Recently in Kitzmiller Ruling Category

EIGHT Years Already? Merry Kitzmas!


Can you believe it’s been EIGHT YEARS since Judge Jones issued a devastating anti-“Intelligent Design” ruling?

Ah, the memories of Kitzmas past. Remember “Waterloo in Dover”? “Cdesign proponentsists.”? The “breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision”?

I freely admit, this is basically the same post I did two years ago to mark Kitzmas. It’s looking more and more like the Intelligent Design movement is hoping we forget all about this black mark on their movement.

Why, there’s not even the cursory dismissal of Judge Jones over at the ID movement’s whining page.

Merry Kitzmas, everyone!

Yet another Scopes Monkey Trial is on the way in Tennessee – that is, unless the governor vetoes the Discovery-Institute-inspired bill that the Tennessee Legislature just passed:

Tennessee “monkey bill” passes legislature

House Bill 368 passed the Tennessee House of Representatives on a 72-23 vote on March 26, 2012, the Nashville Tennessean (March 26, 2012) reports. The bill would encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that arouse “debate and disputation” such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”; it now proceeds to Governor Bill Haslam, who will have ten days to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it. Haslam previously indicated that he would discuss the bill with the state board of education, telling the Nashville Tennessean (March 19, 2012), “It is a fair question what the General Assembly’s role is … That’s why we have a state board of education.”

Opposing the bill have been the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Nashville Tennessean, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and three distinguished Tennessee scientists and members of the National Academy of Sciences who recently warned, in a column published in the Tennessean (March 25, 2012), that the legislation was “misleading, unnecessary, likely to provoke unnecessary and divisive legal proceedings, and likely to have adverse economic consequences for the state.”

That, and it sets the state up for a Kitzmiller v. Dover-like disaster as soon as some creationist teacher or school board uses the law as excuse to get the not-very-hidden creationist/ID junk in the Discovery Institute’s Explore Evolution into the public schools. Make no mistake, that’s the long-term gameplan. See background on Explore Evolution. Or see all NCSE pages on the book.

SIX Years Already? Merry Kitzmas!


Can you believe it’s been SIX YEARS since Judge Jones issued a devastating anti-“Intelligent Design” ruling?

Ah, the memories of Kitzmas past. Remember “Waterloo in Dover”? “Cdesign proponentsists.”? The “breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision”?

Merry Kitzmas, everyone!

Francis Beckwith and his defender Denyse O’Leary seem to not be able to agree on what is wrong with Forrest’s critique of Beckwith in Synthese. Beckwith (2011) in Synthese:

Jerry Coyne reports on a new paper in Science by Manyuan Long and colleagues on the origin and history of new genes in a large group of Drosophila that have recently had their full genomes sequenced.

Having this much phylogenetic and genomic information allows researchers to estimate the phylogenetic position of the origin of a new gene (566 new genes amongst the group of 12 fully sequenced genomes, actually), and the periods of time in which directional selection, stabilizing selection, or drift were the dominant regime that the new genes were evolving under. In many cases, there is a period of high selection after the origin of the gene, which weakens later – which is just what you would expect if the well-known, standard model for the origin of new genes is correct.

Two additional points are worth mentioning: (1) in some cases (about 30%, 59 out of the 195 they targeted for knockout studies), these new genes have become essential to viability for the species in question – even though they are totally absent in other, basically similar, flies that do just fine without them! This is strong support for the notion that one way “irreducible” systems evolve is by evolving parts that are helpful at first, but later become essential as other parts coadapt to become dependent on them. (2) I’m sure Luskin, Ewert, and other DI people would like to dismiss this as just another case of evolutionists “illegitimately” inferring common ancestry from “mere” sequence similarity, and that “common design” could be the explanation. However, in any other context, these creationists, and virtually any creationists including the young-earthers, would easily say that all of these Drosophila are just different varieties of the Drosophila kind, and that whatever variety exists between them (minor, in the grand scheme of biology) is “merely” “microevolution within the kind!” (And in the Edge of Evolution, Behe clearly puts his estimated “edge” well above the genus level.)

What’s that? Standard boring microevolutionary processes can produce new genes with modified sequences and new functions, which is clearly new information on anyone’s definition, even the creationists’ and even (explicitly so) Michael Behe’s definition? Oh my goodness, someone better call the DI news blog to put out this fire and reassure the faithful!


Chen, S., E. Zhang, and M. Long. 2010. New genes in Drosophila quickly become essential. Science 330:1682-1685.

A previous bit of ranting on this topic by me (responding to Luskin’s ridiculous critique of another famous paper by Manyuan Long, entered into evidence in the Kitzmiller case as exhibit P-245, actually: Long et al. (2003), Nature Reviews Genetics, “The origin of new genes” (free online in many places).

Heh, five years later and Casey Luskin is still trying to refute the immune system cross:[…]_042001.html

Never mind that Luskin’s one immunologist, Donald Ewert, admits that most of his colleagues, even his coauthors, are against him and use homology and comparative evidence everywhere all the time; admits that there is a mountain of literature on the evolution of the immune system; and admits (although he barely stammers it out) that there actually is an evolutionary model for the origin of receptor rearrangement in adaptive immunity and that the researchers themselves interpreted this as confirmation of the basic transposon-origins model (although Ewert somehow thinks this was just a “classification” of the RAG genes as bacterial transposons, ignoring, (a) how damned odd that is to find in vertebrate immune system genes and (b) how this was suspected ever since the 1970s and was deliberately tested in the 1990s-2000s).

Ewert’s reply basically boils down to vague denial of vast amounts of detailed work in evolutionary immunology, raw assertions that sequence similarity doesn’t suggest common ancestry (I dare Ewert/Luskin to do a survey of comparative immunologists on that point), and complaints about the literature not being detailed enough. Unfortunately for them, Behe made all these same points at trial. When you make these kinds of claims in the teeth of an entire specialized subfield which refutes you, it’s your credibility that’s shot, on the stand or anywhere else. So, try again. Give us a better, more detailed explanation of the origins of the immune system, Luskin and Ewert. Good luck!

Merry Kitzmas +5!!


My, how the time has flown! NCSE has linked to several 5-year anniversary articles in Pennsylvania papers, including the York Dispatch and the Philadelphia Inquirer. I liked this bit:

Michael Behe said he doesn’t hear anybody talk about Kitzmiller v. Dover anymore.

Behe, a biochemist and professor at Lehigh University, testified as an expert witness in support of intelligent design. “I don’t hear anybody talk about it … except the guys on the side who won,” Behe said.

“It’s an interesting legal event,” he said in reflection. “But it doesn’t affect the science. The scientific case for intelligent design keeps getting stronger.”

In the five years since, Behe said scientists are discovering how complex cells are beyond previous understanding, and he believes that helps support intelligent design as a valid scientific theory.

Not that any of that would have affected Jones’ ruling, Behe said.

“It didn’t seem to me the judge understood any of the scientific evidence anyway,” Behe said.

Jones discounted Behe’s testimony, Behe said.

“There was a disconnect between how I thought I did on the witness stand, and how my testimony was characterized by the judge,” he said. “It really soured me on the legal system.”

If presented with the opportunity again, though, he’d be back on the stand. Intelligent design supporters have to participate, he said, or “people will think we were afraid to show up.”

Of course, the majority of ID experts were, but that’s all history now…

Just let us know when your argument improves beyond “I won’t believe evolution unless someone gives me every single mutation and every single selective step, literal piles of peer-reviewed literature on the evolution of e.g. the immune system aren’t good enough.” Then maybe you’ll have something ready for prime time…

Merry Kitzmas!

Like RBH said, the new special issue of Synthese is free for the moment. I would like to highlight one article in particular, Robert Pennock’s:

Robert T. Pennock (2009, 2011). Can’t philosophers tell the difference between science and religion?: Demarcation revisited. Synthese 178(2), 177-206. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-009-9547-3

Pennock reviews the debate over “demarcation” in philosophy of science, particularly what happened after the 1981 McLean v. Arkansas case. After that case, a fairly famous philosopher of science, Larry Laudan, criticized the court, and one of the experts who testified, Michael Ruse, for (allegedly) relying on naive and long-discredited attempts to “demarcate” science from pseudoscience and from religion. Laudan basically claimed that Ruse/McLean boiled down to Popperian falsificationism, that Popperian falsificationism was hopelessly wrong, and that the verdict and its supporters were guilty of philosophical crimes for even daring to make a distinction between science and pseudoscience, or between science and religion. Or something.

Y’all remember how, years ago, Casey Luskin and the boys were calling Judge Jones a plagiarist because the final decision in Kitzmiller drew a lot of language from the briefs? I pointed out at the time that, well, that’s what briefs are for. Now here’s an article in Political Research Quarterly that uses software to find that even the U.S. Supreme Court draws a lot of language from the briefs filed by the parties in any particular case, thus reaching the unremarkable conclusion that “there is a connection between the language of the parties’ briefs and the language of the opinions, which means that parties have the potential to influence the law.” For most of us, it’s nice to know that court opinions show the judges actually read the briefs. But for Luskin & Co., it’s doubtless evidence of just how huge the Darwinist plagiarist conspiracy really is.

I recently read Casey Luskin’s article (“Zeal for Darwin’s House Consumes Them: How Supporters of Evolution Encourage Violations of the Establishment Clause”) in the Liberty University Law Review. Most of it is tendentious as usual, and Tim Sandefur makes an excellent reply (PT: Luskin, laws, and lies).

However, I think it may be important for us to read Luskin’s article, as it looks like it is laying out a new lawsuit strategy for the ID movement, which would be to provoke parents into suing school districts that use a textbook that has some smidgen of (alleged) materialism, (alleged) endorsement of theistic evolution or accommodationism, or critique of ID/creationism somewhere within its hundreds or thousands of pages.

Luskin, laws, and lies


Casey Luskin has an article in the Liberty University Law Review which he claims isn’t about Intelligent Design creationism, but is instead meant to show how “zeal for Darwin encourages certain violations of the Establishment Clause.” It will come as no surprise to anyone that Luskin’s argument is flimsy, his evidence illusory, his readings of the case law distorted, and the overall effect essentially a fun-house mirror version of First Amendment law.

Luskin’s thesis is that criticizing Intelligent Design creationism = attacking a religious viewpoint. He combines this with an insistent denial that ID is a religious viewpoint, which is an amusing effort to stick to the Discovery Institute party line, but is not, strictly speaking, illogical. His position is that, if we assume the fact (which is a fact, but he assumes, rather than believing it) that ID creationism is a religious viewpoint, why, then, it violates the First Amendment to disparage it: “Sylvia Mader’s 2007 introductory biology textbook, Essentials of Biology…plainly communicates that ID runs counter to the factual scientific data,” he writes. “If she is correct that ID is a religious viewpoint, is it appropriate for state schools to use her textbooks that unambiguously claim ID is empirically wrong?”

The correct answer is, yes, it’s perfectly constitutional and perfectly appropriate–but of course, to Luskin, the answer is no: “Students who support scientific creationism would thus hear that their ‘set of religious beliefs’ is not only an ‘arbitrary faith,’ but that they are not using their ‘God-given gifts to reason and to understand’ in the way God intended. While many might agree with such arguments, religious neutrality forbids the government from attacking, opposing, and disapproving of such a ‘set of religious beliefs’ in this fashion.”

This is false. The neutrality requirement in the First Amendment forbids the government from taking a position on the truth or falsehood of a religious doctrine in religious terms, but it may take a position on any matter on areligious or non-religious terms. That is, the Constitution forbids the government from endorsing or propagating or censoring the doctrinal truth of a religious proposition, but it does not forbid the government from endorsing or propagating the factual truth of a proposition, even if those propositions turn out to be the same in content. It does not forbid the government from reaching a conclusion, and stating or endorsing that conclusion, from secular premises, even if that conclusion happens to clash with someone’s religious view. Government may not take religious positions, but it take secular positions that happen to clash with positions endorsed by a religious viewpoint.

This ought to be plainly obvious. Some people, for example, believe that AIDS is a punishment sent from God to scourge sodomites, or that blacks are inherently inferior to whites, or that ancient Indian tribes descended from Israelites and fought wars in chariots, or that earthquakes express Vulcan’s displeasure at man’s hubris.* The First Amendment forbids the government from taking any official doctrinal positions on these matters–but it does not forbid, and could not possibly forbid the government from teaching that, in fact, AIDS is caused by a virus, that blacks are not inferior to whites, that American Indian tribes have no relationship to the Israelites and lacked chariots, and that earthquakes are caused by geological activity. The First Amendment does not forbid the government from saying that there is no documentary evidence (or no fossil evidence or no eyewitness evidence) for P, even though P falls within a religious doctrine–and the Amendment cannot sensibly read to require this, because it would make all communication and all activities impossible. The most arbitrary claims would be insulated from challenge, and each person would have a heckler’s veto over government’s actions–the more irrational and mystical, the better.

To put it a bit more technically, if proposition P can be supported by religious argument R and also by secular argument S, government is entirely within its constitutional authority to take an official position on P on the basis of S. In fact, it’s even entitled to throw people in jail for P. But it may do nothing whatsoever on the basis of R. It may not support or oppose or endorse it. That’s why the government can make it illegal for people to use intoxicating drugs–even if they do so for religious purposes–but why it may not prosecute faith healing, even though faith healing is obviously fraudulent bunk.

Now, let’s play “name that logical fallacy” (to steal from our friends at the Skeptic’s Guide): “[E]ither ID is a religious viewpoint that is unconstitutionally opposed, inhibited, and disapproved when this textbook is used in public schools,” writes Luskin, “or ID is not a religious viewpoint and is thereby fair game for all forms of government-sponsored attacks, disparagement, hostility, as well as endorsement.” This is all very clever, no doubt–it is, as Lincoln once said, the kind of logic whereby a horse chestnut turns out to be the same thing as a chestnut horse. It’s the fallacy of the false dichotomy. In fact, ID is a religious viewpoint masquerading as a scientific theory–it is a religious position which is layered in factually untrue or arbitrary assertions. Government is entirely free to denounce the factually untrue statements and explode those arbitrary assertions. No, it cannot say that God does not exist, and it cannot say that man was not created by God through some guided process. On that, Luskin is correct. But government violates no law when it says (and rightly) that there is no factual basis for ID’s scientific claims.

It’s amazing that Luskin can get 88 pages out of this silliness–even if it is through Liberty University. But the bottom line is this: government may inhibit (short of censorship or compelled speech), oppose, and disapprove of any factual proposition whatsoever–including factual propositions that religious groups have taken a position on–so long as it does so from a secular background.

*–Update: I feel so bad. Vulcan was not the god of earthquakes; that was Poseidon/Neptune. I did not mean to denegrate, oppose, or disapprove of this non-materialistic explanation of earthquake generation, and I sincerely apologize to all members of the Supreme Council of Ethniokoi Hellenes.

Aron-Ra in the flesh


Back when I was a little baby creationism debater, back in the day when the world wide web was young, there were several gladiators who, every day on the newsgroup, sallied forth and took on all comers. These were names like PZ Myers, Wes Elsberry, John Wilkins…that’s right, these guys, now famous, all were originally newsgroup junkies. Eventually I got to meet them all in person. But another gladiator there was, by the name of Aron-Ra, who wielded his challenge to great effect. I never got to meet him…but now there is YouTube.

Wes on Opderbeck and Dover


This is a good read: Wes on Opderbeck and Dover.

Apparently, Michael Behe just doesn’t know when to pack it in. In reply to Travis’s essay in Science, “On the Origin of The Immune System” (see previous PT posts: 1, 2), Behe has posted a letter he sent to Science. Instead of just sucking it up and admitting that his statements in Darwin’s Black Box that

“As scientists we yearn to understand how this magnificent mechanism came to be, but the complexity of the system dooms all Darwinian explanations to frustration.” (Darwin’s Black Box, p. 139)


We can look high or we can look low, in books or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system. (Darwin’s Black Box, p. 138)

…were wrong, or at the very least became wrong in the time between 1996 and 2005, Behe is still expressing proud, Kierkagaardian-esque defiance. In this (rejected) letter to the editor of Science, Behe reiterates his proud stand that the work of an entire field, the life’s achievements of hundreds of immunologists, complete with surprising experimental support for a surprising hypothesis (the transposon hypothesis), still has “no answers” to the question of how it evolved, and that Darwinian explanations are “doom[ed].”

Three Years Already? Merry Kitzmas!


Can you believe it’s been three years since Judge Jones issued a devastating anti-“Intelligent Design” ruling?

Ah, the memories of Kitzmas past. Remember “Waterloo in Dover”? “Cdesign proponentsists.”? The “breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision”?

Even though the Creationist Choir says that Kitzmiller v. Dover is “No big deal”, it’s obvious they’re still smarting over their wounds.

Anyway, “Intelligent Design” is so yesterday. Everyone knows Strengths and Weaknesses is the Big New Thing.

Merry Kitzmas, everyone!

Padian’s Takedown of “Of Pandas and People.”


Commenting on the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses in the Kitzmiller trial, someone said (paraphrased) “It was the biology course you never took but wish you had.” Reading the raw transcripts of the testimony one can easily believe that.

But it gets better. I just discovered that Nick Matzke took Kevin Padian’s testimony and integrated Padian’s slides, so one can see what Padian was talking about as he described the paleontological evidence for evolution and the misrepresentations in Of Pandas and People. I don’t recall it having been flagged here before.

That had to have been a heckuva job for Nick, but it was sure worth it. Reading it with the slides right there, the flow of the testimony is beautiful. The integrated presentation is a significant resource for teachers and others in this arena. I commend it to folks’ attention.

Congratulations go out to PBS and Nova for winning the Peabody Award for “Judgment Day”, the episode documenting the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial NOVA/WGBH Educational Foundation, Vulcan Productions Inc., The Big Table Film Company

The centerpiece of this thoughtful, topical edition of NOVA was the recreation, verbatim, of key testimony and argument from a six-week trial in Pennsylvania that served as a crash course in modern evolutionary theory, the evidence for evolution and the nature of science.

We had most of the plaintiffs’ side of the case on hand to view the broadcast last November. We gathered together at Lauri Lebo and Jeff Pepper’s beer can museum near York, Pennsylvania. We were companionably squeezed in there for the broadcast. (Note Prof. Steve Steve near center…)

(Original and two more pics at the Austringer.)

During the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case in 2004 to 2005, Lauri Lebo covered the story for the York Daily Record. Lebo was one of the most consistent journalists writing on the topic anywhere; she certainly demonstrated a facility with the facts of the case and was not afraid to write about what they implied. She has a book to be released shortly, “The Devil in Dover”.

(Originally posted at the Austringer)

On Uncommon Descent William Dembski claims that Richard Dawkins has admitted that life could be designed and thus wonders: “Is ID therefore scientific?”. As I will show this is a logically flawed conclusion.

First of all lets point out Intelligent Design does not claim merely that life is designed but that such design can be detected via scientific methods. In this aspect if differs from science which admits that design always remains a logical possibility, however science also accepts that if such design is ‘supernatural’ no scientific method can detect such design.

The DI and Short term memory


Casey Luskin, continues his “assaults” on Judge Jones’ devastating ruling for Intelligent Design while conveniently forgetting the Discovery Institute’s Amicus Curiae to the case.

Luskin argues that, based on an statements made by Judge Jones on the “Lehrer Newshour”, the ruling by Jones should be considered flawed:

Luskin Wrote:

First, Judge Jones admitted that a key question his ruling answered was whether intelligent design was “good science,” and he states that “after six weeks of largely expert testimony, I came to the conclusion that it simply was not good science” (emphasis added). This proves his judicial activism because it shows that, in his mind, a key question was not the constitutionality of Dover’s policy in particular, but rather a broad sweeping question about whether ID is “good science,” something that is totally inappropriate and unnecessary for the federal judiciary to answer in such a case over the constitutionality of a science curriculum.

Why is this claim so ironic? Well, if you read the submissions of the Discovery Institute to the judge, they argue that since ID is science, it cannot be ruled to be unconstitutional. In other words, they insist that the judge resolves the issue of ID being science. When he actually does this and he rules contrary to their expectations, the judge suddenly becomes an activist judge.

The Discovery Institute’s own website demonstrates that their amicus brief was submitted to argue “… about secular purposes for teaching about the scientific theory of intelligent design”” (October 31, 2005)

So what was the argument of the Discovery Institute which forced the judge to rule on the issue of ID being science?

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