Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Larry Moran needs to be careful; if he keeps up this level of ignorant blather, the Discovery Institute is going to offer him a fellowship. In a new post, he attempts to reply to my criticisms of his earlier comments about the DI’s absurd attacks on Judge Jones; unfortunately, he only compounds the problems with his first post and further demonstrates his completely lack of knowledge and understanding of how court rulings work. He starts with the usual misrepresentation of my argument:

Ed and his followers–a dozen or so at last count–are not happy. Apparently, I have violated one of the cardinal sins of the appeasers. I have questioned one of the good guys.

No, Larry. I have absolutely no problem with questioning anyone, good guy or bad guy. What I have a problem with is ignorant attacks on them, and that is what you’re engaging in. And the follow up post only reinforces that fact. I’m sure you know a great deal about biochemistry, but you clearly don’t know a thing about the legal process.

Yes, indeed I did expect the judge to express his own opinion. Yes, I thought the difference between being “brilliant” and being something less than brilliant has something to do with expressing yourself in your own words. Professors can be picky about that sort of thing.

I now know better. I now know that my expectations were unrealistic. The American legal culture places a high value on the ability to copy the right document and not on the ability to be an original thinker. This is a different culture than I one I inhabit. I’m sorry for being so out-of-step. I understand your culture’s definition of “brilliant” and I accept it, even if I disagree.

Lots of snark and sarcasm, but that only covers up the key mistake in Moran’s thinking: the findings of fact are emphatically and explicitly not an expression of the judge’s opinion. Indeed, we do not want them to be. The findings of fact are not only distinct from the judge’s opinion on the matter, it’s also quite distinct from the writing of his legal opinion, which simply means his legal ruling. The findings of fact are distinct from the conclusions of law. Judge Jones used the same language that the plaintiffs used in expressing many of the findings of fact, but even the DI does not allege that he did so with the writing of the legal opinion.

I take this to mean that you were aware from the beginning that large sections of the Judge Jones opinion were reproduced exactly as found in the plaintiffs’ document. Point taken. It seems to be common knowledge among Americans that judge’s opinions are not necessarily written by the judge. It seems to have been widely known that Judge Jones copied large sections of the plaintiff’s document. Dozens of people have criticized me for not knowing this. Mea culpa. I didn’t know, but apparently I should have.

What you should know, certainly by now, is A) the distinction between findings of fact and the judge’s opinion (or the legal opinion or ruling itself), and B) that it is absolutely normal for the judge to use identical or similar phrasing when listing the findings of fact in a case. I know why the DI continues to act so blockheaded about it; it gets in the way of the myth they’re trying to sell. I can’t imagine why you’re being so blockheaded about it.

I never said that the validity of his ruling was in question. I’m in no position to judge the minutiae of American constitutional law. One of the things that I didn’t know was that a judge can just copy the arguments of one side and claim them as his own. I also didn’t know that in your culture this can be a sign of intelligence, even brilliance.

No, no, no. The judge didn’t copy the arguments of one side; he copied the simple statements of fact from one side. Which only means that he agreed that those statements were accurate and supported by the evidence in the trial record. Nor did he “claim them as his own”. The written opinion begins with this statement:

This Memorandum Opinion constitutes the Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law which are based upon the Court’s review of the evidence presented at trial, the testimony of the witnesses at trial, the parties’ proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law with supporting briefs, other documents and evidence in the record, and applicable law.

Every single finding of fact must be based upon what the two sides present in the case and on the evidence they submit in the trial record. The judge doesn’t invent his own findings of fact, he simply decides which of the two proposed findings of fact are best supported by the trial record. It is in his ability to discern fact from fiction in making that choice that one can tell how well he understands the issues presented.

Friends are allowed to disagree. It’s healthy. I’ve just learned a lot about your culture and your intellectual standards. Did you learn anything about mine?

Nothing that wasn’t already patently obvious long before now. Of course friends are allowed to disagree. But rational people take the time to learn about a subject before blathering about it in public.

Comments

  1. #1 GH
    December 15, 2006

    I tend to agree with Larry on the general appeasment issue but on this issue he is so clearly clueless I simply don’t know what he is attempting to accomplish.

    It appears that he may have a problem admitting he is wrong. It’s a common affliction.

  2. #2 Raging Bee
    December 15, 2006

    I think Larry’s problem stems from his own need for a brave romantic hero, and a decision to treat Judge Jones, not as a judge who made the right decision, but as a virtual demigod, or at least a brave crusading knight standing alone against the evil god-worshipping rabble, slaying the Philistines with the Sword of Reason, and standing as the sole Light of Truth in these parlous dark times. When the gritty, pedestrian reality of what judges really do sank in, he lurched from blind hero-worship to blind disappointment, and is now looking for someone to blame for (to plagirize a PFOF from Jim Morrison) “the heartache and loss of God.”

    I wouldn’t spend much more time with Moran if I was you. He’s basically a Dawkins wannabee whose schtick partly consists of acknowledging a scientist’s brilliance and impeccable work, then trashing him for “appeasement” or “surrendering to superstition” because he happens to believe in a God.

  3. #3 Orac
    December 15, 2006

    It appears that he may have a problem admitting he is wrong. It’s a common affliction.

    I agree. Larry’s being utterly clueless on this whole issue. It just goes to show that brilliance in one field does not necessarily translate into brilliance (or even understanding) in another field.

    I definitely suspect that Larry has a big problem admitting errors on his part. I do notice, however, that at least he’s stopped using the whole “Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists” appeaser canard since the Hitler Zombie had a little chomp on his brain. Whether I had anything to do with that or not, that’s a good thing (and I have no idea whether I did or whether it was the weight of many attacks on that meme that did it).

  4. #4 GH
    December 15, 2006

    He’s basically a Dawkins wannabee whose schtick partly consists of acknowledging a scientist’s brilliance and impeccable work, then trashing him for “appeasement” or “surrendering to superstition” because he happens to believe in a God.

    Your very wrong about this RB. Larry is very good at what he does in his own right. He just is saying some things that he is wrong about on this topic. The entire of his person isn’t lost because of his stance here.

  5. #5 Raging Bee
    December 15, 2006

    So what, exactly, does Moran do “in his own right?” I hope he does it better than he picks fights with his intelectual superiors.

  6. #6 Larry Moran
    December 15, 2006

    I began this discussion by admitting I was wrong. In the past I have praised the Judge Jones opinion for it’s brilliant explanation of the scientific testimony. I was very impressed with the way Judge Jones explained and summarized complex issues. This is the sort of explanation that can only have been written by someone who was really on top of the material and understood it very well.

    I was wrong. Judge Jones did not write it and it is not appropriate to credit him with “brilliant writing.” Furthermore, it is not appropriate to credit him with “really understanding the scientific issues.” He may have understood them, but we no longer have any evidence of that.

    My error in falsely attributing brilliance and originality does nothing whatsoever to diminish the legal standing of the opinion or the fact that the IDiots were IDiots.

    Can you please stop lecturing me on irrelvant points? I was being snarky because you were (deliberately?) going on and on about legal practices when that wasn’t the point at all. I had already admitted that I erred in assuming that the Jones opinion was original writing. Apparently, I was not alone.

    So, here’s the question ….

    Back in December when bloggers were referring to the “eloquence” of Judge Jones and saying that “Judge Jones is definitely someone who knows how to make the most of the language,” did they know that much of this language came from someone else?

    What about when a well-known journalist tells his journalist friends to read the decision because of the ability of Judge Jones to fact-check the scientific evidence and because of the writing syle–using examples that actually came from the Plaintiffs’ brief?

    Is it standard practice to praise someone’s eloquent writing style when you know they didn’t write it? Is it standard practice to praise someone’s knowldege of science when you know it was copied from another source?

    I prefer to give praise where praise is due? Who wrote the Plaintiffs’ Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law? That’s the real example of scientific eloquence and fact-checking ability.

  7. #7 GH
    December 15, 2006

    I understand he is an excellent biochemist and his text is one of the best available.He is also well thought of as a professor. In short he is a smart successful fellow. I don’t think this discussion makes anyone his intellectual superior, he has simply made a common human error.

  8. #8 Raging Bee
    December 15, 2006

    Judge Jones did not write it and it is not appropriate to credit him with “brilliant writing.”

    Just because he pastes relevant findings into his writing here and there, does not mean he’s not “brilliant.” He had a job to do, and even the most brilliant person can’t show his brilliance at every minute of company time.

    Furthermore, it is not appropriate to credit him with “really understanding the scientific issues.” He may have understood them, but we no longer have any evidence of that.

    What you mean “we,” paleface? If his opinion and ruling are coherent, well-informed, relevant, and don’t show any factual or logical errors, then it’s safe to say he understood the material he had to work with. I know from experience that people who don’t understand a topic soon show their lack of understanding by cobbling quotations together in a disorganized and meandering manner. If you can show THAT in Jones’ opinion, then that would constitute evidence that he didn’t understand the science.

    …did they know that much of this language came from someone else?

    HOW “much,” exactly? The DI said 90.9 percent of ONE SECTION of the whole document.

    Is it standard practice to praise someone’s knowldege of science when you know it was copied from another source?

    Most knowledge of science — and of just about everything else — comes from, or is built on, other sources. Where does YOUR knowledge of evolution come from? Knowledge is recognized in the person who undersnds and admits knowledge from others. That’s how we learn.

  9. #9 Raging Bee
    December 15, 2006

    GH: Great, another biologist who thinks he can talk authoritatively about other people’s religions, and immediately proves he can’t. IOW, an Dawkins wannabee. I’ll just file him along with all those engineers and eye-doctors who think they can debunk evolution.

  10. #10 Hrafn
    December 15, 2006

    I’m generally a lurker on this blog, but I would like to be added to the “dozen or so at last count” on this point. I agree with Ed that Judge Jones’ actions were perfectly legitimate judicial actions, and that the various accusations of impropriety leveled against him show an ignorance of judicial practice (both practical and ideal).

  11. #11 Will
    December 15, 2006

    Geez, raging bee, you sure hate Dawkins.

  12. #12 Tonyl
    December 15, 2006

    I was wrong. Judge Jones did not write it and it is not appropriate to credit him with “brilliant writing.” Furthermore, it is not appropriate to credit him with “really understanding the scientific issues.” He may have understood them, but we no longer have any evidence of that.

    I have to question your reading comprehension abilities here. No one, is actually claiming that he didn’t write the legal opinion or copied without attribution. What he did do was draw from the proposed findings of fact for the official findings of fact. This is a small piece of the total ruling. I quote from Ed’s previous post:

    We’re talking about a set of statements of fact, not legal arguments, where both sides presented their statements and the judge’s job is to determine which set is best supported by the evidence presented in the case.,/i>

    You are acting as if his entire opinion contains unattributed copied bits and pieces. However, if you actually read and comprehended any of Ed’s posts, you would know that this is not the case. Your complaint is similar to someone complaining that a theorist used a formula from another paper (with attribution) instead of deriving it himself! “Sure, his results are revolutionary, but he didn’t derive equation 2 by himself, so obviously he’s nothing special.” It’s like complaining that a theorist used someone else’s data (with attribution) to show that his theoretical model was consistent with previous observations, or that an experimentalist used someone else’s theory to fit his data.

  13. #13 Michael Heath
    December 15, 2006

    Larry – re your comments:

    “{Furthermore, it is not appropriate to credit him with “really understanding the scientific issues.” He may have understood them, but we no longer have any evidence of that}”

    I highly recommend reading the actual trial transcripts. They are a fascinating read and clearly provide evidence that this Judge boned-up big time on the subject material and really understood the scientific issues.

    Having read hundreds of court transcripts, briefs, and rulings, this is one of the most brilliantly executed trials and rulings ever administrated over by an Appeals Court Judge IMHO in a trial that required technical knowledge.

  14. #14 DuWayne
    December 15, 2006

    I would go as far as to say it would have been negligence on the part of Judge Jones, to “put it in his own words.” He is a Judge, not a evolutionary biologist. In biology, he is a laymen. His ruling is a legal document, that requires precision in it’s language. So he copied the technical aspects of the findings, that were written by scientists. It would not have been precise if he had done otherwise.

  15. #15 Prup aka Jim Benton
    December 15, 2006

    No, I’m sorry, but I cannot agree with any argument defending Larry Moran — other than as a biochemist, since I do not know enough about the topic to judge him. I read his blog. (I made this point in a post on another thread, but feel it bears repeating.)

    Now his prime argument, the one that started the whole blog war, was that we atheists cannot give an inch to the believers, that by accepting people like Collins and Miller as ‘acceptable spokesmen for our side,’ (in the evolution/creation debate) we are bowing to superstition and giving their religious beliefs credence. We are ‘appeasers.’

    I don’t agree with him, or with PZ on this, but I can accept it as a respectable, honest position. But NOT from someone who can, at the same time, make the following statement in regards to Afghanistan:
    “A country that’s controlled by opium warlords who are little better than the Taliban.”

    Now there is no defending the warlords. They are bad people. But the Taliban is the single most horrible example of theocracy run riot that has appeared, probably in the last century — if anyone has a worse example, please let me know. Based on their understanding of the Qur’an, they oppress women — even worse that the worst examples in Saudi Arabia — destroy education (to paraphrase a Christian speaker, “if it is in the Qur’an, it is redundant to teach it as a separate subject, if it isn’t there it is false,” censor entertainment, thought, etc.

    If religion is to be extirpated root and branch, then there is no comparison between the warlords and the Taliban, and the sentence shows, at best, the sort of extreme ignorance his statements that caused a need for the current thread.

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    December 15, 2006

    Larry-

    Once again, if you would recognize your ignorance on this matter and actually go and read the ruling, you’d realize that the sections that were copied amount to about 20% of the ruling. Do you suppose it’s possible to praise his eloquence and his intelligence for the other 25,000 words he wrote and not for the 5000 under discussion?

    I prefer to give praise where praise is due? Who wrote the Plaintiffs’ Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law? That’s the real example of scientific eloquence and fact-checking ability.

    Eric Rothschild, with input from many other attorneys on the team, from Nick Matzke and from everyone who helped prepare the strategy and responses.

  17. #17 kehrsam
    December 15, 2006

    Prup: Not to argue the point, but in many cases the Opium Warlords and the Taliban are one and the same people. Yes, the Taliban went on a quite successful anti-opium kick in 1999-2000, and collected a good bit of international aid dollars in the process (largely from the US; Bush was praising them for this as late as Spring 2001). Tribal issues aside, however, there is little to differentiate the two groups.

    So Dr. Moran would seem to have this issue wrong as well.

  18. #18 Raging Bee
    December 15, 2006

    Prup: There’s nothing “respectable” or “honest” about dissing decent people for their religious beliefs, without regard to their words, actions, or even other aspects of their personal characters. Nor is there anything “respectable” or “honest” about treating all religious beliefs as if they were the same, when it’s bloody obvious they aren’t. When religious people treat persons of other beliefs (including atheists) in this manner, we rightly call them simpleminded bigots. If it’s wrong for theists, it’s wrong for atheists as well, and for exactly the same reasons.

    A scientist, such as Dawkins or Moran, really ought to know better: even if he doesn’t know jack about religion, he should know something about fair, consistent and rational thinking.

  19. #19 PhysioProf
    December 15, 2006

    “this Judge boned-up big time on the subject material”

    As decider of questions of fact, strictly speaking the judge is actually not permitted to make use of any of his own personal knowledge that might be relevant to those questions. He must rely solely on the information presented to him by the litigants. Once in a while, a court will take judicial notice of a fact, which means that no evidence was presented to establish the fact, but it is accepted as a matter of common knowledge.

  20. #20 No One of Consequence
    December 15, 2006

    Every time I (I mean Ed), types Moran I read it as Moron. Do any or our other personalities have that problem?

  21. #21 Michael Heath
    December 15, 2006

    PhysioProf – In any technical trial, the quality of outcome is determined somewhat by the ability of the judge to understand the arguments being made in order to effectively administrate the proceedings of the trial. A judge who is clueless about a particular topic that is technical and complex will be less likely to understand when to accept or reject motions for evidence to be introduced or argued. I highly recommend you read the transcripts of this particular trial for enlightenment on the need for judges having some foreknowledge about particular topics being argued before them as oppossed to having no “personal knowldge”.

    In the ruling the judge clearly and correctly published the correct findings of fact as presented by the Plantiff and Defendants, not his own knowledge which I never meant to insinuate. Judge Jones would have been incapable of fairly and accurately publishing these findings given that this was a technical trial if he were clueless on the subject matter.

  22. #22 GH
    December 15, 2006

    Nor is there anything “respectable” or “honest” about treating all religious beliefs as if they were the same, when it’s bloody obvious they aren’t

    Nor is there any reason whatsoever to respect them just because they are religious beliefs.

    such as Dawkins or Moran, really ought to know better: even if he doesn’t know jack about religion, he should know something about fair, consistent and rational thinking.

    Dawkins knows plenty about religion. Of course with 1000’s and 1000’s of superstitious sects out there who can whack them all.

    There’s nothing “respectable” or “honest” about dissing decent people for their religious beliefs, without regard to their words, actions, or even other aspects of their personal characters.

    Who does this? If someone holds a belief I think silly why not say it? It doesn’t mean everything they think is silly nor does it mean I dislike them personally. It just means I think they believe some irrational material. It’s rather humorous. You can pick and choose.

  23. #23 Ed Brayton
    December 15, 2006

    Jesus, can we not start up the same argument about Dawkins from the same people on this thread too?

  24. #24 GH
    December 15, 2006

    Yep, I’m not going down that rathole again. My apologies.

  25. #25 J-Dog
    December 15, 2006

    re: Moran – People! Be nice. Please keep in mind he is (was) a Canadian, and our legal system is different from his. Threrfore, I think we have to discount everything he says by 7.85%, based on today’s exchange rate. I also think that under Canadian law he is also required to have all his normal thoughts translated into French, so he has to overcome that as well.

  26. #26 Raging Bee
    December 15, 2006

    GH: Getting back on-topic, I was referring to Moran’s habit of trashing non-religion-hostile scientists and science-advocates as “Neville Chamberlains” and “appeasers” who have “surrendered to superstition.” His latest target being Francis Collins, whom he admits does “impeccable” work, but whom he trashes anyway for being a Christian, even though he can’t cite a single harmful action by him to back up his stumbling indictment.

  27. #27 SLC
    December 15, 2006

    Judge Jones has stated during several presentations he has made that he did not attempt to read outside source material in order to get up to speed on the scientific aspects of the case. In fact, to do so would have been contrary to legal procedure. He has stated that the material which was presented in his court was sufficient to allow a determination as to the scientific validity, or lack thereof, of ID. Judges have to do this all the time, particularly relative to acceptance of scientific evidence in a courtroom before a jury. If there is a challenge to the admissibility of the evidence by one side or the other, the judge must hold what is called a Frye hearing in order to make such a determination.

    By the way, Judge Jones has been described as very conservative because he was recommended for the post by whackjob soon to be former Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania. Actually, however, he is a protege of former Government Tom Ridge who is considered a moderate Republican and is a member of a mainline Protestant church.

  28. #28 Jarlen
    December 15, 2006

    I am seeing many referances to the Masonic Order as a religion. What basis of regligion does the Order offer their mambers? Is there an organized recognized religion involved here or is this somehing we can’t discuss being that the Masonic Order is a “secret” fraternity?

  29. #29 Chuck C
    December 15, 2006

    From what I’ve read, Freemasonry does not advocate any particular religion, but does demand religious piety of it’s members. It views the organized faiths as worshipping avatars, if you will, of the ‘Creator’ referenced in their rituals. So one can be a Christian Mason, or a Jewish Mason, or a Hindu Mason, etc.

    Of course many of the religions, especially Catholic and Muslim, view Freemasonry as morally wrong for precisely this reason.

  30. #30 Larry Moran
    December 15, 2006

    Ed says,

    Once again, if you would recognize your ignorance on this matter and actually go and read the ruling, you’d realize that the sections that were copied amount to about 20% of the ruling. Do you suppose it’s possible to praise his eloquence and his intelligence for the other 25,000 words he wrote and not for the 5000 under discussion?

    The sections that were copied cover roughly pages 24-35 and 64-87 of the 139 page ruling. The copied sections discuss the scientific testimony and the scientific facts of the case. That’s the only part I’m competent to judge.

    Maybe you’re an expert on the rest so you can make comments on his brilliance concerning legal issues?

    Most of the comments that I’ve read were from scientists commenting on the science part, although I did read a few comments by non-scientists (e.g., lawyers, journalists) who said the science part was brilliant. All I can say is that what I thought was a brilliant analysis of the scientific issues turns out to be mostly copied from other sources.

    Why do you say I’m ignorant for commenting on the scientific parts of the opinion?

    And why do feel the need to insult me by implying that I haven’t read the ruling?

  31. #31 Raging Bee
    December 15, 2006

    All I can say is that what I thought was a brilliant analysis of the scientific issues turns out to be mostly copied from other sources.

    Um…yeah, a brilliant analysis can indeed be made by assembling other people’s information into an especially clear and illuminating picture. That’s what “analysis” (as opposed to mere information “gathering”) is about. That’s what separates people who actually understand an issue from those who merely get bogged down under an amorphous mass of facts.

    Why do you say I’m ignorant for commenting on the scientific parts of the opinion?

    Because your comments, and their petulant emotional tone, are silly, and only get sillier as you persist in grinding the same irrelevant little axe.

    And why do feel the need to insult me by implying that I haven’t read the ruling?

    Because your own statements strongly imply that you haven’t read the ruling.

  32. #32 Ed Brayton
    December 15, 2006

    Larry Moran wrote:

    Why do you say I’m ignorant for commenting on the scientific parts of the opinion?

    Your ignorance is about the legal process and how it works. Your further ignorance is in your ridiculous sarcastic comments about how “your culture” values intregrity and originality while “my culture” doesn’t. You simply don’t understand the way legal rulings operate and that forms the basis for your criticisms. Sandefur does a good job of explaining that here.

    And why do feel the need to insult me by implying that I haven’t read the ruling?

    I’m sorry, Larry, but the notion of you feigning outrage at being insulted is more than a little absurd. The bottom line is that rather than taking the time to find out how things operate in the legal context, you ignorantly spouted off and gave the DI a great propaganda piece (they had two different posts on their blog prominently linking to your blathering). And rather than just accepting that you screwed up and taking the education from people who understand this issue far better than you, you had to fire off a half-cocked response full of slams at those who corrected you. It’s hardly surprising, of course; we’ve become accustomed to seeing this kind of behavior from you. But spare us the fake bleating about being insulted, for crying out loud.

  33. #33 gary l. day
    December 15, 2006

    Ed has followers? Hmm…I don’t think so. Followers would bore him, I think. Colleagues and readers who fancy lively, intelligent debate–yeah, he’s got plenty of those.

  34. #34 Orac
    December 15, 2006

    I’ll just file him along with all those engineers and eye-doctors who think they can debunk evolution

    The only eye doctor I know who discusses evolution is Dr. Ivan Schwab, and he brilliantly defends it.

  35. #35 Raging Bee
    December 15, 2006

    Orac: I was referring to people who blundered into PT a few months ago and claimed (rightly or wrongly) to be eye-doctors, and pretended to use their expertise to flog the tired old “what good is half an eye?” schtick as an objection to evolution. My apologies to any real eye-doctors who may have been embarrassed by that creationist stunt.

  36. #36 kehrsam
    December 15, 2006

    Ed has followers? Hmm…I don’t think so. Followers would bore him, I think. Colleagues and readers who fancy lively, intelligent debate–yeah, he’s got plenty of those.

    Nay, not followers — Accolytes! He is the new Pythagoras with an updated holy bean! All fall down and revere Holy and All-Merciful Ed! (Some restrictions may apply. Not applicable to DaveScott, Fafarman, etc).

    Or something like that.

  37. #37 Gretchen
    December 15, 2006

    I highly recommend reading the actual trial transcripts. They are a fascinating read and clearly provide evidence that this Judge boned-up big time on the subject material and really understood the scientific issues.

    Apologies for the tangent, but do you know if the trial was taped, and if so, if that footage might at some point become available to the public? I’m happy to read the transcripts, but would really love to be able to watch the proceedings if possible.

  38. #38 WJD
    December 15, 2006

    Ed and his followers–a dozen or so at last count–are not happy.

    Seems a bit strange that someone would go to so much trouble to defend himself againt a blogger with only “a dozen or so” readers.

  39. #39 Tube-sock Ed
    December 15, 2006

    “Ed has followers?”

    No! Ed has… Ed!

    We’re ALL Ed!

    At least, so we/I are/am told.

  40. #40 kehrsam
    December 15, 2006

    Ed and his followers–a dozen or so at last count–are not happy.

    Careful — Jesus started with just a dozen as well. He’s really working this Ed as Guru meme. Ed probably isn’t about to trust me with the keys to Heaven, but I at least want to get to drive one of the Rolls Royces.

  41. #41 MTran
    December 16, 2006

    Larry Moran said: Judge Jones did not write it and it is not appropriate to credit him with “brilliant writing.” Furthermore, it is not appropriate to credit him with “really understanding the scientific issues.” He may have understood them, but we no longer have any evidence of that.

    First, Jones did write the opinion. He wrote it with great care and astute insight. Every indication is that he understood every single scientific concept at issue before the court.

    Second, judges, especially Federal Court Judges, do not write opinions about issues or facts that they do not comprehend. Their standard practice is to make certain that they do indeed understand both the legal and technical issues that are put before them. The judge has the opportunity and obligation to understand the factual issues. They learn about unfamiliar areas largely through the testimony of expert witnesses.

    In Dover, the judge heard many days worth of testimony from some very articulate experts in science. It is from this testimony that he formed an understanding and opinion regarding the factual and scientific issues.

    The proposed findings were nothing without the testimony, though they did help to organize an abundance of evidence that was elicited during the trial. Also, by using phrasing that stayed close to that of the proposed findings, neither side could say they were blind-sided by some off-the-wall analysis of an issue for which the court had given no prior indication of interest.

    Now, I’m not a scientist, just a simple patent attorney. But the “science” issues put before the judge were very basic ones, though there were some attempts by the defendants to use smoke, mirrors, and Behe to make it sound more complicated than it needed to be.

    I’m not saying that genetics and molecular biology are simple fields of inquiry. What I’m saying is that the “science” part to the Dover trial did not strike me as being cutting edge or requiring substantial bio education. I mean, my 12 year old nephew could follow it with no problem, as could my neighbor the florist.

    But beyond the testimony and the Proposed Findings of Fact, the strongest evidence we have that Jones actually understood what he ruled on, and discussed at length, is the strength of his written opinion.

    You’re a university professor, aren’t you? Have you ever read a student paper that made sense without it also demonstrating the writer’s level of comprehension?

    Maybe you’ve been spared that experience but I’ve seen grammatically correct gibberish too many times to count. I’ve taught legal research and writing as well as advanced appellate and other legal drafting classes for more than 20 years. When a student doesn’t understand something properly, it shows up in the writing.

    No matter how capable a writer Judge Jones may be, he could not hide ignorance of the level that you seem to be implying. Even cutting and pasting the proposed findings verbatim would not work — at all — if the decision was not based on a clear understanding of those findings.

    Now we have all heard of court decisions that leave us scratching our heads wondering wtf the judge was thinking. But that is certainly not the case here.

    So tell me, Larry, since you have so poorly understood judicial practices, should I now assume that despite your rather impressive credentials in science, your really not so “brilliant” at all? That’s the standard you seem to be using on Jones.

  42. #42 doctorgoo
    December 16, 2006

    You’re a university professor, aren’t you? Have you ever read a student paper that made sense without it also demonstrating the writer’s level of comprehension?

    The judge had great source material (the PFOF) to write that section of the decision. What Larry seems to be doing is like criticizing his best student because he only did well in class due to his (Larry’s) well-written textbook.

    Or to make this analogy even more accurate, the student would have two opposing textbooks to learn from (both FOFs), but somehow manages to filter out the good stuff from the bad in order to ace Larry’s class. But still Larry would criticize him.

  43. #43 PhysioProf
    December 16, 2006

    “Judge Jones would have been incapable of fairly and accurately publishing these findings given that this was a technical trial if he were clueless on the subject matter.”

    Of course. The point, as was made also by someone else upthread, is that it would have been inappropriate for Judge Jones to have educated himself through study of materials not entered into evidence by either of the parties to the lawsuit, or by relying on his own pre-existing knowledge of evolutionary biology or intelligent design creationism.

    And a minor quibble, but perhaps one that actually relates to the apparent misunderstanding of what judges are supposed to do: judges do not “publish” their findings, they “make” or “adopt” them, in principle based *solely* on the evidence entered by the parties, the arguments they have made, and the judge’s understanding of the law. The judge–as trier of fact–is supposed to exclude from this process any personal knowledge of the factual subject matter of the case that does not derive from evidence entered by the parties.

    This is completely uncontroversial hornbook law.

  44. #44 MTran
    December 16, 2006

    PhysioProf said: The judge–as trier of fact–is supposed to exclude from this process any personal knowledge of the factual subject matter of the case that does not derive from evidence entered by the parties.

    This is completely uncontroversial hornbook law.

    Thank you, PhysioProf. This simple concept is either buried or entirely missing from much of the discussion on this point.

    It needs to be proclaimed loudly and often. Not that the Disco boys will ever acknowledge hearing it.

  45. #45 Fastlane
    December 18, 2006

    Gretchen, Judge Jones did not allow the case to be video taped. Something he later regretted.

    I don’t know about audio files, but I’ve read the transcripts. It really is a fascinating read, and I don’t normally like that kinda thing.

    Cheers.

  46. #46 truth machine
    December 18, 2006

    The American legal culture places a high value on the ability to copy the right document and not on the ability to be an original thinker.

    This has got to be one of the stupidest false dichotomies I have ever seen.

    This is a different culture than I one I inhabit.

    Oh, right, your culture eschews precedent and building on the work of others. Go tell that to Newton.

  47. #47 truth machine
    December 18, 2006

    I don’t agree with him, or with PZ on this, but I can accept it as a respectable, honest position. But NOT from someone who can, at the same time, make the following statement in regards to Afghanistan:
    “A country that’s controlled by opium warlords who are little better than the Taliban.”

    If you can’t accept that this is a respectable, honest position, then your mind is inflamed and controlled by ideology.

  48. #48 truth machine
    December 18, 2006

    There’s nothing “respectable” or “honest” about dissing decent people

    Well there’s certainly nothing “respectable” or “honest” about your fact-challenged tirades against Dawkins, Myers, et. al.

  49. #49 truth machine
    December 18, 2006

    GH: Getting back on-topic, I was referring to Moran’s habit of trashing non-religion-hostile scientists and science-advocates as “Neville Chamberlains” and “appeasers” who have “surrendered to superstition.”

    That isn’t “on-topic”, Raging Jerk.

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