I’ve never written a law review article, and my first stab at the genre turned into a bit of a beast to wrangle. While most of the papers in the journal ran to perhaps a dozen pages, mine weighs in at 68, in which I offer a brief exploration of evolution for the lawerly set, a review of creationism’s legal and social history, a short defense of the Kitzmiller decision striking down ID in public schools, and a review of current anti-evolution efforts, especially so-called academic freedom laws. For all that, I think it hangs together nicely, a tribute to the students at the University of St. Thomas who helped edit this paper and organize the symposium over all.
The paper’s title, “Leap of Faith: Intelligent Design after Dover” is a reference both to the chalky cliffs of the English Channel, to the town in which ID itself took a fall, and to the politically and economically suicidal effects of pushing creationism into public schools. Along the way, I was able to work in some other subtle digs at ID, including this summary of the recent history of the ID movement:
Intelligent Design advocates have struggled without success to achieve academic acceptance as scientists. For example, some attempts have been made to create ID-specific journals comparable to those of creation scientists, but they have all become moribund, and an academic society dedicated to ID is similarly defunct. Major academic ID goals set in a fundraising document in 1998 have gone unachieved, such as the promise of a major monograph by Discovery Institute fellow Paul Nelson, which has been reported as nearly ready to print for over a decade. The proceedings of a Discovery Institute conference held in the summer of 2007, supposedly highlighting “the very kind of research our critics say we don‘t sponsor,” remain unpublished. William Dembski, once heralded on a book jacket as “the Isaac Newton of Information Theory,” has been reduced to rewriting and analyzing toy computer programs originally written for a TV series and popular books in the 1980s by biologist Richard Dawkins as trivial demonstrations of the power of selection. Dembski explained his poor record of publication in peer-reviewed scientific literature by saying, “I‘ve just gotten kind of blasé about submitting things to journals where you often wait two years to get things into print. And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well.” Alas, they don‘t convince mathematicians of his mathematical arguments, prompting Dembski to reply to one critic: “I‘m not and never have been in the business of offering a strict mathematical proof for the inability of material mechanisms to generate specified complexity.” This, despite his claim to have developed a “Law of Conservation of Information” about which he states in one book: “The crucial point of the Law of Conservation of Information is that natural causes can at best preserve CSI…, may degrade it, but cannot generate it.”
In 1998, the Discovery Institute explained to its donors that research was crucial stating, “Phase I [described as ‘Research, Writing and Publication‘] is the essential component of everything that comes afterward. Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.” Judges and others seeking to assess the merits of ID going forward need issue no harsher judgment than the Discovery Institute has presented here. By its own standards, ID is intellectually stagnant, and must be regarded as “just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade,” in line with previous creationist movements.
The Kitzmiller ruling cited as “[a] final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant… the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory.” The movement, however, did not take this as a call to return to the labs and produce novel results in readiness for future legal challenges [fn: Discovery Institute did create what amounts to a Potemkin laboratory – the Biologic Institute. … Attempts to view the lab spaces or examine their research have been blocked. See Celeste Biever, Intelligent design: The God Lab, THE NEW SCIENTIST, Dec. 15 2006, at 8-11. According to one report, the only research finding offered by Biologic actually contradicts a central claim of ID. …”We shuffled off for a coffee break with the admission hanging in the air that natural processes could not only produce new information, they could produce beneficial new information”).]. Instead, the movement has produced a the third edition of Pandas (renamed Design of Life and no longer aimed at high schools) and a successor to Pandas, called Explore Evolution, which contains even less substance and scientific accuracy than its predecessor. The Intelligent Design documentary, Expelled!: No intelligence Allowed mangled interviews and the history of the Holocaust, and has been called “one of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time.” In addition, Michael Behe published a successor to Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, while still failing to address criticism leveled at the earlier work, even those he himself acknowledged.
Later, I consider ID’s claims to peer reviewed scientific papers and contrast that with the wide acceptance of evolution in relevant scientific communities:
To understand a theory‘s impact and scientific validity, it is necessary to review how it fares when later researchers examine its claims, and how much new research is generated by insights from a given line of thinking. In the case of those few papers claimed as peer-reviewed defenses of ID, none has met any favorable response, or been cited as generating successful predictions for future researchers.* By contrast, the number of papers building on evolutionary theory and deepening our knowledge of the field has grown rapidly in recent years, due in part to the theory‘s ability to generate new insights into the burgeoning fields of molecular biology, genomics, and developmental genetics. This reflects a community-wide consensus among relevant scientists on the merits of evolution, a consensus further strengthened by assessments of scientific bodies. Groups including the National Academy of Sciences and its international counterparts, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and professional societies representing groups with special knowledge of evolution, including biologists of many sorts, geologists, physicists, historians, philosophers, and many others, have issued statements representing their members‘ agreement that evolution is foundational to modern biology, is well-supported, and belongs in science classes.
* DISCOVERY INST. THE COLLEGE STUDENT‘S BACK TO SCHOOL GUIDE TO INTELLIGENT DESIGN (2009), available at http://www.evolutionnews.org/BacktoSchoolGuide_Sept2009 _FN.pdf. The pamphlet states, “Criticss [sic] often claim that intelligent design proponents do not publish peer-reviewed scientific papers or that they do not do scientific research.” To rebut this claim, 6 papers are cited, none from later than 2004. One of those was discussed at length in testimony by Kitzmiller defense witnesses, with the court describing that paper as “The one article referenced [by defense‘s scientific witnesses]… as supporting ID …. A review of the article indicates that it does not mention … ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically realistic population size were used.” Another proffered article was repudiated by the journal which published it, with the editors noting that it “represents a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124-year history. … We have met and determined that all of us would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings.” A review of the other papers listed by the Discovery Institute in Science Citation Index finds two of the papers have no citations at all, and the few citations garnered by the remainder are either self-citation by the same ideologically driven group of authors, or are citations rejecting the paper‘s findings. For context, the 254 papers turned up in a search for the narrow topic “evolutionary developmental biology” published in 2004 have been cited an average of 13 times, compared to an average 7 citations for ID‘s top papers, some of which have had many more years to accumulate citations. The marketplace of ideas has spoken.
The community of jurists has spoke as well, issuing ruling after ruling blocking creationism from public school science classes. I conclude the paper by noting that this trend is unlikely to change:
Even before Intelligent Design was ruled unconstitutional in science classes, a new strategy to advance creationism had been formulated. This strategy consists of state laws which radically reshape the concept of ―academic freedom‖ to allow public secondary school teachers and students unprecedented leeway in their presentation of science (and only science), and encouraging science teachers to present creationist-inspired “evidence against evolution” rather than advocating teaching creationism by name. These strategies have yet to be directly tested in court, but it would be an error to regard this absence of evidence as evidence for the constitutionality of the new approach. Courts are rightly skeptical of claimed “academic freedom” to present creationism as no statutory claim of academic freedom could justify an abuse of the First Amendment rights of students. The rhetoric used to promote these new laws, policies, and educational supplements produced to support them, shows many of the same constitutional flaws which courts found in earlier creationist tactics. Given the extensive similarities between these and earlier creationist strategies, school districts and courts are wise to be as cautious about this latest version of creationism as they were of creationism‘s previous incarnations.
Check it out and have fun with it.