Sunday, July 30, 2006
There is a very good article in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review concerning Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist. that can be found in pdf format here. After giving a thumbnail sketch of the events leading up to the trial and the reasoning of Judge Jones, the author, Brenda Lee, turns to the question of the impact the decision will have. Here are some highlights, that I think are right on target:
Although the opinion was excellently written and reasoned, its broad conclusions will not have a great impact on the public debate about teaching evolution and thus will fail to fulfill [Judge Jones'] hope of preventing judicial waste. Given the vast divide in American society over the role of religion in public life, the influence of high profile individuals who favor creationist teaching, and the limited precedential value of a district court’s opinion, lawsuits will continue to serve as the primary check on new and improved methods of including creationism in the classroom. ID is representative of a huge cultural divide in America that a court, despite ambitious goals, cannot mend prophylactically. In fact, the opinion’s decisiveness in finding that ID was not science, based on the overwhelming evidence of the Board’s religious motivations, may encourage critics of evolution simply to repackage their next attack to avoid any mention of religion and thereby escape negative Establishment Clause analysis.
Recent polls show that around eighty percent of Americans believe God created the earth, while acceptance of evolution hovers around fifty percent. This split in opinion was reflected in the media coverage of the Kitzmiller case, when they called it the "latest culture clash between science and religion." ...
[I]f the history of creationism lawsuits is any indication, there will be continued attempts to inject religion into the classroom. Evolution supporters have acknowledged the durability of the creationism movement; as the leader of the Ohio challenge noted, "critical analysis is intelligent design relabeled, just as intelligent design was creationism relabeled. ...
Proponents of evolution can only wait for the next onslaught of creationism, which is likely to be fastidiously stripped of any religious affiliation. How a court will react to this when that time comes remains to be seen.