Friday, December 23, 2005

Intelligent Design and a philosophically prejudiced court ruling

In an opinion issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Jones ruled that teaching "intelligent design" would violate the Constitutional separation of church and state.

"We have concluded that it is not [science], and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents," Jones writes in his 139-page opinion posted on the court's Web site.

The judge's decision "would block the school district's plan 'requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.' "

As a policy matter, I'm not sure it's time yet for ID to be required in schools along with evolution (though it should probably be allowed to be discussed), but scientific criticisms of macro-evolution should, without a doubt, be included. Regardless, the Pennsylvania ID ruling, which is about ID's constitutionality, is just totally off the wall.

Indeed, those keeping track of President Bush's mistakes can add another one: Judge John Jones. His opinion is simply a compilation of crackpot Darwinist talking points. ID cannot "establish" religion, as the judge worries, because it's not a religion. While creationism, as traditionally understood, is a belief about the world derived from the book of Genesis (and so, while true, is a religious and not scientific idea), ID is a scientific theory derived from the empirical investigation of the material world. ID studies patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence, just as Jodie Foster correctly concluded - based on simple mathematics - that intelligence was behind a message from outer space in Contact and how any idiot would conclude the same from the contours of Mount Rushmore. Indeed, the science of design detection is a growing and fascinating field, led by, among others, the brilliant William Dembski.

So how does some judge (and much of the scientific community) confuse this with religion? Philosophical prejudice. Because of a commitment to philosophical naturalism (the idea that the natural world is all that exists), many scientists try to discredit any scientific work that points to a conclusion that contradicts that philosophy. They've tried to define "science" so that only certain conclusions are acceptable. Judge Jones has accepted this prejudiced and intellectually-closed minded definition of science, which means that ID - clearly not science, given its implication of some kind of God-like Designer - must instead be religion.

By the way, we shouldn't confuse naturalistic conclusions with naturalistic methods. Unbiased science may point to any kind of conclusion - naturalistic or not - but science itself is an investigation of nature. Indeed, science deals only with the physical world, so it is not philosophy or religion, but the physical world may have certain implications for philosophy or religion (e.g., macro-evolution, the Big Bang, and ID all have serious philosophical implications).

Besides their rejection of ID, the prior philosophical commitment of many scientists also explains Darwinism's widespread acceptance. An idea as scientifically weak as macro-evolution can only be this blindly accepted when one is committed beforehand to a purely naturalistic explanation for all living things (a commitment that makes Darwinism clearly the most reasonable option).

Now, admittedly, some members of the Dover school board (who made the now-overturned ID policy) actually wanted to teach young-earth creationism in schools but "settled" on ID, because they were correctly told ID is lawful in science class and young-earth creationism isn't. This is unfortunate, as it made it easier for a judge lacking intelligence to confuse religion and science. But the trial was about ID, not creationism. The policy should be judged, not the religious motives of certain board members. More on that issue.

But ID supporters shouldn't get too worried about the court ruling, which doesn't mean all that much. It's reasonable to think true science will be freed from its materialistic bondage eventually.

More on the Dover ID ruling:
Discovery Institute's reaction
Dover Judge Regurgitates Mythological History of Intelligent Design

Did Judge Jones read the evidence submitted to him in the Dover trial?
Is Judge Jones an activist judge?

More on ID:
Discovery Institute CSC

Access Research Network

What is ID?
What is ID?
Essential readings

Intelligently Designed Apparel and Merchandise

ID the Future
Evolution News & Views

Uncommon Descent

Update: What's with Cal Thomas? Thomas, one of my favorite columnists, says that Judge Jones' ruling is "welcome," in part because "it should awaken religious conservatives to the futility of trying to make a secular state reflect their beliefs." Clearly, Thomas doesn't understand that ID isn't a "religious belief" and that its proponents are merely trying to free secular science from the stranglehold of a dangerous worldview.

Indeed, Thomas writes, "The modern secular state should not be expected to teach Genesis 1, or any other book of the Bible, or any other religious text." Obviously. But in this context, Thomas' statement shows a profound and very disappointing ignorance of ID.

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