Waterloo in Dover
Just not the kind of Waterloo Intelligent Design (ID) Proponent William Dembski was hoping for. It appears that the judge in the Dover case has ruled rather broadly and this bodes ill for ID in general. This in turn, in my view, bodes ill for creationists of all stripes.
The problem for creationists in general is that ID represents one of the last stages of evolution of creationist “theory” before it goes extinct. ID is creationism with all the references to God removed and tarted up in sophisticated language of mathematics and biology to make it look more like science than any previous incarnation of creationism. When you look at the history of science education and evolutionary theory in the U.S. the path for the creationists has not been a very good one. They have gone from a position of complete dominance and legal superiority (teaching evolution and evolutionary theory was illegal in some states) to the being slowly replaced by evolutionary theory, to being declared illegal, and now we have this sterile and stripped down version of creatinism that can’t even mention God.
One of the problems for ID advocates is that the judge asked the following question in his decision (you can find the decision here–it is a pretty good sized pdf so I’d recommend downloading it first),
We must now ascertain whether the ID Policy Ã¢€œin fact conveys a message of endorsement or disapprovalÃ¢€ of religion, with the reasonable, objective observer being the hypothetical construct to consider this issue.
The answer can’t be anything other than, “Yes, ID conveys a message of endorsement or disapproval of religion.” The reason is simple. If one were to look at ID writings on the topic they would eventually come across William Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Information, as well as Dembski’s paper on Searching Large Spaces. These two things point to the impossibility of certain biological features arising naturally. This leaves only a supernatural explanation, which leaves the only explanation being some sort of deity. Of course, Dembski did not testify at the trial an his arguments were not part of the trial. However, the judge did look at other evidence that also lead to the same conclusion. Specifically the judge traced, in detail, the history of creationism and ID as I did above (briefly). Here is part of the decision that is relevant,
Next, and as stated, religious opponents of evolution began cloaking religious beliefs in scientific sounding language and then mandating that schools teach the resulting Ã¢€œcreation scienceÃ¢€ or Ã¢€œscientific creationismÃ¢€ as an alternative to evolution. However, this tactic was likewise unsuccessful under the First Amendment. Ã¢€œFundamentalist organizations were formed to promote the idea that the Book of Genesis was supported by scientific data. The terms Ã¢€˜creation scienceÃ¢€™ and Ã¢€˜scientific creationismÃ¢€™ have been adopted by these Fundamentalists as descriptive of their study of creation and the origins of man.Ã¢€
The court found that creation science organizations were fundamentalist religious entities that Ã¢€œconsider[ed] the introduction of creation science into the public schools part of their ministry.Ã¢€ Id. at 1260. The court in McLean stated that creation science rested on a Ã¢€œcontrived dualismÃ¢€ that recognized only two possible explanations for life, the scientific theory of evolution and biblical creationism, treated the two as mutually exclusive such that Ã¢€œone must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution,Ã¢€ and accordingly viewed any critiques of evolution as evidence that necessarily supported biblical creationismÃ¢€¦ The court concluded that creation science Ã¢€œis simply not scienceÃ¢€ because it depends upon Ã¢€œsupernatural intervention,Ã¢€ which cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable.
Among other reasons, the Supreme Court in Edwards concluded that the challenged statute did not serve the legislatureÃ¢€™s professed purposes of encouraging academic freedom and making the science curriculum more comprehensive by Ã¢€œteaching all of the evidenceÃ¢€ regarding origins of life because: the state law already allowed schools to teach any scientific theory, which responded to the alleged purpose of academic freedom; and if the legislature really had intended to make science education more comprehensive, Ã¢€œit would have encouraged the teaching of all scientific theories about the origins of humankindÃ¢€ rather than permitting schools to forego teaching evolution, but mandating that schools that teach evolution must also teach creation science, an inherently religious viewÃ¢€¦ The Supreme Court further held that the belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of human kind is a religious viewpoint and that the Act at issue Ã¢€œadvances a religious doctrine by requiring either the banishment of the theory of evolution from public school classrooms or the presentation of a religious viewpoint that rejects evolution in its entirety.Ã¢€
We initially note that John Haught, a theologian who testified as an expert witness for Plaintiffs and who has written extensively on the subject of evolution and religion, succinctly explained to the Court that the argument for ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designerÃ¢€¦ The syllogism described by Dr. Haught is essentially the same argument for ID as presented by defense expert witnesses Professors Behe and Minnich who employ the phrase Ã¢€œpurposeful arrangement of parts.Ã¢€
I’d say just these parts (and yes there is more…much more) are devastating to the ID proponents in this case, and in all future cases. Also Phillip Johnson’s Wedge Document/Strategy was dragged into the case, and was used as evidence against ID. The judge also uses quotes of many of the prominent proponents of the ID movement that clearly endorse a religious viewpoint, and that many in the ID movement describe ID as a religious movement. No wonder the Discovery Institute didn’t want this trial to happen. They had to know they’d lose and lose badly. The judge arrives at this conclusion,
The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from Ã¢€œcreationÃ¢€ to Ã¢€œintelligent designÃ¢€ occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme CourtÃ¢€™s important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports PlaintiffsÃ¢€™ assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled. Importantly, the objective observer, whether adult or child, would conclude from the fact that Pandas posits a master intellect that the intelligent designer is God.
Overall, the decision is pretty brutal on the defense (the ID proponents). The judge notes that the Dover policy is misleading, inconsistent, questionable in regards to honesty, and confusing to students about the nature of science. In other words, far from teaching a legitimate controversy in a scientific field and allowing for academic freedom the policy has precisely the opposite effect.
Dr. Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students Ã¢€œstupid.Ã¢€
So, we have a decision that debunks the “academic freedom” argument, the “teach the controversy argument”, that “ID is science” argument, and leaves proponents of ID, creationism and their supporters with very little left to stand on.
More at the Panda’s Thumb.
Federal Judge Strikes Down Intelligent Design Teaching (James Joyner)
The Discovery Institute, Intelligent Design and the Designer (Steve Verdon)
Evolution Schmevolution (Steve Verdon)
Evolutionary Theory, Religion and the First Amendment (Steve Verdon)
Dover, Kansas, Creationism and Sound Science (Steve Verdon)
Use of Copyright to Fight Intelligent Design (Steve Verdon)
Evolution and Religion (Steve Verdon)
Why Irreducible Complexity IsnÃ¢€™t Really A Big Deal (Steve Verdon)
An Example of Intelligent DesignÃ¢€™s Idea of Peer Review (Steve Verdon)
Kitzmiller v. DASD (Steve Verdon)
Creationism In The Classroom (Robert Prather)
Uncertainty and Science (Steve Verdon)
Frist Advocates Teaching Ã¢€œIntelligent DesignÃ¢€ (James Joyner)
Evolution and Economics (Steve Verdon)
Bush Indicates Support for Intelligent Design (Steve Verdon)
Intelligent Design: Lacking in Scientific Rigor (Steve Verdon)
Educating Scientists (Steve Verdon)
KansasÃ¢€™ Creationist Claptrap (Steve Verdon)
Scopes Monkey Trial Sequel in Kansas (James Joyner)
10 Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher (Steve Verdon)
Dover High School Administrators: Dimwits (Steve Verdon)
Montana Flirts with (Un)Intelligent Design (Steve Verdon)
More (Un)Intelligent Design (Steve Verdon)
Bad Science Reporting (Steve Verdon)
Pennsylvania Joins the League of Idiots
Wisconsin District to Teach Creationism (James Joyner)
How Powerful is the Ã¢€˜Religious RightÃ¢€™? (James Joyner)
INTELLIGENT DESIGN (James Joyner)