Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Victory!

By now I'm sure everyone has heard that the Dover evolution case has ended in a stunning defeat for the ID folks. The judge has ruled unambiguously not only that the Dover School Board acted unconstitutionally, but that ID is not science. A quick run-down of the facts is available in this brief article from The New York Times. From that article:


The plaintiffs challenging the policy argued that intelligent design amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools. The judge agreed.

“We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom,” he wrote in his 139-page opinion.


As I've written before on this issue, the only question in these cases is whether the School Board in question has managed to hide its real intentions with sufficient cleverness to survive a constitutional challenge. It's comforting that Judge Jones, a George W. Bush appointee, seems to have had little trouble getting to the truth.

I'll say more after I've had a chance to read the decision. In the meantime, Ed Brayton has some excerpts from it here and here. Here's a taste, from Jones' conclusion:


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. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.


And:


To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. 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.


Zing!

Of particular interest is this:


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 say this is of particular interest because, while the decision is only a few hours old, the Discovery Institute already its spin:


“The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work,” said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank researching the scientific theory known as intelligent design. “He has conflated Discovery Institute’s position with that of the Dover school board, and he totally misrepresents intelligent design and the motivations of the scientists who research it.”


Yawn.

I believe it was Stephen Jay Gould who pointed out that while creationists do well in public debates in front of lay audiences, they are lousy in court. Courts, you see, have strict rules of evidence and are, generally speaking, completely devoid of theatrical flash. In such an environment, creationism can't win.

15 Comments:

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Ginger Yellow said...

In the immortal words of Nelson Muntz: ha ha!

 
At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Kevin said...

Read down to the last line of the Discovery Institute's response for an interesting Freudian slip:

Proponents include scientists at numerous universities and science organizations around the word. (Sic, emphasis mine.)

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger dillyberto said...

Could it be that elected officials should not have the responsibility to make science driven decisions?

Ask the multiple levee boards in southern Louisiana....

just about as bright as the Dover School Board, huh?

 
At 3:59 PM, Blogger jazzycat said...

Where did the matter/energy of the big bang come from? Does evolution answer this question?
sweetjazzycat.blogspot.com

 
At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Lamuella said...

Jazzycat:

"Where did the matter/energy of the big bang come from? Does evolution answer this question?"

No, nor does it ever claim it does, any more than general relativity explains the way blood clots form.

Evolutionary theory is a theory of variation and descent amongst living organisms. It says nothing about the origins of life, and it certainly says nothing about the origins of the universe. The only people who argue that it does are those like Kent Hovind who are trying to obfuscate the nature of evolutionary theory.

 
At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Elf M. Sternberg said...

Where did the matter/energy of the big bang come from? Does evolution answer this question?

No. That's a question for physicists, not biologists.

And the honest answer, from physicists, is "we don't know."

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Craig Pennington said...

Jazzycat said: " Where did the matter/energy of the big bang come from? Does evolution answer this question?"
Let me quote Judge Jones from above: "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."

In other words, the Thor theory of thunder was useless even before a natural exlanation was found.

 
At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Joe Shelby said...

The decision document is just artwork. Pick any page and there's a nice, quotable excerpt to savor, like the footnote on page '84: Moreover, the Court has been presented with no evidence that either Defendants’ testifying experts or any other ID proponents, including Pandas’ authors, have such paleontology expertise as we have been presented with no evidence that they have published peer-reviewed literature or presented such information at scientific conferences on paleontology or the fossil record.

 
At 9:26 PM, Blogger jazzycat said...

Elf M. Sternberg said....
No. That's a question for physicists, not biologists.
And the honest answer, from physicists, is "we don't know."
Jazzycat now wonders......
If evolutionary biologist pass the ball to physicists and physicists say we don’t know about the origin of matter, then why the hostility against the possibility of I.D? A theory that has a self-existent necessary being as providing the stuff of the big bang at least goes back earlier than the big bang. If evolutionary theory is to rule out I.D, then it must explain the origin of matter.

 
At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

Jazzycat said: If evolutionary theory is to rule out I.D, then it must explain the origin of matter.

Um, no, ID doesn't make any statements about the origin of life or the universe either. Creation does, but as we all know, ID isn't creation, right? ;-)

Regardless, I'll tell you what: You tell me the origin of God (or whatever ID being you want) and I'll tell you the origin of matter.

Fred

PS: The fact that physicists don't have all the answers doesn't mean there aren't any answers or that answers can't be found in the natural world. Where would mankind be today if we just gave up on everything we didn't understand and just chalked it up to God? For one thing there'd be no internet for you to pontificate on.

 
At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If evolutionary biologist pass the ball to physicists and physicists say we don’t know about the origin of matter, then why the hostility against the possibility of I.D? A theory that has a self-existent necessary being as providing the stuff of the big bang at least goes back earlier than the big bang. If evolutionary theory is to rule out I.D, then it must explain the origin of matter.

The endless repetition of this meaningless objection never ceases to amaze me. Why is it that the theory of evolution must explain the origin of energy and not, say, the germ theory of disease? Evolution deals with the diversity of life; it has nothing to do with big bang cosmology. It need explain the origin of matter no more than relativistic physics needs to explain Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

Evolution is hostile to ID because ID exists only to be hostile to evolution. It takes a century and a half of good hard science that's been done by biologists and says, "nah, that's all crap". Then it proceeds to run its mouth off while managing to present absolutely zero evidence for its, uh, arguments whatsoever, it props itself up as an "alternative" to evolution, and attempts to establish for itself a place in public school curriculums by fiat. Hostility towards this inanity is the only rational reaction.

 
At 2:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe it was Stephen Jay Gould who pointed out that while creationists do well in public debates in front of lay audiences, they are lousy in court. Courts, you see, have strict rules of evidence and are, generally speaking, completely devoid of theatrical flash. In such an environment, creationism can't win.

That was from Gould's 1985 Caltech lecture, where he was talking about debating creationists and the McLean v. Arkansas trial:

"Debate is an artform. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact - which they are very good at. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent's position. They are good at that. I don't think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief. We destroyed them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two week trial we had our victory party!" (S.J. Gould, Caltech lecture, 1985)

So it was in Arkansas, and so it is in Dover.

 
At 3:22 AM, Blogger Heathen Dan said...

"I believe it was Stephen Jay Gould who pointed out that while creationists do well in public debates in front of lay audiences, they are lousy in court."

As he should. Gould was the "star" witness in McLean v. Arkansas. I bet Gould is smiling down on us from agnostic heaven. :p

 
At 3:26 AM, Anonymous Mongrel said...

If evolutionary biologist pass the ball to physicists and physicists say we don’t know about the origin of matter, then why the hostility against the possibility of I.D?

Evolutionary biologists never had the ball in the first place. Physicists have had it since they wrenched the ball from the hands of philosophers and theologists

 
At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What has our country come to? When this nation was founded, it would have been unconstitutional to indoctrinate school children with evolutionary lies. Sadly, today this is no longer the case. You should not be calling this a victory; instead you should be mourning the changes liberal, God-hating, atheists have made in this country. Come judgment day, I would not want to be in the shoes of the lawyers and expert witnesses who will have to answer to God for leading the children of the Dover school district astray.

 

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