Field of Science

The big Judge John E. Jones III interview

PLoS Genetics has this December 5th fantastic interview with Judge John E. Jones III (a George W. Bush appointee), who ruled the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in 2005 on the teaching of Intelligent Design.
Gitschier: Regarding the Memorandum Opinion itself, I found parts of it astonishing. You used words like “mendacity,” “sham,” “breath-taking inanity of the board's decision.”

Jones: You should have been there.
Later he adds this tasty morsel:
In the realm of the lay witnesses, if you will, some of the school board witnesses were dreadful witnesses and hence the description “breathtaking inanity” and “mendacity.” In my view, they clearly lied under oath. They made a very poor account of themselves. They could not explain why they did what they did. They really didn't even know what intelligent design was. It was quite clear to me that they viewed intelligent design as a method to get creationism into the public school classroom. They were unfortunate and troublesome witnesses. Simply remarkable, in that sense
I just wrote a reply to some creationists who claimed that the theory of evolution is not a science. Here Jones III recalls how he decided whether Intelligent Design is:
Gitschier: Nonetheless, you have captured the essence of science in your opinion.

Jones: Well, you could read it that way if you chose to. What it does contain is something that you could utilize as a portable mechanism to look at other concepts and decide whether they were science. But the question I decided was whether ID was science. And you use tools like—is it testable? Is it peer reviewed? Is it generally accepted in the scientific community? And the answer to all three of those things is “No.” (My emphasis.)
Regarding evolution, the last two of his criteria are obviously true for evolution. The first, whether it's testable or not, is a little harder to assess, but once one starts learning a little more than what most people know about evolution it becomes very clear that the answer to that question is "yes."

The court ruling is only legally binding for part of Pennsylvania, but it still had much wider implications, as Jones III explains.
Jones: (...) Kansas at that time was having [state-wide] school board elections. And this became an issue in Kansas, and Kansans did not elect proponents of ID, utilizing my decision I think, saying that it was improvident to do this. In Ohio, they had begun steps that would have allowed the teaching of ID, and the school board ruled the policy back because of my decision, not because they had to, but they thought it was persuasive. Florida had a debate last year, into this year about changing some of their standards or adopting new standards of science, again citing my decision.
But, as Jones III puts it, this dispute will not see it's end in our lifetime. To our distress this fight is far from over with Dover.
The hotbeds today—and this is re-emerging—Texas has a very strong desire to get into something like teaching intelligent design. Louisiana just passed a stature that seems like it could be used as a vehicle for teaching ID. This is speculation on my part—I don't think that the concept of ID itself has a lot of vitality going forward. The Dover trial discredited that thing that is ID. To the extent that I follow it—I'm curious about it, but it doesn't go any further than that—the likely tack going forward is something like teach the controversy, talk about the alleged flaws and gaps in the theory of evolution and go to that place first.
I recommend reading the whole interview, even if you aren't interested in evolution vs. Intelligent Design. He also talks a lot about what it means to be a federal judge, which I found interesting in itself.

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