Response to Barbara Forrest's <i>Kitzmiller</i> Account Part III: Do Religious (or Anti-Religious) Beliefs Matter? - Evolution News & Views

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Response to Barbara Forrest's Kitzmiller Account Part III: Do Religious (or Anti-Religious) Beliefs Matter?

When assessing whether a person is promoting a scientific theory, the simple answer to the question posed in the title is "no." Yet in her Kitzmiller testimony, as recounted in the Kitzmiller account Barbara Forrest recently posted at CSICOP, she seems to think the answer is "yes." Dr. Forrest recounts some of the religious beliefs of intelligent design-proponents, as if this implies that intelligent design (ID) is therefore not science. This response will assess her argument that the religious belief of ID-proponents are relevant to whether ID is science. Dr. Forrest writes:

But I had much more, such as CSC fellow Mark Hartwig's 1995 Moody Magazine article in which he referred to a 1992 ID conference at Southern Methodist University as a meeting of "creationists and evolutionists," calling Dembski and Stephen Meyer "evangelical scholars." [29] During these early years, when they needed money and supporters, ID proponents openly advertised both their religiosity and their creationism.

Hmmm. So now being a "creationist" or an "evangelical scholar" disqualifies you from promoting your views as a legitimate scientific theory, even if your scientific views have empirical justification outside of your religious beliefs? And having a "creationist" religious belief (i.e. believing that God created) doesn't mean that you can't support other viewpoints which are indeed completely scientific--Don't "creationists" fully support scientific concepts like gravity, Newton's laws of physical mechanics, of the germ theory of disease?

If some "creationists" support intelligent design, so what? Indeed, not all ID-proponents are creationists, and ID is distinct from creationism in many ways. To respond to Dr. Forrest, it's best to quote from an amicus brief submitted by 85 scientists during the Kitzmiller case in support of [intellectual freedom for discussing] intelligent design:

As this litigation demonstrates, opponents of intelligent design frequently resort to ad hominem attacks, asserting that because some scientists hold religious views, their scientific work should be dismissed as merely "religious."15 Creationism's Trojan Horse, co-authored by Dr. Barbara Forrest (one of plaintiffs' experts), epitomizes the argument that because many intelligent design theorists are devoutly religious, therefore intelligent design proponents intend to pass off religion as science and are not offering design as a scientific theory.16

[...]

This "Trojan Horse" method of critique encourages discrimination against intelligent design proponents by fostering a stereotype among academics that supporters of design are incompetent scientists who use deceitful methods to peddle religion as though it were science.17 Such a prejudicial tactic would never be permitted if the alleged agenda of the accused group were, say, feminism or gay rights. Indeed, no other group of academics face attacks on their professional careers based primarily on their alleged personal beliefs.18 Arguments employing such ad hominem attacks on the supposed religious beliefs of design theorists should be decisively rejected by this Court.

(Brief of Amici Curiae Biologists And Other Scientists In support of Defendants)

It's easy to spin false arguments theories based upon the religious beliefs of people. Let's turn this argument around: Dr. Forrest herself serves on the Board of Directors of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association (NOSHA), which describes itself as "an affiliate of American Atheists, and [a] member of the Atheist Alliance International." Is she clearly an activist for a particular metaphysical belief system? Absolutely. Do her religious (or anti-religious) beliefs disqualify her views on evolution from being scientific, or scientifically valid? Absolutely not. To again quote from the Brief of Amici Curiae Biologists And Other Scientists In support of Defendants:

These anti-religious motivations are cited here not because they disqualify anyone from making a scientific argument, but to demonstrate that the personal beliefs of theists should similarly be ignored in determining whether their scientific claims will be given a fair hearing. Our contention is that religious or philosophical motivations, however strongly held or expressed, should have no legal significance in determining the scientific standing of a theory.

If only Judge Jones and Barbara Forrest had heeded those words. Unfortunately Dr. Forrest's testimony in Kitzmiller, largely adopted by Judge Jones, threatens the teaching of other scientific theories (even including evolution) because apparently now, the personal religious (or anti-religious) beliefs of scientists supporting a theory do matter when undertaking constitutional inquiries. This is an alarming development in the law.

[Editors note: bracketed words "intellectual freedom for discussing" added a day after posting for clarity.]


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