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Back in Dover, With Darwin

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A couple years ago, I was lucky enough to be one of many reporters who crowded into a federal courtroom in Harrisburg, Pa., to cover a landmark court case over whether "intelligent design" had a place in public school science classrooms.

The legal battle centered on a decision by the Dover, Pa., school board to require that students be introduced in biology class to intelligent design, an alternative to the theory of evolution. A group of parents sued to halt the policy, arguing that it amounted to an attempt to promote religious views in a public school science setting.

Federal Judge John E. Jones III heard countless hours of testimony from scientists and academics, as well as school board members, parents, and Dover administrators who were players in the case. In the end, Jones issued an opinion declaring that ID amounted to religion, not science. Many people I've interviewed since then have said the reasoning put forward by the jurist, in his 139-page ruling, have shaped evolution battles in schools and states ever since, by lending credence to scientists' views that attacks on evolution are misleading and not likely to stand up to legal scrutiny.


A number of journalists' accounts of the 2005 trial have appeared since then. I recently learned of another one, The Devil in Dover, authored by Laurie Lebo, who reported on the case for the York Daily Record.

Lebo brings an interesting perspective on the trial, to say the least. In the book, she not only dwells on the drama in the courtroom, but also on some apparently difficult discussions at home about the case with her deeply religious father, judging from the descriptions on the Web promoting the book.

Her account has received a number of positive reviews. One of them comes from someone who could be described as an authority: Judge John E. Jones himself, who describes it as "a most compelling narrative that accurately describes this historic battle."

1 Comment

I have always thought about this subject ever since we were taught Evolution in my Biology class. There is not concrete scientific proof of Evolution, although it is still taught in the classroom. It is still referred to as a theory. The Intelligent Design theory also has no scientific proof but is just as common as belief as Evolution. I think it should be taught along with Evolution in Biology. They should both be taught in an unbiased way. Evolution can offend as many people as does the Intelligent Design theory. I believe if the Intelligent Design theory is not being taught as fact, yet as an option that is as scientifically sound as Evolution it is not conflicting with the Seperation of Church and STate.

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