In the conflict between evolution and religion sometimes known as the “Evolution War” few people have been as influential as federal Judge John E. Jones III of Pennsylvania. The case over which he presided was so controversial that it has been called the second Scopes-Monkey trial.
On Feb. 18, Jones spoke to a mixed audience of UVU and BYU students about his landmark decision that declared the teaching of intelligent design in public schools unconstitutional. His remarks covered the history that led up to his case, as well as the case itself.
The now-famous court case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, began when the school board decided to teach intelligent design, a form of creationism, as an alternate scientific theory to evolution. Parents angry with the decision took the board to court, believing the board’s decision constituted religious endorsement. The trial itself took 21 days, after which Jones concluded that “intelligent design was not good science” and was instead religious in nature.
This led to his second conclusion; that as a religious entity endorsement of intelligent design in schools violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Jones ruled in favor of the parents and the decision that earned him a place in “Time” magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People as well as U.S. Marshall protection in response to numerous death threats.
Jones concluded his presentation with what he learned as a result of his involvement in the Kitzmiller case.
“Frankly, people do not understand how judges work,” said Jones. “[Americans] are increasingly bereft of a good civics education.” He also said “a substantial number of fellow Americans do not understand the science of evolution,” and “a substantial subset [of those people] choose not to be troubled by facts.”
For more information on Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Jones recommended the PBS special “NOVA: Judgment Day”. Jones was consulted with by Nova’s producers during the documentary’s creation and he felt the recreation was accurate in its portrayal.