The Department of Sociology & Anthropology


A View from the Bench after Kitzmiller v. Dover

Judge Photo A talk with Judge John E. Jones III
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

22 March 2006
Miller Forum of Moyer Hall
Muhlenberg College

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In December 2005, federal judge John Jones ruled in favor of 11 parents in Dover, Pennsylvania, who argued that Darwinian evolution must be taught as fact in public school biology classrooms. The Dover Area school Board had argued that lifeforms were too complex to have evolved exclusively through random mutation and natural selection, and proposed the teaching of intelligent design (ID) - the belief that a grand designer is responsible for life - alongside of evolution in public school classrooms.

In his ruling, Judge Jones rejected claims by members of Dover's former school board that the theory of intelligent design was based on scientific rather than religious belief. As such, Judge Jones determined that it was not science and "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents". In his written ruling, the judge concluded that: "it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."

For those fighting the policy of the Dover school board, the judicial ruling offered strong support for the separation of church and state. For supporters of the teaching of ID and creationism in U.S. public schools, the ruling was a monumental defeat.

In his talk, Judge Jones will be discussing some of the interesting asides which arose during the case, the broader issue of judicial independence, and the role of precedent and how trial judges go about deciding cases like the Dover one. In the interest of time, the judge will not be speaking about the relative merits of intelligent design, which can be found in detail in his 139-page decision, which is available for PDF download on this page. Rather, this talk is a rare opportunity to learn about the process of independent jurisprudence in America, even when it is practiced at the center of one of the most divisive legal battles of the culture wars.

Be A Part of the Dialogue
On 22 March 2006, you have an opportunity to be a part of the dialogue with Judge Jones. Click on the link at the top of this page to submit a question to Judge Jones about the case. Your question just might be posed to the judge on the evening of his visit. Please consider the specific issues that the judge will be discussing when framing your question, as questions that are best referred to the judge’s written ruling will not be considered.