One of the really amusing things to me over the last year since Judge Jones handed down his ruling in the Dover case has been watching the the ID crowd claim that the ruling doesn’t really matter at all while simultaneously throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the ruling to discredit it. The reality, of course, is that the Dover ruling was a huge blow to their movement and they damn well know it, which is why they’ve spent the past year criticizing everything about Judge Jones except his taste in clothes (and that may well be next).
This is how public relations campaigns – which is exactly what the ID movement is – work. Reality matters not, only how you can spin it to your advantage. If something happens that damages your campaign, you put on a brave face and pretend that everything is fine. It’s how political campaigns operate, and that is precisely what the ID movement is, a political campaign to get their ideas into public schools and the public consciousness under whatever label they are attaching to them today.
They’ve made an extraordinary number of criticisms of the ruling, all of them easily answered. Now it appears that they have a new talking point and this one is even more ridiculous than the previous ones. Michael Behe gave a speech in Kansas a few days ago in which he apparently made a big deal out of this talking point, according to someone who was there:
Behe went on to show in detail that Jones’ written 139 page decision was filled with cut and paste sections from Rothchild’s documents. Whenever Jones wrote on an academic issue, he provides a lightly edited “drag and drop” from the trial lawyer’s documents. Behe said that some judges do this to a certain extent, but not on as large a scale as Jones did. This made Behe wonder if Jones even understood all of the academic issues that were being presented to him if he had to copy so much from Rothchild’s documents.
This is apparently going to be the next big argument they make against the ruling, that much of the text of the ruling mirrors the text of the plaintiffs’ briefs. Congratulations, ID advocates; you have discovered a document that was filed in this case, as it is in all such cases, called Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. That’s the actual title on the document, which is filed by both sides. Whichever side the judge agrees with, he’s going to accept their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, and the ruling is going to reflect that. That doesn’t mean the judge was biased, it means one side won the arguments; in every case, one side wins the arguments.
You can find the plaintiffs’ Proposed Findings of Fact here, and the defendants’ here. Both sides also file responses to the Proposed Findings of Fact, which you can find here (plaintiffs) and here (defense). All it means when the statements in the ruling are close or identical to statements made in the post-trial briefs is that one side won the argument on that issue. The fact that a substantial portion of the ruling phrases those arguments in the same or similar ways has precisely nothing to do with the validity of the ruling. Indeed, there have been cases where judges have have not filed a ruling at all, but merely adopted the proposed findings of one side or the other because he found them to be accurate and supported. Guess what happened when those cases were appealed? They were upheld by the Supreme Court.
But nothing so drastic happened in this case at all. In one particular section of the ruling, much of the ruling substantially follows the text of the plaintiff’s Proposed Findings of Fact, sometimes verbatim and sometimes with a word here and there changed, or a reference added to support the claim. This is not at all unusual in such cases, nor does it indict the validity of the ruling in any way. This is simply the ID crowd desperate to find anything at all to attack the ruling with. They’ve been throwing fecal matter at the wall for a year now, just praying that some of it sticks.
Some have described this as “whistling past the graveyard”, but I beg to differ. This obsessive behavior goes far beyond merely putting on a happy face and whistling a tune to distract oneself from the tragedy of death. They have exhumed the victim (in this case, their entire legal strategy for getting around Edwards) and they’re dragging it around trying to convince everyone that it’s still alive. Some like to call it Clueless in Seattle. Some compare it to the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail (“it’s just a flesh wound”). I think it’s Weekend at Behe’s.