Court not qualified to judge science

By JAKE MOKRIS
Teen Takeover staff
Finally, the Dover trial, the climax of a series of events that started more than a year ago, is over. But fortunately, that trial is not the final word on the issue of the origin of life.
I have a problem with the entire concept of a trial on intelligent design. Courts are not qualified to judge scientific matters; that is the scientist’s job. But though scientists are supposed to evaluate intelligent design, many have not, because they automatically dismiss intelligent design as false for its inclusion of a supernatural agent. Such a move comes from bad reasoning.


Science does not automatically preclude past or future action in the physical universe by a supernatural agent. To prove this, I will use Hume’s problem of induction. The philosopher David Hume came up with this problem: How do we know that the sun will rise tomorrow? Well, we don’t. We cannot induce that we know all the processes at work in the universe just because certain processes seem to be the only ones at work. Some unknown cause just might stop the sun from rising tomorrow. In the same way, we do not know all the processes that were at work in the past.
Even though the only processes at work in the present seem to be physical, that does not prove that the only processes that have ever existed are physical. For example, we can never prove that an eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God with the power of aseity (self-existence) does not exist and has never acted within the physical universe. We cannot even prove that this God did not create the universe in a single act, without using the Big Bang or evolution.
This does not demolish the workability of science; as I said, we see no supernatural agents defying the laws of physics in the present. Science cannot deal with supernatural agents acting in the present because of the definition of science: science is, at its deepest level, experimentation. We cannot experiment on a supernatural process; neither can we experiment on the past. Only the present and the physical processes currently at work are testable.
Thus, by definition, intelligent design is not science, because the act of design no longer occurs and is not testable. But the theory of evolution is not science either. Scientists have attempted to test natural selection, but the only natural selection that has been observed is that which is grounded in genetics, and not evolution.
As for the supposed “beneficial mutations

About Scott Fisher

I'm opinion page editor and blogging coordinator for the York Daily Record/Sunday News and Yorkblog.com. Phone: 717-771-2049. Email: sfisher@ydr.com. Twitter: twitter.com/YDReditpage.
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24 Responses to Court not qualified to judge science

  1. jerry says:

    “But the theory of evolution is not science either. Scientists have attempted to test natural selection, but the only natural selection that has been observed is that which is grounded in genetics, and not evolution.”
    … Evolution has been tested by many experiments and observations which have all supported the theory. it’s probably the most highly supported theory in all biology.

  2. Kathy says:

    Regarding the above comment…
    Really. What species has been shown to have evolved into another species? What life form has been experimentally proven to have evolved from non-life? There’s a difference between microevolution (evolution within a species) and macroevolution (species into another species).

  3. Jon says:

    Mr. Morkis displays an admirable and well-informed understanding of the question at hand; unfortunately, most of his information seems to come from oft-repeated ID talking points. I myself am no philosopher, so I will not attempt to debate his philosophical reasoning (specious though it may be). But as a college-aged biochemistry major, I can answer a few of his points:
    First, the trial was not a “trial on intelligent design” but rather an exploration of whether inclusion of intelligent design in a science curriculum would violate the stated purpose of a science class: to teach science. This court was extremely capable of judging the scientific merit of the theory. I would suggest that Mr. Morkis read Judge Jones’ reasoning in the decision – few professors could so eloquently and simply state the flaws in ID.
    But let us assume that Mr. Morkis is right – that “Courts are not qualified to judge scientific matters; that is the scientist’s job.

  4. gary says:

    Scientists do not automatically dismiss ID as false, they dismiss it as science. You admit as much in your statement “Thus, by definition, intelligent design is not science, because the act of design no longer occurs and is not testable.” To consider ID as science, the very definition of science must be changed.
    As soon as a supernatural agent is introduced as part of ANY theory, it falls outside the bounds of what is considered science. This does not make it a false theory, it only makes it a theory that cannot be considered within the framework of what we call “science”.
    You certainly have an interesting view of what science actually is and is not. One can perform experimentation all day and not perform science. Science is much, much more than just experimentation.

  5. Repack Rider says:

    Scientists have attempted to test natural selection, but the only natural selection that has been observed is that which is grounded in genetics, and not evolution.
    Beg to differ. Read the Pulitzer Prize winner by Jonathan Weiner, “The Beak of the Finch.” The surprising thing scientists found by observing evolution taking place in nature was how quickly it takes place.
    Since evolution is observed taking place in nature, an explanation is necessary. ID does not explain why we see evolution taking place, is not falsifiable, does not permit any predictions, is not testable, and is useless for any scientific purpose.
    I guess that means it isn’t science. Teach it in church if you wish, but don’t ask to spend my tax dollars teaching a fairy story.

  6. BP says:

    Mr. Morkis has expressed a well stated and ernest opinion on what he considers to be the problems with modern evolutioary theory and the philosopy of science.
    While his position is well stated and his thoughts well expressed I have to conclude that he is wrong and ill informed. If he, or others, wish to discuss ideas about evolution and science with those most informed and competent to reply, I would suggest that you post your ideas at http://www.pandasthumb.org or at a similar website (www.talkorigins.org comes to mind as another good web-based resource).
    As a regular reader at “pandasthumb”, I look forward to the start of Mr. Morkis’s exploration of the facts and hope he thouroughly enjoys the journey.

  7. RandyR says:

    In Mr. Morkis’s commentary, he notes that “the courts are not qualified to judge scientific matters”. This is clearly wrong. The reason these trials run to such great lengths is so that all the evidence can be presented. The defense has all the oportunity to make the science understandable so the judge can make an informed decision. Our courts are decigned to make the judge and jury informed on any issue the defense or prosecution offers. If in this case there was any issue that the judge didn’t understand it was the fault of the presenter not the judge.
    But if in fact you wish to place blame for an uninformed judge(not my opinion)look to the Discovery Institute. These people lured the school board into an Intelligent Design statement, told them it was defenseable in court and then bailed out and pulled their witnesses leaving the school board on the rocks of justice. I believe that there should be one more law suit. That should be Dover School Board versus Discovery Institute for the 1.5 million dollars that this fiasco will cost the community.

  8. shanna says:

    RE: “Courts are not qualified to judge scientific matters”
    This may be true, however it is happening more often, especially in areas where the moral implications affect the science. Terry Schiavo, stem cell research, euthanasia, all questions of life that could not be resolved between scientists and so were taken to court. Should we now add the origin of life to this list? Logically courts are only qualified to judge matters of law. As far as I know, there is no law stating evolution as the only permissible answer to the question “How did life begin?” Well, until now. If it isn’t an actual law, all the better for evolutionists, since we all know that in modern day America, precedent rules. The only issue the court should have been addressing is this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.

  9. Wordweaver says:

    Hmmm…testable by the scientific method or poofed into existence by magical fairies. Which one belongs in a science class again?

  10. MamaT says:

    OK this whole separation of church and state kills me! Evolution is based on the religion of atheism!! Hello have we all forgotten that?? And yet it is taught day in and day out as “Gospel” often the theory part is never really mentioned! It was not mentioned to me at any point in time in 12 years of school by any teacher I had?? So Intelligent design is another “Theory” based on much more fact then fiction as evolution is based. I do not get how so many people swallow this pill of evolution, and forget it is just a “THEORY” and is also based on a RELIGION called atheism , so many seem to forget that part!

  11. Author of the Genesis News says:

    Not just are they unqualified to rule of what’s science and what’s religion, but their entire decision is off-the-wall.
    Here’s my two cents:
    The public schools have succeeded in leading students into immorality ever since evolution officially conquered the textbooks in the latter portion of the 20th century; for since the ‘60s, violent crime offenses have skyrocketed 995%, pregnancies in females ages 10-14 have increased by 553%, divorce rates rose by 111%, unmarried couples cohabitating up by 536%, and sexually transmitted diseases swelled by 226%. Simultaneously, we discover that since the number of words in textbooks devoted to evolution jumped from 2,500 to over a staggering 32,000, Scholastic Aptitude Test scores plummeted from 980 by nearly 100 points between 1963-1975. It can be safely concluded that evolution is the prime cause of this, teaching that man is nothing but an animal that is ultimately subject to no moral standards or eternal authorities, followed by the outlawing of prayer in the public schools, persuading students to not make spiritual contact with their Creator even if silently thanking Him for their lunch. Suddenly, the warning of 2 Peter 3:17 makes sense.
    Fortunately, several men and women–both Christians and nonbelievers–have recognized the consequences that unchallenged evolutionist indoctrination has upon students of the public schools and have set out to combat it with a fair and balanced education. Among those right-thinking group of individuals are the members of the Dover Area School Board, who early this year rose up and proposed that students be told about the possibility of intelligent design and that evolution still to this day remains nothing more than an unproven theory. In this proposal the school board succeeded, reminding the students in a statement at the beginning of the biology curriculum that intelligent design is viable means of explaining the origins of the universe, evolution is an unproven theory, and reading Of Pandas and of People (a pro-intelligent design textbook) would supply the students with further information.
    Yet in a society like the one we live in today, the truth never goes unchallenged and good deeds never go unpunished.
    As we saw in Genesis News issues 64, 65, 66, and 123, this act of alluding to intelligent design in the Dover schools was drawn into controversy with the coming of a lawsuit against the Dover Area School Board. The eleven plaintiffs argue that because the public schools are government-controlled and government-paid, the teaching of (or even simple allusion to) intelligent design in the science curriculum is a form of government respecting an establishment of religion, in clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. They argue that because intelligent design is a “religion

  12. Spike says:

    If it were not for Jon’s comments, then I would have to say that Christians can’t think their way out of a paper sack. Fortunately for you Christians, Jon explained very, very well what the claims of the scientific theory of evolution are, and what they are not.
    In spite of that, MamaT and shanna come back with the same, worn-out inanities we’ve heard over and over again from people who wish to remain in ignorance.
    There is nothing, not one single thing in the observable world that points to any kind of divine intervention. Every single thing I’ve ever seen or experienced has had a natural cause. I have been looking for over 20 years for even the slightest evidence of an Intelligent Designer and have found none.
    And I suppose someone who cannot distinguish between what is meant by a “scientific theory” and what is meant by the everyday use of the word “theory” would have an equally hard time figuring out that atheism is not a religion: Nothing is worshipped, no person is anointed as the spiritual leader, and there are no collection plates. As Orson Scott Card once remarked, “I’ve never heard of a religion without a collection plate.”

  13. GSLamb says:

    “Creationists make it sound as though a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.

  14. Author of the Genesis News says:

    Re:
    There is nothing, not one single thing in the observable world that points to any kind of divine intervention. Every single thing I’ve ever seen or experienced has had a natural cause. I have been looking for over 20 years for even the slightest evidence of an Intelligent Designer and have found none.
    This is the amazing thing about our Creator–He chooses to work within nature to awe us. Remember, in the Book of Exodus, God did not zap the Egyptians and teleport the Israelites from one side of the Red Sea to the other. He used fire to stop the Egyptians and parted the water for the Israelites to cross.
    God performs miracles around us all the time. You will only observe them if your heart is open to accept the Truth.

  15. Janine says:

    Spike said:
    ” . . . atheism is not a religion: Nothing is worshipped, no person is anointed as the spiritual leader, and there are no collection plates.”
    You might assert that atheism is not a religion, but just take a look at the mere definition of religion and compare them with your own words:
    “Religion: 1. beliefs and worship: people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life
    “Religion: 2. system: an institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine
    “Religion: 3. personal beliefs or values: a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by”
    You: “There is nothing, not one single thing in the observable world that points to any kind of divine intervention. Every single thing I’ve ever seen or experienced has had a natural cause. I have been looking for over 20 years for even the slightest evidence of an Intelligent Designer and have found none.”
    Seems to me that you do hold personal beliefs or values, and that would be a religion. Everybody has one. Let’s give equal time to those beliefs as it relates to the origins of man: if Darwinism in the science class, then creationism in the science class.

  16. kendra, a highschool junior says:

    I will make this post brief, because there is virtually no point in arguing (excuse me.. “discussing”) a topic so controversial. It seems important, however, to let the author of this editorial know that there are many other fellow highschoolers that agree with him. There are those on this site who call us “ignorant” and “ill-informed,” but perhaps that observation stems from the whole issue of the Dover School Board and ID: Whether or not to allow students the opportunity to decide for themselves what they will believe. To simply expound on the theory of evolution is an injustice to those students. I believe that the parents who protested to ID had, quite frankly, just declared that they think their children too unintelligent to decide on their own what they will believe. If a school teaches only one theory, while neglecting to even mention that another one exists, that is an explicit form of brainwashing.
    I will end with one thought… there are 4 words on every piece of American currency. Everyone knows what they are. Whether or not you believe these words, this nation was founded on the belief of THE Intelligent Designer. That fact alone gives highschool students the right and obligation to hear the Creation side of the story.

  17. Ron Zeno says:

    If you want to learn science, you have the choice to either become an expert in science (an option open to anyone, reguardless of personal beliefs), or rely on the expertise of established science. Evolution is established science. Intelligent design creationism is clearly not. Judge Jones relied upon the expertise of established science as presented in his court, and as decided in previous court rulings.
    The citizens of Dover are victims of lying, deceptive conmen and inane, gullible lackies. I’m glad that courageous citizens were able to stand up to these shysters.

  18. Author of the Genesis News says:

    Re:
    “If you want to learn science, you have the choice to either become an expert in science (an option open to anyone, reguardless of personal beliefs), or rely on the expertise of established science. Evolution is established science. Intelligent design creationism is clearly not. Judge Jones relied upon the expertise of established science as presented in his court, and as decided in previous court rulings.”
    This is, at best, laughable. Evolution is not science, because it is not (a) obversable, (b) testable, or (c) provable. Science is defined by what we know as fact about the natural world. Evolution is anything but this. It is certainly not accepted by the vast majority of the scientific community, but perhaps (to be quite generous) 60%.
    You coined the phrase “ID creationism.” Yet if you’ve ever heard a peep out of the Author of Darwin’s Black Box, you will be assured ID is a far cry from Biblical creationism. ID is the notion that something other than blind chance, which may or maynot be God, created us. ID is much closer to theistic evolution than anything. ID is certainly not rooted in “religion.”
    ID is a theory. The theory of evolution is also a theory. These two theories are both somewhat valid. Therefore, it WOULD be government endorsement of religion if only one of these was taught–just as evolution is. These “lying, gullible lackies” simply want children to learn different viewpoints and choose which one they will believe. Anything short of that is taxdollar-funded indoctrination.
    …And it is important to note that ID was not, in the plan of the Dover school, actually being taught. THIS ENTIRE CONTROVERSY IS ABOUT A STATEMENT AT THE BEGINNING OF A BIOLOGY CLASS STATING, “ID IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO EVOLUTION. TO FIND OUT MORE, CHECK OUT ‘OF PANDAS AND OF PEOPLE.'” Evolution would still be the dominant viewpoint being taught in classes.

  19. Ron Zeno says:

    “Science is defined by what we know as fact about the natural world.”
    Nope, not even close. … Perhaps you want to change the very definition of science to include astrology, like the intelligent design creationists do. You certainly don’t know what science is.
    Glad that we both agree that they’re lying, gullible lackies. Why is it you’re supporting them? Why is it you’re prepetuating the same lies and fallacies that the judge found lacking? It’s over. “The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.”

  20. Crusher says:

    Shana writes ” This may be true, however it is happening more often, especially in areas where the moral implications affect the science. Terry Schiavo, stem cell research, euthanasia, all questions of life that could not be resolved between scientists and so were taken to court. Should we now add the origin of life to this list? Logically courts are only qualified to judge matters of law. As far as I know, there is no law stating evolution as the only permissible answer to the question “How did life begin?” Well, until now. If it isn’t an actual law, all the better for evolutionists, since we all know that in modern day America, precedent rules. The only issue the court should have been addressing is this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.

  21. Crusher says:

    A. of Genesis writes ”
    There is nothing, not one single thing in the observable world that points to any kind of divine intervention. Every single thing I’ve ever seen or experienced has had a natural cause. I have been looking for over 20 years for even the slightest evidence of an Intelligent Designer and have found none.
    This is the amazing thing about our Creator–He chooses to work within nature to awe us. Remember, in the Book of Exodus, God did not zap the Egyptians and teleport the Israelites from one side of the Red Sea to the other. He used fire to stop the Egyptians and parted the water for the Israelites to cross.
    God performs miracles around us all the time. You will only observe them if your heart is open to accept the Truth.”
    I agree. Evolution is but one process God uses to perform miracles.

  22. Kathy says:

    This whole case/argument is an example of our science (what we observe), our philosophy, and our politics converging. While the Dover school board was mistaken to claim that their policy was not influenced by their religion, so is the judge mistaken that we can and should separate these disciplines. Our philosophy will affect how we view science and how we believe that political issues should be decided. Jake is right. No one has been present to view the first creation of a new life form or the first creation of life itself. The judge should not be deciding these issues.

  23. Crusher says:

    “This whole case/argument is an example of our science (what we observe), our philosophy, and our politics converging. While the Dover school board was mistaken to claim that their policy was not influenced by their religion, so is the judge mistaken that we can and should separate these disciplines.”
    THis unfortunately is wrong. While the sentiments expressed above are well intended, there is a serious flaw.
    Science is a method, a method of understanding how nature works by interrogating nature for its secrets. Yours, mine and anyone else’s opinion is irrelevant to how nature operates. Nature does what it does regardless of anyone’s philosophy. Science teases out the workings of nature through observation, experimentation and constructing testable hypotheses (scientific theories) which pave the way for new avenues of research and understanding. Science has nothing to do with politics (unless science determines things that politicians don’t like, then they try to politicize science) or any philosophy in particular. Using Newton’s laws or Quantum Mechanics, a Hindu, Jewish, Afghani etc. astronomer or physicist will arrive at the same answers for problems I would. Science transcends politics, political boundaries etc. It is not democratic either. Either scientific theories work or they don’t; nature is the sole arbiter, not popular vote or a personal philosophy or religion.
    I’m appalled at how little understanding of science many people have. This isn’t a dig at Kathy; its a symptom of something widespread in this country, “scientific illiteracy”.
    “Our philosophy will affect how we view science and how we believe that political issues should be decided.”
    That it may. However, whether or not a scientific theory is successful does not depend upon politics or a personal philosophy.
    “Jake is right. No one has been present to view the first creation of a new life form or the first creation of life itself.”
    THats irrelevant and wrong. Essentially Jake is trying to claim that without eye-witnesses one cannot draw firm conclusions as to events that happened in the past.
    Of course, this is silly. If it were true, we might as well fire all detectives and close down CSI labs, after all, if the new standard of “proof” is that you must have eyewitness testimony, then there is no point to these things correct?
    Would you free all prisoners convicted solely on the basis of forensic evidence? If Jake really believes in what he said, then to remain logically consistent he must believe that.
    The Theory of Evolution, Cosmology, Geology are forensic sciences; they reconstruct what happened in the past by using numerous clues found in the present.
    Second, the point is irrelevant, because the Theory of Evolution is not a theory about the origin of life, but about how life has changed after it came into existence.
    “The judge should not be deciding these issues”
    He should. We can’t make science “relgiously correct” and then teach it as if it wasn’t promoting religion.

  24. Crusher says:

    Kathy wrote:
    “Really. What species has been shown to have evolved into another species?”
    Here are a few examples:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/158550.stm
    http://www.santarosa.edu/lifesciences2/ensatina2.htm
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.htmlfile=/chronicle/archive/2001/03/26/MN172778.DTL
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html
    “What life form has been experimentally proven to have evolved from non-life?”
    http://www.siu.edu/~protocell/
    “There’s a difference between microevolution (evolution within a species) and macroevolution (species into another species).”
    No there isn’t. Speciation is what happens when enough micro-evolution occurs that members oif a population no longer recognize each others as mates.
    School boards can BS all they want, but they can’t legislate out the facts, even if their consituents are similarly uninformed.

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