Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent-design backers blast judge #2

Intelligent-design backers blast judge: Jurist in Dover case 'activist' with 'delusions of grandeur', WorldNetDaily, December 21 2005 ....

[Continued from part #1]

Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, the group founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, praised the ruling, saying the court has made it clear that intelligent design is "simply rhetorical camouflage for promoting religious beliefs and accounts." "The fact is that proponents of intelligent design simply have not made their case, and their claims have not met the burden of evidence," she said. [You would think that someone who claims (or at least implies) that he is a Christian, would be worried that atheists would find his ruling so congenial! But in my experience in debating such theistic naturalistic evolutionists is that they don't seem to care a fig that their criticism of ID is interpreted by atheists as confirming their atheism.]

Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin said, however, he believes the decision will be of "minor significance" in the larger debate over intelligent design. "As we've repeatedly stressed, the ultimate validity of intelligent will be determined not by the courts but by the scientific evidence pointing to design," Luskin said. [Agreed about the validity of ID "will be determined ... by the scientific evidence pointing to design" but as pro-ID witness Stephen Fuller pointed out in the trial, unless ID can be taught in schools, it cannot "get a toe hold in science" by generating "new recruits":

"Because the scientific community is a monolith, impenetrable and often hostile to new theories, intelligent design proponents have to turn to the public schools to recruit support, a witness said Monday. Testifying on behalf of the Dover Area School District in U.S. Middle District Court, philosophy of science expert Steve Fuller said intelligent design "can't spontaneously generate a following" because the scientific community shuts the door on radical views. A sociology professor from the University of Warwick in England, Fuller said, "How do you expect any minority view to get a toe hold in science? You basically get new recruits." (York Daily Record, October 25, 2005)
I don't subscribe to the romantic ideal that the truth will inevitably win-at least not in an area where the Bible itself in Romans 1:18-20 says that guilty sinners try to suppress the evidence of design in nature, because they intuitively realize that it points to there being a God, and they don't want it to be so. So while I think ID is true, I don't expect it to ever become a majority position, although it could become a significant minority position. Personally I think that the Discovery Institute should appeal the case (assuming it can), because the judge said extremely damaging and false things about it, which should not be allowed to stand.]

West is confident the ruling will only provide fuel for the debate. "Americans don't like to be told there is some idea that they aren't permitted to learn about," he said. "It used to be said that banning a book in Boston guaranteed it would be a bestseller. Banning intelligent design in Dover will likely only fan interest in the theory." [I agree with that. But without access to science classes, will that be enough to generate a following? Admittedly the Internet is an unknown wild card in this.]

Luskin pointed out that the ruling applies only to the federal district in which it was handed down. The decision likely will not be appealed, he said, because the recently elected Dover school board members campaigned on their opposition to the policy. "The plans of the lawyers on both sides of this case to turn this into a landmark ruling have been preempted by the voters," Luskin said. [Agreed also about "lawyers on both sides of this case". As I had already opined, the Thomas More Law Center and its Chief Counsel Richard Thompson are not really interested in ID for itself but are just using ID as a mere throw-away tool in its (otherwise praiseworthy) mission of "Defending the Religious Freedom of Christians."]

West said the Discovery Institute continues to oppose efforts to mandate teaching about the theory of intelligent design in public schools. "But the Institute strongly supports the freedom of teachers to discuss intelligent design in an objective manner on a voluntary basis," he said. "We also think students should learn about both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory of evolution."[This has been the DI's consistently maintained position all along:

Recent news stories have led to confusion about Discovery Institute's role in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, which challenges a Pennsylvania school district policy requiring students to be notified about the theory of intelligent design. The lead attorney defending the Dover district, Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, has made several statements inaccurately characterizing both the position and the actions of Discovery Institute regarding the Dover case. We are issuing the following statement in order to correct the record: 1. Discovery Institute's science education policy has been consistent and clear. We strongly believe that teaching about intelligent design is constitutionally permissible, but we think mandatory inclusion of intelligent design in public school curricula is ill-advised. Instead, we recommend that schools require only that the scientific evidence for and against neo-Darwinism be taught, while not infringing on the academic freedom of teachers to present appropriate information about intelligent design if they choose. Although we believe teaching about intelligent design is constitutionally permissible, we think mandating intelligent design politicizes what should be a scientific debate and harms the efforts of scientists who support design to gain a fair hearing in the scientific community." ("Setting the Record Straight about Discovery Institute's Role in the Dover School District Case," Discovery Institute News, November 10, 2005)]

West said a legal ruling "can't change the fact that there is digital code in DNA, it can't remove the molecular machines from the cell, nor change the fine tuning of the laws of physics." "The empirical evidence for design, the facts of biology and nature, can't be changed by legal decree," he insisted. [The arrogance of Judge Jones is breathtaking! With qualifications of "B.A., 1977, Dickinson College" and "J.D., 1980, Dickinson School of Law," he actually thinks that he can rule universally that ID is not science! At least King Canute realized that he could not change the facts of nature by a mere decree! But West's point, what Woodward calls "the recalcitrance of nature," is the reason why ID will outlast Judge (Canute) Jones' ruling:

"Nature's recalcitrance is the ultimately determinative factor (or limiting factor) in the shredding, shaping, or vindicating of any cosmological narrative. The reader will have noted that certain stubborn realities of nature keep coming up time after time, and they serve as the main fuel in the evidentiary debate: (1) the Cambrian explosion, now underscored and heightened in the recent discoveries in China, (2) the general absence of transitional fossils between the higher taxonomic categories outside of the Cambrian, (3) the cell's molecular systems of breathtaking complexity, recently elucidated, and (4) the quiet experiment-driven collapse of confidence in `chemical soup' scenarios for the origin of life. These four sets of brute facts, of course, mean nothing by themselves, as Gross has reminded us; they must be interpreted and woven by rhetorical skill into some explanatory scheme. Yet, such facts are ultimately stubborn; they surprise and confound; they often trigger a heightened sense of mystery. They are the stuff of anomalies, which of course in the Kuhnian vision of science may lead eventually to a genuine paradigm crisis. The four scientific realities cited above (a list that could easily be expanded) cannot be ignored in their foundational role as rhetorical weapons in the hands of Design. They and their range of possible interpretations have become the turf on which some of the fiercest battles are now fought. So the recalcitrance of nature, I propose, is the foundation of. the Design assault on the Darwinian paradigm. In dramatic terms, it is cast as the ultimate protagonist in all of the major scenes. Phillip Johnson refers to the power of recalcitrant nature (without using that name) in his `sinking ship' projection theme, found in the `How to Sink a Battleship' essay in Mere Creation. The key reference to recalcitrance is in the final line-'reality.' To appreciate the context, I will quote the entire projection theme:
When I finished the epilogue to Darwin on Trial in 1993, I compared evolutionary naturalism to a great battleship afloat on the ocean of reality. The ship's sides are heavily armored with philosophical and legal barriers to criticism, and its decks are stacked with 16-inch rhetorical guns to intimidate would-be attackers. In appearance it is as impregnable as the Soviet Union seemed a few years ago. But the ship has sprung a metaphysical leak, and that leak widens as more and more people understand it and draw attention to the conflict between empirical science and materialist philosophy. The more perceptive of the ship's officers know that the ship is doomed if the leak cannot be plugged. The struggle to save the ship will go on for a while, and meanwhile there will even be academic wine-and-cheese parties on the deck. In the end the ship's great firepower and ponderous armor will only drag it to the bottom. Reality will win.
The deciding factor in the defeat of the battleship-in Johnson's view-is the power of `reality,' which is, at root, recalcitrant nature itself." (Woodward T.E., "Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 2003, p.200) ]

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, which represented the school board members, said the decision shows "our present Establishment Clause jurisprudence, as several Supreme Court justices have noted, is in hopeless disarray and in need of substantial revision." "The founders of this country would be astonished at the thought that this simple curriculum change 'established religion' in violation of the Constitution that they drafted," Thompson said. [At least I agree with Thompson on that!] ...

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

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