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Students informed 'theory, not a fact'

A school district in the Amish-region town of Dover, Pa., became the first in the nation officially to inform biology students of the theory of intelligent design as an alternative to Darwin’s theory of Evolution.

A one-minute statement read at the beginning of the school term says Darwin’s theory is not a fact and continues to be tested, and “intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view.”

As WorldNetDaily reported, the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the new policy in a federal lawsuit, but decided not to go forward with a request for a temporary restraining order to block its implementation at the beginning of the school term this week.

Last week, teachers said they would not read the required statement, but the assistant superintendent carried out the reading Monday to two biology classes at Dover High School. Classes yesterday and today also were scheduled to hear the statement.

The school provided an opt-out, allowing students to join teachers in the hall outside the classroom when the statement is being read, but only 15 out of 170 made that choice.

“Biology students in this small town received perhaps the most balanced science education regarding Darwin’s theory of evolution than any other public school student in the nation,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm representing the school district against the ACLU lawsuit.

“This is not a case of science versus religion, but science versus science, with credible scientists now determining that based upon scientific data, the theory of evolution cannot explain the complexity of living cells,” Thompson continued.

The ACLU, along with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, filed the lawsuit in December arguing intelligent design theory is inherently religious.

“It is ironic that the ACLU after having worked so hard to prevent the suppression of Darwin’s theory in the Scopes trial, is now doing everything it can to suppress any effort to challenge it,” said Thompson.

The ACLU made its decision not to ask for the restraining order after reviewing documents, board-meeting minutes and several depositions of board members and the superintendent.

The lawsuit will continue with a trial later this year, but Thompson said the ACLU’s unwillingness to procede with a restraining order indicates it recognizes the strength of the school district’s case.

National polls show most parents want schools to teach alternative theories to evolution, the Law Center points out.

In Dover, teachers will still teach and test on the theory of evolution according to Pennsylvania Academic Standards, but students will now be told they can find out more information about intelligent design through a book available in the school library titled “Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins.”

The theory of intelligent design, endorsed by a growing number of credentialed scientists, says the best way to explain complex, information-rich structures observed by biologists is by the existence of a designer. Unlike creationism, however, intelligent design limits its scope to empirical observation and does not identify the designer.

The Pennsylvania school district is the first in the country to require teachers to make students aware of the controversy surrounding evolution while specifically referring to the theory of intelligent design as an alternative.

The Dover school board voted 6-3 in October to adopt the new policy.

Related stories:

Teachers refuse intelligent-design policy

ACLU backs off challenge to intelligent design

PBS station cancels intelligent-design film