A federal judge has ruled that teaching intelligent design in US public high schools is unconstitutional.
On 20 December, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Judge John Jones issued a scathing opinion in which he described a local school board's efforts to promote intelligent design as 'breathtaking inanity'.
Rather than just throwing out the policy because of the religious motivations of the school board members who instituted it, Jones went on to state that intelligent design was clearly religious and indubitably not science.
"We conclude that the religious nature of intelligent design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," he writes.
In his 139-page opinion, Jones reviews the history of intelligent design. He declares: "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that intelligent design is a religious view, a mere re-labelling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."
The decision will not have legal precedence for similar cases in other districts, but because of the thoroughness of the opinion, it may have what lawyers term "persuasive authority". The ruling bans the reading of the Dover statement, which was due to go ahead next month at the beginning of the ninth-grade evolution unit.
The school board that wrote the policy has since been voted out, and their replacements are unlikely to appeal.
Biologists who testified in the case were even more ecstatic. "I think it is everything we could have hoped for," says Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. "The opinion is splendid. What is very clear is that the judge worked hard, diligently followed the scientific arguments, and understood them thoroughly."
"The whole place here is saying that this is beyond our wildest dreams," says Kevin Padian, a palaeontologist and trial witness from the University of California, Berkeley, speaking from Harrisburg. "This means that as science, intelligent design is effectively dead."
Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education, a non-profit organization in California that guards the teaching of evolution in public schools, says that intelligent design, under any name, is hard to squelch. "The history of creationism is that it doesn't go extinct... it evolves," he says. "We fully expect that they will come up with a new strategy.""
Full text of Judge Jones' Opinion
Playlist Judgement Day - Intelligent Design on Trial. PBS online video of Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. Well worth watching.
eSkeptic Kitzmiller et al versus Dover Area School District
Here's a pdf version of Ken Miller's reasonable response to criticism of a biology textbook that he coauthored. The now-defeated Dover schoolboard first attempted to block purchase of this high school level text, and, failing that, to supplement the scientific text with a cdesign proponentist fantasy.
"This is a stunning blow against Intelligent Design and creationism, but we are not surprised by it given how the trial unfolded."