Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Does Judge Jones Misunderstand his Critics?

Caught an article on the Discovery Institute's usual site and it made me think.  Before reading the article, I wanted to just think about the title:  "Ten Years After the Dover Case, Judge Jones Misunderstands His Critics".  Does he really misunderstand his critics?  I don't think so.

Before reading it, I thought back over the past 10 years to the Dover Trial.  I recall the reaction to Judge Jones being the one to hear the case.  In Lauri Lebo's still excellent book "The Devil In Dover", she quoted one of the contributors over on Wild Bill Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent, describing Judge Jones:
"Judge John E. Jones on the other hand is a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks. He was state attorney for D.A.R.E, an Assistant Scout Master with extensively involved with local and national Boy Scouts of America, political buddy of Governor Tom Ridge (who in turn is deep in George W. Bush’s circle of power), and finally was appointed by GW hisself. Senator Rick Santorum is a Pennsylvanian in the same circles (author of the “Santorum Language” that encourages schools to teach the controversy) and last but far from least, George W. Bush hisself drove a stake in the ground saying teach the controversy. Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn’t going to rule against the wishes of his political allies. Of course the ACLU will appeal. This won’t be over until it gets to the Supreme Court. But now we own that too. "
 These seemed to be a common theme, a conservative judge, appointed by a Republican President couldn't possibly rule against Intelligent Design (ID).  Of course, as history has shown us, not only did Judge Jones rule against ID, but his ruling pretty well demolished any hope the DI had of ID being taken seriously as anything other than Creationism.  And their reaction was pretty typical, they vilified Jones.  Not only that, he was directly threatened from multiple quarters to the point he needed protection from Federal Marshals. 

John West, President of the Discovery Institute immediately called him an Activist Judge, something Judge Jones even mentioned in his ruling.  Let's talk about that for a moment.  According to most sources, Judicial activism refers to judicial rulings suspected of being based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law.   Just in case any Creationists are reading, that bears repeating:  "personal or political considerations". 

If the Judge had allowed his Conservative roots to influence his ruling, as expected by many, wouldn't that have been an example of Judicial Activism?   It seems pretty clear to me that too many folks were expecting him to do just that!  So instead of him actually being an Activist Judge, they accuse him of being one simply because he gave a ruling they didn't like, and in a typically knee-jerk reaction call him an Activist Judge.  As I said, Judge Jones expected this and even addressed it in his conclusion:
"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."
But Westie and his cronies went beyond that, they did what they usually do and wrote a book.  Yes, a Court Ruling explained that Intelligent Design is not science, so instead of going into the lab and proving the judge wrong, they wrote Traipsing into Evolution, a book-length critique of the decision.  Why am I not surprised?  When in doubt, write a book!  Don't do anything that might be mistaken for science, write a book!  Don't address the shortcomings of ID, write a book attacking the Judge who helped open the kimono and show those shortcomings to the world! It's nothing more than another example of marketing rather than taking any actual action.  What else could they have done?  You might notice that no one appealed the ruling.  You might also notice that no other school system has tried to emulate that the Creationists on the Dover Board tried to do.  You would think that the DI would want this case tried again in front of a different judge and if it was truly the act of an Activist Judge, the second ruling could very well correct it.  But for some reason no one is clamoring for a new trial.  The DI simply keeps trying to place the Judge on trial!

Judge Jones has many times addressed his critics.  Just recently he was interviewed as part of a series of articles in the York Daily Register on the Dover Decision:  "Dover intelligent design 10 years later: Q&A with U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III"  

Of course little casey luskin just couldn't resist whining in yet another attempt to try Judge Jones.  You remember casey?  He was the Discovery Institute lawyer whose participation in the trial was offering press releases for a couple of days and then he just disappeared. (Devil in Dover pages 120-121).  I don't know how offering press releases makes him qualified to comment on anything Jones says, but then qualifications aren't something the DI seems to pay much attention to . . . unless they are inflating them (Since the "700" keeps coming up . . .).

So, the first error little casey makes is assuming the DI is the target of Judge Jones comments.  If he actually read for comprehension, he would see that Judge Jones had a number of folks critical of his ruling, and he specifically said 
"What happened was that the punditry, who disagreed with my case, you know, came out and in a sort of firestorm, this sort of Bill O'Reillys and Ann Coulters of the world, and they were very strident and I think misleading in their criticism."
So little casey thinks the DI is on the same level as political punditry, or is it he can't stand the DI being shunted to the side in favor of O'Reilly-ers and Coulter-ites?  Actually that makes more sense than claiming to be an organization dedicated to actual science.  After all, what is a pundit?  Someone marketing their opinion, most often to people who already agree with them.  Sounds like a good definition of the DI, doesn't it?

Little casey's primary point is he think the Judge overstepped.  That as soon as he determined that the Dover School Board's in purpose was religious, he not looked at anything else.  Of course that would have made the DI happier than the actual result.  Dembski even predicted that the results of the trial had about a 70% change of being: 
"The Dover policy is overturned but the scientific status of ID is left unchallenged." (Life After Dover)
Which is exactly what might have happened if the Judge stopped doing his job.  Think about what that would have done for the DI and their pet Creationism/ID.  It would have kept the door open for people just like the Dover School Board's Buckingham and Bonsell to push for the inclusion of religion in science class.  You might not remember Buckingham and Bonsell, but if you read the Dover Decision you will find things like:
  •   . . . the Dover School Board members' testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath
  • It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy
The judge was talking about the school board members who voted for ID, which included William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, whose testimony did raise cries of perjury!

So, to little casey's mind, once you achieve the minimalist possible objective, you should always stop there.  I don't know about you, but I wasn't raised that way, and apparently neither was Judge Jones.  I am pretty sure little casey, and the rest of the bunch at the DI, wish the Judge had done just that is because the actual ruling was the one Dembski gave a less than 10% change of happening. 

What I find funny is how Dembski said it really wouldn't be that damaging if it did happen.  Even today, 10 years later, the DI is still trying to spin Dover as pretty much very limited impact on them.  How true is that?  Well since in the last decade where has ID gone?  How many public schools teach it in their science curriculum?  How many presentations to scientific conferences have happened?  How many peer-reviewed papers on ID have been published in reputable scientific journals?  I did specifically use the words science and scientific so anyone can differentiate between DI revival meetings and self-published journals as compared to real scientific conferences and scientific journals.  I believe the answer to all three is 0.  I also specified 'public schools' because the curriculum requirements for non-public schools is very different, however even the majority of non-public schools teach Evolution (Baylor, University of Dayton two nationally ranked Christian universities are good examples).  So in reality, ID hasn't done much but continued marketing.  They certainly have been quiet on the science front . . . and no I do not, nor does the scientific community, consider self-published, popular press, or religious imprint articles and books to be scientific.

So what we have is a Judge doing his job and not just looking at their motivations, but examining the entirety of what was happening in Dover using the precedents previously established in cases like
Of course the Judge didn't stop where casey and his little friends would have liked nor where they where they expected him to stop.  Judge Jones made a complete ruling and one that has caused the DI to spend considerable time and energy distancing themselves from, and also attacking Judge Jones pretty regularly.  Judge Jones specifically said:
"The conclusion was probably the toughest part of the opinion, because I felt that I, frankly, given the length of the opinion at 139 pages, that a lot of people would only ever read the conclusion. So I labored over that. Because I wanted to make that as powerful and as clear as I possibly could."
And he most certainly did make a powerful ruling.  One that has had a lasting impact on the modern Intelligent Design Movement, no matter how much casey and pals try and spin things.  Does the Judge misunderstand his critics?  No, I don't think so.  I think his critics misunderstand not just Judge Jones but the law.

If you are interested, there are other articles from the York Daily Register about the 10 year anniversary.  I hope you find them as interesting as I have.  It does stand to reason these articles are much more interesting than anything put out by the DI, especially by their press release mouthpiece luskin.

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