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Planet Earth

Ohio Misgivings

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyFebruary 15, 2006 10:24 PM

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I'm as happy as the next person that the Ohio Board of Education is backing down in the wake of the Dover trial decision, and will be getting rid of its silly anti-evolution lesson plan. However, I don't think evolution fans ought to be rejoicing too much--at least not yet. If the Ohio board is willing to get rid of the lesson plan voluntarily, that means it doesn't have to be sued. But make no mistake: Had this one gone to court, it would have been a significantly tougher case than the Dover trial.

It's much easier to prove in court that Dover's introduction of "intelligent design" itself into a school curriculum represents an advancement of religion than to prove that Ohio's "critical analysis of evolution" lesson plan does. That's because in the Dover case, the ACLU and allies had the opportunity to attack ID directly. But in the hypothetical Ohio case, evolution defenders would have had to show how a lesson plan which does not directly mention ID nevertheless springs from the advocacy of the ID movement, and thus has religious inspirations.

That's more argumentative steps, and it means a more difficult case. Furthermore, if such a case isn't going to be brought in Ohio, we should nevertheless expect that soon enough, a similar case over a "critical analysis" or "teach the controversy" policy will spring up in another state. I'm not saying it will be impossible to win such cases, but it's going to be significantly tougher. So we defenders of evolution ought to steel ourselves, and realize that there are going to be many hard-fought battles ahead....

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