Kitzmiller v. Dover, the Legal Battle Over Intelligent Design

Can Intelligent Design Be Taught in Public Schools?

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The 2005 case of Kitzmiller v. Dover brought before the court the question of teaching Intelligent Design in schools. This was the first time in America that any schools at any level had specifically promoted Intelligent Design. It would become an important test for the constitutionality of teaching Intelligent Design in public schools.

What Lead to Kitzmiller v. Dover?

The Dover Area School Board of York County, Pennsylvania made their decision on October 18, 2004. They voted that students in the schools should be "made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design."

On November 19, 2004, the board announced that teachers would be required to read this disclaimer to 9th-grade biology classes.

On December 14, 2004, a group of parents filed suit against the board. They argued that the promotion of Intelligent Design is an unconstitutional promotion of religion, violating the separation of church and state.

The trial in federal district court before Judge Jones began on September 26, 2005. It ended on November 4, 2005.

The Decision of Kitzmiller v. Dover

In a broad, detailed, and at times withering decision, Judge John E. Jones III handed opponents of religion in schools a substantial victory. He concluded that Intelligent Design as introduced into the Dover schools was simply the newest format of creationism used by religious opponents of evolution. Therefore, according to the Constitution, it could not be taught in the public schools.

Jones' decision is considerably lengthy and worth reading. It can be found and is the topic of frequent discussion on the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) website.

To come to his decision, Jones took into account many factors. These included Intelligent Design textbooks, history of religious opposition to evolution, and the intent of the Dover School Board. Jones also considered The Pennsylvania Academic Standards which required students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

During the trial, supporters of Intelligent Design were given an opportunity to make the best case possible against their critics. They were questioned by a sympathetic lawyer who allowed them to make their arguments as they thought best. They then had the opportunity to offer their explanations to the questions of a critical lawyer.

Leading defenders of Intelligent Design spent days on the witness stand. They put Intelligent Design in the best light possible in the context of a neutral fact-finding investigation. They wanted for nothing, except facts and sound arguments it seems.

Judge Jones concludes his detailed decision:

In summary, the disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere.

Where This Left Intelligent Design 

What little success the Intelligent Design movement has enjoyed in America has been due entirely to political spin and positive public relations. When it comes to science and law—two areas where facts and arguments count for everything while posturing is treated as a weakness—Intelligent Design fails.

As a consequence of Kitzmiller v. Dover, we have a definitive explanation from a conservative Christian judge about why Intelligent Design is religious rather than scientific.

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Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "Kitzmiller v. Dover, the Legal Battle Over Intelligent Design." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Cline, Austin. (2021, December 6). Kitzmiller v. Dover, the Legal Battle Over Intelligent Design. Retrieved from Cline, Austin. "Kitzmiller v. Dover, the Legal Battle Over Intelligent Design." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).