Science or Religion?Timothy Standish May/June 2006
In the often cited—but rarely understood—historical case of Galileo, a court was called on to address scientific questions about the nature of the universe. Unsurprisingly, the outcome of that proceeding was a disastrous affirmation of the orthodoxy current at the time. Courtrooms have never been a good forum for addressing questions of science or religion, and they remain ill equipped to address these questions in the present. This has been illustrated in the recent series of legal skirmishes over intelligent design (ID); in the near future we will no doubt see more examples of why these matters are best left in the world of academia and out of the realm of public policy.
ID is a theory that states: "Certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." On cursory examination this modest proposal does not sound like a religious doctrine, but in the recent case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District the question of whether ID is religion was answered with a resounding "Yes." In closing arguments, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that "at this trial, plaintiffs have submitted overwhelming evidence that intelligent design is just a new name for creationism discarding a few of traditional creationism tenets, such as direct reference to God or the Bible and a specific commitment to a young earth, but maintaining essential aspects, particularly the special creation of kinds by a supernatural actor."
Judge John E. Jones III agreed with the plaintiffs' argument that ID is equivalent to creationism and, as creationism has been previously ruled to be religious, teaching it in government-run schools is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. His ruling states: "To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I,