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God or science?

Ninth-grade biology teachers in Dover, Pa., must include 'intelligent design' in their instruction. Observers say it is a sign of what's to come.

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In the boldest strike against the teaching of evolution in more than a decade, the school board of this one-stoplight farming town has tilted its textbooks against virtually the entire scientific establishment - and brought home a lesson from this month's presidential election.

By mandating that ninth-grade biology teachers include "intelligent design" in their instruction, board members set a precedent last month. Never before has a school district decided to offer intelligent design, which suggests that only the action of a higher intelligence can explain the complexities of evolution. Moreover, say observers, it is a sign of what's to come.

Religious conservatives have battled against evolution theory in classrooms since the Scopes trial of 1925. Now, they are finding fresh purpose in the conservative resurgence so evident on Election Day, as well as in a new strategy of attacking evolution without mentioning God. The result is a handful of high-profile cases nationwide that challenge Darwin's place in the curriculum and presage a new offensive in America's culture war.

"We're seeing a growing number of these cases," says Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., a group that seeks to protect evolution education. "Certainly, with the greater confidence given to the religious right in the last election, we see no end in sight."

Near Atlanta, in suburban Cobb County, the local school board demanded that teachers put stickers inside the front cover of middle and high school science books. They read, in part: "Evolution is a theory, not a fact." In rural Wisconsin, the Grantsburg school board voted last month to allow teachers to discuss various theories of creation in their classrooms, opening the door to intelligent design.


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