,
however, stops after positing that life as we know it is too
complex to have happened by chance and natural selection and,
therefore, requires some form of intelligence to have started
and to be sustained. To be sure, intelligent design implies the
existence of a designer, but Johnson's theory does not speculate
on who or what that may be.
people, science and religion are not incompatible. Each
recognizes the existence of the other. Here in northern
Delaware, we except without more than a quick second glance the
seeming juxtaposition inherent in "the miracles of science."
casual brush with world history makes clear that every peoples
and cultures which now exist or have existed have intuitively
recognized the probability of something beyond the human realm.
Whether singular or plural, be it personification or a force, by
whatever name, it is an entity which exists. From there, widely
varying theology attempts to define its nature and religion
seeks to govern humans' relationship with it.
If that is
too threatening a reality to expose to 10th-grade science
students in Dover, Pa. -- or in Delaware or anywhere else --
perhaps it's time to examine the perils of learning about a
dogma which proclaims:
We hold these truths to
be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness. (emphasis added)
to read court documents in the
matter of Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover School District, et al.
in the United States District Court for the Middle District of
It may be too steep a hill to climb, but,
whatever happens with the Astros and the Phillies this weekend,
it's been a heck of a ride. If needs be, we'll gladly wait til
phor the Phanatic's phavorite
Affordable housing, once shorthand for low
rents for the poor, is being stretched like never before to
include homeownership for people who are more likely to have
Starbucks cash cards than food stamps in their wallets.
to read the New York Times
A new set of regulations require radio and
television personalities in China to avoid vulgarity, dress
modestly and "uplift their young viewers." And to watch their
language. Specifically, they must use only standard Mandarin
Chinese and not include Hong Kong or Taiwanese slang and accents
-- which young Chinese, but not their government, regard as
to read the Washington Post