Was Dover Inevitable?

After following the Dover Panda trial and reading the judge’s decision, I was engaging in some Monday-morning quarterbacking, and pondering whether it might have turned out differently.

In his decision, judge Jones wrote:

this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID

The law firm in question was the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC). They and other pro-superstition groups wanted a legal ruling saying it’s okay to teach ID in science class, to embolden schools that might be toying with the idea.

But for that, they needed a suit, and someone brave or stupid enough to venture into uncharted legal waters.

That meant they needed someone willing to push for ID to be taught in science class, in a public Middle or High School. This administrator would have to be pig-ignorant1 enough to buy into IDC, enough of a ratbag1 to either push it through despite resistance or introduce it sub rosa, and stupid enough to believe that the TMLC could win the inevitable lawsuit.

In Dover, it turned out to be Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, but in another town, it would have been someone similar. No one else would’ve done it.

Once the decision was made to go to court, it was inevitable that the ACLU and National Center for Science Education (NCSE) would get involved, and that they’d try to turn it into Scopes 2. The main points would be 1) ID is religion, therefore 2) it’s not science and 3) it violates the separation of church and state.

Although IDists don’t give a rat’s ass whether ID is science or not, one of their main talking points is that it is, so it was to be expected that they would have rounded up their best expert witnesses, people with Ph.Ds who remember to take their and wouldn’t come across as total loonies.

So just reasoning from first principles, the first ID trial would have involved a lying scumbag school administrator or three, the ID big guns, versus the NCSE, probably the ACLU, and several actual scientists.

Given this, it was a foregone conclusion that the trial would have shown that ID isn’t science: ID folds faster than tissue paper at an origami convention in any venue where IDists don’t control the conversation and have to answer probing questions. Likewise, the Establishment Clause is the ACLU’s bread and butter, just as creationism is the NCSE’s, so I would be very surprised if, singly or jointly, they couldn’t convincingly demonstrate that ID is just creationism wearing a “Hi! My Name Is: Not-Creationism” nametag.

So that, in a nutshell, is IMHO how the trial would have started in any case.

To be sure, any number of things could have gone differently. It could have been a jury trial, the judge could have dismissed the suit on a technicality, or ruled that the science part is immaterial. Anything could’ve happened, but the smart money says establishment of religion, ID not science, morally-challenged jackass scumball school administrator, and pathetic hand-waving by ID expert witnesses.

Which in turn prompts the question of WTF TMLC were thinking when they cast about for an IDiot to defend. Did they really think they could win, with both the facts and the law against them? Or did they really think that the sheer force of their adulation of a millennia-old collection of myths and stories, and of their revulsion at the thought of being related to Binti Jua would be sufficient to bend reality to their desire and change the facts?

This is your brain. This is your brain on religion.

1: My sincerest apologies to pigs and rats for comparing them to creationists.

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