20 December, 2005

Take A Bow, Dr Behe - This Victory Is All Yours!

I am currently at home, and so will probably end up blogging lightly (if a lower posting rate is even possible.) But! Something amusing this way comes!

Kiztmiller et al, v Dover Area School District et al is the first legal challenge to the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools. Specifically, the Dover Board of Education decided in 2004 that this statement would have to be read out whenever evolution was taught:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments
Several Board members resigned in protest, and all bar one of Dover's science teachers refused to read out the statement, forcing administrators to do it. Several parents sued the District in response.

During the trial numerous very funny things happened, some of which I'll have to cut for brevity. For instance Discovery Institute leading light Michael Behe - probably the most qualified Intelligent Design proponent - attempted to redefine the scientific jargon term 'theory' in such a fashion that it was indistinguishable from the term 'hypothesis'. Upon questioning he admitted that astrology would, under his rubrick, be considered a scientific theory - ironic since astrology actually makes testable predictions, making it more scientific than Intelligent Design. But that's okay. More than one of the defendents was caught with sudden amnesia, or lying. As the trial was ongoing the creationists on the Dover board were all voted out of office and replaced entirely by science-minded Republicans running as Democrats.

The results are in. The teaching of Intelligent Design in state schools was ruled unconstitutional. For all following quotes: the bold is mine, the hilarious snark and spirited defense of the first amendment all U.S. District Judge John E. Jones II.

The concept of intelligent design (hereinafter “ID”), in its current form, came into existence after the Edwards case was decided in 1987. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child….

The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.
Which is pretty much the decision scientists were hoping for. Intelligent Design is simply creationism with a few arguments dropped to make it seem more scientific and less religious than other forms of creationism - a ploy which is repeatedly belied by the statements of many proponents of Intelligent Design, and their infamous Wedge Document, an internal memo of the Discovery Institute's Centre For The Renewal of Science and Culture. During the trial it was revealed all the more blatantly and profoundly that Intelligent Design really was just a word substitute for creationism.

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.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.
That last paragraph explains that Intelligent Design isn't being barred from any research programmes - God knows scientists would love Intelligent Design proponents to actually practise science - and it isn't being censored. Intelligent Design isn't science and favouring it in any way represents the teaching of religious ideas for religious reasons, so doesn't belong in state run classrooms.

After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, 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. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.
There's even an appropriately scathing prolepsis against the charge of 'judicial activism', an accusation which annoys me at the best of times for it essentially lambasting the courts for doing their job.
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.
All around, a cracking result.

And, lest I forget - while we must thank Dr Behe for his spirited defense of Intelligent Design, which added more nails to Dover's coffin - but the ACLU, NCSE, the plaintiffs; parents standing up for the rights of their children, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and other defenders of science put in a horrendous amount of work for a damned good result. Cheers!

-The Rev. Schmitt.


Red, White, and Poly-A said...

We are also law students, though because of our laziness, do not generally post about the law. Still, we thought you might be interested in our content, to see what your lazy American counterparts are up to.

We love the blog.

The Reverend Schmitt., FCD. said...

Well - I'm not a law student. I'm an English student whose utter hatred of the subject prevents him from posting about English; I just happen to be attending a particularly poor law university. But thank you.

And your blog is phenomenally amusing, A-P collective. So added.

Red, White, and Poly-A said...

Thank you, Reverend Schmitt, for taking our little quiz. You fared well at points, not so well at others. maybe we could elaborate to help you with the stereotyping:

P, despite being gay and wanting to help A write a book about how masturbation will solve all the world's problems, is a real republican. conservative, crazy, red-meat-eating, soldier-loving, college-basketball-crazed, republican. A and P disagree about which of us supports the oppression of women. P believes that women should be protected by the chemical castration and arresst of pretty much all straight men. A, on the other hand, thinks that she could take P and many straight men in a fight (P thnks this means she supports domestic violence). P, despite allegations of homosexuality, also enjoys the objectification of and fantisizing about many if not all hot women, including buffy the vampire slayer. A also runs. she runs alot. she will be running the boston marathon as P sits on the sidelines and smokes. you are welcome to join him. or her, for that matter.

we appreciate the cross-pond banter. keep em coming!

Pinko Punko said...

Schmitty, it is true, those guys did a bang up job. This is a much bigger defeat that they could imagine I think. It didn't matter that the DI pulled their boys out of this fight, the precedent is there and I really can't see an appeal for this particular case.

Red, White, and Poly-A said...

We are devastated that you have asserted that another person's blog on "Law 'n Politics" is equivalent to ours. Do you no longer accord us dignity as persons as persons?

The Reverend Schmitt., FCD. said...

A-P collective I genuinely find it difficult to believe there is anything, anywhere equivalent to you pair.

And stop tempting me to be silly, this Internet thing is damned serious business.

The Reverend Schmitt., FCD. said...

(nb. don't ever stop you crazy kids)