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Intelligent Design Proponents Lose Battles In School Districts In Four States

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Science teachers in Hillsborough County, Florida, last week voted to use biology textbooks that don’t mention intelligent design.

Nancy Marsh, the district’s high school science supervisor, told the Tampa Tribune that teachers based their decision on which book would best meet state science standards. Science supervisors in nearby Pasco and Pinellas counties don’t expect intelligent design will become an issue for them either when they choose their science textbooks next month.

It’s the latest blow for supporters of the controversial belief, which argues that a higher being designed the complex universe. The belief has been championed by conservative Christian leaders as an alternative to evolutionary theory worthy of being taught in public schools. But it has been fought by supporters of separation of church and state, who see intelligent design as a thinly veiled way to teach religion in public schools.

How thinly veiled? “I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach,” wrote teacher Sharon Lemburg, whose “Philosophy of Design” class was shut down by El Tejon Unified School District in California earlier this month.

The school district chose to cancel the philosophy course rather than face a lawsuit from parents. The suit was brought forth because the class relied almost exclusively on videos that presented religious theories as scientific ones, including titles such as Chemicals to Living Cells: Fantasy or Science? and Astronomy and the Bible, according to the suit. Lemburg is the wife of an Assembly of God minister.

“This sends a strong signal to school districts across the country that they cannot promote creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution whether they do so in a science class or a humanities class,” Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the Associated Press. The group had filed the suit on behalf of eleven parents.

Last month, Americans United participated in a lawsuit that blocked the Dover, Pennsylvania, school system from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that school board members’ true motive in approving the intelligent design policy was to promote religion.

And a federal judge recently ruled that it was unconstitutional for Cobb County, Georgia, to require the placement of stickers in biology textbooks reading: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

That decision is currently under review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

The next battlefronts are Kansas and Michigan. Can science continue to trump thinly veiled religious belief? For the sake of the public school kids, let’s hope so.

This item first appeared at JABBS.

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About David R. Mark

  • david r. mark

    At the risk of infuriating Dave Nalle, this item was featured on Buzzflash.com.

  • Howard

    A theory cannot be questioned because a judge questions the motive for questioning the theory?

  • The class in Calif. is a different story. It was an elective class, not a requirement.

  • david r. mark

    It’s still a public secondary school, though. Religious belief shouldn’t be taught in that environment. A comparative religion course is about as close as such a school should get.

    Private schools are a different matter.

  • Fair enough. I still think turning a blind eye to religion in public school is a mistake, because it’s as much a part of life as history, politics, long division or state capitals.

    Just not in the laboratory. That’s for playing God, not studying him.

  • david r. mark

    That’s fine. I have no problem with a comparative religion course.

    The problem is that a minority of Americans want to Christianize public schools. They want a morning prayer. They want ID taught in science. They want a Christmas program with religious songs.

    They don’t understand what the problem is. They think separation of church and state is a liberal, secular, ACLU-driven anti-American belief.

    I’ve proposed on my blog that if they are going to teach ID, they should also teach biblical archaeology — because biblical archaeologists have shown that most of the people in the bible didn’t exist (or at least there’s no actual record of their existence), and that many of the geographic references are incorrect, too.