Breathtaking Inanity

Judge Jones did not find the arguments of the defense expert or fact witnesses to be persuasive. The decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover was handed down on December 20, 2005, and it was a complete victory for the plaintiffs, who won on every one of their points. Judge Jones declared Dover's educational policies regarding evolution and ID to be unconstitutional. The judge was unpersuaded by the claims of secular purpose for the Dover policies, writing:

Although as noted Defendants have consistently asserted that the ID Policy was enacted for the secular purposes of improving science education and encouraging students to exercise critical thinking skills, the Board took none of the steps that school officials would take if these stated goals had truly been their objective. The Board consulted no scientific materials. The Board contacted no scientists or scientific organizations. The Board failed to consider the views of the District's science teachers. The Board relied solely on legal advice from two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions, the Discovery Institute and the TMLC. Moreover, Defendants' asserted secular purpose of improving science education is belied by the fact that most if not all of the Board members who voted in favor of the biology curriculum change conceded that they still do not know, nor have they ever known, precisely what ID is. To assert a secular purpose against this backdrop is ludicrous. (Kitzmiller, at 763)

Jones also noted that several of the most actively antievolutionist school board members had lied under oath during deposition and on the witness stand. Such behaviors, he said, further devalued any claims they might have had for a secular purpose for teaching ID. He laid the blame for the expensive and lengthy trial squarely at the feet of a religiously motivated school board, goaded on by the TMLC:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources. (Kitzmiller, at 765-766)

The judge was clear in his view that ID did not qualify as science for a number of reasons:

Finally, we will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also 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. . . .

We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed Creation Science in the 1980s; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. . . . it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research. (Kitzmiller, at 735)

In its first legal outing, then, ID failed to defend itself as a valid science, or even as science at all. It is doubtful, however, that the Kitzmiller decision will completely stop efforts to teach ID. The Kitzmiller case was not appealed, hence the judge's decision is precedent only in the Middle Federal District of Pennsylvania. It will, however, be highly influential in discouraging the teaching of ID because the trial record was so long and complete, and because the decision was so thorough. Much as McLean v. Arkansas was an opportunity for creation science proponents to demonstrate that theirs was a valid science, so was Kitzmiller the opportunity for ID proponents to demonstrate its scientific validity. Complaints of creation science proponents after McLean that the "best" creation scientists did not testify cannot be repeated for Kitzmiller, as Behe, a tenured professor, is arguably the most highly qualified scientist who is a leading promoter of ID. But just as creation science proponents continued to promote their views in the public schools even after the Supreme Court declared its teaching unconstitutional in the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard, so it is likely that ID proponents similarly will not abandon their efforts to promote ID.

However, even before the Dover trial, the most prominent ID-supporting organization, the Discovery Institute, had already pulled back from earlier efforts to try to bring ID into the classroom. Instead, in about 2002, it began to propose (as it currently proposes) that ID should not be mandated; rather, teachers should teach the alleged strengths and weaknesses of evolution. It argues that administrators ought not explicitly require ID to be presented as an alternative, though teachers should be allowed to teach it without penalty if they wish. But the focus has moved away from encouraging the teaching of ID to teaching that evolution is weak science.

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