Friday, September 30, 2005

A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit, etc

Here are my comments in square brackets on other articles about the first day (Monday, September 26) of the Dover intelligent design trial, Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al. I have tried to eliminate duplications and topics that have already been discussed. I hope to catch up at least by the weekend!

A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit, The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein, September 26, 2005. DOVER, Pa ... The case is to open Monday in Harrisburg, Pa. But 11 other parents in Dover were outraged enough to sue the school board and the district, contending that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so inexplicably complex, the best explanation is that a higher being designed them - is a Trojan horse for religion in the public schools. With the new political empowerment of religious conservatives, challenges to evolution are popping up with greater frequency in schools, courts and legislatures. But the Dover case, which begins Monday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, is the first direct challenge to a school district that has tried to mandate the teaching of intelligent design. What happens here could influence communities across the country that are considering whether to teach intelligent design in the public schools, and the case, regardless of the verdict, could end up before the Supreme Court. Dover, a rural, mostly blue-collar community of 22,000 that is 20 miles south of Harrisburg, had school board members willing to go to the mat over issue. But people here are well aware that they are only the excuse for a much larger showdown in the culture wars. "It was just our school board making one small decision," Mrs. Hied said, "but it was just received with such an uproar." For Mrs. Hied ... and her husband, ... the Dover school board's argument - that teaching intelligent design is a free-speech issue - has a strong appeal. "I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms," Mrs. Hied ... Steven Stough ... who teaches life science to seventh graders in a nearby district, is one of the 11 parents suing the Dover district. For him the notion of teaching "alternatives" to evolution is a hoax. "You can dress up intelligent design and make it look like science, but it just doesn't pass muster," said Mr. Stough ... "In science class, you don't say to the students, 'Is there gravity, or do you think we have rubber bands on our feet?' "Evolution finds that life evolved over billions of years through the processes of mutation and natural selection, without the need for supernatural interventions. It is the foundation of biological science, with no credible challenges within the scientific community. Without it, the plaintiffs say, students could never make sense of topics as varied as AIDS and extinction. ... Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs would call six experts in history, theology, philosophy of science and science to show that no matter the perspective, "intelligent design is not science because it does not meet the ground rules of science, is not based on natural explanations, is not testable." ... "This is an attempt by the A.C.L.U. to really intimidate this small-town school board," said Mr. Thompson, who will defend the Dover board at the trial, "because the theory of intelligent design is starting to gain some resonance among school boards across the country." The defense plans to introduce leading design theorists like Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, and education experts who will testify that "allowing students to be aware of the controversy is good pedagogy because it develops critical thinking," Mr. Thompson said. ... The legal battle came to a head on Oct. 18 last year when the Dover school board voted 6 to 3 to require ninth-grade biology students to listen to a brief statement saying that there was a controversy over evolution, that intelligent design is a competing theory and that if they wanted to learn more the school library had the textbook "Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins." The book is published by an intelligent design advocacy group, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, based in Texas. ... The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creation science in public schools was unconstitutional because it was based on religion. So the plaintiffs will try to prove that intelligent design is creationism in a new package. ... Mr. Thompson said his side would prove that intelligent design was not creationism because it did not mention God or the Bible and never posited the creator's identity. "It's clear they are two different theories," Mr. Thompson said. "Creationism normally starts with the Holy Scripture, the Book of Genesis, then you develop a scientific theory that supports it, while intelligent design looks at the same kind of empirical data that any scientist looks at," and concludes that complex mechanisms in nature "appear designed because it is designed." A twist in the case is that a leading proponent of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, removed one of its staff members from the Dover school board's witness list and opposed the board's action from the start. "We thought it was a bad idea because we oppose any effort to require students to learn about intelligent design because we feel that it politicizes what should be a scientific debate," said John G. West, a senior fellow at the institute. However, Professor Behe, a fellow at the institute, is expected to be the board's star witness. ... [The complaint that ID is a "Trojan horse for religion" is a tacit admission that ID itself is not religion. And the DASD did not "mandate the teaching of intelligent design." It merely: 1) criticized evolution; and 2) indicated to students that there was an ID "reference book, Of Pandas and People... available for students who might be interested":

"Text of Statement Read to Students. `The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.'" ("Biology Curriculum Update, Dover Area School District News, February 2005, p.1)

And "Evolution" does not "find... that life evolved over billions of years through the processes of mutation and natural selection, without the need for supernatural interventions", it is its unproven, and unprovable, metaphysical assumption. There are "no credible challenges [to evolution] within the scientific community" in the same sense that there is "no credible challenges" to the government in a one-party state, i.e. the Darwinists just rule out in advance, by their definition of "scientific" as materialistic-naturalistic, that there even can be "credible challenges [to evolution] within the scientific community". Note how the ACLU's lawyer defined "intelligent design" as "not science because it does not meet the ground rules of science, is not based on natural explanations ..." But that commits the fallacy of "True by definition," which "Like the other kinds of logical truth, definitional truth is also innocent of any factual substance ... They give no information about the world, but only about the use of language in reasonable discourse. It is this lack of material content that is referred to when it is said that such truth is tautological or trivial." (see PS and tagline quotes). I am confident that the court will accept ID's claim that "intelligent design was not creationism because it did not mention God or the Bible", in which case the evolution side will lose. ]

Court Tackles 'Intelligent Design', CBS, Thalia Assuras, HARRISBURG, Pa., September 26, 2005 ... the opening of the trial in federal court marked the latest legal chapter in the debate over the teaching of evolution in public school. "Intelligent design" is a religious theory that was inserted in a school district's curriculum with no concern for whether it had scientific underpinnings, a lawyer told a federal judge Monday as a landmark trial got under way. "They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a religious point of view in science class and cared nothing about its scientific validity," said Eric Rothschild, an attorney representing eight families who are challenging the decision of the Dover Area School District. But in his opening statement, the school district's attorney defended Dover's policy of requiring ninth-grade students to hear a brief statement about intelligent design before biology classes on evolution. "This case is about free inquiry in education, not about a religious agenda," argued Patrick Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center ... "Dover's modest curriculum change embodies the essence of liberal education." The center, which lobbies for what it sees as the religious freedom of Christians, is defending the school district. But to some observers, the anti-evolutionists are winning the public relations battle ... Arguing that intelligent design is a religious theory, not science, Rothschild said he would show that the language in the school district's own policy made clear its religious intent. ... But Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas Moore Law Center, which lobbies for the religious freedom of Christians and is defending the school district [said] ... that advocates of intelligent design just want to "teach the controversy."... "It's good education to allow students to know that there is a controversy surrounding biological evolution," Thompson [said] ... Brown University professor Kenneth Miller, the first witness called by the plaintiffs, said pieces of the theory of evolution are subject to debate, such as where gender comes from, but told the court: "There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory." On the other hand, he said, "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community." Miller also challenged the accuracy of "Of Pandas and People" and said it almost entirely omits any discussion of what causes extinction. If nearly all original species are extinct, he said, the intelligent design creator was not very intelligent. ... [Miller contradicts himself: if "There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory" then how is it a testable theory"? And if "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense" then how does he claim to have tested it and found it false? Miller's complaint about "On Pandas and People" that it "omits any discussion of what causes extinction" is irrelevant because the book makes it clear that it is not intended to be a comprehensive biology textbook, but a to be read in conjunction with a biology textbook. His claim that "If nearly all original species are extinct ... the intelligent design creator was not very intelligent" presupposes that he knows that the designer intended that no species should go extinct. Miller claims to be a Christian but he often attacks the designer "as ... not very intelligent" (to the delight of atheists). Having read what Miller has said over a long time, including his book, "Finding Darwin's God," FWIW, I personally, do not regard Miller as a Christian, but a Gnostic.]

US evolution court battle opens, BBC, 27 September 2005 ... Defending the school district, Patrick Gillen said .... "Dover's modest curriculum change embodies the essence of liberal education," he said. The Dover school board instructs its teachers to read a statement to ninth-grade students before classes on evolution, saying that Darwin's theory is "not a fact", and that there are "gaps in the theory". Students are then referred to an intelligent design textbook. However, the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science says that intelligent design "is not even a theory."... [Declaring ID "not even a theory" makes it plain that evolution itself, by its own testability criteria, would not be a science either!]

Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania, The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein, September 27, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa., September 26 - Intelligent design is not science, has no support from any major American scientific organization and does not belong in a public school science classroom, a prominent biologist testified on the opening day of the nation's first legal battle over whether it is permissible to teach the fledgling "design" theory as an alternative to evolution. "To my knowledge, every single scientific society that has taken a position on this issue has taken a position against intelligent design and in favor of evolution," said the biologist, Kenneth R. Miller, a professor at Brown University and the co-author of the widely used high school textbook "Biology." .... The two sides agree that no matter how Judge John E. Jones III decides the case in Federal District Court here, it will probably make its way to the Supreme Court. Casey Luskin, a program officer at ... the Discovery Institute, said in an interview outside the courtroom: "No one is pretending that intelligent design is a majority position. What we're rebutting is their claim that there's no controversy among scientists.".... The board president, Sheila Harkins, said ... "The whole thought behind it was to encourage critical thinking." It was "not true at all," Ms. Harkins said, that board members were motivated by their religious beliefs. ... The plaintiffs are trying to show that intelligent design is just "the 21st-century version of creationism," as a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Eric Rothschild, put it in his opening argument. Mr. Rothschild said that the board's own documents would show that the board members had initially discussed teaching "creationism" - one former member said he wanted the class time evenly split between creationism and evolution - and that they substituted the words "intelligent design" only when they were made aware by lawyers of the constitutional problems involved. The board ultimately settled for directing that a four-paragraph statement be read to the students at the opening of the semester's biology class ... The board's statement "undermines sound science education" by conveying to students that only evolution merits such skepticism, he said. Professor Miller projected slides that he said contradicted the core of design theory: that organisms are irreducibly complex. He also denigrated intelligent design as "a negative argument against evolution," in which there is no "positive argument" to test whether an intelligent designer actually exists. If the theory is not testable, he said, it is not science. Randall Wenger, a lawyer for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics .. said, "If they decide that intelligent design is just a remake of creationism, that horribly undermines" both the Pandas textbook and "the motivation for scientists to study intelligent design." ... [Since scientific materialist-naturalists absolutely control modern science, it is hardly surprising that no "single scientific society ... has taken a position [for] ... intelligent design". But then there once was a time when every single scientific society would have taken a position for intelligent design and against evolution! Again, I am confident that the court will reject the evolution side's claim that ID is "the 21st-century version of creationism" because ID is not based on the Bible, but the evidence of nature. Whether the Dover board are "motivated by their religious beliefs" is irrelevant to the truth or falsity of ID itself. The ID side could just as easily counter that the anti-ID side is motivated by their "religious beliefs" (atheism, agnosticism, gnosticism, pantheism, etc). Again Miller contradicts himself, claiming simultaneously that "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense " and that "the Pandas textbook `inaccurate and downright false in every section.'"!]

Trial over 'intelligent design' resumes, CNews, Martha Raffaele September 27, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The opening day of a landmark trial over whether a school district should require students to hear about "intelligent design" felt a lot like a science lecture. Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, the first witness called Monday by lawyers suing the Dover Area School District for exposing its students to the controversial theory, sprinkled his testimony with references to DNA, red blood cells and viruses, and he occasionally referred to complex charts on a projection screen. Even U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III was a little overwhelmed. "I guess I should say, 'Class dismissed,'" Jones mused before recessing for lunch. ... Intelligent design holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms. It implies that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force. ... Miller, whose cross-examination was to resume Tuesday morning, said the policy undermines scientific education by raising false doubts about evolutionary theory. "It's the first movement to try to drive a wedge between students and the scientific process," he said. But the rural school district of about 3,500 students argues it is not endorsing any religious view and is merely giving ninth-grade biology classes a glimpse of differences in evolutionary theory. .... Attorneys for the plaintiffs began their case by arguing that intelligent design is a religious theory inserted in the school district's curriculum by the school board with no concern for whether it has scientific underpinnings. .... Miller, who was the only witness Monday, sharply criticized intelligent design and questioned the work that went into it by one of its leading proponents, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, who will be a key witness for the district. The statement read to Dover students states in part, "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered." Miller said the words are "tremendously damaging," falsely undermining the scientific status of evolution. "What that tells students is that science can't be relied upon and certainly is not the kind of profession you want to go into," he said. .... On the other hand, Miller said, "intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community." During his cross-examination of Miller, Robert Muise, another attorney for the law center, repeatedly asked whether he questioned the completeness of Darwin's theory. "Would you agree that Darwin's theory is not the absolute truth?" Muise said. "We don't regard any scientific theory as the absolute truth," Miller responded. ... [What is wrong with "undermining the scientific status of evolution" if it is a testable scientific theory and "not the absolute truth"? Again Miller contradicts himself, claiming that "intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense " but then he "criticized intelligent design and questioned the work that went into it by one of its leading proponents ... Michael Behe".]

Darwin vs God case opens in US Correspondents in Harrisburg September 28, 2005 A COURT case that has gripped the US, pitting Darwin's theory of evolution against the idea that the universe was created by "intelligent design", opened in Pennsylvania yesterday with the world watching. .... The non-jury trial, expected to last about five weeks, is being heard by federal court judge John Jones III, who was nominated in 2002 by US President George W. Bush. Judge Jones presided over a courtroom yesterday where the 47 credentialed members of the media, including many foreign correspondents, far outnumbered the 17 members of the public who sought admission, according to the court clerk. ... [With "47 credentialed members of the media, including many foreign correspondents", quite clearly evolution is more than just a scientific theory! It is the creation story (if not the deity) of secular Western culture.]

See also Lawyers argue over use of intelligent design concept in schools, CBC News, 27 September, 2005 ; Parents challenge US 'intelligent design' teaching, The Guardian, Julian Borger, September 27, 2005 ...

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

PS: I have added the following tagline quotes to a new section of my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE "Fallacies used to support evolution ... True by definition."

"There is a third variety of true sentences which logicians frequently speak of, `true by definition.' ... Like the other kinds of logical truth, definitional truth is also innocent of any factual substance - the only information it gives is that if you define a term in a certain way, then, the conditions of the definition being met, you can use the term. ... They give no information about the world, but only about the use of language in reasonable discourse. It is this lack of material content that is referred to when it is said that such truth is tautological or trivial." (Fearnside W.W. & Holther W.B., "Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument," Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, 25th printing, pp.136-137)

"A tautology is a contentless statement; something true by definition and uninformative of the real world. `All bachelors are unmarried men' is a tautology, as is `All triangles have three sides.' Neither statement informs us that the subject exists. They only mean, `If X exists, then it is X.' If there are any bachelors in the universe, they are unmarried. The tautology does not tell us that a bachelor really exists. ... Tautologies are usually contrasted with empirical statements that have content: `The tree outside my window is an oak.' `The car in my yard is black.' While empirical statements have content, they are not logically necessary. That is, they may be false. Tautologies, on the other hand, are logically necessary, since they are true by definition. They do not say a thing, but they are necessarily true." (Geisler N.L., "Tautology," in "Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics," Baker Books: Grand Rapids MI, 1999, p.714)

"Natural selection is the central concept of Darwinian theory-the fittest survive and spread their favored traits through populations. Natural selection is defined by Spencer's phrase `survival of the fittest,' but what does this famous bit of jargon really mean? Who are the fittest? And how is `fitness' defined? We often read that fitness involves no more than `differential reproductive success'-the production of more surviving offspring than other competing members of the population. Whoa! cries Bethell, as many others have before him. This formulation defines fitness in terms of survival only. The crucial phrase of natural selection means no more than `the survival of those who survive'-a vacuous tautology. (A tautology is a phrase-like `my father is a man' -containing no information in the predicate ('a man') not inherent in the subject ('my father'). Tautologies are fine as definitions, but not as testable scientific statements-there can be nothing to test in a statement true by definition.)" (Gould S.J., "Darwin's Untimely Burial," in "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History," [1978], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.40)

"Methodological Naturalism is True By Definition. So why must a scientist proceed in accordance with methodological naturalism? Michael Ruse suggests that methodological naturalism or at any rate part of it is true by definition: `Furthermore, even if Scientific Creationism were totally successful in making its case as science, it would not yield a scientific explanation of origins. Rather, at most, it could prove that science shows that there can be no scientific explanation of origins. The Creationists believe that the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law.' [Ruse M., "Darwinism Defended," Addison-Wesley: Reading MA, 1982, p.322. Emphasis original] By definition of the term 'science' one supposes; Ruse apparently holds there is a correct definition of 'science', such that from the definition it follows that science deals only with what is natural, repeatable, and governed by law. ... [A] ... puzzling thing about Ruse's claim: it is hard to see how anything like a reasonably serious dispute about what is and isn't science could be settled just by appealing to a definition. One thinks this would work only if the original query were really a verbal question -- a question like: Is the English word 'science' properly applicable to a hypothesis that makes reference to God? But that wasn't the question. The question is instead: Could a hypothesis that makes reference to God be part of science? That question can't be answered just by citing a definition." (Plantinga A., "Methodological Naturalism? Part 2," 1997. Origins & Design 18:2, Access Research Network, January 1, 1998. Emphasis original)

"Third, Emilio has to learn that `science' as defined in our culture has a philosophical bias that needs to be exposed. On the one hand, science is empirical. This means that scientists rely on experiments observations and calculations to develop theories and test them. On the other hand, contemporary science is naturalistic and materialistic in philosophy. What this means is that materialist explanations for all phenomena are assumed to exist. And what that means is that the NABT's definition of evolution as an unsupervised process is simply true by definition-regardless of the evidence! It is a waste of time to argue about the evidence if one side has already won the argument by defining the terms." (Johnson P.E., "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, p.21)

"Darwin's theory of evolution was originally stated in risky form. It predicted, for example, that fossil hunters would eventually find a great many transitional intermediates between the major groups (they didn't) and that animal breeders would succeed in creating distinct species (they didn't). Today the theory is usually stated in risk-free form. Naturalistic evolution is identified with science itself, and any alternative is automatically disqualified as `religion.' This makes it impossible to hold a scientific debate over whether the theory is true (it's virtually true by definition), which explains why Darwinists tend to think that anyone who wants such a debate to occur must have a `hidden agenda.' In other words, critics couldn't seriously be questioning whether the theory is true, so they must have some dishonest purpose in raising the question." (Johnson P.E., "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, pp.43-44)

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