December 20, 2005

"A federal judge ruled Tuesday that 'intelligent design' cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district."

Just reported:
The Dover Area School Board violated the Constitution when it ordered that its biology curriculum must include "intelligent design," the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled Tuesday.

Predictable. Correct.

UPDATE: Here's the opinion. It's lengthy. Basically, the judge, following precedent, asks whether a reasonable observer would perceive a government endorsement of religion. He also, more briefly, applies the Lemon test. Here are some key points:
As a reasonable observer, whether adult or child, would be aware of this social context in which the ID Policy arose, and such context will help to reveal the meaning of Defendants’ actions, it is necessary to trace the history of the IDM. ...

Although proponents of the IDM occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of the IDM, including Defendants’ expert witnesses....

Dramatic evidence of ID’s religious nature and aspirations is found in what is referred to as the “Wedge Document.” The Wedge Document, developed by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (hereinafter “CRSC”), represents from an institutional standpoint, the IDM’s goals and objectives... The Wedge Document states in its “Five Year Strategic Plan Summary” that the IDM’s goal is to replace science as currently practiced with “theistic and Christian science.” As posited in the Wedge Document, the IDM’s “Governing Goals” are to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies” and “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”...

The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates... that the systemic change from “creation” to “intelligent design” occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court’s important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports Plaintiffs’ assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled. ...

[T]he disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere....

ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community....

[A]lthough Defendants have unceasingly attempted in vain to distance themselves from their own actions and statements, which culminated in repetitious, untruthful testimony, such a strategy constitutes additional strong evidence of improper purpose under the first prong of the Lemon test. As exhaustively detailed herein, the thought leaders on the Board made it their considered purpose to inject some form of creationism into the science classrooms, and by the dint of their personalities and persistence they were able to pull the majority of the Board along in their collective wake. ...

[T]he Court likewise concludes that the ID Policy is violative of Plaintiffs’ rights under the Pennsylvania Constitution....

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. ...

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom. Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
I love that last part about who's the real activist here. And note the passage I've highlighted in red. I think that translates into: You call yourself religious? You hypocrite! You lied and cheated your way through this case!

ADDED: I'd like to retitle this post: School Board in the Hands of an Angry Judge. He is really angry, isn't he?

MORE: The judge called it ironic that persons who claim to be religious would lie and deceive. But isn't it also ironic that a judge enforcing the Establishment Clause would throw in an opinion about what obligations religion imposes?

48 comments:

Mark said...

Completely agree. Intelligent design does not belong in science classes; it may be discussed in theology or comparative religion classes.

Jim said...

Since when do kids get theology or comparative religion classes outside of college?

Though I agree with the decision, I don't believe the government should be in the position of making it, and if we privatized all education everybody would be happy except for those who consider the nation's children the property of the state.

downtownlad said...

I have no qualms with it being taught. If a town wants to raise their kids to be ignorant, they should have a right to do so. Public education is not a right.

chuck b. said...

"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

Is ironic really the right word?

CCMCornell said...

I agree that IDT shouldn't be taught as a viable alternative to evolution by natural selection, but I disagree that it "cannot be mentioned in biology classes" for teaching and practical reasons.

First, I think that even with a today's complete high school and undergraduate college biology curriculum, people don't understand the fine details of what's implied by evolution by natural selection. I introducing IDT and contrasting it to natural selection further illuminates these details.

For instance, an instructor once asked us: Why do birds have wings? Dogs have legs? People have eyes? If you answered to fly, to walk and to see, as 100% of this mixed undergraduate/graduate class did, you'd be dead wrong and would be subscribing to IDT.

We have a couple of classes cross-listed with Evolutionary Biology, S&TS and Philosophy that examine the implications of the less-known, but grave implications of evolution by natural selection. Though they don't get into the details of biochemical processes and classifications, I'd say they are of the most instructive biology courses at the university and they all "teach" intelligent design - that is, they explain and give source materials of the theory.

The practical reason is that barring any mention of IDT only gives it mystique and might further fears of political decisions in science instead of science making its own decisions. Shouldn't a theory of such notoriety and specious appeal to everyday common-sense as design in structure be properly and transparently criticized before the students?

I've thought that maybe it's too much for high school students to deal with, especially with all the technical details they have to learn in science. But, the arguments are fairly simple and lend themselves well to dialogue. It would be a great introduction to the seminar style for high schoolers. In fact, one of the classes I attended had a high school student who was a great contribution to the group. Though he may have been well above the norm (this is Ithaca and I'm pretty sure his parents were profs), I think many other HS students would also fair well in that course.

Lastly, I'd like to note how disgusted some of us were with the partisanship involved in the issue when it popped up on campus. At this year's State of the University address, the university president focused nearly the entire speech on the ID controversy. Though I agreed with much of what was said, we wondered why was it the focus of the State of the University? Why was involving everyone in the cultural debate of policy in local education the mission for the year? The speech would have been better used in a newsletter, a speech at an appropriate conference or a blog post (not that he has a blog.)

Anyway, I don't get why people are so worked up about whether or not evolution by natural selection implies the disproving of intelligent design when there's a something that I think is more controversial: evolution by natural selection does not seem to allow for the formation of free will. And since ultimate moral responsibility presupposes free will, it too does not exist. That one really put the class at odds.

CCMCornell said...

BTW, when reading the linked article, I used bugmenot.com to get past the registration. Today's top login/password with 100% of almost 600 login attempts working is:

asspants/streetmeat

The Krishnans said...

Finally good sense prevails. There is still hope for my kid.

vnjagvet said...

Glad to see that the judge was candid about the evidence and the reasons he found for the Plaintiffs in the case.

The so called religious folks who cooked this up have a lot of soul searching to do. Unfortunately, that is not something they are inclined to do.

As has been noted, the losers in this case also lost at the ballot box in November. A clean sweep so to speak.

the pooka said...

Yes, he's angry. I'd be angry too, under the circumstances. He hit the nail on the head with respect to the factual circumstances (the Board, the case, etc.), and is likely rightly bothered at having had to waste so much of his own intellectual energy dealing with something that he strongly suggests (and I, and I suspect most others would agree) shouldn't have wound up in a federal court in the first place.

Like you, I most enjoyed the prophylactic passages on activism. Wish more judges would be as frank with us in their opinions as Judge Jones.

michael said...

"I love that last part about who's the real activist here. And note the passage I've highlighted in red. I think that translates into: You call yourself religious? You hypocrite! You lied and cheated your way through this case!

I read that the same way you did, Ann. While I agree with the legal reasoning of the opinion, and its ultimate conclusion, I find the Judge's demeanor more than a little off-putting. Is it customary for "non-activist judges" to belittle the losing party? In fact, IMHO, the judge's obvious anger and defensiveness unnecessarily furnishes ammo to the ID crowd that will be most disappointed in the result; in effect giving them a real reason to tag him as an "activist judge."

Furthermore, are those who are activists represented by public interest law firms pushing test cases unwelcome in this Judge's court? It would seem so. This opinion would have much more intellectual heft if it limited itself to judging the facts and legal issues of the case rather than judging (one of) the parties.

Uncle Buck said...

Jim: If government is not the entity who should be making these decisions, then who, exactly, should do it? This is a case where "local control" clearly failed. The students of Dover have been better served by Judge Jones III than they were by their own community.

And to Downtownlad...when it comes to children, I believe they DO have a right to an adequate education, especially in this country where there is enough wealth to provide it to all children.

How would it serve our country if only the wealthier portion of it were able to get an education? We all "use" public education whether we have children or not.

The best way to create and maintain a literate, prosperous, and innovative citizenry is to make sure ALL kids get the best quality education we can give them.

Goesh said...

There would be room for this theory to be addressed in Religion/Theology/Philosophy and Sociology classes. I see no blanket prohibition/exclusion except from hard science classes. Who am I to argue with thousands upon thousands of Scientists?

John said...

I'm seeking a clarification here: did the judge now say that ID can no longer be taught at all, or just as a viable theory? I ask, because what happens the first time a student raises their hand and asks, "what's Intelligent Design?"

also, was this a new precedent, where you can now no longer teach the controversy as long as it involves religion? we long learned that putting a piece of meat in a sealed jar won't spontaneously produce flies.

I'm interested in finding out if we are no longer allowed to challenge theories.

Sloanasaurus said...

Wait....I thought we lived in a theocracy?

What is Bush thinking? Stalin/Hitler/Saddam/Mao would have never let some small time judge kick them around like this. I am sure Bush will take action and suppress the teaching of Biology before its too late.

We need a good purge! Go theocracy!

Eli Blake said...

goesh:

There would be room for this theory to be addressed in Religion/Theology/Philosophy and Sociology classes.

It will be: From the msnbc story on this,

They also will likely drop the old plan now that the judge has ruled, new board president Bernadette Reinking said. “As far as I can tell you, there is no intent to appeal,” she said.

Reinking said the new board will likely move the subject of intelligent design into some undetermined elective social studies class. She said the board will need to talk to its attorney before determining specific actions.


I would suggest a civics class myself, given the recent history of Dover. Students could learn a great deal from the case itself.

Macstansbury:

Sure a theory can be challenged. In a research lab. I.D. as it stands is an untested hypothesis, and except for political power, its proponents have no more than, for example, UFOlogists who claim that humans were 'planted' on earth by extraterrestrials. If you come up with a plan to test it and do the research to support it, then it would be a theory that you can teach in a science class. Failing that, it can't.

A more interesting case going on right now involves a coalition of private schools and home-schooling parents who taught creationism, who are now suing the University of California over their systematic exclusion of their students citing deficiencies in their science curriculum. Essentially, what is happening, is that parents are free to teach creationism, and private schools are free to teach it, but the University of California is saying that they are under no obligation to accept it (and since university degrees have to be given by an accredited institution, there are limited options for these students at this level).

The Dover Beachcomber said...

Starting right with the first commenter, the depth of ignorance here about what intelligent design theory really says is breathtaking.

Regardless of actions and motives in this particular case, the intelligent design perspective merely points out that natural selection operating through random mutation does not credibly account for certain irreducibly complex biological structures, and that these structures display characteristics which, in any other context, we would ordinarily conclude were intentionally designed, not produced by accident. It supplements natural selection; it does not replace it. And it does not require anyone to believe in God.

Calm down, do some reading (I'd suggest starting with biochemist Michael Behe's "Darwin's Black Box"), and come back when you've done your homework.

nunzio said...

CCMCornell,

Your comments are right on; while natural selection can't disprove (or prove) the existence of a divine creator(s), it is does throw free will to the curb. I suppose most people don't realize this.

I guess I don't see a problem teaching that free will doesn't exist b/c that's scientifically falsifiable, unless one presumes, of course, that the mind/ego/spirit, etc. is a causeless cause. But there's no place in science for that.

Of course, the criminal law presupposes this causeless cause (which is an endorsement, therefore, of some type of metaphysics/religion).

Anyway, the whole Establishment Clause jurisprudence is junk. Since December 25th is an official national and state holiday in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of many U.S. believers (holiday's on the 26th this year), it seems religion has been established. God Save This Honorable Court.

tdocer said...

nunzio,

"Since December 25th is an official national and state holiday in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of many U.S. believers (holiday's on the 26th this year), it seems religion has been established."

Is recognition of a religious holiday equal to the establishment of religion? I'm not forced by any government body to observe Christmas, attend services, or perform any religious rituals. I'm not forced to confess a belief in Christianity. The various government bodies and many companies give people a day off. Perhaps it's a toe over the line in as much as having a day off facilitates observence of this specific religious holiday, but I think it's a stretch from there to establishment.

To the topic at hand, I agree with the ruling and with the Judge's attutude vis-a-vis the board.

Pooh said...

Just a hypothetical question, divorced from the facts of this particular case. At what point is a judge allowed to call a stupid (legal) theory stupid?

flounder said...

dover beachcomber,

Which "certain irreducibly complex biological structures" are you talking about? ID used to claim that whales could not have randomly evolved. Then transitional fossils were found that disproved that claim. Then it was the eye that was irreducibly complex. Of course, evidence was found clearly showing the evolution of the human eye.

ID has finally been reduced to bacterial flagella, but it's only a matter of time before that is shown to not be irreducibly complex. Then ID will move on to something else. We are constantly making new discoveries and obtaining a greater understanding of our world. That causes a problem if your theory is "We don't understand it, therefore it's designed".

nunzio said...

At least the school board's not appealing.

As for a waste of time and money, that's undoubtedly true. The judge should probably sanction them, but the standard for frivolous litigation is pretty low, or else we wouldn't have so many lawyers (and judges).

Barry Kearns said...

Dover Beachcomber:

Perhaps you should refer to Matthew 7:5 before chiding others about doing homework before posting.

Behe's book has been thoroughly shown to be intellectually and factually vacuous. His entire premise is grossly flawed, and a great number of his claims in that book are quite simply factually wrong.

"Irreducible complexity" doesn't have any significant meaning, and it certainly doesn't imply what Behe thinks it must imply.

For a good (free) explanation of why Behe's full of it, I recommend Irreducible Complexity Demystified.

It shows that "irreducible complexity" can, indeed, evolve... and that the constraints that Behe imagines for the process of evolution simply don't exist.

Evolution doesn't care what Behe's stated "purpose" is for a bacterial flagellum, and therefore evolution has no need or requirement to evolve one using only stepwise improvements targeted only for the purpose of making a flagellum.

Evolution has no "target" that it is working towards.

Behe's fundamental logic error is in working backwards from how he might design something, and then assume that this top-down design approach is the only path that leads to a given point. He thinks like an engineer... a chemist.

He hasn't learned to think like an evolutionary biologist, so he has difficulty imagining the actual "path" that may have taken place to get to a particular point... and if he can't imagine it, he declares that it simply can't happen (or is too wildly improbable to have happened... but never actually does the explicit and applicable math that would show the true "probability" of the event).

"Doing your homework" regarding ID is the last thing you should recommend if you want additional adherents to your pseudo-scientific cult... because "doing your homework" leads to the inescapable conclusion that ID and IC as characterized by Behe (and his ilk) are unsupportable, and the farthest thing from science.

It's predictable that you'd try, of course... it's part of the doctrine, right?

Even more ironically, I'd point you at this thorough review of "Darwin's Black Box" where the author points out:

According to Darwin's Black Box, "Even though we are told that all biology must be seen through the lens of evolution, no scientist has ever published a model to account for the gradual evolution of this extraordinary molecular machine." (page 72, emphasis his) I found 125 articles, several of which DO discuss and give models for gradual evolution of flagella, with titles such as "The flagella apparatus of spermatozoa in fish. Ultrastructure and evolution". So my point in all of this is that Behe hasn't done his homework.

Think of how much less controversy there would be if the author of your advised "homework" would have done some himself.

John said...

Eli Blake:

Sure a theory can be challenged. In a research lab...Failing that, it can't.

Another well-reasoned argument as to why ID isn't science. Thanks. Now answer my question, which you didn't.

I'll ask it again, hopefully a little clearer now: is there any way to now not mention, even cursory, ID as part of the biology curriculum?

we can all agree that the ruling says that ID is not science, but to what extent is there a gag order? fine, ID is not an alternative to evolution. so...can we not teach it at all, or can we devote a whole class to it, now that everybody knows it's just hogwash?

SteveR said...

I think its folly to think we can figure out how God works. Is "evolution" as a means to create species any less amazing than waving a hand to poof out a male and female sea otter, etc. I'd say more amazing.

Belief is about faith. Look it up.

jlfintx said...

macstansbury:

is there any way to now not mention, even cursory, ID as part of the biology curriculum?

You seem to agree that ID is not a science. So why do you propose teaching it in a science class (biology is a science, you do realize?).

And do you even know what a "gag order" is? You're trying to use that term in an entirely inappropriate context.

Eli Blake said...

Macstansbury:

I suppose that if a Biology teacher wants to present it on their own accountability, then the idea of academic freedom wouldn't prevent it so long as the specified curriculum (including evolution) is covered. (I listened to a pretty similar idea taught by my high school Chemistry teacher 25 years ago, before anyone had ever heard of I.D.; he argued that the structure of DNA and amino acids were so perfectly fit together that God must have caused it-- but that is OK because he did teach Chemistry, and it was pretty clear when his opinion ended.)

The issue though wasn't whether a teacher could mention it or not, but rather whether they HAD to mention it, as directed by the school board when they mandated that it be part of the curriculum. As far as HOW to teach a concept that is part of the curriculum, there is a long standing tradition of academic freedom that allows people to teach their subjects as they wish (and which right-wingers periodically object to when a liberal college professor says something in a class that offends their sensibilities).

For example, I teach math at a community college. If, in order to enhance my algebra class, I want to discuss auto mechanics, art, God, or tax rates, I can do so as long as I teach the algebra curriculum. That is true in Biology classes in Dover as well.

But what the school board was doing would be the equivalent of if I was forced to teach mystical numerology in my algebra class because it was suddenly mandated as part of the curriculum, even though it is not math.

And in any case, explain to me why I.D. should ever be placed into the science curriculum, while UFOlogists (who also have stories of 'suppression of truth by the establishment,' and have the same lack of actual EVIDENCE than I.D. proponents) don't get to force their wacky views to be taught in science classes?

Pooh said...

Eli, I think you are slightly off in that I think an individual teacher might have problems in a public school - the "endorsement" analysis would be different, but depending on the facts, it could be equally problematic.

As I read today's opinion, it is not a "gag order" on ID per se, merely that presenting ID, in a science class in the way Dover had planned, is per se endorsement of religion.

I think the extent to which ID can be merely discussed is somewhat of an open issue - at what point does it become 'an alternative' to evolution?

Verification = nurdbtwa

Eli Blake said...

Jim (10:20):

See my 1:18 post.

If you privatize all education, then people may be happy up until they get hit in the face when they get to college and it turns out that whatever fairy tales they may have learned in school aren't adequate for what it is expected they know in college.

Also, you may want to study American history. For about 100 years, we HAD privatized education, or public education run completely at the local level and not compulsory. Compulsory public education nationwide was instituted during the 1880's because of all the immigrants, freedmen and others who were 'choosing' not to send their students to school, and who were then not being assimilated into the system at all. The election of Grover Cleveland in 1884 was a shock to the system, because the votes of new (and largely uneducated) immigrants actually swung the Presidential election.

Privatize education and I suspect we would rapidly go back to the way things were then, where a lot of parents would simply not send their kids to school (whether because they didn't give two cents, because they didn't have two cents, or because they couldn't say two cents in English) and we would sooner or later have large numbers of uneducated citizens, who would nonetheless be politically powerful just by force of numbers (and could probably be pursuaded to vote for communists, fascists, foreign nationalists or others which an understanding of American history and culture would guard against). Is that really the society you want to live in? I don't.

Eli Blake said...

pooh:

Well, other school systems that have tried a different approach (i.e. Cobb county, GA) got the same result.

The difference is that when it is mandated as a part of the curriculum in a science class, then it makes it clear that I.D. is considered 'science.' And, it is not. It is a hypothesis only.

And, I would ask you again, if you support I.D. as part of the science curriculum, then why wouldn't you also support other theories of the origin of life (i.e. the view held by some native American mystics that a coyote threw up in the sky and we all came from Coyote vomit, as well as the aforementioned view held by UFOlogists that we were planted here by extraterrestrials.) I have an answer for including none of them: Namely, that none of them have been tested scientifically, so they are all hypotheses. But if you want to include I.D. in the curriculum, then either you also have to include those other theories (which would absolutely turn a Biology class into a three ring circus) or you have to make a cogent case (other than because you have some politicians on your side) why I.D. is any more deserving of inclusion in the curriculum than the UFO theory or the coyote puke theory.

Pooh said...

Eli, I'm not supporting ID. I'm wondering how much it can be discussed, even as something to contrast with evolution to illustrate the point, I think an earlier commenter gets it right:

First, I think that even with a today's complete high school and undergraduate college biology curriculum, people don't understand the fine details of what's implied by evolution by natural selection. I introducing IDT and contrasting it to natural selection further illuminates these details.

For instance, an instructor once asked us: Why do birds have wings? Dogs have legs? People have eyes? If you answered to fly, to walk and to see, as 100% of this mixed undergraduate/graduate class did, you'd be dead wrong and would be subscribing to IDT.


I don't think that a mere mention of ID in a science classroom is religious endorsement, and I don't think Judge Jones's opinion reads that way, but I could be wrong.

AlaskaJack said...

I wouldn't break out the champagne just yet. As a general matter, angry trial judges don't travel well with appellate judges. Second, the judge seems to have equated ID theory with religion. By doing this, he may have fallen into a trap laid by the school board's attorneys. Third, the life span of Lemon may be drawing to a close.

Eli Blake said...

pooh:

Depends under what conditions it is mentioned. If it is mandated to be mentioned, by a school board, legislature or other elected body, then his ruling applies.

If it is mentioned by a teacher acting on his/her own will, then as a matter of academic freedom, (s)he has a right to mention it.

Eli Blake said...

alaskajack:

First, the conclusion seems pretty solid. Appelate judges don't care what the mindset of the judge was, but only on the legal grounding of the opinion.

Second, new School Board head Bernadette Reinking has made it clear that the school board will abide by the decision and that there won't be an appeal. Hence Jones' ruling will continue to be binding.

Pooh said...

AK Jack,

Third, the equation of ID (at least as used by the Dover people) with religion seems to be on pretty solid ground - see the opinion starting at about page 24.

maurile said...

michael wrote:

While I agree with the legal reasoning of the opinion, and its ultimate conclusion, I find the Judge's demeanor more than a little off-putting. Is it customary for "non-activist judges" to belittle the losing party?

In my experience, judges don't like it when parties lie on the witness stand in their courtroom.

That happened several times in this case. I don't think it's unusual at all for the judge to express his displeasure over it in his opinion.

Pooh said...

Eli,

I don't think that's quite right - the 'endorsement' seems to be the key here, both from the standpoint of the School Board and the individual teacher, though I think the teacher has more individual leeway before his/her actions constitute 'endorsement.' I could be reading the case incorrectly, and we agree for the most part, concurring opinions and all.

vnjagvet said...

Fourth, AJack, the Judges anger was well founded.

He had to sit through forty days of trial. During many of those days, he watched the School Board lie under oath to sustain its position.

In my experience (over 100 trials in front of a variety of Federal District Court Judges nationwide) this tends to make such jurists very angry.

In a bench trial as this one was, the Judge trys the facts and the law. I have seen sanctions issued for such conduct, or referrals to the local US Attorney.

In trying the facts, he is the only assessor of the credibility of witnesses. His decisions of who to believe when there is contradictory testimony would be virtually unreviewable so long as he did not betray bias.

I thought his description of witnesses and why he believed them or not was pretty compelling.

CCMCornell said...

I don't think that a mere mention of ID in a science classroom is religious endorsement, and I don't think Judge Jones's opinion reads that way, but I could be wrong.


I don't think it was generally so in the opinion either - it was mostly from the title of the blogpost that I quoted, which, in turn, was a quote from the article.

OddD said...

Uncle Buck: How would it serve our country if only the wealthier portion of it were able to get an education?

There's a red herring for you: Assuming anyone gets an education from school, much less public school.

And, Eli, you're right about one thing: School is about assimilation. Let's stop pretending it's about education or even socialization, and admit that it's about teaching people their place. Well, that and infantilizing young people so that they don't compete in the labor market.

John in Nashville said...

Question for Rethuglican libertarians: What would Alito do?

John in Nashville said...

Regarding the district judge's splentic comments: perhaps he merely concluded that John Stuart Mill pegged it right about conservatism.

John A said...

In addition to the cites from Barry Kearns, here is one specifically about the flagella argument - showing it was debunked about a decade ago:

the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex
* circa 2003-2004 "The Flagellum Unspun
The Collapse of 'Irreducible Complexity'"
*

However complex Dembski's analysis, the scientific problem with his calculations is almost too easy to spot. By treating the flagellum as a "discrete combinatorial object" he has shown only that it is unlikely that the parts flagellum could assemble spontaneously. Unfortunately for his argument, no scientist has ever proposed that the flagellum or any other complex object evolved that way. Dembski, therefore, has constructed a classic "straw man" and blown it away with an irrelevant calculation.
...
What Dembski is telling us is that in order to "detect" design in a biological object one must first come to the conclusion that the object could not have been produced by any "relevant chance hypotheses" (meaning, naturally, evolution). Then, and only then, are Dembski's calculations brought into play. Stated more bluntly, what this really means is that the "method" first involves assuming the absence of an evolutionary pathway leading to the object, followed by a calculation "proving" the impossibility of spontaneous assembly. Incredibly, this a priori reasoning is exactly the sort of logic upon which the new "science of design" has been constructed.
[Note - he also debunks the citing of clotting of vertebrate blood - JSA]
...
As Darwin wrote, there is grandeur in an evolutionary view of life, a grandeur that is there for all to see, regardless of their philosophical views on the meaning and purpose of life. I do not believe, even for an instant, that Darwin's vision has weakened or diminished the sense of wonder and awe that one should feel in confronting the magnificence and diversity of the living world. Rather, to a person of faith it should enhance their sense of the Creator's majesty and wisdom (Miller 1999). Against such a backdrop, the struggles of the intelligent design movement are best understood as clamorous and disappointing double failures – rejected by science because they do not fit the facts, and having failed religion because they think too little of God [emphasis mine - JSA].

Bruce -- Harper Blue said...

Your post in part contributed to and/or influenced my own:

http://harpersmews.blogspot.com/2005/12/intelligent-designists-say-why-hast.html

Thanks much.

David Sanger said...

But isn't it also ironic that a judge enforcing the Establishment Clause would throw in an opinion about what obligations religion imposes?

Actually I think he is suggesting that honesty is important - that isn't necessarily religious. Anyone can hold honesty as a value.

Unknown Pundit said...

john in nashville-

Rethuglican

Charming. This isn't DU, you know. LOL

John(classic) said...

Got it. Intelligen Design is not science. No way. No how.


Say, here is an interesting report. Scientists seem to be well, er, um intelligently designing life:

Work on the world's first human-made species is well under way at a research complex in Rockville, Md., and scientists in Canada have been quietly conducting experiments to help bring such a creature to life.

Robert Holt, head of sequencing for the Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia, is leading efforts at his Vancouver lab to play a key role in the production of the first synthetic life form -- a microbe made from scratch.

The project is being spearheaded by U.S. scientist Craig Venter, who gained fame in his former job as head of Celera Genomics, which completed a privately-owned map of the human genome in 2000.

Dr. Venter, 59, has since shifted his focus from determining the chemical sequences that encode life to trying to design and build it: "We're going from reading to writing the genetic code," he said in an interview.



The work is an extreme example of a burgeoning new field in science known as synthetic biology. It relies on advances in computer technology that permit the easy assembly of the chemical bits, known as nucleotides, that make up DNA.

Several scientific groups are trying to make genes that do not exist in nature, in hopes of constructing microbes that perform useful tasks, such as producing industrial chemicals, clean energy or drugs. Dr. Venter and his colleagues are pushing the technology to its limits by trying to put together an entirely synthetic genome.


Do we strip their science degrees?

Barry Kearns said...

Got it. Intelligen Design is not science. No way. No how.

Say, here is an interesting report. Scientists seem to be well, er, um intelligently designing life:

Do we strip their science degrees?


This, of course, entirely misses the point (but I suppose that's deliberate).

No reasonable scientist I know claims that it would be impossible to design a life form. It is clearly possible to "intelligently" design anything that an evolutionary process could produce... and then some.

But the ID advocates don't try to claim that it's simply possible for an intelligence to design something. Instead, they make the claim that it is impossible/too-improbable that evolution could produce or modify a variety of living things, and therefore they must have been designed.

See the difference? Science allows for both design and evolution. ID allows only design, by trying (fruitlessly) to "prove the negative" that things could not have evolved.

Scientists oppose ID (as proposed) precisely because there is nothing that could ever be pointed to and accurately said "this could not possibly have been designed".

"Intelligent Design" is an "answer" to any possible origin question (because it can never be wrong)... and therefore a "scientific" answer to none.

I could just as easily say that everything in existence "looks like" it was created in accordance with the plans that my invisible dragon friend revealed to me. Every single thing. Such a "hypothesis" is exactly as scientific as the proposed "Intelligent Design" offerings of today... which is to say zero scientific content.

No one can ever prove that my dragon friend isn't the one responsible... but that doesn't make my dragon hypothesis scientific. There's no possible test to disprove my hypothesis, so it is not science, and should therefore not be taught in science classes.

There are a great number of falsifiable tests for the "common descent"/evolutionary hypotheses, though. That's why they are considered scientific.... well, that and the fact that in every known case where these hypotheses have been tested, they have not been falsified.

So they've got a pretty remarkable track record of being found "not wrong".

That could all change tomorrow, of course, if there are discoveries that fail those tests... and if the discoveries are legitimate (rather than hoaxed), reasonable scientists should be expected to discard the current paradigm in favor of a new one that better explains the full set of data.

AlaskaJack said...

Barry Kearns argues that ID is not science because it is not falsifiable. But does the neo-Darwinists' explanation for the origin of the first cell fare any better?

Their explanation runs something like this: Some 3.8 billion years ago, the first cell was formed as the result of wholly random and mindless changes occurring in collections of atoms and molecules that existed at the time.

The question must be asked: what kind of empirical evidence would show this proposition to be true. The best evidence would be eye witness evidence from billions of years ago. Of course, there is no such evidence. And unless neo-Darwinists claim the ability to travel back through time, there never will be.

But what about the creation of a living cell in a laboratory by a team of biochemists? This is not helpful to our hapless neo-Darwinists either. In this scenario, the critical condition of randomness has been replaced by intelligent design.

Since the neo-Darwinists' proposition is not empirically testable, it is not falsiable. Therefore under Barry Kearns definition of science (as well as J. Jones in the Dover case), the neo-Darwinists' explanation for the origin of the first cell is not a scientific explanation.

If empirical evidence for the neo-Darwinists explanation does not exist, and will never exist, is there a non-empirical argument that supports their claim? There is. If it is assumed that all existing things or entities are composed entirely of mindless, unthinking material atoms and molecules, then it follows that the first cell must have came into existence exactly the way the neo-Darwinists claim.

The trouble with this argument is that the critical assumption is not a scientific proposition at all but rather is a philosophical would view. It is a philosophical doctrine known as radical materialism. And, indeed, this doctrine is the consicious (and more often unconscious) presuppostion of the neo-Darwinists; it is absolutely necessary to their undertaking.

What is at issue in this dispute over the origin of life is really a clash of philosophical world views. The truth of radical materialism is not self-evident. Nonetheless, what the Dover decision has done is to proclaim this doctrine to be true and order that its truth is not to be questioned in a public school setting.

What is striking about this whole debate is that the great majority of biological scientists appear to be oblivious to the philosophical underpinnings of their deeply held beliefs about the origin of life.

But I suppose this should not be surprising. I'm told that one can get a PhD in the biological sciences without ever having to take a single course in philosophy. If this is true, it explains why biological scientists, for the most part, are uncomfortable with philosophical argumentation and remain unaquainted with western philosophical thought.