WEB EXCLUSIVE

Intelligent Decision

What the judge said about intelligent design in schools.

By Susan Kruglinski|Thursday, December 22, 2005

 

The judge's December 20th ruling in the Intelligent Design trial, Kitzmiller V. Dover Area School District, is a fascinating read that lays bare a case of shrewd marketing:  the recasting of a religious belief as science.  Below are excerpts from the memorandum opinion – a summary of the case written by the judge – that includes evidence that ID is a carefully constructed cover for the religious idea of creationism, evidence and arguments that imply that ID is not a form of science, and Judge E. Jones's clear-cut conclusions and ruling.   

 

All text is excerpted and incomplete, all headings are our own.  

 

THE MACHINATIONS BEHIND

 INTELLIGENT DESIGN

The Wedge Document

Dramatic evidence of ID's religious nature and aspirations is found in what is referred to as the "Wedge Document." The Wedge Document, developed by the Discovery Institute's Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (hereinafter "CRSC"), represents from an institutional standpoint, the IDM's [Intelligent Design Model] goals and objectives, much as writings from the Institute for Creation Research did for the earlier creation-science movement. The Wedge Document states in its "Five Year Strategic Plan Summary" that the IDM's goal is to replace science as currently practiced with "theistic and Christian science."  As posited in the Wedge Document, the IDM's "Governing Goals" are to "defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies" and "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." The CSRC expressly announces, in the Wedge Document, a program of Christian apologetics to promote ID. A careful review of the Wedge Document's goals and language throughout the document reveals cultural and religious goals, as opposed to scientific ones. ID aspires to change the ground rules of science to make room for religion, specifically, beliefs consonant with a particular version of Christianity.  In addition to the IDM itself describing ID as a religious argument, ID's religious nature is evident because it involves a supernatural designer...Prominent ID proponents have made abundantly clear that the designer is supernatural.

Defendents' own words

Defendants' expert witness ID proponents confirmed that the existence of a supernatural designer is a hallmark of ID. First, Professor Behe has written that by ID he means "not designed by the laws of nature," and that it is "implausible that the designer is a natural entity." Second, Professor Minnich testified that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural forces can be considered.  Third, Professor Steven William Fuller testified that it is ID's project to change the ground rules of science to include the supernatural.

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 ID's religious nature would be further evident to our objective observer because it directly involves a supernatural designer.

Of Pandas and People

The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. What is likely the strongest evidence supporting the finding of ID's creationist nature is the history and historical pedigree of the book to which students in Dover's ninth grade biology class are referred, Pandas [Of Pandas and People]. Pandas is published by an organization called FTE, as noted, whose articles of incorporation and filings with the Internal Revenue Service describe it as a religious, Christian organization.  Pandas was written by Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis, both acknowledged creationists, and Nancy Pearcey, a Young Earth Creationist, contributed to the work. 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. In early pre- Edwards drafts of Pandas, the term "creation" was defined as "various forms of life that began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc," the very same way in which ID is defined in the subsequent published version.

The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from "creation" to "intelligent design" occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court's important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports Plaintiffs' assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled. Importantly, the objective observer, whether adult or child, would conclude from the fact that Pandas posits a master intellect that the intelligent designer is God. Further evidence in support of the conclusion that a reasonable observer, adult or child, who is "aware of the history and context of the community and forum" is presumed to know that ID is a form of creationism concerns the fact that ID uses the same, or exceedingly similar arguments as were posited in support of creationism. One significant difference is that the words "God," "creationism," and "Genesis" have been systematically purged from ID explanations, and replaced by an unnamed "designer." …The sole argument Defendants made to distinguish creationism from ID was their assertion that the term "creationism" applies only to arguments based on the Book of Genesis, a young earth, and a catastrophic Noaich flood; however, substantial evidence established that this is only one form of creationism.

WHY ID IS NOT SCIENCE

Definition of science

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. 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. 

Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. This revolution entailed the rejection of the appeal to authority, and by extension, revelation, in favor of empirical evidence. Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea's worth. In deliberately omitting theological or "ultimate" explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of "meaning" and "purpose" in the world.  While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science.  This self-imposed convention of science, which limits inquiry to testable, natural explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as "methodological naturalism" and is sometimes known as the scientific method. 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.

ID takes a natural phenomenon and, instead of accepting or seeking a natural explanation, argues that the explanation is supernatural. 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…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. 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.

ID's goal to "defeat" science and "replace" explanations

The Discovery Institute, the think tank promoting ID whose CRSC developed the Wedge Document, acknowledges as "Governing Goals" to "defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies" and "replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." 

Further support for this proposition is found in the Wedge Strategy, which is composed of three phases: Phase I is scientific research, writing and publicity; Phase II is publicity and opinion-making; and Phase III is cultural confrontation and renewal.  In the "Five Year Strategic Plan Summary," the Wedge Document explains that the social consequences of materialism have been "devastating" and that it is necessary to broaden the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of ID. "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." Phase I of the Wedge Strategy is an essential component and directly references "scientific revolutions." Phase II explains that alongside a focus on influential opinion-makers, "we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars. We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence that support the faith, as well as to 'popularize' our ideas in the broader culture."  Finally, Phase III includes pursuing possible legal assistance "in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula."…The Wedge Document states in its "Five Year Strategic Plan Summary" that the IDM's goal is to replace science as currently practiced with "theistic andChristian science."  The IDM accordingly seeks nothing less than a complete scientific revolution in which ID will supplant evolutionary theory.

No backing from scientists

Not a single expert witness over the course of the six week trial identified one major scientific association, society or organization that endorsed ID as science. What is more, defense experts concede that ID is not a theory as that term is defined by the NAS and admit that ID is at best "fringe science" which has achieved no acceptance in the scientific community.

No Evidence For ID

A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory…The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications…The one article referenced by both Professors Behe and Minnich as supporting ID is an article written by Behe and Snoke entitled "Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues." A review of the article indicates that it does not mention either irreducible complexity or ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically realistic population size were used…On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: "There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred."

Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed.  In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe's argument that certain complex molecular structures are "irreducibly complex."  In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing.

JUDGE'S CONCLUSIONS

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, ID's 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.

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.

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.

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.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs' rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants' actions. Defendants' actions in violation of Plaintiffs' civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs' attorneys' services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs' constitutional rights.

 For more coverage, and a download of the complete ruling click here

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