Culture At Large

Intelligent Debate over Intelligent Design


Intelligent design in public schools is about to face its first legal challenge in federal court. The small town of Dover, Pennsylvania, is the center of this storm that many expect will have much broader impact than just one school district.

Advocates on both sides of the issue have lined up behind the case, often calling it Scopes II, in reference to the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that was the last century's great face-off over evolution.

On the evolutionists' side is a legal team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. These groups want to put intelligent design itself on trial and discredit it so thoroughly that no other school board would dare authorize teaching it.


The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creation science in public schools was unconstitutional because it was based on religion. So the plaintiffs will try to prove that intelligent design is creationism in a new package. Richard Katskee, assistant legal director of Americans United, said the "Pandas" textbook only substituted references to "creationism" with "intelligent design" in more recent editions.

Mr. Thompson said his side would prove that intelligent design was not creationism because it did not mention God or the Bible and never posited the creator's identity.

"It's clear they are two different theories," Mr. Thompson said. "Creationism normally starts with the Holy Scripture, the Book of Genesis, then you develop a scientific theory that supports it, while intelligent design looks at the same kind of empirical data that any scientist looks at," and concludes that complex mechanisms in nature "appear designed because it is designed."

I confess that I don't know much about intelligent design beyond its basic premise that the world appears too complex to have evolved randomly and, therefore, must have been designed by some sort of intelligence. What I don't understand is why some Christians are attracted to intelligent design since it isn't biblical. Does intelligent design stand for something or is it just a stand against Darwinian evolution? Or is it, as its opponents claim, just a crass ploy to reintroduce creationism to public schools? The arguments for free speech and open debate just seem like a red herring to me.

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