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Federal trial begins in challenge to 'intelligent design' theory

[JURIST] A Pennsylvania federal court Monday was set to consider whether school districts may teach a concept known as "intelligent design" [Wikipedia backgrounder] prior to teaching biology lessons on evolution. Eight families in Dover, Pennsylvania, claim that teaching the theory in schools is a violation of the separation of church and state [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The "intelligent design" concept, developed by scholars over the last 15 years, sets forth the belief that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution [BBC backgrounder] cannot completely explain the origin of life, contending that an unidentified intelligent force played a role. The eight families suing the school district claim that the theory is not appropriate for the classroom [PDF complaint; ACLU case materials] because it is just a "masked" version of the Bible's story of creation. The Dover Area School District is the first known district in the nation to require teaching of the concept to ninth-graders. In a related decision in 1987, the US Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard [opinion] that states may not mandate public schools to teach creationism in order to balance evolution lessons. AP has more.

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