Intelligent Design in the Classroom
"I'd always thought that there was two sides to the debate," says DeHart, "and biology textbooks present one side. And I was confident at the time there were other scientists who came to other conclusions. I realized that talk of God and the Bible and things like that was not science, was not part of my class. But on the other hand, I think there was evidence of design."
DeHart is a soft spoken, shirt-and-tie kind of teacher, who prefers not to lecture but rather encourages questions and original thinking from his students. He is now at Oaks Christian High School, a prestigious private school outside Malibu, California. But five years ago, he was teaching at a public school in Burlington, Washington.
"I never intended or never in my wildest dreams would ever think that I would get press because of my teaching in the high school biology classroom," says DeHart.
He was showing the film Inherit the Wind, drawing on articles from science journals challenging evolution and using the intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People. He did that for a decade and no one complained. But one day, one student did, and DeHart was soon on the front page of the local papers. Editorials raged, and an aggressive campaign of letter writing to get him fired began.
DeHart says no student ever came to him to complain. "They went straight to the American Civil Liberties Union," he says.
DeHart believes his administration was afraid of a lawsuit. The school didn't fire him, but instead, slowly took away the biology classes from his teaching load. So DeHart resigned.
Roger DeHart tries to avoid being back in the spotlight, but he agreed to testify last year in Kansas when its Board of Education held courtroom-like hearings deciding whether to include evidence against evolution in their science standards.
They asked DeHart if he accepts "that human beings are related by common descent to pre-hominid ancestors?" His response: "No."
"What is the alternative explanation if you do not accept common descent?" they asked.
"Design," DeHart replied.
"Who is the Designer?"
"I don't identify the designer in my class."
It didn't take long before the heat of the controversy of five years before came right back to the surface.
The Kansas board continued. "Are you familiar with the establishment clause of the United States Constitution?"
"I certainly am."
The establishment clause forbids the teaching of religion in public schools.
Continue to part 2