Members of the national and international press gathered outside the federal courthouse in Harrisburg this morning for the start of a trial that could determine the fate of intelligent design in public school.

The BBC, London Guardian and People magazine were among news agencies outside the courtroom, where the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover began at 9 a.m.

Julian Borger, a Washington-based reporter for the Guardian, said the interest in the United Kingdom is in the American school system. He said people in the UK don't have the ability to vote on what is or isn't taught in school.

"There are a small percentage of people who believe in intelligent design," Borger said, "but some also believe it's a peculiarly American phenomenon."

BBC producer James Van der Pool said: "There is no single view in the UK. There's a curiosity about how something like this can create such a stir.

"Evolution is more accepted in the UK," he added. "Our interest is whether there is anything in this (intelligent design). Is it an American affair and is it going to come over here (the UK)?"

The federal court case filed against the Dover Area School District and its school board over mention of intelligent design in biology classes was to begin with opening statements by the district's attorneys and those representing 11 parents who filed the suit in December.


The parents, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, were expected to argue that the school board had religious motives in requiring a statement about intelligent design to be read in biology classes. They also contend intelligent design is based on religion.

The school board's attorneys from the Thomas More Law Center,
a Michigan-based public interest law firm that often represents Christians who say their rights have been violated, were expected to argue that the board had a secular purpose in mentioning intelligent design as an "alternative theory" to evolution and intelligent design is scientifically sound.

Intelligent design says living things are so complicated they had to have been created by a higher being, that life is too complex to have developed by evolution as described by biologist Charles Darwin.

The parents and their attorney assert that intelligent design is akin to creationism.

The first week: After opening statements, the parents' attorneys will begin to present their case. Their witnesses are expected to testify at least through the first week. Once the parents' attorneys have rested their case, the defense will have an opportunity to call witnesses.

Brown University professor and biologist Kenneth Miller was expected to take the stand first for the parents.

Miller, who teaches in Brown's Department of Biology & Medicine, is known nationally for his opposition to teaching "intelligent design" as part of public school science courses.

He has said that intelligent design fails to hold up to scientific tests, and that it is a philosophical concept that is not scientifically rooted.

Miller's testimony is scheduled to conclude tomorrow.

He will be followed by fact witnesses -- or those who can testify about the events that frame the case -- that neither side would publicly name.

Wednesday's testimony is expected to steer back to science with Rob Pennock, a Michigan State University professor of science and philosophy.

Pennock wrote the book "Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism" and edited "Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives," both published by The MIT Press.

Pennock is expected to share time Wednesday with intelligent design historian Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Forrest has written several scientific publications about intelligent design and co-wrote "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design," with Paul R. Gross, published by Oxford University Press.

The book details the "wedge strategy" intelligent design proponents use to slowly push the concept into mainstream national education politics, according to the book's sleeve.

ACLU staff attorney Paula Knudsen said Forrest has researched the evolution of the creationism movement into the intelligent design movement, and she is expected to show the links between intelligent design and its alleged ancestor, creation science and creationism.

The week's final witness is expected to be Jack Haught, professor of theology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and director of the Georgetown Center for the Study of Science and Religion.

He has written several books, including "Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation," and "Deeper Than Darwin: Evolution and the Question of God."

In a 2002 interview with the National Center for Science Education, Haught said intelligent design's scientific arguments are "theological diversions, not scientifically fruitful suppositions."

All media seats taken: As scientific, philosophical and theological witnesses converge on Harrisburg, so do representatives of the media.

The 40 courtroom seats available to the media have been grabbed by both local and national members of the press, ranging from The York Dispatch to the New York Times and National Public Radio.

The court's clerks have been expecting a hearty showing from the public as well.

About 40 courtroom seats are available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. They will be distributed on the ninth floor, beginning an hour before the start of the trial. Spectators must be seated within 15 minutes before court is in session.

Passes may not be reserved in advance for members of the public.

Those who are unable to be accommodated in the courtroom will be directed to an auxiliary room where the trial will be broadcast through a closed-circuit audio feed.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5434 or