Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Dover Trial

There are a number of good posts up at other blogs about the trial. The ACLU blog has this post about some embarrassment suffered by ID proponent Michael Behe, who is testifying for the forces of darkness. Short version: Behe claimed that his popular book Darwin's Black Box went through a rigorous peer-review process prior to publication. The Plaintiff's attorney was able to produce a document showing that this was false. D'oh!

Meanwhile, writing in the York Daily Record, Mike Argento offers some further information about Behe's testimony:

Dr. Michael Behe, leading intellectual light of the intelligent design movement, faced a dilemma.

In order to call intelligent design a “scientific theory,” he had to change the definition of the term. It seemed the definition offered by the National Academy of Science, the largest and most prestigious organization of scientists in the Western world, was inadequate to contain the scope and splendor and just plain gee-willigerness of intelligent design.

So he devised his own definition of theory, expanding upon the definition of those stuck-in-the-21st-century scientists, those scientists who ridicule him and call his “theory” creationism in a cheap suit.

He'd show them. He'd come up with his own definition.

Details aside, his definition was broader and more inclusive of ideas that are “outside the box.”

So, as we learned Tuesday, during Day 11 of the Dover Panda Trial, under his definition of a scientific theory, astrology would be a scientific theory.


Who knew that Jacqueline Bigar, syndicated astrology columnist, was on par with Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe?

Eric Rothschild, attorney for the plaintiffs, asked Behe about whether astrology was science. And Behe, after hemming and hawing and launching into an abbreviated history of astrology and science, said, under his definition, it is. He said he wasn't a science historian, but the definition of astrology in the dictionary referred to its 15th-century roots, when it was equated with astronomy, which, according to the National Academy of Science, is a science.

So, taking a short logical leap, something Behe would certainly endorse since he does it a lot himself, you could say that intelligent design is on par with 15th-century science.

Sounds about right.

And if you're really a glutton for punishment, you can find the trial transcripts here.

After reading multiple accounts of the trial from people on both sides of this, and after browsing through some of the transcripts, it looks like things are going well for the good guys. As Stephen Jay Gould once pointed out, creationists do well in public debates, where the emphasis is on theater and showmanship. But they are lousy in court, where they must adhere to strict rules of evidence and must rely on substance rather than style.

If the judge rules against ID, it will be a serious setback for their side. With clear court rulings against them in both the Cobb County trial and now the Dover trial, very few School Boards will have the stomach to undertake this fight.

But will the judge rule for the good guys? Who knows? The judge is a W appointee, which means he is probably at least somewhat sympathetic to ID. On top of that, the legal bar the Dover policy has to clear is not terribly high. If the judge is so inclned he can ignore the fact that the Dover policy was plainly motivated by religious concerns, and find that it serves the secular purpose of informing students about scientific alternatives. And he could buy the ID line that ID is science with theological implications, as opposed to the brain-dead religious twaddle it actually is.

As the conservatives are so fond of reminding us, judges can do pretty much whatever they please. On the merits it looks to me like the ID folks don't have a leg to stand on. Hopefully the judge will see things the same way.


At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested in this:

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Karen said...

Glutton for punishment #1 here...But there is so much KOOL science in the actual transcripts from *real* scientists with peer-reviewed work - how can it not be INTERESTING!!

Plus, since this is a bench trial, much of the tediousness is left behind in the Q&A and it's a more narrative story from the witnesses.

Can't wait for most postings...facinating stuff and worth that read through even for non-lawyers and lawyers alike.


Keep up the good work!

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous kevin said...

That is a great link!!

read all the articles by Mike A and they were terrific

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