In the history of the ongoing battle between science and faith, Dover, Pennsylvania, has written the latest chapter. Last month, the residents, who usually vote Republican, ousted eight school board members who had backed intelligent design. This week, a federal judge in Harrisburg ruled that it was unconstitutional for the Dover school district to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.
In a sweeping decision, Judge Jones, a Republican appointed by President Bush, declared that intelligent design was not science but "creationism relabeled," because it seeks to change the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations. This is obviously a victory for science. What is less obvious is that it is also a victory for faith.
The most pernicious aspect of the ID movement is its commingling of science and faith, its attempt to use science and mathematics to prove the existence of an intelligent designer. Not only does this undermine science, it undermines faith, which by its very definition is "a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence." If ID scientists were to prove, for example, that the double helix is the stairway to heaven, then the existence of God would cease to be an article of faith and become instead a scientific fact.
By drawing a bright line between science and faith, Judge Jones has done as much to protect faith from science as he has done to protect science from faith.
Katrina vanden Heuvel is Editor of The Nation.
2005 The Nation