HARRISBURG, Pa. — References to creationism in drafts of a student biology book were replaced with the term “intelligent design” by the time it was published, a witness testified Wednesday in a landmark trial over a school board’s decision to include the concept in its curriculum.
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Drafts of the textbook, “Of Pandas and People,” written in 1987 were revised after the Supreme Court ruled in June of that year that states could not require schools to balance evolution with creationism in the classroom, said Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Forrest reviewed drafts of the textbook as a witness for eight families who are trying to have the intelligent design concept removed from the Dover Area School District’s biology curriculum.
The families contend that teaching intelligent design effectively promotes the Bible’s view of creation, violating the separation of church and state.
Intelligent design holds that life on Earth is so complex that it must have been the product of some higher force. Opponents of the concept say intelligent design is simply creationism stripped of overt religious references.
Forrest outlined a chart of how many times the term “creation” was mentioned in the early drafts versus how many times the term “design” was mentioned in the published edition.
“They are virtually synonymous,” she said.
Under the policy approved by Dover’s school board in October 2004, students must hear a brief statement about intelligent design before classes on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin’s theory is “not a fact” and has inexplicable “gaps.”
Forrest also said that intelligent-design proponents have freely acknowledged that their cause is a religious one. She cited a document from the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that represents intelligent-design scholars, that says one of its goals is “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”
Under cross-examination by school board lawyer Richard Thompson, Forrest acknowledged that she had no evidence that board members who voted for the curriculum change had either seen or heard of the Discovery Institute document.
The trial began Sept. 26 and is expected to last as long as five weeks.
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