Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III
Middle District of Pennsylvania (Dec. 20, 2005)
In 2005 Judge John E. Jones III of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania handed down his ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. It is regarded as the definitive court ruling on Intelligent Design.
The case arose when the Dover Area School Board adopted a policy requiring teachers of 9th grade biology to read to their students a brief disclaimer about the theory of evolution. The statement said that evolution was a theory and not a fact, that Intelligent Design is another explanation of the origin of life, and that a book was available in the school library if students wished to know more. The statement did not actually say that Intelligent Design was necessarily true or that evolution was false. Nevertheless, several irate parents sued the school district, alleging an unconstitutional intrusion of religion into a public school classroom. The judge reviewed the evidence and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
[We should explain to our readers in the British Commonwealth that in the U.S. a "public school" is a school supported by tax dollars and controlled by the state. It is not an exclusive private school, as in England. Moreover, since the U.S. Constitution forbids an "establishment of religion," i.e., a state church, the content of public school education becomes a matter of controversy. How is it possible to provide an "education" that is secular, without becoming implicitly atheistic?]
The judge reviewed the history of the Intelligent Design movement and concluded that "ID," as it is called for short, is essentially the same as creationism and is a form of religious belief. Since the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled that creationism may not be taught in a public school classroom, Judge Jones ruled that neither may Intelligent Design.
Judge Jones could have left the issue at that, but he did not. Instead, he wrote a 139 page opinion that explored all aspects of the issue, from the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas to the inner politics of the Dover school board.
According to Judge Jones, the "seminal question" in the case was whether or not Intelligent Design is science. But what exactly is "science"? The judge cited a definition from the National Academy of Science: "In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data – the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science" (Kitzmiller, p. 66). The judge noted that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th Centuries science has limited itself to naturalistic explanations of phenomena. "Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea's worth. In deliberately omitting theological or 'ultimate' explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of 'meaning' and 'purpose' in the world" (p. 65). He then concluded, quite correctly we think, that Intelligent Design does not meet that definition of science.
What Judge Jones failed to mention, however, is that most of the great scientists of the 16th and 17th Centuries believed that nature has a rational structure precisely because it came from the hand of an intelligent Being. Virtually none of them thought that nature was the result of a process of natural evolution. In other words, almost all of them believed in some form of what we would call today "Intelligent Design," or what was know then as "natural theology." While they adhered rigorously to the empirical method, they did not claim that it could tell them the ultimate origin of things. As Sir Francis Bacon put it, "My first admonition (which was also my prayer) is that men confine the sense within the limits of duty in respect of things divine: for the sense is like the sun, which reveals the face of earth, but seals and shuts up the face of heaven" (The Great Instauration, preface).
The common disability under which both theories labor is that an alleged prehistoric event cannot be subjected to direct observation and experiment. Neither theory is testable. Neither theory can be verified by means of the scientific method. And until a theory has been tested and validated through experiment it is still tentative: it may not be true at all.
Why, then, is evolution considered "science"? It appears that Darwinists have suddenly change the definition of "science." Evolution is presumably science because it offers a completely naturalistic explanation for the origins of life's forms. Intelligent Design, by this reckoning, is obviously not science, because it leaves room for divine agency in nature. In other words, "science" is no longer just a method; it is a worldview.
Because Christian theism is inherently religious, Judge Jones ruled that it has no place in the public school classroom. But does the First Amendment really require the public school system to indoctrinate our youth in a materialist philosophical system?