Two of the nation's leading newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, have published strong editorials opposing the introduction of "intelligent design" creationism into public school science classes. The editorials focus, in part, on the lawsuit - brought by Americans United and the ACLU - challenging promotion of the religiously grounded concept in the Dover, Pa., schools.
The Times observed, "Districts around the country are pondering whether to inject intelligent design into science classes, and the constitutional problems are underscored by practical issues. There is little enough time to discuss mainstream evolution in most schools; the Dover students get two 90-minute classes devoted to the subject. Before installing intelligent design in the already jam-packed science curriculum, school boards and citizens need to be aware that it is not a recognized field of science. There is no body of research to support its claims nor even a real plan to conduct such research.... If evolution is derided as 'only a theory,' intelligent design needs to be recognized as 'not even a theory' or 'not yet a theory.' It should not be taught or even described as a scientific alternative to one of the crowning theories of modern science."
The Post noted that the Dover policy raises serious constitutional issues, writing, "As the lawsuit filed by Dover parents states, 'intelligent design' is neither scientific nor a theory in the scientific sense; it is an inherently religious argument or assertion that falls outside the realm of science. Discussion of religion in a history or philosophy class is legitimate and appropriate. To teach intelligent design as science in public schools is a clear violation of the principle of separation of church and state."
The Post editorial goes on to say, "It also violates principles of common sense. In fact, the breadth and extent of the anti-evolutionary movement that has spread almost unnoticed across the country should force American politicians to think twice about how their public expressions of religious belief are beginning to affect education and science. The deeply religious nature of the United States should not be allowed to stand in the way of the thirst for knowledge or the pursuit of science. Once it does, it won't be long before the American scientific community -- which already has trouble finding enough young Americans to fill its graduate schools -- ceases to lead the world."
In Dover, it seems that the Thomas More Law Center, the far-right, ultra-conservative Catholic group that is handling the case on behalf of the school board, is trying to litigate it through the media. More Law Center attorneys have been quick to blast reporters with press releases every time the case takes a minor twist or procedural turn.
There could be a good reason for this: The More Law Center may realize its case is weak and thus hopes to salvage a public relations victory in the face of a courtroom defeat.
That has been the strategy of the creationists all along. They may lose in court, but they continue to try to win over the American public with facile arguments. Sadly, it may be working. Some polls show great confusion over this issue.
But for now at least, that cynical strategy is going nowhere on the editorial pages of America's leading newspapers.