Thursday, May 25, 2006


Diagnosing ID

The New England Journal of Medicine has an article, "Intelligent Judging -- Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom" by George J. Annas, that gives a (very) thumbnail history of anti-evolution legislation in America. Annas breaks that history down into three "waves:"
As part of his explanation of the Third Wave, he gives a summary of the decision in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District that, in a way, buys into the Discovery Institute's claim that Judge John E. Jones III went beyond what was needed in order to decide the case, supposedly making him, in the DI's blatant political appeal, an "activist judge," despite the fact that such a spin goes against the meaning of the term the right has always given before [See Judge Jones' own take on the "activist" label here]. Annas describes Barbara Forrest's evidence showing how the book Of Pandas and People morphed from a "creation science textbook" into an ID "textbook" by a simple expedient:

. . . cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist) which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID . . .

Coupled with the fact that this change was made shortly after Edwards v. Aguillard outlawed the teaching of creation science in public schools, "[t]he judge concluded that 'this compelling evidence strongly supports plaintiff's assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled'."

But Annas goes on to say: "The judge could have stopped there but decided instead to answer the question of whether intelligent design is science . . . " While it is perhaps strictly correct that Judge Jones "could have stopped there," as I've pointed out before, it is a rare case indeed that a judge, enjoying multiple grounds in support of his or her decision, relies on only one. The simple fact is that the policy in Dover and ID in general fail the test of the Establishment clause in spectacular fashion and it is fully the duty of a judge to set that case out in its entirety. Annas' formulation elides that duty and unfortunately plays, at least potentially, into the Discovery Institute's game of "kill the messenger."

Another quibble is that Annas is not, perhaps, as familiar with the state of ID as he could be. As far as the future is concerned, he says:

. . . there will undoubtedly be a fourth wave that will feature yet another strategy to promote creationism by questioning evolution. It looks as if this next wave will jettison the creationist and intelligent-design baggage and concentrate exclusively on a "teach the controversy" strategy. That this controversy is one largely manufactured by the proponents of creationism and intelligent design may not matter, and as long as the controversy is taught in classes on current affairs, politics, or religion, and not in science classes, neither scientists nor citizens should be concerned.

He is, of course, rather behind the times here, as the Discovery Institute has pushed the "teach the controversy" ploy, aimed most definitely at science classes, for some time now. It was, in fact, the basis of their position in Ohio and, depending on which side of their collective mouth they are speaking out of at any particular time, teaching that there is something, somehow, somewhere wrong with the science of evolution is all the Discovery Institute aspires to. Of course, given that Annas labels ID as creationism and the article appears in a prominent publication, we can expect some foaming to shortly come from the direction of Seattle, if it hasn't already in the time it has taken me to type this up.

Still, this article will be a useful quick reference for those doctors who Robert Bazell thinks are too busy with moral issues to think deeply about the ramifications for their profession of the attack on science by certain religious groups, evolution being only the more visible part of that iceberg. Understanding this assault may be more urgent than some people think.

In fact, IIRC both sides -- plaintiffs and defense -- requested that Jones rule on the "science" question -- he didn't pull it out of thin air. I don't have the reference and don't have time to hunt it up, but I suspect that Ed Brayton has blogged on it somewhere.

Well, actually, you can find that information here. I've added a link in the post as well.
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