Last year, a post from Michael Francisco presented the “Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” bumper sticker. A recent blog post at Warren Reports Blog employs so much uncritical acceptance of Judge Jones’ ruling (calling it a “scathing decision” and a “hard blow”), gets so many facts wrong, and is so full of contradictions that its author, Devin James Carpenter, deserves to have the bumper sticker awarded to him. This 2-part series will respond to some of Carpenter’s statements.
The “Main Issues”
Carpenter states: “The main issues in Kitzmiller v. Dover were: the soundness of evolution and ‘intelligent design’ as science, the separation of church and state, and the philosophy of science itself.”
Actually, that’s not true. The main issues in Kitzmiller v. Dover were whether Dover’s policy was (1) enacted for a secular purpose and (2) whether it had a primary effect which was secular. If the policy failed either of those tests, then it was unconstitutional. Judge Jones could have answered these questions without addressing the soundness of evolution or ID as science or defining science. Indeed, even the leading anti-ID legal scholar Jay Wexler argues, “The part of Kitzmiller that finds ID not to be science is unnecessary, unconvincing, not particularly suited to the judicial role, and even perhaps dangerous to both science and freedom of religion.” In order to resolve the Kitzmiller case, all Judge Jones had to find was whether the Dover Area School Board had a predominantly religious purpose–none of those other issues were mandatory.
Intelligent Design and the Designer
Carpenter observes that “‘intelligent design’ advocate Michael Behe … talked at length about ‘irreducible complexity,'” and then immediately Carpenter states that “[t]he plaintiffs noted, however, that science is only concerned with things that can be falsified and tested.” But the Kitzmiller plaintiffs conceded that irreducible complexity IS testable. The plaintiffs claimed that invoking the supernatural cannot be done because science cannot appeal to the supernatural. That’s why both the Kitzmiller plaintiffs and Carpenter, who states that ID invokes a “higher power” or “an invisible, supernatural being,” are wrong. As discussed many places (like here), the theory of intelligent design does not try to identify whether the designer is natural or supernatural. As the Pandas textbook states, “All it implies is that life had an intelligent source.” Since we have much observation-based experience with the products of intelligence, we can search for specified or irreducible complexity in the natural world, thereby testing for intelligent design–not trying to idenitf supernatural design–in natural objects.
But this wasn’t the most egregious misrepresentation of Carpenter. Carpenter states “Michael Behe said in his testimony that ‘the designer is in fact God'” and claims that this is what drives Behe’s ideas.
In fact, Behe actually said:
Q. So is it accurate for people to claim or to represent that intelligent design holds that the designer was God?
A. No, that is completely inaccurate.
Q. Well, people have asked you your opinion as to who you believe the designer is, is that correct?
A. That is right.
Q. Has science answered that question?
A. No, science has not done so.
Q. And I believe you have answered on occasion that you believe the designer is God, is that correct?
A. Yes, that’s correct.
Q. Are you making a scientific claim with that answer?
A. No, I conclude that based on theological and philosophical and historical factors.
(Day 10 testimony)
Clearly Behe explains that science and intelligent design cannot tell you if the designer is God. Behe’s own theological view is that the designer is God, but that is not a conclusion of intelligent design. Thus, when Behe makes the statement quoted by Carpenter, this is the context of what Behe actually says: “I think I said that at the beginning of my testimony yesterday, that I think in fact from — from other perspectives, that the designer is in fact God.” The full context makes it clear that Behe’s conclusion that the designer is God does NOT come from ID but from his own personal theological views. But Carpenter does not provide this context, leaving readers thinking that ID concludes the designer is God.
Misstating the “Wedge Document”
Carpenter also misquotes the “Wedge document,” claiming that one of its goals is “replacing current scientific practice with ‘theistic and Christian science.'” That is NOT what the Wedge Document says, and it does not even contain the phrase “theistic and Christian science.” Its true meaning is explained here. If motives matter so much to Carpenter, why doesn’t he scrutinize the fact that many leading Darwinists have anti-religious motives? Or is Carpenter applying a double-standard?
ID and Conservatives
Carpenter asserts that “[m]ost conservative intellectuals seem embarrassed by intelligent design.” He quotes Charles Krauthammer, who badly misunderstands ID and whose misunderstandings of ID we’ve responded to at length (for example, see here or here). Indeed, John West recently authored Darwin’s Conservatives: The Misguided Quest, where he rebuts many arguments from the leading conservatives who do oppose ID.
Who is “Steve Chapman”?
Carpenter quotes someone named “Steve Chapman, the founder of the Discovery Institute” who he claims called the Dover ruling a “disaster…as a public relations matter.” Carpenter can be forgiven, as he probably meant “Bruce Chapman,” but this make me wonder, how familiar is Carpenter with the subject of his critique? With so many people (like Carpenter) using the Dover decision to misrepresent ID and confuse the basic facts (e.g. “Steve Chapman”), perhaps Bruce Chapman was correct. But readers are invited to read the full article quoting Bruce Chapman to see the context of Chapman’s views.
Part II of this response will discuss Mr. Carpenter’s philosophical and other arguments against ID.