Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Dover Decision

In the Dover ID trial, Judge Jones has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, i.e., against the ID side of the debate.

The Discovery Institute’s response is here.

And Jonathan Witt’s analysis is here.

My view on this matter may not align with others on the ID side. Although this case wasn’t directly about cosmological ID, there are huge ramifications—although they (the ramifications) are largely already, de facto, in place. Primarily: there is no chance for any of us of the ID side to continue giving seminar-like ID talks in public high schools. No principal would permit it even though, as I understand it (I might be wrong) this ruling would not prohibit it. It’s just too much of a hot potato. Anyway, I have never been in favor of legal maneuvering to get ID into the science curriculum. Not only because I disagree in principle, but from a practical standpoint it was obvious that in today’s America that such efforts were ultimately doomed and would result in a backlash. This is in fact what has happened.

There was not much doubt about the final outcome. The unknowns were: How activist is this judge? How far would he go? What degree of omniscience would he assume? The answers: very activist, he went very far, and he assumed godlike omniscience although without the attendant infallibility.

This was a lose-lose for everyone—although obviously the anti-ID side is crowing over their perceived victory. The problem is, today’s favorable (from whoever's perspective) judicial intrusion into an area where it doesn’t belong opens the door for tomorrow’s nightmarish decision.

In my opinion, the correct, founding-father-like ruling would have been: the school board was legally voted in—and what they decide to put in their curriculum is not the federal government’s business—and if you don’t like them, vote them out. (Which is in fact what has already happened.)

Judge Jones ruled that ID is not science. Of course, one wonders on what basis he is qualified to say what is or isn’t science. (Maybe he explains somewhere in the 139 pages, I’m working off blurbs.) If it includes testability and falsifiability, it would be interesting to ask the judge how evolution is testable, and how evolution is falsifiable. (I’m not saying evolution isn’t either of those. I’m speculating that Judge Jones wouldn’t know how to answer—and yet his is ruling on what constitutes science.)

Jone’s wrote:
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.
This is the old ID == creationism canard, which Jones bought hook, line and sinker. But in fact, ID is creationism only if you define that anything consistent with theism is creationist. I was called a creationist on a physics website the other day, when asked for the definition, the physicist in question wrote:
"A creationist is a person who believes that one of the most crucial insights about our existence and the existence of our Universe is that they have been *created* by a supreme being, and that this insight should have a significant impact on our lives including science."
By this definition, which I think is fair, I would venture to guess that many if not most IDers are indeed creationists. I would also think that this labels theistic evolutionists as creationists—and the anti-ID side would not want to admit to that.

But calling IDers creationists, as Judge Jones did, identifies, whether intentionally or not, ID as young earth creationism part deux. But ID is very different from young earth creationism. In my opinion, ID is consistent with all scientific data (in fact, a criticism of ID is that it will always be consistent with all data) while young earth creationism is inconsistent with all data. ID: consistent with all data. YEC: inconsistent with all data. That is a big difference.

So… we’ll have to put up a few days of nauseating backslapping.

In my opinion, this willingness to provide a definition of creationist demonstrates yet again the superiority of physicists. I have never seen anyone on Panda’s Thumb define creationist, although they use the term more often than they use the letter ‘m’.

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