Straw men attack the Kitzmiller decision

There has been a lot of whining, wailing, and gnashing of teeth among ID proponents over the recent judicial decision in the Dover case that bars the teaching of "intelligent design" creationism in public school science classrooms. One particular strawman frequently used by ID proponents that really irks me was on full display over at LaShawn Barber's:
As I’m sure you’ve heard, a federal court has decided that it is unconstitutional to teach Intelligent Design, the audacious claim that precious life didn’t emerge by chance — out of some primordial muck, randomly evolving from single-celled organisms, which are themselves astoundingly complex beyond our meager understanding, into thinking human beings — but from an Intelligent Being who designed it all, from the entire universe, including planet Earth, which happens to be PERFECTLY suited for life, down to the irreducibly complex eye, breathtakingly stupendous in its design and function.
No, LaShawn. You clearly haven't read the entire decision (or even the relevant part of it.) The Kitzmiller decision did nothing of the sort. The Kitzmiller decision merely stated that it is illegal to teach ID in public schools in the science classroom. Judge Jones ruled that way because the evidence showed that the Dover School Board wanted to teach ID not because it is science, but because they wanted to inject creationism into the science classroom. Read this excerpt:
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. 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.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom [emphasis mine].
I repeat: In a public school science classroom. There is nothing in this decision to prevent a public school from teaching about ID in religion classes, philosophy classes, or social studies classes, where it would not be inappropriate appropriate. ID is not appropriate to teach as science in a science classroom because it is a religion-based idea--as your own post, with all its references to God suggests.

Straw man arguments like LaShawn's irritate the heck out of me. I'm not picking on her in particular (although certainly are many other reasons to pick on her, such as her parrotting Discovery Institute talking points, her repeating the canard that secular humanism is a "religion," and her false dichotomy argument that we either have to accept "total war"--of which torture is a "tool"--or be complete pacifists). Her post on this decision just happened to be the one using this particular straw man that I came across first. Her misinterpretation of this ruling to suggest that it outlaws the teaching of ID in public schools, period, is a convenient straw man that can lead people unfamiliar with the decision to think that ID has been "suppressed" or banned. ID could be taught in science classrooms one day, but only if its advocates got off their butts and did some actual scientific research and produced data and experiments that convinced the scientific community that it was a sound scientific hypothesis.

Don't hold your breath waiting for that.


  1. The whole "perfectly suited for life" argument, or "cosmological ID" as Heddle would have it, makes no sense to me. The only logical and meaningful interpretation of "perfectly suited for life" is "conducive to evolution of complex organisms" (the other logical interpretation is "the probability that life exists is 1"). If life is designed by God, it hardly matters what the environment is, surely. If he wanted to he could have created beings who survive on hydrogen under enormous pressure, living on Jupiter.

  2. Checked out her website via your link-- Remarkable for including every airheaded thing any IDiot has ever said. "Breathtaking inanity" fits again. Dummies like her truly aren't worth the blood pressure blips. But thanks anyway for your cogent rebuttal.

  3. Franklin Drackman12/25/2005 10:12 AM

    Court Decisions often don't have much effect on the real world.I went to a public junior highschool in Virgina in 1975 which still had a morning prayer read by the assistant principal over the intercom. The next year, in California I had a history teacher who basically tought creationism(in history class so I guess its alright). He gave us all the usual stories of dinosaur bones being found next to human bones,etc..the one that really got me was his proof that the moon was only 5000 yrs old. If the moon was really 5 billion yrs old..he would use various rates of accumulation to proove that there should be a huge layer of moon dust covering the moon. I heard he eventually went insane and took a bunch of his churhc members to guyana.

  4. The whole "perfectly suited for life" argument, or "cosmological ID" as Heddle would have it, makes no sense to me.

    Suddenly, I feel that my viewing of Candide last night is relevant. "Best of all possible worlds" with war, famine, and pestilence going on "for the best possible reasons".

  5. Re the "perfectly suited for life" argument: If you hit a golf ball down the fairway, it will eventually hit one spot of turf before bouncing on. You could walk up to the spot, look at it, look around and say, "Wow! Out of all the spots of turf it could hit, isn't it amazing that it hit this very one!!

    You could, and you would be an idiot. The ball had to land somewhere after all. If you had predicted to the quarter-inch where it would land before the ball was hit, that would be amazing.

    The "perfectly suited" argument is just as idiotic. If in all the universe there were only one planet that could support life, we necessarily would be living on it. Because we're alive.


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