Thursday, December 22, 2005

Uncivil, Dismissive, Contemptuous Discourse

Albert Alschuler has this observation on the Kitzmiller opinion at the University of Chicago law school faculty blog:

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.

The whole post is worth reading, and touches on many points I have made in the past. Judge Jones regularly uses ad hominem arguments to make his case, and this is simply shameful in a federal district court judge.

The purpose prong of the Lemon test is fatally flawed and will inevitably lead to unjust results.

This post compares the actual words of the Dover policy with the actual words of the First Amendment, which is the Constitutional basis for Judge Jones' opinion.

Hat tip to Jonathan Witt at the Evolution News blog.


At December 22, 2005 2:44 PM, Blogger Red Reader said...

I think Judge Jone's ruling violates the Lemon test:
"First, the statute must have a secular
legislative purpose"
Atheism is a faith and therefore a religion. Philosophical naturalism is rooted in atheism. Evolution theory of origins adhers to the principles of philosophical naturalism.

The court has done what the legislature is prohibited from doing--it has established atheism as the state religion.

"second, its principal or primary effect
must be one that neither advances nor
inhibits religion"
Jone's ruling advances the religion of atheism and inhibits all competing religions.

"finally, the statute must not
foster "an excessive government
entanglement with religion.""
Judge Jones assured the continued entanglement of courts in the effort to preserve the religion of atheism in the publis schools.

We need to amend the 1st Amendment to read "Neither Congress nor the Courts shall make any law...."

At December 22, 2005 10:58 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Judge Jones regularly uses ad hominem arguments to make his case, and this is simply shameful in a federal district court judge.

Does he? Could you cite them? (Just a page number from his judgement should do.)


At December 24, 2005 4:10 PM, Blogger stewie said...

Red Reader

You're funny - at least, I'd hope that regurgitating tired Christian axioms like "Evolution is a result of religious naturalism" are satirical. You're obviously a ConLaw scholar, and I don't understand why any mainstream scholars can't see it the way you do...

Wait, it appears I was being sarcastic - my mistake, go about your business.

/objectivity is not a religion

At December 28, 2005 1:57 PM, Anonymous RA said...

In 5000 years of history we have billions of trillions of scientific examples of species reproducing only their own species. We have no, none, nada examples of species changing into other species. This is not religion, it is the scientific method at work. The science we know says evolution is statistically impossible.

Yet people who are otherwise reasonable scientists put their science behind them and blindly believe in these humanist myths.

It is the evolutionist that is practicing religion, not the ID people.

At December 28, 2005 9:26 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

Have you seen March of the Penquins? Evolution evoshmution! You know what? What a joke! Explain to me how instinct has evolved. These penquins, along with other animals (Whales, Sea Turtles, Dogs ect..) find their way to places that we humans could not do with a map and a compass. If it's true, how did elephants, and other animals know the sunami was coming last year? Explain it to me Stewie, please.

While your at it Stew, explain the life of a silk worm. I mean tell me how this creature evolved from a worm then wrap itself into a cacoon, and emerge a butterfly. Also a maggot to a fly. How does this work? How many cacoons died before they made it to a butterfly. Did they reproduce while in the cacoon phase? Or did they move right to the butterfly on the first try? It baffles me to think that I ever fell for the foolishness of Darwin.

Smarten up folks!

At December 29, 2005 12:34 AM, Blogger stewie said...


Instinct is not necessarily a coded genome, or any subset of it. You're simplifying instinct to something that's inherited parent to child, in the same way that ID people generally somehow assume that we inherit atoms, instead of genes. Instinct does not at all dispute, discredit or disprove the evolutionary mechanism, and only when it is fundamentally misconsctrued as an inherited trait could it ever appear to do so. Instinct is a result of environmentally conditioned behavior patterned by the continuum betweeen reward and the lack thereof. On top of that, many "instinctual" behaviors are predisposed by phenotypically immutable characteristics such as the presence of compound eyes, the length of an organism's limbs, or the presence of fast twitch muscles at the base of very light structures such as wings. If you had any of these body parts, you would learn how to use them at a very young age, just as you learned to use your opposable thumbs early on. When examined from this perspective, it is clear that instinct is something that evolves based on behavior patterns and environmental conditions, and not any exclusive genetic coding, or magical god programming.

I fail to see an evolutionary disconnect in the silkworm's cocoon.

If animals knew that a tsunami was coming, it was likely because they're sensitive to vibrations in the earth, which is a trait that has evolved over time because it's part and parcel of other mechanisms which improve the likelihood of survival and reproduction ("stampede's coming, I should get out of the way") - but not because God told them the tsunami was coming. And if he did, why didn't he tell any of the people who were killed by it?

And ra

If you've never seen a species morph, tell me, which of these skulls are human? How about which ones are hominids between apes and humans?


... Mmhmm, that's what I thought.

At December 29, 2005 8:00 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

Well Stewie I guess you have us all convinced now! But before I throw out my Bible, I'm still not clear of the GPS systems that whales, turtles, dogs, birds, ect... have and how it is passed down. Is this instinct explained away in a simalar manner? Are you saying that what we call instinct is not in fact instinct, but just merely learned behavior? If so why then do we call it instinct?

Stewie it seems "you" have established the disconnect between the silk worm and the cacoon/butterfly thing by not explaining it's evolutionary history. ("I fail to see an evolutionary disconnect in the silkworm's cocoon.") is not an explaination to the preposed question.

Also there was a sign for humans before the sunami. The water receded and some recognised this. Others did not. You see humans have lost touch with their God given instinct. They rely too much on themselves and things like science. Common sense tells us that when the water recedes it will come back in, as it does with each wave over and over. We are too stupid to see the warning signs for what they are.

And to wrap things up God doesn't use magic. Houdini used magic! He's dead!

At December 29, 2005 11:28 AM, Blogger stewie said...

The genetic code for the physical machinery that facilitates excellent physical reception of vibration is of course going to be passed down. There's no GPS involved: Feel the vibrations coming from one direction, head in another.

I just explained instinct: It's largely, if not entirely, determined by an organism's environment and their physical characteristics, just like humans. Adrenaline and the limbic system prompt fight or flight... these things have natual causes. We call it instinct because the word developed well before an evolutionary concept did, and we still use it because it's a word people have a notion of that we can use to describe a set of behavior patterns. None of this makes it mystical and magical, it just exposes that you haven't thought through these things yourself, and are eagerly in search of any evidence - actually, any question, not even evidence - that can buttress your own predetermined conclusions and theistic worldview. Criticism's useful steve, it's how we epistemically evolve. I don't go looking for reasons why I'm correct, I search for reasons why I'm wrong, and that's why my perspective is ever changing and grows more nuanced.

You didn't pose any question about the silkworm. What is it - "Why does he bother with the whole larva/cocoon/adult thing?" That's just how he developed - making a cocoon to complete adolescence. I'd imagine that there's a dangerous dormant/vulnerable stage involved in that period of life, and the organisms that cocooned ended up living while other got eaten, but I don't know for certain. I'm not a worm biologist, but if you want a history of these things, there are resources for that information.

So, an evolving behavior pattern as a result of changing environment predisposed humans not stay rather than go. Well I'll be damned, that's exactly what I said! Environmental conditioning! Humans' living environment has changed so that humans do not need to be sensitive to certain types of changes in their environment in order to survive (and thus reproduce), so their abilities to discern those changes has disappeared. Humans who lack these sensitivities or abilities and were unlucky enough to encounter a situation that exposed this weakness got killed. Had this learned behavior been present, they wouldn't have suffered that fate. We can apply an evolutionary model of natural selection here: It's a heartless way to say it, but that's natural selection in action.

If God doesn't use magic, and they don't gather this information through natural causes and phenomena, then what's the mechanism by which he told the animals that the tsunami was coming? Again, I wish he talked to me like that. But if he really is tri-omni and everything we believe him to be, wouldn't he transcend human shortcomings to sustain the creatures that religious types say are his chosen species? Your theology disputes your biology, and the bad mix of both yields an uninformed miscarraige that satisfies neither inquiry.

Science: What, when, where and how.
Religion: Who and why.

Keep 'em separate.

At January 02, 2006 2:52 AM, Blogger Ed Darrell said...

You seem to miss some of the key components of the analysis judges go through on religious liberty cases.

Before we get to a purposes test, we check to see whether there is any valid, secular purpose to the action proposed. On this test the Dover Board's actions failed miserably. Witnesses at trial admitted they consulted no scientists, they rejected science groups' offers of aid, and they repudiated the advice of their own science teachers, their own experts. Instead they sent people to churches to do research and attend anti-evolution seminars.

Now, this would have been fine under the law, were there any real science in the concept of intelligent design. For example, Christian Scientists reject germ theory of disease effectively, as a matter of faith. Still we teach it in public schools, because though it is a teaching that affects some religious people, it is also firmly supported by research.

So, the exercise for creationists (including the newer, ID variety) should be to trot into court with a pile of publications showing substantial research on the topic, and perhaps some good results and practical applications.

But in the Arkansas trial in 1981, creationists could not produce a single such article. In the Pennsylvania trial in 2005, the expert scientists for the defendants could point to no article which provided such scientific support for intelligent design.

When do the ID folk actually do some research? And until they do it and publish it, why should ID get a free pass into the textbooks, as opposed to Einstein's work, which did not?

At January 06, 2006 12:44 AM, Blogger Vargas said...

Well evolution got a free pass even though it presents no evidence life arose from non-living matter - oh, wait! Right. The just-so stories many Darwinists shove down people's throats! That explains it all.

At January 09, 2006 1:12 AM, Blogger Sean said...

The just-so stories many Darwinists shove down people's throats!

Oh! Oh! Oh! Can I call staw man on that?

At February 15, 2006 3:57 AM, Anonymous slamhar said...

How about a law that bans idiotic avoidance of any mention of religion? Really, mentioning that a different point of view exists is hardly an entanglement in religion. Teaching that point of view as absolute truth would be. Why not have the debate in the classroom? At least you'd have their attention for once.


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