Relabeling

A predictable strategy for antievolutionists will be to continue to relabel creationism (or ID) so that the legal objections to it are reduced. Proponents of creation science attempted to reduce its legal liability by dropping the word creation, although the phrase intelligent design itself had shortcomings. Intelligent design implies an agent—a designer. A judge would be inclined to ask, "Who is the designer?" Even though the standard ID position is that the identity of the agent is unimportant, and that the agent doesn't have to be God, it takes little digging to discern that a transcendent designer is really what proponents have in mind. As a sectarian religious view, ID would find no place in the public schools. To avoid this problem, ID proponents may attempt to relabel their movement with a term or phrase that does not evoke an agent. In the draft of the FTE's book edited by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, The Design of Life, submitted as evidence in the Kitzmiller trial, the phrase sudden emergence abruptly appears in place of what, in Of Pandas and People, had been the definition of ID. In Pandas, the sentence read: "Intelligent design means that the various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact—fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc." (Davis and Kenyon 1993, pp. 99-100; emphasis added).

In the manuscript for The Design of Life, the paragraph redefines ID and omits any reference to agency: "Sudden emergence holds that various forms of life began with their distinctive feature already intact, fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers and wings, animals with fur and mammary glands" (Dembski n.d., 28; emphasis added).

Wendell Bird's abrupt appearance theory similarly was an agentless form of creationism, but this phrase is too closely associated with creation science. Similarly, sudden emergence theory may be too closely tied to ID to survive. But given the history of creationism, a new term for the movement may indeed be right around the corner, and this time, it will omit reference to any agent that could be interpreted as God.

There is another type of relabeling that might take place in the post-Dover era. on the heels of the Kitzmiller decision, sharon Lemburg, a teacher in one school district proposed teaching ID in social studies. In early January 2006, a teacher in the southern California El Tejon Unified School District began to teach a four-week elective intersession (between semesters) course: Philosophy of Intelligent Design. A professional geologist, Kenneth Hurst, and other parents had protested the course when it was first suggested in the early part of December because of both its negative effect on science education and its promotion of religion. Science teachers in the district also protested the course, contending that it would undermine the science curriculum.

In truth, the course as originally conceived had little to do with ID and consisted almost entirely of videos promoting creation science. The course description read:

The class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological, and Biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid. This class will discuss Intelligent Design as an alternative response to evolution. Topics that will be covered are the age of the earth, a world wide flood, dinosaurs, pre-human fossils, dating methods, DNA, radioisotopes, and geological evidence. Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the earth is thousands of years old, not billions. The class will include lecture discussions, guest speaker, and videos. The class grade will be based on a position paper in which students will support or refute the theory of evolution.

In addition to being confused about the distinction between ID and creation science, Lemburg, a special education teacher, had no credentials for teaching science, a significant omission considering the large number of science topics—from physics and radioisotopic dating to biology—that would be included in this intersession course. Guest speakers for both sides were listed, including local creation science proponents and a minister, and two guest speakers for evolution. One was listed as "Francis Krich," apparently Francis Crick, a Nobel laureate who had died a year and a half before the intersession. During December 2005, the curriculum was revised to remove the more egregious creation science elements, but it remained a pro-ID and antievolution curriculum.

Hurst and other parents, unable to persuade the school board to drop the course, sued the district on the grounds that teaching creation science was an unconstitutional advancement of religion. They were represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The district settled out of court, ending the course early, and promising not to teach "the course entitled 'Philosophy of Design' or 'Philosophy of Intelligent Design' or any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, Creation Science, or intelligent design" (Stipulated Order of Dismissal, Hurst v. Newman, No. 1:06-CV-00036, at 2).

It is not constitutionally permissible for a public school teacher to advocate cre-ationism, creation science, or ID. This proscription holds whether the advocacy is taking place in science class or in some other class. Teaching about any religious idea, of course, is not forbidden and is appropriate in many academic disciplines, such as history or sociology. But the courts have held that there is a significant difference between discussing religion in a comparative context and presenting religious views as factually correct, as occurs in the various forms of creationism. Relabeling creationism as philosophy, or some other nonscientific field, then, is not likely to be a successful strategy.

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