Tuesday, December 27, 2005

`Intelligent design' movement dealt a blow, but not mortally wounded

Further criticism of Judge Jones' flawed ruling in the Dover (Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al) trial. Some of this is getting a bit stale because of the Christmas break. My comments are bold and in square brackets. There are hundreds of articles that slavishly follow each other in claiming that Judge Jones has proved that ID is religion, not science. None of these journalists seem to consider that Judge Jones is, after all, just a lawyer. So whence came Judge Jones' infallible understanding of ID, science and religion, such that he can infallibly pronounce that ID is not science, but religion? It seems that all those philosophers of science who over the last several decades have reached a near-consensus, that it is impossible to define in a principled, objective, way what is, and is not, "science", have all wasted their time. All they need now to do is ask Judge John E. Jones, and he will infallibly rule on their questions! :-) So I propose to ignore those wishful thinking, `follow the herd' articles since they will inevitably run out of steam and then their authors will start to notice that their reports of ID's death have been greatly exaggerated and indeed ID is very much alive!

Evolution debate moving to new battlegrounds: `Intelligent design' movement dealt a blow, but not mortally wounded, MSNBC, Alan Boyle, Dec. 20, 2005 Mainstream science groups hailed Tuesday's "intelligent-design" ruling as a slam-dunk for evolution. The judge in the case took extra pains to lay out a legal view of science vs. religion, saying he hoped it would head off the "obvious waste of judicial and other resources" on yet another court challenge. But even Darwin's staunchest defenders acknowledge that the legal battle over intelligent design, or ID, is shifting to new grounds. ID's proponents are already reshaping their arguments as a case of academic freedom vs. an overreaching "activist federal judge." [On "overreaching "activist federal judge" see John West's excellent blog posts:"Dover in Review, Part 1: Is Judge Jones an activist judge?" and "Dover in Review, pt. 2: Did Judge Jones read the evidence submitted to him in the Dover trial?" I expect that when the dust has settled, it will not just be IDists who consider that Judge Jones overreached himself in presuming that he could infallibly define what is "science" and "religion" and then decree that ID is the latter. I would not be surprised if he comes under criticism by philosophers of science and his own legal profession, as the next article points out. As for "activist federal judge", Judge Jones himself expected that criticism, "Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge"!]

"Let no one think this debate is over. If there's any lesson to be learned, it's that this debate is never over," said Casey Luskin, an attorney at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which came in for criticism in the ruling from U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III. [Which is interesting since Discovery Institute itself was not even a party to the trial having publicly called the Dover policy "misguided" and requesting its "withdrawal".]

...The defenders of evolutionary theory gushed over the opinion during a celebratory news conference in Harrisburg, Pa. "This decision is a major victory for science, and a major victory for science education," Eugenie Scott, executive director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, told reporters. The judge could have issued a much narrower opinion, finding merely that the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania acted with a religious purpose when it required biology teachers to refer to intelligent design. While that was indeed part of the ruling, much more of the 139-page opinion was devoted to the proposition that intelligent design was repackaged creationism rather than science. [Judge Jones is simply wrong on that. Creationism is based on the Bible but ID is based solely on the evidence of nature. Historian Ronald L. Numbers, an authority on creationism. admits that "the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID movement. But ... its `the easiest way to discredit intelligent design'!]

At times, Jones sounded more like a biology professor than a judge - for example, when he countered the view that some biological mechanisms were irreducibly complex by referring to "exaptation," the idea that a mechanism that was developed for one purpose could be adapted to another [Which goes to show that Jones had his own strongly preconceived ideas about evolution and ID and so the expert witness testimony of Mike Behe, Stephen Fuller and Scott Minnich was simply a waste of time-Judge Jones had his mind already made up before the trial started! It is not up to Judge Jones to offer his own off-the-cuff explanation of an "irreducibly complex" system as an "exaptation". It is the scientific community's task to make that counter-explanation - if they can. As Mike Behe noted in The New York Times:

"That was a real drag," said Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University who was the star witness for the intelligent design side. "I think he really went way over what he as a judge is entitled to say." Dr. Behe added: "He talks about the ground rules of science. What has a judge to do with the ground rules of science? I think he just chose sides and echoed the arguments and just made assertions about our arguments."]

.... "In my opinion, this decision is unconstitutional," Luskin [said] interview. "The government has no business telling people how they should perceive evolution and religion." [Agreed. The First Amendment says that Congress shall not establish a State religion. It is absurd to twist that into a school board requiring the reading of a 1-minute statement before an evolution class, informing students that there are problems with the theory of evolution and there is ID material in the library for any student who is interested in an alternative, is Congress establishing a religion!]

A statement from John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, struck a similar tone: "The Dover decision is 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." [If the emphasis in on stop then the Darwinist (and I include Judge Jones as a Darwinist) tactics won't work. But such tactics can slow ID's progress, as in fact the ACLU admits below.]

.... "It is our hope that today's decision will slow other school districts who might be thinking about moving forward" with ID-friendly policies, said Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania. [Since polls (e.g. CBS, Pew, Zogby) consistently show that the majority want alternatives to evolution (including ID) taught in schools, the ACLU is using the tactics of legal intimidation to deny Americans their First Amendment right to free speech.]

Eric Rothschild, another member of the plaintiffs' legal team, noted that through the years, the legal challenges to evolution education have been mounted in the name of creationism, then creation science, then intelligent design. "We expect another change in labels," he said, "whether it's 'sudden appearance,' or this 'teach the controversy' thing." [Rothschild is deluding himself (or worse). ID is not, and never was, "creationism" or "creation science", irrespective of what the ACLU, NCSE, Judge Jones, and their Darwinist ilk, claim. Therefore there will be no change of ID's name.]

With the Dover case done, the political spotlight is now likely to shift to Georgia, where a suburban Atlanta school district is challenging a federal ban on textbook stickers questioning evolution; and Kansas, where the state school board recently endorsed ID-friendly curriculum standards. But new legal frontiers could well open up in the months to come. [Indeed, since Dover was just a District Court case, it is not binding on any other State, and other legal cases could ignore or dissent from Judge Jones' ruling. In fact, so unexpectedly favourable was Judge Jones' ruling to the ACLU/NCSE, they may be reluctant to challenge ID anywhere else for fear of getting a less favourable ruling.]

Luskin [said] that the Discovery Institute would prefer to focus in the future on public-school teachers who want to bring up intelligent design, rather than on school districts who want to force intelligent design into the science curriculum. In fact, the institute has tried to distance itself from the Dover case for that reason. "Discovery's policy has always been that we don't think intelligent design should be mandated. We've always opposed what the Dover school district did," Luskin said. "We do think intelligent design should be preserved as a constitutional right. I don't think this decision is going to stop teachers outside the Central District of Pennsylvania from teaching intelligent design." In his written statement, West said "the institute strongly supports the freedom of teachers to discuss intelligent design in an objective manner on a voluntary basis." [There is an important difference between where teachers want to teach ID and where it is forced on them, as in Dover. The ACLU/NCSE are really going to look like the bullies they are if they try to use legal intimidation to stop teachers who want to teach ID from doing so.]

... One case has already attracted some attention: the case of Michigan's Gull Lake Community Schools, where two teachers are thinking about filing a lawsuit alleging that the district is interfering with their right to refer to intelligent design. Past judicial opinions have made clear that there are limits to a teacher's free-speech rights in public schools, particularly if the teacher appears to advocate a particular religious view. Scott said Tuesday's court ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover only reinforced those limits. "I think it would be exceedingly unwise for anyone, given the court record of the Kitzmiller case, to argue something like the Gill Lake position where teachers have a constitutional right to teach bad science to their students," Scott said. ... [Again, note the implied threat of legal retaliation. Clearly Scott and her Darwinist ilk don't care a fig for "a teacher's free-speech rights in public schools"! It really is amazing that Americans, who have historically stood for the right of free speech around the world, allow the ACLU/AUSCS/NCSE to ride roughshod over their civil rights at home.]

Intelligent design case may rouse supporters: Advocates say the judge went over the line in his criticism, which may lead to an outpouring of support, The Wichita Eagle/AP, Dec. 22, 2005, Rachel Zoll ... A federal judge's ruling that intelligent design is faith masquerading as science is being viewed by all sides involved with the issue as a setback, though not a fatal blow, for the movement promoting the concept as an alternative to evolution. [It is a "setback" in the sense that if Judge Jones had correctly rule that ID is not "religion" (he did not even have to rule on whether ID was "science") and therefore it was not unconstitutional to teach ID in science classes, then it would be a major step forward for ID. But it is not as though ID was being taught in schools (one can hardly call a 1-minute statement advising students in one high school that there is an ID book in the library as teaching ID, irrespective of the ACLU/AUSCS/NCSE's paranoia!). The ID movement's Teach the Controversy strategy is not affected by Dover, and if anything, this will strengthen the hand of the Discovery Institute against those like the Thomas More Law Center who try to hijack ID for their own (however worthy in their own right) causes.]

Intelligent-design advocates say the judge's lengthy, pointed rebuke of the concept Tuesday in a case out of Pennsylvania may energize supporters, many of whom view his opinion as part of a broader pattern of hostility by courts and the government to religion in public schools. [What I hope it will do is focus IDists on ID itself, i.e. only on 1) positive evidence and arguments for design in nature; and 2) negative arguments against the denial of design in nature (e.g. Darwinism), rather than issues peripheral to ID, such as Biblical literalism, etc.]

... "This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission .... "This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries -- if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung." [It is not so much Judge Jones' decision that is his problem in "advancing up the judicial ladder" but the injudicious and sloppy way that he reached it. I am sure that there would be many among his legal colleagues who, even if they disagreed with ID, would be highly critical of Judge Jones' `hatchet job' modus operandi. See for example, Chicago Law School Professor Albert Alschuler's (who appears not to agree with ID) strong criticism (in part 1 and part 2 of what will be a 3-part critique) of Judge Jones' judgment, and in fact of Judge Jones himself:

While professing to offer no opinion concerning the truth of intelligent design, the court consistently reveals its contempt for this theory. Most of the Dover opinion says in effect to the proponents of intelligent design, "We know who you are. You're Bible-thumpers." The opinion begins, "The religious movement known as Fundamentalism began in nineteenth century America as a response to social changes, new religious thought, and Darwinism. Religiously motivated groups pushed state legislatures to adopt laws prohibiting public schools from teaching evolution, culminating in the Scopes ‘monkey trial' of 1925." When the Fundamentalists (the court often capitalizes the word) found themselves unable to ban Darwinism, they championed "balanced treatment," then "creation science," and finally "intelligent design." According to the court, the agenda never changed. Dover is simply Scopes trial redux. The proponents of intelligent design are guilty by association, and today's yahoos are merely yesterday's reincarnated. If fundamentalism still means what it meant in the early twentieth century, however -- accepting the Bible as literal truth -- the champions of intelligent design are not fundamentalists. They uniformly disclaim reliance on the Book and focus only on where the biological evidence leads. The court's response - "well, that's what they say, but we know what they mean" - is uncivil, an illustration of the dismissive and contemptuous treatment that characterizes much contemporary discourse. Once we know who you are, we need not listen. We've heard it all already.]
"This galvanizes the Christian community," said William Dembski, a leading proponent of the theory and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that promotes intelligent-design research. "People I'm talking to say we're going to be raising a whole lot more funds now." [I hate to disagree with Bill Dembski, but `galvanizing the Christian community', is not necessarily in ID's best interests. The problem is that the Christian community finds it very difficult to separate out design as an empirical scientific theory from Christian-specific issues, e.g. reconciling the Bible and science, etc. This very Dover debacle was caused by a no doubt well-meaning Christian organization, The Thomas More Law Center, with a worthy mission of "Defending the Religious Freedom of Christians", jumping on the ID bandwagon to advance its own agenda, and giving a free kick to opponents of ID who claim it is just Biblical creationism in disguise. It needs to be made crystal clear to "the Christian community" (and I speak as an evangelical Christian Old-Earth creationist) that while their support is welcomed, ID is a secular scientific theory that, while it has Christian implications (as Darwinism also has), it is not in itself necessarily Christian or even religious.]

From a legal perspective, the decision's immediate consequences are very limited. The school system is not expected to appeal, because several board members who backed intelligent design were voted out of office in November and replaced by candidates who reject the policy. [It will be interesting to see if the new Dover board does get hit with $1 million plus legal costs. If it does, it might yet consider an appeal, so the Darwinists might be afraid to get such a favourable ruling overturned. But OTOH, they would want to deter any other board from considering mentioning ID. My guess is that they will make it less on the understanding that the new board does not appeal, but still enough to deter any other board.]

The court defeat also comes at a time when movement leaders are failing to win support even among scientists sympathetic to their religious worldview. The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, an association of more than 100 U.S. schools, said its members have a wide range of approaches to the issue. In fact, most conservative Christian colleges are far from embracing intelligent design. The John Templeton Foundation, a major funder of projects that aim to reconcile religion and science, has given none of its $36 million in annual science-related grants to intelligent-design research, said foundation spokeswoman Pamela Thompson. "We do not consider it a hard science," she said. "We feel that it is not something that's important to universities." Dembski, of the Discovery Institute, formerly taught at Baylor University, a Baptist school in Texas, but left following opposition on the issue from other faculty members. He now leads the Center for Science and Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Uko Zylstra, a biologist and dean for natural sciences at Calvin College, a Christian school in Grand Rapids, Mich., said intelligent design is not catching on at his college and others because it is based on philosophy, not science. "We don't think this is how the problem should be articulated," Zylstra said. "The strength of intelligent design is as an apologetic -- that God is the creator, but not a scientific explanation." [But this is just the point - ID is not based on a "religious worldview"! If it was, then there would not be so much opposition from those with a "religious worldview" axe to grind. It is in fact evidence that ID has carved out for itself its own unique `ecological niche' that both atheists and many theists are opposed to it! The bottom line is that ID can just ignore them (i.e. not waste its time and energy trying the convince those who, for various reasons, will never be convinced) and get on with developing its own evidence and arguments. If ID is right (as I firmly believe it is) then the evidence for design in nature won't go away and the Darwinists (and Christian `theistic Darwinist' compatibilists) will have more and more problems trying to explain it away.]

Michael Cromartie, an evangelical and vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington institute that addresses religious issues, said it was important to remember that the movement is "very, very young." He said it was too new to be judged a success or failure. "There are all kinds of smart, young scientists who are emboldened by the literature they read in the intelligent-design movement and they're going to become important professors," Cromartie said. "Dover wasn't a Supreme Court decision. It's a local decision. Local decisions are very important, but they don't end the conversation." ... [A very important point. As Kuhn observed, it is in fact the norm that major scientific revolutions take at least a generation to overcome the prejudices of those "whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to" it:

"Equally, it is why, before they can hope to communicate fully, one group or the other must experience the conversion that we have been calling a paradigm shift. Just because it is a transition between incommensurables, the transition between competing paradigms cannot be made a step at a time, forced by logic and neutral experience. Like the gestalt switch, it must occur all at once (though not necessarily in an instant) or not at all. How, then, are scientists brought to make this transposition? Part of the answer is that they are very often not. Copernicanism made few converts for almost a century after Copernicus' death. Newton's work was not generally accepted, particularly on the Continent, for more than half a century after the Principia appeared. Priestley never accepted the oxygen theory, nor Lord Kelvin the electromagnetic theory, and so on. The difficulties of conversion have often been noted by scientists themselves. Darwin, in a particularly perceptive passage at the end of his Origin of Species, wrote.. `Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume .... I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine. ... [B]ut I look with confidence to the future,-to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.' And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that `a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.'" (Kuhn T.S., "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," [1962], University of Chicago Press: Chicago IL, Third edition, 1996, pp.150-151)]

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

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