‘Intelligent design’ based on observations of nature, proponent tells court
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The concept of “intelligent design” relies not on religious belief but on the powers of observation, a leading proponent testified Tuesday in a trial over the concept’s place in public schools.
“Intelligent design requires no tenet of any specific religion,” Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Behe said. “It does not rely on religious texts, messages from religious leaders or any such thing.”
Instead, Behe testified, it comes from making observations of nature, and concluding that the natural world was designed and didn’t gradually evolve.
Behe testified for a second day Tuesday as the first witness called by a school board that is requiring students to hear a statement about the concept of intelligent design in biology class. The landmark federal trial could decide whether intelligent design can be mentioned in public-school science classes as an alternative to the theory of evolution.
Behe, whose work includes a 1996 best seller called “Darwin’s Black Box,” believes evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life, suggesting the work of an intelligent force. The intelligent design concept does not name the designer, although Behe, a Roman Catholic, testified Monday that he personally believes it to be God.
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The school board is defending its decision a year ago to require students to hear a statement on intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin’s theory is “not a fact” and has inexplicable “gaps,” and it refers students to a textbook, “Of Pandas and People,” for more information.
Eight families sued to have intelligent design removed from the biology curriculum, contending that the policy essentially promotes the Bible’s view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Mainstream scientists have rejected intelligent design as scientifically untested and contend that its supporters focus on attacking evolutionary theory rather than providing evidence for design.
Scientists who try to use the theory of evolution to explain complex biological processes, such as blood-clotting and the immune system, don’t adequately support their claims, Behe testified.
Behe said he analyzed nearly a dozen scientific articles on the processes and found the authors didn’t make reference to random mutation or natural selection, concepts he said he expected to find.
“Much of these studies, in my view, are speculative. They assume a Darwinian framework,” he said.
Behe testified that teaching intelligent design would help clear up what he said were many students’ misconceptions that evolution is fact and not a theory. Intelligent design, he said, provides students with another way of looking at the facts.
Earlier in the trial, witnesses for the plantiffs testified that they considered evolution to be a scientific theory in the rigorous sense, supported by facts.
The trial began Sept. 26 and could last through the end of October.
The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.