Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Seeing Through the Lies

Some good news: Bush 43-appointed Judge John E. Jones III struck a blow for the separation of Church and State, and against the infestation of secular science with partisan religious advocacy, and ruled for the plaintiffs in the Dover Intelligent Design creationism case. Not only ruled for science and a religiously-neutral state, but did so in powerful terms which cut to the heart of the controversy. And he deliberately gave a through ruling, covering issues he might have by-passed (i.e. considering all the legal issues even after ones sufficient for a ruling had been decided) "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." (p. 64)

His ruling (in PDF format) is here (also here). It's long (139 pages) but it's a surprisingly good read -- if you're a geek who's into that sort of thing, I suppose is the inevitable rider, but I guess I would say that it had broader appeal than the average legal ruling or 100+ page discussion of the evolution/creationism issue; not saying much maybe. But (while I can't say I read every word of it, I read far more than I thought I would. It's engrossing. -- And encouraging in these dark times. (Update: Neil Gaiman (!) agrees, calling it "fascinating reading -- remarkably lucid and interesting". (via))

The go-to blogger on this issue is clearly PZ Myers -- he's got four posts up already, including lengthy excerpts, and I'm sure there are more to come. (His first post on today's ruling is here.) His site is clearly swamped; most of his posts seem to be mirrored at The Panda's Thumb (also swamped, but at least that's two longshots, not one). And, of course, other science & evolution bloggers are covering this too. (For pre-decision posting, see this post by a surprisingly perceptive and startlingly handsome blogger who will, for modesty's sake, go unnamed (but not unlinked -- modesty has its limits, after all.)) (Update: the Questionable Authority has a one-shot blog carnival with a huge number of links. And don't miss PZ Myers's day-after hangover.)

What strikes me above all is the level of mendacity by the creationist side. It's not surprising -- it's fundamental to their approach on every level. But it's just so ubiquitous, so blatant, so overwhelming by anyone who supports their position.

They have to lie about the evidence in order to try and rebut the overwhelmingly-supported theory of evolution ("Plaintiffs’ science experts, Drs. Miller and Padian, clearly explained how ID proponents generally and Pandas specifically, distort and misrepresent scientific knowledge in making their anti-evolution argument." -- Judge Jones, p. 84). Then, since the Supreme Court earlier decisively rejected creationism being taught in public school science classrooms, they have to lie and pretend that ID is not creationism; as part and parcel of this lie, they have to pretend that there is a real science of ID and real scientific controversy around its acceptance. ("The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory." -- p. 43) They have to lie about whether or not they believe the creator is Christ and whether or not they have religious motives. ("A significant aspect of the IDM is that despite Defendants’ protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity." -- p. 26)

Then there are the specific lies in this case. Since -- after openly stating that they wished creationism (under its true name) taught -- the leading school board members were informed that this was legally untenable, they had to lie about their earlier actions ("...the inescapable truth is that both Bonsell and Buckingham lied at their January 3, 2005 depositions about their knowledge of the source of the donation for Pandas... This mendacity was a clear and deliberate attempt to hide the source of the donations by the Board President and the Chair of the Curriculum Committee to further ensure that Dover students received a creationist alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution." -- p. 115) as well as about their motives. ("Although Defendants attempt to persuade this Court that each Board member who voted for the biology curriculum change did so for the secular purposed of improving science education and to exercise critical thinking skills, their contentions are simply irreconcilable with the record evidence. Their asserted purposes are a sham, and they are accordingly unavailing, for the reasons that follow." -- p. 130) Jones is openly and repeatedly scathing on the level of lying by the (mostly former I believe) pro-creationism members of the Dover School Board. ("Simply put, [former Dover school board president] Bonsell repeatedly failed to testify in a truthful manner about this and other subjects." -- p. 97) Nor does the irony of the 'religious' side being so dependent on lies escape the good Judge. ("It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy." -- p. 137)

And then there are all the implicit lies -- Behe twisting his claims to try and ignore voluminous counter-evidence ("By defining irreducible complexity in the way that he has, Professor Behe attempts to exclude the phenomenon of exaptation by definitional fiat, ignoring as he does so abundant evidence which refutes his argument." -- p. 75); the implicit lie in the 'teach-the-controversy' meme ("ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents’, as well as Defendants’ argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. 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." -- p. 89); and the astonishing mendacity revealed in the fact that the ID textbook simply replaced the words 'creationism' with 'intelligent design' after the court ruling on the former ("By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards. This word substitution is telling, significant, and reveals that a purposeful change of words was effected without any corresponding change in content, which directly refutes FTE’s argument that by merely disregarding the words “creation” and “creationism,” FTE expressly rejected creationism in Pandas." -- p. 32)

And. frankly, I could keep going and going. Given all of that, it's not surprising that the proponents of Intelligent Design creationism are now issuing mendacious press releases about the verdict.

What was wonderful about Jones's ruling is that he saw through all these lies -- he called them on it, in the way that (for example) our pusillanimous press refuses to. I can't judge whether or not his ruling was solid on the law (although everything I've seen leads me to believe it was); but it was solid on the facts. And, these days, that is something to be grateful for.


the valrus said...

You sure do like that word "mendacity" and its variants.

Anonymous said...

mendac* 4 times
lie* 13 times

That seems a reasonable ratio. Maybe if the IDiots told the truth once in a while less repetition would be required.

Anonymous said...

because thats what they, a bunch of liars

antigraviton said...

Blog on, brother. It's the reason we have free speech: such lies cannot survive the sunshine of our constant scrutiny.