December 22, 2005 Silver Spring, Maryland, United States …. [Mark A. Kellner/ANN Staff]
A Dec. 20 ruling from a federal court in the United States finds that “creation science” or “Intelligent Design” cannot be taught in state-sponsored schools because it has a religious base. Seventh-day Adventists are among several faith groups who are questioning that ruling. “Intelligent Design,” or “ID” is a scientific theory that postulates a different origin of the universe than Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The ruling capped a six-week federal trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who declared Intelligent Design to be religion, not science, and its presentation in state-run schools a violation of America’s constitutional separation of church and state.
“We find that, while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science,” Jones wrote in his decision, released Dec. 20. After the testimony of several experts on both sides of the matter, as well as evidence that included pro-ID textbooks and a compilation of local newspaper editorials and letters to the editor, Jones said he felt confident he could settle the issue at hand.
“While answering this question compels us to revisit evidence that is entirely complex, if not obtuse, after a six-week trial that spanned 21 days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area,” Jones declared in a 139 page ruling.
Where does this leave Adventists, whose church adheres to a strict, literal six-day view of creation and a fervent belief in religious liberty? In the United States, it leaves them pretty much where they were: free to teach as they wish in their own schools.
“As a parochial educational system, in almost every state we have the right to choose our own curriculum,” Larry Blackmer, an associate director of education for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, said. “So we’re not required to teach evolution. What we do is similar: at least make the students aware of what that theory is about and what some of the issues are regarding that theory. We don’t as a matter of course teach evolution, but we do present the concepts of evolution and our response to that.”
In Britain, Dr. Keith Davidson, education director for the Adventist Church, said, there’s freedom for even those church schools receiving state sponsorship to teach a worldview in line with their faith. He believes those seeking to limit public discussion of the theory of origins in school are caught in a kind of intolerance that some have accused Christians of holding.
“They are saying in a sense that only one view should be considered,” Davidson told ANN in a telephone interview. “There ought to be freedom for an expression of views for those wanting to understand the origin of life. To say that they should not be considered is, to me, very intolerant behavior, in a way.”
Davidson adds, “It’s saying we’re not prepared to have an open mind, to discuss and debate the issue on merit. If the evolutionist’s argument is so persuasive, it should be able to withstand a challenge from another school of thought.”
L. James Gibson, director of the Geoscience Research Institute of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Loma Linda, California, told ANN the judge’s decision was a result of having to chose between two wrong presentations.
“First, it is a misleading exaggeration to claim that mere mention of an alternative hypothesis of intelligent design in the origin of life represents an establishment of religion,” Gibson said. “Second, it is hypocritical of the scientific establishment to claim that intelligent design is unscientific because it is untestable, while at the same time failing to acknowledge that many aspects of evolutionary theory are untestable.”
He told ANN, “My basic position is that both sides were wrong, and the judge was forced to make a bad decision. Students are entitled to hear a balanced presentation on issues of origins, but politicians, scientists and religious leaders should not be trying to micro-manage the classroom.”
The Adventist Church affirmed a literal six-day creation week just last year.
Copyright (c) 2005 by Adventist News Network.