Friday testimony at Dover trial

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Sat Oct 01 2005 - 05:55:14 EDT

I went to court yesterday and heard the entire testimony (all done in one
afternoon) of Jack Haught, the Georgetown theologian who appeared as a
witness for the plaintiffs. This had three important aspects, as follows.

(1) In the direct (ie, pro-plaintiff) portion of his testimony, Jack played
the "Langdon Gilkey" role. That is, he pretty much did what the late Prof
Gilkey did in the Arkansas creation trial some 20 years ago: he used the
strong "contrast" card from his deck, pointing out differences between
theology and science in the neo-orthodox style that was Gilkey's trademark.
(Jack of course is not really neo-orthodox, but he knows the position and
pushed it hard.) In the course of this part, he also painted ID as pretty
much being creationism--not exactly, but close enough for the purposes of
the trial.

(2) In the first part of the cross-examination, however, two things happened
that proved highly interesting. First, defense attorney Richard Thompson
read parts of one of Haught's books, in which Haught clearly dissented from
Robert Pennock and Barbara Forrest's view that ID is just another form of
creationism. (Pennock testified earlier this week, though I missed that
day, and Forrest is scheduled to testify for the plaintiffs next week.)
Thompson is obviously, and fairly and appropriately in my view, starting to
drive a "wedge" (if I may call it that) between these 3 plaintiff witnesses
on this crucial point of the trial. ID is not garden variety creationism,
as Pennock andForrest want people to think, and Haught was right in what he
wrote about that. In response to Mr Thompson's questions, he kept saying
that "for the purposes of this trial" he was pretty much in agreement with
Pennock and Forrest. I was not convinced.

Mr Thompson also asked Haught about the Strong Anthropic Principle (which,
amusingly, Thompson was pronouncing "anthropotropic" or something like that
until Jack corrected him). Doesn't this indicate that scientists themselves
are talking about design, Thompson asked--and yes, it does indicate this,
IMO, so I found this line of inquiry most interesting. Jack quickly pointed
out that, when scientists are doing this, they are not doing science, that
is they are not behaving qua scientists. Thus the a priori neo-orthodox
distinction was defended on this point. At some point the questioning got
into the multiverse hypothesis, and my sense was (I'd want to review the
transcript to have more confidence in my comments here) that Jack thinks
that is more genuinely "scientific" b/c it's naturalistic, even though as he
admitted it is just "speculation." It would be very interesting indeed, if
someone like Stan Jaki were brought in to talk in more detail about this
type of naturalistic speculation, vis-a-vis what he called "rumors of
transcendence" in cosmology a couple of decades back, when some cosmologists
were trying to argue that the universe sprang from "nothing", er, from a
grand wave function of some sort. Anything to get past transcendence, it
seems, for some folks.

(3) Then it got really, really interesting. Mr thompson asked Jack whether
he is a Roman Catholic theologian, and Jack affirmed that he is. Did he
have the official whatever-it-is-called-sort-of-license to be a Catholic
theologian? No, Jack said, the local authority responsible for that is
pretty understanding (my words to give my impression of what he said, I
don't have notes with his words) about this. Mr Thompson then produced a
copy of the Catholic catechism, and asked Jack point blank about whether or
not he believes in the virgin birth, the resurrection, and an historical
Adam and Eve. What is your position on these points, he wanted to know.
Jack then did the Bultmann thing, relative to the virgin birth and the
resurrection--no, he stated, if there were a videocamera in the room when
Jesus appeared to the disciples, that camera would not have recorded
anything, since it takes faith to see the resurrected Jesus (and presumably,
the camera would have lacked faith). From private conversation with Jack a
few years ago, I was pretty sure this is what he would say--Jack questioned
my conviction that the bodily resurrection is vital to Christian belief--but
I have never talked about this conversation publicly b/c I did not think it
was appropriate to do so. Now however it is fair to mention it.

Jack also denied on the stand that he is a "process theologian," I can't
fathom just why he did so. He's seen as a process theologian by everyone I
know, and I still consider him a process theologian. Perhaps I'll get a
chance at some point to ask him to clarify his own position, relative to
process theology. But you could've fooled me, and I don't think I'm easily
fooled on this type of thing. Perhaps he didn't want to be pigeonholed for
the purposes of further questioning, in which case I would understand his

Finally, I'll add some commentary about "Scopes One" vs what people are
calling "Scopes Three," with Arkansas apparently being "Scopes Two." In
some important ways this ain't "Scopes Three." For example, with all due
respect to the attorneys, they aren't the public figures that Darrow and
Bryan were--and no one anywhere near Harrisburg is the trial lawyer Darrow
was. Nor is anyone bringing the public atheist posture that Darrow brought
to Dayton, and there isn't anyone outside with a chimpanzee and there aren't
large crowds trying to get in (I had no problem getting one of 40 seats for
the general public either day). In many ways, "Scopes Three" is just
another one of the many court cases in recent years about religion, public
education, and the First Amendment. And, the first scientist to testify,
Ken Miller, is probably quite a bit more conservative theologically (I know
many people think he's a flaming liberal, but I don't think he's nearly as
liberal as Haught) than the scientists who lined up to testify in Dayton
(only one of them, Maynard Metcalf of Johns Hopkins, was actually allowed to
testify before the jury, though the others were allowed to have their
testimony entered into the court record). Kirtley Mather, e.g., did not
have a clear belief in an afterlife and did not believe that God can
interact at all with nature (those two beliefs are self-consistent,
incidentally, as I will be discussing in my book about the religious beliefs
of early 20th century scientists). But Haught is as liberal as anyone
around Dayton, as far as I can tell. The overall science/religion landscape
is far more diverse today than it was in the 1920s (when there was no
readily visible group of people who accept both evolution *and* the virgin
birth & resurrection), but you won't know that from Haught's testimony--it
was pretty much the old modernism in contemporary form, save for the
injection of a strong dose of neo-orthodoxy.

I'd really like to hear more of this trial, but my teaching schedule will
probably prevent that from happening, at least most of the time. I
understand that you can purchase transcripts (you pay by the page to
download them) from the court, but I don't have the URL handy.

Received on Sat Oct 1 06:00:00 2005

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