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65 MIN READ TIME

The Decline of Intelligent Design

BY DONALD PROTHERO

Sunday, December 20, 2016 was the 10th anniversary of Judge John Jones’ decision in the landmark Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, better known as the court case that finally put intelligent design (ID) creationism on trial. It began in 2004 when creationists on the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board tried to sneak intelligent design creationist material from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, WA, into the school curriculum. The science teachers rebelled, as did a number of parents who became plaintiffs in the case. It was finally brought to trial on Sept. 26, 2005, and the proceedings lasted 40 days and 40 nights before the judge received the case for his deliberation.

During the course of the trial the witnesses for intelligent design creationism were repeatedly exposed for their bad science, and the documents introduced as evidence showed the clear imprint of having been recycled from older creationist documents. The most striking tampering was the discovery of different editions of the textbook Of Pandas and People. Early drafts were full of young-earth creationism, but when a federal case struck down creationism for the final time, the authors just did a cut and paste of a few phrases here and there to remove the references to God and creationism. In one place, the plaintiffs’ legal team exposed a telltale palimpsest: the phrase “cdesignproponentsists”, where the phrase “design proponents” had been clumsily and incompletely pasted over the word “creationists”.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys also brought together a stellar cast of scientists and philosophers and teachers, all of whom clearly showed that intelligent design creationism was just the religious dogma of creationism disguised by having the obvious references to God removed. The most damaging testimony, however, came from creationist school board members Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, who were confronted with the many statements they had made in the past where they clearly stated their religious motivations for introducing intelligent design to the Dover schools, and perjured themselves by denying their creationist motivations during the trial.

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