Much Ado About Evolution

Residents of Dover, Pa. vote out a pro-intelligent design school board, only to incur Pat Robertson's public criticism

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If residents of Dover, PA., are visited with disaster anytime soon--a flood, an earthquake, a hail of fire and brimstone--no one can say Pat Robertson didn't warn them. Doverites voted last week to oust all eight members up for re-election on the school board that had mandated the mention of "intelligent design," or i.d., in biology classrooms. By doing so, the televangelist said on his TV talk show, The 700 Club, "you just voted God out of your city."

Or at least out of science class. If the new school board changes the current policy, Dover's ninth-graders will no longer be given a statement asserting that "the theory [of evolution] is not a fact" and that i.d.--the notion that some sort of mind guided the origin and development of life--is a valid alternative. Virtually no scientist agrees with i.d. proponents, and a group of Dover parents sued the board on the basis that i.d. is a religious, not a scientific, idea. That trial ended earlier this month, and the federal judge hearing the case will rule by January.

In Kansas, meanwhile, the state board of education headed in the opposite direction, voting 6-4 to change teaching standards to acknowledge the shortcomings of evolution--flaws that, again, are recognized by few scientists. The last time the Kansas board took such an action, in 1999, voters responded by kicking many of its members out of office, only to see conservatives eventually regain control. As for Dover, one of its newly elected board members, Judy McIlvaine, said she thinks her neighbors "will have the sense to realize [Robertson] is beyond the fringe."