Friday, September 23, 2005


Dover and the Rift on the Right

An important part of the backstory in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which will open in federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Monday, September 26, is the exclusion of the Discovery Institute -- the most prominent proponent of intelligent design -- from the defense of what promises to be ID's first, and quite possibly precedent setting, legal test.

Late yesterday, the Discovery Institute issued a news release saying it "opposes on policy grounds the science education policy adopted by the Dover School District."
Discovery (the statement goes on to say) holds that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common sense approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.

The Discovery Institute, and attorneys for the right-wing fundamentalist Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the Dover School District have been exceptionally closed mouthed about the rift between them.

However, an article (subscription required) in the Sept. 16, issue of Science by Constance Holden, "ID Goes on Trial This Month in Pennsylvania School Case" gives a glimpse behind the curtain at what's going on:
The defense is now down to two scientists: Lehigh University biologist Michael J. Behe and Scott Minnich, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Neither would comment on the pending trial. Two prominent figures who agreed to be witnesses--Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute, a think tank that promotes ID, and mathematician William Dembski, a Discovery fellow--pulled out before they could be deposed, reportedly on orders from Discovery leadership. John West, associate director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture, would say only that there were "differences of opinion between lawyers."

But ID opponents think they know what's going on. "Discovery has been very cagey--they're worried about a big court defeat," says Joseph Conn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the groups supporting the plaintiffs. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, says that the appearance of Dembski, editor of the latest edition of Of Pandas and People, would have allowed the plaintiffs to introduce the book into the trial and put ID front and center. Instead, Miller expects the defense to "present as small a target as possible," arguing that "the board did not teach ID and that they didn't even endorse it."

Of course, as Red State Rabble regulars are already aware, the board's statement specifically mentions that:
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.


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