Pa. Neighbors Feud Over Darwin, 'Design'

Is the school board taking a stand for a point of view that fights evolution?

Many board members literally wear symbols of their faith on their sleeves -- and their lapels and their neckties.

One of the newer board members, Edward Rowland, shared his personal view that "God created the heavens and the Earth. If you believe the Bible, then that's pretty obvious."

Finally, there's the quote everyone in Dover knows. Buckingham, the retired policeman, declared at one school board meeting: "Nearly 2,000 years ago, someone died on a cross for us. Shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?"

Yet the school board is not insisting that the creation story be told in biology class. It is "intelligent design" they want in the curriculum -- the "Of Pandas and People" concept, the theory that says that we are such complex beings that someone must have created us.

One board member, Alan Bonsell, said that's not teaching religion.

"That's not our intent -- never was, never will be," he said. "You can't do it. For one, it's against the law. We've taken an oath to uphold the Constitution just like all the other officials do. And we plan on doing that."

'Something -- Molecules, Amoeba, Whatever'

But some board members touting a theory called "intelligent design" seem to have a difficult time explaining clearly what it is.

When asked what the theory says, Sheila Harkins, the current board president, at first simply handed over an e-mail from a supporter making a case for "intelligent design."

When pressed, she said: "It's exploring the scientific theories of it. Is that what you're saying? ... [The e-mail says] to teach the children the scientific diversities. Is that what you're asking?"

Later, under oath, asked by one of the lawyers suing the board, "Do you have any general understanding what intelligent design is?" she responded, "I have not formed any opinions yet, to give a definition."

When asked what intelligent design means, Buckingham answered, "Back through time, something -- molecules, amoeba, whatever -- evolved into the complexities of life we have now."

Jeff and Carol Brown, two former school board members who quit, said the answers were unclear because Buckingham and his allies are only using "intelligent design" to open the door for biblical creationism.

'Being Dishonest'

But the board also has many supporters.

Ray Mummert -- a Dover resident who heads a church in a neighboring town and whose kids were home schooled in the early grades -- feels the board is restoring some needed balance. He thinks the evolution his kids were taught in school was simply and materially wrong.

He said teaching evolution is choosing sides, "if that's all that's being taught."

"In many instances, it's programming these impressionable minds away from the reality of God," he said. "I have a God who was big enough, powerful enough, to speak. And it's what the Bible says. He spoke and the world became into existence as a full, mature world. I feel that the whole [education] system is being dishonest and unwilling to face what is really true," he added.

It's not just Mummert, and it's not just Dover: A poll taken by the Gallup organization last year showed that one out of every three Americans believes the story of man's creation, as told in the Book of Genesis, is the literal truth.

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