Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fuller, Sakar and Jones: ID v. Science

According to him (Fuller), Judge Jones incorrectly appealed to the motivation of scientific work to decide the Dover case against ID when he noted the religious motivations of the Dover school board as part of his reasoning. Here the Judge was clearly wrong and he has been equally strongly criticized for using the demarcation criteria that Fuller defends (Sarkar, forthcoming). Sahotra Sarkar

I have not read Fuller’s book, nor do I intend to. Consequently, I do not know if Sarkar has correctly represented Fuller’s position in the quote above, but we can take it as representing Sarkar’s opinion that Judge Jones inappropriately used the motivation of the Dover school board members as part of his decision. Sarkar is actually making two objections to Jones 2005, the second being the use of demarcation criteria in the section of the decision entitled 4. Whether ID is Science

There seems to be a curious misunderstanding by Sarkar of what the Judge is able to do in issuing a decision. He cannot draw from information not accessible to cross-examination. If one actually reads the trial transcripts, a great deal of discussion is about what is to become the case evidence. This is of greater importance that Sarkar and others seem to acknowledge because if something is not part of the trial record then it cannot be part of the decision (apart from stipulated “common knowledge” and prior law.)

Sarkar has first made the misinterpretation that Jones relied on the religious motivation of the Dover school board’s creationist members to introduce ID into the science classes to assess the scientific validity of ID. The statements of a school board member’s motivation were only used to evaluate the plaintiff’s argument regarding the endorsement test. Was the aim of the government (the school board) to promote science education, or was it to promote religion? The Judge clearly recognized that the aim was to promote a creationist religion. Beyond that, the question remained of whether ID was equally religious, or might it have scientific validity.

This question was examined from two points of view, one was the motivation and goals of the principle architects of ID; specifically Johnson, Behe and Dembski as well as the Discovery Institute Center for Renewal of Science and Culture. As always the Judge is limited the evidence admitted in the trial record. Jones correctly concluded that, “The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism,” and, “ID aspires to change the ground rules of science to make room for religion, specifically, beliefs consonant with a particular version of Christianity.” But, it was not in reference to whether or not ID is science, but to the question if “An Objective Observer Would Know that ID and Teaching About "Gaps" and "Problems" in Evolutionary Theory are Creationist, Religious Strategies that Evolved from Earlier Forms of Creationism.”?

Writing in the section “4. Whether ID is Science” Jones observed, “ID is predicated on supernatural causation, as we previously explained and as various expert testimony revealed. (17:96 (Padian); 2:35-36 (Miller); 14:62 (Alters)). ID takes a natural phenomenon and, instead of accepting or seeking a natural explanation, argues that the explanation is supernatural. (5:107 (Pennock)). Further support for the conclusion that ID is predicated on supernatural causation is found in the ID reference book to which ninth grade biology students are directed, Pandas. Pandas states, in pertinent part, as follows:
Darwinists object to the view of intelligent design because it does not give a natural cause explanation of how the various forms of life started in the first place. Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly, through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.

P-11 at 99-100 (emphasis added). Stated another way, ID posits that animals did not evolve naturally through evolutionary means but were created abruptly by a non-natural, or supernatural, designer. Defendants' own expert witnesses acknowledged this point. (21:96-100 (Behe); P-718 at 696, 700 ("implausible that the designer is a natural entity"); 28:21-22 (Fuller) (". . . ID's rejection of naturalism and commitment to supernaturalism . . ."); 38:95-96 (Minnich) (ID does not exclude the possibility of a supernatural designer, including deities).

It is notable that defense experts' own mission, which mirrors that of the IDM itself, is to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation of the natural world, which the Supreme Court in Edwards and the court in McLean correctly recognized as an inherently religious concept. Edwards, 482 U.S. at 591-92; McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267. First, defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to "change the ground rules" of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. (28:26 (Fuller); 21:37-42 (Behe)). Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces. (38:97 (Minnich)).”

Such a long quotation is needed to illustrate that Jones has not invented any “demarcation criteria” but is relying solely on the testimony and trial exhibits to examine if ID could be taught without introducing a religious component. While I might have titled that section “Whether ID is Strictly Science,” careful reading while attending to the fact that his is a legal proceeding and not a philosophy seminar makes it clear that Jones is asking an appropriate question and has properly used the trial evidence to answer it. Until Sarkar joins Fuller advocating the supernatural entities and magic are “science,” he has no criticism of the Kitzmiller decision regarding “demarcation criteria.” If he wishes to argue, it is with the expert witnesses and not Jones in any event.

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