Federal Judge Rules on Intelligent Design Today

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Culture warriors are awaiting U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III's ruling on intelligent design vs. evolutionary biology in Dover, PA, later today. Will science beat superstition? Stay tuned for developments.

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  1. For a great evolution lesson (no joke) check out Sunday’s Doonesbury:

    http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20051218

  2. This one is important guys. Are we going to trend towards a theocracy (what I think we are trying to get rid of Iran) or are we going to trend back towards an enlightened society where reason (no pun intended) and science rule.

  3. I don’t have any idea how this will come out. I expect the worst, but that’s just a matter of principle. More likely, the judge will go out of his way to steer a middle course.

  4. thoreau,
    Doonesbury is most definitely a joke, albeit no longer a funny one. I’m perfectly happy to beat up on the simple minded creationist. I’m even happy to bitch about how they’re ruining society (won’t someone please think of the children). However, creationist don’t question the ability of a virus to mutate into more resistant forms, only it’s ability to mutate into a duck.

    Murphy,
    I agree we are in danger of too closely resembling a theocracy. One might think that pointing out how vile that is when our enemies do it would be compelling. Unfortunately, it seems to be OK to put God in charge of our law because ours is the one true God. Therefore comparisons to Muslim states are entirely inappropriate.

    I have to disagree that the alternative is to base our law on science. I always cringe when lawyers try to argue and rule on science. I’d keep science out of the court room as much as possible. But you are correct that our judicial system reflects the common law approach of the Enlightenment. A word with broad implications, not only to science and philosophy, but also law, religion, and the culture at large. The Enlightenment did indeed bequeath us a judicial system based on reason and fundamental rights and principals. One of those principals is that it should not inquire as to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  5. We’re already a de facto theocracy. The 6th Circuit just ruled in favor of a 10 Commandments display in a courthouse exactly like the one ruled unconstitutional by the SCOTUS in McCreary County earlier this year (as with all displays and/or their histories, each is a little bit different so as to provide judges a route to distinguish away unfavorable precedent and decide the case how he/she desires).

    Of course Intelligent Design will win out today (by being relegated to a ‘theory’ concurrently with evolution being delegated to a ‘theory’). The anti-evolution stickers will be deemed literally true and therefore a proper legislative action.

    It’s sad, but don’t be shocked when it happens.

  6. Warren:
    Hmmmm, how about more, not less, science in the court room?
    Of recent note, the exoneration of the innocent by DNA testing. And the remarkable data showing just how poor is the memory of the average witness.

  7. That’s what it takes to be a de facto theocracy?

    A 10 Commandments display?

    Those Iranians need to quit bitching and start being thankful that they never have to hear “Hotel California” again.

  8. “We’re already a de facto theocracy.”

    Ha ha ha, what utter bullshit, Bruce. Religion in this country is nearly as fragmented as the Democrat party. The -cracy to be worried about in the good ole U.S.A. is the bureaucracy. We’ll be buried by regulations, not commandments.

  9. The judge just ruled that intelligent design can’t be mentioned in biology classes.

  10. And an F5 tornado just wiped Dover, PA off the map.

  11. got my cases mixed up, thought this was the one with the stickers on the textbooks. Anyway, yes, the judge just came back and ruled against our theocracy, and will be summarily overturned by the 3rd Circuit later this year (with or without Alito on the bench).

    No it’s not just the displays and the public prayers that makes us a theocracy. It’s the constant deluge of christianity everywhere you look. Our leaders can’t give a speech without mentioning it, it’s all over the various media, every car has a jesus fish or praying calvin (which is an infringing derivative work, but I digress), and our population as a whole can’t focus on the slightest problem (let alone the big ones) without turning to prayer, faith, and other such facets of Christianity. And not just general religion, not “judeo-christian” religion (which is a term christians use to fool jews into thinking they are including them), but fundamentalist christianity.

    Tonight, Bill O’Reilly and the rest of the country will be cursing the hell out of Judge Jones and the ACLU. When religious people don’t get to trample over everyone unfettered, they feel their rights are somehow violated and they’re “oppressed.”

  12. From Associated Press
    December 20, 2005 10:51 AM EST

    HARRISBURG, Pa. – A federal judge has ruled “intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district.

    The Dover Area School Board violated the Constitution when it ordered that its biology curriculum must include “intelligent design,” the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled Tuesday.

  13. “The judge just ruled that intelligent design can’t be mentioned in biology classes.”

    obviously an “activist judge who legislates from the bench”. that is the proper term for a judge that tries to keep those imaginary friends out of the tax payers’ way, right? 🙂

    it’s really sad that something like this would take so long. it is such a slam dunk that that ID is merely bullshit on stilts for the weak minded. science (scientific method,etc) is not philosophy or mythology. keep ’em separate.

    you can tell yer kids yer those ghost stories on yer own time. in the meantime, actual good teaching of math and science are going in the toilet. in part due to this (as an extension of the “lazy student” theory from yesterday’s redbook story).

    the fact that there are so many quibbledicks out there that refuse to let go really makes you wonder. wonder…. wonder……. welllll, a coupla aren’t a surprise, but, as usual, their group homes must watch the internet more closely.

  14. Didn’t this trial already happen last century?

  15. Righter,
    Good point. When I get nervous is when the adversarial system tries to figure out how reliable that DNA test actually is. Or conversely, and symptomatic of a much larger problem, when the court appointed attorney fails to challenge the DNA evidence.

    Bruce,
    On the one hand, I feel that people can fall to their knees every time the wind blows, or decorate their cars with WWJD bumper stickers, hell they can even live in a giant cross if they want to, so long as no religion is established by the state and I’m free to not worship as I see fit. On the other hand, it does seem to me that the president, who now admits his stated reasons for going to war were a crock, has been signaling to his base “God told me to kill these people” and his base is buying it.

  16. Um… about the impending theocracy and all… I hate to sound like Haklyut, but things have been MUCH worse in the past. Read some presidential/congressional speeches from before 1960, find out about the rhetoric of the prohibitionists, and you’ll see what I mean. If anything, the “religious pressure” has lessened significantly.

  17. The judge *spanks* the ID folks.

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/12/20/intelligent.design.ap/index.html

    Of course, dependable right wing Cobb Co’s case is still pending…

  18. . what bugs me the most about this whole affair is not necessarily the theocrats trying to inject religion into the public schools but that the scientific process is basically reduced to a popularity contest .. gee, if we get enough votes we can make the universe behave how we think it should behave!! .. “By a two-to-one margin the sun was ruled to be a flaming chariot being pulled thru the sky!! And this just in: it’s a geocentric solar system 75%-25%!!”

    .. Hobbit

  19. Warren,

    Sure I don’t care if they want to do that stuff in private, on their own time and on/with their own property, but history dictates that religious people are never content being religious on their own time and on/with their own property. When every car has a jesus fish on it (in the interest of full disclosure, I live in Texas), it is symtematic of the problem. Try explaining to a majority why it should not always have its way.

  20. Here’s a copy of the judge’s order: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/051220_kitzmiller_342.pdf

    (WARNING!! It’s a 139 page PDF!)

  21. My take on keeping science out of the courtroom is that we should keep unproven/shady science out of the courtroom. DNA is well established, but suing the pants off of fast food companies because the study de-jour says there is an increased risk of diabetes is where mixing science and law can get scary.

  22. “the scientific process is basically reduced to a popularity contest”

    Didn’t the voters of the area just throw out 8 pro-intelligent design school board members in the elections?

    Even if public schools are protected from religious influence, the curriculum still needs to be chosen. Time for instruction is limited; my high school for example only required a year of “earth science” and a semester of biology to graduate. Under our school board system, there is a popularity contest between the different sciences as well as English, history, math, etc.

  23. My elevator news reported the judge ruled that teachers can’t MENTION ID in the classroom. Is that accurate? Can’t MENTION? Mentioning seems a very far cry from teaching…

  24. Bruce,
    I don’t want to push them into the dark corners. They should be free to proselytize publicly. An ocean of fish does not make me less free.

    Never the less, I share your trepidations. The Christocrats ™ get bolder (read crazier) when they are allowed to steep in their own juices unchallenged.

    But would you ban the fish? Of course not (I hope). They have the right to free speech, and to run for office, and to vote their “conscience”. In a free country ruled by sanctimonious asshats, I’m afraid that convincing the majority why it should not always have its way, is our only option.

  25. Where’s H.L. Mencken when you really need him?

  26. Linguist: Like always, the press conflates court orders like this with prior restraints. Like “you can’t say the pledge of allegiance anymore” or, as seems to be the case here, “you can’t even mention the words ‘intelligent design.'”).

  27. From the decision:

    “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,” Jones said in a 139-page decision. “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.”

    Booyah!

  28. Warren: no I would not ban the fish (on their privately-owned cars). I do think religion is like pubic hair in that it should ideally be kept out of public view and certainly kept off the dinner table. Just because they have a right to believe it, speak it, and show it off doesn’t mean it’s not objectively stupid as well as dangerous to a free society. For those reasons, just like with commercial speech, religious speech should have its limits. I completely disagree with the notion that religious speech is “more protected” than ordinary speech like, say, pornography or Ashton Kutcher movies.

    As far as I’m concerned, free exercise means you can believe whatever you want in the privacy of your own head, and pray to whatever god you want in the silence of your own closet, with the door shut.

  29. My elevator news reported the judge ruled that teachers can’t MENTION ID in the classroom. Is that accurate? Can’t MENTION? Mentioning seems a very far cry from teaching…

    The judge ruled they can’t read a statement that basically said, “what we’re about to teach you is crap and there is a book in the library on ID where you can read about how this shit really work”

    It’s basically the same case as the sticker on the textbook. I have no problem with mentioning that, hey, there’s this ID stuff out there, it’s not science, but there’s a book in the library on it. But the calling of evolution “not a fact” is what I object to.

  30. Linguist, the whole case was about mentioning ID. They were never going to devote time to teaching it, but simply “mention” in the beginning of the class that evolution has gaps and oh, here’s an ID textbook for an alternative theory (that presumably doesn’t). It may seem extreme to make a federal case out of that, but imagine a physics class mentioning that there are many contrasting views of gravity and hey, it might have just been God; please see the Bible for more information.

  31. The whole lead is worth quoting:

    “HARRISBURG, Pa. – A federal judge has ruled “intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania school district, concluding that school board members who backed the policy lied about their true motive, which was to promote religion.”

    I wonder if the judge was correct about the lying. He did take 139 pages to explain how he knew there was lying, so maybe / hopefully he is correct. This stuf about lying about motivation seems like a jury issue to me. I wonder how the judge ended up with it here. If he is making credibility determinations on summary judgement then, of course, he can and should be reversed.

  32. Yogi,

    You beat me by a minute. Anyway, it would be accurate in a sense to call evolution “not a fact”, but that issue is best addressed in a philosophy of science class or something of that nature. For the sake of 9th grade biology, evolution is a fact, the same way that for 9th grade history, the Holocaust happened.

  33. … and Zach:
    building on your point, it’s astonishing that this issue would get such traction!

    you’d think that this wouldn’t be necessary… sigh.

    “open mindedness” has now been coopted by one of the more closed-minded groups around…

  34. Anyway, it would be accurate in a sense to call evolution “not a fact”, but that issue is best addressed in a philosophy of science class or something of that nature.

    I absolutely agree. The people that say evolution is ‘not a fact’ show their ignorance of how science works.

  35. So does this mean that now, teachers are breaking the law if they say the opposite, e.g., “By the way, there’s this thing other people believe that’s called ID, which we won’t be covering in this class because the Supreme Court ruled it isn’t scientific”?
    Or better still, “You may have heard about something called ID. Here’s what it states. Now we’re going to look at evidence that says that is a religious belief and not science. It’s a good example of things people believed a long time ago, like that Zeus made fire, and how those beliefs lead people to perform science and discover that actually fire happens because…”?

    A teacher is now NOT ALLOWED to say something like that? I’m against teaching ID, but I’m also against restricting teaching methods so drastically.

  36. I think it is fucked up that a judge can say what can’t be taught in a classroom.

    They can teach Satanism for all I care.

    That is the 1st Amendment folks.

    Now y’all are going to come back and say that the teachers are paid with taxpayer money. Well now, THAt is the fucked up part.

  37. I dunno VM. John Edward still seems to be making a living off of it.

  38. FWIW, here’s the full text of the Dover statement that was read to biology students. I downloaded it a while ago from the school board’s newsletter, which I no longer have a link to. But I’m sure you can find it with Google:

    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 continues to be 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 who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent
    Design actually involves.

    With respect to 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.?

    With regard to the statement itself (and not the context of other things happening in the district), my biggest objection is to where they say that evolution is not a fact. In some sense they are correct: Science doesn’t deal in certainty. We are open to the possibility that even the best-supported theories could later be disproven. We subject these theories to constant testing.

    But to just say that the theory is not a fact, and that there are gaps, is to leave out crucial context and a critical discussion of the nature of scientific knowledge. And not only are these points ignored, they are ignored in a deceptive manner. “Not a fact” carries a bunch of connotations that do not really fit the matter at hand. And while there are indeed gaps, the nature of those gaps is not discussed. Those gaps are the subject of constant study, and nothing that has been learned in the study of those gaps has given us reason to think that the entire intellectual framework of evolution needs to be completely trashed.

    Finally, to associate evolution with a single person (Darwin) is deceptive. It makes for a smaller target, and leaves aside the fact that decades of study by numerous scientists has added many, many layers of detail to the framework put forward by Darwin. Darwin is not the only game in town with evolution. Challenging evolution means challenging a vast community of researchers and more than a century of discoveries.

  39. So science is now upheld by legally censoring and suppressing dissenting theories (this is not to say that ID has intellectual merit)? This is a triumph? A court, a judge, has no business judging what has scentific merit and what does not, it is beyond the judiciary’s competency.

  40. I also think that if the judge forbade even the mention of ID in science class, then that is a mistake, because it deprives teachers of a way to contrast science with pseudoscience. Forbidding the school board from requiring teachers to say something especially something in favor of ID seems to violate both the establishment clause and the rights of instructors to freedom of speech. Preventing them from discussing ID also seems like a violation of freedom of speech.

  41. Heheheh. Of Pandas and People? LOL!

  42. Linguist, I don’t think that’s what this ruling means.

    Now y’all are going to come back and say that the teachers are paid with taxpayer money. Well now, THAt is the fucked up part.

    OK. But it’s true. That being the case, should we have no say on what the teachers we’re paying teach?

  43. I want to know more before I conclude that the judge literally barred any mention of ID. He obviously declared that the statement I quoted above has no place in the science classroom, but I doubt a teacher will get in trouble if he gives a short and reasonable answer to a student’s question about ID.

    Student: Why aren’t we studying Intelligent Design?

    Teacher: Intelligent Design isn’t science, and this is science class. If you want to study it, you’re free to do that on your own time, but this is science class.

    I will be shocked if the ruling would bar the teacher from giving that answer.

  44. Thoreau of course the teacher can say that. This is about what the school board can mandate, not what magic words teachers can’t legally say. This has nothing whatsoever to do with free speech, prior restraint, or restraint on speech of any kind. Just like when the 9th circuit said the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional people were saying the court made it illegal to say the pledge. That’s not the case at all.

    If the school board had mandated there be a class on how to be a muslim (or jew or satanist) and the court said they can’t have that class at a public school, that’s analagous to the situation here. Nobody is saying you can’t say “intelligent design” no matter what, they just can’t teach it.

    Teachers can say “we can’t teach intelligent design” or “the court just had an opinion about intelligent design” or “intelligent design is freaking stupid bullshit.” Those are not at issue. The court isn’t banning words here.

  45. Likewise thoreau, and again, I don’t think this is what the ruling means. I think this is most likely a misconception based on secondhand reporting of the decision. That being said, I’m at work, and I don’t have time to read 139 pages.

  46. from the decision:

    H. Conclusion

    The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

    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.

    NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT:
    1. A declaratory judgment is hereby issued in favor of Plaintiffs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ?? 2201, 2202, and 42 U.S.C. ? 1983 such that Defendants’ ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Art. I, ? 3 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
    2. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, Defendants are permanently enjoined from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area
    School District.
    3. Because Plaintiffs seek nominal damages, Plaintiffs shall file with the Court and serve on Defendants, their claim for damages and a verified statement of any fees and/or costs to which they claim entitlement. Defendants shall have the right to object to any such fees and costs to the extent provided in the applicable statutes and court rules.

    s/John E. Jones III
    John E. Jones III
    United States District Judge

  47. That being the case, should we have no say on what the teachers we’re paying teach?

    If by “we” you mean a judge, I think not. If by “we” you mean the parents and the school board, I think, ‘absolutely’ we should have a say.

  48. The Server Gods were with me when they smote the unbeliever Matthew Hogan by allowing my post of a link to the order to beat his! Ha, ha!

  49. Kwais, the parents already did, by voting out the school board and was trying to do this. I see nothing wrong with also attacking the idea in court on the principle that it separates the violation of church and state, which it does. Living in Pennsylvania, I don’t want another school board that my money indirectly funds deciding it also wants to start teaching this bullshit on my dime. This decision makes that much less likely to happen.

  50. biologist,
    No one reads posts that are that long.

  51. Comment by: Bruce M at December 20, 2005 12:31 PM

    “As far as I’m concerned, free exercise means you can believe whatever you want in the privacy of your own head, and pray to whatever god you want in the silence of your own closet, with the door shut.”

    So you are the arbiter of what “free expression” means now? Better get started burning those churches and synagogs to the ground then. Pal, you are in the wrong country.. Sounds like you’d fit in better in China, Keeping those “dangerous” Falun Gong people from gathering in public.

    Some one standing on a public street corner telling folks that about 2 thousand years ago a guy came along and said that the world might be better if we were nicer to each other has ZERO impact on your freedom. You always free to cross to the other side of the street. Amazing how a Libertarian so quickly can shift gears to totalitarian at the flick of Bible.

  52. As someone has pointed out — if schools were privatized, this would not even be an issue.

    Of course then there would be many more homeschooled kids from jeebusland, and colleges would probably start paying closer attention to the texts used by christian schools , and would quite declare them to nor satisfy the science pre-reqs for admission.

    ….and I would laugh and laugh……

  53. I am going to hope that some of you could make sense of my last post.

  54. MO giggity-

    The Economist actually has an article this week about the phenomenon that you describe. The University of California (admittedly a public school) is being sued for saying that creationist biology classes do not satisfy their admissions requirements.

  55. Coarse Hair 09:

    “Some one standing on a public street corner telling folks that about 2 thousand years ago a guy came along and said that the world might be better if we were nicer to each other…”

    Yeah, that’s what they’re preaching on the street corner. That jesus said to be nice to each other. Those wonderful, colorful street preachers, they never mention anything about god smiting this or god smiting that…they never talk about the end times…they never try to scare you into christianity with all kinds of talk about the fiery furnaces of hell being your new home unless you accept jesus. Nope. Never. It’s all about how jesus said we should be “nice to each other”.

    Look, man, I agree with you that “free expression” isn’t what Bruce M thinks it is…but the innocent, rosy picture you paint of Christians is just absurd. Salvationist religions of all stripes have long been about controlling the populace and scaring people into complacency.

  56. Zach,
    I think the separation of church and state is originally about the state not getting involved in church.

    ie, the state not telling you what to believe. Which seems to be the case with this story.

    As a parent you should have the right to vote for school boards, pull your kid out of school, if you don’t like what the other parents voted and put your kid in another school, or any number of things.

    What shouldn’t happen is to have a judge say what a teacher can or cannot say, nor have the judge say what the teacher can or cannot teach.

  57. 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.

    A couple of observations. First, whatever “activist” may mean, I don’t recall anyone ever seriously making the argument that elected legislatures or even policy making bodies such as school boards per se overstep their legitimate functions by actively legislating or setting policy. Indeed, that is why they exist. (Whether we’d be better off with much less legislation and policy making is, of course, an entirely different matter.)

    Second, whatever one makes of the proper application of the Establishment Clause, this very much is an activist judicial ruling in the perjorative sense of the word. As has already been stated above, judges have no more business weighing in on philosophy of science or the inclusion of arguments within a course curriculum which, however favorable or supportive to any particular religious belief they may be, are not tantamount to an endorsement of that belief. Moreover, teaching “bad science,” however intellectually egregious that may be, cannot itself be a violation of the Establishment Clause. (Question: Could ID or even undisguised Creationism be considered in a public high school introductory philosophy class without violating the Constitution?)

    Of course, the underlying problem here, in any case, is government schools. Get the state out of the education business and all these vexing problems largely cease to exist.

  58. Mo: Most of the people I know who home school their kids don’t do so because they live in “Jeebus Land” but are doing it because they have a kid with special needs, or are dissapointed with the poor curricula pushed by the schools. If anything the home-school materials are more science heavy than the public school stuff. They usuall do QUITE well on the state standardized tests.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m basically an agnostic-leaning-to-atheist.. But if religious folks are so blinded, why do catholic schools generally do better in testing than public school kids, spending FAR less per pupil??

  59. kwais,

    To summarize biologist’s post, the School Board is prohibited from requiring teachers to refer to ID, or require that teachers denigrate evolution, or that they are required to read the statement.

    Also, the board, although they called themselves religious, are / were liars, and that they wasted the taxpayer’s time and money.

  60. damnable server!

    kwais et al., if the post is too long, just scroll down to the section that begins “NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT:”. this will clear up some misrepresented information in the news reports and save us from arguing about moot points.

    short enough?

  61. Religious people are dangerous, that’s the bottom line. Religious speech doesn’t cause people to be nice to each other, it causes people to crash airplanes into buildings. Then it causes them to launch “Crusades” in response. Religion is incompatible with democracy and a free society. I don’t have a solution, either. I’m not about to lock up someone for having a jesus fish on their car or for screaming about jesus in the streets (although if screaming about an imaginary friend named bob would get them committed involuntarily, then the same should apply to the jesus-screamers). But I’m also not about to pretend that religion does any good for this world, than religious people should be “tolerated” and that their opinions should be “respected.” That’s utter bullshit. Religion doesn’t have to be respected anymore than does pedophelia. You have the right to think about having sex with kids, and you can masurbate to whatever you want in the privacy of your own home. Once you want to force it on the public, however, the line must be drawn (extra offense expressly meant to the Mormons who believe jesus commands them to be pedophiles).

  62. Atheists can be just as dangerous as theists. Remember Communism?s Stalin, Moa, and Pol Pot. I?ve got no problem with Atheists, but it is inaccurate to single out theists as the only source of government abuse. The problem lies in one person trying to force his belief system on others. Whether or not that belief system mentions G-d is irrelevant.

    I don?t think ID has scientific merit or should be in a science class, but I think the push against having ID in classrooms is disproportional compared to other belief systems that are all ready inserted into biology text books.

    Dawkins, an evolutionist at Oxford, publicly advocates using government run schools to spread Humanist principles. Humanism is a religion like any other and teachers shouldn?t proselytize for it. Yeah I know, Humanists say they aren?t a religion, but the gap between Humanism and some of the more modern religions, like Reform Judaism, Unitarianism, and Bahai is much smaller than the gap between some theist religions.

    The biggest challenge to scientific objectivity in biology classrooms is from environmentalists, not creationists. New York State replaced biology a few years ago with a regents level course called living environment. Many questions on the living environment regents require value judgments, and students with different ethics from the test makers won?t get the ?right? answer. The worse case was supposed to test a student?s evaluation skills. It says:

    ?A television commercial for a weight-loss pill claims that it has been ?scientifically tested.? The advertisement includes statements from 10 people who say that the pill worked for them. State two reasons why someone should question the claims made in this advertisement.?

    The question gives no information about the experimental design of the scientific test or the test results. There is no way to objectively evaluate the weight-loss claim from the question. It is based on the stereotype that business, as opposed to government agencies and academia, usually spread false information.

    Gould?s NOMA principle (http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html) explains what is science and what is outside science. Basically, science uses the scientific method to prove or disprove things with empirical evidence. If you can?t physically detect something, you can?t gather empirical evidence about it and it is outside the realm of science.

  63. Thanks Shawn,
    I guess I was wrong about nobody reading posts that long.

    I like the part about condemning for wasting taxpayer money.

    I am a little less enthusiastic about a judge saying to a school board what they can or cannot require a teacher to do, in regards to material they teach.

    I still think that school choice is the answer.

  64. Kwais, again, you seem unwilling to accept that public schools exist. As long as they do, then of course the public, through elections and the legislative branch, can tell its employees what they are and aren’t allowed to do. Especially if its employees are in active violation of the separation of church and state. Simply repeating that you’re “[un]enthusiastic about a judge saying to a school board what they can or cannot require a teacher to do” is missing the point entirely.

  65. kwais, it is the function of a school board to set curriculum for the courses offered, but compelling speech is as much of a violation of freedom of speech as would be forbidding teachers from teaching evolution. academic freedom derives from freedom of speech. additionally, since the judge found that the school board clearly had religious motivations, this is also an establishment of religion, IMHO.

  66. Italics. I like them.

  67. This decision blows.

    It’s all about the Establishment clause and motives and history of the ID movement (a dangerous area) and not about science.

    Frankly, if the plaintiffs could have done it, they should have had the textbook litigated on the science standard of federal courts – the Daubert case (Google it). That would have required it to be shown that ID was a theory with widespread peer review support, acceptance in the scientific community, demonstrated testing etc. It would have lost on a slam-dunk….

    Instead we are probing motives for legislation and political movemens, a very very dangerous area, but one that pleases the reflexive anti-fundamentalists.

    Overturn.

  68. All that it takes to probe the motives of an ID proponent is to understand what the theory actually teaches. That is, we don’t know, so it was God.

  69. This shit is bananas.

  70. kwais,

    You’re welcome. I used to go by the handle, “nobody,” in college, so what you said wasn’t completely wrong.

    P.S. I meant taxpayers’, not taxpayer‘s.

  71. kwais,

    “I am a little less enthusiastic about a judge saying to a school board what they can or cannot require a teacher to do, in regards to material they teach.”

    Should a school board be able to order its teachers to inform her children, in math class, that Jesus is Lord, and that those who don’t have a personal relationship to them are going to hell?

    If a school board did such a thing, and a parent sued them, should a judge be able to order the school system to knock it off?

    Matthew Hogan, from the decision, “we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not” The judge most certainly did consider that question in his decision.

  72. Matthew Hogan, from the decision, “we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not” The judge most certainly did consider that question in his decision.

    Let me double check, but if so, he should have stopped and started there.

  73. Let me double check, but if so, he should have stopped and started there.

    No, that way there would never have been a case. It’s not as if the parents sued for simply teaching something inaccurate. The entire case was rightfully about separation between church and state, because the ID debate is and always has been about teaching religious ideas as science.

  74. A slight Emily Litella — never mind, the question is addressed sort of by using Daubert principles. But it should not have been buried in the middle. It should have been the centerpiece and not overreach or make the establishment clause dominant.

  75. D.A. Ridgely,

    Is it activist to follow well established precedent on the Establishment Clause? That’s a novel definition. (Well not really, as Activist = judgifying I don’t like). After hearing voluminous evidence, Jones ruled that ID is creationism is scientist’s clothing (BTW, duh…), and as such endorses a particular religion or set of religious beliefs. The weakest point of the argument is the factual claim that this school board policy was in fact endorsing religion. That’s the weakest part. Are you going to claim that they weren’t?

    FWIW, I don’t think ID in a Philosophy class would be unconstitutional, as the “Endorsement” analysis would be substantially different.

  76. Religious people are dangerous, that’s the bottom line. Religious speech doesn’t cause people to be nice to each other, it causes people to crash airplanes into buildings. Then it causes them to launch “Crusades” in response. Religion is incompatible with democracy and a free society. I don’t have a solution, either. I’m not about to lock up someone for having a jesus fish on their car or for screaming about jesus in the streets (although if screaming about an imaginary friend named bob would get them committed involuntarily, then the same should apply to the jesus-screamers). But I’m also not about to pretend that religion does any good for this world, than religious people should be “tolerated” and that their opinions should be “respected.” That’s utter bullshit. Religion doesn’t have to be respected anymore than does pedophelia. You have the right to think about having sex with kids, and you can masurbate to whatever you want in the privacy of your own home. Once you want to force it on the public, however, the line must be drawn (extra offense expressly meant to the Mormons who believe jesus commands them to be pedophiles).

  77. no idea why it double posted that

  78. Bruce, I’m an atheist too, but you’re kinda crazy.

  79. Pooh,

    I won’t debate the point at length, but your question to me is question begging, suggesting that the decision was a foregone conclusion solidly based on precedence. Though that may be the case, I simply don’t know that for a fact, nor, for that matter, do I know for a fact that the line of precedence is not itself suspect.

    As I read the opinion exerpt, the judge is drawing an inference that ID is per se pretextual, hence it is the unstated motives behind the school board’s decision that make the otherwise merely bad science unconstitutional. Okay, so imagine a school board filled with dim-witted atheists who, oblivious to the nefarious designs of Creationists pushing ID for the high school biology independently decide that ID represents a legitimately non-religious intellectual alternative to evolution. So they pass the same curriculum statement. Unconstitutional?

  80. All that it takes to probe the motives of an ID proponent is to understand what the theory actually teaches. That is, we don’t know, so it was God.

    More accurately, it is: if we don’t know, and it looks like an intelligent designer did it, then an intelligent designer did it.

    But then, maybe I’m splitting hairs.

    My biggest problem with ID is that its proponents place a rediculous burden of proof on evolutionary science that they themselves refuse to subject their own theory to. In the absence of an observable scientific explanation, you don’t get to just make unfounded inferences based on what it might be. To use their famous example, if you find a watch in the woods, and you can’t explain how it was made, then you don’t get to say “god made it” without subjecting that assertion to the same standard as any other theory would be subjected.

  81. Okay, so imagine a school board filled with dim-witted atheists who, oblivious to the nefarious designs of Creationists pushing ID for the high school biology independently decide that ID represents a legitimately non-religious intellectual alternative to evolution. So they pass the same curriculum statement. Unconstitutional?

    Unless they change their teaching of ID to mean something which is not inherently religious, as ID in its current incarnation is, then yes.

  82. Oops. Wrong thread.

  83. D.A.,

    Read the opinion starting at about page 24 for about 10 pages. The pretextual nature of I.D. as presented becomes apparent pretty quickly. I found the find-replace scheme of the Pandas book particularly damning. Basically, the book was scrubbed of “creation” language with following Edwards, with “design” substituted, expressing the same underlying points.

    The main precedent is a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case (Edwards). Now if you want to argue the Supreme Court was wrong, you can certainly do that. (Won’t happen in this case as the Board is not likely to appeal since the Board is not the same Board.) But the Disctict Court Judge can’t. (That would be Activist in the extreme.)

    The School Board-as-dupes theory is interesting, but is manifestly counterfactual in this case.

  84. independently decide that ID represents a legitimately non-religious intellectual alternative to evolution.

    But, DA, that wouldn’t really be possible. Or, it would be, but in abstract words only, not in reality. You can call a cow a sheep, but that doesn’t change its reality.

    Calling the Intelligent Design Theory non-religious wouldn’t really change the fact that it is decidedly non-scientific. Saying “it looks like X, so it must be X, even though we have no onservable scientific proof that it is X” is not science.

    The fundamental difference between ID and evolutionary theory is that evolution is backed by loads of observable scientific fact. Yes, there are places where evolution cannot explain what we see—but there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater (as ID proponents propose we do). On the other hand, ID is the foil of evolution – yes, it can explain some of the things that we see (or, all of them, if you take it that far), but it’s not backed up by any reputable, peer-reviewed, observable scientific fact. Therefore, it is not science.

    This is why this ruling should have been more along the lines of why ID is scientifically invalid. Putting it in the context of the establishment clause means that, I suppose, if a theory is absurdly stupid and is not supported by any scientific fact whatsoever, then it’s okay to teach in schools, so long as it carries no traditional religious baggage along with it. And I don’t really feel comfortable with that. The standard here should be scientific validity, not whether the theory came from religion or not.

  85. Evan, I think you are getting pulled off-topic. From a legal standpoint, it doesn’t so much matter that ID is stupid, only that it is, to borrow a phrase, irreducibly religious in nature. The appropriate method to deal with a school board which insists on secularly stupid curriculum is to fire them. The problem here is that religious endorsement is constitutionally excluded from public schools.

  86. Pooh, a good point re the district court being bound here. I may break down and read the whole damned opinion later. I remain unconvinced of the “irreducibly religious” nature of ID theory generally, except in a manner that would too broadly define “religious,” but I’ll gladly admit its proponents there were thinly disguised Creationists. And I admit my counterexample was, well, counterfactual; but it was used to try to shed some light on what I think is going on in both sides of this issue. Anyway, enough for today.

  87. D.A., how is the idea that God created us somehow non-religious?

  88. It’s possible to both believe in intelligent design and not believe that god did it. It just requires belief in space aliens. (I’m not being facetious.)

    The thing that makes ID as posited in the U.S. irreducibly religious, (and irreducibly Christian from what I can tell, which is probably the bigger problem, if it were merely deist, that’s different, IMO) is that the ‘designer’ is presented as an inherently supernatural, therefore godlike, being.

    And let me be the 4,000,001st to say that evolution and ID are not mutually exclusive, but ID is not science.

  89. Damn, Bruce M! You definitely need to get some Jesus into your life.

  90. Gwen Stefani:

    This shit is bananas.

    Oops. Wrong thread.

    No, I don’t think so.

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