November 9, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Dover School Board Members Ousted

Eight school board members in Dover, Pennsylvania, who had backed the intelligent-design policy that led to the ACLU lawsuit, lost their seats in Tuesday’s election.  A slate of Democrats who opposed the policy will take their place December 5.  The campaign against the Republicans who lost was spearheaded by a group named Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies (CARES).  See reports at: MSNBC News, LiveScience, PhillyBurbs, News@Nature and Science Now.  This result in Dover contrasts with the decision in Kansas by the state school board to allow criticisms of Darwinism in the science standards.

Beware the spin in stories like these.  ScienceNow called this result a “victory” in Dover but a “setback” in Kansas – it clearly depends on which side of the battle one is on.  LieScience continued its biased reporting by saying “Pennsylvania voters reject ‘intelligent design.’”  Good grief; not all Pennsylvania voters did, just those in Dover.  And whether they rejected ID is not clear; the majority clearly was upset at the tactics of the board, but it is a non-sequitur to assume the voters rejected ID itself.  Remember that the controversial policy only asked for a short statement to be read in the science classrooms that Darwinism is not a fact, and that alternatives exist, and resources are available if a student is interested – that’s it!  No teacher had to teach ID, no student had to look at the materials, and there would be no test questions about it.  But that was enough to give the ACLU fits and arouse the attention of the country over its lawsuit.
    Before assuming that the Dover area voters “rejected” ID, one must remember that even the pro-ID Discovery Institute did not approve of the board’s actions and refused to participate in the defense.  So we need to ask some pertinent questions in order to interpret the election results.  How many of the voters agreed with the Discovery Institute and felt the board had engaged in an unwise strategy?  How many were simply embarrassed by all the media attention over the trial?  How many were concerned primarily about the cost of defense against the lawsuit?  How many voted on emotion instead of facts? (look what happened in California).  How many can’t even spell ID, let alone explain what Darwinism teaches, but were influenced by fast-talking CARES reps?  Which side outspent the other, and which was more successful getting out the vote?
    The PhillyBurbs article, closer to the action, said that the newly-elected board members are not planning to act rashly, or quickly overturn the policy.  Everyone has a wait-and-see attitude to see how Judge John E. Jones rules on the case.  There could well be an appeal regardless of who wins.  Maybe the new board will favor a more Kansas-style strategy, or will teach ID in history or social studies, or will just move on to other priorities.  It doesn’t appear the winners are going to the opposite extreme and calling this a great victory for Darwinism, to be celebrated with a Tinker Bell Parade and fireworks for Darwin Day.  One thing is clear; intelligent design vs. Darwinism is in the consciousness of people around the country, and the world.  That’s why it is more important than ever to separate the facts from the spin.

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