PZ Myers speaks for me*

David Klinghoffer @ the National Review is confused, perhaps willfully, about the Kitzmiller decision. He describes the decision thusly:

If ID is bogus because many of its theorists have religious beliefs to which the controversial critique of Darwinism lends support, then what should we say about Darwinism itself? After all, many proponents of Darwinian evolution have philosophical beliefs to which Darwin lends support.

Well, see, right there is the problem. If Klinghoffer is wondering about Kitzmiller‘s statement as to religion — a statement which Judge Jones repeatedly said he was not making — then he needs to frame his question correctly. The court did not say that ID is bogus because its theorists have religious beliefs, or because it lends support to its followers’ religious beliefs, as Klinghoffer would have it. Rather, according to the court, ID is bogus science because it is not conducted scientifically and has nothing scientific to say.

Klinghoffer was trying to frame the question in this inaccurate way so that he could then analogize to the atheism of “Darwinists”, implying an unequal favoring of atheistic godless secular humanism on the part of Judge Jones. He thus implies that the examination of the role of religion in this case was somehow inappropriate.**

Since his initial framing of the question is completely inaccurate, his follow-up analogy to “Darwinism” is completely meaningless.

I was going to thoroughly fisk every part of this really irritatingly stupid article, but PZ Myers and What Culture War have already looked into the article. In particular, I urge you to read PZ Myers’ post at all costs. In his post, he effectively rolls his eyes at the specifics of the Klinghoffer article, and then addresses the faith-science question that the Klinghoffer article so badly misconstrued. I really think I am going to print this post out and possibly frame it.


* Non-Bay Area folks may not be aware of the popular Bay Area bumper sticker, “Barbara Lee speaks for me“, which proliferated after she was the only vote against HJ Res 64.

** Okay, I couldn’t entirely resist responding to the specifics in the article. Klinghoffer seems offended that religion was brought up at all. Another instance of irony. “Intelligent design theory” was developed, not by scientists, but by religious adherents who wanted to sneak creationism back into the schools. Creationism was an avowedly religious belief, and teaching it in public schools therefore violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishments of religion.

Since plaintiffs alleged that ID proponents were trying to disguise their religious belief as science, the court had to evaluate it to see whether or not it was actual science (no) and if not, was it religion because that would violate the First Amendment. Courts regular evaluate the quality of science in Daubert hearings and voir dires so this is nothing new.

Religion was relevant because if it’s religion then teaching it as fact in public schools violates the First Amendment. In fact, the religious background of ID proponents was scarcely mentioned. Although the backgrounds and beliefs of the witnesses and parties was rarely discussed in the discussion, the court did rely upon statements made by the School Board, the publishers of Of Pandas and People and other relevant figures. Statements by those people expressing an intent to foster religious belief were significant evidence — exactly as they should be in an Establishment Clause case. ID followers’ stated religious beliefs and affiliations were relevant to the following determinations: 1. Evaluating the intent and knowledge of the School Board, for the Lemon test’s purpose prong; 2. Tracking the historical evolution (ahem) of the specific text Of Pandas and People to assess whether or not the text was a religious text presented deceptively to appear nonreligious; 3. Likewise, tracking the scholarly foundation and historical evolution of the “theory” and the phrase “intelligent design”, to determine whether ID truly is a legitimate scientific theory, or whether it is actually a deceptive attempt to portray a particular religious doctrine as science. (The latter, as was obvious to all.)

Intelligent design is a sham theory devised to get around the First Amendment’s prohibition of state establishment of religion, so that some religious adherents might have the opportunity to indoctrinate children in their particular religious belief. What I find interesting is how persons ostensibly dedicated both to the law and to a religion which forbids bearing false witness — such as Phillip E. Johnson, Boalt Professor of Law — rationalize to themselves this elaborate deception. Do they really believe in a science with less support among scientists than, say, psychic abilities and UFOs? Or have they adopted for themselves an ends-justify-the-means philosophy which says that God won’t mind a little lying if it spreads the Gospel? Very strange.