20 December 2005

Dishonesty revealed

Today's decision in the Dover, Penn., "intelligent design" lawsuit is going to make a lot people very angry. Very, very angry indeed.

Not only did Judge Jones rule four-square in favor of the parents who objected to the inclusion of a mere one-minute reference to creationism-in-disguise in their children's public high school science classes, but he specifically described as liars the former members of the Dover school board who tried to violate the secular sanctity of the schoolhouse.

The ruling, all 139 pages of it, should be required reading for any regular reader of this space. It approaches its devastating wrap-up with this stunning indictment:
The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.
It gets even better:
The breathtaking inanity of the Board'’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
I, for one, was floored. We all expected the creationists to lose ... again (all eight members of the cabal were voted off the board in November's elections). But Judge Jones went out of his way to cast aspersions on their integrity in manner rarely heard from the bench.

Among the many examples of the disingenuous tactics of the creationist gang was their description of evolution as a "theory" and "not a fact." The judge concluded that the school board was taking advantage of the "colloquial or popular understanding of the term ['‘theory'’] and suggest[ing] to the informed, reasonable observer that evolution is only a highly questionable '‘opinion'’ or a '‘hunch.'"”

This, he wrote, is
"both misleading and creates misconceptions in students about evolutionary theory by misrepresenting the scientific status of evolution and by telling students that they should regard it as singularly unreliable, or on shaky ground."
While I agree wholeheartedly with the outcome, I fear those strong words may result in a backlash among the religious right. It could prompt some parents to withdraw their children from public schools in favor of private religious instruction or even (horror of horrors) home schooling.

We should all keep in mind that the decision is the product of a lawsuit, and so is binding only on Dover School Board. And it will have precisely zero effect on private Christian schools. We can hope that it will deter other groups with similar motives in the public realm, but I don't think we've heard the last of the Intelligent Design movement.

So let's celebrate, but keep the gloating to a minimum. We want to persuade, not alienate.

Meanwhile, lots of excellent analysis can be found at Panda's Thumb.

2 Comments:

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