20 December 2005

Intelligent Decision on Inscrutable Design

Well, here's another District Court judge who has done his job well… and, due to the context of his work, essentially forfeited any chance he may have had of being elevated to the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court. In a relatively restrained, but nonetheless very firm, decision this morning, the Hon. John E. Jones III (E.D. Pa.) held that Inscrutable Design1 is a religious doctrine that cannot be taught in public-school classrooms.

Professor Haught, who as noted was the only theologian to testify in this case, explained that in Western intellectual tradition, non-natural causes occupy a space reserved for ultimate religious explanations. Robert Pennock, Plaintiffs' expert in the philosophy of science, concurred with Professor Haught and concluded that because its basic proposition is that the features of the natural world are produced by a transcendent, immaterial, non-natural being, ID is a religious proposition regardless of whether that religious proposition is given a recognized religious label. It is notable that not one defense expert was able to explain how the supernatural action suggested by ID could be anything other than an inherently religious proposition. Accordingly, we find that IDs religious nature would be further evident to our objective observer because it directly involves a supernatural designer.

A "hypothetical reasonable observer," adult or child, who is "aware of the history and context of the community and forum" is also presumed to know that ID is a form of creationism. The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism.

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist., No. 04cv2688 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 20, 2005), slip op. at 30–31 (citations omitted, paragraphing in original). I suppose one might argue that this just attacks the means that the Dover Area School Board used to implement an ID-friendly science curriculum. Fortunately for clarity—because, if nothing else, it makes it impossible to rely on pious declarations of innocent intent—Judge Jones did not stop there.

After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents, as well as Defendants argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. Moreover, IDs backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.

To conclude and reiterate, we express no opinion on the ultimate veracity of ID as a supernatural explanation. However, we commend to the attention of those who are inclined to superficially consider ID to be a true scientific alternative to evolution without a true understanding of the concept the foregoing detailed analysis. It is our view that a reasonable, objective observer would, after reviewing both the voluminous record in this case, and our narrative, reach the inescapable conclusion that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science.

Id., slip op. at 88–89 (italics in original).

Judge Jones wasn't finished yet. He also grasped the thornbush that the Supreme Court evaded in Santa Fe School District.

Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and are merely secondary to a religious objective. Defendants' previously referenced flagrant and insulting falsehoods to the Court provide sufficient and compelling evidence for us to deduce that any allegedly secular purposes that have been offered in support of the ID Policy are equally insincere.

Accordingly, we find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Boards real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Id., slip op. at 132 (citations omitted; emphasis added). How does that commandment about "bearing false witness" go again? Or can we merely resort to the secular prohibition of perjury?

In any event, this is an early Winter Solstice present. Thank you, Judge Jones.

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.…

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.

Id. at 136–38.

  1. I think this term far more accurate than "Intelligent Design." Leaving aside the inscrutability of the motives and methods of those who advocate ID, there is nothing "intelligent" about a "design" that leave in an appendix in higher mammals. Or, for that matter, the human eye. Or… never mind.