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Fundamentalists go to court

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The University of California is facing legal action in the US for promoting a commonly-held scientific theory.

Jeanne and Larry Caldwell are suing the university over its "Understanding Evolution" website which offers information and advice to teachers.

The Caldwells run a Californian lobby group called Quality Science Education for All! which promotes "education that exposes students to the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory." It has taken legal action against several states over the content of school books.

The lawsuit accuses the University website of misusing federal funds and says that by linking to religious groups which do not object to evolution it is somehow akin to teaching religion and therefore breaches the first amendment.

The Vatican's chief astronomer Rev. George Coyne recently said intelligent design "isn't science, even though it pretends to be". He said if it was to be taught in schools it should be part of the religious or cultural affairs classes not science.

Fundamentalist Christians in the US take a different view.

The California site, which you can visit here. if you're feeling brave, is run by the University's paleantology department and the National Centre for Science Education. The website is Not Safe for Fundamentalists.

The Caldwells deny they are "Intelligent Designers" (AKA 'creationists with a website'). Jeanne Caldwell told the San Jose Mercury News: "Yes, I am a Christian, but I would not characterise myself as an ID proponent. I believe God created the world." Maybe he means God made the world but he didn't design it intelligently...

Intelligent design was most famously promoted by William Paley using the analogy of a blind watchmaker in 1802. Darwin was an early fan. ®

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