Sunday, June 11, 2006


Is There a Lawyer In the House?

Well, I predicted that The New England Journal of Medicine article, "Intelligent Judging -- Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom" by George J. Annas would draw the ire of the Discovery Institute. It took a little longer than I expected for the foaming to hit the mouths in Seattle but we get a double dose of spume (with a promise of a third) in compensation. (Someday the DI folks might want to consider why they are so predictable.)

Anyway, Casey Luskin now has two articles up at Evolution News & Views: "New England Journal of Medicine Traipses Into the Kitzmiller Decision" (Part I) and (Part II). I can only take so much dissembling at one sitting so here is a response to Part I:

It doesn't take long to find out how things are going to go. Before I could even settle in with my popcorn and soda, Luskin was carping about the Judge using the word "traipse" in his decision and making an argumentum ad dictionary to the effect that one definition of the word is "To walk about idly or intrusively" and, therefore ... well, something or other. Piled on top of this is the ever popular (in DI circles, at least) argumentum ad anonymous authority:

Many legal scholars with whom I have spoken have similarly found this statement by Judge Jones to be an incredible overreach for a district court judge.
You see, because Judge Jones said:

After a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentation, the court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area [and] ... in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.
Luskin thinks (or at least wants you to not to think and just accept on his word) that Judge Jones "is trying to behave like the U.S. Supreme Court -- the highest court in the land -- and the only one that is supposed to decide an issue for all other courts." Now, of course, anyone who can read English recognizes instantly that Jones is saying that, given the huge amount of time already taken and the incredible amount of evidence he had presented to him, having more trials involving the precise issues would be a waste of time.

Since Luskin is a lawyer, he can't possibly think that the Supreme Court is in the trial business.* And, of course, Judge Jones was not saying that upper courts wouldn't have the right to review his decision, including his findings of fact. He was merely saying that, after spending an enormous amount of time and effort becoming as familiar with the arguments for and against ID as any judge in the country, if not any human being, he was in the best position to decide the issues he decided. The only way that Judge Jones' statement can be false is if you deny that the decision should be made based on facts and should be, instead, decided on other considerations. We know that Phyllis Schlafly and others think that but if the DI is now taking that position, they should at least be more honest about it.

Luskin then goes on to argue that the facts Judge Jones' laid out at length were "either patently untrue or largely irrelevant to a determination of whether ID is science." That is the usual DI bluster.

To begin, Luskin complains that Judge Jones found that ID requires supernatural causation, supposedly ignoring "extensive evidence showing precisely the opposite." The "evidence" Luskin offers up, however, is a bit of Scott Minnich's testimony where, asked if, in his opinion, intelligent design requires the action of a supernatural creator, he tersely replied "It does not." According to Luskin, Judge Jones should have "permit[ed] the proponents of intelligent design to define their own theory ... [not] let evolutionist Ken Miller define ID."

Perhaps Luskin missed the point that one major issue in the case was whether or not ID was a sham, intelligently designed to improperly inject theology into public school science classes. The ID proponents have no more right to peremptorily decide that issue than a person accused of a homicide would have to decide whether or not his actions met the legal definition of "justified killing." After receiving reams of evidence, the Judge found that the definition ID advocates offer is not accurate.

Next, in response to Mr. Annas' statement that the decision found that ID uses the "failed arguments of creationism," Luskin quotes Jones to the effect that ID employs "the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's." Luskin goes on to say:

What Judge Jones means is that ID is simply a negative argument against evolution, which supposedly says that evidence against evolution therefore counts in favor of ID. Again, Judge Jones simply adopts Ken Miller's false version of ID, which says it's just a negative argument against evolution ...
As I've noted before, ID proponent's do make arguments from ignorance on top of a contrived dualism, as in the case of Stephen Meyer’s article "Not by chance" which argues:

1) "Either life arose as the result of purely undirected material processes or a guiding intelligence played a role."
2) There is an "appearance of design."
3) This appearance is "unexplained by the mechanism -- natural selection -- that Darwin specifically proposed to replace the design hypothesis."
Luskin repeats some double talk Minnich and Meyer wrote but it is nicely summed up with this bit:

That we have encountered systems that tax our own capacities as design engineers, justifiably lead us to question whether these systems are the product of undirected, un-purposed, chance and necessity.
That's it folks. Their big "positive" evidence is an argument from hubris: because we can't design it, then natural processes couldn't produce it. A nicer non sequitur is hard to imagine but how is the claim that "we can't think of any other way it can get here other than by design" not an argument from ignorance? The best they can do with that is:

Molecular machines display a key signature or hallmark of design, namely, irreducible complexity. In all irreducibly complex systems in which the cause of the system is known by experience or observation, intelligent design or engineering played a role the origin of the system.
In other words, the "positive evidence" is merely begging the question (and circular reasoning to boot) in the form "we deny irreducibly complex systems can arise naturally, therefore all irreducibly complex systems must be designed because they don't arise naturally."

Luskin whines again at the end of Part I, "why didn't Judge Jones let the ID proponents define their own theory?" What Luskin doesn't recognize or, more likely, doesn't want to face up to, is that the Judge did let ID advocates define it. The Judge just found, not to put too fine a point on it, that they lied. With performances like Luskin's here, there is little wonder why.
* Actually the Supremes do have a few trial responsibilities -- cases between states being one example -- but they usually farm those out to "special masters" as in the recent litigation between New York and New Jersey over who owned Ellis Island. But nothing in Kitzmiller comes close to qualifying for the Court's original jurisdiction.
These are my replies to Part II and Part III.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

. . . . .


How to Support Science Education