So-called Intelligent Design is Not Science

Ours is a pluralistic society, with wise constitutional protections against government-sponsored establishment of religion -- and for freedom of individual expression of belief.

It is, therefore, an egregiously evil breach of mutual repect, civility and the law for any one religious group (majority or miniority) to try to force its own religious views (mainstream or extreme) on the rest of society by trying to take control of government institutions or government-sponsored activities, such as public schools, which serve all Americans of all religious and non-religious beliefs. Such behavior is just plain selfish.

On December 20 the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a ruling against the Dover [PA] Area School District policy of teaching so-called Intelligent Design in public school science classes and trying to discredit the scientific validity of evolution theory -- for religious reasons.

That ruling is a benchmark in our understanding and practice of the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

The court's Memorandum Opinion establishes legal precedent only in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. But it offers extensive fact finding and legal analysis (far beyond that quoted here) which will significantly inform any litigation elsewhere regarding any attempts to teach so-called Intelligent Design in public science classes.

This post provides two relatively short quotes from the court's full 139-page Memorandum Opinion, which fully and fairly characterize the ruling:
  • The court's summary conclusions as to fact and law.
  • The court's order.

Here is the court's conclusion (QUOTE):

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs’ rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants’ actions.

Defendants’ actions in violation of Plaintiffs’ civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

Here is the court's order (QUOTE):

1. A declaratory judgment is hereby issued in favor of Plaintiffs pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 such that
Defendants’ ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Art. I, § 3 of
the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

2. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, Defendants are permanently enjoined
from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area
School District.

3. Because Plaintiffs seek nominal damages, Plaintiffs shall file with the
Court and serve on Defendants, their claim for damages and a verified
statement of any fees and/or costs to which they claim entitlement.
Defendants shall have the right to object to any such fees and costs to
the extent provided in the applicable statutes and court rules.

All items sold at my cost - no markup, no profit

Sign of the Times

This gas station in Burtonsville, MD on Route 198 just west of Rt.29 is one of the first gas stations in the Laurel, MD area to recently install electronically changeable gas price signs -- at ground level -- other than the very tall signs usually seen along the interstate where changing the signs mechanically would require dangerous climbing.

I'm told that there is another electronic sign at the Frederick, MD FREE STATE gas station, but that it didn't working very well when first installed.

Given the time it would have taken FREE STATE to decide to switch to new signs for its stations and design, manufacture and install them, the appearance of electronically changeable signs does not seem to be a direct consequence of the recent frequently changing gas prices due to gas shortages resulting from hurricane Katrina and Rita. But now it will certainly be more convenient to change prices than before.

It is interesting that the time-honored "9/10" cent, which is permanently painted on most gas price signs, is now also electronically changeable. Can "1/10" or "2/10" or even "1/5" cent gas prices be in our future?

For those interested in the technology, the numerals seem to be low power LEDs on a single-digit-at-a-time scan, as revealed by this photo taken at 1/1000 sec shutter speed to freeze the scan.

End AIDS March Through Laurel Nov 3

About 30 very enthusiastic AIDS activists marched briskly south on Route 1 today, right past me as i sat in the Silver Diner, on their way to overnight in College Park. Tomorrow, they will walk the final leg of their journey on foot from the Lincoln Tunnel in NYC to the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.. There they will begin four days of action to END AIDS.

I walked with them for a few minutes and took pictures for their web site before returning to my lunch.

For more information about this kick-off event for a sustained campaign to once-and-for-all end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and around the world, and how you can participate, see

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Exxon Gas Station at intersection of Rt. 198 eastbouond and Rt. 1 southbound Oct 28, 2005

All the more reason to check Laurel/Betlsville gas prices at this link or for any city at with links to other sites for gas prices in other states.

A Day for Darfur Rally at White House Sep 8, 2005

I just got back from a day at a rally of over 800 people at the White House, which was part of a nation-wide "A Day for Darfur" to bring more attention to the still unrelenting Genocide in Darfur. Pictures from the rally. Background on Darfur. Darfur updates and
What you can do right now to help.

I didn't realize until i got there that a big part of that event was asking people like you and me all across the country to call the President and ask him to take immediate action to stop the Sudan government's genocide and violence against people in Darfur. Over 400,000 people have been killed and over 2 million have been displaced. The genocide and violence will continue until the African Union troops are allowed to intervene with force to prevent Sudan government troops and Sudan government-supported Janjuweed irregulars from killing and raping Darfurians and burning down their villages. Right now all the AU forces can do is observe and report the genocide and other atrocities because they do not have enough troops and they do not have a legal mandate to take any forceful action to protect the people of Darfur.

Even though that day for calling the President has passed, you may still consider taking this simple action soon -- call the White House comment line (202) 456-1111 to leave a brief recorded message for President Bush -- the White House comment line opens at 9 am and closes around 4 or 5 pm Eastern Time.

Or if you prefer, send an email to

The goal for "A Day for Darfur" was
a lot of calls -- but please just do which ever you can.

Here is an example of the kind of message that the President needs to hear (so he can see the rising concern about Darfur by Americans of all political persuasions across the country).

Mr. President:
Thanks for being the first world leader to declare one year ago, that what is taking place in Darfur is truly Genocide. But Genocide still continues there today, with over 400,000 killed, over 2 million displaced, thousands raped and most villages, crops and food supplies destroyed from burning by Sudan government troops and government-supported Janjuweed militias. Please take immediate action through the U.N. and NATO to send western forces to work jointly with the currently inadequate level of African Union peace-keeping troops in Darfur, with a mandate to use force to intervene to prevent this unrelenting genocide and other atrocities in Darfur.
Please now declare "Never Again -- Not on My watch." Please personally lead a coalition of nations supporting a global "Culture of Life", to stop this Genocide in Darfur now.

Something like that, or whatever your heart leads you to say.

You can contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives, too, but the focus of "A Day for Darfur" was on raising this Darfur Genocide on the President's agenda -- to let him know that it matters to more and more Americans every day. The Holocaust in Europe ... Genocide in Armenia ... Kosovo ... Ruwanda ... and now Darfur. All Genocide must stop now.

Thanks for considering what you might do.

Please pass this on as you may see fit, using this web link:

I'm keeping a public file of Darfur related news. To reach it on this BLOG click Topical Links then Darfur or you can bookmark/RSS

I compile a list of upcoming opportunities for action on Darfur or other Social Justice actions on this Blog under Social Justice Action or bookmark/RSS

Marriage of Jesse Stone and Rachel McLaren

On Sunday, August 20, my son, Jesse, married a wonderful woman, Rachel McLaren, from a wonderful family. I couldn't be happier.

Gary & Linda Stone, Jesse Stone & Rachel McLaren, Grace & Brian McLaren

Jesse's Mother, Linda, and our son Eliot (Jesse's Best Man)

Slow School Zone Project Resumes

To read and comment on this item on my Muirkirk Road News and Views Blog click here

Montpelier Elementary School Cross-walk Safety Beacon Failed on First Day of School

To read and comment on this item at my Muirkirk Road News and Views blog click here

Bush on Teaching Intelligent Design in Public Science Classes

I felt anger when i read about the President promoting
the teaching of "Intelligent Design" in public school
science classes.

But, if the purpose of Skepticism is to achieve for
myself, and promote in others, respect for reason and
reasoned argument based on empirically demonstrable facts
and well-tested theory ... then it behooves me as a
Skeptic to be not only passionate in defense of reason,
but at all times a REASONABLE person (equivocation
intended) ... in public where it shows and in private
where it forms habits ... and at a minimum ... on my part,
to eschew ad hominem attacks on others, even when --
especially when -- seemingly well-justified anger and
frustration well up within me. Often i will fail in that
effort -- but i should continue to try.

Else, i believe, skepticism will lose (fail to reach?)
the ethical and rational high ground it presumes to be
defending, because others will see Skepticism (in my
practice of it) as just another venally partisan and
selfish "special interest group".

When i compare these two statements from an Aug 3
Washington Post article, it is clear which one is easy
for anyone to dismiss out of hand and which one genuinely
advances the argument against ID.

1) Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a leading liberal
lawmaker. Noting Bush's Ivy League education, Frank
said, "People might cite George Bush as proof that
you can be totally impervious to the effects of
Harvard and Yale education." [such examples cover
the political spectrum, of course, and the intended
audience is usually the partisan choir]

2) Bush's comments were "irresponsible," said Barry W.
Lynn, executive director of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State. He said the president,
by suggesting that students hear two viewpoints,
"doesn't understand that one is a religious viewpoint
and one is a scientific viewpoint." Lynn said Bush
showed a "low level of understanding of science,"
adding that he worries that Bush's comments could be
followed by a directive to the Justice Department to
support legal efforts to change curricula.

I'm both encouraged and cautioned by this excerpt from
Surowieski's The Wisdom of Crowds, page 76 large print
edition (last page of Chapter 2):

"Ultimately, [expressed] diversity contributes not just
by adding different perspectives to the group but also by
making it easier for individuals to say what they really
think." ... "Having even one person in the group who
felt as they did made the subjects happy to announce their
thoughts, and the rate of conformity plummeted."

The President's highly visible statements have made it
much easier for more people to express and act
(legislatively and otherwise) on their beliefs in ID.
As a Skeptic i need to become more visible in supporting
the teaching of evolution vice ID in public school
science classes, so that others will feel more comfortable
expressing their support for the teaching of evolution
vice ID in public school science classes.

I know how to do this, conversation by conversation,
letter by letter, email by email. I just need to get busy.

Muirkirk Rd De Facto Extension of ICC

I revised my previously posted message with this title and moved it to my new Muirkirk Road News and Views blog [now more broadly renamed "South Laurel Views"], which i just today created specifically to discuss the termination of the chosen ICC route at Muirkirk Road, and other topics relevant to local communities along Muirkirk.

To read it, click here