The decision by Judge John Jones ruling that the promotion of Intelligent Design (ID) in schools is a violation of the constitutional ban on teaching religion, is at least a temporary victory for scientific integrity (Newsfront, p10). Previous attempts to get creationism into the American classroom have been more ambitious, notably a Louisiana act which would have mandated for biblical literalism to be granted equal time alongside evolutionary theory, finally struck down in a majority Supreme Court decision in 1987. The proposal in Dover, Pennsylvania, was modest by comparison. It required that teachers read a 159-word statement declaring evolution “a theory … [t]he theory is not a fact”, and stating that ID is “an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view.” The book, Of Pandas and People, was recommended for students who wished to understand what ID involves.

But this was, very literally, the thin edge of the Wedge. The Wedge is the name given to the strategy promoted by the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC), the group at the forefront of the ID movement. Just as a solid log can be split by a small wedge, they argue, so can the apparently solid edifice of materialist, naturalist science (and the secular worldview they say it underpins) be brought down by a small group applying pressure at its weakest points.

To date the CRSC has been very effective at publishing books, running conferences, and placing their affiliates in positions at reputable universities, but in the only field that can give them scientific credibility, namely research and publication in refereed journals, they have failed utterly. Despite their insistence that ID is a scientific theory it has yet to generate any testable hypotheses or research programme. As Judge Jones correctly concluded, the movement is fundamentally religious in nature.

This will only be a temporary setback for the ID movement, which continues to advance on other fronts (eg in Kansas, see Newsfront). Nor is this country immune; 500 resource kits from the CRSC were distributed to schools in August. As Royal Society education manager Peter Spratt has said, these could be used by an informed and knowledgeable teacher to engage students in a stimulating lesson about the nature of science. My secondary school biology teacher held a very successful session following a visit to our school by American creationist Duane Gish, so that the net outcome of Gish’s visit was to make it clear to most that creationism was nonsense. But it is doubtful whether many of our teachers have the background to do this effectively. In many cases the best that can be hoped is that these resource kits gather dust.

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