John G. West Political Scientist and Cultural Critic

Judge Jones and the Shattering of Darwinist Illusions

Published at Evolution News

As might be expected, Darwinists are in a tizzy about the discovery that Judge John Jones copied virtually verbatim 90.9% of his analysis of whether intelligent design is science from ACLU laywers. Of course, most are rallying valiantly around Judge Jones, that “outstanding thinker” who produced a “masterpiece of wit, scholarship and clear thinking” and who “is as deserving of the title ‘great thinker’ as someone who writes a great mathematical proof or a great work of music criticism.”

But not everyone has joined the party. Pro-Darwin biochemist Larry Moran has noted his disillusionment with the over-the-top praise fellow Darwinists lavished on Judge Jones:

When the Jones decision was first published I read every word. I was very impressed. Here was a man who seemed to have learned a lot of sophisticated science in a very short period of time. His grasp of complexities like the evolution of bacteria flagella and blood clotting was impressive. His understanding of the meaning of science rivaled that of many advisors on the ACLU side. Frankly, I was jealous, and humbled.

Everyone was praising the Jones decision. For example, Timothy Sandefur on Panda’s Thumb wrote,

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District is a major victory for science and a major blow to those who have tried to sneak religion into the classroom by disguising in scientific garb. But it’s more than that. It is a brilliant, insightful, profound decision that reaches to the bottom of ID and finds it empty.

Judge John Jones, a George W. Bush appointee, deserves the praise and thanks of every defender of rigorous, meaningful scientific education. He has taken the time to really understand not just the legal issues, but the scientific ones as well. This decision proves he is a credit to the federal judiciary.

These comments, and others, seemed to confirm that Jones had written this decision all by himself and deserved full credit for his brilliant analysis.

As it turns out, this isn’t true and I feel deceived.

After being criticized for his comments, Moran further observed:

I was led to believe that the brilliant, insightful, decision was written by Judge Jones. That impressed me since it covered some very complex issues.

Now I know that the section in question was actually written by someone else. Presumably, someone who was much more knowledgeable about these issues. That’s all, that’s my only “quibble.” I was deceived into thinking that Jones was much smarter than he actually is.

If this had been a student essay, it would have received a failing grade for plagiarism. The standards in the legal profession are different. It’s acceptable for Judge Jones to take credit for something that other people wrote.

There are some people who knew all along that Jones had copied the ACLU Findings. I’m a little diappointed that they didn’t let on. Instead, they left it to the Discovery Institute to reveal the truth.

Predictably, for making such comments Moran has been savaged by fellow Darwinists, who are falling over themselves trying to defend Judge Jones. A sampling of their “defenses” is instructive.

Responding to Moran’s observation that in legal circles “It’s acceptable for Judge Jones to take credit for something that other people wrote,” someone calling himself “Coin” declared:

It’s not “acceptable”, it’s better. We don’t want judges writing all the elaborate technical stuff. Some judges might be able to understand the issues at hand, and from following the case it’s clear Judge Jones was one. However it’s better when possible to have the actual final materials written by someone with, or even a group of people with, deep background knowledge. The findings of fact in a law case are legally “truth” and no matter how well they understood the issues at hand in the case, any judge ruling on scientific matters would be bound to make minor errors, errors which both would not be acceptable (you can’t go back and just correct a judicial decision later with a red pen) and which in a worst case scenario might even result in a needless appeal. This is not what we want. This is not a judge’s job.

That’s right, it’s not the judge’s job to write his or her own opinion, or to do his or her own analysis. It’s better to have the experts do it. Why not just dispense with the job of judge altogether?

The standard justification being offered by most Darwinists at this point can be paraphrased as the “everybody does it” defense. Judges don’t write their own opinions, they insist, and we shouldn’t expect them to do so in any case.

But this claim is highly misleading. As we stated in our study, Judges can and do use proposed findings of fact, and such use does not constitute “plagiarism” according to contemporary legal standards. But the wholesale, uncritical, and unattributed copying practiced by Judge Jones is the sort of behavior that has been condemned by appellate courts. When trial judges make use of proposed findings of fact, they are still supposed to demonstrate that they have exercised independent judgment and an independent examination of the record. Our study explains why this does not seem to have been the case in Kitzmiller.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.
Discovery Institute