The Constitutionality of Teaching ID

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Matt Brauer, a founding contributor to Panda’s Thumb, has been noticeably absent lately. Courtesy of Ed Brayton we now know why. With Constitutional scholar Stephen Gey and philosopher/historian of science Barbara Forrest (of Creationism’s Trojan Horse fame), he has been working on a massive analysis of the constitutionality of teaching ID in public schools, Is it Science Yet?: Intelligent Design Creationism and the Constitution. Be warned! It’s a 195-page document. I won’t reproduce the Abstract here: the link above is to it and the working paper itself is available for download at that link.

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Steven Gey, Matthew Brauer and Barbara Forrest have published a new working paper on SSRN, Is It Science Yet? Intelligent Design Creationism and the Constitution. Read More

29 Comments

Excellent resource RBH. Worthy of a blogging

The abstract mischaracterizes ID right at the start

“Intelligent design theory asserts that a supernatural intelligence intervened in the natural world to dictate the nature and ordering of all biological species, which do not evolve from lower- to higher-order beings.”

First of all, ID posits an intelligent agent. Not a supernatural intelligent agent.

Secondly, it posits that at some points during evolution an intelligent agent intervened. It does not posit the dictation of the nature and ordering of all biological species.

What these dopey lawyers have done is to construct a strawman.

Strawmen aren’t allowed into evidence in court, I’m afraind.

ROFLMAO!

Upon actually looking at it, I think this is a somewhat early version of this essay. A later version is shorter and I think avoids using the colloquial definition of the word “theory” (ID theory, creationist theory, etc.).

Still, look out especially for Matt Brauer’s literature analysis of various scientific controversies, and for where ID fits compare to real scientific controversies.

Hi Dave, still up to no good I see. Good to hear that you have read the abstract of this 195 page work. I am sure that at this rate we may expect a more thorough opinion when? Or do you rely on Cliff-notes for your understanding of science?

Religious people also seem to have come to realize that ID is really about religion and little about science. Quite deceptive and it is starting to hurt ID.

If we accept that ID says that life on Earth to be created by an intelligent but not supernatural agent, then it just shifts the argument. Where did that agent come from? Either it evolved, or was created by another agent. Therefore, ID becomes a meaningless circular argument, or it leads eventually to a supernatural agent (and is religion), or it leads to evolution (and so is pointless).

David Scott Springer, evidently forgetful in addition to careless, writes

ID posits an intelligent agent. Not a supernatural intelligent agent.

David have you forgotten Lesson One already?

There is no evidence for any “intelligent beings” who were capable of designing and creating all the earth’s life forms and their substituent parts from scratch. If there were such evidence, scientists would be happy to study such beings. But there is none.

Secondly, it posits that at some points during evolution an intelligent agent intervened. It does not posit the dictation of the nature and ordering of all biological species.

Hey, if you say so, David! Are you willing to testify in court? You seem to know a lot about “ID theory” and you certainly love to brag and you have some experience with the law (although it’s a pity your patents don’t cite any non-patent prior art – oops!).

Perhaps you can tell us

(1) at what points “during evolution” did the mysterious intelligent beings “intervene”?

(2) how did they intervene?

(3) where did the intelligent beings come from? why did they go extinct?

(4) why is ID theory more scientific than enterocraftic theory?

Earlier you managed to dodge similar questions after you received Lesson One in your education about why “ID theory” is pseudoscientific nonsense designed to wedge religion into public school science classrooms.

Have you managed to grow up since then, Mr. Springer? Or do you still insist that your ideas deserve to be coddled simply because you can easily find other script-reciting scientifically ignorant rubes like yourself?

DaveScot wrote

First of all, ID posits an intelligent agent. Not a supernatural intelligent agent.

Secondly, it posits that at some points during evolution an intelligent agent intervened. It does not posit the dictation of the nature and ordering of all biological species.

I recommend you read pages 72ff. To claim that ID does not posit a supernatural intelligent agent is to jettison Behe, Nelson, Dembski, Johnson, Meyer, and Wells as ID proponents.

Second, it all depends on which IDist one is looking at. Paul Nelson, for example, is a YEC, and YEC surely requires that the “nature and ordering of all biological species” (if “species” is anywhere near “kinds”) was dictated. Since there is no articulated ID “theory” in the strong (= scientific) sense of the word, ID can posit anything convenient to the moment and change that position in the next moment depending on the audience.

Third, the intermittent intervention model would have promise if there were any specifics about when the interventions occurred, what was intervened with, how the intervention was performed, and whether there is any limit on the nature of possible interventions. In the absence of any of that, ID intermittent interventionism reduces to an “Intervener of the Gaps” story. If one judges by the focus of ID “theoreticians” one would have to conclude that the main activity of the intelligent agent was/is sticking flagella on bacteria.

RBH

Fascinating paper.

The authors appear to be attempting, in addition to their avowed purpose, to set a new world record for ellipses. Is anyone else a little put-off by the number of ellipses in the quotes on page 28ff? There are several places where one or two words are flanked by ellipses! It certainly raises the spectre of quote-mining, although I’m unable to detect any misrepresentation of views.

…it posits that at some points during evolution an intelligent agent intervened. It does not posit the dictation of the nature and ordering of all biological species.

“MAY HAVE intervened.” That’s as far as we can go, since we have no way of testing if an intelligent agent intervened other than a subjective appeal to “well, if it looks designed to me, it probably is. What do you think Joe?”

From a scientific standpoint, ID adds zero value at best … and that’s regardless of who or what the “intelligent agent” may be. I would argue that ID actually has the potential to add negative value since it may have the unintended? consequence of stifling research, which might be abandoned when a scientist gets the impression that “we’re not understanding this mechanism because the intelligence of the intelligent agent behind it is beyond our understanding.” In other words, ID may discourage the pursuit of scientific inquiry rather than complement it. Which, of course, would be fine with fundies.

RBH “it all depends on which IDist one is looking at”.

Yes, it does indeed. ID is not monolithic and Discovery Institute fellows certainly aren’t the first people to posit that life didn’t spontaneously arise from mud. William Paley used the watchmaker analogy 200 years ago. As far as I can tell ID today is still essentially the watchmaker analogy with arguments updated for discoveries that have been made in the last two centuries. The simplest forms of life are vastly more complex machinery than anyone dreampt of in Paley’s era.

Part of the problem in a constitutional adjudication is to identify what is actually brought into the public classroom. Arbitrary selection of what is and is not meant by “intelligent design” is a straw man. One must actually have a case in point and right now the case in point is Dover. What is actually being said in Dover classrooms - is it what this FSU white paper describes? I don’t think so.

Last, for separation consideration, it doesn’t matter whether ID is science or not by any arbitrary definition of science. There is no constitutional mandate that only science be taught in biology class. There is not a wall of separation between state and poor science. The only thing that matters is whether ID is religion or not religion in the context of the establishment clause. It appears to me, prima facie, that a watchmaker argument is not respecting an establishment of religion. An argument that defends each and every point in the King James Bible account of creation taught in a public classroom is very much respecting an establishment of religion.

Dave, the Constitutional question is not as complex as you present it. It’s quite simple, really: Is there science behind the material to be presented?

In the Arkansas trial, not only was there no science behind the material the radical Christians wished to be presented, but their expert witnesses also testified that they understood creationism to come from a particular understanding of one of the two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2. That testimony rather sank the boat.

In Dover, I can imagine the depositions going something like this:

Lawyer for teachers and students: Tell us, ID expert witness: Have you published any papers in any juried journal which either calls evolution into question, or which proposes a new and better theory to explain the origin of species?

ID Expert: No

Lawyer for teachers and students: Well, tell us about your research: What areas of research do you do now which promise to provide a refutation to evolution, or a more accurate and easy-to-use theory?

ID Expert: I don’t do research. I’m a statistician/theologian/minister/criminal procedure lawyer/creative writing professor/professor of speech (pick one).

Lawyer: Okay, then can you tell us where we might find such research, and such a researcher?

ID Expert: Well, Dembski and Behe argue …

Lawyer: Will the magistrate please instruct the witness to answer the question posed, and not some other question?

Magistrate: ID Expert, you must answer the question posed. If you refuse, there may be sanctions.

ID Expert: No, I don’t know of any research being done in ID in any laboratory on Earth. I don’t know anyone who proposes to do such research.

Now, in that case there is a question whether the stuff can be taught under Pennsylvania’s education standards and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirement that kids make progress all the time. It may be a violation of federal law, under NCLB, to teach nonsense to kids, especially nonsense that can’t be tested for.

So the only hope you have of getting toehold in the science classes is to insist that the material is religious, and fairness to religion requires it be taught.

But of course, that’s the catch-22 here: If it’s religion alone, the government cannot advocate it.

No, Dave, there is no way to dress up the dog that ID is in order to get it into the classroom. No matter how it makes the children laugh and play, it doesn’t belong in school, in science classes.

If you want to “teach the controversy,” come on into my social studies classes. We’ll study crank science movements, and see how teapot tempests hamper education …

The only question worth answering is whether there is science in ID. The Discovery Institute says not.

Oh, my. What’s a studious federal judge to do?

Oh, and we haven’t gotten to the pedagogy.

Texas standards require that kids learn about evolution. Regardless how “controversial” one may wish to paint it, ID only muddles the issues. It detracts from the teaching of the Texas standards.

If Pennsylvania has similar standards, then we should expect at least a side argument that teaching falsehoods confuses students, and should not be done in the best interests of good education and honesty.

I look forward to reading this. I’ve always been a bit confused by the legal standing of the two separate arguments:

1) Is ID science? Since it doesn’t remotely meet any of the several requirements that anything scientific must meet, can it be restricted on that basis alone? This is specifically NOT a First Amendment, Establishment issue, but more of an issue of how the law (or administrative standards?) determines what can or can not be taught as part of the curriculum for any particular subject.

2) Is ID a stand-in for the establishment of a religion? In other words, are positions compatible with religious doctrines (even if not promoting any specific religious doctrine) and incompatible with science, still unconstitutional on establishment grounds?

1) Is ID science? Since it doesn’t remotely meet any of the several requirements that anything scientific must meet, can it be restricted on that basis alone? This is specifically NOT a First Amendment, Establishment issue, but more of an issue of how the law (or administrative standards?) determines what can or can not be taught as part of the curriculum for any particular subject.

I don’t know of any legal theory that would restrict teaching of iD either because it is not science or is “stupid” science. Unfortunately, from my review of my own kids’ schoolwork, a lot of material being taught is is either wrong or stupid.

2) Is ID a stand-in for the establishment of a religion?

This is a much stronger position legally. Mr davescott disengenuously claims above that ID is not religious However, that claim is made outside of their religious revival meetings where they do admit that an awesome God is the designer. they claim that ID has no need to be religious.

Mr. Francis Beckwith, in a legal article, argued that that any religious motivations of ID proponents are not relevant if ID iself is correct. I think he’s wrong for two reasons. First, it begs the question. He agrees that ID is not developed. Demsbki also agrees that lack of any lab or field research is hampering progress and there are more candid admissions from other proponents about lack of real research. In short, it’s half baked idea at best. “Is it science yet?” goes to the heart of the matter.

Second, the claim that ID is not religion masqerading as science is a ridiculously poor subterfuge. The law is used to dealing with subterfuge arguments in many routine contexts. Here’s a typical example: Defendant refuses to pay on a promissory note. He claims the note was actually extortion. Plaintiff claims the note is exactly what it says–a promise to repay borrowed money with interest.

Is it relevant that defendant can show that the plaintff is in the olive oil importing business? That his import receipts show no olive oil imports for the past 10 years? That there’s no record of an original loan to be repaid? That plaintiff’s last name is Corleone with racketeering connections? That the last guy who didn’t pay back “loans” has been missing for five years? Of course those facts are relevant in determining whether the note was actually a subterfuge for extortion.

For the same reason, the motivations of the proponents of (1)a half baked idea that arose immediately after the creationism loss in Aguillard, (2)with no scientific reseach program, (3)no publication of research results and (4)no federal funding, who (5)want to teach it as science in school, are very relevant.

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I think that the status of ID as science is relevant to the issue of whether teaching it in science classes serves a valid secular purpose. If it is not worthy of inclusion on its scientific merits (as it is clearly not) then it is hard to see how a case for that could be argued.

While that would not be sufficient in itself to reverse the policy it would strengthen the teachers hand considerably. And, I understand (IANAL) that it is necessary to show that there is no valid secular purpose as well as showing that there is a religious purpose.

The Lemon Test, which the Supreme Court uses to determine whether a law runs afoul of the Constitution, is what we’re discussing. There are three parts:

As originally formulated, a statute passed this test only if it had “a secular legislative purpose,” if its “principal or primary effect” was one that “neither advance[d] nor inhibit[ed] religion,” and if it did “not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.” Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602, 612-613 (1971)

(ZELMAN, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION OF OHIO, et al. v. SIMMONS-HARRIS et al. (2002))

If there is no science in ID, there is no valid, secular purpose to require it be taught in science class. A presumption that the action is religious might be said to be assumed at that point.

I think ID fails on all three points. Since there is not a single researcher working in a lab on any ID-paradigm idea, there can be no secular reason to teach it as science. Since the origins of ID are unabashedly religious (see Phillip Johnson), and since there is no secular reason to advance a “God-friendly” concept like ID, it tends to have as a primary effect the promulgation of religion.

Mr. King is right. If a law has a secular purpose, and coincidentally advances religion, it may be valid – a statute against theft or battery, for example.

Ed writes

A presumption that the action is religious might be said to be assumed at that point.

A safe assumption given the nature and claims of ID, but such an assumption does not necessarily flow from any finding that a postulate is scientifically vapid. For example, a postulate could be designed to promulgate a racist or political ideology that is not religious in nature.

Ed D

“Since there is not a single researcher working in a lab on any ID-paradigm idea, there can be no secular reason to teach it as science.”

Not true. Many lab experiments are seeking to discover plausible chemistry for abiogenesis. Check out this area of biochemistry for some interesting reading:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&[…]me+evolution

A demonstrated way to get from soup to nuts that doesn’t require design input goes a long way towards putting ID to bed. Failure to demonstrate such a path, while not proving ID, tends to strengthen ID.

There are many areas of scientific inquiry that bear on the question of abiogenesis. Geology attempts to characterize the earth’s environment at a very early age which is important constraint for any theories of abiogenesis. Astronomy attempts to find out the range of ages and frequency of other terrestrial planets in our galaxy where life as we know it would be theoretically possible. SETI is searching for signs of intelligence elsewhere in the cosmos.

One of the things, and probably the most germane thing IMO, ID predicts is that the chemical pathway from prebiotic soup to living cells cannot happen without design input. Demonstrating a mechanism for abiogenesis will falsify that ID prediction.

DaveScott,

Unfortunately you are wrong. If I get soup to nuts i do not disprove ID, as I have pointed out to Behe (he has made the same arguement using flagellum as his example), there is no way to A) remove supernatural intervention from the experiment and B) no way to remove front loaded design.

ID predicts is that the chemical pathway from prebiotic soup to living cells cannot happen without design input. Demonstrating a mechanism for abiogenesis will falsify that ID prediction.

As Randy said, creating living cells from prebiotic soup in the lab might only indicate that the Designer was present in the lab, doing His thing. Just as ID predicted!

Incidentally, I finally did make it all the way through “Is it Science Yet?” and although I’m not a lawyer, I enjoyed the presentation. I have no way to judge which arguments carry the most legal weight, but I admit I was unfamiliar with the vehemence with which Dembski rejects evolution. He says (as quoted in the document) with full repetetive complex specificity that no science can possibly be correct that doesn’t revolve directly around Jesus Christ, and that even though scientific merit has yet to be discovered for ID, it should nonetheless by pushed into grade schools as per God’s Will. The section documenting Dembski’s religious writing was scary! Whether it matters as legal support for the claim that ID is a religious doctrine, I can’t judge.

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Flint

As Randy said, creating living cells from prebiotic soup in the lab might only indicate that the Designer was present in the lab, doing His thing. Just as ID predicted!

Heh, heh. Indeed.

It’s like when John Edward or some other psychic “reader” has trouble identifying the name or appearance of their subject’s dead relative. It’s because “some other” soul is “trying to get through”.

I shouldn’t mock those guys. I’m sure there are some “serious scientists” wondering how many souls it will take before there is simply no more room left in Heaven (or purgatory or wherever those souls hang out. Perhaps David Heddle can explain the correct answer for us. He’s a “serious scientist”, by his own admission).

I have a question for one of our lawyers now. This long paper is prepared by the Law Department of Florida State University, as a ‘working paper’. Who reads it? What gets done with it? Is it submitted to a court somewhere that is actually hearing a relevant case?

Flint asked

I have a question for one of our lawyers now. This long paper is prepared by the Law Department of Florida State University, as a ‘working paper’. Who reads it? What gets done with it? Is it submitted to a court somewhere that is actually hearing a relevant case?

It has been submitted for publication. I hear, though I don’t know details, that it was edited some before submission.

RBH

grand daughter

re no one doing ID research

Any research being done in abiogenesis is DE FACTO work that may falsify a claim of ID (life is too complex for abiogenesis).

Inspiration is a very subjective term but I would put to you that ID and creationism in general inspires a lot of effort to falsify it. Must inspiration only be of the positive type?

Unfortunately for design-deniers ID makes predictions, is falsifiable through experiment, and such experimental work is being done. Whether the work is being done in the name of ID is irrelevant. What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!

DaveScot,

grand daughter

That would be Rilke’s granddaughter or great-granddaughter, to be more precise.

Any research being done in abiogenesis is DE FACTO work that may falsify a claim of ID (life is too complex for abiogenesis).

Incorrect and invalid; according to that logic, any work being done in astronomy is research being done into astrology. We asked very specifically for work being done in the context of, inspired by, or in accordance with an ID theory or hypothesis.

There aren’t any. There are workers doing perfectly valid research in various areas of interest - none of them having any use whatever for ID.

Inspiration is a very subjective term but I would put to you that ID and creationism in general inspires a lot of effort to falsify it. Must inspiration only be of the positive type?

No. The only reason we spend time on pointing out the poor nature of ID advocates logic and lack of scientific support is because they are trying to move a non-theory into mainstream education. Otherwise, who would care? But since people with some sense of scientific integrity would prefer not to have non-scientific religious tenets pushed as ‘science’ on gullible school-children, we work to uphold integrity.

It’s also nice to see that you clearly equate ID with creationism; it’s nice to recognize your biases out in the open like that.

Unfortunately for design-deniers ID makes predictions,

Like what? Be specific.

is falsifiable through experiment,

How? Describe the experiments. Be specific.

and such experimental work is being done.

By whom? Where? Where are they being published? Be specific.

Whether the work is being done in the name of ID is irrelevant.

LOL. ID has no theory, no hypotheses, no experiments, and no researchers. You’ve listed none, you’ve just claimed that anybody’s research counts on your side. Why?

Working out a viable naturalistic abiogenesis scenario will do nothing to prove or disprove ID; at the moment, since it has no theory, there is no way to disprove or prove it.

So far, you have asserted a great deal of nonsensical claims without any support. Would you like to demonstrate some intellectual integrity and try to back some of them up?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on January 9, 2005 9:57 PM.

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