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Wisconsin legislator, university profs want ban of Intelligent Design in public schools

MADISON, Wis. (BP)–In an unprecedented political move to protect evolution, a Wisconsin state representative -– backed by 13 professors from the University of Wisconsin -– has introduced a bill that could ban the teaching of Intelligent Design and creationism in the state’s public schools.

The bill would stipulate that “any material presented as science within the school curriculum … is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes [and] … is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.”

The three-paragraph measure was announced by state Rep. Terese Berceau, D.-Madison, in a Feb. 7 news conference attended by the 13 university professors.

Berceau said her bill is “designed to promote good science education and prevent the introduction of pseudo-science in the science classroom.”

Intelligent Design holds that various features of the universe and of living organisms are best explained by an intelligent cause; creationism more directly holds that the cause is God.

Under her bill, Berceau said Intelligent Design and creationism could be discussed in non-scientific school contexts. “You can even include it in a science class if you want to say why it’s not a science,” she told The Capital Times in Madison. “Otherwise it should be taught in a history of religion class or social studies or philosophy.”

“We can be the un-Kansas,” biochemistry professor Alan Attie told the newspaper in reference to Kansas’ science standards, adopted in 2005, that set forth a neutral definition of science as a discipline that seeks “more adequate explanations of natural phenomena” without specifically mentioning Intelligent Design or evolution.

William Dembski, one of the leading proponents of Intelligent Design, described Berceau’s proposed legislation as “a clear sign that we are winning.” Critics of Intelligent Design “look foolish when they have to take political action to quash ID,” he stated on his weblog. “Materialistic evolution already holds a de facto monopoly over public school science education” in what Dembski described as “a fundamental inequity in public school science education.”

Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher, is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; senior fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture; and author of several books on Intelligent Design, including “The Design Revolution” and “Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing.”.

Some ID proponents have resorted to political measures in order “to break up that monopoly,” Dembski acknowledged, but “for materialistic evolution to require legislation to preserve its monopoly will in the end be seen as heavy-handed and self-serving….

“[F]or academics with stellar reputations like [Elliott] Sober and [Ronald] Numbers [who attended Berceau’s news conference] to be actively supporting such political interference signifies that they are losing not only the war of ideas but also their position of cultural dominance,” Dembski said.

Both University of Wisconsin faculty members are among the leading opponents of Intelligent Design. Sober is a philosophy professor; Numbers is a professor of the history of science and medicine.

Dembski compared the Wisconsin proposal to a federal judge’s December ruling against the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools in Dover, Pa.

“Unlike Dover, where the focus was on ID’s legitimacy as science, such a trial [in Wisconsin] would focus on the exclusive right of evolutionary theory to maintain its monopoly over the teaching of biological origins…. [T]his will be a much more difficult case for the ACLU to win. In Dover, ID needed to defend itself. In such a case [in Wisconsin], evolution will need to defend itself….

“Dover certainly wasn’t ID’s Waterloo. Wisconsin may well be evolution’s Waterloo,” Dembski said.

Also on his Internet site, Dembski responded to Berceau’s proposed legislation by stating, “I’m offering $1000 to the first teacher in Wisconsin who (1) challenges this policy (should it be enacted) by teaching ID as science within a Wisconsin public school science curriculum (social science does not count), (2) gets him/herself fired, reprimanded, or otherwise punished in some actionable way, (3) obtains legal representation from a public interest law firm (e.g., Alliance Defense Fund), and (4) takes this to trial.

“I encourage others to contribute in the same way,” Dembski stated, though he acknowledged to Baptist Press, “My offer of $1,000 is more symbolic than anything. The personal cost of engaging in such litigation will be huge and in no significant way offset by the $1,000 I’m offering.”

The Alliance Defense Fund, he noted, “knows the issues and has a proven track record in handling such cases. Also, they have a good working relationship with the ID community.”