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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Further Reflections on Kitzmiller

What is really bad about the Kitzmiller opinion is that Judge Jones said so much. What is really great about the opinion is that Judge Jones said so much.

The opinion is 139 pages that do not just decide the case at hand, but try to deal a death blow to intelligent design generally. 139 pages leaves a lot of room for judicial mistakes, logical mistakes, historical mistakes and other kinds of mistakes. And Judge Jones used his 139 pages to make a lot of mistakes.

But that is what bloggers are for, right?

Fuller on Dover

The lead article in the Post has been updated and now contains this:

Steve Fuller, a philosopher of science at the University of Warwick in England who testified at the trial for the defense, acknowledged that the school board members undercut the case for a new theory.

"Intelligent design has to be de-theologized," Fuller said. "But it will be a shame if a result of this decision is that we can't question Darwinism, which is not just a theory but an entire secular world view that flattens the distinction between humans and other life."

A real shame indeed.

Of course, Judge Jones ruled that Professor Fuller is wrong in his philosophy of science. One of the main flaws in Jones' opinion is that he determined himself competent to tell a whole lot of philosopers of science that their philosophy of science is all wrong. He did not just decide the case. He made many superfluous pronouncements in the realm of philosophy of science that were unnecessary to the decision. Last time I checked the Constitution, that is not part of the job description of federal judges. And his competency to do that? Embarassing.

My previous post on Fuller's testimony is here.

Scrappleface on Dover

As noted in previous posts, certain parts of the Judge Jones opinion made me laugh because of the glaring logical flaws. Scrappleface always makes me laugh. I think a funnier post is linked to here, since Judge Jones is artificially propping up Darwinism and giving it "protection from competing species and intellectual predators."

That is not how you convince people.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another Article from the Washington Post

Another article has been published here- this one by a Post staff writer. Lots of quotes from the Darwin Only Lobby. None from anyone who sees the problems in the opinion. The Post often makes an attempt at balance. Not today.

Some blog posts of interest are here and here.

Post on Dover

Here is the Washington Post report on the Dover trial.

Running Commentary on Decision

Note: This is a running commentary on the opinion. I will be adding to it and revising it as I read the opinion more carefully.

What I find most striking as I read the opinion more carefully is how amazingly unaware the trial judge seems to be of his own personal bias and worldview. He seems to believe that he is really neutral in all this.

Macroevolutionary theory cannot be taught as a theory! Here is a wild quote:
Moreover, the objective student is presumed to know that encouraging the teaching of evolution as a theory rather than as a fact is one of the latest strategies to dilute evolution instruction employed by anti-evolutionists with religious motivations. Selman, 390 F. Supp. 2d at 1308.

Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? You cannot treat macroevolutionary theory as a theory because that is consistent with what religious people think? This is really scary stuff.

I am actually glad to see what a wacky, extremist opinion it is. It cannot be taken very seriously.

It is curious to see how frequently he cites to the Selman district court opinion, even though that judge seems to be on the verge of being overturned by the appeals court, maybe by a 3-0 vote.

Whether ID is science:
After a searching review of the record and applicable case law, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

Simplistic, biased, narrow-minded. It seems to me that Judge Jones simply does not have the intellectual firepower to understand intelligent design.

The third reason is the funniest: ID is not science because it has been refuted by the scientific community. Does this judge not understand basic logic?

One only needs to read the dissent in Edwards to see how two different men can see things so differently. Thankfully, this is one opinion by one district court judge, and the opinion was arguably moot before he ever ruled.

I can't imagine Roberts or Alito writing or affirming an opinion like this. Or Kennedy, who will likely be the swing vote on Establishment Clause cases. I can't even imagine William Brennan putting his name on something this simplistic and angry.

A debate is going on regarding evolution and intelligent design, and this opinion adds virtually nothing constructive to it. This opinion may be important because this judge possesses some local judicial power, but in the realm of ideas it is like puff of smoke.

Dover Decision Published

The link is here. Plaintiffs win.

Looks like the judge bought into the ACLU worldview completely, and insists that he is not an activist judge. Wow.

About as one-sided an opinion as you could imagine, after skimming it. The judge basically tells a large number of scientists that they are wrong on the science. That is simply narrow-minded arrogance. It seems that the judge has turned out to be a Darwinian fundamentalist, and is delighted to use his power for the sake of the cause. Looks like the culture wars are alive and well.

More comments to follow.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dover Decision Likely Tomorrow

An article yesterday in the New York Times, profiling Judge Jones, contains this:

Next week he is expected to issue his decision, which will almost certainly be regarded as a bellwether by other school districts in which religious conservatives have proposed teaching intelligent design as a challenge to the theory of evolution.

Legal experts said the big question was whether Judge Jones would rule narrowly or more broadly on the merits of teaching intelligent design as science. Proponents of the theory argue that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that a higher intelligence designed them.

One of his clerks hinted last week that the decision was long.

This MSNBC report says it will likely be tomorrow.

Don't Fear the Designer: a Response to Krauthammer and Will

On the same day that I published my post entitled "Intelligent Design is Frightening," the National Review Online published an article entitled "Don't Fear the Designer," by Tom Bethell. The two pieces are quite consistent. As my post makes clear, the people for whom intelligent design is frightening are dogmatic atheists whose worldveiw would be threatened by the possibility of a designer. For open minded people, evidence of design opens the door to an exciting intellectual adventure. Here are some excerpts from Bethell's article:
Whom to believe? Or maybe we should approach it more scientifically: What are the facts?

If we discount trivial examples like bacterial resistance or "change over time" or small changes in beak size among the finches of the Galapagos Islands, we don't know very much about evolution at all. We don't see it happening around us, or in the rocks.

In my book, I quote Colin Patterson, a senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, telling a professional audience at the American Museum in New York that there was "not one thing" he knew about evolution. He had asked the evolutionary-morphology seminar at the University of Chicago if there was anything they knew about it, and, he said: "The only answer I got was silence."

Patterson, who died a few years ago, was an atheist and once told me that he regarded the Bible as "a pack of lies." There was no way he could be accused of Biblical primitivism. People would ask him, with a note of alarm, "Well, you do believe in evolution, don't you?" He would respond that science wasn't supposed to be a system of belief.

So let's look at the evidence adduced for evolution. The fossil record is sparse. Bats, for example — the only mammals capable of powered flight — appear suddenly in the fossil record, with their sonar systems already fully developed. "There are no half bats," as a world expert on bats once said. The experts have no idea what animal gave rise to the first bat.

The creatures that evolution purports to explain are fantastically complex. The cell, thought at the time of Darwin to be a "simple little lump of protoplasm," is as complicated as a high-tech factory. We have no actual evidence that it evolved — and yet we are asked, indeed obliged, to believe that it did.

In the human body, there are 300 trillion cells, and each "knows" what part it must play in the growing organism. To this day, embryologists have no idea how this happens — even though they have been trying to figure it out for 150 years.

. .

That phrase — "it was selected for" — is regarded as a sufficient explanation for . . . everything. The same mundane phrase is given as the explanation for everything under the sun. How did the bats get sonar? "It arose by an accidental mutation of the genes and was selected for. Next question?" How did the eye develop? "Piecemeal. There was a random mutation and it conferred an advantage so it was selected for. Then the same thing happened over and over again. Next question?" How did the camel get its hump? "Random mutations conferred some advantage and so they were selected for. Next question?"

This is the science before which all knees must bend? These explanations are no better than "Just-So stories" (as one or two Harvard professors have rightly said). No actual digging in the dirt is needed: The theorist merely contemplates the trait in question and makes up a plausible story as to how it might have been advantageous.

We fear questioning the evolutionist dogma. Someone might call us fanatical. "Intemperate" was the word George Will used. So we go along with the dogmas of materialism, lest we be considered ignorant or uneducated or driven by a religious agenda.

Charles Krauthammer tells us that Isaac Newton was religious and if he saw no conflict between science and religion, why can't we take our thin gruel of evolutionary science like good children and be satisfied, without dragging a Designer into the picture?

Because it isn't real science, Charles. Newton, in fact, thought that the "most beautiful system" of sun, planets, and comets could "only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being." But the laws of physics that govern these motions are simplicity itself compared with the immense complexity of the biological machinery that governs the development, proliferation, growth, and aging of millions of reproductive species. These mechanisms have yet to be discovered or described. To believe that the feeble tautology of natural selection — laissez-faire political economy from the 1830s imported into biology — constitutes a sufficient explanation of the marvels of nature is to display a credulity that makes our fundamentalists seem sagacious by comparison.

. . .

The underlying problem, rarely discussed, is that the conclusions of evolutionism are based not on science, but on a philosophy: the philosophy of materialism, or naturalism. Living creatures, including human beings, are here on Earth, and we got here somehow. If atoms and molecules in motion are all that exist, then their random interactions must account for everything that exists, including us. That is the true underpinning of Darwinism. What needs to be examined in detail is not so much the religion behind intelligent design as the philosophy behind evolution.

But that is a sermon for another day.