A long-awaited issue of the Montana Law Review with several articles about the Dover trial is finally available to the public. There are three articles in it, two of them pro-ID. The pro-ID article is called Intelligent Design Will Survive and is written by David DeWolf, Casey Luskin and John West. The response, called Disaster in Dover, is written by Peter Irons. Then there is a response to Irons’ article by the three DI guys. I love the title of the first section of Irons’ article: THE DISCOVERY INSTITUTE’S EFFORTS TO “SWIFT-BOAT” JUDGE JONES. This is a very important bit of work because he documents, as I and others have done, the DI’s campaign to smear Judge Jones in order to sow doubt about his ruling.
This really demonstrates, as much as anything, the purely political nature of the ID movement. In response to the ruling, the Discovery Institute behaved exactly like partisan political groups behave: truth be damned, undermine your opponent with distortions, half-truths and ad hominem attacks designed to damage their standing in the eyes of their followers. Irons gives lots of examples:
Judge Jones issued his Kitzmiller opinion on December 20, 2005.8 The ink was hardly dry before one of the DI authors, John West, responded on the Institute’s Web site under the heading “Dover in Review.” West fired a barrage of ad hominem volleys at Judge Jones, accusing him of having “delusions of grandeur” and of being “an incredibly sloppy judge who selects the facts to fit the result he wants.” Judge Jones viewed the Kitzmiller case, West alleged, as “his chance to play philosopher king” and to secure “his place in judicial history.” West disputed the media’s portrayal of the judge, who was named to the federal bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush, and who attended Lutheran services, “as a conservative Republican who is devoutly religious.” Noting that Jones’s “political mentor” was Tom Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor, West disparaged Ridge as “a fairly liberal ‘pro-choice’ Republican,” insinuating that Ridge’s support for abortion rights somehow tainted Judge Jones’s Kitzmiller opinion.
Moving to another red-meat issue of dubious relevance to the Kitzmiller case, West wrote that Jones “does not seem in sync with most conservatives’ attitudes toward crime and punishment.” Before Jones had become a judge, he served by appointment as a part-time county public defender in criminal cases. Referring to Jones’s Senate confirmation hearings, West stated that Jones “spoke with pride about defending a murderer of a twelve-year old
boy and how he was able to get the murderer spared from the death penalty,” insinuating that Jones was soft on crime. Jones, in fact, had told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he “was very proud to do that as an assistant public defender consistent with my obligations as an attorney.” As West should have known, Jones was acting in this case as every attorney is required to do in defending his or her client, regardless of the public outcry.
One might fairly ask what possible relevance to the Kitzmiller case West discerned in Governor Ridge’s views on abortion rights, or Judge Jones’s church membership (or non-membership), or his efforts to spare a convicted murderer from the death penalty. The answer, in my view, stems from the fact (discussed at greater length below) that the constituency from which the DI draws a major part of its funding, and to which it pitches its propaganda,
consists largely of conservative, evangelical Christians for whom abortion, capital punishment, and evolution are linked in the “cultural war” against the “secular humanists” they see as enemies of Christian orthodoxy. From this perspective, West’s attacks on Judge Jones reflect more than the pique of a sore loser; they also employ code words in the political lexicon of the Religious Right.
Precisely right. When faced with a comprehensive and immensely damaging court ruling, the DI’s immediate response was to spew ad hominems at the man who wrote it. This is standard behavior in partisan political circles. Forget about the substantive issues addressed in the ruling, go straight for the red meat to throw the base – “he’s a liberal, and he’s probably pro-abortion too – and oh yeah, he likes freeing murderers of 12 year old kids.” That’ll do the trick. It’s extraordinarily dishonest, of course, in addition to being logically incoherent and utterly irrelevant to the validity of the ruling. But it’s standard operating procedure for the DI. Indeed, it can be seen in the pathetic attempt to respond on this very issue in their reply to Irons. This is the sum total of their response to that section of his article:
Given his article, it is surprising that Irons accuses us of making ad hominem attacks against Judge Jones. Ad hominem arguments attack a person rather than that person’s position. Our article assesses Judge Jones’s analysis in light of his judicial responsibilities, but Irons’s rebuttal starts with the alleged motives and personal failings of the authors. Irons’s claim that we resort to ad hominem attacks is the height of irony.
No, the height of irony is this highly dishonest response to the accusation. Notice their attempt to change the subject, to claim that since they did not use the ad hominems listed above in the Montana Law Review article, therefore his accusation is wrong. But he was not referring to their MLR article when he quoted the ad hominems, he was referring to their various public statements immediately after the ruling came down.
Of course they’re not going to use such arguments in a law review article, where they know it will only make them look bad (and may well result in the article being rejected for publication; unlike blog postings, law reviews actually have standards). They make such arguments in press releases and blog postings, which are aimed at a different, less educated audience that is more apt to respond to attempts to smear the judge rather than engage his positions. So not only do they lie and distort in order to smear Judge Jones, they then lie and distort when they’re caught doing so. A bravissimo performance, guys.