'Breathtaking Inanity': How Intelligent Design Flunked Its Test Case

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Tammy Kitzmiller and Christy Rhem express their happiness during a news conference Tuesday in Harrisburg Pa., after hearing the verdicit from Judge John E. Jones that prevents the Dover School District from teaching 'intelligent design' in biology class

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Opponents of intelligent design hailed the ruling as a smashing victory for evolution. "Everybody understood that intelligent design was a religious proposition, and we are absolutely thrilled that Judge Jones has seen through the smoke and mirrors used by intelligent design proponents," said Witold Walczak, legal director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, at a press conference after the ruling. The ACLU provided substantial legal backing to the plaintiffs in the case. Walczak said the trial decisively demonstrated that intelligent design is not science in any way. "At a time when this country is lagging behind other nations in scientific literacy, we can ill afford to shackle our children's minds with 15th century pseudo science," he said.

Eric Rothschild, a member of the ACLU legal team and a partner in the powerful Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, attacked the school board members who approved the intelligent design requirement. "They were selfish — they imposed their own religious viewpoint on a community that has diverse religious beliefs," he said. "And they did that without any investigation or research about whether what they were presenting to the students was science. This was all about getting their religious views into the school curriculum."

Both men said the turmoil and bitterness that racked Dover after the intelligent design requirement was passed shows why the separation of church and state is so important. Walczak pointed to stories from the plaintiffs of how they had been criticized, shunned, and mocked as "atheists" when they complained, despite the fact that many of the plaintiffs say they are devoutly religious. "Dover is exhibit A for what happens when the government injects itself into religious belief," Walczak said.

Intelligent design supporters, however, refused to concede defeat.The Thomas More Law Center issued a written statement criticizing the Supreme Court itself, saying that the existing case law on which Jones based his decision "is in hopeless disarray and in need of substantial revision." The center's president, Richard Thompson, insisted in the statement that the Dover School Board instituted was not inherently religious. "The Founders of this country would be astonished at the thought that this simple curriculum change 'established religion' in violation of the Constitution that they drafted," he wrote.

But he pointed to past statements from Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas criticizing existing Supreme Court precedent on religion as evidence that the court is not unified in its rejection of creationism and other alternatives to evolution. "Unfortunately, until the Supreme Court adopts a more coherent and historically sound jurisprudence, school districts like Dover will be at risk of costly lawsuits by the ACLU for adopting such modest curriculum changes such as the one at issue," he wrote.

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