Science Federal File

Pennsylvania Polka

By Sean Cavanagh — January 17, 2006 1 min read
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In Pennsylvania, incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican, is expected to face state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., a Democrat, in one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races of 2006. And the battle over “intelligent design,” which famously played out in Dover, Pa., for more than a year, has found a place in the campaign.

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In December, a federal judge struck down the Dover school district’s policy mandating that students be introduced to intelligent design—the belief that humans and other living things show signs of having been crafted by an unnamed guiding force. The month before, opponents of the policy swept Dover school board elections.

Shortly after the judge’s Dec. 20 ruling, Sen. Santorum publicly criticized Dover school officials, and he resigned from the advisory board of the Thomas More Law Center, of Ann Arbor, Mich., which had represented the district in court.

The law center “made a huge mistake in taking this case and pushing this case to the extent they did,” the senator told ThePhiladelphia Inquirer.

The senator’s actions drew criticism from Mr. Casey, who accused his likely general-election opponent of essentially reversing himself on the issue. Mr. Casey pointed to a 2002 Washington Times commentary by Mr. Santorum, in which the senator called intelligent design “a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in the science classes.”

“It’s a pretty clear flip-flop,” said Larry Smar, a spokesman for Mr. Casey’s campaign. The Democrat believes intelligent design should not be taught in a public school science class, his spokesman said.

The senator is also author of the so-called Santorum Amendment, a 2001 congressional conference report related to the No Child Left Behind Act, that says students should understand alternatives to evolutionary theory. The language is not part of the law itself.

Robert L. Traynham, a spokesman for Sen. Santorum, said his views have not changed: Intelligent design should be allowed in science class, but not mandated, as was the case in Dover. In his newspaper essay, the senator was simply defending the rights of teachers to broach the design topic, said Mr. Traynham.

“Senator Santorum has been very consistent on this issue,” Mr. Traynham said.

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