Why Intelligent Design Isn't
by Jeffrey Mervis
Reprinted from Science, 6 January 2006, 311:34
The Dover 'Intelligent Design'
Judge Jones Defines Science and Why Intelligent Design Isn't
In a sweeping decision, a federal district court judge makes the connection between how science operates and the First Amendment.
Eric Rothschild says he couldn't be happier with the 20 December decision by federal district court Judge John Jones III ordering the Dover, Pennsylvania, schools to remove references to intelligent design (ill) from the science curriculum. "Our game plan was to explain what science is, so that we could show very clearly that intelligent design was not science. ... And the judge got it," says Rothschild, a lawyer with Pepper Hamilton LLP in Philadelphia who helped to represent the parents of 11 Dover students who brought the civil suit. (For a news report on the decision, see
The parents sued after the school board passed a resolution in October 2004 declaring that "students will be made aware of gaps and problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design." In his ruling, Jones went beyond the question of whether the policy was religiously motivated and tore into the whole foundation of ID. His 139-page decision: which incorporates substantial portions of the plaintiffs' arguments, also castigates the school board for the "breathtaking inanity" of its policy.
The winners hope the decision will end the ID debate in Dover: Eight of the nine members of the school board were defeated in a November election by candIDates opposed to the ID statement, and the new board has saID it doesn't plan to appeal the ruling. But it isn't expected to end attacks on evolutionary theory by supporters of the view that the complexity of life requires a supernatural designer, say scientists and those who have followed the bitter debates. "ID is like a waterbed," quips Eugenie Scott ofthe National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which tracks the issue. "If you push it down in one place, it pops up in another place."
In the following excerpt, Jones mentions two important cases-Edwards v. Aguillard, a 1987 Supreme Court decision, and McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, a 1982 district court decision-that set down a national prohibition against the teaching of "creation science" in public schools. He also refers to plaintiffs' witness Kevin Padian, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and defense witness Michael Behe, a biologist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Excerpts from the Decision
"Intelligent Design" (ID) is not science.
We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science.
1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science
by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;
ID takes a natural phenomenon and, instead of accepting or seeking a natural explanation, argues that the explanation is supernatural. ... It is notable that defense experts' own mission is to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation of the natural world, which the Supreme Court in Edwards and the [district] court in Mclean correctly recognized as an inherently religious concept. ... Not a single expert witness over the course of the 6-week trial IDentified one major scientific association, society, or organization that endorsed 10 as science. What is more, defense experts concede that 1 D is not a theory as that term is defined by the National Academy of Sciences. ...
ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed. This argument is not . brought to this Court anew, and in fact the same argument, termed 'contrived dualism' in McLean, was employed by creationists in the 1980s to support 'creation science'. ... However, we believe that arguments against evolution are not arguments for design. Expert testimony revealed that just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow. ...
The concept of irreducible complexity is ID's alleged scientific centerpiece. Irreducible complexity is a negative argument against evolution, not proof of design. Irreducible complexity additionally fails to make a positive scientific case for ID. ... As expert testimony revealed, the qualification on what is meant by 'irreducible complexity' renders it meaningless as a criticism of evolution. In fact, the theory of evolution proffers exaptation as a wellrecognized, well-documented explanation for how systems with multiple parts could have evolved through natural means.
Exaptation means that some precursor of the subject system had a different, selectable function before experiencing the change or addition that resulted in the subject system with its present function. For example, Dr. [Kevin] Padian IDentified the evolution of the mammalian mIDdle ear bones from what had been jawbones as an example of this process. By defining irreducible complexity in the way that he has, Professor [Michael] Behe attempts to exclude the phenomenon of exaptation by definitional fiat, ignoring as he does so abundant evIDence which refutes his argument. ...
We find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory ... [It] is grounded in theology, not science. ... It has no place in a science curriculum. 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 10 movement is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution that would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.
Last changed 30 March 2006