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Q&A with Barbara Forrest,

Expert witness from the Dover, Pennsylvania, intelligent design trial



In 2005, parents of children in Dover, Pennsylvania, public schools filed suit against the Dover Area School District for requiring ninth-grade science teachers to read a statement to their students touting Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution.

Intelligent Design, a modern version of creationism that says the universe and living things are best described by an intelligent cause, has been pushed by the Discovery Institute, a Christian-based think tank, ever since creationism was outlawed in public education through a 1987 Supreme Court decision.

In the trial, U.S. District Court judge John E. Jones ruled that teaching Intelligent Design in Dover public schools violated the First Amendment, and many attribute his decision to the expert witness testimony of Barbara Forrest, a Southeastern Louisiana University philosophy professor and author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.

Forrest will be speaking about her role in the trial at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library on Sunday, July 27th, from 1 to 5 p.m. — Bianca Phillips

Flyer: What's the difference between creationism and Intelligent Design?

Forrest: After the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared teaching creation science in public schools to be unconstitutional, the creationists had to change the name to Intelligent Design. And they couldn't go around saying that the Earth was only 6,000 years old, because they would be instantly recognized as creationists. Most Intelligent Design people accept the age of the Earth as four-and-a-half billion years old.

How did you get involved in the fight against Intelligent Design in public schools?

I first got involved as a parent in 1994 when creationists attempted to get a creationist curriculum guide accepted in my children's school system. Later, I wrote the book Creationism's Trojan Horse. That's what got me called to the Dover trial.

What did the Dover ruling mean for the rest of the country?

[Teaching Intelligent Design] is only illegal in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. But [the decision has] had effects in other places. The Ohio State Board of Education decided to dump a creationist benchmark that they had put into their science standards because they didn't want to get sued.

In January 2006, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit against a California school system that was trying to teach a course in Intelligent Design.

is Intelligent Design being taught in schools? There are certainly teachers who are teaching creationism. They can do it as long as they can get away with it and nobody reports it. But Intelligent Design has not been adopted in any formal sense.

The Discovery Institute has started backing away from using the term "Intelligent Design," and they're now trying to disguise policy proposals with code words. The one they used down here in Louisiana was "academic freedom."

In Louisiana, a law [permits] teachers to use supplemental materials that will help the students engage in "critical thinking" and "logical analysis," including but not limited to evolution, origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

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