Arrogance of Judge Jones
One of the big arguments against teaching or even mentioning ID and irreducible complexity in the public schools is that ID and IC should first "pay their dues" by becoming more accepted in the scientific community. But in the Kutzmiller v. Dover opinion, Judge Jones went far beyond that argument by concluding that ID and IC are unscientific. The Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion says (page 89), "ID's backers have sought to a avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class" and "It is our view that a reasonable, objective observer would, after reviewing both the voluminous record in this case, and our narrative, reach the inescapable conclusion that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science." (emphasis added) In other words, Jones was not merely alleging that ID had not been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals or was not widely accepted in the scientific community -- he said that he himself had reached the "inescapable conclusion" that ID is not science. Whether or not ID or IC is science has nothing to do with the fact that the scientific community -- and not Judge Jones -- is supposed to make that determination. Those who say that scientific questions should not be decided by public opinion polls were perfectly happy to have Judge Jones decide scientific questions, even though deciding scientific questions was not necessary for deciding the Kitzmiller case.
Judge Jones turned a deaf ear to 85 scientists who filed an amicus brief pleading with him to refrain from ruling on the scientific merits of ID and IC. The brief said,
. . . . the scientific theory of intelligent design should not be stigmatized by the courts as less scientific than competing theories . . . . .litigation should not usurp the laboratory or scientific journals as the venue where scientific disputes are resolved. Doubts as to whether a theory adequately explains the evidence should be resolved by scientific debate, not by court rulings. . . . . . Whether or not intelligent design is adopted as an explanation for biological origins, science benefits from the competition of alternate hypotheses. Amici see great value to design theory simply because it forces scientists to confront evidence which conflicts with the Neo-Darwinian paradigm . . . . .
As for the last point -- forcing scientists "to confront evidence which conflicts with the Neo-Darwinian paradigm" -- many scientific articles speak glibly in vague, nebulous terms about evolution without trying to look at the details of evolutionary mechanisms. Just saying that "evolutiondidit" can be as mind-numbing as saying "goddidit." A healthy skepticism helps lead to new ideas. For example, I have seen co-evolution discussed just in vague terms like "mutual evolutionary influence" and "caught in a cycle of co-evolution." However, when co-evolutionary mechanisms are examined in detail, co-evolution does not seem so simple anymore.
I assert that judges should not judge the scientific merits of ideas unless absolutely necessary for deciding a case (e.g., a product liability case), and it was not necessary in Kitzmiller. The courts have no general constitutional or legal authority to decide scientific questions. If we are going to have courts settle the evolution controversy, then why not have the courts also settle controversies over other scientific theories, e.g., the controversies over global warming and string theory? The global warming controversy, unlike the evolution controversy, is of great practical importance.
In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the Supreme Court admitted that the courts are ill-suited to judge scientific questions. The opinion of the court said,
there are important differences between the quest for truth in the courtroom and the quest for truth in the laboratory. Scientific conclusions are subject to perpetual revision. Law, on the other hand, must resolve disputes finally and quickly.
-- and Chief Justice Rehnquist said in separate comments,
Twenty two amicus briefs have been filed in the case, and indeed the Court's opinion contains no less than 37 citations to amicus briefs and other secondary sources.
The various briefs filed in this case are markedly different from typical briefs, in that large parts of them do not deal with decided cases or statutory language -- the sort of material we customarily interpret. Instead, they deal with definitions of scientific knowledge, scientific method, scientific validity, and peer review --i n short, matters far afield from the expertise of judges . . . . . . the unusual subject matter should cause us to proceed with great caution in deciding more than we have to, because our reach can so easily exceed our grasp.
To make matters much worse, Jones not only ruled against ID but ruled against all criticisms of Darwinism, saying, inter alia (page 138), " we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants . . . . from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution."
Labels: Judge Jones (2 of 2)