Thursday, December 22, 2005

What is the message?

The Court considered a good number of things in coming to its decision in Kitzmiller &al. v. Dover Board of Education &al. Among those things was the endorsement test. As Judge Jones put it, The endorsement test consists of the reviewing court determining what message a challenged governmental policy or enactment conveys to a reasonable, objective observer who knows the policy's language, origins, and legislative history, as well as the history of the community and the broader social and historical context in which the policy arose.

We have heard that phrase, "What message is given," frequently in discussions of the statement read to the Dover students. Some people argue that the message is straightforward, that it suggests merely suggests there are weaknesses in evolutionary theory and that some people think that a different explanation, such as Intelligent Design, is more likely correct.

Scientists and others who have followed the Creationist battles against evolution over the years recognize the clever tactics embedded in the statement. Judge Jones recognized them as well, and clearly spelled them out in his decision. The reasonable observer described by Judge Jones would recognize them also.

Now I wonder--did the members of the Dover Area School Board recognize the tactics of denial, delusion, and deceit that characterize the Intelligent Design movement? If so, they acted in a most shamefully dishonest manner. I have an alternative hypothesis: I suspect the Board members had little real understanding of Intelligent Design and its advocates, but instead, saw ID to be simply a way of bringing Creationism into the classroom. They may have missed the nudge and the wink when ID proponents said it had nothing to do with religion, and just might possibly have made the religious connection on their own. If this is true, then so much of the history of ID described in testamony would be irrelevant. But if the message that the board members got really was as I've just described, isn't it likely that the students would perceive the same message--that Creationism (as described in Genesis) is the alternative to ungodly evolution? And that still would be government endorsing a particular religious view.

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