Dover revisited

I still see the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case bandied about, usually to make the point that ID (Intelligent Design) is Creationism in disguise. It is a stupid argument for a number of reasons, the main reason being that a court of law has no authority in realms of science, philosophy, or truth, for that matter. What courts rule on are the applicability of laws to a specific set of facts; even then the rulings are often limited in scope (in fact, this particular ruling is only authoritative in the Middle District of Pennsylvania).

Kitzmiller v. Dover (usually referred to as Kitzmiller or Dover), is of course the now infamous court case dealing with a school board’s attempt to mandate the teaching of ID in the school’s science program. The case is often misunderstood and often inaccurately presented. The case was a “bench” trial, meaning there was no jury; the full text of the Judge’s decision can be found here. While the decision is poorly reasoned, it can be an interesting read, as it give a little insight into the case and the evidence that the Judge considered. Judge Jones, by the way, prior to being appointed by President Bush to the Federal Bench in 2002, was chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, and who, among other things, reportedly banned a micro-brew beer because he was offended by the label. Before that, he made a failed attempt to get into politics, and worked as co-chair of Tom Ridge’s transition team. It could be argued that his qualifications were more in the political realm than in his legal abilities or experience. He still is a fairly inexperienced judge, as judges go, having served only 3 years before hearing the Dover case.

None of this, however, has any bearing on whether his decision in the Dover case was either accurate or well-reasoned. For that, we need to look at the case and the decision itself. In May 2007, the Montana Law Review published an article which discusses some of the background of the case, the failings of the School Board, the failings of the Judge, and what the decision does or does not mean. Note, however, that the authors are connected with the much-hated Discovery Institute, which – as with Judge Jones’ background – should have no bearing on the merits of their paper; however, I wanted to make this point up front rather than have the article dismissed purely on that basis.

The article is an interesting look at the case, for those who really want to understand why this particular case went the way it did. There is a minor plug for ID at the very end, but overall the article sticks to the factual and legal issues what should be a forgettable case. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dover continues to be as referenced and as misunderstood as the Scopes trial.

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One Response to Dover revisited

  1. Thanks for this link, I will read it soon, but given Luskin’s and West’s inability to accurately asses the Minnesota Science Standards (in a voice mail exchange with me, I regret that I wasn’t home when West returned my call) I am not sure how much we will be able to trust this particular article.

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