HARRISBURG, Pa. — There is nothing wrong with a textbook on "intelligent design" because it doesn't make any references to God or the Bible, said a school board member who supported inserting the concept into the district's science curriculum.
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Jane Cleaver, who later resigned from the Dover Area School Board to move out of state, testified Monday in a landmark federal trial over whether intelligent design can be mentioned in biology classes.
The school board is defending its decision in October 2004 to require students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and it refers students to a textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information.
Cleaver said she skimmed the book and decided it could be mentioned in class because it didn't discuss creationism.
Just another theory?
She acknowledged she didn't fully understand intelligent design, but knew it was another theory.
"I wanted our students to be made aware of other theories that are out there," she said. "I thought it would be good for education."
Thomas Schmidt, an attorney for eight families suing the district, asked her, "Isn't it true that no board member explained or expressed how the change in curriculum would improve education at Dover High School?"
Cleaver responded, "I voted in my opinion what I thought was right."
Working out a compromise
Board member Alan Bonsell, who served as the board's president in 2004, testified Monday that he got involved in the biology curriculum discussions in August of that year to work out a compromise acceptable to the high-school science teachers.
"My understanding was that they did not want to teach intelligent design," Bonsell said.
The families are suing to have intelligent design removed from the biology curriculum because they believe the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates a constitutional ban on the state establishment of religion.
Intelligent-design supporters argue that natural selection, an element of evolutionary theory, cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of complex life forms. They say the biological evidence points to the influence of an intelligent designer, although they hold back from further identification of that designer.
The trial began Sept. 26 and is expected to conclude on Friday.
The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.
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