What is your reaction to Judge Jones' decision in the Dover intelligent design case?

I'm very disappointed in it, because not only did he say that the school board was motivated by religious feelings, but he said that intelligent design itself is religious. And I simply disagree with that. It seems that he simply adopted all of the arguments of the plaintiffs and just dismissed out of hand the arguments of the witnesses for the defendants [the Dover Area School Board, which instituted the policy of reading a statement informing students of gaps in Darwin's theory of evolution and directing them to an intelligent design textbook titled "Of Pandas and People."] So, it's a drag.

Judge Jones says the motivation behind the school board's policy was primarily religious and so violated what is known as the Lemon test, arising from the 1971 Supreme Court decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman-that the primary motivation for public-policy decisions cannot be the promotion of a religious perspective.

I don't know what the motives of the Dover board were. I didn't listen to their testimony. But the question is, can ID be investigated solely because of interests other than religious ones? I think the answer is clearly yes. It's an explanation that immediately suggests itself when one learns about the complexity of life. And so does not necessarily arise from religious motivations.

Judge Jones argues that while Darwinian theory "cannot yet render an explanation on every point" of the natural world, that "should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classrooms." So he says intelligent design is untestable and therefore not a scientific method. What do you say about that?

I think that's simply untrue. Intelligent design is testable. Some scientists have tried to argue that it is false-[but] you can't say that intelligent design is falsifiable, as some scientists have argued and that it is untestable.

Is it verifiable?

Can you confirm it? Well, intelligent design is an inductive argument. In other words, whenever we have seen a particular kind of phenomenon, it has always been produced by a particular kind of cause. So whenever we see complex functional systems, it's always been our experience that they arise by purposeful design. And the way one refutes an inductive argument is by finding an exception to it. For example, if you say that all swans are white, the only way you can test that proposition or falsify it, is to find a swan that is not white. It doesn't do to keep on finding more swans that are white.

In fact, a number of philosophers of science have argued that scientific theories are tested more by withstanding falsification than they are by confirmation.

You're saying that the argument for intelligent design is falsifiable?

Yes, but it has not been falsified.

Cheerleaders for Darwin?
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  • On what basis do you contend that it is falsifiable?

    If somebody went into a laboratory and showed that random mutation and natural selection produced some new, complex system, then it would be falsified on that basis, because intelligent design, at least as I have formulated it, says that these complex systems that we see in the cell require intelligent activity to produce them. So that would show that they did not require intelligent activity

    What is the implication of Judge Jones' decision for intelligent design? This affects primarily what is done in public schools as opposed to what is done in other forums. So what do you see as its consequence for the pursuit of intelligent design as a scientific theory?