Welcome to Speaking Freely, the new blog of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. Our initial posts will be focusing on our challenge to the Dover School District’s policy requiring that students be taught “intellient design” as an alternative to evolution. The trial begins today in Harrisburg. We plan to bring you daily updates on the trial, along with special posts featuring the thoughts of clergy, educators, and others on the teaching of evolution.

13 thoughts on “Welcome!

  1. As ACLU founder Roger Baldwin said, “No battle for civil liberties ever stays won.” “Intelligent design” is a religious doctrine masquerading as science. Those who believe in it, believe it on faith, not on the basis of experimentation and evidence. For that reason, it is unconstitutional to teach it in the public schools. Sadly, the proponents of “intelligent design” are not candid about their agenda, making this trial necessary so as to bring out the truth. Best of luck at trial to the ACLU legal team and its courageous clients! — Peter G

  2. “Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs would call six experts in history, theology, philosophy of science and science to show that no matter the perspective, “intelligent design is not science because it does not meet the ground rules of science, is not based on natural explanations, is not testable.”

    I would caution Mr. Walczak on such as the above statement. Put that way it comes across an an a-priori, i.e., a statement that must be assumed as a given.

    It must be clearly understood that science method is not based on such a-priori assumptions.

    Rather it is a method derived out of humankinds constant tinkering, in order to better ensure our survival, with the things found in the environment around us. Hence, if science “is … based on natural explanations,” that is so not because someone declaimed that science must be based on natural explanations but rather because the “evolution” of the scientific method itself is based on conclusions forced upon us by the material nature of the things around us, i.e., over the long term those theories that we have developed and successfully tested, are themselves based on material data, phenomena.

    Hence the conclusion that science is based on natural, material phenomena. To put the issue as Mr. Walczak has put it smacks of the a-priori.

    The only reason conclusions of scientists are “testable” is because what we are testing are indeed conclusions drawn from the material world around us, the same material world that forced us, ultimately, to evolve out of our earlier confused thinking what we now call “the scientific method.”

    We should vigorously attack the hoary old argument of “intelligent designer” as not being based in material reality itself. Attack it as an idea cooked up and evolved out of Bishop Berkeley’s argument that none of this exists except it exists as an idea in the mind of god.

    Unable to present any material evidence of god, the descendents of Berkeley, who now live in a society where much more is understood of our world and universe, raise this concept of “intelligent design.” Nonetheless, they are unable, as with Berkeley and the mind of god, to offer naught but the non-sequitor “intelligent design.”

    The idea itself is evolved out of the fact that we ourselves have a beginning and end, hence all things must have such a beginning and end.

    Therefore if the world we know now necessarily has it’s beginning in an intelligent designer, then who was the designer of the intelligent designer? This last of course is a play on the idea which is a staple of university philosophy courses. Like most of their meanderings it is simply a mind game as opposed to material existence and the explanations we winnow therefrom with the scientific method.

    The issue of evolution must be dealt with through precise concepts. That is why it must be understood that the scientific method is not based on a-priori concepts but is rather, itself, a product of mental evolution always driven at base by the material phenomena of our universe. To that end theologians of any sort are the last thing needed in making the plaintiff’s case.

    Jack Jersawitz

  3. The case against Intelligent Design (ID) as science is simple: If the intelligent designer is not God (as ID advocates insist) then who, or what, is the designer? Where is the current research to determine this powerful designer published? What is the current operating hypothesis of whom the designer might be?

    If there are no answers to these simple questions, then ID simply is not science.

  4. The legal team would (and probably has)find it instructive to read the decision in McLean vs. Arkansas. Much of the content of that case is repeated and detailed in the current Dover case. The decision by the judge detailed a careful analysis of the potential state law passed by the Arkansas legislature requiring the teaching of intelligent design (or a corollary)…his clear conclusion, written in legal terms, was that it was both an attempt at placing religious teaching in public schools and did not meet the standards of the definition of science. All other related arguments were dealt with as well. An excellent and well-reasoned response to the attempt to hijack the public via a back-door route. In addition, the site of Creationism Debunked (Leonard Flank) has many links and excellent essays detailing the flaws in creationism and intelligent design. Our country cannot afford to step backwards, either in science or the free expression of religion. I hope this helps in the successful dismantling of the school board’s lean towards a theological ‘state’.

  5. Mr. Wyman’s point is well taken…providing that one accepts the scientific method as valid.

    Our problem, and I would insist the problem of the ACLU attorneys, is that there is a large part of the population who simply don’t accept science as a valid method as to determing origins, either human, or any other species.

    There is yet again another part of the population, much smaller, who are in fact agnostic, i.e., Kantians who assert they cannot know the thing in itself and hence cannot determine the issue as to god and whom like Bush would support the presentation of “both sides” in the classroom.

    By simply seeking to prove that ID is not science, and hence not proper in the science classroom, the ACLU and their attorneys do not advance the cause one iota, they simply leave it stuck on the separation of church and state issue. The IDers will eat that up questioning why one is more valid than the other.

    Nonetheless, there is an urgent need to use these court arguments to advance the cause of science, to advance the materialist theory of knowledge that underlies science. Separation of church and state as an abstraction is meaningless. It is imperative, in the context of that argument, to make the point that the abcence of any material, concrete evidence, supporting ID means that if you teach ID as equally valid for presentation in the classroom, and I insist not just the science classroom but the philosophy classroom as well, than tremendous damage is done to the everyday thinking of our population.

    Consider! If that which we percieve as existing is the result of intelligent design, as I pointed out previously there is no difference between the intelligent designer and Bishop Berkeley’s percieving god without whose perceptions we would not exist, than what happens to existence if our intelligent designer tomorrow decides to redesign the whole shebang.

    In such circumstances there can be no science because existence is the work of the intelligent designer or Berkeley’s perceiving god. What exists is not an ordered universe where all things come into existence, and go out of existence, as the result of natural material processes rather than as the thoughts or designs of some super being.

    The surveys that have been published behind this argument in the courts clearly show that a large part of our population is simply wacko. They have no idea of the narural order of development of things, and even less of the natural order of thinking, which of course is a material process going on in material things.

    Defense of the church and state separation issue, when posited in terms of the argument over evolution, should be based on the material history and development of science itself thus showing that if those who attack evolution with intelligent design are allowed to prevail, in the end, real science is impossible, all those schizo “scientists” who “believe” notwithstanding.

    Jack Jersawitz

  6. The real problem here is that school board members are not required to have one ounce of scientific knowledge, in fact, they are not even required to be literate, educated or open minded. This opens the door for any one with any agenda to serve as the “Intelligent Designer” of your childs education -no questions asked. So long as school boards are governed by local idiots we will see tax dollars wasted on the litigation for policies we all knew were stupid.

  7. Good idea starting a blog. Would whoever is running it change the settings so you are syndicating the entire post, not just an excerpt? It makes it much easier to follow.


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