A Design That's Anti-Faith

By Eugene Robinson
Friday, December 23, 2005

Can you imagine a more faithless pursuit than trying to prove the existence of God?

Yet that is what the whole "intelligent design" movement is really about, and it seems to me that people of faith should rejoice at the federal court decision Tuesday forbidding the schools of Dover, Pa., to read a statement touting intelligent design in science classes. The eloquent ruling by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III is a Christmastime blessing.

"Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID [intelligent design] as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom," Jones wrote in a painstaking, 139-page opinion that probably will set the parameters for future battles over intelligent design around the country. No

appeal is expected, because the pro-ID school

board members who tried to inject religion into

the classroom have already been ousted by


ID is the belief that life forms are too complex to have evolved on their own through natural selection and therefore must have had an intelligence -- so powerful that you would have to call it divine -- guiding their development.

The state of Pennsylvania requires its schools to teach evolution, the theory developed by Charles Darwin that most scholars accept as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science. The Dover school board thought it knew better and required that students be made to listen to a statement proclaiming that evolution "is not a fact" but just a theory, that it contains gaps "for which there is no evidence," and that ID "is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view."

Well, it's true that anything is possible -- before Albert Einstein, who would have believed that time passes infinitesimally more slowly for a passenger on a train than for a farmer standing beside the tracks. But equating evolution with ID is like comparing a mighty fortress to a line in the sand. Someday a new theory of the life sciences may supplant Darwin's, just as Einstein's revolutionary theories supplanted those of Isaac Newton. As Jones carefully and forcefully explains in his ruling, however, ID isn't even science at this point. It's belief.

Jones notes that during a discussion of the ID disclaimer, one of the Dover school board members made the argument that "2,000 years ago, someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?" That helped Jones reach the reasonable conclusion that the board was motivated by religious belief -- specifically, Christian belief -- and that the policy was an unconstitutional mixing of church and state.

Mainstream theologians have long since come to terms with evolution, which seems to be as unconditionally true as any scientific theory could ever be. As Jones points out, the fact that there are gaps in the fossil record does not logically lead to the conclusion that ID must be the answer; there is a mountain of evidence that supports evolution and essentially none that supports ID.

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