ID and Science in the Dover Decision

I ran across a link to a blog post from 2007 by Jeff Shallit. One of the commenters there took exception to Jeff’s statement that the KvD case was primarily about religion, noting that a lot of the decision in the case discusses science. I was five years late to the party, but I felt that I needed to put my two cents in:

Sorry to have come across this so late. “analyysi” objects to the idea that the issue in Kitzmiller v. DASD was establishment of religion, saying that the decision discusses the topic of science a lot.

“analyysi” may be unfamiliar with the law here in the USA. The grounds for the complaint in KvD was indeed the establishment clause of the 1st amendment. The legal history will clarify why science is discussed at length in KvD. The Epperson v. Arkansas SCOTUS decision declared that one cannot prevent the teaching of science to privilege particular religious accounts, that science instruction has a valid secular purpose. Since Epperson, the religious antievolution movement has proceeded with a variety of dishonest efforts to characterize the same old arguments they usually make as science and to aid in this they offer new definitions of science. If they could convince a court that what they offer up for inclusion in a classroom is science, they would then have demonstrated a valid secular purpose in having it taught. And so in the KvD case you had the defense present lots of testimony from expert witnesses claiming that “intelligent design” was, indeed, scientific in character, at least as long as you allow them to also tweak the definition of science.

There are people who like to claim that Judge Jones could have completely ignored all the arguments made by the defense that ID was science and by the plaintiffs that, no, it wasn’t. I think the decision would have been weaker if it failed to address an issue that both parties considered central to the suit. The reason that a discussion of the nature of science and whether ID meets criteria to be recognized as science appears in the decision is that both parties made it an issue and prior precedent made whether something is science an issue for determining whether something has a valid secular purpose in being taught. The point in law being addressed is still establishment of religion while the particular instance of argument concerned ID’s lack of status as science.

Hope that clears that up for “analyysi”.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

One thought on “ID and Science in the Dover Decision

  • 2012/03/10 at 9:58 am

    Well said Wes! And I wish we had a FAQ somewhere that would link to these kinds of responses on specific points!

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