Intelligent Design Trial Begins in PA

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Publication date: 
4 October 2005

Currently taking place in Harrisburg, PA, is the trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover, the first court case challenging the constitutionality of teaching Intelligent Design in public school science classes.

On October 18, 2004, the Dover Area School District in Dover, PA, added the following statement to its science curriculum: "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught."

Then on November 19, 2004, the school district issued a statement to be read by teachers in biology classes at the beginning of the evolution unit. The statement reads as follows:

"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

"Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

"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.

"With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments."

According to news reports, the Pennsylvania State Educators Association, working with the Dover Senior High School science teachers, announced that the teachers would refuse to read the statement on the grounds that Intelligent Design is not science. The school district agreed that a school administrator, instead of the teachers, would read the statement to students.

Additionally, on December 14, 2004, eleven parents of students attending Dover schools filed a suit against the Dover Area School District, claiming that the school district's policies violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause which, according to the plaintiffs, "prohibits the teaching or presentation of religious ideas in public school science classes."

The trial began on September 26, 2005. Information on the case can be found on the web site of the National Center for Science Education, an organization devoted to defending the teaching of evolution in public schools, at; see "ID on Trial in Dover, PA" in the box on the upper right of the page.

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) monitors challenges to the teaching of evolution as they arise in various school districts around the country, and in some instances has, in conjunction with a number of its Member Societies, written letters to school boards and other state and local officials, encouraged individual scientists to testify at hearings, issued news alerts, and taken other grassroots initiatives to help defend the teaching of sound, peer-reviewed science in public school science classes. A number of AIP Member Societies have issued position statements or press releases related to the teaching of evolution versus Intelligent Design and Creationism:

American Astronomical Society September 20, 2005 Statement on the Teaching of Evolution:

American Astronomical Society September 20, 2005 Press Release:

American Geophysical Union August 2, 2005 Press Release:

American Physical Society August 4, 2005 Press Release:

American Association of Physics Teachers April 24, 2005 Statement on the Teaching of Evolution and Cosmology:

Society of Physics Students October 2003 statement on Evolution and Science Education:

American Geophysical Union December 2003 Statement that Earth History and the Evolution of Life Must be Taught:

American Physical Society November 14, 1999 Statement on the Kansas State Board of Education Decision:

American Astronomical Society January 10, 1982 Council Resolution on Creationism:

American Physical Society November 2, 1981 Statement on Creationism:

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