My Facebook friends pushing for creationism – or under its current name of intelligent design (ID) – continue to fuss and fume. They would prefer to forget they already had their chance to prove their point without shouting. Experts in support of creationism came to a Federal Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania in November 2004 to argue their case.
They were routed.
No wonder creationists pretend it didn’t happen.
The case was heard by Federal Judge John E. Jones III, a Republican appointed two years earlier by President George W. Bush. It grew out of a decision by the Board of Education in the Dover Area School District to require that ID be taught on par with evolution. Eleven parents then sued, resulting in the trial.
It didn’t go well for creationists. Their lead witness, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, a long-time leader of the movement, conceded that "there are no peer-reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.”
In fact, there has never been any articles that supports creationism ever submitted to any scientific publication. That’s because there is no evidence.
Actually, Behe went even further and admitted that, under his definition, to get creationism accepted by science, even a field so discredited as astrology would have to be included. Not even creationists can argue on behalf of astrology, which has been carefully studied and found to have zero scientific basis.
The one paper he did co-author (but not submit) didn’t help his cause. Under oath, Behe admitted that the same biochemical outcomes he ascribed to creationism would also evolve in 20,000 years “even if the parameters of the simulation were rigged to make that outcome as unlikely as possible.”
Naturally, the 20,000 years caused creationists heartburn since many are wedded to the impossibly short time period of 8,000 to 9,000 years for the existence of the Earth.
None of the testimony for the defense got any better. As Judge Jones noted defendants' protestations to the contrary, witnesses unanimously described ID as a religious argument. "In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents revealed that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity,” the judge wrote, concluding that “the overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”
Judge Jones cited basic flaws in theory:
“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 1980s; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. … It is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.”
He ended by labeling the Board’s decision to require the teaching of creationism as “breathtaking inanity … when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial.”
The local population agreed. In the school board election that took place Nov. 8, less than a week after the trial and before the judge issued his ruling, the eight candidates who opposed intelligent design swept every pro-intelligent-design candidate from the board.
If we have learned anything from this, it’s that scholarship and research mean nothing in the face of belief. Creationists happily smother centuries of research and reason by making broad, unsupported claims.
Nor does any of these arguments matter, because belief is merely a guess. Whether someone guessed right or wrong won’t change a thing. Whatever is the truth will happen to all of us. I personally believe there’s no God, no afterlife, no meaning to be life.
I could be wrong. I’ll find out.
In the interim, I will continue to oppose anyone’s attempt to impose on the rest of us a belief unsupported by a shred of scientific fact.
Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture. He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion. A recent book, Passover in Prison, which details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. He can also be followed on Twitter.