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Dover in Review, pt. 2: Did Judge Jones read the evidence submitted to him in the Dover trial?

Note: This is the second part of a multi-part series. You can read the first installment here.

It’s becoming glaringly apparent that Judge Jones was incredibly sloppy with the purported findings of “facts” in his lengthy 139-page judicial opinion. Time and again, Judge Jones makes assertions in his opinion that are unambiguously factually wrong—even though the correct information was a part of the official record before him. It is beginning to look like he didn’t even bother to read or consider the information and arguments submitted by the side he disagreed with.

Here are some of the more egregious examples.

1. Judge Jones wrongly claims there are NO peer-reviewed scientific articles favoring ID.

Judge Jones writes that “a final indicator of how ID has failed is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory.” (p. 87, emphasis added) Again, he claims that “ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications.” (p. 87, emphasis added) In a footnote, he glancingly mentions one peer-reviewed article in the journal Protein Science by Michael Behe, but complains that this article does not explicitly reference ID. (footnote 17, p. 88).

Judge Jones shows no awareness of several other peer-reviewed and peer-edited publications explicitly supporting both intelligent design and Behe’s idea of irreducible complexity, even though a list of these publications was submitted as part of the record in the case. See appendix D of the amicus brief filed by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) here. This appendix lists such articles as Stephen Meyer’s peer-reviewed technical article on the Cambrian explosion and intelligent design in The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, and a more recent technical article on irreducible complexity and intelligent design in the scientific publication Dynamical Genetics. Judge Jones did not deny that these articles were peer-reviewed. He simply ignored them. He also ignored the peer-reviewed academic books like William Dembski’s The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press) and Campbell and Meyer’s Darwinism, Design and Public Education (Michigan State University Press). A number of the peer-reviewed articles supportive of design were referenced by biologist Scott Minnich during his testimony at trial. Was Judge Jones asleep during that part of Dr. Minnich’s testimony?

2. Judge Jones wrongly treats theologian/philosopher Thomas Aquinas as the ultimate source of the argument to design.

Drawing on theologian John Haught, Judge Jones treats Thomas Aquinas as the originator of the ID of intelligent design, writing that “ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He [Haught] traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century….” (p. 24) In fact, discussions about the design of nature date back to Plato and Aristotle and significantly predate medieval theology. Judge Jones would have known this fact had he read the Foundation for Thought and Ethics amicus brief, which pointed out (with documentation):

Ancient philosophers began formulating arguments about design long before they had exposure to the Bible, and indeed without basing their arguments on sacred scriptures of any kind.The Greek philosophers Heraclitus, Empedocles, Democritus, and Anaximander believed that life could originate without any intelligent guidance, while Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle advocated that mind was required.33 During the Roman era, Cicero cited the orderly operation of the stars as well as biological adaptations in animals as empirical evidence that nature was the product of “rational design.” [pp. 12-13]

Judge Jones either didn’t read the brief, which is part of the official record of the case, or he again ignored the evidence simply because it didn’t fit his predetermined conclusions.

3. Judge Jones wrongly claims that intelligent design “requires supernatural creation.” (p. 30, emphasis added)

Contrary to Judge Jones, there was extensive evidence in the trial record and documents submitted in briefs that intelligent design does NOT “require supernatural creation.” Indeed, Judge Jones seems to willfully misrepresent the claims of intelligent design scientists, who consistently have made clear from the very start that empirical evidence cannot tell one whether the intelligent causes detected through modern science are inside or outside of nature. For extensive documentation of this fact, see Appendix A to the Discovery Institute amicus brief submitted in the case, available here.

As a scientific theory, all ID claims is that there is empirical evidence that key features of the universe and living things are the products of an intelligent cause. Whether the intelligent cause involved is inside or outside of nature cannot be decided by empirical evidence alone. That larger question involves philosophy and metaphysics.

To justify his false claim that ID requires a supernatural cause, Judge Jones also completely misrepresents the content of the textbook Of Pandas and People. He claims at one point that “Pandas indicates that there are two kinds of causes, natural and intelligent, which demonstrate that intelligent causes are beyond nature.” (p. 30) In fact, Pandas explicitly and repeatedly makes the opposite claim: Intelligent causes may be either inside or outside of nature, and empirical evidence alone can’t determine which option is correct. Pandas made this distinction even in its early drafts, one of which emphatically stated that “in science, the proper contrary to natural cause is not supernatural cause, but intelligent cause.” (FTE Amicus Brief, Appendix B, Document B; emphasis added.) Also consider the following passages from the edition of Pandas actually used in Dover (both of these passages were highlighted for Judge Jones in Appendix A of the FTE amicus brief):

“If science is based upon experience, then science tells us the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. But what kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist.”(Of Pandas and People, 2nd ed., 1993, pg. 7; emphasis added)

“Today we recognize that appeals to intelligent design may be considered in science, as illustrated by current NASA search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Archaeology has pioneered the development of methods for distinguishing the effects of natural and intelligent causes. We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science.” (Of Pandas and People, 2nd ed., 1993, pg. 126-127; emphasis added)

Again, the intelligent causes detected through empirical evidence may be either inside or outside of nature; and contrary to Judge Jones, this point is made in the very book he cites to justify his position. Incredibly, Judge Jones at another point in his opinion (p. 25) misinterprets the Pandas’ quote on p. 7 as further proof that ID requires a belief in a supernatural cause, claiming:

In fact, an explicit concession that the intelligent designer works outside the laws of nature and science and a direct reference to religion is Pandas’ rhetorical statement, “what kind of intelligent agent was it [the designer]” and answer: “On its own science cannot answer this
question. It must leave it to religion and philosophy.”

Contrary to Judge Jones, the above statement clearly does NOT concede that “the intelligent designer works outside the laws of nature and science.” Instead, it merely reaffirms that empirical science cannot determine whether the intelligent cause detected resides inside or outside of nature. That further determination requires more than empirical science. Far from being merely “rhetorical,” this claim is central to the definition of intelligent design as a scientific theory, and it is reaffirmed and further explained in other passages in Pandas that the Judge ignores (such as the passage on pp. 126-127 cited above).

4. Judge Jones wrongly claims that intelligent design grew out of Christian fundamentalism.

According to Judge Jones, intelligent design is not just “religious,” it is the outgrowth of twentieth-century American Christian “fundamentalism.” He makes this claim notwithstanding the fact that the debate over design in nature reaches back to the ancient Greeks (as pointed out above), and that the debate remained an important dispute among scientists from Darwin onward. As explained in the FTE amicus brief:

Design was also an important part of the contemporary scientific debate at the time Darwin’s theory was developed. Indeed, the term “intelligent design” as an alternative to blind evolution was employed by Oxford scholar F.C.S. Schiller as early as 1897. Schiller wrote that “it will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of Evolution may be guided by an intelligent design.” Schiller, like modern design theorist Michael Behe, argued for intelligent design without rejecting all forms of evolution or even common descent.

It’s important to stress that Judge Jones can’t point to even a single doctrine unique to Christian fundamentalism that is incorporated by ID. Indeed, he effectively concedes that ID proponents distinguish their theory from fundamentalism by pointing out that it does NOT involve arguments based on “the Book of Genesis”, “a young earth,” or “a catastrophic Noaich flood.” (p. 35) So where’s the fundamentalism?

In wrongly trying to conflate ID with fundamentalism, Judge Jones simply ignored the testimony in his court of two of the most prominent ID scientists, biologists Michael Behe and Scott Minnich. Neither Minnich nor Behe were shown by the ACLU to be fundamentalists (they aren’t), neither were shown to believe in a literal reading of Genesis (they don’t), neither were shown to come to their beliefs in ID from fundamentalism (they didn’t), and both reject neo-Darwinism on scientific grounds. Indeed, Behe has made clear that he had no problem with the modern theory of evolution until he discovered that what he was seeing in the lab did not fit with what he was being told in standard textbook accounts. Behe’s skepticism of neo-Darwinism was not driven by a change in religion, but by scientific evidence. So again, where’s the fundamentalism?

To conclude, Judge Jones’ repeated mistatements of fact and his one-sided recitation of the “evidence” reveal not only a judicial activist, but an incredibly sloppy judge who selects the facts to fit the result he wants.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.