Remember Dover, Kansas, or both?

The appropriate way to look at Dover is through sworn testimony. The Dover transcripts are readily available and all can be (and should be) discussed. It is all there IC, ID, and everything else. Look at the Judge’s ruling in light of the sworn testimony. Can get any better than that.

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That is what I thought till I started talking to ID people at the center of this episode. The issue is that the Discovery Institute, from the beginning, opposed Dover. There is some good evidence for this too. It seems that the school board and the lawyers involved had gone rouge, and had put forward this as a test case even though it was a horrible test case for ID. The lawyer was dreaming of a Scopes redo, but Discovery was running for the hills. Behe was the only one that agreed to do expert testimony, and he did so against the advice of Discovery. So Dover was a mess from the beginning, not the intended plan of Discovery.

However, alongside Dover, concurrently, there was the Kansas Board of Education Hearings. This is the circus that Discovery wanted, and often still put forward as a positive example of their work. Within science, we generally collapse Dover and Kansas into the same event, but they were understood as separate events by Discovery. Dover was the wrong way to do it. Kansas was the right way. They seem to have been making this point through the whole period too.

That is why they often say it is unfair to be linked to Dover. In their view, Discovery did not want the disaster than happened for them: ID being ruled to be creationism. They saw it coming but could not get control of the situation. The Kansas Hearings were a public circus too, even more of one in many ways, but did not carry that same risk. Also they controlled the exchange, not the court system.

In my view Kansas is just as bad spectacle as Dover. There is no reason to dispute what seems to be part of the public record. Discovery opposed Dover, but stage crafted Kansas. Sociologically they were linked, but they were still separate events. If you do things like Kansas, you should expect things like to Dover to take place too.


Dover provided the legal presidence that was used for Kansas. Both were affirmations of the separation of Church and State. To this day, to determine what is science and what is religion, Dover is the key ruling in Federal Court. Because it was no appealed to a higher count the ruling stands as law of the land. DI has been complaining for years but as a matter of law ID is religious creationism and not science. Can’t be taught in public schools as science nor religion.

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For legal reasons, Dover is more important. I do not think that anyone disputes this. What some at Discovery Institute object to is that they intended Dover to happen. That is also probably true. From the Wedge, we know they probably eventually wanted to win in the courts. However, Dover was not how they wanted it to happen, even before it became clear they were going to lose so badly.

There is no harm in talking about both together, right?

I think Dover was a few school board members and a religiously oriented legal foundation taking some of the DI’s publications to heart. I can believe it was unintended but I think it was easy to see it as a likely consequence. After all, naturalistic evolution (incorrectly described as ‘Darwinism’) was supposed to be a spent and rejected effort long before now. The Kansas hearings, as they were originally set up, were aptly described as a kangaroo court.

What was particularly odd to me was the number of experts called who took no position on the age of the Earth or the universe, or refused to comment.



Indeed. In fact, I read (not skimmed, but read; I’m a glutton for punishment) all 3,000 pages of the Dover testimony, and every single article covering the Dover Trial published in the two small local newspapers near Dover, who covered the trial and the pre-trial phase personally. Also the Judge’s verdict. And several books written after the trial, some of them containing essays by lawyers analyzing the trial from a legal and constitutional point of view. So I’m quite familiar with what was said and done at Dover. And I have no intention of ever writing or defending any false history about it. But the outcome of the trial is irrelevant for the theoretical analysis of ID (as opposed to legal and constitutional questions related to ID in the schools).

I have never argued that ID should be taught in the schools, and am certainly against making it mandatory in any science class. In fact, that was the position of Discovery even before the Dover trial started.

I thought the Judge at Dover was entirely right to veto Dover’s education policy. The school board was clearly motivated by specifically religious reasons, and that was unconstitutional. However, his wider judgment against ID as an intellectual venture was a judgment he was not at all qualified to make; he hadn’t sufficient training in science, philosophy, theology, or history to defend that part of his judgment. He had no graduate level training in any of those fields. Epistemology of science, and the relation between theology and science, were not his forte. But he called the strictly legal aspects of the case correctly.



I agree with you about Dover. I make no comment on Kansas, as I don’t like making judgments on cases I haven’t studied carefully. I haven’t studied the transcripts. I haven’t studied the background. So I will neither condemn nor defend DI regarding Kansas. If I ever get time to study the affair, I might speak up and offer an opinion then. But I’m here to discuss theoretical questions in theology, philosophy, and science, not the politics of these movements, so I will drop out of this discussion at this point.


Why didn’t DI or anyone else appeal the wider judgement? On the basis that you had laid out?
Perhaps because the only argument that DI could make was that ID is confined to philosophy, theology, and history and NOT science.

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Well duh. Of course they didn’t want to make that argument.

@eddie, I believe you entirely that you never have cared about this.

The documented evidence is extremely clear that this was a key goal of ID at its inception, and many still hold it. I do not think any one has argued for it to be mandatory. Rather, they argue for teachers to be free to bring into science education. That is the rub.

I appreciate it wasn’t your personal desire. I also appreciate it was not everyone in ID’s desire. However, it is also clear that was an organizing goal for the Discovery Institute at the inception of ID. We even see it Philip Johnson’s book, Darwin on Trial. Behind closed doors, several ID advocates will be honest about this history. It is real though.

Yes and no. For us to analyze ID, we do not get into this. To explain why they are despised by most in science? For that part of the analyze, we do have to get into this. Anyone who advocates ID inherits this baggage, whether they like it or not, whether it is fair or not. That is just the reality of the situation.

Though, the arguments on their own are worth analyzing, as I have said.

That is a good decision. I encourage you at sometime to look at Kansas. Remember, this was happening concurrently with Dover, and orchestrated in detail with the Discovery Institute. It was, in many ways, a bigger circus than Dover, and designed to avoid legal scrutiny.

Regardless, I’m more interested in the other questions with you. Thanks @eddie.


And that is why the broader ruling stands. So DI lost on the merits on two items:

  1. ID is religion and can’t be taught in public schools.
  2. ID is not science and can’t be taught in science class.
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You are focusing on the legal consequences, which are certainly important. The social consequences, however, are more important and difficult for those new to the conversation to understand. There is an immense amount of bias against ID, and this bias has roots in this episode, both Kansas and Dover together. The social consequences would likely be just as strong even if Dover had been averted, and all we had was Kansas.

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But the legal consequences impact the social consequences greatly. Any time ID is raised in the public discussion in the country, the legal judgement will be raised in order to shut down the discussion as it relates to science education in public schools.

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I’ve dropped out of the Kansas conversation, for reasons already given. Regarding Dover, your question is easy to answer. The DI had no reason to appeal the narrowly legal ruling, and I have no idea on what basis one could appeal the Judge’s gratuitous statements about religion, science, etc. They weren’t based on points of law, but were private opinions of the Judge about what constitutes science, good science, religion, etc. And even if one could appeal those statements, the appeal would just go before another judge, one equally incompetent in philosophy of science, theology, etc. The questions at stake theoretically are for theoretical men, not lawyers or judges, to settle. We wouldn’t ask a judge to settle whether or not multiverse theory or string theory is true, and it’s absurd to think a judge is capable of settling complex issues like the demarcation problem or methodological naturalism, when the best philosophers in the world can’t agree on them.

But Discovery did protest in public the contents of the judge’s wider judgment. You can read their various responses on their website, and you can read the book Traipsing into Evolution, which is an inexpensive paperback. Discovery did the right thing; it acquiesced in the narrow verdict, which was indisputably correct, and put the trial behind it, except to rap Judge Jones’s knuckles for his intellectual overreach into academic fields he knew nothing about. The theoretical value of ID, and all questions about its status (whether it’s science, philosophy, theology or something else) will be judged over the long run, by posterity, not by a judge in a Pennsylvania courtroom. I don’t think I’ll say more on this.


Oh for goodness sake…

The only body with standing to appeal the decision was the school board.

And in the ugliness leading up to the court decision… every board member that supported the decision to teach ID had been voted off the board.

There was no appeal because the new occupants of the board had ZERO INTEREST in appealing.

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George wrote:

The only body with standing to appeal the decision was the school board.

I assume that this is true. I was responding to another poster who seemed to presume that a third party could appeal. I was responding to him in a hypothetical mode, i.e., supposing for the sake of argument that the DI could appeal the verdict, why didn’t it? And I gave my reason. But it strikes me as very unlikely that a third party would have the right of appeal, unless Pennsylvania law is very strange.

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Once again, Patrick is either unaware of his own philosophical overreach, or deliberately disingenuous in raising the appeal question. DI had no standing to do so. Do you now recognize and accept that answer, Patrick? As an imagined defender of scientific orthodoxy, you shouldn’t resort to nonsensical arguments.

No philosophical overreach at all. To this day, DI supports efforts to “teach the controversy”. They also support what they call academic freedom in science investigation which is nothing more than an attempt to stop the denigration of anyone in academia from claiming that ID is a scientific endeavor worthy of scientific study.

Despite what Ann says, DI is not an academic institution. It is also not a scientific think tank. It is merely an institution in the business of propagating a Christian belief of God guided creationism and God guided natural processes. I am pleased to see that some member of DI, including Ann, no longer hide their Christian faith. It was disingenuous to do it in the past, now that they are outspoken on their beliefs, the reasons for their actions are easy to see. They are just another Evangelical Christian group aligned with VP Mike Pence.


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And I’m responding to both of you. Discovery had no standing; they were expert witnesses… only.

The School Board was the ONLY entity that could appeal.

DI could have gotten standing just like FFRF gets standing on such cases when there are broader issues like in this case. It is the broader issues that would have been discussed at the higher level courts including the Supreme Court. This case has similarities with many religious freedom cases going on now in the courts.


If it could have … it would have. It didn’t because it couldnt.