A federal judge ruled today that a Pennsylvania school board's policy of teaching intelligent design in high school biology class is unconstitutional because intelligent design is clearly a religious idea that advances "a particular version of Christianity."
In the nation's first case to test the legal merits of intelligent design, Judge John E. Jones III dealt a stinging rebuke to advocates of teaching intelligent design as a scientific alternative to evolution in public schools.
The judge found that intelligent design is not science, and that the only way its proponents can claim it is, is by changing the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations.
Jones sharply criticized some of the school board members, writing, "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."
I'm surprised, though not disappointed, that Jones went that far. I think his comment really gets to the character of intelligent design: it is an argument made in flagrant bad faith.
The lead defense lawyer for the school board, Richard Thompson, said it was "silly" for the judge to have issued such a sweeping judgment on intelligent design in a case that he said merely involved a "one minute statement" being read to students.
"A thousand opinions by a court that a particular scientific theory is invalid will not make that scientific theory invalid," said Mr. Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest firm that says it promotes Christian values. "It is going to be up to the scientists who are going to continue to do research in their labs that will ultimately determine that."
Actually, scientists are determining it as we speak, and the overwhelming consensus is that ID is, to use the most charitable possible definition, bad science. And since the handful of scientists in the ID dugout have been decidedly unwilling to step up to the plate with an argument that isn't simply a variant of "Are you kidding me? Bacterial flagella are just, like, so complex!" that consensus is unlikely to change. Delusions of persecution, however, will no doubt persist.
I mentioned the Thomas More Law Center last month, because I found this bit of reasoning priceless:
The More center's lawyers put scientists on the witness stand who argued that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that a higher intelligence designed them - is a credible scientific theory and not religion because it never identifies God as the designer.
Still religion is at the heart of the case's appeal for the center, say its lawyers and the chairman of its board.
The chairman, Bowie Kuhn, the former baseball commissioner, said the board agreed that the center should take on an intelligent design case because while it is not necessarily based on religion "it is being opposed because people think it is religious." And that was enough for a group whose mission, as explained on its Web site, is "to protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square."(emphasis added)
Intelligent design is not about religion, it's about science. Narrow-minded people oppose intelligent design because they wrongly think it's about religion. Therefore, intelligent design must be defended as religious expression. I can almost believe that someone could almost believe that.
I almost forgot to add this.