Cooper, Nelson, Saletan

| 24 Comments

Reaction to the Dover decision keeps coming in. Former Discovery Institute Attorney Seth Cooper has posted this essay claiming that Judge Jones mischaracterized Cooper's actions on behalf of the DI in the Dover case. Golly! That sounds serious.

Meanwhile, Paul Nelson offers these thoughts on why ID folks shouldn't be mired in despair. Along the way he offers up a single sentence of the decision which, in Nelson's opinion, shows the Judge being something less than meticulous.

And over at Slate, William Saletan takes up the thankless task of trying to poke holes in Jones' masterful opinion. He accuses Jones of relying on a false dichotomy between science and religion.

Short reply: Cooper is wrong, Nelson is desperate and Saletan is being silly.

I have posted longer replies to all three over at EvolutionBlog. Cooper here. Nelson here. Saletan here.

24 Comments

Jason, your Saletan link leads to the Nelson page.

Otherwise, great analysis.

Blah blah blah.

ID shot its load. It lost. Get used to it.

Sorry to keep gloating.

OK, no I’m not. Heck, I’ve been fighting these morons for almost **25 years**. I remember celebrating both the Maclean and the Aguillard decisions. So I’m going to gloat as much as I darn well want to.

Gloat gloat gloat gloat gloat.

So THERE.

KiwiInOz-

Thanks for the tip. The link has now been fixed.

If Cooper is right about his conversations not having lawyer-client privilege, then Buckingham, or whoever claimed lawyer-client privilege for that conversation, has got another potential perjury problem I think.

Other than that issue, which would be the Defense’s fault and not the Judge’s, I don’t see why Jones’s opinion is being criticized. Oh right, the Discovery Institute did not like this opinion, which they played no role in producing, except for that Icons of Evolution video that inspired Buckingham to new heights of teacher intimidation.

Buckingham testified that *all* communications he had with Cooper and other DI people were priveleged.

Cooper tells us that *some* communications were priveleged and some were not (how should Buckingham tell them apart?).

I would assume that communications between Cooper and Buckingham related to the constitutionality of the Dover policy, the chances of getting sued, legal strategies to avoid legal problems etc. would be considered priveleged by anyone. However, here we have Cooper disclosing, presumably without Buckingham’s nor the current DASB permission, the content of this clearly priveleged communications. I sure am glad that Cooper isn’t my lawyer.

The prosecutor announced today he is looking in to the appearance of perjury on the part of Mr Buckingham. I only read the Cooper piece so far and it was fascinating reading for me. I must be a real weirdo because I find the trial drama obscenely interesting. IDC porn.

Like reading the exchange between Richard Thompson and whatshisname from the DI. Anyhow, everyone sure wants to distance themselves from Dover. Poor old TMLC lost Rick the Snake as a board member today.

Did anyone catch Behe on Hannity and Colmes tonight? I did but it moved very fast for me, I was watching my 2 month old and two year old while my wife made dinner. Some dude was filling in for Hannity (to my great surprise) I was astonished that the Colmes and whoever was his side kick were on the offensive with Behe from the gate.

They asked a few good questions and missed an opportunity here and there but considering this is Fox I was very pleaased to see them not roll over and let Behe scratch their bellies with tales of Mt Rushmore.

In fact they asked something to the effect of “how is Mt Rushmore like an biological entity?” or something close to that. The appeared to have actually read the ruling in fact Colmes may have had a copy in his hand.

Anyhow, the post trial drama, watching the creationists implode is interesting in a weird way. Cooper’s story adds a new twist in an already twisted drama.

Where Judge Jones Was Wrong

No doubt Judge Jones was correct in determining that the Board’s action failed to meet the Supreme Court’s 1971 Lemon Test by not having a secular reason and fostering unnecessary government entanglement with religion. But his reasons for ruling that ID is not science were erroneous.

The York, Pa. case mirrored McLean v. Arkansas, the 1981 trial in which Federal Judge William R. Overton tossed out Arkansas Act 590, which called for a “balanced treatment for creation-science and evolution-science.” In doing so he also went further than simply ruling that the Lemon Test was contravened by lawmakers. He (unnecessarily) also ruled that creation science was not science. For that purpose, Judge Overton had to define science. In doing so he relied heavily on the testimony of eminent philosopher Michael Ruse.

Another eminent philosopher of science, Larry Laudan, objected vehemently to Judge Overton’s definition of science. He pointed out that it contained elements that did not represent the consensus of scientists and philosophers of science, especially since no such consensus exists. (The essays by Laudan and other philosophers, including a response by Ruse, can be found in the 1996 Prometheus book But Is It Science? edited by Ruse. A more detailed discussion than I can give here can be found in my 2003 book Has Science Found God?)

In his definition of science, Judge Overton included the familiar criterion that a scientific theory must be falsifiable. However, philosophers now regard this criterion as inadequate—neither necessary nor sufficient for a theory to be science. Furthermore, creation science (as it was formulated at that time) makes all kinds of falsifiable predictions, such as a young Earth. What’s more, they have been falsified. In short, creation science should not be presented in science classes as a viable alternative to evolution. But, I see no reason not to mention it as an nonviable alternative, and give the reasons why.

In the meantime, McLean opened the door for creation science to morph into a form that could be called science by the new legal precedent. Sure enough, along came ID, which improved on creation science in at least two ways. It avoided outlandish claims, such as a young Earth, and attempted to give the appearance of not being religiously motivated. If ID proponents had succeeded in both of these goals, then they would have won in York.

Fortunately, they failed in both. Behe and Dembski made their own outlandish claims and the their religious motivation and that of their supporters was obvious from the beginning.

Unfortunately, using McLean as a precedent Judge Jones has made the same mistake with ID as Judge Overton did with creation science. This is doubly unfortunate because he states in his decision that whether or not ID is science was not essential to his holding that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution has been violated. He says he is doing this to prevent further “waste of judicial and other resources” should the subject come up again. As with McLean, we can expect it have the opposite effect, as ID morphs further.

Judge Jones argued that ID is not science because (1) it invokes supernatural causation; (2) the central idea of irreducible complexity is flawed; (2) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been effectively refuted.

But, how do (2) and (3) make ID not science? All they do is show that, like creation science, ID is wrong science.

The Discovery Institute has shot back that ID makes no supernatural claims. But no one takes their proposal seriously that space aliens might be the designers. If the ID movement could ever separate itself from its fanatical religious supporters and be carried out by secular groups, and if it can eliminate the gross scientific errors of Behe, Dembski, and their other researchers, we might find it difficult to keep it out of the schools.

Furthermore, why is science eternally forbidden from considering supernatural causation? Scientists look at the data and normally seek natural explanations for any observation. So far, this has sufficed. All scientific observations to date are consistent with a model of a universe of matter and nothing more.

However, why should we dogmatically exclude the possibility that someday, some observations will be made that defy all possible natural (material) explanations?

Indeed, we can think of a phenomenon whose observation under carefully controlled circumstances could only be explained supernaturally: the successful demonstration of the healing power of distant, blinded intercessory prayer. Despite spineless statements by several national science organizations that science does not deal with supernatural causes, experiments on prayer which do just that have been going on right under their noses, carried out by highly reputable institutions such as Duke University and the Mayo Clinic, and published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

Some positive claims have been made in these publications, but a careful look at the papers reveals that the results are either statistically insignificant or the experiments flawed. None have been replicated. The best experiments have so far proved negative.

Lawyers and judges have no business defining science. Science is what scientists do. And scientists are doing experiments with supernatural implications. Some of the people doing ID are scientists. So far what they have claimed to find has been refuted. But why shouldn’t’t this fact be mentioned in science classes? And why shouldn’t the negative results of prayer studies be mentioned? Are the people pushing ID willing to have their beliefs tested empirically and evidence against the existence of God (or for) be considered by science?

DI has been awfully busy this week, it seems like. There’s a USA today article which, while explaining the science position well, approaches being something like half quotes from the Discovery Institute– including quoting Dembski’s blog at some length. Since this is an article about the aftereffects of Dover it makes sense to present the creationist side, but it’s fascinating how someone not paying attention could read that article and easily see a groundswell of support for ID when in fact it’s just multiple quotes from members of the same institute. A tiny group of extremists has managed to pass themselves off to the media as a movement…

Furthermore, why is science eternally forbidden from considering supernatural causation?

It’s not, apriori. The problem comes when you try to make testable predictions when using metaphysical inferences. You simply can’t get that far.

ask yourself this question:

let’s assume for a moment that no investigations regarding evolutionary theory had ever been done. We all assume that, even without evidence, a supernatural designer “made” everything as we see it.

ok, so now what? what predicitions can we make from this conception? How does our understanding of how the world works increase? What are the practical applications that arise from this conception?

get it now?

Lawyers and judges have no business defining science

as has been pointed out several times, the definition of science was agreed upon by both the defense and the plaintiffs in this case, the judge had nothing to do with it.

having been given the agreed upon definition, the judge simply found that ID is NOT science based on that definition and the evidence presented by both sides.

I’m getting sick of reactionaries coming here and making armchair comments without even having read the ruling themeselves.

READ THE F’IN RULING, MORONS!

science is the way it is, simply because it works. the results are not just hard to argue with rationally, it’s impossible.

Vic Stenger wrote:

Another eminent philosopher of science, Larry Laudan, objected vehemently to Judge Overton’s definition of science. He pointed out that it contained elements that did not represent the consensus of scientists and philosophers of science, especially since no such consensus exists.

And while the pholosophers continue to twiddle their thumbs and debate about definitions of science, real scientists continue to employ their successful centuries-old methodologies, and get the job of science done.

And that’s where ID most crucially fails to be science–it hasn’t produced anything: no labs, no fieldwork, no research, no results, no meaningful publications. And not for lack of money (which they’ve expended entirely upon PR). And not because anybody is conspiring to squelch their ability to conduct science. But because ID is simply not a productive concept. At best, they’re just like your “philosophers,” unable to agree even amongst themselves on what the “theory” of ID is, how it could be tested, yada yada.

The judge got it just right: this wasn’t a test case for the philosophy of science; it was a test case for working science–and ID failed the test.

And not just narrowly, but by several light years.

Vic Stenger wrote:

Another eminent philosopher of science, Larry Laudan, objected vehemently to Judge Overton’s definition of science. He pointed out that it contained elements that did not represent the consensus of scientists and philosophers of science, especially since no such consensus exists.

And while the pholosophers continue to twiddle their thumbs and debate about definitions of science, real scientists continue to employ their successful centuries-old methodologies, and get the job of science done.

And that’s where ID most crucially fails to be science–it hasn’t produced anything: no labs, no fieldwork, no research, no results, no meaningful publications. And not for lack of money (which they’ve expended entirely upon PR). And not because anybody is conspiring to squelch their ability to conduct science. But because ID is simply not a productive concept. At best, they’re just like your “philosophers,” unable to agree even amongst themselves on what the “theory” of ID is, how it could be tested, yada yada.

The judge got it just right: this wasn’t a test case for the philosophy of science; it was a test case for working science, a test case that the ID advocates themselves strenuously sought–and ID failed the test.

And not just narrowly, but by several light years.

You’re conflating your own notion of “teaching” creation science or ID in the classroom–actually discussing how non-productive and wrongheaded both have been proven to date to be–with what the ID advocates were seeking. Do you seriously believe that they’ve really been expending all this energy only to gain the “freedom” to have their foolishness and failures accurately exposed in the classroom?

C’mon. Quit kidding yourself. And get D’over it.

Judging by the email address in the name tag above, the Victor Stenger who posted above is President of Colorado Citizens for Science.

Can we have an IP check on aisle 5, please?

RBH

Stenger is wrong, the judge did not merely rule that irreducible complexity has been disproven or is flawed but that Intelligent Design is based on an eliminative argument which adds no relevance to their own claims. In other words, it lacks positive hypotheses

Judge Jones Wrote:

the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s;

IC is but one of the examples of the appeal to ignorance employed by IDers.

Whether or not the judge had to deal with the issue of whether or not ID is a science is debatable. I would argue that a thorough analysis looks at all the aspects and by making his determination, the judge strengthened his ruling against appeal since he explicitly addressed the objections raised by the Discovery Institute’s Amicus brief.

In fact, I am tempted to conclude that the DI’s Amicus brief may very well have ‘forced’ the judge to make his ruling.

Where Judge Jones Was Wrong

Blah blah blah.

ID had its day in court. It had its chance to produce whatever evidence and data it wanted to, through whatever witnesses it wanted to. It had its chance to cross-examine all the “evolutionists” and point out any errors it thought were there.

ID shot its load, and lost.

Get used to it. (shrug)

Some of us here are old enough to remember that the creation “scientists” all gave this very same weepy whiney performance after they got their tookuses kicked in Maclean and again in Edwards.

IDers are no different. Utterly no different.

Furthermore, why is science eternally forbidden from considering supernatural causation?

It’s not. (shrug)

And I’ll re-post (yet again) my standard response to every nutjob who yammers about this:

The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe

2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed

3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis

4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions

5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won’t (and doesn’t) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such “supernatural causes” as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such “non-materialistic” or “non-natural” causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and “remote viewing”. So ID’s claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

However, what science DOES require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And HERE is where ID fails miserably.

To demonstate this, let’s pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God — uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer — created both but used common features in a common design.

Let’s take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.

OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).

2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is “an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products.”

3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology’s chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID’s hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see … ?

IDers, please fill in the blank.

And, to better help us test ID’s hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions — things which, if found, would FALSIFY the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then — if we find (fill in the blank here), then the “common design” hypothesis would have to be rejected.

4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3. Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.

Take note here — contrary to the IDers whining about the “unfair exclusion of supernatural causes”, there are in fact NO limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine —- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God — er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer — didn’t like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me — just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions.

Let’s assume for a moment that the IDers are right and that science is unfairly biased against supernaturalist explanations. Let’s therefore hypothetically throw methodological materialism right out the window. Gone. Bye-bye. Everything’s fair game now. Ghosts, spirits, demons, devils, cosmic enlightenment, elves, pixies, magic star goats, whatever god-thing you like. Feel free to include and invoke ALL of them. As many as you need. All the IDers have to do now is simply show us all how to apply the scientific method to whatever non-naturalistic science they choose to invoke in order to subject the hypothesis “genetic similarities between chimps and humans are the product of a common design”, or indeed ANY other non-material or super-natural ID hypothesis, to the scientific method.

And that is where ID “theory” falls flat on its face. It is NOT any presupposition of “philosophical naturalism” on the part of science that stops ID dead in its tracks —- it is the simple inability of ID “theory” to make any testible predictions. Even if we let them invoke all the non-naturalistic designers they want, intelligent design “theory” STILL can’t follow the scientific method.

Deep down inside, what the IDers are really moaning and complaining about is NOT that science unfairly rejects their supernaturalistic explanations, but that science demands ID’s proposed “supernaturalistic explanations” be tested according to the scientific method, just like every OTHER hypothesis has to be. Not only can ID not test any of its “explanations”, but it wants to modify science so it doesn’t HAVE to. In effect, the IDers want their supernaturalistic “hypothesis” to have a privileged position —- they want their hypothesis to be accepted by science WITHOUT being tested; they want to follow steps one and two of the scientific method, but prefer that we just skip steps 3,4 and 5, and just simply take their religious word for it, on the authority of their own say-so, that their “science” is correct. And that is what their entire argument over “materialism” (or “naturalism” or “atheism” or “sciencism” or “darwinism” or whatever the heck else they want to call it) boils down to.

There is no legitimate reason for the ID hypothesis to be privileged and have the special right to be exempted from testing, that other hypotheses do not. I see no reason why their hypotheses, whatever they are, should not be subjected to the very same testing process that everyone ELSE’s hypotheses, whatever they are, have to go through. If they cannot put their “hypothesis” through the same scientific method that everyone ELSE has to, then they have no claim to be “science”. Period.

lenny: “Gloat gloat gloat gloat gloat.”

that’s about how I’m feeling. all this other commentary is very nice, but secondary. a gloaty christmas to everybody.

I agree, Snacksalot. I kind of feel like Jack Haley on the 95-96 Chicago Bulls. I just sit on the bench and talk smack while my team beats the other team like a rented mule.

If all the people who replied to my post took the trouble to read the whole thing they would see that I agreed with the primary decision. And a look at my previous writing (see my website) will show that I have been an outspoken opponent of ID. I believe I was the first to publish that Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Information was provably wrong.

If they read what I wrote they would see that I did not say that ID should be recognized as science. I said that Jones unnecessarily declared it not to be science, and this then required him to define science. That was where he went wrong. He did not have to do it. Declaring it religion was enough. It is very bad law to go beyond the minimum that is needed to decide a case.

The Judge has left the door open for ID to morph into something that will meet his standard. This was precisely what happened with creation science when it morphed into ID after McLean. If ID had not been so blatantly wrong and so obviously religious it might have won this case.

It does not matter if both sides agreed on the definition of science. It becomes Jone’s definition when he puts it in his decision. He could have simply left it out.

The commentators also do not seem to have read my point that statements that science does not deal with supernatural causes are already refuted by the fact that prayer studies are being performed by reputable scientists and published in reputable journals.

And Lenny Flank should search out “supernatural” in Jones decision and see how many time it appears. He is the “nut job” who brought it up, not me.

For your information, I am the president (and founder) of the Colorado Citizens for Science. I am also professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii and adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. I have been a visiting professor at the universities of Oxford, Heidelberg, and Florence.

I have 40 years of research experience in elementary particles and astrophysics. I was involved in many experiments that helped establish the standard model of quarks and leptons. I collaborated on the experiment which showed that the neutrino has mass. I have hundreds of published papers, five published books and two more under contract.

I think I know what I am talking about when I talk about science.

And Lenny Flank should search out “supernatural” in Jones decision and see how many time it appears. He is the “nut job” who brought it up, not me.

I don’t care if Jesus Christ Himself comes down from heaven and gripes that science doesn’t consider supernatural explanations.

The answer is the same.

If they read what I wrote they would see that I did not say that ID should be recognized as science. I said that Jones unnecessarily declared it not to be science, and this then required him to define science. That was where he went wrong. He did not have to do it.

then you didn’t even bother to read at least my response. i’ll write it in big letters so even someone like yourself can see it more clearly:

THE JUDGE DID NOT DEFINE SCIENCE. THE DEFINITIONS FOR WHAT CONSTITUTES “SCIENCE” IN THIS CASE WERE AGREED UPON AND SUBMITTED BY THE PLAINTIFFS AND THE DEFENDANTS.

alles klar?

I think I know what I am talking about when I talk about science.

that may be, but you sure don’t know shit about law. perhaps you should examine the tens of thousands of cases published where judges ruled on the scientific merits of any given topic? This case does NOT stand alone; you have decided to focus on it simply because of the topic.

I don’t give a flying fig about your credentials, many of us here can claim similar or better (and more appropriate for the topic than ‘physics and astronomy’). You fail because you make overeaching generalizations about the ruling in this case without even researching the background on similar rulings. got nothin to do with your background. you fail on the merits of your argument, not your experience.

that makes your opinion worth exactly bupkuss in my book. I’m very sorry to see someone who is the president of a science group with such substandard analytical skills.

You should seriously re-think your approach to this issue.

merry xmas.

The commentators also do not seem to have read my point that statements that science does not deal with supernatural causes are already refuted by the fact that prayer studies are being performed by reputable scientists and published in reputable journals.

huh? more selective viewing on your part. at least two posters addressed this issue in great detail.

It does not matter if both sides agreed on the definition of science. It becomes Jone’s definition when he puts it in his decision. He could have simply left it out.

Did you even read the ruling? how on earth could he have ‘left it out’ considering it was central to both parties claims?

The Judge has left the door open for ID to morph into something that will meet his standard

more power to em! The door the judge left open was distinctly that of evidentiary science. I personally, and many on PT, would have no problems considering anything legitimate done utilizing the scientific method, rather than PR machines. As you yourself point out, there is peer reviewed research on the efficacy of prayer (such as it is).

However, as was with creationism, then creation science, and now ID, it really doesn’t matter WHAT judge Jones puts in his ruling, creationists will come up with another nutty couching of creationism like “sudden emergence” or somesuch nonsense. no stopping that.

The Judge has left the door open for ID to morph into something that will meet his standard

more power to em!

Indeed. If ID ever comes up with something new and worthwhile that can actually pass the scientific method, I will *personally* lobby everyone I can think of in order to have it published in a peer-reviewed science journal, from whence it will make its natural way into textbooks and school classes.

But I don’t think I’ll hold my breath waiting. (shrug)

Perhaps Vic should visit the DI and encourage them to actually DO research rather than lie and obfuscate?

Vic Stenger Wrote:

Indeed, we can think of a phenomenon whose observation under carefully controlled circumstances could only be explained supernaturally: the successful demonstration of the healing power of distant, blinded intercessory prayer.

This fits as science under Judge Jones’ ruling. What’s the problem?

Courts define science all the time, too, they must do so in order to decide all sorts of cases, not just constitutional cases.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on December 22, 2005 10:14 PM.

Moving the goalposts: Or a ‘puff of smoke’ was the previous entry in this blog.

Religious Freedom And Other Crimes Against Humanity is the next entry in this blog.

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