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How 'Dover' May Affect U.S. Schools

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How 'Dover' May Affect U.S. Schools


How 'Dover' May Affect U.S. Schools

How 'Dover' May Affect U.S. Schools

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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University of Texas law professor Douglas Laycock discusses the outcome of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, in which the judge ruled against the proponents of intelligent design. He explains why it would be difficult for the defendants to appeal and what effect it may have for the rest of the country.


Joining us now by phone from Austin, Texas, is Douglas Laycock, who is a professor of law at the University of Texas, where he specializes in religious liberty.

Welcome to the program, Mr. Laycock.

Professor DOUGLAS LAYCOCK (University of Texas): Thank you.

SIEGEL: How do you think Judge Jones' decision in this case changes the position of intelligent design vs. evolution, that entire conflict in the courts?

Prof. LAYCOCK: Well, it certainly collects in one place an awful lot of factual detail about the history of intelligent design as the concept about the statements made by its supporters, about the most prominent scientists associated with it and, less importantly nationwide, about, you know, the actions and motivations of this one school board that was trying to introduce it into the curriculum in Dover.

SIEGEL: Could it be appealed?

Prof. LAYCOCK: It could be appealed. The new school board has said it will not appeal. And it would be very difficult to appeal successfully, even if the old school board was still in office, because it is full of very detailed findings of fact. The trial judge's findings of fact stand on appeal unless they're clearly erroneous. It's hard to imagine that much here is clearly erroneous. He marshals the evidence in support of every fact he finds.

SIEGEL: I mean, the judge's facts are that intelligent design really is, inevitably, an outgrowth of creationism and that there's no way in which anyone could see it as anything but the case for religion in the classroom.

Prof. LAYCOCK: Not just inevitably, but, you know, historically the way it actually developed, the "Pandas and People" book the school board recommended to students somebody found an early draft of, and the word `creationism' was changed 150 times to intelligent design after the Supreme Court said you can't teach creationism. And apparently not much else was changed. I mean, intelligent design was simply global search and replace for creationism.

SIEGEL: Evidently one of the issues at trial was whether the designer responsible for the intelligent design was inevitably God or whether that was--whether it was conceivably agnostic on that point. And the judge wrote, `Although the proponents of the intelligent design movement occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of the movement, including the defendants' expert witnesses.' That's pretty scathing.

Prof. LAYCOCK: Well, it is pretty scathing, and I think everyone has understood that intelligent designer is a euphemism for God. What's less scathing, less dramatic but probably more important is that, you know, there's a handful of people with degrees in science--advanced degrees in science who work on this, and the most prominent, important of those people testified for the school board. And they conceded that intelligent design depends on the supernatural, and to call it science requires expanding science to include the supernatural. And, you know, the methodological division between science and religion for centuries has been science confines itself to naturalistic explanations and leaves the supernatural explanations to religion.

SIEGEL: As Judge Jones said, `The supernatural may be true, but it's not science.'

Prof. LAYCOCK: That's exactly what he said, and I--that's a very important point that I think the activists on each side tend to confuse or conceal in this debate. Evolution does not say anything about the role of God. God may have set evolution in place. God may intervene at times to keep evolution on track. You know, there are Christians who believe that God planted the fossil record to confuse us and test our faith. The science doesn't say anything about those religious propositions.

SIEGEL: Just one quick question. Who appointed Judge Jones to the court?

Prof. LAYCOCK: George W. Bush.

SIEGEL: He is an appointee of President Bush?

Prof. LAYCOCK: Yes.

SIEGEL: Professor Laycock, thank you very much for talking with us.

Prof. LAYCOCK: You're quite welcome.

SIEGEL: Douglas Laycock, professor of law at the University of Texas, speaking to us from Austin.

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