A worldview is a set of claims that purport to be based on ultimate reality.

Dover Board Lied! Intelligent Design Died!

Posted by ssbg on January 2, 2006

From Christianity Today;
Compiled by Ted Olsen |

Anti-ID decision probably won’t be appealed, but board members still might end up in court
There are countless discussion questions prompted by yesterday’s court decision barring a Pennsylvania school district from requiring its schools to mention Intelligent Design and describe Darwin’s theory of evolution as “a theory … not a fact.”

We could discuss whether it’s best to have a solitary judge rule on whether science requires methodological naturalism. We could discuss the propriety of a judge issuing a ruling that religion, and specifically with Christianity, are compatible with evolution. We could discuss William Saletan‘s interesting argument that Judge John Jones falls prey to the same “contrived dualism” that he condemns. We could talk about Jones’s statement “no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area” when Jones himself admits that the supposed supporters of Intelligent Design in this case “had utterly no grasp of ID” (one board member “consistently referred to ID as ‘intelligence design’ throughout her testimony.”) And surely we could talk about the future of Intelligent Design as an academic pursuit in the wake of this ruling.

But first, before we talk about any of those things, let’s talk about one of the major issues in Jones’s ruling: honesty among the board members supporting Intelligent Design.

“Witnesses either testified inconsistently, or lied outright under oath on several occasions,” Jones wrote. “The inescapable truth is that both [Alan] Bonsell and [William] Buckingham lied at their January 3, 2005 depositions. … Bonsell repeatedly failed to testify in a truthful manner. … Defendants have unceasingly attempted in vain to distance themselves from their own actions and statements, which culminated in repetitious, untruthful testimony.”

Jones was particularly grieved that board members denied using the term “creationism” before switching the term to “Intelligent Design,” and that some board members claimed not to know how copies of the book Of Pandas and People were donated to the school when Buckingham personally raised funds for the books at his church. If you’re interested in the details, the York Daily Record has enough to choke a panda.

In Jones’s conclusion (the entire 139-page decision is Scalia-like both in its readability and causticity, if not in its legal perspective), Jones twists the knife: “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

“Yes, ironic—at the very least. But also sinful according to the 9th Commandment. And perhaps also criminal,” said an editorial in the York Daily Record. “We can only hope that the appropriate authorities are investigating possible perjury charges in this case. … The unintelligent designers of this fiasco should not walk away unscathed. They’ve damaged and divided this community, and there should be repercussions—a perjury investigation—beyond a lost election.”

Bearing false witness?
Are these calls for perjury charges short-lived responses from a community angry at being “made a national laughingstock,” as the editorial puts it? Or are Bonsell, Buckingham, and perhaps others at real risk of criminal charges?

It may be that the board members are safe, for the same reason that this case won’t go higher in the court system: Eight of the nine school board members behind the ID policy were voted out in a recent election and replaced with members staunchly opposed to the policy.

“Those school board members have given conflicting statements as to whether they would allow the case to continue to the appeals courts in hopes of making it a national test case to ban intelligent design from the classroom,” Time notes. But it’s highly unlikely: The locals are really tired of being in national spotlight and have no desire to make their town an even larger issue. And because the town wishes this story would just go away, they may not want a criminal trial, either. But who knows?

In a separate news article, the Daily Record looks at the perjury question: Professor Richard Fallon of Harvard Law School said a judge wouldn’t have the authority to level perjury charges in a case that he or she had tried. That authority would go to a prosecutor. Steve Harvey, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Jones would be able to forward any such concerns to federal prosecutors.”

The paper does not quote Bonsell on the subject, but paraphrases him saying “he disagreed with the judge that the board provided a disservice to the public and that members lied to cover their tracks.”

Buckingham was more direct in an interview with The New York Times. “If the judge called me a liar, then he’s a liar,” the former board member said.

Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that other supporters of Intelligent Design, like the Discovery Institute, are being sullied by the board members’ actions. (The Discovery Institute actually opposed the Dover policy and every other policy requiring the teaching of Intelligent Design.) In fact, closing arguments in the case claimed that the board members’ dishonesty was an outgrowth of the deception of the Intelligent Design movement in its “shell game” attempt to say it’s not religious.

In an interview with the York Daily Record, Dover science teacher Rob Eshbach again equated the deception of the board members with the ID movement. “We are certainly glad that Judge Jones saw it for what it was,” Eshbach said. He saw the lies that took place. The deception that took place. That’s what we were hoping for.”

Such equations are spurious, but expected. It is not terribly difficult to use the sins of a few to tar the intentions of the many. Nor is it difficult to criticize Darwinists for taking advantage of the opportunity.

What is more difficult is to recognize that so many of us are tempted to “forget” inconvenient facts, to retell events in a more positive light, to take shortcuts for the benefit of what we think is the greater good. When it comes down to it, though, which do you think God cares more about? That those who act in his name got a school district to call Darwinian evolution a theory, or that the entire world now considers them perjurers?


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