Informative interview with Judge Jones (Dover Trial) from 2008

Whatever one’s position on ID and the Dover Trial, this 2008 extensive interview with Judge Jones is very informative. It corrects a lot of misperceptions about how U.S. federal court processes works and the legal responsibilities which rested on Judge Jones.


link fixed!

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Wow, this was excellent. @Eddie have you read this?

It is a very good read. I learned a lot. Quite a bit.

Jane Gitschier did an outstanding job as an interviewer and Judge Jones answered the questions so well.

Surely the Dover Trial is a stellar example of secularism at its best. The judge happens to be an evangelical but approached the case in a Constitutional manner where all citizens’ rights are protected, all across the faith/no-faith spectrum. The same laws and court decisions which protect us from the religious biases and agendas of the Dover school board also serve to prevent similar abuses by a Hindu, Moslem, Mormon, or anti-theist government official.

Judge Jones mentioned his speaking engagements. A friend who saw one of his public appearances not so long after the Dover Trial mentioned to me the high level of security which protected the judge and even members of his family and extended family. He said Judge Jones never anticipated that he would receive so many death threats and, though he wasn’t allowed to give specific details of the extent of the security, he said the level and length of his protection after the trial had no parallel in the history of the federal judicial system. Perhaps he still has a lot of bodyguard protection to this day. I don’t know. Apparently the heavy security persisted for years.

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I am taking a wild guess here but I would say that death threats didn’t come from Darwinian Evolutionists nor Secular Humanists. :sunglasses:

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Maybe not in this case. There are several examples of secular people making death threats and other contexts.


Fascinating. Thanks to AllenWitmerMiller for bringing it to our attention. And it’s ten years old. Never seen it before.


I would take a “wild guess” and predict that those who are happy about the outcome of a particular court case are far less likely to make death threats. :wink:


Yes, I have just read it. Very clear, and Judge Jones gives a good account of his procedures. Most of what he says, I have no objection to at all. And very little of it was new to me. At the time of the trial, I not only read every newspaper report out of Dover and all the transcripts, but read up on the Lemon Test and all the other constitutional stuff, so I understood that side of it.

I’ve already said here and elsewhere that on the narrow question, i.e., whether the Dover Board violated the Constitutions of the USA and Pennsylvania, the Judge ruled correctly. As he says in the interview, he really needed only one prong, the purpose prong, to throw out the policy, and there was ample evidence of religious purpose. But that could have been established in a trial that was only 4 or 5 weeks long, rather than over two months; the circus of special witnesses regarding the scientific merits and flaws of ID wasn’t necessary. The religious motivations of the Board (none of whose members understood the first thing about science, irreducible complexity, methodological naturalism, or any of the other stuff debated by the special witnesses) were exposed by their actions, and written and oral statements, all revealed during the trial.

I thought Judge Jones conducted the trial fairly, giving both teams of lawyers plenty of room to present their case. I also liked it when he grilled some Board members (or at least one of them) himself. My complaint about his judgment was only that he took the bait to render a general judgment on intelligent design, a judgment he was not intellectually competent to make. The proper judgment would have been: “I don’t know enough about philosophy of science and religion to decide the grand question of whether ID is science or philosophy or theology or what, but I do know the Law, and the Dover Board was religiously motivated, so I’m throwing the policy out awarding all costs to the plaintiffs.” If he had limited himself to that, I would have been 100% onside with him.


I wonder about that. At the time of the trial, I seem to remember someone reporting that Judge Jones had some church affiliation, I think with some Protestant denomination, but his beliefs at the time of the interview seem rather fuzzy and don’t sound very evangelical. Did you catch this?:

“I’m certainly not an atheist or an agnostic and I see some divine force somewhere.”

“I seem some divine force _some_where”? Doesn’t sound very “evangelical” to me. Sounds more like a typical modern United Church of Christ minister’s confession of faith – nebulous, vague, non-committal. Was there “some” divine force “somewhere” in the life and teaching of Jesus? Does that divine force speak “somewhere” in the Bible? Maybe in the Gospels, but not in, say, Joshua, or Genesis 3?

Whenever I’ve heard that sentence discussed, I’ve assumed that Jones meant that “some divine force” was somehow/somewhere playing a role in evolutionary processes—rather than evolution being some sort of hands-off-process which didn’t involve God—but I freely admit that I can’t prove that that was his meaning.


Oh, I see – you think he was referring to a divine force in the natural world, not speaking about his theology more generally. That’s possible. I took him to be classifying his religious belief (in relation to agnosticism, atheism, theism, pantheism, etc.) That’s why I thought he was maybe another mushy Christian liberal, uttering vague thoughts about “divine force” (avoiding “God” or “Jesus”, words which nowadays seem to embarrass ministers in the mainstream Protestant denominations, except when Jesus can be portrayed as a socialist or feminist). But I don’t have enough context to be sure.

So maybe he is an evangelical after all. :slight_smile: Though I don’t think it matters much. I don’t think his judgments about ID, science, theology, etc. would have been much affected whether he was a believer or an unbeliever. After all, Ken Miller is a believer, and Barbara Forrest an atheist, and they both make the same judgments about ID, science, theology, etc. I’m not accusing him of anti-religious motivation. I just think he stepped into epistemological waters (regarding the complex relations between science, philosophy, and theology) that were over his head. But as a lawyer and judge, I thought he was very intelligent.

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I don’t either. He does seem willing to identify as a Lutheran—but, as we all know, that can cover a pretty wide spectrum.

Of course, it may also make a lot of sense for a federal court judge to keep his theological details ambiguous.


And you do know enough to judge someone else as not knowing enough? That’s amazing!

Do you know enough about science to know that ID isn’t science?

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I think the key text is what the Judge said to his interviewer:

“I will always remember Ken Miller’s testimony in the sense that he did A–Z evolution. And then got into intelligent design. And having laid the foundation with the description of evolution, got into why intelligent design doesn’t work as science, to the point where it is predominantly a religious concept.”

This sums it up entirely.


It truly does do exactly that!

I liked the way Judge Jones emphasized that it was not his job to decide any broader grand questions or to decree the ultimate definition of science and various scientific terms. He said that his role was to listen to all the arguments in the trial and render a judgment based purely on what had been presented in his courtroom and applicable law. According to his explanation, if it wasn’t presented in the trial or derived from law, he wasn’t addressing it.

I’ve noticed that Conservapedia calls Judge Jones an _activist federal judge:

For Conservapedia definition of an “activist judge”, you can take in the following:

I’m not trying to start a sub-thread or tangent but I just find Conservapedia’s “activist judge” labeling of Judge Jones rather fascinating (even though it is predictable.)


Conservapedia complains in the aforementioned Judge Jones article:

In his ruling, Judge Jones plagiarized material from ACLU briefs.

Plagiarized? How outrageous! [Sarcasm alert.] The judge’s decision relied heavily on the material presented in the trial, word-for word much of the time, exactly as all judges routinely do—because that’s how judicial procedures work!


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