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Pennsylvania intelligent design trial winds up

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Lawyers in the Dover Intelligent Design case brought their arguments to a conclusion on Friday, leaving Judge John Jones to decide whether or not the teaching of intelligent design in public schools is allowed by the US constitution.

In Dover, Pennsylvania, 11 parents are challenging in court the local school board's decision to allow intelligent design to be taught in science classes.

Intelligent design holds that some living things are too complex to have arisen through natural selection, as suggested by the Darwinian theory of evolution. It states that there must be some intelligent agent involved in their creation.

The parents argue that intelligent design is a thinly veiled cover for creationism, and is covered by the constitutional ban on the teaching of religion in public (state, for those in the UK) schools.

In closing, the parents' lawyer Eric Rothschild said that the policy had been introduced by members of the school board with a religious agenda.

He also accused witnesses for the defence of lying in their testimony that religion was not a motivating factor in introducing intelligent design to the school. He also said that they lied when the told the Judge they didn't know a text book expounding the principles of intelligent design had been bought for the school with money raised in a church.

One witness, former school board member William Buckingham, had testified that he hadn't meant to advocate creationism in a television interview, describing himself as a deer in the headlights.

Rothschild argued that Buckingham knew exactly what he was doing during the interview, saying: "That deer was wearing shades and was totally at ease", Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the defence argued that intelligent design is a "legitimate educational objective", and described it as "the next great paradigm shift in science".

Attorney Patrick Gillen said that while the individual members of the school board were religious, they were not trying to push a religious agenda.

Judge John Jones says he wants to have made his ruling by the end of the year, early January 2006 at the latest.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the Vatican issued a statement warning against ignoring scientific reason, saying that by doing so, religion risks turning into fundamentalism. Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture said:

"The permanent lesson that the Galileo case represents pushes us to keep alive the dialogue between the various disciplines, and in particular between theology and the natural sciences, if we want to prevent similar episodes from repeating themselves in the future."

He also argued that religion could act as the conscience of science, citing the atomic bomb and the possibility of human clones as scientific ideas devoid of ethics. ®

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