A Christian educators group is expressing dismay over a recent court ruling its members feel censors Pennsylvania public school science teachers. Last week a federal judge ruled that "intelligent design" theory cannot be mentioned in biology classes in the Dover Area School District of Pennsylvania.
Formerly, the Dover district had a policy of informing students that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was just that -- a theory -- and that many gaps exist in the evidence supporting it. Also, Dover teachers had been teaching students that intelligent design, or ID, is an alternate theory of origins and encouraging them to keep an open mind.
Dover science teachers still taught evolution so students would be prepared for state proficiency tests. However, their practice of including instruction on the theory of intelligent design disturbed some parents and motivated the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the school district in court regarding the orthodoxy of its science curriculum.
After hearing the arguments, U.S. District Judge John Jones issued a 139-page opinion, ruling the Dover school board's policy unconstitutional and that intelligent design "is an extension of the fundamentalists' view that one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution."
Defending ID Science, Decrying ID Censorship
But Finn Laursen, executive director of Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), believes the judge is clearly confusing ID with creationism. While creationism is based on the Bible's account of origins in Genesis, Laursen asserts, intelligent design is "not a religious construct," but a scientific theory positing that "the unexplained complexity of life points to an Intelligent Designer, and anyone can draw their own conclusions about who or what that may be."
The CEAI spokesman says although faith may play into those individual conclusions, his group is not advocating religious instruction in public schools. It is simply "healthy education," he contends, to teach students about the controversy surrounding the theory of evolution.
Besides, Laursen points out, the judge's claim that ID is not science because it supposedly "relies on the unprovable existence of the Christian God" is a rubric under which evolution would also be disqualified, since Darwin's theory cannot be proven either.
In any case, the Christian educators' advocate insists that government has no business banning viewpoints in the classroom. He says Judge Jones "needs to heed Dover's recommendation to be open minded" and to allow all the available science to speak for itself.
"If the educational community had held this position earlier in our culture, we might still be teaching students that the earth is flat or that the sun revolves around the Earth," Laursen asserts. "But as new theories developed, the logical place to debate these things and discuss these things and study these things was and is in the educational community."
The executive director of CEAI says he is "greatly disappointed" over the court's ruling that information about intelligent design must be kept away from Dover students. He worries that many Christian teachers, perhaps even some members of his group, may now be hesitant to teach science that does not validate the theory of macroevolution.
"I don't think that's what the ruling said," Laursen remarks, "but I think that Christian educators in our public schools might misunderstand that ruling and withdraw from teaching all the science that's out there." He considers the recent court decision banning the mention of intelligent design in the Dover schools to be a serious blow to academic freedom as well as a case where "[y]et another activist judge has forced personal prejudices on the educational community."
Nevertheless, Laursen promises, CEAI will continue to encourage its members to "teach all the science available in the 21st century, whether it supports evolution or not." He says the group will also go on urging teachers to bring supplemental science data and information beyond the mandated curricula into their classrooms.
(c) 2005 AgapePress all rights reserved