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Judgment In Dover Is In!

12/20/05

  10:31:47 pm, by Nimble   , 1415 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Ethics, Religion, Science

Judgment In Dover Is In!

Link: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/051220_kitzmiller_342.pdf

Judge Jones put a lot of thought and effort into this. The judgment, found here, is a staggering (to me) 139 pages long, yet it is easy to read, thorough, and utterly definitive: the Dover School Board was religiously motivated, and violated the Establishment Clause and Pennsylvania's own constitution, which had an even earlier clause to the same purpose.

(Gads, it takes me ages just to put together eight-page documents. I know he has a staff, but that's still a lot of material to put into a judgment. Wow.)

The judgment takes on the purposes, intents, and validity of Intelligent Design as a science from multiple angles. It considers the various audiences, from the point of view of a "well-informed" 'reasonable observer' and grade 9 student.

Parental reactions were considered, since by requiring an opt-out form signed by parents to avoid listening to the evolutionary "disclaimer" text, they involve the parents, and reactions in the community were also considered, since the school board took this 'fight'/controversy out into the public arena.

"Of Pandas and People", the Intelligent Design book, is torn apart as a reference text for science due to its misrepresentations of current theory, and its renaming of creationism without substantively changing the content:

As Plaintiffs meticulously and effectively presented to the Court, Pandas
went through many drafts, several of which were completed prior to and some after
the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards, which held that the Constitution forbids
teaching creationism as science. By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of
Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in
early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation
(creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were
deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes
occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and
cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards. This word
substitution is telling, significant, and reveals that a purposeful change of words
was effected without any corresponding change in content, which directly refutes
FTE’s argument that by merely disregarding the words “creation” and
“creationism,” FTE expressly rejected creationism in Pandas.

It is found that Intelligent Design, to be taught under the auspices of science, would actually need to change the ground rules of science:

It is notable that defense experts’ own mission, which mirrors that of the
IDM itself, is to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation
of the natural world, which the Supreme Court in Edwards and the court in
McLean correctly recognized as an inherently religious concept. Edwards, 482

U.S. at 591-92; McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267. First, defense expert Professor
Fuller agreed that ID aspires to “change the ground rules” of science and lead
defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science,
which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. (28:26 (Fuller); 21:37-42
(Behe)). Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to
be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow
consideration of supernatural forces. (38:97 (Minnich)).

Michael Behe, often touted as one of the foremost experts in Intelligent Design theory, is taken down a peg or two for not coming up with an actual test of Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design posits a number of negative questions at evolutionary theory, but these are actually tests of evolutionary theory, not evidence for Intelligent Design.

Science has also progressed in the intervening years since his assertions about the blood-clotting system being 'irreducibly complex':

Additionally and more recently, scientists published studies showing that
in puffer fish, blood clots despite the cascade missing not only one, but three parts.
(1:128-29 (Miller)). Accordingly, scientists in peer-reviewed publications have
refuted Professor Behe’s predication about the alleged irreducible complexity of
the blood-clotting cascade. Moreover, cross-examination revealed that Professor
Behe’s redefinition of the blood-clotting system was likely designed to avoid peerreviewed
scientific evidence that falsifies his argument, as it was not a
scientifically warranted redefinition. (20:26-28, 22:112-25 (Behe)).

...as well as the flagellum and the immune system. He is lambasted for taking the scientific evidence and claiming it is "not good enough":

By defining irreducible complexity in the way that he has,
Professor Behe attempts to exclude the phenomenon of exaptation by definitional
fiat, ignoring as he does so abundant evidence which refutes his argument.

In the specifics of the case as relates to Dover and the school board controversy, it's pretty clear. There were school board members (Baksa in particular, Buckingham as well) who wanted to put prayer back in school and to get creationism (i.e. based on a literal reading of Genesis) taught in science classes.

It's clear that they held up funding of needed textbooks to put pressure on science teachers, tried to ram through curriculum changes in a vast departure from any previous policy, that they did not know what Intelligent Design was save that it was basically creationism but purportedly legally safer to teach, and that they smeared the character of dissenters on the school board. As in one resignation note:

I was referred to as unpatriotic, and my religious beliefs
were questioned. I served in the U.S. Army for 11 years
and six years on the board. Seventeen years of my life
have been devoted to public service, and my religion is
personal. It’s between me, God, and my pastor.

It looks like the indcident of the caretaker ripping down and burning the evolution mural in the hall likely had a mastermind behind it:

In the midst of this panoply, there arose the astonishing story of an evolution
mural that was taken from a classroom and destroyed in 2002 by Larry Reeser, the
head of buildings and grounds for the DASD. At the June 2004 meeting, Spahr
asked Buckingham where he had received a picture of the evolution mural that had
been torn down and incinerated. Jen Miller testified that Buckingham responded:
“I gleefully watched it burn.” (12:118 (J. Miller)). Buckingham disliked the mural
because he thought it advocated the theory of evolution, particularly common
ancestry. (26:120 (Baksa)). Burning the evolutionary mural apparently was
insufficient for Buckingham, however. Instead, he demanded that the teachers
agree that there would never again be a mural depicting evolution in any of the
classrooms and in exchange, Buckingham would agree to support the purchase of
the biology textbook in need by the students.
(36:56-57 (Baksa) (emphasis added)).

The judge savaged some of the defendants in the case for repeatedly lying in the courtroom and in depositions, and contradicting earlier testimony.

The judge, near his closing remarks in the judgment, made it very clear that this was about teaching and constitutionality, not any attempt to denigrate Intelligent Design or its believers:

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.

He also includes a wag of the finger to anyone in future daring to consider this the act of an "activist court".

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.

I must say, all in all, I'm impressed with the way the judgment was handled and rendered.

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