Intelligent creation?

Intelligent creation?

The argument over evolution and creationism in public schools

By A.J. Wagner

Brown University professor Kenneth Miller testifies in 2005 in 'Kitzmiller v. Dover School District' on whether intelligent design is a religious belief or a scientific theory.

Brown University professor Kenneth Miller testifies in 2005 in 'Kitzmiller v. Dover School District' on whether intelligent design is a religious belief or a scientific theory.

For those who contend that the U.S. is a Christian nation, this paragraph, taken from the Treaty of Tripoli, is an obstacle of great consequence.

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Mussulmen — and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

This paragraph, ratified unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by John Adams in 1797, makes it clear that the founding fathers did not consider the U.S. to be bound by any religion.

Furthermore, the U.S., in 1797, staked its ground with Islam coming down on the side of peaceful coexistence with the Muslim faith. Again, approved unanimously by the Senate and signed by the president.

This statement within the Treaty of Tripoli displays the thought that eventually evolved into a phrase used in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That phrase states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is what Thomas Jefferson called, “a wall of separation between church and state.”

More fully, Jefferson said, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

It is with this brief historical background that I ask you to contemplate how the Springboro School Board might require the teaching of creationism in their classrooms. Two of the school board’s members are already on board with the idea and if it is approved by the full board, it will most certainly face a court challenge.

Several courts have already dealt with the issue of creationism and time after time the courts have said that the teaching of “creationism,” “intelligent design” or “creation science” is the teaching of religion, which is forbidden by the First Amendment. Here’s a brief description of three of those cases starting with the granddaddy of them all: Epperson v. Arkansas.
In Epperson, (1968) 393 U.S. 97, the U.S. Supreme Court took on Arkansas where the teaching of evolution had been banned by law. The Court said that the law violated the First Amendment to the Constitution in that it required teaching and learning to be tailored to the principles and prohibitions of a particular religious sect or doctrine. That, according to the Supreme Court, violates the Establishment Clause stated above.

Edwards vs. Aguillard (1987) 482 U.S. 578, is a case from Louisiana where legislation at one time required that if evolution was taught in a classroom then creation science must be given equal treatment. In Edwards, the U.S. Supreme Court said that to teach of a supernatural being that created the humans is to endorse religion, which the U.S. Constitution prohibits.

In the third case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, (2005) 400 F. Supp. 2d 707, Judge John E. Jones, III rendered a thorough 139-page decision declaring that “intelligent design” could not be taught in the Dover schools. Judge Jones heard significant amounts of testimony from proponents of intelligent design who tried to present the theory as scientific in its underpinnings. After listening to the testimony, Judge Jones concluded intelligent design “is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community.”

So the courts have been consistent. Call it what you want, but creationism is religious doctrine, not science. Evolution is science. Until such time as spontaneous or abrupt species development can be proven to be based in science and not religion the result is likely to be the same.

The Springboro School Board, should they choose to add creationism to their curriculum, must be prepared to prove such. If they cannot, they risk significant loss of taxpayer dollars engaging in a legal challenge they are not likely to win.

Stop by our website and give us your view on the Springboro proposal.  Do you think the idea is intelligent?

Go to www.daytoncitypaper.com and click onto my blog.

Disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and information only. Do not use this as a legal consultation. Every situation has different nuances that can affect the outcome and laws change without notice. If you’re in a situation that calls for legal advice, get a lawyer. You represent yourself at your own risk. The author, the Dayton City Paper and its affiliates shall have no liability stemming from your use of the information contained herein.

A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.

3 Responses to “Intelligent creation?” Subscribe

  1. Lee Bowman August 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    “It is with this brief historical background that I ask you to contemplate how the Springboro School Board might require the teaching of creationism in their classrooms. Two of the school board’s members are already on board with the idea and if it is approved by the full board, it will most certainly face a court challenge.”

    There is no doubt that we are a sectarian nation, and rightly so, granting us immunity from the throws of theocracy. How fortunate for us that this countries founders had such foresight!

    But it raises a valid question. Does that insularity from theocracy protect us in other areas as well? The realm of science has no real boundaries, except transcending reality, perhaps. Who in Newton’s or Galileo’s day would have considered black holes, multiverses or quantum physics, where particles have demonstrated apparent conscious awareness as valid science? Or so it seems. The efficacy of these observations will stand or fall under the constraints of scrutiny, nothing more.

    But now we are faced with a dilemma. We depend heavily upon Courts and the Judicial System to protect our rights as citizens, and rightly so. But this bulwark has in recent years been extended to now include science, and what is allowed within scientific scrutiny, a prime example being the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case, where a disclaimer was to be read to biology students which questioned aspects of Darwin’s Theory. The Court subsequently disallowed the reading of that disclaimer. But it didn’t stop there.

    Judge Jones went one step further, and decided, based of his brief introduction to evolutionary theory, that he was now qualified to adjudicate, and was justified in so doing, the efficacy and validity of the hypothesis of teleology within science. From his decision:

    “We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.”

    Refutation of the above is quite simple. (1) Supernaturality, a nebulous term, was NOT defended by the defense, although one could easily attribute the Big Bang (a scientific theory) to that. (2) Irreducible complexity is a valid hypothesis to explain non-evolvability of certain biological features, and (3) questioning aspects of a scientific theory does NOT constitute “negative attacks”, nor have those aspects been “refuted by the scientific community”, which in this case would refer to book publish Kenneth Miller’s ‘just-so’ testimonial dictates.

    Now let’s jump to the 2007 Atheist Alliance International Convention, where Eugenie Scott states at [4:10] “We won, and we really won big. We didn’t just win in the sense that intelligent design policy is religious and so you can’t teach it, we won because a judge decided that intelligent design was crappy science.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_48IvWR86BY

    And by ‘we’ was Scott referring to the American people, or to the NCSE and ACLU, with their political agendas? Although technically effecting Dover County only, it [part two] has been highly influential in court decisions outside of that jurisdiction. Adjudicating science is not the way that science is done, and part two of the ruling plainly violates the ground rules of jurisprudence. If this ruling is allowed to stand, without reversal by a higher court, then not only science, but freedom of mind will be on the political chopping block in times to come.

    • A.J. Wagner August 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Lee.

      Judges (or juries) are not experts on much of what comes before them. That is why parties are asked to present their experts along with the science that allows their conclusions. Judges (or juries) then decide cases based on, usually, a preponderance of the evidence as they see it presented to them. Judge Jones was saying, in its simplest form, he didn’t believe the evidence met the required preponderance in his mind and he explained why he felt that was so.

      ID can prevail in the courts if a judge or appellate court becomes convinced of the science. That means scientists need to present evidence that convinces a court by a preponderance of the evidence that the scientific community says it’s science. Until then it will be considered religion which cannot be taught in public schools.

      Perhaps I can do an article in the future about the definition of science and experts.

  2. Geoff August 17, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    In these Tea Party-hearty days, it’s not surprising that reactionary forces are at work throughout the land; having demonstrated and taken advantage of American credulity time and time again, their energies are waxing and their determination is in full bloom. Mrs. Kohls is merely one little head of the hydra, and you can bet your bottom dollar that she didn’t come up with this little contretemps all on her lonesome. Interests well outside the community of Springboro are behind this “local” effort, I guarantee it.

    Mrs. Kohls is well schooled in the standard arguments of creationists–oh, pardon me, I meant intelligent designers–and their standard misrepresentations, and don’t let her soft-soap rhetoric fool you, nor her disingenuous presentation of “evidence” and support. For instance, Karl Priest, the former teacher who Mrs. Kohls claims just “wrote to me last week” is a leading figure in the creationist movement, though perhaps not the most rational one. For some enlightening reading concerning Mr. Priest, check out this site: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/119-why-i-won-39-t-debate-creationists. It’s quite revealing.

    I don’t really care to get much further into this latest tea-pot tempest; it’s just another distraction to keep people from paying attention to genuinely important issues. I encourage Mrs. Kohls to review the definition of theory as it applies to genuine science before she makes any more of a fool of herself in her vain attempts to inject religious doctrine into the public school system. Springboro, of all places, deserves better.

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