ID’ers get their shot in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

This week the defense in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District get to present their case for Intelligent Design. They have a large hole to fill to try and get themselves out of after the plaintiffs side of the case ended last week.

First up was Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biochemistry professor and author of “Darwin’s Black Box,” who is considered an expert on Intelligent Design (ID). He has written that “intelligent design theory focuses exclusively on proposed mechanisms of how complex biological structures arose,” but when asked to name the driving force behind the concept, Behe could not.

Contrast that with Evolution. Darwin named “natural selection” as its driving force.

Behe’s testimony also focused on his concept of “irreducible complexity,” the idea that in order for many organisms to evolve at the cellular level, multiple systems would have had to arise simultaneously. In many cases, he said, this is a mathematical impossibility.

“Irreducible complexity” is just a rehash of the “watchmaker” argument advanced by William Paley in the 19th century and on the Talk Origins website, there are several links that show Behe’s concept to be just as flawed. For example Dr. Kenneth Miller gives a detailed explanation how blood clotting in vertebrates disproves Behe’s argument for “irreducible complexity.”

Behe also was asked if he was aware even his own employer, Lehigh University, didn’t support his views or ID and Behe said he was. The university has this disclaimer posted on the Department of Biology website:

“While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.”

Even though Behe has gone out of his way to claim that ID doesn’t require the designer to be God, he believes that the intelligent designer is God.

In his article, “A Response to Critics of Darwin’s Black Box,” Behe wrote that intelligent design is “less plausible to those for whom God’s existence is in question and is much less plausible for those who deny God’s existence.”

After referring to the article, Rothschild asked, “That’s a God-friendly theory, Mr. Behe. Isn’t it?”

Behe argued he was speaking from a philosophical view, much as Oxford University scientist Richard Dawkins was when he said Darwin’s theory made it possible to be “an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

“Arguing from the scientific data only takes you so far,” Behe said.

Behe backs off ‘mechanisms’


Chris Mooney writes in Darwin’s Foes Can’t Evolve in The New Republic about the Dover case and how the media, domestic and international, are claiming it is the Scopes Monkey Trial Part 2 (referring to the first trial in 1925 over evolution and schools). Mooney says that the Dover trial is more like the 1981 McLean v. Arkansas case. That case was lawsuit against an Arkansas law that required the teaching of creationism along side evolution.

There are some strong parallels that may foreshadow who might win the Dover case:

Likewise, the defenders of ID in Kitzmiller have echoed the arguments of the defenders of creation science in McLean. In his opening arguments last week, attorney Patrick Gillen asserted that ID was in fact scientific in nature, which is the same tack Arkansas lawyers in McLean took with respect to creation science. Most centrally, the defense in both cases claimed that their clients had a legitimate secular purpose: introducing students to alternative points of view.

In allowing the case to go to trial, [Judge Jones] has given the ACLU and its allies the opportunity to call forward not only expert witnesses but citizens from Dover, who attest that their school board had clear religious goals in passing its intelligent design policy. Indeed, one witness stated that some board members were originally interested in teaching outright creationism, and several corroborated newspaper reports that board member William Buckingham declared at a public meeting, during a discussion about teaching evolution, “2000 years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone stand up for him?”

The ACLU has also been able to highlight the irregularity of the process behind the passage of Dover’s ID policy. Carol “Casey” Brown, a former board member who resigned from her post in protest when the policy was adopted, testified that scientists and educators were not consulted and that it was “unheard of” to change the science curriculum without involving all educational stakeholders.

Darwin’s Foes Can’t Evolve

Mooney also points out that the defendants are making the same strategic errors that the defendants in the McLean case did. In that case they failed to call as witnesses the main promoters of Creationism – Henry Morris and Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and in the Dover case the main promoter Seattle’s Discovery Institute had planned to offer some experts to testify but now they won’t. In fact the Discovery Institute doesn’t support the Dover Area School District’s disclaimer or the case.


The Institute doesn’t see the Dover case ending with good news for them and a negative ruling would hinder their efforts to wedge ID into the schools. ID supporters don’t want a definitive court ruling as happened when the US Supreme Court ruled against teaching Creationism in 1987. That ruling led to the change to promoting ID.

As always:

Dover Biology section

Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District


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