Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Journal Editorial Report
Front Page
Lead Story
Briefing & Opinion
Tony & Tacky
TV Schedule
For Teachers
About the Series

Briefing and Opinion
May 27, 2005

Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, left and Richard Thompson, right.
1. Evolution vs. ID
2. Science Education
3. Is ID Religious?
4. Is Evolution Religious?
5. Scientists' Views
6. Church and State
7. The Dover Case
Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, a physical anthropologist, is the executive director of the National Center for Science Education.

Richard Thompson is the president of the Thomas More Law Center and head of the Christian legal defense group representing Dover's school board.
Q: What is the feeling in the scientific community about intelligent design?

SCOTT: The intelligent design people have claimed that scientists are leaping off the bandwagon of evolution in great numbers. That's just nonsense. They have managed to put together 300 scientists doubting Darwin. But actually the statement that scientists signed has to do with the mechanism of natural selection, not with evolution itself. You will find lots of articles arguing about natural selection, arguing about what they call Darwinism. You will find lots of articles arguing about how evolution takes place, how important is natural selection versus other mechanisms.

Watch the VideoBut the intelligent design people have this very shifty way of moving the goal posts. When they say that scientists are giving up on Darwinian evolution, they may be saying that scientists are arguing over the role of natural selection. But I don't think that's the way the general public hears it. The general public hears scientists are doubting whether evolution took place, therefore we should teach it as something that has an unusual number of gaps or problems. That is really a very, very bad way to educate students. That's just educational malpractice.

THOMPSON: More and more scientists are now coming to the conclusion that Darwin's theory has so many gaps in it it cannot really be an effective and vital theory. We have theorists, mathematicians who are experts in the theory of probabilities that say, "Assuming that the Earth is four billion years old, for human life to have evolved by chance is still beyond probabilities. It could not have happened."

Watch the VideoWhat I've heard is that there are a lot of scientists who believe in intelligent design. But they keep their head down because of the tremendous persecution that they suffer in the scientific community if they supported a person like William Dembski or Michael Behe.
Q: Doesn't intelligent design violate the separation of church and state?

Watch the VideoSCOTT: The intelligent design supporters will claim that intelligent design has a largely secular purpose rather than a religious purpose. But actually intelligent design has no secular purpose. It doesn't explain the natural world. It merely presents the argument that evolution doesn't explain the natural world and therefore you have to go to this intelligent agent. I think that any judge is going to very quickly recognize the fact that intelligent design is a religious view masquerading as science. This is so clearly a sham that I can't imagine a judge not recognizing it by the first day of the court trial.
Watch the VideoTHOMPSON: The courts also say that for a particular policy or statute to be unconstitutional, it must have wholly a religious purpose to it. It might be okay to have one of the reasons why you're supporting this particular policy to be religiously motivated, as long as it is not wholly religion. For instance, legislators might support giving money to the poor. That might be religiously motivated. They may be acting on that faith. But there's also a secular purpose for it, and that is to help the less fortunate in our community. As long as there is a secular purpose, as long as it is not wholly motivated by religious action or purpose, then it is constitutionally permissible to do that.
Q: Do you see the Dover suit as a test case for intelligent design?

Watch the VideoTHOMPSON: It could very well be a test case for intelligent design. There are other cases out there that deal with showing and making students aware of the gaps in Darwin's theory. This one goes a measured step further and says, "There is this alternative theory." I don't think the courts have been presented with the kind of scientific data that we're going to present with credible scientists. Mark my words. Whether it's our case or some other case, Darwin's goin' down the tube. No question about it.

If they hold that this is constitutionally permissible, what you will see happen across this nation is intelligent design popping up in all kinds of school boards. This is the first step, a measured step, in getting students to be aware of intelligent design. The next step will be to change the textbooks so that they are honest textbooks and they start talking about intelligent design.
Watch the VideoSCOTT: Dover is a very important test case. It's the first school district in the country that has required its teachers to teach intelligent design and assigned intelligent design textbooks. If the courts decide, as I believe they will, that intelligent design is just religion masquerading as a science, then other school districts will be discouraged from imposing these kinds of policies themselves. If the court, for some reason, decides that these policies are constitutional, I imagine that we'll see them metastasizing all over the country.
Related Links:

Monkey See, Monkey Do? Dover school board controversy
National Center for Science Education
Thomas More Law Center