Harrisburg, Pa. — The concept of "intelligent design" is a form of creationism and is not based on scientific method, a professor testified Wednesday in a trial over whether the idea should be taught in public schools.
Robert T. Pennock, a professor of science and philosophy at Michigan State University, testified on behalf of families who sued the Dover Area School District.
He said supporters of intelligent design don't offer evidence to support their idea.
"As scientists go about their business, they follow a method," Pennock said. "Intelligent design wants to reject that and so it doesn't really fall within the purview of science."
Pennock said intelligent design does not belong in a science class, but added that it could possibly be addressed in other types of courses.
In October 2004, the Dover school board voted 6-3 to require teachers to read a brief statement about intelligent design to students before classes on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to an intelligent-design textbook for more information.
Proponents of intelligent design argue that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force, and that natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.
Eight families are trying to have intelligent design removed from the curriculum, arguing that it violates the constitutional separation of church and state. They say it promotes the Bible's view of creation.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for two newspaper reporters said Wednesday that the presiding judge had agreed to limit questioning of the reporters, averting a legal showdown over having them testify in the case.
Both reporters wrote stories that said board members mentioned creationism as they discussed the intelligent design issue. Board members have denied that.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III agreed that the reporters would only have to verify the content of their stories - and not answer questions about unpublished material, possible bias or the use of any confidential sources.
"They're testifying only as to what they wrote," said Niles Benn, attorney for The York Dispatch and the York Daily Record/Sunday News, the papers that employed the two freelancers.
The reporters were subpoenaed but declined to give depositions Tuesday, citing their First Amendment rights. A lawyer for the school board had said he planned to seek contempt citations against the two.
The judge's order clears the way for the reporters to provide depositions and testify Oct. 6.