Wednesday, November 09, 2005

'Intelligent-design' school board ousted in Penn


'Intelligent-design' school board ousted in Penn

By Jon Hurdle

DOVER, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Voters on Tuesday ousted a Pennsylvania local school board that promoted an "intelligent-design" alternative to teaching evolution, and elected a new slate of candidates who promised to remove the concept from science classes.

The board of Dover Area School District in south-central Pennsylvania lost eight of its nine incumbents in an upset election that surprised even the challengers, who had been hoping for a bare majority to take control of the board.

The new board, which includes teachers, opposed the incumbents' policy of including intelligent design in science classes.

The ousted board was the first school board in the country to implement such a policy. The challengers also criticized what they called arrogance and secrecy by the incumbent board.

For the last six weeks, the teaching of intelligent design has been challenged in federal court by a group of Dover parents. They said the concept is a religious belief and therefore may not be taught in public schools, because the U.S. Constitution forbids it. They also argue that the theory is unscientific and so has no place in science classes.

Bryan Rehm, one of the winning board members and a former teacher at Dover High School, said the new board will hold a public meeting to decide the precise future of the policy. He said intelligent design will no longer be a part of the science curriculum, regardless of how the court rules.

Defeated board members were not immediately available for comment.

Dover residents have been split on the issue of intelligent design since the board adopted the policy in October 2004.

The policy requires that students be read a four-paragraph statement that says there are "gaps" in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and that students should consider other explanations of the origins of life, including intelligent design.

Intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are so complex they must be the work of an unnamed designer, rather than the result of random natural selection, as argued by Darwin's theory.

The trial, which attracted national and international media attention, was watched in at least 30 states where policies are being considered that would promote teaching alternatives to evolution theory.

U.S. President George W. Bush, whose re-election was boosted by many Christian-conservative votes, has said he believes intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution.

U.S. District Judge John Jones is expected to rule on the case in December or January.