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Judge Jones Extends his Time in the Spotlight

What do you get when you declare intelligent design unconstitutional? You get your photo on the cover of Time Magazine and get called one of the top 100 most influential people! In an article by science writer Matt Ridley (the one who said, “Our minds have been built by selfish genes, but they have been built to be social, trustworthy and cooperative”…except, I might add, for when people aren’t social, trustworthy, or cooperative), he says that Judge Jones “proved to be the answer to Darwinians’ prayers”:

“Jones, 50, the grandson of a golf-course developer of Welsh ancestry, whose previous claims to fame were a failed attempt to privatize Pennsylvania’s state liquor stores as chairman of the Liquor Control Board–and banning Bad Frog Beer on the grounds that its label was obscene. He now finds himself an unlikely hero for scientists, many of whom credit his decision with taking some steam out of the intelligent-design movement.”

(John Jones The Judge Who Ruled for Darwin by Matt Ridley, Time, Sunday April 30, 2006)

Time regularly uses this list of 100 to applaud people who support its own causes. I wish I could have been the one to interview Judge Jones for this article. If I could interview Judge Jones, here are the top 10 questions I would ask him:

  • 10) How many peer-reviewed papers were there prior to 1869 supporting evolution by natural selection?
  • 9) Some people say evolution is in conflict with belief in a “supreme being.” Do you think they are wrong?
  • 8) When will you be releasing pre-publication, unpublished drafts of your decision so we can decide who really wrote your published decision?**
  • 7) Given all of the statements made by leading proponents of evolution saying that evolution conflicts with Christianity and / or implies atheism, does your ruling threaten the teaching of evolution?
  • 6) Given all of the explicitly religious motives among supporters of civil rights in this country, are modern civil rights laws therefore unconstitutional?
  • 5) Did Of Pandas and People say that intelligent design requires a supernatural agent?
  • 4) What would the pro-ID, but agnostic philosopher Antony Flew say if you told him that “ID requires supernatural creation”?
  • 3) Here’s a hypothetical situation which will bring back fond memories of flagellar motors and type three secretory systems. Imagine you have to drive a getaway car to flee from a crazy car-jacker with a gun. You can pick from 2 cars to drive to safety:
    • Option A: An old Ford Pinto that still runs reliably but only has a top speed of 50 mph and takes 3 minutes to warm up before it can be put in drive
    • Option B:: A brand new Mazda RX-8 with a rotary engine, a top speed of 150 mph, 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds, and zero warm-up time. Unfortunately its rotary engine is missing its fan belt so it won’t run right now–but that’s OK because since the fan belt on the RX-8 can also be used as a steering-wheel grip, this means that under your definition, its engine would not be irreducibly complex

    Which car would you choose?

  • 2) Now let’s do another hypothetical situation to traipse back into the blood clotting cascade. Two burglars, each of which have a loaded gun, have simultaneously entered your home and might harm your family. You’re cornered in your bedroom and but thankfully you keep two guns under your pillow from which you can choose to defend yourself:
    • Option A: An authentic American Revolution musket built in 1776 that actually still works fine but can only be fired once every minute. This simple gun is already loaded with one round, but it has no site for aiming nor does it have a clip to hold extra musket-balls for rapid-fire. Keep in mind there are two burglars, each with a loaded gun.
    • Option B: A brand new top-of-the-line new Glock with a laser site and a clip that can hold up to 17 rounds for semi-automatic fire. Unfortunately you lost the clip and there are no bullets around for the gun–but that shouldn’t matter because under your ruling, if a different system can still function though it lacks 2 parts normally found in the more complicated system, then the more complicated system is not irreducibly complex

    Which gun would you choose?

  • 1) If you had not ruled that ID is unconstitutional, do you think your picture would be on the cover of Time Magazine this week?

[5/5/06: edited to correct mistake regarding gun part terminology]

**[Note added 5/5/06: Apparently this question has caused some controversy so I want to clarify: This post was a parody. My intent is not to imply that Judge Jones plagiarized, nor do I think he did. The point was that the arguments in his decision so-closely resembled those of the plaintiffs so much that it seems like he uncritically accepted anything they said–even patently, demonstrably false statements akin to “ID has published no peer-reviewed literature”–a claim which he made over 5 times in the decision, and is easily refuted by the existence of various papers. If the plaintiffs said it, then it went uncritically into the decision. The “pre-publication” drafts part was simply a take off of all the big deal made about pre-publication drafts of Pandas during the trial. Of course I do not think Judge Jones plagiarized. I’m sure he wrote his own decision. But it’s clear where he took his arguments from.]

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



__editedJudge John E. JonesKitzmiller v. Dover Area School District