- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

The current federal trial over how science should be taught in Dover, Pa., schools is the latest chapter of an old story — and I don’t mean Darwin vs. the Bible. No, this is a story about Democrats vs. democracy.

The most important fact about the case is this: On Nov. 4, 2003, Republican candidates made a strong showing in York County, Pa. Among the winners were Republican Heather Geesey, who was the top vote-getter among candidates for the nine-member Dover school board, with 2,674 votes. Democrat Aralene Callahan finished out of the running — dead last, with 1,276 votes.

Some citizens of Dover apparently believe that Darwinian evolution is less than a self-evident fact. Wishing their skepticism to be reflected in the school science curriculum, they donated to the school library some copies of a book called “Of Pandas and People,” expressing the so-called intelligent design theory — basically the idea that life is too complex to be explained as an evolutionary accident. School board members voted 6-3 in 2004 to include these books as an optional supplement to freshman biology classes. The popular Mrs. Geesey was an outspoken defender of the new curriculum.

To hear Mrs. Callahan tell it, the school board thereby surrendered Dover’s science curriculum to a Bible-thumping theocracy. If all you know about the case is what you’ve seen in the New York Times, then you might imagine that freshman science classes in Dover now resemble a Pentecostal revival meeting, complete with snake handling, faith healing and speaking in tongues.

But fear not, ye lovers of science, for Mrs. Callahan quickly rode to the rescue, sparing Dover’s 14-year-olds a one-way ticket to the 13th century. The unpopular Democrat, who a year earlier had told the York Daily Record that her post-election plans included spending more time with her family, instead decided she needed to spend more time with the ACLU. And so it was that the board’s plan became the object of a federal lawsuit, with Mrs. Callahan among the plaintiffs and Mrs. Geesey among the defendants.

The Dover evolution trial, then, represents the effort of Mrs. Callahan and her allies to win in court what they could not win at the ballot box.

Please note that all the Dover board did was to require that the school provide a mild disclaimer about Darwinian dogmatism, and make available a supplemental text about pandas, to biology students in a small Pennsylvania town. Not content to dispute the issue locally (the Dover board is up for re-election Nov. 8), Mrs. Callahan and friends insisted upon a month-long sequel to the 1925 Scopes trial in the Harrisburg courtroom of U.S. District Judge John E. Jones.

The burning question is not whether life on Earth was created or evolved. Rather, the great mystery is why the content of ninth-grade science classes in tiny Dover, Pa., should merit the attentions of the federal judiciary.

I don’t claim to be a constitutional scholar, but I’m pretty sure the Constitution doesn’t say anything about schools or scientific theories. In fact, I think it fair to say that James Madison and his fellow Founders would have been horrified at the prospect of a federal judge telling folks in Dover what they should or should not teach their 14-year-olds. Yet the boundless ambition of undemocratic Democrats will not permit dissent.

Elections are held, and the Republicans elected to administer Dover’s schools decide upon a science curriculum. So Mrs. Callahan and friends bring a federal lawsuit, not only to stop the implementation of that curriculum (which they might easily do anyway if the pro-Darwin slate wins the Nov. 8 election), but to attempt to establish a precedent that would prevent any school board anywhere in the country from ever again questioning the truth of evolution.

The stakes in Judge Jones’ courtroom are indeed high. To permit Dover’s ninth-graders to entertain doubts about Darwinism might lead them to consider the possibility of a supreme being, an authority greater than any human power — and thus even more powerful than the ACLU. And that would be heresy to the Mrs. Callahans of the world.

Robert Stacy McCain is an assistant national editor for The Washington Times. His e-mail address is smccain@washingtontimes.com.)

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