Thursday, December 14, 2006

Judge Jones a Plagiarist?

On a small private mailing list discussion group I am on, the issue came up whether Judge Jones was,

[Graphic: Judge John Jones III, Wikipedia. Note Wikipedia says this haloed image is the "U.S. District Court Official Government Portrait of Judge John Jones III" but the first hit from a Google search of "Wikipedia U.S. District Court Official Government Portrait of Judge" (without the quotes) turned up a portrait of a Judge Samuel Alito without a halo!]

in the Dover trial, a plagiarist for having "copied verbatim or virtually verbatim 90.9% of his 6,004-word section on whether intelligent design is science from the ACLU's proposed 'Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law'" ("Study Shows Federal Judge Copied ACLU Text in Dover Intelligent Design Ruling," Evolution News & Views, December 13, 2006).

My response (with some changes) was:

The Discovery Institute is not claiming that Judge Jones is a plagiarist. The Institute's John West points out that that it was "the AgapePress ... article [which] inacurrately states that we are faulting Judge Jones for `plagiarism,' which we aren't; he copied extensively from the ACLU, but in judicial circles that would not be called plagiarism":

"WorldNetDaily is covering the Judge Jones' copying story, as is the Associated Press, The York Dispatch, and the AgapePress (note: the last article inacurrately states that we are faulting Judge Jones for `plagiarism,' which we aren't; he copied extensively from the ACLU, but in judicial circles that would not be called plagiarism). .... The discussion going on at Sandwalk is particularly fascinating. There pro-Darwin biochemist Larry Moran expresses his disillusionment about being misled about the `brilliant' Judge Jones. The responses posted by fellow Darwinists who won't tolerate any criticism of the Judge or his decision are especially illuminating. ..." ("Media Round-Up on Judge Jones," Evolution News & Views, December 12, 2006).

Whatever the practice in law, I am sure that most non-lawyers (and probably some, if not most, lawyers) will regard copy-and-pasting ~90% of the evidence and arguments of one side of a case (including its errors) is nothing to admire. As the above quote says, at least one evolutionist, biochemist Larry Moran, was not impressed after having received the impression that Judge Jones was "brilliant" because of his apparent personal grasp of scientific issues. I am sure a lot (perhaps most) scientists will agree with Moran.

The reason I say that is in my biology degree we were consistently told that the reason we were not allowed to quote extensively from our sources, but had to put their thoughts in our own words, was because that is the only way we could demonstrate that we really understood our source's evidence and arguments. I presume that is the norm in science education everywhere?

That Judge Jones also copy-and-pasted his source's errors, demonstrates that he did not really understand their evidence and arguments.

If Judge Jones had confined himself to his own field of expertise, the law, there would be no problem and he would not have needed to do so much copy-and-pasting. But he didn't. Judge Jones' ruling ranged across the fields of science, philosophy of science and religion and claimed, or implied, that he personally had resolved once and for all, issues that the experts in those fields had not yet been able to resolve!

Just one example, "The judge could have issued a much narrower opinion ... At times, Jones sounded more like a biology professor than a judge" (my emphasis):

"Evolution debate moving to new battlegrounds," MSNBC, Alan Boyle, Dec. 20, 2005 ... 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. 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. ....

See also other pro-ID blogs: "Revisiting Dover: How Brilliant Was Judge Jones' Decision?," Doubting Darwin, December 12, 2006; "Cut-and-Paste Jones Served as ACLU Mouthpiece," ID Update, December 12, 2006; "Judge Jones Finds Erroneous Facts," Teleological Blog, December 12, 2006; "Judge Jones: Towering Intellectual or Narcissistic Putz?," Uncommon Descent, December 12, 2006, "Judge Jones and the Shattering of Darwinist Illusions," Evolution News & Views, December 13, 2006 & "Why the Report on Judicial Copying is Significant," ID The Future, December 13, 2006.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 26:12-14. 12Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. 13The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him.

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