Kitzmiller v. Dover: Who is the Intelligent Designer?

This is the second in a series of short articles discussing the excellently written and superbly reasoned opinion, issued on 20 December 2005, by Judge John E. Jones III in the case of Kitzmiller et al. v Dover Area School District et al. (that link is to an unofficial text version of the opinion).

The first article in this series is: Kitzmiller v. Dover: Is ID Science? Few will read this entire series in one sitting, so we’ll repeat the following introductory paragraphs:

No excerpts can substitute for the overpowering impression to be gained by reading the entire opinion, which we highly recommend. The court’s website with the 139 page opinion (pdf file) is here: TAMMY KITZMILLER, et al., Plaintiffs, v. DOVER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants. There is also a Wikipedia article about the case, with a great deal of worthwhile background information.

This post will deal with the limited issue of the Intelligent Designer’s identity. We will be quoting extensively from the court’s opinion. To make this more readable, we won’t use the blockquote feature, which puts quoted material in italics (except where the court itself quotes something).

In order not to interrupt the narrative, where the judge’s opinion makes references to the trial transcript of witnesses’ testimony, we will replace such clutter with [transcript reference] or something similar. Text appearing in red was colored by us for emphasis. Sometimes we will define a term by placing the definition in brackets. With those obvious exceptions, everything following this paragraph is quoted from the court’s opinion:

Who is the Intelligent Designer?

We initially note that John Haught, a theologian who testified as an expert witness for Plaintiffs [challenging Intelligent Design] and who has written extensively on the subject of evolution and religion, succinctly explained to the Court that the argument for ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer. [transcript reference]. Dr. Haught testified that Aquinas was explicit that this intelligent designer “everyone understands to be God.” Id. The syllogism described by Dr. Haught is essentially the same argument for ID as presented by defense expert witnesses Professors Behe and Minnich who employ the phrase “purposeful arrangement of parts.”

Dr. Haught testified that this argument for the existence of God was advanced early in the 19th century by Reverend Paley and defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich admitted that their argument for ID based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts” is the same one that Paley made for design. [transcript references]. The only apparent difference between the argument made by Paley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID’s “official position” does not acknowledge that the designer is God. However, as Dr. Haught testified, anyone familiar with Western religious thought would immediately make the association that the tactically unnamed designer is God, as the description of the designer in Of Pandas and People (hereinafter “Pandas”) is a “master intellect,” strongly suggesting a supernatural deity as opposed to any intelligent actor known to exist in the natural world. (P-11 at 85). Moreover, it is notable that both Professors Behe and Minnich admitted their personal view is that the designer is God and Professor Minnich testified that he understands many leading advocates of ID to believe the designer to be God. [transcript reference].

Although proponents of the IDM [the Intelligent Design movement] occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of the IDM, including Defendants’ expert witnesses [defending Intelligent Design]. (20:102-03 (Behe)). In fact, an explicit concession that the intelligent designer works outside the laws of nature and science and a direct reference to religion is Pandas’ rhetorical statement, “what kind of intelligent agent was it [the designer]” and answer: “On its own science cannot answer this question. It must leave it to religion and philosophy.” [transcript reference].

[snip]

Moreover, in turning to Defendants’ lead expert, Professor Behe, his testimony at trial indicated that ID is only a scientific, as opposed to a religious, project for him; however, considerable evidence was introduced to refute this claim. Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. [transcript reference] [italics in original opinion]. As no evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition’s validity rests on belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe’s assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition.

Dramatic evidence of ID’s religious nature and aspirations is found in what is referred to as the “Wedge Document.” …

[The next article in this series is: Kitzmiller v. Dover: What's the Wedge Document?]

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2 responses to “Kitzmiller v. Dover: Who is the Intelligent Designer?

  1. Pingback: Kitzmiller v. Dover: Is ID Science? « The Sensuous Curmudgeon

  2. Pingback: Kitzmiller v. Dover: What’s the Wedge Document? « The Sensuous Curmudgeon