Skip to comments.On second day, evolution trial [Dover, PA] delves into topic of faith
Posted on 09/27/2005 9:21:27 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The second day of a trial over what students should be told about evolution and alternative views of life's origins veered briefly into a discussion of faith.
Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, a witness for eight families suing the Dover Area School District for introducing the concept of "intelligent design," was asked by a school attorney whether faith and reason are compatible.
"I believe not only that they are compatible but that they are complimentary," said Miller, who had earlier volunteered that he was a practicing Roman Catholic.
Pressed on that point, Miller was asked why a biology textbook he had written included a statement that evolution is "random and undirected." Miller said he had a co-author on the textbook, a 1995 edition, and that he missed that statement. He said he did not believe evolution was random and undirected.
It was the second day on the witness stand for Miller, whose testimony Monday made the landmark trial sound like a science lecture, with references to DNA, red blood cells, viruses and complex charts shown on a projection screen.
Even U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III was a little overwhelmed.
"I guess I should say, 'Class dismissed,'" Jones said before recessing for lunch.
Dover is believed to be the nation's first school system to mandate students be exposed to the intelligent design concept. Its policy requires school administrators to read a brief statement before classes on evolution that says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." It refers students to an intelligent-design textbook for more information.
Intelligent design holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms. It implies that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force.
Eight families sued, saying that the district policy in effect promotes the Bible's view of creation, violating the constitutional separation of church and state.
On Monday, Miller said the policy undermines scientific education by wrongly raising doubts about evolutionary theory.
"It's the first movement to try to drive a wedge between students and the scientific process," he said.
But the rural school district of about 3,500 students argues it is not endorsing any religious view and is merely giving ninth-grade biology classes a glimpse of differences in evolutionary theory.
"This case is about free inquiry in education, not about a religious agenda," said Patrick Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., in his opening statement. The center, which lobbies for what it sees as the religious freedom of Christians, is defending the school district.
The non-jury trial is expected to take five weeks.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs began their case by arguing that intelligent design is a religious theory inserted in the school district's curriculum by the school board with no concern for whether it has scientific underpinnings.
"They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a religious point of view in science class and cared nothing about its scientific validity," attorney Eric Rothschild said.
Miller, who was the only witness Monday, sharply criticized intelligent design and questioned the work that went into it by one of its leading proponents, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, who will be a key witness for the district.
The statement read to Dover students states in part, "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered." Miller said the words are "tremendously damaging," falsely undermining the scientific status of evolution.
"What that tells students is that science can't be relied upon and certainly is not the kind of profession you want to go into," he said.
"There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory," he added.
On the other hand, Miller said, "intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community."
During his cross-examination of Miller, Robert Muise, another attorney for the law center, repeatedly asked whether he questioned the completeness of Darwin's theory.
"Would you agree that Darwin's theory is not the absolute truth?" Muise said.
"We don't regard any scientific theory as the absolute truth," Miller responded.
The Dover lawsuit is the newest chapter in a history of evolution litigation dating back to the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee nearly 80 years ago. More recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that states may not require public schools to balance evolution lessons by teaching creationism.
The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of "Irreducible Complexity," Kenneth R. Miller. Critique of Behe.
Behe's "irreducible complexity" argument is fatally flawed. Ichneumon's post 35.
Inferior Design. Revealing info on ID and the Discovery Institute.
Neither intelligent nor designed. No evidence of wise, omniscient design.
Irreducible Complexity Demystified. Major debunking of ID.
Interesting. As I recollect, a number of years ago there was a symposium of biologists and mathemeticians hosted by the Wistar Institute. There the mathematicians gave the odds on evolution occuring as simply mind boggling small. Maybe some FReeper has a better memory than me to flesh out that.
Interesting that you characterize a devout Roman Catholic like Miller as an atheist wannabe. It's a shame the anti-Catholicism that historically characterized some extreme Protestant sects seems to be alive and well here on FR.
The only federal issue here is whether or not the Dover School Board has violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. They obviously have not. End of case. back to the evo-crevo debate.
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Crevo Warrior Freepdays for the month of September:
2004-09-15 Diana in Wisconsin
In Memoriam. Fallen Crevo Warriors:
peg the prophet
Bring back SeaLion and Mondernman!
Evolution occurs everytime a seed sprouts or an infant is born.
Got that database up and running?
The only obvious thing is that ID proponents have no qualms about lying in the name of religion. This lie does not make their claim true; instead it desecrates the very values they pretend to hold dear. How can one practice deception and not be in the thrall of the Great Deceiver?
If this isn't about a religious agenda, why in the world would the Thomas More Law Center have any interest in it? Puzzling.
One supposes Miller meant to say, or perhaps actually did say, that faith and science are "complementary," rather than "complimentary."
1 in 2.1 = statistical improbability
1 in 1050 = statistical improbability
I'm going to guess that Miller didn't spell the word out on the stand, and the grammatical error belongs to the reporter.
Violating the Establishment clause is the only issue here. But only one day into a 5 week trial is a bit soon to come to a verdict.
Members of the school board are on record saying precisely that their motivation *is* to insert religion into public schools. And the textbook they recommended was originally written in support of the explicitly religious "creationism" viewpoint, and the text was changed only to replace the word "creationism" with the words "Intelligent Design".
The Discovery Institute, which is almost solely devoted to the ID issue has bailed out of this one. I'm sure they can see a defeat coming, and don't want to be tainted by it.
You guys are going to lose this one. Badly.
It was written by a journalist, not PH.
Hey, it goes through the spell checker, so what's the problem?
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