Alschuler's confusions

Steve Story pointed out to me that I had failed to provide a reference to Alschuler, who is a distinguished criminal law expert at the university of Chicago

The Dover Intelligent Design Decision, Part II: Of Science and Religion

Albert Alschuler wrote:

The Dover court is wrong, however, when it says that anything that “implicates” religion also “endorses” it.

Alschuler is talking about a part of the endorsement analysis presented by Judge Jones where Jones considers the letters and editorials introduced, as prima facia evidence of endorsement.

Judge Jones wrote:

Accordingly, the letters and editorials are relevant to, and provide evidence of, the Dover community’s collective social judgment about the curriculum change because they demonstrate that “[r]egardless of the listener’s support for, or objection to,” the curriculum change, the community and hence the objective observer who personifies it, cannot help but see that the ID Policy implicates and thus endorses religion.

As the Judge argues, the letters and editorials provide substantial additional evidence that the community perceives the ID policy as endorsing a particular religious view.

Opponents of ID might ask themselves whether, if they did not regard ID’s scientific claims as junk – if they concluded that ID posed a serious intellectual challenge to Darwinism – they would nevertheless forbid discussing it in the schools because it is religious.

This is a strawman argument, and although various ID proponents have raised a similar objection, they are wrong for the simple reason that Judge Jones used the scientific vacuity as essential to the endorsement finding.

Judge Jones wrote:

Finally, we will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.

In other words, as the DI argued, if it could be shown that ID does not primarily have the effect of endorsing religion, it would pass constitutional muster. The DI Amicus Brief continues to argue that ID is science and scientifically relevant. Since the Judge observes however that ID is purely a negative argument, his ruling cannot be seen as making the strawman argument presented by Alschuler. Judge Jones recognizes that ID may be correct

Judge Jones wrote:

After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science.

So what about “teaching the controversy” where ID serves a secondary purpose of arguing how certain features may be unlikely to have arise via Darwinian mechanisms?

Judge Jones wrote:

Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID. To conclude and reiterate, we express no opinion on the ultimate veracity of ID as a supernatural explanation. However, we commend to the attention of those who are inclined to superficially consider ID to be a true “scientific” alternative to evolution without a true understanding of the concept the foregoing detailed analysis. It is our view that a reasonable, objective observer would, after reviewing both the voluminous record in this case, and our narrative, reach the inescapable conclusion that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science.

ID’s entanglement of religion and ‘Darwinian criticism’ and its avoidance of scientific relevance have made the ID concepts scientifically vacuous. Science continuously raises challenges against Darwinian theory and evolutionary theory and thus if ID wishes to contribute scientifically relevant arguments, they are surely free to do so. So far however, the few ID arguments against evolution have been poorly argued and unnecessarily intertwined with religious concepts.

Alschuler wrote:

The academic role of the ID biologist is essentially negative – to challenge Darwinist explanations and look for phenomena that the Darwinists cannot explain or, more realistically, can explain only by stretching. This critical role (“look at all those epicycles”) cannot fairly be excluded from science.

Nor is ID excluded from science if it were to play such a role. In fact Del Ratzsch has argued that this may be the role ID may play “keeping science honest”. What the Judge found however is that ID’s motivation is not to “teach the controversy” but rather replace evolutionary theory with “intelligent design”. By conflating these two purposes/roles, ID has unnecessarily and irrepairably intertwined itself with its creationist antecedents.

Judge Jones wrote:

In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Alschuler wrote:

If the court’s point were simply that science excludes faith, mysticism, revelation, and appeals to unchallengeable authority, the proponents of ID would agree. But nothing can be said for a convention that excludes intelligent design by fiat if that is where the evidence leads.

But that’s not where the evidence leads. And certainly Intelligent Design has nothing not to contribute to ‘where the evidence leads’ as ID is not about positive arguments. It can only argue where the evidence does not lead.

Alschuler wrote:

The exclusion of ID from science “by definition and by convention” becomes particularly unfair when ID and natural selection provide competing explanations of the same phenomena.

Another common misconception. ID does not provide ANY competing explanation. It is scientifically vacuous. Alschuler may prove me wrong by presenting such an alternative scientific explanation. Not evolution is NO explanation. ID is not about presenting explanations or ‘pathetic details’… Just ask Dembski.