Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dover ruling could be its own genesis #1

Part 1 of a Chicago Tribune article speculating on the likely ruling in the Dover (Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al) trial, with my comments bold in square brackets.

My wife and I are going away tomorrow on a four-day holiday at Dwellingup, a former timber mill town in Western Australia's south-western Jarrah forest. It's strange that she always picks Internet-less towns for our holidays-I wonder why? :-)

Dover ruling could be its own genesis: Legal observers say the judge can take one of three paths in the intelligent design case, Chicago Tribune, Lisa Anderson, December 6, 2005 ... NEW YORK .... In the next few weeks a federal judge in Pennsylvania will rule in the nation's first legal case involving intelligent design, a decision that could influence the way biology is taught in schools across the country. Judge John Jones III, who presided over the six-week bench trial that ended last month in Harrisburg, Pa., may provide the first legal answer to the question at the heart of the most bitter battle in the culture wars over the teaching of evolution: Is intelligent design a religious belief or a scientific theory? Legal observers suggest Jones could rule broadly. He could decide intelligent design, or ID, is religious belief, not scientific theory, and thus cannot be taught in public schools because it violates the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment, which mandates the separation of church and state. [This is false. It is not the "1st Amendment, which mandates the separation of church and state" but the USA Supreme Courts' interpretation of it. Proof of that is that the Australian Constitution which drew heavily on the United States model, has an establishment clause, Section 116:

116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
which is almost identical to the USA's First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Yet the Australian High Court has tended to interpret the Australian Constitution fairly literally, i.e. "shall not make any law for establishing any religion" means just that. For example, the Australian Parliament starts each sitting day with a prayer, government schools allow religious instruction classes as part of the curriculum, employ Christian (and maybe other religions) paid chaplains and the Federal government provides financial grants to private religious schools. In fact, between 2001-2003 an Anglican Archbishop was Australia'sGovernor-General (which is effectively Australia's President, albeit largely ceremonial).

Now getting back to the point about Judge Jones ruling that "ID, is religious belief, not scientific theory", as I have already said, I don't think there is any likelihood of that, following the strong expert witness testimony of Mike Behe, Stephen Fuller and Scott Minnich. There simply is no comparison with the 1982 Arkansas and 1987 Louisiana `balanced treatment' creation trials (where a clearly Bible-based "creation-science" was ruled to be religion), since ID is based not on the Bible but solely on the evidence of nature.]

Or, he could rule the reverse, supporting ID's validity as science and thus opening the door to affirming the constitutionality of teaching ID. [Given that Judge Jones has said of this case that, "I became a judge with the hope of having an opportunity to rule in matters of great importance," I expect that he won't dodge the issue and leave it to another judge to have his name forever in the legal history books, but will bite the bullet and rule that the theory of intelligent design is not religion but science, and so can be taught in science classes.]

The third option, they said, could be a narrow ruling limited to whether members of a school board in Dover, Pa., had a primarily religious, rather than secular, purpose in adopting a policy introducing ID into the biology curriculum.[He could rule that anyway, by having a two-part ruling: 1) narrowly on the Dover board's policy and motivation; and 2) broadly on ID itself. He is quite entitled, indeed I would have thought obliged to do the latter, because the anti-ID plaintiffs' made their complaint broadly against ID itself , not narrowly against the Dover board's policy.]

`Creationism lite' A concept critical of evolutionary biological theory, intelligent design often is disparaged as "creationism lite," referring to the biblical account of creation in Genesis. [This is patently false. ID is not based on the Bible at all, let alone "the biblical account of creation in Genesis", but is "based entirely on observable, empirical, physical evidence from nature plus logical inferences":
"Q. [Mr Muise] Is intelligent design based on any religious beliefs or convictions?
A. [Prof. Behe] No, it isn't.
Q. What is it based on?
A. It is based entirely on observable, empirical, physical evidence from nature plus logical inferences.
Q. Dr. Padian testified that paleontologists makes reasoned inferences based on comparative evidence. For example, paleontologists know what the functions of the feathers of different shapes are in birds today. They look at those same structures in fossil animals and infer that they were used for a similar purpose in the fossil animal. Does intelligent design employ similar scientific reasoning?
A. Yes, that's a form of inductive reasoning, and intelligent design uses similar inductive reasoning.
Q. Now I want to review with you the intelligent design argument. ...
A. .... The first point is that, we infer design when we see that parts appear to be arranged for a purpose. The second point is that the strength of the inference, how confident we are in it, is quantitative. The more parts that are arranged, and the more intricately they interact, the stronger is our confidence in design. The third point is that the appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming. The fourth point then is that, since nothing other than an intelligent cause has been demonstrated to be able to yield such a strong appearance of design, Darwinian claims notwithstanding, the conclusion that the design seen in life is real design is rationally justified.
Q. Now when you use the term design, what do you mean?
A. Well, I discussed this in my book, Darwin's Black Box, and a short description of design is shown in this quotation from Chapter 9. Quote, What is design? Design is simply the purposeful arrangement of parts. When we perceive that parts have been arranged to fulfill a purpose, that's when we infer design." (Behe M.J., "Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.," Transcript, October 17, 2005, Morning session)]
Nearly universally dismissed by the mainstream scientific community, ID posits that some complex aspects of the natural world, yet unexplained by modern advances in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, are best attributed to an unnamed and unseen intelligent designer. [This is false, albeit better than most journalists' made-up of the top of their head definitions of ID. The fact is that ID says nothing about a "designer." ID is a theory of design not a theory of a designer! That is, ID is the scientific theory that there is empirically detectable evidence of design in nature.]

Although ID refrains from characterizing the designer, many leading ID advocates, including some who testified for the defense during the trial, say they believe the designer is God. [This is true, but irrelevant. If only "many leading ID advocates say they believe the designer is God" (my emphasis), then some do not. For example David Berlinski is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, yet he is a an agnostic:

"Dan-E. Nilsson is persuaded that I wrote my essay because I am moved to reject `uncomfortable scientific results.' He is mistaken. The length of time required to form an eye is a matter of perfect indifference to me; had he and Susanne Pelger been able to demonstrate that the eye was in fact formed over the course of a long weekend in the Hamptons, I would have warmly congratulated them. As I have many times remarked, I have no creationist agenda whatsoever and, beyond respecting the injunction to have a good time all the time, no religious principles, either. Evolution long, evolution short-it is all the same to me. I criticized their work not because its conclusions are unwelcome but because they are absurd." (Berlinski D., "A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics," Commentary July 8, 2003).]
Evolutionary theory holds that all life, including humans, shares common ancestry and developed through the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection .... In science, a theory is not a guess but an overarching explanation that pulls together rigorously tested facts and observation and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. [This "rigorously tested facts" might be true of physics, but it is not true of a historical science like evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne admitted that "In science's pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics" because as a historical science, it "usually cannot resolve issues with a simple experiment":
"In science's pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics. For evolutionary biology is a historical science, laden with history's inevitable imponderables. We evolutionary biologists cannot generate a Cretaceous Park to observe exactly what killed the dinosaurs; and, unlike `harder' scientists, we usually cannot resolve issues with a simple experiment, such as adding tube A to tube B and noting the color of the mixture. The latest deadweight dragging us closer to phrenology is `evolutionary psychology,' or the science formerly known as sociobiology, which studies the evolutionary roots of human behavior. There is nothing inherently wrong with this enterprise, and it has proposed some intriguing theories, particularly about the evolution of language. The problem is that evolutionary psychology suffers from the scientific equivalent of megalomania. Most of its adherents are convinced that virtually every human action or feeling, including depression, homosexuality, religion, and consciousness, was put directly into our brains by natural selection. In this view, evolution becomes the key--the only key--that can unlock our humanity." (Coyne J.A., "The fairy tales of evolutionary psychology." Review of "A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion," by Randy Thornhill & Craig T. Palmer, MIT Press, 2000. The New Republic, March 4, 2000)
And as for "a theory ... can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena," then evolution cannot be a theory because, as Dawkins admits, "the question he's most often asked" is "where are humans headed?" yet its "a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade"!:
"Scientists are fond of running the evolutionary clock backward, using DNA analysis and the fossil record to figure out when our ancestors stood erect and split off from the rest of the primate evolutionary tree. But the clock is running forward as well. So where are humans headed? Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says it's the question he's most often asked, and `a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade.' But the question is being raised even more frequently as researchers study our past and contemplate our future." (Boyle A., "Human evolution at the crossroads: Genetics, cybernetics complicate forecast for species," MSNBC, May 2, 2005)
I have added this quote to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, section PE 5.3.5 "Science ... Evolution fails its own demarcation criteria ... Predictability".]

[To be continued in part 2]

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

"The ear, it is probable, is no less artificially and mechanically adapted to its office, than the eye. But we know less about it; we do not so well understand the action, the use, or the mutual dependency of its internal parts. Its general form, however, both external and internal, is sufficient to shew that it is an instrument adapted to the reception of sound; that is to say, already knowing that sound consists in pulses of the air, we perceive in the structure of the ear, a suitableness: to receive impressions from this species of action, and, to propagate these impressions to the, brain. For of what does this structure consist? An external ear (the concha), calculated, like an ear-trumpet, to catch and collect the pulses of which we have, spoken;- in large quadrupeds, turning to the sound, and possessing a configuration, as well as, motion, evidently, fitted for the office: of a tube which leads into the head, lying at the root of this outward ear; the folds and sinuses thereof tending and conducting the air towards it: of a thin membrane, like the pelt of a drum, stretched across this passage upon a bony rim: of a chain of moveable, and infinitely curious, bones, forming a communication, and the only communication that can be observed, between the membrane last mentioned and the interior channels and recesses of the skull: of cavities, similar in shape and form to wind instruments of music, being spiral or portions of circles of the eustachian tube, like, the hole in a drum, to let the air pass freely into and out of the barrel of the ear, as the covering membrane vibrates, or as the temperature may be altered: the whole labyrinth hewn out of a rock: that is, wrought into the substance of the hardest bone, of the body: This assemblage of connected parts constitutes together an apparatus, plainly enough relative to the transmission of sound, or of the impulses received from sound, and only to be lamented in not being better understood. The communication within, formed by the small bones of the ear, is, to look upon, more like what we are accustomed to call machinery, than any thing I am acquainted with in animal bodies." (Paley W., "Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature," [1802], St. Thomas Press: Houston TX, 1972, reprint, pp.30-31)

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