You may have noticed that the Montana Law Review let the DI folks have the last word in their symposium on the Dover trial; I’m going to fix that. Pete Irons has graciously sent me his full reply to the “rebuttal” written by Luskin, West and DeWolf and given me permission to post it here. The first article can be found here. Irons’ first reply is found here. The DI’s response is found here. And everything below the fold is Prof. Irons’ final reply to their attempt to rebut him.
By Peter Irons
The pages of a respected law review are rarely filled with such pejorative terms as “smear and innuendo,” “poisoning the well,” and “personal attacks.” These are charges the DI authors have leveled at me in their Rebuttal to my article, in which I documented their ad hominem attacks on Judge Jones for his allegedly “sloppy” and “biased” Kitzmiller opinion. Although this reply to the Rebuttal is not part of the exchange in the Montana Law Review, it seems fair that readers of those articles might benefit from a brief rejoinder to the Rebuttal, which I will not burden with footnotes. I have numbered the points below simply for convenience.
1. The DI authors fault me for not “engaging th[e] scholarship” they cite as providing “empirical evidence supporting [intelligent] design.” My article was not directed at a detailed critique of this alleged scholarship, which lies outside both my fields of expertise and those of the DI authors. I did, however, note in my article the concession of Michael Behe at the Kitzmiller trial that he could not cite any “pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” I thus had no ID scholarship to engage.
2. The DI authors next fault me for quoting from “a few blog posts” in my effort to explore the background of the Discovery Institute’s campaign to discredit Judge Jones. The lengthy blog posts on the DI’s Web site, written by John West, in fact formed the basis for the DI authors’ Traipsing Into Evolution book, both of which reveal the depth of the DI’s animus toward Judge Jones for his ruling. Hardly a “smear” to quote their own words, I submit.
3. The DI authors dismiss as an “old fundraising proposal” the document from which I quoted to show the explicitly religious genesis of the DI and its “intelligent design” campaign. Better known as the “Wedge Strategy,” and stamped “TOP SECRET” when it was inadvertently leaked to the press, this document was in fact the DI’s long-range “Strategic Plan” for promoting intelligent design. Its professed goal of replacing “the materialist worldview” with “a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions” properly led Judge Jones to conclude that the DI had launched “a program of Christian apologetics to promote ID.” Again, hardly a “smear” to quote the DI’s own words on its religious motives.
4. The DI authors deny making any ad hominem attacks on Judge Jones. My article cited several examples of such attacks, to which readers may refer. I will note here only one, John West’s charge that Judge Jones suffered from “delusions of grandeur.” This term, in fact, is not part of the legal lexicon, but refers to a psychiatric disorder. Whether used carelessly or intentionally, this characterization of Judge Jones certainly meets the ad hominem criterion, in my opinion. Again, hardly a “smear” to cite their own words on this issue.
5. The DI authors accuse me of engaging in “guilt-by-association” in noting that Howard Ahmanson, Jr., the DI’s primary funder and current board member, was also a long-time funder and board member of the Chalcedon Institute, a Christian Reconstructionist group that advocates an American theocracy. In noting this connection, I did not claim, as the DI authors allege, that the DI “supports” either Reconstructionism or theocracy. Which groups Ahmanson supports with his inherited fortune is his choice, but the DI did take his money when it knew of his Chalcedon association; Ahmanson served on the Chalcedon board until 2001 and contributed some $1 million to its Reconstructionist program. Readers of these exchanges are free, of course, to draw their own conclusions about the significance of these connections.
6. The DI authors charge me with “caricaturing the backgrounds, beliefs, and political affiliations of ID proponents, rather obviously trying to present ID as part of a nefarious conspiracy of the ‘Religious Right.’” Let me simply note here that every quotation in my article from the statements of ID proponents was cited to the public record of what they said and wrote. Readers of this exchange may consult that record and decide for themselves whether I have fairly reported or have caricatured those statements.
7. Moving to the legal issues in the Kitzmiller opinion, which the DI authors accuse me of slighting in my article, let me comment on their claim that both Judge Jones and I have “misapplie[d] the Lemon test.” First, they concede that the “proffered secular purpose” of the Dover school board’s ID policy was a “sham” and that Judge Jones properly held it unconstitutional as an endorsement of religion. Second, they argue that this finding “negat[ed] any need to address whether ID is science.” On this point, the DI authors note that “even anti-ID legal scholar Jay Wexler [a professor at Boston University Law School] agrees Judge Jones was mistaken to rule on ID’s scientific status,” citing Wexler’s recent article in the First Amendment Law Review (Vol. 5, 2006). Without rehashing the discussion of this issue in my article, let me simply note that Professor Wexler and I disagree. Readers of this exchange are encouraged to consult the lengthy, and–in my view–persuasive reply to Wexler by Richard Katskee in that same issue of the First Amendment Law Review.
8. In claiming that ID is based on legitimate scientific evidence, the DI authors traipse into paleontology in disputing my assertion that not one of the DI’s forty-some Fellows has any expertise in this field, which Judge Jones noted in his opinion and which is indisputably true. The DI authors respond that I have “ignor[ed] the various ID proponents–including one present co-author [of their article] who have studied (or published) in mainstream paleontology circles, including on hominid evolution.” They cite in their Rebuttal two articles, one by Sigrid Hartwig-Scherer of the University of Munich, the other by Casey Luskin, a co-author of the DI’s article. Let me simply note here that Hartwig-Scherer is a professed “six-day” creationist who attributes the entire fossil record of hominid evolution to the “flood” of the Genesis account of creation, a position that no reputable paleontologist finds credible. The article the DI authors cite was published in 1991 and does not reflect more recent findings in this field. Luskin’s article, posted on an ID Web site that is not peer-reviewed, argues that the human species has no connection in the fossil record with any earlier hominid species, again disputing the findings of reputable paleontologists. This may strike some readers as a minor quibble, but I think it reveals the grasping at straws of the DI authors in their effort to evade the overwhelming evidence of the “common descent” of humans from earlier hominid species, evidence that undermines their belief in the “special creation” by God of humankind.
9. One final comment on this exchange: In their initial responses to the Kitzmiller ruling, the DI authors dismissed Judge Jones’s opinion as of “minor significance,” predicting that it “will recede as an interesting footnote to the history of the scientific and cultural debate” over evolution and intelligent design. Why, then, have they devoted dozens of blog posts, a book, and a law review article to denigrating that opinion and its author? In my view, they recognize that the Dover “disaster” has effectively derailed the DI’s long-range plan to persuade gullible school boards to include ID as a legitimate “alternative” to evolution in biology classes. That defeat has clearly provoked the DI authors to their rhetorical excesses. Once again, I urge readers of this exchange to read the Kitzmiller opinion and decide for themselves which side has the more persuasive argument.