Judge Jones did NOT side with Discovery Institute

From: Ted Davis <tdavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Wed Dec 28 2005 - 22:59:12 EST

I changed the heading on this thread to make the most important point very
clear, particularly to Janice, who started the thread with the erroneous

TDI tried to influence this trial, first, by preventing Dover from doing
what they did; this strategy failed entirely. Two attorneys affiliated with
TDI (Mark Ryland and Seth Cooper) came to Dover last summer (2004) and tried
to dissuade the board from proceeding, b/c they were so very much afraid
that the local circumstances here in Dover made ID guilty by association
with genuine creationism (which ID is not, pace Barbara Forrest). They
feared precisely what happened: that the judge might rule broadly rather
than narrowly, against ID itself rather than just the Dover policy (which
had less of a chance than the proverbial snowball in a rather hot place).

Second, they did agree originally to provide witnesses for the defense, but
then told those witnesses to bow out--at least Dembski and Meyer did this
(there may have been others), but Behe and Minnich stayed in. The late
removal of those key people, too late for the defense to submit substitutes
(assuming they could find any), was a stab in the back to the defense's
case. Had they stayed in, perhaps (just perhaps) TDI would have been less
displeased with the verdict. But frankly the judge wasn't impressed with
TDI. See below.

Third, TDI sent a brief to the judge during the trial, but he rejected it.
Entirely fairly, IMO, since they had pulled their people out of the
trial--thus they forfeited their voice, in the judge's opinion, and I agree.

Fourth, several DI fellows contributed to Pandas and People, the clearly
creationist text that helped doom the defense's claim that ID is about
science, not religion.

Fifth, a booklet authorized by TDI and written by Steven Meyer and David
DeWolf, specifically urges teachers to teach ID as an alternative to
evolution, which is what impressed lead defense attorney Richard Thompson
and what apparently led him to suggest to the folks in Dover that
ID/Pandas/statement be substituted for their real wish to put creationism
(the real thing, that is) alongside evolution on an even basis--the very
same stuff that was debated in the McLean case in the early 1980s, which set
the precedent for this case.

Janice, the judge ruled quite decisively against TDI, by ruling far too
strongly (IMO) against ID itself. But TDI's strategy so closely resembles
that of garden variety creationists (which they aren't, mostly), and their
political alliances with creationists are so plain, and the history of their
views closely enough linked with those of creationistis (see Pandas and
People), that there just weren't enough reasons that we should have expected
any other ruling from Judge Jones.

I agree with Mr Opderbeck for the most part on the larger legal issues. I'm
not an attorney of course, and his opinion as a former attorney from the
same federal district court ought to be given much weight. I have however
spent four days in court on this case, have read hundreds of newspaper
articles about it (literally), have spoken with several attorneys (including
the principals on both sides, attorneys who work for TDI, and a friend who
works for the firm that represented the plaintiffs locally), and I've heard
from some attorneys who responded to my analysis of the trial on a list I
operate. So in this case I think my opinion also carries some weight.

Mr Opderbeck and I agree that Judge Jones did not make an "activist" ruling.
 That charge is patently ridiculous, he was clearly following precedents
that are decades old. Now those precedents are problematic, perhaps even
dangerous for religious freedom (my view has long been that the First
Amendment does not mean what the modern courts have said that it means); but
they are longstanding precedents and he followed them closely. His ruling
willl not be overturned, it might not even be appealed.

TDI is out to lunch, with its claim (from John West on their website) to
this effect (that the Judge was activist). Even the part about ID not being
science, was closely wedded to Judge Overton's opinion in McLean--an opinion
based on Michael Ruse's faulty testimony (Ruse's wrongly stated that
creationism was not science, when clearly it was very bad, falsified
science) that was recapitulated in Harrisburg by Ken Miller and John Haught.

I'll be writing about a lot of this soon--my article (for Religion in the
News, a magazine that most journalists read) went out yesterday. Look for
it in the next issue (Winter 2006) in a few weeks.

Received on Wed Dec 28 23:00:39 2005

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