End of Dover trial highlights danger of anti-science efforts

The Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial ended on Friday. The judge announced he would try to have a decision by the end of the year so now the waiting begins.

On Thursday, the court heard from a couple of teachers and from one learned the other side of the issue. Religious conservatives won’t stop with just forcing Intelligent Design (ID) into the science classes but such efforts also chill the work in other classes like social studies.

Reaction to the board’s attention to the biology curriculum wasn’t limited to the science teachers. At least one social studies teacher wondered how to handle what he considered a breach in separation of church and state.

[Robert] Linker testified that while the teachers didn’t consider intelligent design science, didn’t agree with the statement, and refused to read it or distribute opt-out papers to students, the board’s focus on the topic caused teachers to pare down their evolution sections out of concern that they were doing something wrong.

Linker testified Thursday that he stopped showing videos from the Discovery Channel about evolution.

He also ended his practice of starting the evolution section by drawing a line on the chalk board with “creationism” on one side and “evolution” on the other to explain why they talked about the science of evolution and not the religion behind creationism.

Linker said Jen Miller, the senior biology teacher who testified earlier in the trial, used to have students trace the Earth’s history as a timeline on paper rolled out in a hallway. She doesn’t do that anymore, Linker said.

During cross-examination by ACLU attorney Witold Walczak, Linker said, “I didn’t really know if I was doing something wrong by writing creationism on the board.”

Linker didn’t characterize the administration or board efforts as “pressure” leading up to the curriculum change.

But he got the hint. He and other teachers attended two meetings in the fall of 2003 where school officials — including, at one meeting, board member Alan Bonsell — wanted to know how the teachers taught evolution. Linker said he’d never experienced such a request in 12 years of teaching.

They realized evolution attracted special attention.

Trial peeks into class

Later Asst. Supt. Michael Baksa testified that board member Alan Bonsell gave him a copy of the “The Myth of Separation: What is the Correct Relationship Between Church and State” by David Barton.

David Barton is a religious conservative known for misquoting and even fabricating “evidence” that shows the separation of church and state to be a myth to support the notion that the US is a “Christian Nation”.

David Barton, in his taped presentation called America’s Godly Heritage, peddles the proposition that America is a “Christian Nation,” legally and historically. He also asserts that the principle of church-state separation, while not in the Constitution, has systematically been used to rule religion out of the public arena, particularly the public school system. This is not a new argument, but Barton is especially slick in his presentation. His presentation has just enough ring of truth to make him credible to many people. It is, however, laced with exaggerations, half- truths, and misstatements of fact. His citation to supporting research is scant at best and at times non-existent.

Critique of David Barton’s “America’s Godly Heritage”

Baska testified:

In an e-mail dated Oct. 19, 2004, social studies teacher Brad Neal wrote Baksa, “In light of last night’s apparent change from a ‘standards driven’ school district to ‘the living word driven’ school district, Mr. Hoover and I would like some direction in how to adapt our judicial branch unit. It is apparent that the Supreme Court of the United States has it all wrong. Is there some supplemental text that we can use to set our students straight as to the ‘real’ law of the land?”

The same day, Baksa replied, “All kidding aside be careful what you ask for. I have been given a copy of ‘The Myth of Separation’ by David Barton to review from board members. Social studies curriculum is next year. Feel free to borrow my copy to get an idea of where the board is coming from.”

This is what to expect if religious conservatives get their way. Not only will we have kids dumb in science but also kids told lies about history. Is that what we really want? All because someone believes the Bible is literally true?

One of the lawyers with the Thomas More Center said that science shouldn’t be taught as dogma. I agree, but we should at least teach real science. Science that has evidence behind it not science that agrees with someone’s religious beliefs.

God didn’t put a man on the moon or wipe out a majority of the world’s diseases. Science did. Praying didn’t increase crop yields which allows us to raise much more food than we really need on low amount of acreage. Science did. Going to church isn’t going to help us find a cure for AIDS. Science will.

The recent defense of Evolution in Dover wasn’t some conspiracy of secular humanists bent on corrupting “our children” but was conducted by believers who find the truth of science to be much more important than their religious beliefs.

Someone has to defend Darwin – it is sad to say. We’re at the start of the 21st century and we are fighting to prevent the return of the Dark Ages.

This post was written before April of 2020 when this blog transitioned to a podcast.

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Founder, editor and host of Secular Left - please be gentle