Breaking News: From The War On Evolution Front Lines

Ken AshfordBreaking News, Education, GodstuffLeave a Comment

CNN and MSNBC have "breaking news" that the federal judge in the Dover, PA "intelligent design" case has issued an opinion.

Details are coming, but it appears to be a victory: "intelligent design" cannot be taught in Pennsylvania schools.

Frankly, I’m not celebrating.  I’m still too embarassed as an American that this is even an issue.

UPDATE:  MSNBC has the 139 page opinion available in PDF format.  From my quick perusal, it appears that the federal judge hits all the right notes.

He notes that the "official position" of the Intelligent Design Movement is that the "intelligent designer" is not necessarily a christian God.  But he easily penetrates that veil, noting that a reasonable objective person knows that ID adherents are religious people pushing a religious agenda.  Indeed, the pre-eminent text for ID — "Of Pandas and People" — is simply an edited version of a creationist textbook.  (The Supreme Court has forbid the teaching of creationism in public schools as a violation of the Establishment Clause).  In many cases, the words "creationism" was simply replaced with "intelligent design".

The judge also relied on the Wedge Document, which I wrote about and reprinted back here.  The Wedge Document was authored by members of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is a think tank based in Seattle, Washington, and is the most visible arm of the Intelligent Design movement.  The document specifically says that the aim of the Intelligent Design movement is to replace science with theism. 

Can’t get any more obvious than that.

Ah, there it is . . . on page 43 of the opinion:

The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.

Later, the Court wades deep into the question of whether IS a science at all and writes:

After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, ID is not science.  We find that ID fails on three different levels: (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 back in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

As to the first argument, the Court makes a good point.  ID proponents, by their own admission, are challenging the ground rules of what science is.  In doing so, they are tacitly admitting that ID is not science, at least under the historical and present meaning of the word.  So essentially, everybody agrees that ID is not science!  ID becomes "science" only if you change the definition of "science".

Later on, the Court focused on the members of the Dover PA school board to determine whether they had the intent to insert religion into the classroom.  In other words, if the school board has a secular purpose for bringing in ID, then it might pass constitutional muster.

On this topic, the opinion gets brutal here.  It is quite clear that some members of the schools clearly lied in order to convince the Court that the introduction of ID merely had a secular purpose.  For example, two board members — Buckingham and Bonsell — repeatedly denied, in their respective despositions (under oath), knowledge of the source of funds to purchase ID textbooks.  But as it turned out, they knew full well: they solicitied donations at church.  And the Court had the testimony and cancelled checks to prove it. 

Those two also attacked their critics (teachers, other school board members, etc.) as "atheists" and "un-christian".  Kind of an odd slam if your intent is (supposedly) secular.

But when it comes to the bottom line on the issue of the school board’s intent, the Court minces no words:

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

Hmmm.  Lying to the court and trying to hide your religious objectives.  Nice going, religious zealous.  By the way, isn’t there a commandment somewhere about "bearing false witness"?

And the Court opinion concludes as follows:

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock false 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 devine creator.

Abso-fuckin-lutely.  Just like saying "Happy Holidays" doesn’t mean pissing on Jesus.  Well said, your Honor!

To be sure, Darwin’s theory 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 principles.


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.

Hey!  That’s what I said!

Now comes the part where the Court addresses Pat Robertson (and his ilk), anticipating the criticism to come from today’s opinion.  This is gold.

Those who disagree with this 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 the school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case for ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and unconstitutional policy.  The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the 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.