Friday, December 23, 2005

It's Over in Dover, But Not For Intelligent Design

More fallout and criticism of Judge Jones' flawed ruling in the Dover (Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al) trial. I have used the title of the copy of the article on the Discovery Institute website. My comments are bold and in square brackets.

Idea not based on religion, USA Today, 12/21/2005, John G. West ... Pyrrhic victory. It's a phrase proponents of Darwin's theory might do well to ponder as they crow over the decision by a federal judge in Pennsylvania "permanently enjoining" the Dover school district from mentioning the theory of intelligent design in science classes. ["A Pyrrhic victory ... is a victory which is won at too great a cost for the victor." The cost of this victory to Darwinism is that it will be even more associated in the public mind with the use of the power of the State to ruthlessly crush scientific dissent. Not to mention the ultimate Pyrrhic victory being to those who suppress truth in order to maintain error. Since truth is its own reward, then untruth is its own punishment.]

Contrary to Judge John Jones' assertions, intelligent design is not a religious-based idea, but instead an evidence-based scientific theory that holds there are certain features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by an intelligent cause. [Irrespective of what Judge Jones, or ID's critics say, the fact is that intelligent design is a scientific theory that there is empirically detectable evidence of design in nature and is based solely on the evidence of nature, not the Bible or any other sacred text. As the agnostic Michael Denton put it, "the inference to design ... may have religious implications, but it does not depend on religious presuppositions" (my emphasis):

"Paley was not only right in asserting the existence of an analogy between life and machines, but was also remarkably prophetic in guessing that the technological ingenuity realized in living systems is vastly in excess of anything yet accomplished by man. ... The almost irresistible force of the analogy has completely undermined the complacent assumption, prevalent in biological circles over most of the past century, that the design hypothesis can be excluded on the grounds that the notion is fundamentally a metaphysical a priori concept and therefore scientifically unsound. On the contrary, the inference to design is a purely a posteriori induction based on a ruthlessly consistent application of the logic of analogy. The conclusion may have religious implications, but it does not depend on religious presuppositions." (Denton M.J., "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis," Burnett Books: London, 1985, p.341).]
No legal decree can remove the digitally coded information from DNA, nor molecular machines from cells. The facts of biology cannot be overruled by a federal judge.[Agreed. I am sure that there are many scientists and philosophers of science who, while they think ID is wrong, nevertheless would be deeply troubled by a science that depends on a lawyer to decree what is, and what is not, scientific.]

Research on intelligent design will continue to go forward, and the scientific evidence will win out in the end. [As previously stated, I am not so sure that "the scientific evidence will win out in the end", in the case of ID, because while ID cannot from the evidence of nature alone prove the designer is God, it is clear that those opposed to ID unwittingly demonstrate Romans 1:18-20 to be true in that they intuitively know that the designer is God, and therefore will seek to suppress that knowledge.]

Still, Darwinists clearly won this latest skirmish in the evolution wars. But at what cost? Evolutionists used to style themselves the champions of free speech and academic freedom against unthinking dogmatism. But increasingly, they have become the new dogmatists, demanding judicially-imposed censorship of dissent. [It is a supreme irony that science, whose mythology is that of the individual scientist (e.g. Galileo), armed only with the evidence of nature, triumphing over the overwhelming power of the entrenched establishment (e.g. the College of Cardinals). But as Johnson points out, these days the equivalent of the College of Cardinals is the National Academy of Sciences (which makes the equivalent of Galileo, Mike Behe!) :

"From the Galileo case, what we really learn is that a man who thinks for himself is apt to get in trouble with his other professors and the people who control the funding. The problem was not only with the Catholic Church. Galileo's scientific colleagues were also to blame. Of course, at the time, the Catholic Church was the ruling intellectual power; the problem was that all the professors of natural science happened to be affiliated with the church. But today, the equivalent of the College of Cardinals is not a group of guys in red hats who sit in Rome, but the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC and their equivalent bodies in other countries. In other words, these people are the academic elite. And the academic elite is never really in favour of freedom of thought. Why? Because the academic elite is the people who get a name for themselves by establishing their theories. And so naturally, I guess, they don't want to see them overturned. That's the lesson from Galileo." (Hastie P., "Designer genes: Phillip E. Johnson talks to Peter Hastie," Australian Presbyterian, October 2001, p.5. Emphasis in original)]
Now, Darwinists are trying to silence debate through persecution. At Ohio State University, a graduate student's dissertation is in limbo because he was openly critical of Darwin's theory. At George Mason University, a biology professor lost her job after she mentioned intelligent design in class. At the Smithsonian, an evolutionary biologist was harassed and vilified for permitting an article favoring intelligent design to be published in a peer-reviewed biology journal. Those who think they can stop the growing interest in intelligent design through court orders or intimidation are deluding themselves. Americans don't like being told there are some ideas they aren't permitted to investigate. Try to ban an idea, and you will generate even more interest in it. [It will be interesting to see if this is the case. Sooner or later the Darwinists are going to overreach themselves, and this might be it!]

Efforts to mandate intelligent design are misguided, but efforts to shut down discussion of a scientific idea through harassment and judicial decrees hurt democratic pluralism. The more Darwinists resort to censorship and persecution, the clearer it will become that they are championing dogmatism, not science. ... [Agreed, but the Darwinists' dilemma is that deep down they must know that if they don't "resort to censorship and persecution" then they are going to lose to ID on the evidence. Otherwise, why would they "resort to censorship and persecution" if they thought they had truth on their side and so would win on a level playing field?]

Dembski: Life after Dover: William Dembski says the Dover verdict is not ID's Waterloo, but merely one battle in a long culture war, Science & Theology News, William A. Dembski, December 21, 2005 ... Judge John E. Jones III has ruled in the Dover ID case, not only striking down the Dover school board policy advocating intelligent design but also identifying intelligent design as nonscientific and fundamentally religious. [Judge Jones was simply wrong in the latter-see above. The world authority on creationism, historian Ronald L. Numbers, had previously agreed that "the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID movement. But ... its `the easiest way to discredit intelligent design'":

"The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press signaled ID's growing importance in January, issuing an 805-page anthology titled `Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics.' That book title depicts ID as a variant of creationism, which reads Genesis literally and says the Earth was formed thousands of years ago - rather than billions - all species appeared immediately and a flood engulfed the globe. Yet ID actually insists on none of that. And while creationists are mostly conservative Protestants, ID theorists come from a wider range of faiths and some are nonreligious. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled creationism is too biblical for public schools, and ID proponents sought to distinguish themselves from that label in a long Utah Law Journal article arguing that ID is fit for public schools. University of Wisconsin historian Ronald L. Numbers, an ID opponent and author of `The Creationists,' agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID movement. But, he adds, its `the easiest way to discredit intelligent design.'" (Ostling R.N., "Ohio School Board Debates Teaching 'Intelligent Design'," The Washington Post, March 14, 2002)
It will be interesting to see if any philosopher of science has the guts to say what Larry Laudan said in the aftermath of the Arkansas trial, when Judge Overton ruled "creation-science" as not science but religion, that "The victory in the [Dover] case was hollow, for it was achieved only at the expense of perpetuating and canonizing a false stereotype of what science is and how it works. If it goes unchallenged by the scientific community, it will raise grave doubts about that community's intellectual integrity":
"The victory in the Arkansas case was hollow, for it was achieved only at the expense of perpetuating and canonizing a false stereotype of what science is and how it works. If it goes unchallenged by the scientific community, it will raise grave doubts about that community's intellectual integrity. No one familiar with the issues can really believe that anything important was settled through anachronistic efforts to revive a variety of discredited criteria for distinguishing between the scientific and the non-scientific. Fifty years ago, Clarence Darrow asked, a propos the Scopes trial, `Isn't it difficult to realize that a trial of this kind is possible in the twentieth century in the United States of America?' We can raise that question anew, with the added irony that, this time, the pro-science forces are defending a philosophy of science which is, in its way, every bit as outmoded as the `science' of the creationists." (Laudan L., "Science at the Bar-Causes for Concern," in Ruse M., ed., "But is it Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy," Prometheus Books: Amherst NY, 1996, p.355).
Probably not, so fierce would be the Darwinist's retribution. But there must be many (if not most) philosophers of science who know that Judge Jones (like Judge Overton) was wrong in that he could not so simply define what is, and what is not, "science." But if no philosopher of science speaks up for what they know to be true, then there would no longer be "grave doubts about that [scientific] community's intellectual integrity"!]

To what degree does this ruling constitute a setback for ID? Let's turn the question around. If the judge had ruled in favor of the Dover policy, it would have emboldened school boards, legislators and grass roots organizations to push for intelligent design in the public school science curricula across the nation. As a consequence, this case really would have been a Waterloo for the supporters of neo-Darwinian evolution (the form of evolution taught in all the textbooks). Conversely, the actual ruling is not a Waterloo for the intelligent design side. Certainly it will put a damper on school boards interested in promoting intelligent design. But this is not a Supreme Court decision. Nor is it likely this decision will be appealed since the Dover school board that caused all the trouble was voted out and replaced this November. [Agreed that this would have been a disaster for Darwinism if Judge Jones had ruled that ID was not "religion" (he did not need to rule that it was "science") and so was not unconstitutional to be taught in science classes. But conversely it is not a disaster for ID, just a setback. How major a setback, remains to be seen.]

Thus we can expect agitation for ID and against evolution to continue. School boards and state legislators may tread more cautiously, but tread on evolution they will - the culture war demands it! [Indeed! The ID movement will continue its war of attrition against Darwinism, in what Phil Johnson called the science educators' `Vietnam'":

"The first New York Times story on the Kansas decision quoted me as saying that this is the science educators' `Vietnam.' What I meant by this is that in the first place they have a determined adversary who is not going to surrender. They're not gaining ground. That's what the polls show, and that is why there is so much worry. If the enemy keeps on fighting, he wears you down. The second thing is that it is an adversary--that is, the anti-Darwinists--that can appeal to the liberal values of a lot of their opponents, just as the Viet Cong appealed to the anti-imperialist sentiments of the American public. The adversary can say, Let's hear both sides, let's have an open discussion, you don't know the majority position unless you have heard it effectively challenged, and so on. Already the polls show that two-thirds of the public favors something of the `teach both sides, teach the controversy' direction. The Kansas decision is certainly going to encourage other states and localities to do something like this." (Johnson P.E., "Evolution and the Curriculum: A Conversation with Phillip Johnson and Gregg Easterbrook," Center Conversations No. 4, Ethics and Public Policy Center: Washington DC, September 1999)
The ID movement "enemy" will keep on fighting because (like the Viet Cong) we know we have right, if not might, on our side. And the polls will continue to show that the majority want both sides to be taught. Whether the Darwinists can in the long-term sustain their unpopular position also remains to be seen.]

It is therefore naive to think that this case spells the end of ID, which is rapidly going international and crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries. I now correspond with ID proponents on every continent (save Antarctica). Moreover, I've seen ID embraced by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics and even atheists. The idea that ID is purely an "American thing" or an "evangelical Christian thing" can therefore no longer be maintained. Even if ID is stifled among high school students (and with the Internet this is impossible), ID is of growing interest to college and graduate students. Three years ago, there was one Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center at the University of California-San Diego. Now there are thirty such centers at American colleges and universities, including UC Berkeley and Cornell. These centers are fiercely pro-ID. [This is an important point. It may be that ID not being able to be taught in USA schools may not be such a setback when potential scientists will get their information about ID from the Internet. And it is going to be hard for teachers to teach evolution, when students will know from the Internet that "it ain't necessarily so".]

Ultimately, the significance of a court case like this depends not on a judge's decision but on the cultural forces that serve as the backdrop against which the decision is made. Take the Scopes Trial. In the minds of most, it was a decisive victory for evolution. Yet, in the actual trial, the decision went against Scopes (he was convicted of violating a Tennessee statute against teaching evolution). Judge Jones's decision may make life in the short-term more difficult for ID proponents, and it certainly will not be pleasant to endure the inevitable gloating by the victors. [Agreed, but then we are used to it!]

But the work of ID will continue. In fact, it may continue more effectively than if the judge had ruled in favor of ID, which might have convinced people that ID had already won the day when in fact ID still has much to accomplish in developing its scientific and intellectual program. Judge Jones's decision may well prove best for fostering ID's intellectual vitality and ultimate success. [One good side-effect will be that those (like the Thomas More Law Center-see below) who have no real commitment to ID itself but have jumped on the ID bandwagon to use it to advance their own creationist, or Christian, or political agenda (however worthy in their own right those may be) will jump off, leaving ID to develop its program less distracted by peripheral, non-ID issues.]

Santorum Breaks Ties With Law Center: Santorum Breaks Ties to Law Firm That Represented School District on Intelligent Design, ABC News/AP ... PHILADELPHIA Dec 22, 2005 - Sen. Rick Santorum on Thursday withdrew his affiliation from the Christian-rights law center that defended a school district's policy mandating the teaching of "intelligent design." Santorum, the Senate's No. 3 Republican who is facing a tough re-election challenge next year, earlier praised the Dover Area School District for "attempting to teach the controversy of evolution." But the day after a federal judge ruled the district's policy on intelligent design unconstitutional, Santorum told The Philadelphia Inquirer he was troubled by testimony indicating religion motivated some board members to adopt the policy. Santorum was on the advisory board of the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which defended the district's policy. The law center describes its mission as defending the religious freedom of Christians. "I thought the Thomas More Law Center made a huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did," Santorum said Wednesday. [Agreed. Personally I think the TMLC used the Dover Board, and the ID movement, as throw-away items in pursuit of its President Richard Thompson's agenda:

To find its first intelligent design case, the lawyers went around the country looking for a school board willing to withstand a lawsuit. In May 2000, Robert Muise, one of the lawyers, traveled to Charleston, W.Va., to persuade the school board there to buy the intelligent design textbook "Of Pandas and People" and teach it in science class. Mr. Muise told the board in Charleston that it would undoubtedly be sued if the district taught intelligent design, but that the center would mount a defense at no cost. "We'll be your shields against such attacks," he told them at a school board meeting, a riff on the center's slogan, "The Sword and Shield for People of Faith." He said they could defend teaching intelligent design as a matter of academic freedom. ... The board in West Virginia declined the center's offer. So did school districts in Michigan and Minnesota and a handful of other states ... But in Dover, the firm found willing partners when it contacted the school board in the summer of 2004 and promised it a first-class defense, The Dover school board proceeded despite a memo from its lawyer, Stephen S. Russell, warning that if the board lost the case, they would have to pay its opponents legal fees - which according to the plaintiffs' lawyers exceeds $1 million. ... Some of the proponents of intelligent design are also unhappy that the case went to court, and fear it could stop the movement in its infancy because some board members had a public record of advocating creationism, which the Supreme Court has twice ruled cannot be taught in public schools. "The school district never consulted us and did the exact opposite of what we suggested," said John G. West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute .... "Frankly I don't even know if school board members know what intelligent design is. They and their supporters are trying to hijack intelligent design for their own purposes. ... Mr. Thompson, the Thomas More Center's chief counsel, said the case appealed to him because of its "national impact." ("In Intelligent Design Case, a Cause in Search of a Lawsuit," The New York Times, November 4, 2005).
If the TMLC did indeed promise to "shield" the Dover board from having to pay the plaintiffs' $1M plus legal costs, then I would have thought the new board would have a case against the TMLC.]

He said he would end his affiliation with the center. The leading Democratic challenger in Santorum's 2006 re-election battle, state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., accused him of backtracking on intelligent design. Casey spokesman Larry Smar said Wednesday that Santorum's statements were "yet another example of 'Election Year Rick' changing his positions for political expediency." Casey has led Santorum in recent polls. Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the center, said Santorum's withdrawal came as no surprise because several weeks earlier the senator had indicated that he was unhappy with the center's involvement in the case. "It is a very controversial issue, as you know, and he is involved in a very hotly contested Senate race, and it's probably in his best interest," Thompson said Thursday..... Santorum said in a 2002 Washington Times op-ed article that intelligent design "is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes." But he said he meant that teachers should have freedom to mention intelligent design as part of the evolution debate not be required to do so and said his position hasn't changed. Santorum said he disagreed with the Dover board's policy of mandating the teaching of intelligent design, rather than teaching the controversy surrounding evolution. Because of that, he said the case provided "a bad set of facts" to test whether theories other than evolution should be taught in science class. ... [All along Santorum's position has been the ID movement's "teach the controversy", i.e. against mandating ID as the Dover board's policy did.]

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


Repack Rider said...

If ID is a theory equivalent to the theories of gravity. electromagnetism, or evolution, then all its adherents need to do is test it in the same manner that other such theories are tested.

First they must show how it explains the observations. We know things fall to earth when dropped, which is an observation. The theory of gravity is the explanation of that observation. No one claims that an invisible entity pushes things to earth when we let them go, which would be the gravitational equivalent of ID. Newton's theory of gravity stood unchallenged until Einstein showed that it was not completely accurate, and that the theory of relativity was a better explanation of the observations.

Ever since Darwin, scientists have observed that organisms evolve, and that one species can evolve into another. The first thing the design proponents need to do is show how their "theory" explains this observation.

Next, they must show how their "theory" can be used to make predictions that can be tested. In 1859 Darwin said that in order for his theory to be true, there must be a physical substance that transmitted heredity. It was not until nearly 90 years later that this substance, DNA, was identified and its mechanics studied, but Darwin's prediction turned out to be accurate, a profound example of the usefulness of the theory of Evolution, since testing it led to an entirely new branch of science, a branch which has turned up massive amounts of new data that support the ToE.

Finally, the ID proponents must show us how ID can be "falsified," i.e. give us an example of a hypothetical observation that would show it to be false. As an example, if a dog gave birth to a cat, the Theory of Evolution would be falsified. That hasn't happened yet, so the theory stands uncontradicted.

ID proponents claim thst the scientific community shuts them out, without admitting that they have failed to meet even the lowest standard of testing their ideas. Despite their claims, overturning an accepted scientific claim is the fastest way to collect a Nobel Prize, and the means of doing so are well known.

All the ID proponents have to do in order to validate their idea, which does not yet reach the level of being a theory, is to use it to explain observations of evolution, tell us how it can be falsified, and then make a prediction based on ID that is DIFFERENT from what the ToE would predict, and test it for accuracy. IF they can make predictions that are consistently more accurate than what the ToE predicts, everyone will switch over.

Biologists use the ToE because it is a useful tool, not because they are anti-science. No other theory explains the observations and has been shown to be a more accurate predictor of biological events, and until something more useful comes along,there is only one "theory" to choose from.

If ID has failed to make an impact on the scientific community, it is only because those who adhere to it have failed to make their case in the same manner that the ToE has. They have had nearly 150 years to do so, and I have stopped holding my breath.

Stephen E. Jones said...

repack rider

Thanks for your comment.

I have decided to respond to it in a series of three blog posts, starting at

Stephen E. Jones