Sandefur and Brayton on Fire

Time for another installment of, “How bad have things gotten for the ID folks?”

It is now almost a year since the big ruling in the Dover case. As I'm sure you recall, that's the one where the ID folks put their most formidable legal and scientific talent in front of a Court, and the Court promptly laughed in their faces. Still smarting from this, they have decided that attacking Judge Jones is the way to go. But since there is no legitimate point on which Judge Jones can be criticized, they have decided to go to the old standbys of trumped up charges followed by phony outrage.

Here's the DI's press release, breathlessly reporting on their latest discovery:

The key section of the widely-noted court decision on intelligent design issued a year ago on December 20 was copied nearly verbatim from a document written by ACLU lawyers, according to a study released today by scholars affiliated with the Discovery Institute.

“Judge John Jones copied verbatim or virtually verbatim 90.9% of his 6,004-word section on whether intelligent design is science from the ACLU's proposed 'Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law' submitted to him nearly a month before his ruling,” said Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

“Ironically, Judge Jones has been hailed as 'an outstanding thinker' for his 'masterful' ruling, and even honored by Time magazine as one of the world's 'most influential people' in the category of 'scientists and thinkers,'"”said West. “But Jones' analysis of the scientific status of intelligent design contains virtually nothing written by Jones himself. This finding seriously undercuts the credibility of a central part of the ruling.”

Goodness! Sounds bad doesn't it? Well, it isn't.

Over at The Panda's Thumb, Tim Sandefur takes care of business:

Now, Vice President for Legal Affairs John West is not a lawyer, so he may not be familiar with the fact that this is exactly what proposed findings of fact are for. They are proposed findings which a judge, if he or she agrees, then incorporates as his or her own findings. Both the school district and the plaintiffs filed proposed findings, and the judge went with the findings he found most convincing. Incidentally, the school district doesn't seem to have ever objected to the plaintiffs' filing their proposed findings. (Emphasis in original)

After providing several precedents to back up this statement, Sandefur writes:

What's hilarious about this complete non-story is what an obvious attempt this is at keeping alive a subject that has already been done to death. Like the wacky Larry and Richard, toting around the corpse of their boss, the Discovery Institute is trying hard to pretend that there is some life left in their portrayal of ID as a science unfairly persecuted by political schemers. They keep propping up the Dover case as proof of their status as censored visionaries. The press release claims that “A year after Dover, it's the Darwinists who seem filled with gloom, not us,” but we still haven't stopped partying over demolishing them in Kitzmiller. (You should see all the empty champagne bottles. Matzke's gonna have a hell of a headache.) Meanwhile, ID creationism has been increasingly marginalized, and its defenders have grown increasingly desperate. Desperate enough to accuse Judge Jones of impropriety for following an obviously well-established legal procedure. Desperate enough to still be groaning over the licking they took a year ago. Desperate enough to portray a Republican Bush appointee as an “activist” pawn of ACLU lefties. Desperate enough to spend time figuring out percentages of similar-sounding words, rather than doing any, you know, research in biological science. Truly laughable.

Well said! See the original for links.

But inventing phony scandals is the least of the DI's problems. Ed Brayton points out that virtually all of their substantive claims are false. Here's a representative sample:

Here's another example of an alleged error in the ruling:

ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications.

And here is their argument as to why it's an error:

Expert witness Scott Minnich testified at trial that there were between “seven and ten” peer-reviewed papers supporting ID, and he discussed a pro-intelligent design article in the peer-reviewed biology journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Additional peerreviewed publications were listed in an annotated bibliography submitted in an amicus brief accepted as part of the official court record by Judge Jones.

This objection amounts to “but we said otherwise and he didn't believe us.” Well guess what? There's a good reason why he didn't believe you. Let's look at what Minnich actually said about this peer-reviewed research:

I think yesterday there was, as I mentioned, there were around, between, I don't know, seven and ten. I don't have the specific ones. But Dr. Axe published one or two papers in the journal Biological Chemistry that were specifically addressing concepts within intelligent design. Mike Behe had one. Steve Meyer has had one.

Ah yes, the Axe papers, and Behe and Snoke paper. Yes, Minnich did mention them. Does that mean that those are indeed examples peer-reviewed research that supports ID? Not even close. In fact, those papers were discussed during the trial and completely debunked. The Axe papers in no way support intelligent design, nor do they claim to. In fact, Axe's studies on perturbation rates in enzymes actually cuts against the notion of irreducible complexity because it shows that you have to knock out an immense number of amino acids in order to destroy all enzyme function.

Ed's post is rather long, but that's only because the DI said very little that was true. Go read the whole thing!

And I love the effrontery of that first paragraph. The very idea that the DI is the sort of place that hires scholars to study things is ridiculous. Like all crank outfits, everything the DI does is an exercise in pretending they are something they are not. People who know what actual scholarship looks like can see through the DI in a few minutes. That is why their minions do their utmost to avoid interacting with knowledgable people.

That's what's especially insidious about this latest collection of creationist lies. Anyone who knows anything about how legal decisions get written knows this is a non-story. But most people don't know about such things. They hear that the Judge copied from another source and conclude that he is a plagiarizing jerk. That, of course, is what the DI wants. Worries about the truth of their charges are for people with consciences to deal with. That excludes the virtually everyone who works for them.

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Yet another public relations stunt from the Liars for Jesus Institute.

These are the self deceived people who deliberately set out to deceive the courts so they could better deceive children.

By JohnnieCanuck (not verified) on 13 Dec 2006 #permalink

The folks at the DI better hope there's no God, because if there is, they're going straight to hell for a) lying, and b) denying Creation (because ID isn't creation, right? Right?).

I just can't understand people whose view is that materialists/atheists need to turn to God because that's the only way people can be good, yet they lie and cheat-- sin-- to try to convince us.

What I think you don't understand, Jason, is that Ed's response, as well as yours is irrelevant to the people who most need to read it. Guys like us who read evolutionblog are not all that shocked at your message. But the people DI is addressing probably do not spend a lot of time reading your blog, or EB's. In fact, they probably don't spend much time at all checking into the facts they are given by their pastors, and parents, and friends that demonstrate how evolutionists have shanghaied the scientific process.

The DI article is not meant to convey information - it's meant to augment and help perpetuate an urban legend. Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now there are going to be creationists arguing with a new round of evolutionists in front of some audience - and the creationists will bring up this scandalous episode as evidence that they're the modern day Galileos. The evolutionist will not want to comment, perhaps because she's aware that she doesn't know all the facts. The audience will consider this reticence a clear sign of weakness. OTOH, if that evolutionist is familiar with EB's response, maybe he'll be able to pull a coup. But the average person doesn't maintain a list of every idiotic statement creationists have ever made along with a refutation.

Still, it's comforting to know that this kind of information, i.e. EB's refutation, is available.

The judge was patient enough to sift through the various arguments that were made and extract the stuff that actually made sense. Maybe other people will exercise similiar intellectual curiosity.

I was at one time a professional basketball player and one of the first things I was told was that you don't ever diss a ref in public. You will never get the close call ever again. It just isn't done, unless you're a moron.

So, with this little tantrum, the Discovery Institute has poisoned the water for any furture litigation. Judges aren't stupid, they will get wind of this and the word will spread through the court system. Why do you think the TMLC has kept quiet about this, they KNOW better than to tug on Superman's cape.

Geeze, the sheer stupidity of it all.

The two York newspapers here, here, and here (which had covered the nearby issue in Dover) were not impressed with the DI's press release. They may spread the word a bit further (if not in as much detail) as these blogs.

I'm a lawyer employed by the California Superior Court to assist judges. (Each judge in California has a lawyer--I bet you didn't know that.) I draft judicial opinions for a living. This business about adopting the prevailing party's proposed findings of fact is a non story. As far as I know, the practice is universal. If after trial I had to comb through the record for the facts I'd not only have to order a transcript (they aren't prepared unless someone orders one), I'd have to spend days or weeks (figure about 25% real time) culling the facts I want. I have no time for that drudgery--I'm already in the next trial, working on motions and objections and hearings. Better to let the prevailing party prepare the statement of facts--then I can zip through it and adopt the facts I agree with and toss the ones I don't.

By L.A. Research … (not verified) on 14 Dec 2006 #permalink

Oh, and Paul T., there's similar wisdom for young lawyers in the court. When we get new lawyers in for a seminar or something, a judge will always trot out a story about some lawyer who acted like a jerk 20 years ago and the story got around and that lawyer never got a kind nod again. (My favorite story has to do with a guy who wouldn't agree to continue a hearing when opposing counsel had to rush to the hospital where her daughter was being taken after a traffic accident. The judge found out, he told the other judges over morning doughnuts, and that lawyer was marked for life.) "Ladies and gentlement," a judge will say, "there really is such a thing as reputation in this business. It's a really real thing. You don't want that 'A' branded on your forehead. It doesn't stand for 'adultery', and it doesn't come off."

By L.A. Research … (not verified) on 14 Dec 2006 #permalink

Slight subject change (sorry):
I was over at UD reading the link you provided about Judge Jones' decision and then browsed my way to an article claiming that by one genetic criteria humans are more closely related to coelacanths than any known creature:

Needless to say my interest was piqued, so I followed it and it turns out they were not misrepresenting the article they quoted. However, I then went to the Nature article and I gotta tell ya, this is too funny!

I wouldn't pound Mr. Scott for misrepresentation of what he read, but he's at least guilty of not checking up that the original Nature article actual says what it's purported to say! I

The guys who write from SNL and Mad TV combined couldn't come up with anything this funny. I'm really busy right now, but I eventually I want to finish reading the Nature article and write a small blog about this.