Judge rules that Intelligent Design is not science

It’s nice to know that some logic exists. If you’re paying any attention to science news on the web then you will have seen the small tidal wave of writers all expressing what can be summarised as ‘yay!’ over the past hour.

The Dover Federal Court judge, hearing the case arguing that Intelligent Design should not be taught as a viable alternative to the theory of evolution, has been scathing in his response:

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.

The judge also gives a sound and logical reason why ID should not be taught as science:

After a searching review of the record and applicable case law, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, 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. 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 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

This is the logic that the vast majority of the science community have applied to ID and it’s pleasing to see it confirmed by a court decision. I would have been astonished to see any other result, but that I even had any doubt at all suggests that my faith in the objective abilities of the US governmental system is very low at the moment. I’m very happy to see that a Republican judge has made a ruling that conflicts with the stated opinion of his Republican president.

In an additional point of amusement, the school board that first put ID into the school-room was voted out recently to be replaced with anti-ID members, showing that the people of the state were also behind the judge’s decision even before it was made.

Excerpts from the ruling here. NYT coverage here. The Register coverage here. Campaign for the adoption of the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory of creation here.

4 thoughts on “Judge rules that Intelligent Design is not science”

  1. Just my 2 cents >_>
    1- “Supernatural Causation” is a theory that stands to be proven or disproven as any other theory.
    2- Whoever said it was irreducibly complex must be omnipotent, if ID is viable then eventually we will come across the means to “reduce the complexity”
    3- If they weren’t refuted by the “scientific community” then the only point in teaching evolution would be as a failed theory.
    That said, I don’t see why ID-supporters should be to downfallen by this, after all, if you do not want your child to learn Evolution you can sign a note leaving your child out of the class. (At least that is the way it works here in Missouri.) Moreso, if you want your child to learn ID, then there a plenty of pastors and teachers who are more than willing to help.
    On a final note, it’s up to the believer’s of the individual theories to use the scientific method to advance their knowledge in those areas. Getting your theory taught in a school isn’t going to make your theory any more real or fake then it already is.

  2. I think we’re into the old problem of what a ‘theory’ is in everyday language and in science. In its common usage, a theory is an idea that has not been proven, in science that is called a hypothesis. When a hypothesis is postulated and evidence is found to support it only then can it become a scientific theory.

    ‘Supernatural causation’ cannot ever be a scientific theory because no evidence can be found for it, only an absence of competing interpretations. A common scientific phrase is ‘an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’; this means that just because science does not currently have the evidence to explain why something works it does not mean that this will always be the case or that no evidence exists, we simply haven’t found it yet. ID works on the belief that no evidence will be found that can explain all aspects of evolution, it does not propose any evidence in support of itself. In other words, ID attempts to put itself in places where there is an absence of evidence to contradict it.

    The problem with any ‘supernatural causation’ is that by definition it cannot be proven. The logic is simple:

    proof must consist of a logical chain of events supported by evidence

    because only natural events are logical, a supernatural event cannot be logical (otherwise it wouldn’t be supernatural!). Supernature is anti-logic

    no logical chain of events can be established where supernature is involved and therefore supernature cannot be proven to exist.

    The best that you can ever hope for as ‘evidence’ of supernature is a lack of evidence pointing in a logical direction, but an absence of evidence does not prove or disprove anything. If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to see/hear it, when you go to it, it is still laying on the ground; you could argue that a hoard of ghostly apparitions manifested and chopped the tree down with ectoplasm before completely evaporating, but without any recording of the supernatural involvement it is impossible to prove that the final state of an object is a result of supernatural causes.

    Immanuel Kant argues that objects of pure reason such as God cannot be known by a person ‘for to arrive at these, it must make use of principles which, in fact, extend only to the objects of possible experience, and which cannot be applied to objects beyond this sphere without converting them to appearances.’ Basically, two hundred years ago the possibility for physical evidence of God was already known to be impossible in a rational argument. Nothing has changed, so ‘supernatural causation’ and ID can never be a scientific theory to be proven or disproven, it cannot even be a scientific hypothesis because a hypothesis must be testable. ID then must always be a subject of faith, because without evidence you can only have belief. Belief is not science, but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be true, it means that you will never be able to prove it: if you could prove it then it’s no longer a belief, it’s a fact, but the supernatural is not verifiable.

    Compare this to the idea of telekinesis (moving objects with your mind). You can put forward a hypothesis that TK abilities exist, and then if you can find even one person who can do it in a repeatable manner under controlled condition then you have a theory. A theory can always be proven to be untrue, for example the person could be using a secret system of magnets, in which case your hypothesis would still stand, it would just be unproven. The important thing is that it is testable. Supernatural invervention in the history of our planet is not testable. Even if a massive evolutionary leap is found in the fossil record then that is still not evidence of supernatural intervention, it’s simple evidence that a leap happened at that point.

    So, in summary, ID is not a theory in a scientific sense because supernatural intervention in the earth’s history cannot be proven in any logical manner; it can only point to absences in other theories, it can never prove itself.

  3. Is something defined as supernatural, by definition, not science? If it were accepted science then it would count as natural, no? So ‘supernatural causation’ could never be proven, as it would then by recognised as part of nature and, therefore, not supernatural.

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