ID Defenders Play Pretend

One of the incredible things I've noticed about the raft of pro-ID articles and columns written not by the major ID advocates but by others in the media who support ID, is the degree to which they completely ignore the substance of Judge Jones' ruling. In his ruling, Judge Jones went into excruciating detail in discussing the voluminous evidence presented at trial that established that ID is not a genuine scientific theory but rather a religious idea being dressed up in scientific-sounding language in order to avoid past court rulings. ID's defenders just seem to pretend that none of that evidence exists. To wit, William Rusher's column on this subject, which notes:

Just who or what the "intelligent designer" was, the theory leaves open. But one obvious possibility is God, and that has roused the defenders of purely random evolution to protest that religion is being smuggled into a class that ought to be confined strictly to "science" - that is to say, to exclusively materialistic, non-religious explanations of reality.

They therefore hauled the school board into court, and the judge turned out to be entirely on the side of the evolutionists. He not only agreed that the offending statement and all other references to intelligent design must be banned from classes on evolution, but threw in a series of gratuitous slaps at the school board, which was defeated in a subsequent election and replaced by one favored by the evolutionists.

He doesn't bother to discuss any of the nearly 100 pages of evidence presented in the ruling for the propositions he disagrees with. He doesn't dispute a single argument made in the ruling. He just repeats the ID mantras as though they hadn't been addressed in the trial and defeated by stronger arguments and evidence to the contrary. The question of whether the designer could be anything but God was discussed at the trial and the experts for the ID side couldn't come up with any alternatives. Judge Jones wrote:

Phillip Johnson, considered to be the father of the IDM, developer of ID's "Wedge Strategy," which will be discussed below, and author of the 1991 book entitled Darwin on Trial, has written that "theistic realism" or "mere creation" are defining concepts of the IDM. This means "that God is objectively real as Creator and recorded in the biological evidence..." (Trial Tr. vol. 10, Forrest Test., 80-81, Oct. 5, 2005; P-328). In addition, Phillip Johnson states that the "Darwinian theory of evolution contradicts not just the Book of Genesis, but every word in the Bible from beginning to end. It contradicts the idea that we are here because a creator brought about our existence for a purpose." (11:16-17 (Forrest); P-524 at 1). ID proponents Johnson, William Dembski, and Charles Thaxton, one of the editors of Pandas, situate ID in the Book of John in the New Testament of the Bible, which begins, "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was God." (11:18-20, 54-55 (Forrest); P-524; P-355; P-357). Dembski has written that ID is a "ground clearing operation" to allow Christianity to receive serious consideration, and "Christ is never an addendum to a scientific theory but always a completion." (11:50-53 (Forrest); P-386; P-390). Moreover, in turning to Defendants' lead expert, Professor Behe, his testimony at trial indicated that ID is only a scientific, as opposed to a religious, project for him; however, considerable evidence was introduced to refute this claim. Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. (P-718 at 705) (emphasis added). As no evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition's validity rests on belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe's assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition.

Dramatic evidence of ID's religious na ture and aspirations is found in what is referred to as the "Wedge Document." The Wedge Document, developed by the Discovery Institute's Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (hereinafter "CRSC"), represents from an institutional standpoint, the IDM's goals and objectives, much as writings from the Institute for Creation Research did for the earlier creation-science movement, as discussed in McLean. (11:26-28 (Forrest)); McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1255. The Wedge Document states in its "Five Year Strategic Plan Summary" that the IDM's goal is to replace science as currently practiced with "theistic and Christian science." (P-140 at 6). As posited in the Wedge Document, the IDM's "Governing Goals" are to "defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies" and "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." Id. at 4. The CSRC expressly announces, in the Wedge Document, a program of Christian apologetics to promote ID. A careful review of the Wedge Document's goals and language throughout the document reveals cultural and religious goals, as opposed to scientific ones. (11:26-48 (Forrest); P-140). ID aspires to change the ground rules of science to make room for religion, specifically, beliefs consonant with a particular version of Christianity.

In addition to the IDM itself describing ID as a religious argument, ID's religious nature is evident because it involves a supernatural designer. The courts in Edwards and McLean expressly found that this characteristic removed creationism from the realm of science and made it a religious proposition. Edwards, 482 U.S. at 591-92; McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1265-66. Prominent ID proponents have made abundantly clear that the designer is supernatural.

Indeed, the arguments of the ID advocates themselves prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the designer could only be supernatural. If it could be natural, then why on earth do they spend so much time arguing against "naturalism" and arguing that we need to establish a "theistic science"? The fact that they point to the very nature of the universe is evidence of design shows that their claims that the designer could be an alien or a time travelling biochemist are simply dishonest. Neither of those things could create a universe, only a transcendant, supernatural being could do so. But don't take my word for it, listen to William Dembski:

The fine-tuning of the universe, about which cosmologists make such a to-do, is both complex and specified and readily yields design. So too, Michael Behe's irreducibly complex biochemical systems readily yield design. The complexity-specification criterion demonstrates that design pervades cosmology and biology. Moreover, it is a transcendent design, not reducible to the physical world. Indeed, no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life.

So much for the claim that the designer could be anything other than a divine being. Their own words prove their claims to the contrary to be false and, indeed, dishonest. Now, on to the question of whether ID was a genuine scientific theory, a subject on which there was a great deal of testimony at the trial nad on which the judge had much to say. There are several reasons why ID is not a genuine scientific theory and all were presented at the trial with an enormous amount of evidence and testimony to support them.

First, the fact that ID requires a supernatural designer (again, by their own admission as well as by logical analysis) proves that ID is not genuinely scientific unless the definition of science is changed to include the supernatural. Even the ID experts in the case, particularly Minnich and Fuller, testified to this fact. As the ruling states:

Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. (9:19-22 (Haught); 5:25-29 (Pennock); 1:62 (Miller)). This revolution entailed the rejection of the appeal to authority, and by extension, revelation, in favor of empirical evidence. (5:28 (Pennock)). Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea's worth. (9:21-22 (Haught ); 1:63 (Miller)). In deliberately omitting theological or "ultimate" explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of "meaning" and "purpose" in the world. (9:21 (Haught); 1:64, 87 (Miller)). While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. (3:103 (Miller); 9:19-20 (Haught)). This self-imposed convention of science, which limits inquiry to testable, natural explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as "methodological naturalism" and is sometimes known as the scientific method. (5:23, 29-30 (Pennock)). Methodological naturalism is a "ground rule" of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify. (1:59-64, 2:41-43 (Miller); 5:8, 23-30 (Pennock))...

This rigorous attachment to "natural" explanations is an essential attribute to science by definition and by convention. (1:63 (Miller); 5:29-31 (Pennock)). We are in agreement with Plaintiffs' lead expert Dr. Miller, that from a practical perspective, attributing unsolved problems about nature to causes and forces that lie outside the natural world is a "science stopper." (3:14-15 (Miller)). As Dr. Miller explained, once you attribute a cause to an untestable supernatural force, a proposition that cannot be disproven, there is no reason to continue seeking natural explanations as we have our answer...

It is notable that defense experts' own mission, which mirrors that of the IDM itself, is to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation of the natural world, which the Supreme Court in Edwards and the court in McLean correctly recognized as an inherently religious concept. Edwards, 482 U.S. at 591-92; McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267. First, defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to "change the ground rules" of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. (28:26 (Fuller); 21:37-42 (Behe)). Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces. (38:97 (Minnich)).

Critics who are baffled by why Judge Jones declared ID to be inherently religious in nature clearly just haven't read the ruling. He had no choice. The Supreme Court has already ruled that appealing to supernatural explanations is an explicitly religious idea and that such ideas cannot be taught in public schools. Once the defense's own experts admit on the witness stand that ID requires a supernatural explanation, it's game, set, match. The judge has no choice but to follow precedent and both sides agree that this case fits that precedent.

Notice also the key requirement that in order for an explanation to be considered scientific, it must be based upon testability rather than authority. The judge also noted, again from the testimony of the defense experts themselves, that ID makes no positive, testable hypotheses, relying instead on purely negative arguments against evolution and the false presumption that if they can knock down evolution, ID is proven true:

ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed. (5:41 (Pennock)). This argument is not brought to this Court anew, and in fact, the same argument, termed "contrived dualism" in McLean, was employed by creationists in the 1980's to support "creation science." The court in McLean noted the "fallacious pedagogy of the two model approach" and that "[i]n efforts to establish 'evidence' in support of creation science, the defendants relied upon the same false premise as the two model approach...all evidence which criticized evolutionary theory was proof in support of creation science." McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267, 1269. We do not find this false dichotomy any more availing to justify ID today than it was to justify creation science two decades ago.

ID proponents primarily argue for design through negative arguments against evolution, as illustrated by Professor Behe's argument that "irreducibly complex" systems cannot be produced through Darwinian, or any natural, mechanisms. (5:38-41 (Pennock); 1:39, 2:15, 2:35-37, 3:96 (Miller); 16:72-73 (Padian); 10:148 (Forrest)). However, we believe that arguments against evolution are not arguments for design. Expert testimony revealed that just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow. (2:36-37 (Miller)). As Dr. Padian aptly noted, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." (17:45 (Padian)). To that end, expert testimony from Drs. Miller and Padian provided multiple examples where Pandas asserted that no natural explanations exist, and in some cases that none could exist, and yet natural explanations have been identified in the intervening years. It also bears mentioning that as Dr. Miller stated, just because scientists cannot explain every evolutionary detail does not undermine its validity as a scientific theory as no theory in science is fully understood. (3:102 (Miller)).

As referenced, the concept of irreducible complexity is ID's alleged scientific centerpiece. Irreducible complexity is a negative argument against evolution, not proof of design, a point conceded by defense expert Professor Minnich. (2:15 (Miller); 38:82 (Minnich) (irreducible complexity "is not a test of intelligent design; it's a test of evolution"). Irreducible complexity additionally fails to make a positive scientific case for ID, as will be elaborated upon below.

The judge also goes on to note that nowhere in the scientific literature have ID advocates ever made a positive case for design, nor has there ever been a single bit of research published that supports ID. And once again, this is a fact that was admitted under oath by the defense's own witnesses:

A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory. Expert testimony revealed that the peer review process is "exquisitely important" in the scientific process. It is a way for scientists to write up their empirical research and to share the work with fellow experts in the field, opening up the hypotheses to study, testing, and criticism. (1:66-69 (Miller)). In fact, defense expert Professor Behe recognizes the importance of the peer review process and has written that science must "publish or perish." (22:19-25 (Behe)). Peer review helps to ensure that research papers are scientifically accurately, meet the standards of the scientific method, and are relevant to other scientists in the field. (1:39-40 (Miller)). Moreover, peer review involves scientists submitting a manuscript to a scientific journal in the field, journal editors soliciting critical reviews from other experts in the field and deciding whether the scientist has followed proper research procedures, employed up-to-date methods, considered and cited relevant literature and generally, whether the researcher has employed sound science.

The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. Both Drs. Padian and Forrest testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID. (17:42-43 (Padian); 11:32-33 (Forrest)). On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: "There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred." (22:22-23 (Behe)). Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed. (21:61-62 (complex molecular systems), 23:4-5 (immune system), and 22:124-25 (blood-clotting cascade) (Behe)). In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe's argument that certain complex molecular structures are "irreducibly complex."17 (21:62, 22:124-25 (Behe)). In addition to failing to produce papers in pee--reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing. (28:114-15 (Fuller); 18:22-23, 105-06 (Behe)).

Indeed, Behe admitted on the stand that the only attempt he has made to test his claim that irreducibly complex (IC) systems could not evolve naturally, a computer simulation performed with David Snoke in 2004, in fact disproved his claim by showing that IC systems could evolve in a relatively short period of time even if all of the parameters of the simulation are rigged to prevent this from happening.

And all of this really just scratches the surface. Judge Jones went into exhaustive detail in his ruling to justify the conclusion that ID is not a scientific theory but a religious idea with a transparent scientific veneer over the top. It seems rather ridiculous that so many commentators see fit to dispute those conclusions without ever bothering to discuss the enormous amount of evidence, most if it admitted to by the defense's own experts, that he martials for those conclusions. They seem to content to pretend that the judge just made it up out of thin air.

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They have not read it. They did not read the Bible either. They just argue whatever feels good to them. Have you read the two posts on "Truthiness" on Mixing Memory blog?

Ed, one of the reasons none of these conservative commentators will consider the decision in detail is the same reason they won'd consider the actual science of Darwin in detail--something I blogged about a few days ago:

"This seems to me a deliberate strategy amongst otherwise well-respected conservative journalists as well. Instead of discussing the science of evolution, they are only interested in insisting it is a threat to theism, that there is an absolute choice between Darwins theoryor what they take to be the necessary materialistic nihilism behind the theoryand Christianity or Judaism."

In short, they just don't want to entertain the idea that there really isn't a problem between Darwin and religion. If they did, that would make a hash of their UTTERLY STUPID belief that somehow Darwin's theory is responsible for every ill currently afflicting American society.

By John Farrell (not verified) on 18 Jan 2006 #permalink

"They therefore hauled the school board into court, and the judge turned out to be entirely on the side of the evolutionists."

Yeah, it's obvious that this journalist hasn't even skimmed through the ruling. That quote is an insult, as it makes it sound like, "oh, low and behold we got a biased activist judge with an agenda."

The other opinion they never seem to explore is maybe the judge just did his job, weighed the evidence, and came to a good decision?

I seriously doubt that Judge Jones knew much about evolutionary theory and the tactics used by those wanting to overthrow it.

We see what happens when people approach the subject without an axe to grind.

I find statements like this as disengenous as anything ID spouts:

'In short, they just don't want to entertain the idea that there really isn't a problem between Darwin and religion.'

Some religions perhaps, but not Christianity. To say there isn't a problem for Christianity in regards to evolution despite the apologetics of some is, in my view, dishonest. It's simply an attempt to allow people to keep a faith when a proven science has damaged the core of the belief system itself.

Alot of things pick around the edges of religion like common sense, reason, etc but evolution sends the x-wing fighter into the core reactor.

The problem comes when you realize evolution is a continuum, blending seemlessly from one 'species' to another. To think we are the end of this process is simply arrogance and that is not the only problems it causes. As Sam Harris has said again and again the fundies shouldn't be debated with because they are wrong on evolution but rather because they are 100% correct about this aspect of their religion.

It's not like as if they read most (or even part) of the decision, but missed one item--the 139-page document was quite redundant (for necessary purposes) because Judge Jones fully discussed the multiple lines of reasoning for deciding each issue. It's a matter of the critics replacing "The way I wish" for "The way it is." Then they continue their entrenched behavior of ignoring criticisms and refutations of their arguments, repeating them endlessly to the uninformed.

It occurs to me that there is a parallel here between this and the recent furor over Brokeback Mountain. I read many articles by religious right types claiming that those who were praising the movie were doing so because Hollywood was out to "destroy family values" and "infect America with their moral rot" and so forth - and not one of those articles ever bothered to address the question of whether the movie was good or not. Movie reviewers and movie awards are predicated on the quality of the movie. If the movie is good, that's really all that matters. And I haven't seen it, so I can't say. But it seems you ought to at least address that question before spouting off about ulterior motives for good reviews, just as you ought to address the judge's arguments before saying he's wrong.

I went and read Rusher's column. I do not think that he put as much work into as you put into your post. I am not sure what he was thinking when he wrote:

But not even a short statement about it can be permitted in a "scientific" class! It is phony, it is false, it "isn't scientific" � meaning it violates the rule (laid down by whom, by the way?) that only purely materialistic explanations are permitted in science classes.

The paraenthetical comment (laid down by whom, by the way?) strikes me as a major problem that occurs in these arguments. The scientific community has developed a way of doing things that is very good at producing useful knowledge, and if you come in and start trying to change those rules the scientists get very cranky.


I agree with you on this one. How could one say if the acting, scenary, plot, etc of a movie was good or bad based on prior prejudices? I almost feel sorry for such individuals.

I find these type of people shallow and ultimately not a friend of freedom. I abhor censorship and the poverty of culture that it can bring about.

I wonder if the next step for ID is going to be to drop the transcendent/supernatural aspect, and limit it to supposed flaws in biological evolution. There's no need whatsover to include what Heddle would call "cosmological ID" alongside "biological ID", unless you're a) trying to prove the existence of God, or b) trying to appeal to fundamentalists who are suspicious of your disavowals of young earth creationism. Both of these motivations obviously pose constitutional problems for ID in the classroom. Drop "cosmological ID" and, in theory, it might be easier to get past the courts. But given that they're not seekers after truth but rather Christian apologists I'd be surprised if the IDists were willing to drop the implicit theism of ID. I suspect they'll join forces with the YECs and others in attacking the establishment clause.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 18 Jan 2006 #permalink

The problem comes when you realize evolution is a continuum, blending seemlessly from one 'species' to another. To think we are the end of this process is simply arrogance and that is not the only problems it causes. As Sam Harris has said again and again the fundies shouldn't be debated with because they are wrong on evolution but rather because they are 100% correct about this aspect of their religion.

Yeah--except fundies do not represent Christianity as a whole. (thankfully)

By John Farrell (not verified) on 18 Jan 2006 #permalink

'Yeah--except fundies do not represent Christianity as a whole. (thankfully)'

See thats the point, they represent in some way, the most honest form of the religion. They realize what evolution does to the faith itself. You may not agree but the reasoning behid sects that accept evolution is, to say the least, often bizarre.

If you accept the continuum of evolution as proven and true then you have all types of irrationality to make Christianity work as a religion. Not so of all religions.

The continuum doesn't allow arbritary allowances for 'species' as Homo sapiens is simply a modern reference on ourselves. The 'first' homo sapiens knew not that he was any different from his parents whatever designation we give them simply because he wasn't measurably different at that point. Not to mention more down to earth problems such as that of original sin. Simply put evolutions challenge to Christianity has nothing to do with fundies, they are vocal but the problems don't disappear for the other sects either.

Rusher shows his scientific ignorance right off the bat in the first paragraph quoted with his "random evolution" comment. Few things irk me more than when ignorant IDiots use the word "random", epsecially when it's used as some sort of epithet. How can someone so ignorant be so eager to show it off so prominently?

The second paragraph is a total disaster. Does this guy bother to any background research at all? Apparently not.

And, somewhat off topic, I can't help but pipe in about "Brokeback Mountain." Or, more generally, the Christian right's anti-gay rhetoric. I hope I'm not being over the top here, but to me the rhetoric sounds more and more like anti-Semitic propaganda of 1930's Germany. "They're corrupting our kids." "They're destroying the cultural fabric of our society". And other such garbage. It's really starting to get scary.

By ZacharySmith (not verified) on 18 Jan 2006 #permalink

You may not agree but the reasoning behid sects that accept evolution is, to say the least, often bizarre.

In what way? Since at least Augustine, long before the reformation, Christians have accepted that what can be known about the physical world, apart from Revelation, is perfectly trustworthy and acceptable, since Christians believed the world to be the product of a rational mind. They further reasoned that since Revelation told them it was the product of a rational mind, there was a good chance the world operated according to rational laws.

In the 10th century, several Christian philosophers and theologians (Abelard comes to mind) took it even further.

In his Commentary on Genesis, Augustine warned Christians that by adhering to literal interpretation of the Bible in statements of the natural world, they would expose themselves and the Faith to ridicule. Seems to me perfectly relevant to what's going on today.

So I don't see how you can simplistically claim that fundamentalism --a very late development in the history of Christianity--can be regarded as the most honest version.

By John Farrell (not verified) on 20 Jan 2006 #permalink

For example, if what you claim about fundamentalism is true, the very existence and achievement of someone like Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, importing and assimilating the entire corpus of Aristotle's work (essentially pagan) would not only have been impossible--it would not even have been attempted.

By John Farrell (not verified) on 20 Jan 2006 #permalink