EUGENIE SCOTT: SISYPHUS WITH A SMILE
Federal court had just been dismissed in Harrisburg, Pa., on September 26, 2005, the first day of the Dover intelligent design trial. Commentators dubbed it Scopes II or III, depending on how many previous evolution education cases they knew of. The defendants, members of the Dover, Pa., school board, had required that a statement denigrating evolutionary theory be read to ninth-grade biology students and recommended so-called intelligent design be considered a viable and intellectually adequate alternative. Plaintiffs were parents in the school district who alleged that intelligent design, or ID, was in fact a religious construct and that presenting it to their children in a public school science class thus violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A steady rain forced plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses and media to huddle together under the overhang at the entrance to the Harrisburg Federal Building and Courthouse. Within a few feet of advocates who had minutes before put evolution itself on trial stood Eugenie Scott. As executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), she is the country's foremost defender of evolution education. She patiently explained to reporters why this trial was so important: "It's the first case that is considering the legality of the two current strategies of the antievolution movement."
This article was originally published with the title Teach the Science.