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Creation Evidence: Judgment at Harrisburg

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Judgment at Harrisburg

Like the Nuremberg trials, the six-week trial at Harrisburg has attracted a great deal of attention. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Judge John E. Jones III’s long-awaited decision was made December 20, 2005 in favor of the plaintiff, Kitzmiller. This decision is notable because it is the first court case which tests the validity of Intelligent Design education in public schools.

The Dover Area School District was merely presenting a one-minute disclaimer stating that evolution has “gaps” and that other texts such as Of Pandas and People were recommended as additional reading. However, Judge Jones ruled against this use by invoking the principle of separation of church and state. Jones wrote, “The students, parents and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.''

This decision is clearly a setback for Intelligent Design proponents who wish to have some critique of evolution presented to students. Evolutionist blogs such as The Panda’s Thumb are hailing this as a watershed event, and one newspaper is calling it a Waterloo victory. The decision will definitely have an impact on school districts across the country which have considered implementing some form of Intelligent Design or criticism of evolution.

So, is this the beginning of the end of the Intelligent Design movement? That is not very likely. Though both sides have considered Judge Jones a moderate and considerate judge, rather than an activist judge, the case did not go well for the defendants. At least two Dover School Board members were caught covering up information regarding the gift of several copies of the textbook Of Pandas and People given to the school district. In addition, three of the strongest proponents of Intelligent Design, William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and Jonathan Wells were not called to testify. Personally, I am disappointed by this omission. However, the staff at the Discovery Institute (the source of much of the Intelligent Design work) recommends educators “teach the controversy” rather than teaching Intelligent Design.

So what can Intelligent Design proponents do now to renew the challenge against evolution in public schools? I propose that some group challenge the teaching of evolution as science. For what empirical evidence is there for the universe’s matter coming out of nothing? What operational science is there that supports life naturally arising from chemicals? And what evidence is there for macroevolution? Origins of matter and life are based on faith. One of the definitions of religion is: "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith".* The philosophy of metaphysical naturalism which is assumed in evolution education needs to be challenged in court, not Intelligent Design.

Natural selection, adaptation and other mechanisms such as genetic drift are science, but not evolution as commonly understood. Evolution, as the public thinks of it, consists of changes in a vertical direction. However, what is observed through experimentation are changes in a downward, or at best a horizontal direction. Vertical evolution requires the DNA (a long string of instructions) of a species to evolve into novel structures or functions.

To illustrate the concept of vertical evolution, think of a paragraph of text. To copy the paragraph and paste it somewhere else in the document is at best a horizontal change to the document. But a vertical change to the document is to intelligently add an original paragraph of text. Mutations can’t do that in a million generations, but vertical evolution is what people think of when they think of evolution. Evolution is pseudoscience held to with “ardor and faith” not observation.

The Thomas More Law Center, which defended Dover Area School District, previously said that if they lost they would take the case to the Supreme Court. This is not the case to pursue. That would lead to more embarrassment. Rather, a new case that challenges the validly of evolution as science is needed.


* Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, 10th Edition.

Jim Bendewald, MDiv., is a staff writer for New Media Alliance and co-author of the book, Evolution Shot Full of Holes. He also developed the CD-ROM, Evidence the Bible Is True. See more evidence at: http://creationevidence.blogspot.com/ and http://www.evidencepress.com/.

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