Law debate on ID in Kentucky

| 34 Comments

A law student, Colin, advises the following event at the University of Kentucky:

On Wed, Feb. 22, the UK School of Law is hosting a seminar on “Religion, the First Amendment, and the New Supreme Court” at 12:00 noon. The speaker at the event is Thomas Berg, a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas, and Co-Director of the Terrance J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy. As the notice says, “Everyone is invited.” I assume that refers to the public as well. It’s in the College of Law Courtroom, and being presented by the Federalist Society.

Normally this would be a ho-hum affair, with a speaker and perhaps a few questions. The event the next week, however, is what would be of penultimate interest to readers of both the aforementioned blogs. It is entitled, “Intelligent Design: Question and Controversy in Law and Philosophy.” The speakers are Prof. Brandon Look (Philosophy, UK), and Prof. Paul Salamaca (Law - Constitutional and Federal, UK). They’ll be talking about the restrictions the First Amendment places on public schools, where Science and Religion end, and whether Intelligent Design is really Creationism re-labeled. It’s called a “discussion” where they’ll both talk about the facts, arguments, and theories of Intelligent Design. The flyer notes that “Everyone’s Welcome” and will also be in the College of Law Courtroom on Monday, Feb. 27 at 4:00 p.m. It is presented by both the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society.

I would expect only the best of discussions from either of these professors. In fact, to take one side, and not objectively study the issue, would seem to contradict the entire method that we’ve built here in Law (Socratic) and also in Science (the basic nature of science is to question everything, even those things previously thought established). As a citizen in the camps of both I have a great desire to see there be some great discussion.

In full context, Ky. has a law on the books that allows the teaching of Creationism in Public Schools, but does not mandate it. In other words, it is not “against” the law to teach Creationism. It is KRS 158.177, and an interesting read. The notation is that it has been “repealed and superseded by the 1990 Ky. Acts” but to my knowledge it’s still published and law in Ky. Recently, Ky. Gov. Ernie Fletcher (who’s in the hospital with an infection right now, so let’s hope he’s going to be okay) also advocated the teaching of it recently in his “State of the Commonwealth” speech. The seminary where William Dembski teaches (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is in Louisville, and only an hour away so an appearance, I think, would not be out of the realm of possibility though not in a speaking role. Finally, the Ky. Law Journal has previously published a note, “NOTE: When May a State Require Teaching Alternatives to the Theory of Evolution? Intelligent Design as a Test Case.” It’s at 90 Ky. L.J. 743. It was published in 2003, and to my knowledge has never been cited.

34 Comments

John S. Wilkins Wrote:

The event the next week, however, is what would be of penultimate interest to readers of both the aforementioned blogs.

“Penultimate” means “next to last in a series.”

… erm… sorry if this is a silly question, but why are professors of Law and Philosophy discussing whether ID is Creationism, “where Science ends” and the “theories of Intelligent Design”?

As a separate question, this law that allows the teaching of Creationism in Public Schools… does it specify in which class?

Wislu –

I think we’re being threatened. The author is clearly informing us that anyone who is interested in the constitutionality of ID will be allowed a single additional interest in their lifetime, after which they will be killed.

Will they also be discussing whether Christ is Lord?

John S. Wilkins Wrote:

I would expect only the best of discussions from either of these professors. In fact, to take one side, and not objectively study the issue etc…

Just checking–

Do you mean that you are familiar with the professors in question and you are endorsing them as respectable and professional professors whom we may anticipate a quality discussion from?

Or you mean that you expect this level of quality of discussion because that is what professionalism would demand?

Troff Wrote:

… erm… sorry if this is a silly question, but why are professors of Law and Philosophy discussing whether ID is Creationism, “where Science ends” and the “theories of Intelligent Design”?

These are questions which courts are being asked to rule on. Seems quite reasonable for me for a law professor to be discussing it.

The student who sent the information is the one who knows the people involved.

It is interesting to have legal scholars present a legal argument on ID. I think that most secular scientists dismiss ID as repackaged creationism. Real scientific inquiry is a rigorous analysis of experimental observation and formulation of reproducible relationships which are predictable. Science is not afraid of religion nor should religion be fearful of science. If theory can not stand up to the rigorous analysis then science keeps on looking for the better explanation. ID must be scientific, as creationism attempts to be. I am bothered by secular science dismissing en mass anything that they dislike , like creation scenarios, without using the tools of science to discredit or give merit to any theory. Science practiced as a religion should not attack conflicting views as heretical but should use the tools of science to discredit them on reproducible grounds. In the market place of ideas there should be an equal protection clause which keeps all ideas subject to the same level of scientific scrutiny. ID, creationism, Darwinian naturalism and any combination and or permutation of the above all should be fair game for open honest debate and discussion using the tools of scientific inquiry. Occam’s razor applies! Attacks of heresy from both sides of the argument should be dismissed and everyone truly interested in the truth need to roll up their sleeves and get back to the business of science. God is not afraid of the truth nor should the secular sciences even if they are afraid of God!

sad to hear a doctor expound so, one who should know better.

sorry state of graduate training in medical schools these days, i guess, that a doctor would have such a lack of critical thinking skills, or think that science hasn’t ALREADY addressed the questions posed by creationism years before.

ID must be scientific, as creationism attempts to be.

why? because you say so? because Behe says so?

where is the evidence, man?

you claim science rejects these ideas out of hand, but can show nowhere in your statement where any of these ideas have EVER presented a testable scientific hypothesis, or even a testable prediction.

If you could show ANYBODY that these concepts can even be constructed as scientific hypotheses, let alone become testable and have predictive power, you could publish an article in Science tommorrow!

the best “creationist” minds have entirely failed to do so, and readily admit such.

Instead, they want to change the very essence of how science works, in order to give their ideas a pass that no other scientific theory ever has been given.

It’s not God science is scared of.

it’s mis-thinking folks like yourself that would ruin the entire endeavor of science by allowing these clowns to attempt to rewrite the very definition of science itself.

btw, how the hell does a “secular scientist” differ from a scientist?

*sigh*

…and i wonder why medical diagnostics in this country continue to nose dive.

Must be a lot of doctors so poorly trained in critical thinking and the scientific method.

sad, really.

I am bothered by secular science dismissing en mass anything that they dislike , like creation scenarios, without using the tools of science to discredit or give merit to any theory.

Then you’re bothered over nothing, because that isn’t the case.

“I am bothered by secular science dismissing en mass anything that they dislike , like creation scenarios, without using the tools of science to discredit or give merit to any theory.”

The problem is trying to bring “the tools of science” to bear on the hypothesis ‘God done it’.

Peter Dayton Wrote:

Science practiced as a religion…

What?

I think he’s got lab coats confused with surplices and stoles.

God is not afraid of the truth nor should the secular sciences even if they are afraid of God!

But ID isn’t about religion. No siree Bob.

Once again, this is why I love fundies. They are by far their own worst enemies, and all you have to do is let them talk long enough, and they shoot themselves in the head every time.

I thank the good doctor here for making it so crushingly clear that (1) ID is religious apologetics, (2) IDers are just lying to us when they claim it’s not, and (3) Judge Jones was perfectly correct when he ruled that it is.

Where has Mr. Dayton been these last few months? Maybe it is time (once again) for the good Rev Dr. to restate his questions regarding the “theory” of ID.

Sir Toejam Wrote:

ID must be scientific, as creationism attempts to be.

why? because you say so? because Behe says so?

I think he was just saying that ID must do its best to be scientific. Which is a good sentiment. Personally I think it’s kind of a shame their practices are so shoddy. If even the most pathetic pseudoscience can give rise to beautiful sources of information like TalkOrigins and PT, just think what a real challenge could do!

Peter Dayton Wrote:

I am bothered by secular science dismissing en mass anything that they dislike , like creation scenarios, without using the tools of science to discredit or give merit to any theory.

Well, the reason most scientists in the relevant field dismiss ID out of hand is because it does an excellent impression of being common or garden Creation Science with most of the falsifiable claims stripped out. Since Creation Science has been thoroughly debunked over the decades, and falsifiable hypotheses are essential for a model to be considered scientific, this means that ID starts off with negative credibility in the eyes of scientists.

(I should note that this application of default scepticism is not just applied to “creation scenarios” - in science, everyone gets it in the neck. You start off with zero credibility and, unless you jump through a very specific, very challenging set of hoops designed to show that you can be trusted, your credibility will drop even further.)

Actually, ID does make a couple of testable claims. For example, it claims that “irreducibly complex” structures such as the bacterial flagellum can’t evolve. Sadly, this has been repeatedly demonstrated to be bunkum of the highest order. It’s easy to produce irreducibly complex structures. For example, pick a reducibly complex structure and remove as many bits as you can without breaking it. Congratulations, you now have an irreducibly complex structure.

The claim that the bacterial flagellum couldn’t have evolved is being slowly torn apart as real scientists spend their valuable time doing real research into the details of how it could have arisen (good thorough coverage here). Given that ID is attempting to use bad maths* and hand-wavey arguments to “prove” to the public and to schoolkids that all this hard work is wasted effort or perpetrated by damn atheists, is it any wonder that these scientists get a little tetchy?

God is not afraid of the truth nor should the secular sciences even if they are afraid of God!

I’m not aware of any scientist who’s afraid of God (there may be some, but I haven’t met any that fit the bill). Sadly, God doesn’t make for good hypotheses, because by definition He can do anything. In particular, it’s impossible to falsify the conjecture that God exists, because He could always rig the natural world to look like it didn’t need Him to be created.

* I’m only an undergrad maths student, and even I can spot some of the errors.

Peter Dayton wrote

I am bothered by secular science dismissing en mass anything that they dislike , like creation scenarios, without using the tools of science to discredit or give merit to any theory.

The presupposition there is that those of us who have actively opposed teaching ID creationist trash in public schools, or who are not interested in “debating” ID creationists, do so casually, without consideration. As it happens, I think I’ve read one helluva lot more ID, from Morris to Dembski and Gish to Behe, than 99% of IDists have read evolutionary theory. Most IDists don’t even know their own arguments (such as they are) well enough to defend them, and quite definitely don’t know evolutionary theory well enough to criticique it.

A few seem to know enough about evolutionary theory to (perhaps) provide valid critiques, but they are submerged in a sea of creationist trahs science like that proposed for Ohio school children. And they misrepresent it – Paul Nelson’s recent remarks on Davidson & Erwin being a case in point.

There is a very large literature dating back decades that uses “the tools of science to discredit” what Dayton calls “creation scenarios”. IDists, of course, are exempt from that because no modern IDist has actually offered an “ID scenario” to which those tools can be applied. As others have noted, there is not one testable ID hypothesis out there. Behe’s blather about how testing evolutionary theory somehow tests a prediction of ID (“this structure could not have evolved”) notwithstanding, there ain’t no there there. Just try sometime to pin an IDist down on questions like “Exactly what was designed?”, and “When was it manufactured?”, and “How was it manufactured?”, and “What kind of evidence of the manufacturing process should we expect to see?”, and “What independent evidence of the existence of a designer/manufacturer should we expect to find?” All those are the kinds of questions a genuinely ‘scientific’ ID would at least try to address; IDists not only don’t address them, Dembski claims they don’t even have to!

RBH

Dr. Dayton wrote:

I am bothered by secular science dismissing en mass anything that they dislike , like creation scenarios, without using the tools of science to discredit or give merit to any theory

Sorry doc, that’s not the way science works.

A new competing theory must prove itself worthy before it’s accepted. The burden is on its proponents to show that it’s superior to existing theory; the burden is NOT on mainstream scientists to investigate and reject every crackpot theory that comes along.

The fact that some scientists do take the trouble to scientifically discredit a crackpot theory, is an extra service they provide to the larger world.

I also possess and MD degree, and practiced medicine for 11 years, including residency and fellowship, although I am not practicing now.

In direct medical training, the theory of evolution only comes up indirectly, although it comes up indirectly a very great deal of the time (infectious disease, genetic diseases, the transient selective advantage of cancer cells over normal cells in the environment of the body, etc, etc). Not to mention anatomy and biochemistry.

My medical training enhanced my understanding and appreciation of the theory of evolution. I suspect that physicians as a group would be among the strongest proponents of good science education at every level.

Technically, it would be possible to practice medicine competently without really “getting” the theory of evolution, however. This would be especially possible for someone whose pre-medical background included few life science courses. It isn’t a primary focus. If some do so, it doesn’t mean that the overall system of medical education is terribly flawed.

It is typical of creationists to appeal to the authority of degrees. However, we must always view such claims with skepticism.

A creationist with a solid MD degree would certainly tout it. However, a creationist with a degree from a non-accredited institution, who never practiced medicine, or practiced some non-mainstream type of medicine would be equally likely to do. And some creationists with no degree, or a made-up degree, would do so (although the latter types would usually go by “Dr” or “Professor” rather than directly claiming an MD degree).

“NOTE: When May a State Require Teaching Alternatives to the Theory of Evolution? Intelligent Design as a Test Case.”

I always like to see that word “alternative”. It’s not an alternative at all since ID “theory” explicitly relies on criticisms of evolution, and virtually nothing else. Oh, my bad…there are also analogies. Biochemical systems look like man-made machines, therefore they are man-made machines. Oh wait…that’s not a sensible conclusion…lets’s substitute ‘intelligently designed’ for ‘man-made’ for no apparent reason other than the fact the first conclusion made no sense.

To put it another way, it’s very easy to teach a class on evolution and completely ignore intelligent design. However there is nothing to teach in the intelligent design class that doesn’t first reference the theory of evolution.

There is nothing “alternative” about it. There is no substance. There is no testable model of any kind. Even setting aside whether it’s science or not, there is no positive model of intelligent design.

With regards to the usage of “penultimate” it could be said that it is next to the most important thing that you should be interested in. As in ultimate is the last or greatest thing, so penultimate is the next greatest thing. Which makes sense as the law regarding IDC being of interest to us, but not as much as the science of IDC (or lack there of).

A doctorate or otherwise relevant higher educational degree (MD, PhD, etc) is a way to get your foot in the door on the debate. If you have a valid PhD in a related field, you can claim standing to speak.

Once you start speaking, however, your arguments must hold on their own merit. If you were an MD, and shouted:

“I have an MD, and I know people are made of cheese! Believe me because I have an MD!”

Then people would laugh you out of the room. Your argument is not made by your PhD or MD, your PhD or MD allows you to make an argument. You still have to support it. Thus, all claims on both sides still have to be evaluated for their logical content even when a supposed expert is speaking. Experts can and have been wrong, much more often than they would like to admit, usually.

Of course, that’s assuming we can even verify the argument (it would be trivial to lie about having any degree online). But we know the ID folks never lie, right?

I believe it is Salamanca. Is this the same guy?

Strangely AIG has as their guest columnist today a retired judge (someone must be reading the Panda’s Thumb !}. The gist of the essay seems to be the tired old creationist claim, that teaching evolution in public schools results in an increase in school violence etc.

The odd thing about the article is that Darrell White quotes C.S. Lewis. I wonder if he is aware that C.S. Lewis was a theistic evolutionist, something which AIG are dead against.

Technically, it would be possible to practice medicine competently without really “getting” the theory of evolution, however. This would be especially possible for someone whose pre-medical background included few life science courses. It isn’t a primary focus. If some do so, it doesn’t mean that the overall system of medical education is terribly flawed.

harold,

Peter’s mistake goes far beyond a lack of knowledge about evolutionary theory. It stems directly from an pathetic level of understanding about the nature of science and the scientific method itself. Even more, it exhibits a clear lack of critical thinking capacity.

if it was just about a lack of knowledge regarding TE, i simply would have pointed him to talk origins.

Not to belittle MD’s but a friend of mine who does cancer research and is a PhD, holds a lot of MD’s in pretty low esteem in terms of science. The 3 MD’s I know personally- only 1 is what I would call a “critical thinker”. They are all very hard workers and very focused when it comes to aquiring skills. So, I think MD’s represent a cross section of people who can work very hard and aquire skills well and that they don’t necessarily have to be creative and curious, two hallmarks I have noticed to be fairly common in other sciences.

I expect to get a few criticisms for that remark but I would just point out that Bill Frist is a MD.

look at Frist’s diagnosis (oh no it wasn’t / oh yes it was) of Schiavo. He’s just a hack that does what he’s told.

Speaking of creationist physicians, Kentucky’s Republican Governor, Ernie Fletcher, is a medical doctor and Primitive Baptist Church minister. He recently spoke out in favor of teaching ID in KY’s science classes. This apparently offended the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who gave him a nasty case of gallstones and an antibiotic resistant E. coli infection. He is finally recovering after a bit of tweaking of his antibiotics by natural selection savvy doctors at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington, KY.

I recently sent this to a few friends:

I hope Governor Fletcher’s physicians understand evolutionary biology and give him a spectrum of antibiotics. This is necessary because many bacterial strains have evolved a resistance to the more commonly used antibiotics, making their effectiveness by themselves rather low. When the Governor recovers he will thank the public for their prayers and all the other standard platitudes people in his situation make; but will he thank modern biology and the central concept of evolution? Or will he continue to push for ID creationism in science classes?

See: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/l[…]_104_03.html

And: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosi[…]iotics.shtml

Dan Phelps http://www.kyps.org

Who wrote this post anyway? Was it Mr. Wilkins? or some “law student”?

It sure reads a lot like “teach the controversy” to me, which is rather disappointing.

I mean, yeah, law professors should be discussing the issues raised in decisions like Dover v. Kitzmiller.

But I’m not sure why Panda’s Thumb wants to be advertising these discussions in a way that makes it sound like everyone needs to listen carefully to what scientifically illiterate stooges have to say because it’s so goshdarn interesting.

Guys like Frank Beckwith thrive on that kind of promotion.

Let’s be careful out there …

As an attorney, I can say that the discussion is unlikely to be helpful. I’ve read three articles published in law reviews or as separate books and all three “fudge” a footnote or support for an assertion of fact in the article.

Guess which one?

The one where the author(s) assert there is a scietific controversy about evolution. The footnotes are always circular or contain a single reference to Darwin’s Black Box. I would expect this same phenomenon to occur in any legal article arguing in favor of Intelligent Design.

If I were to use a source so recklessly in court, I could get sanctioned or disbarred.

I don’t expect the advertised discussionto address this issue so it will really be of limited value.

Too bad.

If I were to use a source so recklessly in court, I could get sanctioned or disbarred.

I’m curious; under what statutes?

Corkscrew Wrote:

Actually, ID does make a couple of testable claims.

No, (some) ID proponents make a couple of testable claims, which is a completely different matter; none of their testable claims are consequences of ID, and thus refuting the claims doesn’t falsify ID. ID is unfalsifiable.

BWE said: “Not to belittle MD’s but a friend of mine who does cancer research and is a PhD, holds a lot of MD’s in pretty low esteem in terms of science. The 3 MD’s I know personally- only 1 is what I would call a “critical thinker”. They are all very hard workers and very focused when it comes to aquiring skills. So, I think MD’s represent a cross section of people who can work very hard and aquire skills well and that they don’t necessarily have to be creative and curious, two hallmarks I have noticed to be fairly common in other sciences.”

Again not belittling MD’s, but medical doctors aren’t really scientists. What’s required to be most kinds of MD is to be a highly skilled technician. They function at the “application” interface with biological science. Unless things have changed a lot since I went to school with legions of pre-med students, many do not major in a field of science as undergraduates, and medical school is not aimed at making people into scientists.

The scope of the technological side of things which a prospective doctor must master is huge. But the scope of *science* he or she must master is not.

Hopefully as people train to be medical professionals they acquire good reasoning skills–after all, such skills must certainly be required to be a good diagnostician–but not much actual science (or scientific thinking) is required in the practice of medicine unless the MD is actually involved in medical research.

This is only a test. Had this been a real Larry post, it would have been followed by hysterical nonsense. We now return to Panda’s Thumb.

steve s, you may have just won yo’self a free pizza!

That was downright droll, darlin’!

No Larry, you’re still not wanted here.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by John S. Wilkins published on February 20, 2006 7:33 PM.

AAAS: Teachers and Evolution on the Front Line was the previous entry in this blog.

George Coyne: ‘Science Does Not Need God. Or Does It? is the next entry in this blog.

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