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Dover Decision: Response to T

While I would certainly hope that the dicta from the opinion you have quoted keep the judicial doors open, dicta typically do not do that in the face of stern findings of fact, to wit, the court’s findings included:

In summary, Dr. Miller testified that Pandas misrepresents molecular biology and genetic principles, as well as the current state of scientific knowledge in those areas in order to teach readers that common descent and natural selection are not scientifically sound. (1:139-42 (Miller)).

Accordingly, the one textbook to which the Dover ID Policy directs students contains outdated concepts and badly flawed science, as recognized by even the defense experts in this case.

A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory.

Evolution Not Above Debate

Rod: I have not read Judge Jones’ decision, and I am no expert on evolution or intelligent design (although I certainly know that there is an infinitely intelligent Designer). So I refer you to the comments of John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. West agrees that the recent efforts to mandate the teaching of intelligent design were “misguided.” But West also objects to the judge’s pontification that evolution is above debate. “Efforts to shut down discussion of a scientific idea through harassment and judicial decrees hurt democratic pluralism.” West’s opinion, which appeared in the Dec. 22 issue of USA Today, can be read here.

Intelligent Design: The Dover Opinion

Tammy Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (USDC, MD Pa. 2005), may very well sound the death knell of the still adolescent concept known as “intelligent design.” The federal court in Harrisburg issued Judge Jones’ 139 page opinion on December 20 and the opinion is available not only from the court’s website but all over the web. There are a number of typographical errors and there are a number of grammatical problems with the opinion, both of which indicate to me the work of an inexperienced judge, three years on the bench, and a similarly new court staff, rushing too quickly to get the opinion out the door, possibly before it leaked or their own work load caught up with them. They have an opportunity to clean it up for publication, in which they might indulge. Nevertheless, if the opinion is a correct summation of the six week trial record, the decision should not have been unexpected.

I am avoiding the temptation to post a summary of the decision. The troubling part of the decision for intelligent design advocates simply are the findings that there is no scientific basis for intelligent design as a theory of science, notwithstanding that it might have a theological basis. Indeed, the court went so far as to classify current intelligent design pronouncements as sham science promoted by religious activists. The court did this after an exhaustive inquiry during a six week trial on the merits, forever memorialized in 139 pages of reflective summation. The court seemed to do a workmanlike job describing the facts in the record, and if that is so, then intelligent design, as a concept is still adolescent, still dependent upon its intellectual parentage for nurture and survival, and unable to be self determining or of any value. It might be an interesting notion, it might even be true, but it is not a contender in the scientific world, so the court held, and the court is, unfortunately, right.

I respectfully submit that any review or comment about the court decision that is published or posted without a reading of the opinion will largely be uninformed. It took me an entire evening to read it, so I am certain just the time commitment will stop some from reading it, even if many are not stopped from commenting.

For me, the saddest part of the decision was not the lucid dismemberment of intelligent design and failure of intelligent design to survive judicial review even as a bone fide scientific concept, but the record of intemperate conduct by its advocates detailed in the decision. I have served as a school board member of a public school district, and I was embarrassed by the record left behind by school board members in this decision. I am not talking about the failed advocacy, but about the apparent immoral conduct that had to be the result of an “ends justifies the means” and scorched earth thinking. If the lawyers involved must share the blame for the appearance of untruthfulness to a federal court, then so be it.

Welcome to the Mayhem

My partner, Terry Hull, has introduced us in his first posting. Additional biographical data about me is publicly available from any source that provides such information regarding lawyers and my law firm has its own website. But, by way of full disclosure, I would also note that I, too, have served in the pulpit for various lengths of time at various churches and among denominational Christians as well as non-denominational Christians. Never have I accepted compensation from any church, however, but that probably means the church in question got exactly what they paid for. Between us, Mr. Hull and I have five or six degrees, at least three of which are graduate degrees. Thus, on some subjects we are fundamentalists, sometimes we are evangelicals, sometimes we are professionals, sometimes we are educated liberals, and sometimes we are simply clueless, but not, hopefully at the same time. As Terry has noted, we have been blogging between ourselves for nearly 40 years and we are now inviting others to the intellectual mayhem.

Enter, Stage Left

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Dec. 23, 2005, Rod Heggy and I began blogging under the name Terra Extraneus (“Strange World!”). During 2006, we wrote about 300 blog posts on a variety of topics, including faith, politics, law, books and movies. At the beginning of 2007, we divided our blog content between two blogs. We redefined Terra Extraneus as a law blog and established this new blog, Joshua One, to promote our faith and ministry. Joshua One went online on Feb. 6, 2007. We transferred about 150 posts from the original Terra Extraneus blog to this new faith blog, and left about 120 posts related to law and business on TerraX. I have duplicated this post and Rod Heggy’s reply (next post) on both blogs, to memorialize how this blog began.

* * * * *

Rod Heggy and I have been friends since our teenage days and partners on numerous projects during our adult lives. Today, 35 years after our friendship began, we begin our latest collaboration: the Terra Extraneus** blog.

Terra Extraneus is Latin for “strange world,” as in the phrase, usually said while shaking one’s head, “It’s a strange world!” Actually, our view isn’t quite as dismal as that phrase suggests (well, maybe Rod’s is, but mine isn’t). Depending on how you look at it, this strange world we live in can be a source of dismay or of comedic relief. I imagine Rod and I will be looking at things from both of those perspectives on Terra Extraneus.

Rod and I first met in 1971 as members of the youth groups of sister churches. Soon we crossed paths in a second way as high school speech and debate competitors. Rod went on to become an attorney and today he heads a successful practice. I entered the ministry and have spent much of my adult life as a pastor. I have also worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and paralegal.

Rod and I are evangelical Christians, meaning that we believe Jesus is the living Son of God and our Lord and Savior. But don’t be too quick to pigeonhole our personalities or our politics based on that confession. We may surprise you.

We launch Terra Extraneus to discuss “news, morality, law and faith.” Our discussion, of course, reflects our perspectives as two men, one an attorney and the other a pastor, who are long-time friends and fellow Christians. Actually, we have already been having this discussion between ourselves for years. Today we invite you to listen in — and to add your own comments, if you wish.