Dover, Pennsylvania is a small town of 19,000 surrounded by corn fields. There is only one high school. One high school that, until now, had only attracted outside attention for its marching band. Then in October 2004, the Dover school board passed a change requiring biology teachers to recite a four-paragraph statement. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is "not a fact" and has some inexplicable "gaps," and it suggests that students read an intelligent design textbook titled Of Pandas and People.
"Right now, all we're offering them is Darwinism theory," says David Napierski, a former school board member. "In essence almost, we're almost telling them that they came into being because they evolved through whatever process you want to believe in evolution. Where intelligent design is basically telling them there is a scientific process out there right now that believes that you came into being through an intelligent designer."
The new policy in Dover didn't say who the intelligent designer was, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the designer is clearly God, and God doesn't belong in the classroom. So the ACLU and 11 parents filed a lawsuit which became the landmark case Kitzmiller v. Dover.
"I remember when she came up with this a year ago, we were like, 'Oh my gosh. Are you serious?'" says Jessica, one of Tammy Kitzmiller's daughters. "She was like, 'This could be national. It could go worldwide.' So maybe down the road when my kids are learning about my mom, maybe I'll realize how big it is."
Kitzmiller v. Dover will certainly go down in the history books. This was the first ever court case over intelligent design in schools, and it may serve as a cautionary tale to other school boards. In November, Dover residents ousted eight of the nine school board members who backed the intelligent design policy. And in December, the parents won their court case.
"I hope this decision will bring the healing process to Dover," says Kitzmiller as the ACLU and parents celebrated. "I also hope people will take the time to read this decision, to understand why this mattered so much to our families and to us individually and for our kids."
In his decision, Federal Judge John Jones said the Dover policy violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which bars the government from favoring one religious view over another. Judge Jones said, "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID [intelligent design] is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism and not a scientific theory."
"We are absolutely thrilled that Judge Jones has seen through the smoke and mirrors used by design proponents and has ruled that intelligent design is not science," says Vic Walczak, one of the lawyers for the ACLU. "Confusing religion and science does injury to both. Telling students intelligent design is science confuses them about how science works and undermines evolution, which is one of the pillars of modern biology. At a time when this country is lagging behind other nations in scientific literacy, we can ill afford to shackle our children's minds with 15th century pseudo-science."
But supporters of intelligent design say it doesn't matter what one judge says. The scientific evidence will determine the future of intelligent design, not the courts.
Continue to part 2