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22 December 2005

one pissed-off judge

Some people put emblems and stickers on their cars that you can see on millions of other cars. Ring of Fire specializes in car emblems, jewelry, etc., that only really contrary non-conformist screwballs want on their cars or their bodies. This one was spotted on a car in Hawaii. It is, of course, the emblem that announces that the driver belongs to the Flying Spaghetti Monster cult.

.pdf is a text and document format which reverses the Internet trend of convenience, ease and accessibility to information, and seeks to make the Web clumsy, unpleasant and difficult to access. I really hate long .pdf documents -- and I'm not too wild about short ones, either -- but the Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American has been kind enough to wrestle with this week's federal decision Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and pull out all the really tasty jelly beans from Judge John E. Jones III's decision.

Vleeptron has posted several lengthy court decisions, diplomatic treaties, and other such stuff noted for a dialect of English designed to be incomprehensible to everyone except lawyers and diplomats.

The Kitzmiller decision, on the other hand, is remarkable for its Blunt, Short, Clear, Anglo-Saxon writing intended to be perfectly comprehensible to everyone it's aimed at, winners and losers alike. This was one very pissed-off judge. (Don't jump to conclusions -- he's a well-known conservative Republican.)

For those who don't know, the defendants in this case, the elected members of the Dover, Pennsylvania School Board, were kicked out of office by Dover's voters months before this federal judge issued his decision. (Televangelist Pat Robertson suggested this was the Wrong Way To Vote, that it would anger God, and the citizens of Dover could expect some sort of meteorological or seismic retribution a la Gemorrah and Sodom.)


Scientific American website
Tuesday 20 December 2005

Opinions, arguments and analyses from the editors of Scientific American

I.D. and Creationism
Threw the Book at 'Em

by John Rennie

John Rennie has been the editor in chief of Scientific American since 1994, and a member of its staff since 1989. His particular interests include evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and the interplay of science, politics and culture.

The decision of Judge John E. Jones III is in on the Dover evolution/I.D. trial (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), and the ruling clobbers both the school board and the standing of I.D. as powerfully as one might hope. Here's an excerpt from the conclusion of the formal opinion, with emphasis added by me where most delicious.

[Vleeptron has actually removed these emphases and lets the Judge speak for himself.]


The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board's ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.


Bravo to the judge for seeing to the truth of the matter (although, really, anything less would have been a miscarriage of justice). I'll leave it to those with a proper legal understanding to say how widely this federal court decision may serve as precedent in cases arising elsewhere in the country, but there's certainly no ambiguity in the ruling.

Updated: Further spanking of the creationists after the jump.

The more one reads of it, the more that Judge Jones's decision stands as a classic thrashing of the sophistries and falsehoods of I.D. Pages 24-26:


Dr. Haught testified that this argument for the existence of God was advanced early in the 19th century by Reverend Paley and defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich admitted that their argument for ID based on the "purposeful arrangement of parts" is the same one that Paley made for design.... The only apparent difference between the argument made by Paley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID's "official position" does not acknowledge that the designer is God. However, as Dr. Haught testified, anyone familiar with Western religious thought would immediately make the association that the tactically unnamed designer is God, as the description of the designer in Of Pandas and People (hereinafter "Pandas") is a "master intellect," strongly suggesting a supernatural deity as opposed to any intelligent actor known to exist in the natural world.... Moreover, it is notable that both Professors Behe and Minnich admitted their personal view is that the designer is God and Professor Minnich testified that he understands many leading advocates of ID to believe the designer to be God....

Although proponents of the IDM occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of the IDM, including Defendants' expert witnesses.... In fact, an explicit concession that the intelligent designer works outside the laws of nature and science and a direct reference to religion is Pandas' rhetorical statement, "what kind of intelligent agent was it [the designer]" and answer: "On its own science cannot answer this question. It must leave it to religion and philosophy."

Pages 27-28:

ID proponents Johnson, William Dembski, and Charles Thaxton, one of the editors of Pandas, situate ID in the Book of John in the New Testament of the Bible, which begins, "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was God."... Dembski has written that ID is a "ground clearing operation" to allow Christianity to receive serious consideration, and "Christ is never an addendum to a scientific theory but always a completion."

Moreover, in turning to Defendants' lead expert, Professor Behe, his testimony at trial indicated that ID is only a scientific, as opposed to a religious, project for him; however, considerable evidence was introduced to refute this claim. Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. [emphasis in judge's original document.]...


And so on. It's an encyclopedic refutation of I.D. as legitimate science, hanging the leaders of the movement with their own testimony and writings. The Dover case is not just a big loss for the neo-creationists as a legal decision. It leaves the reputations of I.D.'s supposedly intellectual, scientific standard-bearers -- Behe and Dembski in particular -- in tatters.


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