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Intelligent-design ruling looking less intelligent

December 13, 2006

Last year, while I worked for a newspaper in York, Pa., I was overwhelmed by coverage of the Dover Area School District intelligent-design case, where a group of parents sued the school board to stop a proposed plan to have teachers mention intelligent design as an alternative to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution during science class.

Flying spaghetti monster in artThree words: Eyes. Glazed. Over. (Now, if it was Britney Spears discussing evolution…)

The judge in the case, U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III, decided against the school district. His decision made him one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2005. The decision and backlash against the “evolution 24/7” media coverage led to almost the entire school board being voted out of office.

No surprise there, huh?

Intelligent design, by the way, is the proposition that life on earth is so infinately complex that it must have been designed by a supreme being, creator, or some other intelligent life force.

Take, for instance, the banana. This YouTube video explains how the banana defeats evolution (and adds potassium to your diet) and proves God’s existence.

Wow, thanks God!

Did you know that the boomerang is also banana-shaped? Further evidence that… umm… Australians love bananas? And therefore, ummm… think God exists??? (add crickets noise here)

Ok, all that aside, news comes out yesterday that a big chunk (up to 90%) of Judge Jones’ ruling might have been borrowed from briefs filed by supporters of the prosecution.

So, he just cut-and-pasted? I remember someone in college telling me that was not wise to do.

From the article by Christina Kauffman in yesterday’s York Dispatch:

But nearly a year after the judge issued his decision in the landmark case, a group that supports intelligent design is accusing Jones of copying some of the text from one section of his ruling from the American Civil Liberties Union.

John E. Jones The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that bills itself as a nonpartisan think-tank and research center, issued a report today comparing the scientific section of Jones’ Kitzmiller v. Dover decision with a proposed “Findings of Fact” document submitted by ACLU attorneys at the end of the trial.

The report’s findings, which the Discovery Institute attributes to Microsoft Word’s “word count” feature, show that Jones “copied verbatim or virtually verbatim” more than 90 percent of the 6,004-word section of the ruling that discusses whether intelligent design is science.

“Jones’ analysis of the scientific status of intelligent design contains virtually nothing written by Jones himself,” said John West, the vice-president for public policy and legal affairs at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, during a telephone press conference yesterday. “The thinking of this section was done by the ACLU.”

The ACLU successfully represented 11 parents who filed suit against the Dover Area School District and its former school board for requiring that ninth-grade biology students be told that intelligent design is an alternative to evolution. …

West said the report’s findings undercut the credibility of that section of the ruling.

The science section of the ruling was the most controversial section because in it the judge rules on whether intelligent design should be considered “good” science. He agreed with the ACLU, and decided it should not.

The York Daily Record counters today with an article by Rick Lee, which says that judges sometimes do “borrow” text, and according to local lawyers, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Locally, attorneys said the mere fact a judge adopts a party’s findings of fact in a ruling is not in itself a judicial error or indiscretion.

James D. Greenberg, a partner in the York firm Katherman, Briggs and Greenberg, said, “A judge doesn’t adopt findings of fact until he hears (testimony) and agrees it supports those facts.

“Any judge who is efficient and well-versed in the law takes advantage of the findings of fact. It’s par for the course. Any attempt to make a stink out of it is absurd.” …

Greenberg, who read Jones’ ruling, said a verdict slip in a jury trial is the same as the findings of fact in a bench trial. In both scenarios, parties involved in the dispute have an opportunity to offer their respective positions for the fact-finders’ consideration, he said.

Sara Austin, president of the York County Bar Association and head of The Austin Group, said parties are required by the courts to submit findings of fact and “a judge can adopt some, all or none of the proposed findings.”

In the final ruling, a judge’s decision “is the judge’s findings and it doesn’t matter who submitted them,” she said.

Attorney Suzanne Sennett Smith said she recently was involved in a case where the Pennsylvania Superior Court adopted findings of fact “and they weren’t mine.”

She said although she did not like the result, “there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Jones told the Associated Press he had no comment on the institute’s criticism of his ruling.

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One Comment
  1. December 13, 2006 11:13 am

    The silly thing about this whole nonsense is that “intelligent design” is just “creation science” with a PC name. Now that ID has been relegated to philosophy and theology classes where it belongs, what will they call the next attempt to insert religious dogma into science instruction? I’m thinking something to really throw people off the scent, “aquatic realignment” or some such. Heck, if they could just figure out a way to get “sports” into the name, they’d be golden. (I hope I don’t regret suggesting that.) It’s also funny how there are no scientists campaigning to get science instruction into Churches. Kinda shows who really has the stronger faith in their own philosophy. JMO —Doug

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