Harrisburg, Pa. - "Intelligent design" is a religious theory that was inserted in a school district's curriculum with no concern for whether it had scientific underpinnings, a lawyer told a federal judge Monday as a landmark trial got under way.
"They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a religious point of view in science class and cared nothing about its scientific validity," said Eric Rothschild, an attorney representing eight families who are challenging the decision of the Dover Area School District.
But in his opening statement, the school district's attorney defended Dover's policy of requiring ninth-grade students to hear a brief statement about intelligent design before biology classes on evolution.
I'll be writing more about this as things go on (I'm supposed to be reading background info Right. Now.), but for right now, let me toss out a few things:
- Dover is just one county over from us here in what is variously described as the Pennsylvania "T", Central PA, and "Penntucky". In fact, a few of the parishioners in my last church lived in Dover, and one is a band instructor in the Dover School District. It's conservative territory, to be sure, but here's the important thing: it's also a transitional area, hard on York city and the surrounding countryside. The New York Times describes it as "blue collar," but a better description would be "formerly rural". These are deeply traditional people, with social norms more commonly seen in Alabama or Georgia. They are keenly aware of the threat that sprawl presents, not just to land values, but to a way of life that seems to be slipping away by the year. The members of the congregation I served were concerned with a 400-home development proposed just up the road. If it passed the zoning board in its initial form, it would have doubled the size of their borough.
But Dover is also a refuge from the perenially crisis-afflicted city, which leads to a sense of insecurity. Like many suburbs, the draw to Dover is that it has good schools--at least better than most of the other districts around. Parents care about their kids' education--moral and secular. The combination of social conservatism and upward mobility is the fuel this controversy lives on. It's no accident that these cases pop up almost exclusively in suburban areas, or in states like Kansas, with deeply ingrained social rifts.
- Skip the arguments about facts and science and truth. This is about competing moral worldviews. Witness these statements by a member of the school board:
This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such.
Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?
College prep and a firm indoctrination in the moral order of the universe are key to success in life.
This is not about science.
- As the case goes on, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is undoubtedly looking on, his noodly appendages touched with compassion and carbohydrates.