(National-NBC) Nov. 5, 2005 - A federal court case is looking at how schools teach two hotly debated theories.
At issue, should intelligent design, a theory that questions evolution, be included in a Pennsylvania school district's science curriculum? The case could have an impact on schools around the country.
Eleven parents are suing the Dover, Pennsylvania school board for exposing high school biology students to intelligent design, an alternative theory to evolution that some called religion masked as science.
Parents argued in federal court the curriculum violates the constitution's separation of church and state. It is the biggest court challenge to evolution in nearly a decade.
Court observer Izaak Oliphant comments, "I think it's very important because it could be the role case for many other schools all over the country."
Evolution is the standard taught in most schools. Intelligent design challenges evolution by suggesting the universe and life forms were created by an unknown Intelligent Force.
Lawyers for the parents argued the author of the suggested textbook, "Of Pandas and People" is really teaching Creationism, a belief all living things are related to the Bible. Lawyer Vic Walczak, "He's equating intelligent design with Creationism. He's written a lot of papers and he's always equated them before."
Lawyers for the school district argued students should be taught about alternative theories to evolution. Defense attorney Dick Thompson, "Should the ninth grade biology students be made aware that of the fact there is a controversy in the scientific community about Darwin's Theory of Evolution? And if there is, what's wrong with letting them know about that controversy?"
The federal judge overseeing the case said he will have a written decision on the issue by Thanksgiving. Legal experts say no matter what decision is made, you can expect this case will be appealed.
Earlier this year, President Bush went on record saying intelligent design and evolution should be taught together in the classroom as competing theories.
Updated 6:00pm by Chantelle Janelle