An open letter to the Darby School Board
An open letter to the Darby School Board
By John Schneeberger, Ravalli Republic, Jan 5, 2004 - original
An open letter to the Darby School Board On Dec. 10 at Darby School a presentation on intelligent design was made by Minister Curtis Brickley. It was a multi-media, mixed power-point and video presentation, attended by 150 people with stacks of free videos on the topic available to all. The presentation was slick and convincing, but wholly disingenuous and misleading.

ID is premised on a partial acknowledgment of science and evolution. ID, however, insists that there is a level of complexity to living creatures that cannot be attributed to the random selection premise of traditional evolutionary theory. ID insists that there has to have been an "intelligent designer," namely God. ID supporters start with the premise of divine intervention and then work backwards to find evidence. This is certainly a noble endeavor, but it should in no way be confused with science.

ID is a project of the well-heeled Discovery Institute of Seattle, Wash., and has an operating budget of over $2 million. The Institute's advisor Philip Johnson has called ID the "wedge" strategy. The plan is to use intelligent design as a wedge to undermine evolution with scientific-sounding arguments and thereby advance a conservative religious-political agenda. California multi-millionaire Howard F. Ahmanson Jr. is one of its largest contributors. Ahmanson is aligned with Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme faction of the Religious Right that seeks to replace democracy with a fundamentalist theocracy.

This latest effort by creationists to promote their religious concept about human origins in high school science classes is the most sophisticated so far and is part of a nationwide campaign to undermine concepts that Christian fundamentalists find subversive of their religious beliefs.

Catholic, most Protestant and Jewish denominations, have no problem with the teaching of evolution theory.

The Darby School trustee and board chair Gina Shallenberger apparently will introduce a proposal to adopt an "Objective Origins" policy at the January 5 meeting. "Objective Origins" would change instruction on evolutionary theory in biology classes to discussions of the theory coupled with critiques provided by organizations such as the Discovery Institute.

Creationists began by passing laws banning evolution and promoting creationism. Courts rejected these laws as unconstitutional. Then, evolution's opponents asked for "equal time" for their religious beliefs in science classes. This, too, was found to be inconsistent with the First Amendment. Having lost these battles in the courts, Creationists are now trying to make the case that not allowing their "theory" of Intelligent Design to be taught in science classes is prohibited "viewpoint discrimination." ID supporters therefore advocate "teaching the controversy" as if there is a debate between two formal theories of the origin of the species.

ID supporters, however, cannot point to any publications in peer-reviewed academic journals that support their theory. Basically they propose bypassing the whole process by which theories become part of scientific canon and then make their way into high school science classes. Mr. Brickley is suggesting that biology students be taught about evolution, and then they should learn what creationists don't like about it. ID proponents clearly have equal access to the field of science, to prove their point of view. As yet they have not done it. This would certainly be good material for a class on science and religion, or comparative religion. If Darby students are to get a world class education, however, science class should not be a place for the exercising of religious and political agendas.

On January 21 there will be a community presentation detailing why ID is poor science and bad for Darby and Montana public schools.

John Schneeberger is the coordinator for the Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance.