Courts Defining Science

We all know that the judge in Pennsylvania shot down mentioning Intelligent Design in the classroom. I have a few thoughts on the whole issue. Here is a PDF of the ruling.

First, the battle is being fought in the wrong place. We needn’t be trying to introduce ID in the classroom (even by mentioning it in a one minute statement) while the majority of the scientific community totally rejects it. With that kind of momentum against it, it is too hot an item for a court to give it a decent hearing. Also, I really hate politicizing the classroom. It is horrible for the children who are supposed to be taught there. Know what is being taught in the classroom and tell your kids the truth at home.

Second, why on earth are we expecting the courts to decide what is and what is not good science? This is another reason I believe the battle should not be fought in the schools. It is a technical, academic issue, not a legal one. Consider the judge’s comments:

Science cannot be defined differently for Dover students than it is defined in the scientific community as an affirmative action program, as advocated … by Professor Fuller, for a view that has been unable to gain a foothold within the scientific establishment. – p. 70-71

See, he is looking to the “scientific establishment” to determine what is appropriate science to be taught in the classroom. Get ID a fair hearing in the scientific community and you can begin to introduce it to the classroom.

Third, one of the problems with ID is that is seems to be “finding God in the gaps.” This is a problem with the entire creationist argument. It unwittingly adopts a naturalistic approach to the world and then tries to plug God into the gaps of our understanding. The net effect is shrink the domain of God’s providence to the boarders of our understanding. Before we understood gravity we thought God moved things. Once Newton understood gravity God was made to take a step back. ID does the same. Again, from the ruling:

ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed. – p. 71

Expert testimony revealed that just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow. – p. 72

Irreducible complexity is a negative argument against evolution, not proof of design, a point conceded by defense expert Professor Minnich. (2:15 (Miller); 38:82 (Minnich) (irreducible complexity “is not a test of intelligent design; it’s a test of evolution”). Irreducible complexity additionally fails to make a positive scientific case for ID, as will be elaborated upon below. – p. 72

This is a bad maneuver to use in public. It makes it sound like the scientist is winning by explaining away the gaps.

Finally, I don’t think ID ever had a chance of getting a fair hearing. The ground rules are written such that only naturalistic explanations are even entertained. The possiblity that naturalistic explanations might not be accurate or true is irrelevant. Consider:

In summary, the disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere. – p.49

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. – p. 64

While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. – p. 65

Methodological naturalism is a “ground rule” of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify. – p. 65

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, – p. 67

What has happened is that science has been redefined as naturalism, some believe for the best. Miracles are excluded by definition. Creationism of any sort is excluded by definition. It is as if the scientific community has enclosed themselves in a bubble. ID didn’t have a chance because the playing field was never a fair one.

One interesting thing I learned from the ruling is that the school board sent out a newsletter explaining why ID was being introduced. Judge Jones quoted (misquoted?) some of it in the ruling as proof that ID is not science. It seems that the school board may have shot themselves in the foot with that one.

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