Posted by Nick Matzke on December 20, 2005 10:41 PM

Heck, we have like 10 posts on the Kitzmiller decision up today, so why not one more?

Now that Ed Brayton and Burt Humburg have told the story (direct link to Skeptic article) of how the Pandas drafts were discovered -- trust me, it was obvious if you really paid attention to the available historical sources -- I will share one other event that is leading me to suspect that I may have psychic abilities. (Note to sticklers: this is a joke. There is no evidence for psychic abilities, although the Defense in Kitzmiller regularly brought up paranormal research as an example paralleling ID. I'm not sure why they thought this would help their argument -- I think they got it from Steve Fuller.)

Two days before the decision came out, I privately posted my predictions about the decision to the PT contributors (so, I have them as witnesses). Now, it seems to serve as a pretty good summary of Jones's decision:


X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 6.1.0.6
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2005 11:34:38 -0800
To: [PT email list]
From: Nick Matzke
Subject: [PT list] Re: narrow ruling

>From: Timothy Sandefur [email deleted]
>To: [PT email list]
>Subject: Re: [ptbc] Maybe maybe...
>Date: Dec 18, 2005 9:52 AM
>
>What would "ruling narrowly" be?


This is an excellent question. Much of the media analysis has superficially said that the judge could either rule narrowly on the purpose of the school board, or broadly on the issue of the scientific/religious status of ID.

However, even the Edwards decision was allegedly a "narrow" ruling on the purpose of the Louisiana legislature, but because the legislature's "rationale" was that creation science was science and not religion, the failure of that argument seems to have set a broad precedent for future cases.

The Dover school board and the Thomas More Law Center, bless their hearts, have set up exactly the same dynamic, and have basically staked their whole case on the idea that ID is science and not religion, therefore passing the ID policy had a legitimate secular purpose despite whatever religious motivations a few of the board members had.

So, I don't think the judge can avoid ruling on the question of whether or not ID is science or religion. And based on the media attention, the rumor that the opinion will be long, the fact that Judge Jones seems to be a class act, and just the general carpet-bombing on ID that we conducted at trial, I am placing my bets on the decision as follows:

(I say this now so that I can perhaps post these afterwards)

The ruling will:

  • * Be like the McLean decision -- a review of origins and history of "intelligent design". It will conclude that ID is just the newest label for creationism, and furthermore is essentially the same stuff that Wendell Bird and Dean Kenyon tried to sell to the Supreme Court in 1986-1987 as a refined, vague version of "creation science."

  • * This is proven by the Pandas drafts and numerous other evidence, and Pandas on its face is clearly advocating special creationism

  • * All of the founders and players in ID are clearly on a primarily religious/cultural mission, not a scientific one
  • * Thus ID is religion just like creation science, and the decision on its constitutionality has already been made, by the Supreme Court in 1987.

  • * Scientifically, the "positive argument for ID", basically purposeful arrangment of parts, is at best a piece of Paley's natural theology. This has led to no substantial research even from Behe and Minnich, and its not clear how it could.

  • * Introducing "purpose" as a scientific explanation, in the context of evolution, clearly raises immediate problems of warring designs, diseases, etc., and even the defense witnesses said that this then becomes a theological discussion

  • * The positive argument is not testable because it involves supernatural final causes

  • * The negative arguments against evolution are often dubious or wrong, as shown by unrebutted testimony from plaintiffs experts

  • * ID has gained no support in the scientific community, and the normal process of textbook development, first you win the scientific battle, then you get into the textbooks

  • * Evolution, in contrast, has massive support from the scientific community, and furthermore has supported a great deal of research on topics like the immune system, in contradiction to Behe.

  • * However, the issue of the constitutionality of ID in public schools says nothing about who may pursue or explore ID in other contexts <--[this is perhaps the most likely bit that will get quoted out-of-context by IDists to snatch victory from defeat]


The judge will also undoubtedly discuss the specific history of the Dover area school board policy and note the obviously unconstitutional stuff there, but that will be less interesting from the national perspective. I bet he will note the eerie parallels between the evolution of the policy in Dover, and evolution of creationism into ID nationally.

For me the real question is whether or not the judge will say something explicit about the creationist history of switching labels, and criticize all such attempts. It may come up if he discusses the "theory not fact" and "gaps/problems" bits of the Dover policy, and doesn't just focus on "intelligent design".

While I'm gazing into the crystal ball:

  • * The DI will accuse the Thomas More Law Center of incompetence just before the decision comes down.

  • * There will be something in the decision that, like every previous decision, will be taken as a victory by the creationists

  • * The Thomas More Law Center will not take any more ID cases for a good long time, and we may see some serious infighting on the ID/creationism/evangelical community between the larger evangelical movement and the ID true believers over these sorts of questions:

  1. Why didn't the founders of ID tell us about these Pandas drafts

  2. We've been sold a false bill of goods by the Discovery Institute -- look at how their rhetoric/experts/materials melted when they finally got challenged in court

  3. Shouldn't we just be honest and call ourselves God-did-it creationists, if that's what we really think, otherwise we should make our peace with evolution. In-between strategies like ID are clearly not going to impress the courts, and it's probably bad theology also.

My 2 cents, we'll know in a few days...

Nick
If anyone needs any help betting on basketball games, my services are available...