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Like the deluge that floated Noah’s boat in the book of Genesis, the trial of intelligent design in Dover public schools ended after 40 days. “It was not by design,” quipped U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III. The plaintiff and defense attorneys delivered closing arguments Friday, and Jones said he hoped to render a decision before 2006. “If it’s not the largest trial ever in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, it is one of the largest in recent memory,” Jones said of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Eleven parents of Dover students sued the Dover Area School Board last year, charging that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when it voted to present “inherently religious” information to students, according to the complaint. That information was a four-paragraph statement read to ninth-grade biology students noting gaps in Darwin’s theory of evolution and mentioning an “alternative theory of evolution” — intelligent design. Intelligent design suggests that organisms developed over time in accordance with a blueprint or pattern designed by an intelligent agent. The parties disagree over whether intelligent design is science, and they’ve paraded academics from the fields of biology, philosophy and theology, among others, through the witness box over the past six weeks to testify as to why it is or isn’t. Intelligent design proponents urge educators to “teach the controversy” among the alternative theories to students. But most scientists note that Darwin’s theory is the basis for modern biology and say there is no controversy to be taught. In his closing, plaintiffs attorney Eric J. Rothschild of Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia charged that school board members essentially hijacked the science curriculum and molded it to their religious viewpoints. “In this trial, the plaintiffs have submitted overwhelming evidence that intelligent design is just a new name for creationism,” Rothschild said. And creationism is what the U.S. Supreme Court said in Edwards v. Aguillard could not be taught in public schools, Rothschild noted. “The law requires the government not impose religious beliefs on citizens — not because religion is not important but because it is so important,” he said. Patrick Gillen, an attorney for the school board, urged Jones to find that the plaintiffs had not met their burden under the 1971 Supreme Court ruling, Lemon v. Kurtzman. “The plaintiffs have failed to prove that the primary purpose or effect of the curriculum change … was to advance religion,” said Gillen, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich. “The primary purpose was science education.” Although the evidence showed some board members had an interest in teaching creationism to students, they never took action to require such teaching, Gillen said. “The record shows that interest and action are two different things, and the distinction is an important one, your honor.” Gillen asked Jones to declare the curriculum statement constitutional and to deny the plaintiffs’ request for relief. “Mentioning creationism is not teaching it,” he said.

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