Dispatches from the Creation Wars

WorldMag Joins the Jones Slanderfest

And boy do they pile on the bovine excrement. Their very first claim is a lie:

For the past year, Judge John E. Jones III has ridden a wave of celebrity. From radio talk shows to speech engagements to the cover of Time, the U.S. District Court jurist has used myriad public outlets to trumpet the reasoning behind his December 2005 ruling that intelligent design does not belong in public-school science classrooms…

But in the wake of new revelations that Jones simply cut and pasted significant portions of his case decision from an American Civil Liberties Union document, the talkative judge has suddenly gone silent. Jones refuses to comment on a report from the ID-supporting Discovery Institute that he copied more than 90 percent of his ruling’s most critical 25-page section on whether ID constitutes legitimate science.

Absolutely false. Not only has Jones not “trumpeted the reasoning” behind his decision, he has flatly refused to discuss the details of that ruling, as is standard in the legal profession. He has insisted as a condition of his invitations to speak that he not be asked specific questions about the ruling. He has talked in general terms about the high profile nature of the case, and he has used the media attention to educate people on the nature of his job such as the need to follow higher court precedent, but he has said nothing at all to defend the substance of his decision. Judges avoid doing that, and for good reason.

After the first lie, we get yet another falsehood that is also a non-sequitur:

Darwinists have celebrated such appearances by a man they hail a hero of brilliant scholarship and strict church-state separatism.

Yes, those evil “Darwinists”, whoever they are (do they play football games against Einsteinists or Keplerists?). The notion that anyone would hail Jones, based on this ruling, as a “hero” of “strict church-state separatism” is utter nonsense. This ruling tells us virtually nothing about his views on church/state separation. As a district court judge, he was bound to apply the legal standards developed by higher courts to the facts in the case. In this case, that meant applying two tests, the endorsement test and the Lemon test.

And those tests, when applied to those facts, clearly lead directly to the legal conclusion he reached. No honest lower court judge could possibly have reached any other conclusion, even if they disagreed completely with the higher court rulings. And even if this ruling does reflect his genuine views on this particular issue, it tells us nothing at all about his views on a wide range of other church/state issues. For all we know, he is an accomodationist, not a separationist, when it comes to prayer at graduation ceremonies, public displays of religious symbols, faith-based social programs, recognition of religious student clubs, and any number of other issues. Jones may not be a strict separationist at all, nor does his ruling here tell us whether he is (I’m not a strict separationist and I’m all for this ruling).

Most of the rest of the article just blindly parrots the DI’s breathless press release:

The report charts large chunks of text from the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision alongside almost identical words from the ACLU’s “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” submitted to Jones before his ruling against Pennsylvania’s Dover Area school board. It calculates that 5,458 words of the 6,004-word section are not original work.

And such a rigorous “calculation” it was. They just subjectively decided which passages they thought were “nearly verbatim”, with no criteria at all, and then divided by the total number of words in the section. When word counts were presented concerning the various drafts of Pandas during the trial, they were calculated using clear, objective criteria based on a computer program. A specific number of consecutive words in a row had to match precisely in order to trigger a hit. None of that was present here. Even on simply “research” like that, the DI relies on purely subjective criteria.

The report also documents several instances in which Jones parroted factual errors present only within the ACLU’s findings, furthering suspicions that the judge failed to critically examine the plaintiff’s arguments before adopting them as his own. The presence of such errors initially alerted Discovery Institute fellow Michael Behe that something may be amiss.

As I demonstrated in an earlier post, this complaint is nonsense. When they say that he copied “factual errors” from the ACLU brief, all they really mean is that the judge accepted the factual claims of the other side rather than theirs. Basically the complaint is “but we said that wasn’t true and he didn’t believe us.” But in fact, the evidential record in the case supported the proposed finding of fact in each case. Their real problem with this is that they lost the argument.

Then, oddly, they admit that there’s nothing unusual about using the proposed findings of fact of one side in whole or in part in a judicial ruling:

Judges frequently employ arguments submitted by plaintiffs or defendants in their final decisions. But high-ranking Discovery Institute staffer John West, a coauthor of the report, contends that the extensive word-for-word use in this case lessens the likelihood that other judges will cite the decision: “Copying the ACLU verbatim or nearly verbatim is something other judges will be concerned about relying on.”

I’ll take wishful thinking for $1000, Alex. But pray tell, if you’re going to admit that, in fact, what Judge Jones did was not at all unusual and is normal judicial practice, what on earth was the point of all that “he’s suddenly clammed up and won’t respond to this important accusation” nonsense at the beginning? If this is routine procedure, why would you think he ought to respond to it, and what would you expect him to say if he did other than “get a clue”? I think this shows very clearly what is really going on here: an attempt to find anything at all that will make their credulous followers think that where there’s smoke there must be fire. It’s not unlike the fake “controversy” over the validity of evolutionary theory that they’ve been dishonestly promoting for decades.

Believe it or not, this article actually gets worse.

Many committed Darwinists had elevated Jones among a historic pantheon of science defenders, believing his biting indictment of ID as disguised religion would crush growing national support to teach the theory in biology classrooms. In honoring Jones as one of the 100 most influential people of last year, Time suggested the judgment carried even more weight because Jones is a Republican and a Lutheran as opposed to a Democrat or an atheist. Such credence could now lessen, given that the meat of his decision came directly from ACLU attorneys.

More wishful thinking, combined with the misconception that the findings of fact are the “meat” of a ruling. Most findings of fact are uncontroversial. Even in this case, of the dozens of findings of fact, only a handful are disputed even by the Discovery Institute. The findings of fact were about 20% of the total ruling, most of which was legal analysis under different standards the higher court might apply.

But according to The Panda’s Thumb, a popular Darwinist blog, the Discovery Institute report is “a complete non-story,” a sign that ID “defenders have grown increasingly desperate” as their cause flounders. Indeed, efforts to insert ID into public-school curriculums have waned, but the Discovery Institute discouraged that strategy to begin with.

Nonsense. The Discovery Institute discourages inserting ID into public school science classrooms under that name. They’re all for putting the “arguments against evolution” – which is all that ID is – into science classrooms. This is a transparent sham. All of the substance is exactly the same, the only difference is that it’s not called “ID”. To use my favorite Biblical metaphor, it’s old wine in new skins.

Just another hatchet job from yet another allegedly Christian organization that cares more about scoring cheap PR points than about telling the truth.


  1. #1 doctorgoo
    December 18, 2006

    I’m getting so tired of them trumpeting this non-story. I hope you (or Panda’s Thumb) have something big planned for Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary of the Dover decision.

  2. #2 khan
    December 18, 2006

    This has probably been mentioned before, but don’t a lot of people in the USA take a hiatus/vacation in the second half of December?

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