Judge John E. Jones III
A historic judicial ruling against intelligent design theory hailed as a “broad, stinging rebuke” and a “masterpiece of wit, scholarship and clear thinking” actually was “cut and pasted” from a brief by ACLU lawyers and includes many of their provable errors, contends the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.
One year ago, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones’ 139-page ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover declared unconstitutional a school board policy that required students of a ninth-grade biology class in the Dover Area School District to hear a one-minute statement that said evolution is a theory and intelligent design “is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view.”
University of Chicago geophysicist Raymond Pierrehumbert called Jones’ ruling a “masterpiece of wit, scholarship and clear thinking” while lawyer Ed Darrell said the judge “wrote a masterful decision, a model for law students on how to decide a case based on the evidence presented.” Time magazine said the ruling made Jones one of “the world’s most influential people” in the category of “scientists and thinkers.”
But an analysis by the Discovery Institute, the leading promoter of intelligent design, concludes about 90.9 percent – 5,458 words of his 6,004-word section on intelligent design as science – was taken virtually verbatim from the ACLU’s proposed “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” submitted to Jones nearly a month before his ruling.
“Judge Jones’ decision wasn’t a masterpiece of scholarship. It was a masterpiece of cut-and-paste,” said the Discovery Institute’s John West in a phone conference with reporters yesterday.
West is vice president for public policy and legal affairs for the group’s Center for Science and Culture, which issued a statement saying, “The finding that most of Judge Jones’ analysis of intelligent design was apparently not the product of his own original deliberative activity seriously undercuts the credibility of Judge Jones’ examination of the scientific validity of intelligent design.”
Judge will not comment
WND reached Jones’ deputy, Liz O’Donnell, at the judge’s chambers in Williamsport, Pa. But she said Jones would not comment.
“He appreciates being given a chance to comment, however, other than advising anyone to read his opinion, he will not comment on any Discovery Institute release,” she said.
O’Donnell said Jones has read Discovery Institute’s two-page press release but not the full 34-page document that includes side-by-side comparisons between the ACLU’s text and his opinion.
She declined an offer to have the study sent to Jones for his perusal and response.
Bruce Green, director of Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham Law School, told the Associated Press it is not typical for judges to adopt one side’s proposed findings verbatim, although there’s “not a rule that categorically forbids it.”
“Courts have sometimes criticized the practice, especially when it looks like the judge didn’t do any independent thinking,” Green said.
‘We were stunned’
The Discovery Institute has opposed the Dover school board policy because it thinks attempts to mandate intelligent design are counterproductive. But the group became involved in the case as part of its effort to ensure courts do not restrict an open discussion of evolution in schools.
Proponents of intelligent design say it draws on recent discoveries in physics, biochemistry and related disciplines that indicate some features of the natural world are best explained as the product of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. Advocates include scientists at numerous universities and science organizations worldwide.
West, who noted Jones has been giving speeches on his ruling, said the Discovery Institute found out only in September that there had been “extensive copying going on.”
“We were stunned,” said West, who pointed out Jones even copied several clearly erroneous factual claims made by the ACLU.
Jones, for example, claimed that during the trial, biochemist and Discovery Institute fellow Michael Behe dismissed articles supposedly explaining the evolution of the immune system by saying they are not “good enough.” But the court record shows Behe said the opposite: “It’s not that they aren’t good enough. It’s simply that they are addressed to a different subject.”
In another example, the judge claimed “ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications.” But University of Idaho microbiologist Scott Minnich testified there are between “seven and 10” peer-reviewed papers supporting intelligent design.
The Discovery Institute said its study, written by West and David DeWolf, a law professor at Gonzaga University, showed the ruling “reflected essentially no original deliberative activity or independent examination of the record on Jones’ part.”
“The revelation that Judge Jones in effect ‘dragged and dropped’ large sections of the ACLU’s ‘Findings of Fact’ into his opinion, errors and all, calls into serious question whether Jones exercised the kind of independent analysis that would make his ‘broad, stinging rebuke’ of intelligent design appropriate.”
West and DeWolf point out Jones has described the breadth of his opinion as being the result of a “fervent hope” that it “could serve as a primer for school boards and other people who were considering this [issue],” which they see as a tacit admission he was a judicial activist.
Even an opponent of intelligent design, they note, Boston University law professor Jay Wexler, says the “part of Kitzmiller that finds ID not to be science is unnecessary, unconvincing, not particularly suited to the judicial role, and even perhaps dangerous to both science and freedom of religion.”
West and DeWolf conclude: “The new disclosure that Judge Jones’ analysis of the scientific status of ID merely copied language written for him by ACLU attorneys underscores just how inappropriate this part of Kitzmiller was – and why Judge Jones’ analysis should not be regarded as the final word about intelligent design.”
West contended the critics who saw the Dover decision as a major setback for intelligent design clearly were wrong, citing a recent New York Times report about a gathering last month of scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where there was “a rough consensus” that the theory “of evolution by natural selection” was “losing out in the intellectual marketplace.”
“A year after Dover, it’s the Darwinists who seem filled with gloom, not us,” said West.
He pointed to a number of recent developments. In March, the Lancaster School District in California agreed on a philosophy of science policy stating “Darwin’s theory should not be taught as “unalterable fact.” In June, South Carolina adopted a science standard requiring students to learn how “scientists … investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” In September, legal scholar Francis Beckwith was granted tenure at Baylor University amid opposition from Darwinists. Beckwith believes ID can be taught in public schools without violating the Constitution. Last month, the Ouachita Parish School District in Louisiana enacted a policy protecting teachers who cover both evidence for and against Darwinian evolution.