Re: Judge Jones sided with the Discovery Institute and ruled against the Dove...

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Thu Dec 29 2005 - 09:02:15 EST

I've inserted my comments on Pim's in the appropriate places below.
Otherwise this is entirely Pim's words.


>>> Pim van Meurs <> 12/28/05 11:47 PM >>>
I disagree the issue of ID being science was raised prominently by the
Discovery Institute's Amicus brief filing and required an answer as the
scientific nature of ID was essential to the ruling. David is under the
impression that it is sufficient for a court to rule on one of the prongs
without fully supporting its arguments. Remember that even if one prong
fails, all three prongs of the Lemon test need to be satisfied. In other
words, if the Judge's ruling were found to be incorrect based on the Dover
School board's behavior, there would be other reasons why the final decision
was still correct.

TED: Again, the judge declined to accept TDI's amicus brief, for reasons
I've already stated. TDI had their opportunity far more directly to
influence to court's decision, through the presence of prominent witnesses
representing TDI, and they pulled out. When you fold your hand, you don't
get any more cards. They're crying in their beer.


It's interesting to speculate about the Judge's motives but why not rely at
least on what the Judge himself wrote. rather than jump to speculations?

The issue of ID not being science has been decided by science, the Judge
merely present the scientific arguments and ruled that indeed ID is not
science. And for good reasons. After all, would we have the tobacco industry
rule on what is good medical science when it comes to smoking? In the end,
the judge looked at the evidence and ruled. That is well within the realm of
what judges typically do.

TED: The issue of ID not being science has been decided by the politics of
science; ie, by who controls access to publication in scientific journals.
Typically, ideas that are this marginal (ie, marginal in terms of the level
of support they have among the relevant specialists) need to have at least
one or two prominent advocates before they can really get space in the
professional literature (this is my impression from the history of science,
though I haven't thought about it too carefully and I may be flat wrong in
several instances), and ID doesn't have those advocates yet. If (e.g.)
someome as prominent as the late Steve Gould, who liked controversial ideas,
would have advocated for it, then it might now be getting space in the prof
literature; but so far it isn't, except in the obvious and highly
controversial instance involving Steve Meyer's paper in the Washington
biology journal (the name escapes me right now)--and the shameful response
that the society made to this publication, which did go through peer review,
does remind me of the response that the church made to Galileo's Dialogues,
after it too went through peer review (of a sort--it passed the offiicial
church censors).

We must not overplay this point, about ID not getting published in
scientific journals, since to a very significant degree it is a sociological
phenomenon rather than an intellectual one. At the same time, we must not
underplay it, since the sociology of science is a part of the scientific
process itself. Ideas really do need to get political support within a
scientific community, if they will have a chance to play out; and sometimes
that support can be earned by good arguments and sometimes other factors
(such as bias for or against a given religious perspective) do come into
play. My suspicion is that both of these things are in play right now.


The reason why I am as a scientist happy with the ruling is because it
accurately represents scientific concensus. Namely that ID is scientifically
vacuous. In addition, the inability of ID to present any scientifically
relevant contribution to science further strengthens this conclusion. Of
course, ID, being based on an argument from ignorance, was doomed from the

TED: We agree on this, Pim, except for one important point. I do not think
it is "scientifically vacuous" when archaeologists conclude that a piece of
rock was a spearpoint or if someday SETI investigators (I used to work for
the head guy, Seth Shostak, but that's another story for another time) find
evidence of ET "intelligence." Presumably, we have intuitive or even
quantitative (in the case of SETI) criteria for recognizing
objects/artifacts that have been "designed" by an intelligent agent. It is
not "scientifically vacuous," then, for biochemists to suggest that
something similar might be happening at the level of cellular machines--I do
remind readers that the word "machine" is self-chosen by cellular
biologists, and it's a suggestive word. The difficulty comes IMO at two
points. (1) Finding the calculus to show this. Not a trivial problem,
although Dembski has made some valiant efforts to produce it, thus far
unconvincing. (2) Overcoming the a priori bias against an intelligence that
precedes (ontologically and chronologically) the existence of the whole
shebbang, and intelligence that could in fact be the source of complexity
within the cosmos. This is even harder, IMO, and plays into the
sociological dimension above. When Dembski's book The Design Inference
first came out, I recall seeing a copy of an email from an enraged
scientist, who was complaining that Cambridge U Press had "let one past the
goal." It's that type of bias that IDs very fairly complain about. It's
one thing, to try to convince your peers that your hypothesis is worth
considering; it's another thing, to be forced also to convince them that
their a priori biases against the very type of hypothesis you are proposing,
is preventing them from giving it a fair chance. But if that is happening,
as I believe it is in many cases, then the claim that "ID is not scientific"
may boil down to a tautology.


The judge explained his reasoning for his ruling. It's an excellently
written ruling. And yes, perhaps the judge hoped that the amount of effort
spent in his court would benefit other cases.
Received on Thu Dec 29 09:03:41 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Dec 29 2005 - 09:03:41 EST