Features

Aped decision

Law | Last year's judicial blow to intelligent design came straight from ACLU attorneys

Issue: "Cellblock campaign," Dec. 23, 2006

For the past year, Judge John E. Jones III has ridden a wave of celebrity. From radio talk shows to speech engagements to the cover of Time, the U.S. District Court jurist has used myriad public outlets to trumpet the reasoning behind his December 2005 ruling that intelligent design does not belong in public-school science classrooms. Darwinists have celebrated such appearances by a man they hail a hero of brilliant scholarship and strict church-state separatism.

But in the wake of new revelations that Jones simply cut and pasted significant portions of his case decision from an American Civil Liberties Union document, the talkative judge has suddenly gone silent. Jones refuses to comment on a report from the ID-supporting Discovery Institute that he copied more than 90 percent of his ruling's most critical 25-page section on whether ID constitutes legitimate science.

The report charts large chunks of text from the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision alongside almost identical words from the ACLU's "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" submitted to Jones before his ruling against Pennsylvania's Dover Area school board. It calculates that 5,458 words of the 6,004-word section are not original work.

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

The report also documents several instances in which Jones parroted factual errors present only within the ACLU's findings, furthering suspicions that the judge failed to critically examine the plaintiff's arguments before adopting them as his own. The presence of such errors initially alerted Discovery Institute fellow Michael Behe that something may be amiss.

Now, further investigation by the institute reveals Jones may have a penchant for passing off others' work as his own: In his commencement speech at Dickinson College last May, Jones employed direct quotations from the book The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America (Princeton Press, 2003) without providing citation or indication that he was quoting.

Such oral plagiarism exceeds the offense of copying an ACLU document, which even the Discovery Institute report admits does not amount to plagiarism or a violation of judicial ethics. Judges frequently employ arguments submitted by plaintiffs or defendants in their final decisions. But high-ranking Discovery Institute staffer John West, a coauthor of the report, contends that the extensive word-for-word use in this case lessens the likelihood that other judges will cite the decision: "Copying the ACLU verbatim or nearly verbatim is something other judges will be concerned about relying on."

Many committed Darwinists had elevated Jones among a historic pantheon of science defenders, believing his biting indictment of ID as disguised religion would crush growing national support to teach the theory in biology classrooms. In honoring Jones as one of the 100 most influential people of last year, Time suggested the judgment carried even more weight because Jones is a Republican and a Lutheran as opposed to a Democrat or an atheist. Such credence could now lessen, given that the meat of his decision came directly from ACLU attorneys.

But according to The Panda's Thumb, a popular Darwinist blog, the Discovery Institute report is "a complete non-story," a sign that ID "defenders have grown increasingly desperate" as their cause flounders. Indeed, efforts to insert ID into public-school curriculums have waned, but the Discovery Institute discouraged that strategy to begin with.

It openly opposed the Dover school board's attempt to add a statement on ID to its ninth-grade biology curriculum, arguing that scientific criticisms of Darwinism that do not mention ID hold greater potential for passing legal review. Still, the institute believes Jones overstepped his jurisdiction in trying to establish a legal precedent that ID amounts to creationism.

Liz O'Donnell, a courtroom deputy for Jones, told WORLD the judge may continue making public appearances but will make no comments on the Discovery Institute report. O'Donnell said Jones has always avoided speaking about the case directly, using his sudden celebrity to argue for judicial independence. But in an interview with Pennsylvania public radio following his Dover decision, Jones said that ID "simply doesn't fit within any accepted definition of science" and that "even if you cast it as science, I didn't particularly think it was good science." Such original analysis might have done wonders for his ruling.

Comments

You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading

     

    Hello, darkness

    Teenagers and the literature of hopelessness and suicide