Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in a public school classroom.
That's the climactic salvo in a 139-page decision that is a major win for the defenders of evolution.
Full coverage at Dispatches from the Culture Wars (a hat tip to The Mighty Middle for pointing this site out). Go there for analysis, links, and long quotes from the decision that will give you the essence of it. Ed says, "The judge ruled unequivocally that ID is a religious idea dressed up in scientific sounding language."
And that's the essence of it. Dover school board members (now ex-, as most of them were thrown out in the November elections) had declared in public that their fight for ID was in the name of Jesus Christ and the truth of God's Biblical creation. The Discovery Institute, the Seattle ID think tank which filed an amicus brief and supplied learned witnesses for the defense, also makes an open secret of its Christian religious, philosophical and cultural agenda. Defense witnesses lied feebly in court about the fact that ID as presently constituted is the spearhead of a religious movement, but that fact has never been well concealed.
Judge Jones slammed the Dover school board for the "breathtaking inanity" of its policy, but he also granted that "ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed," and that the theory of evolution is not incompatible with the existence of a supreme being.
Because Jones didn't stop at simply finding that "the Dover board violated the Establishment Clause because it acted from religious motives," but issued a much broader ruling, repudiating ID's claim to be science, the Discovery Institute has already branded him an "activist judge who has delusions of grandeur" and who is attempting "to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate." Having been a major resource and ally of the school board's legal team in the case, the DI now expresses anger that Judge Jones "conflated Discovery Institute’s position with that of the Dover school board."
DI lawyer Casey Luskin is right that "the ultimate validity of intelligent design will be determined not by the courts but by the scientific evidence pointing to design.” I believe that to be scientific, however, that evidence would need to go beyond chipping away at the holes in evolutionary theory and offering statistical analyses of "irreducible complexity." I agree with ID proponents on this point: I am unable to believe that a purely random process could have generated the exquisitely fine-tuned complexity of life that we see, and I don't think Darwinians have proven conclusively that it did. But I think ID scientists, to be worthy of the name, would have to show intelligence at work -- for instance, demonstrating non-random mutation in response to environmental change and evolutionary pressure. If the mechanism of intelligent intervention can never be "caught in the act" even on a small scale (as at least microevolution can), then it will always remain an article of faith rather than a scientific theory.
(It's a really hard time to be on dial-up with my blogging capacity, as TypePad so delicately puts it, "degraded." I'm eaten up with envy at what the truly plugged in, like Michael, are able to do today. Read his manifesto on the power of blogging as democratic coffeehouse kibitzing, "I Am An Amateur.")