Posted by Nick Matzke on December 22, 2005 10:57 AM

I’ve got about 30 minutes to kill, so I might as well give some general thoughts on the IDists’ reactions to the cataclysmic Dover decision.

First: They don’t get it. At all. One would think that this kind of decision – coming from a Lutheran Republican judge appointed by George Bush (that’s George W. Bush, mind you), who, for six weeks watched exactly the kind of “Darwin[ists] on Trial” case that the IDists have been fantasizing about for years – would at least give the IDists a bit of pause. Perhaps some of those scientific, philosophical, and legal arguments – all of them tried out extensively by the Thomas More Law Center – weren’t quite as convincing as the Discovery Institute had been putting on. No, instead, all we have seen is vituperation (“activist”, “biased”, and, presumably worst, “Darwinist”) directed at a judge who on any other day would be considered a model conservative.

I’m pretty convinced that if another court case were held tomorrow, the ID side would try all of the same arguments over again. Behe would get up there and brazenly assert that scientists were baffled at the evolutionary origin of irreducibly complex systems, and again we would stack up the articles and books on the evolution of the immune system on his podium in front of him. Again, they would repeat the quarter-baked argument that evolution can’t produce new genetic information, and again we would show the judge the peer-reviewed research articles showing how new genes come about. Again they would assert gaps in the fossil record, and again a paleontologist would show the judge – show the judge, right there in court – a bunch of transitional fossils that have been discovered in the last decade or so. They would claim that evolutionists make the contradictory claims that ID is both falsified and unfalsifiable, and again we would point out that evolution is testable, and the ID movement’s claims against evolution have been tested and failed – but that the only positive argument they’ve got, “purposeful arrangement of parts”, is untestable without some model of the purposeful agent and his purposes. Again, they would recite their fake history of their movement, ignoring the fact that all of the ID arguments were originally “creation science” arguments, and again we would show the judge the real history, the transitional forms (this time we’d make sure “cdesign proponentsists” made it onto the judge’s computer screen during the trial), and the identity in tactics and argumentation between the two movements. And again, the judge would learn that the ID claims are simply thin soundbites that fall apart upon detailed examination, whereas the plaintiffs case is based on sound fundamentals – peer-reviewed science, well-documented history, coherant philosophy, and above all pragmatic considerations for what constitutes good science and good science education – and again, we would get an overwhelming ruling.

Second: It is clear that many of the judge’s critics, even those with law backgrounds, do not realize that every point in the judge’s opinion – the scientific debunking of Behe’s irreducible complexity, the philosophy of science, the theological history, etc. – was argued and fought for at trial. The judge heard every claim and every cross-examination point. Every single tired argument that the ID fans are repeating after the decision was brought up by TMLC and its witnesses and debunked in detail before the judge, during the bench trial. Anyone wishing to do a serious rebuttal of the judge’s opinion has to look at his citations to the record – which is all online, except exhibits – and rebut the record he based his decision on.

Finally, the ID movement has no one but themselves to blame for this decision. If you don’t want damaging court decisions, don’t make the very first book systematically using the term “intelligent design” a 9th grade biology textbook!!! Don’t publish, and then distribute widely, law review articles confidently declaring the intellectual soundess of ID, and spinning rosy legal scenarios where consitutional difficulties evaporate. Whatever you do, don’t send your propaganda videos to school board members who might actually take them to heart! In fact, if the ID movement were intellectually serious, they would withdraw completely from interfering with public education, realizing that introductory science classes simply have to educate students in the basics of accepted science, and are not the right places to try getting recruits for fringe science. They would stop trying to make their case in the media, and instead take the only legitimate route to academic respectability – winning the scientific battle, in the scientific community. IDists have made much of comparing ID to the Big Bang model – but did Big Bang proponents kick off their model in a high school textbook? Did they go around the country mucking with kiddies science standards to promote their view? Did they ever lobby legislators? I don’t think so.