by Kevin L. Anderson, Ph.D.
Reprinted with permission from the Creation Research Society Newsletter,
In his recent ruling, the Honorable John E. Jones III ruled that the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) in public schools is unconstitutional because it is religion, not science (Kitzmiller v. Dover School District; Document 342. Dec. 20, 2005). As part of his ruling he declared that the overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory (p. 43). It seems that one of the assumptions of IDs wedge strategy (Johnson, 2000) is an expectation of a reasonable level of objectivity in the US court system. Such is not to be found in this particular court, and may represent one of the weaknesses of the wedge strategy.
Judge Jones is clearly an ardent Darwinist, and he eagerly accepted virtually all of the Plaintiffs pro-evolutionary arguments while dismissing most of the Defendants claims with merely a wave-of-the-hand (or wave-of-the-pen, in this case). Among the judges arguments, several are rather striking and relevant to creationists.
Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science. (p. 66)As some have already begun to realize, though, this strict definition of science also creates some nasty difficulties for evolutionary theory. For example, it has never been empirically shown that mutations are able to generate sufficient biological change to transform a water breathing fish to an air breathing amphibian. Rather, this is merely an inference based upon the evolutionary claim of common descent. Neither has it ever been empirically demonstrated that stochastic chemical reactions can synthesize optically pure amino acids or nucleic acids (a requirement for life). Biochemical evolution simply infers that this must have happened in order for life to have originally formed.
Such inferences clearly fall outside the strict definition offered by Judge Jones, and thus become a form of metaphysical naturalism (as opposed to metaphysical supernaturalism). Yet, according to Jones, the metaphysical, whether natural or supernatural, is outside of science, and thus cannot be offered as science in the public classroom.
Among the other arguments supporting his determination that ID is religion, not science, I find one especially striking. He states that an Intelligent Design network newsletter:
... all but admits that ID is religious by quoting Anthony Flew, described as a world famous atheist who now believes in intelligent design, as follows: My whole life has been guided by the principle of Platos Socrates: Follow the evidence where it leads. (p. 54)Apparently, according to Judge Jones, following the evidence where it leads is now a religious position. One might be tempted to ask the judge if this means his new constitutionally acceptable version of science is to NOT follow the evidence where it leads?
During the trial, Dr. Kenneth Miller, a key witness for the Plaintiff, testified that attributing unsolved biological problems to the acts of a supernatural agent is a science stopper (p. 66). The assertion that God did it, he alleges, becomes the cue to stop trying to understand any underlying biological mechanism, again illustrating how ID is not science. Millers claim draws some credibility when creationists use oversimplified arguments of how certain unanswered questions in biology challenge or even invalidate evolution.
Nonetheless, evolutionists should not be so quick (and arrogant) to pronounce evolution as the ultimate explanation for biological origin and diversity when there is so much of biology that evolution cannot account for or explain. Gaps in scientific knowledge should, however, not be viewed as strong evidence either for creation or against evolution. The true difficulties facing evolution are not what we do not know about biology, but rather what we do know.
Religious nature of evolution
... Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolution frequently becomes a semi-religious view because it is given as a support for the view that no supernatural reality exists, and because it is offered as an answer to the question of ultimate things. Such answers are, by their nature, at least semi-religious if not fully so (Eby, 2006).Judge Jones also declares that science does not consider issues of meaning and purpose in the world (p. 65). But then, we must ask if books by noted evolutionists, such as The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Adams Curse, The Immense Journey, Ever Since Darwin, and Mystery Dance, all of which make bold evolutionary claims about meaning and purpose (or lack thereof), should also be banned from the science classroom? We can only hope.
He further implies that because ID does not exclude the possibility of a supernatural designer, but instead allows for supernatural causation of the natural world (p. 67) and cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents (p. 136), it automatically has a religious basis. Does this mean that evolution must then exclude the possibility of a supernatural designer to remain science; i.e., that evolution must now officially be regarded as atheistic?
Clearly the official scientific version of evolution is (and has been) atheistic, but there has always been the unofficial assurance by certain proponents that evolution and Christianity do not conflict. Even Plaintiff witness Dr. Kenneth Miller has claimed to be devout Catholic who recognizes the existence of a creator God (Miller, 1999). Does this now disqualify evolution as science? Can evolution allow for a supernatural designer but ID cannot? Apparently so. In fact, Judge Jones strongly challenged that the contention that evolutionary theory is antithetical to … religion in general was utterly false (p. 136).
The judge may counter my argument by suggesting that evolution theory allows for, but does not require, a supernatural agent or event; i.e., evolution can allow both theistic and an atheistic position. Thus, it supposedly religiously and scientifically neutral. Yet, if evolution is a complete, fully-functional scientific theory without a supernatural agent or event, then any compatibility with a creator is purely contrived. While this contrivance may help reassure those trying to mix Christianity and evolution, it serves no scientific or biblical purpose. A creator has no need of evolution. Evolution has no need of a creator.
On the other hand, if evolution requires the supernatural, then, according to Judge Jones, it cannot be scientific. Either way, the justification for what has been called theistic evolution (a Christianized version of evolution) is not viable.
In fact, by Judge Jones standards, to propose a theistic version of evolution is unconstitutional and unscientific. Therefore, despite Judge Jones admonition to the contrary, his ruling requires that evolution must officially be recognized as atheistic if it is to be taught in the science classroom. There is no room for a creator in the evolution paradigm. It is noteworthy that, despite claiming to acknowledge a creator God, Dr. Miller not only seems very comfortable with this atheistic version of evolution, he even insists on it. It seems his creator is in fact irrelevant.
The tiresome catch 22
Plaintiffs provided testimony as to the harm caused by the Boards ID Policy on their children, families, and themselves in consistent, but personal ways … [and] additionally testified that their children confront challenges to their religious beliefs at school because of the Boards actions, and the Boards actions have caused conflict within the family unit, and that there is discord in the community. (p. 128-129)Many Christian parents may be tempted to respond that policies and actions of certain public schools (such as teaching evolution) caused harm, as well, to their children and families in consistent, but personal ways and caused conflict within the family unit. It is interesting that public school policies that impact and challenge the religious beliefs and cause family and community conflict within conservative Christian family units appear to be less important.
One parent further testified that:
People are afraid to talk to people for fear, and thats happened to me. Theyre afraid to talk to me because Im on the wrong side of the fence. (p. 129)Judge Jones further quotes the United States Supreme Court as stating that there is not to be any:
... compelling [of] nonadherents to support the practices or proselytizing of favored religious organizations and conveying the message that those who do not contribute gladly are less than full members of the community. (p. 133)Creationists in academic environments may be justified in thinking that these two statements describe exactly what they experience every day.
Church and state
Eby, L. 2006. What is science? Part II: Pennsylvanias intelligent design case. World Peace Herald. (www.wpherald.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20060105-111612-4298r)
Johnson, P. 2000. The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. (The wedge strategy is simply an attempt to split naturalism from science by showing that naturalism is a process of rationalization, not reason.)
Meyer, S. 2004. The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(2):213-239.
Miller, K. 1999. Finding Darwins God: A Scientists
Search for Common Ground Between God and
Evolution. Harper Collins, New York, NY.