“Masterful” Federal Ruling on Intelligent Design Was Copied from ACLU

Original Article

Click here to download the official report as a PDF.

Seattle — The key section of the widely-noted court decision on intelligent design issued a year ago on December 20 was copied nearly verbatim from a document written by ACLU lawyers, according to a study released today by scholars affiliated with the Discovery Institute.

“Judge John Jones copied verbatim or virtually verbatim 90.9% of his 6,004-word section on whether intelligent design is science from the ACLU’s proposed ‘Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law’ submitted to him nearly a month before his ruling,” said Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

“Ironically, Judge Jones has been hailed as ‘an outstanding thinker’ for his ‘masterful’ ruling, and even honored by Time magazine as one of the world’s ‘most influential people’ in the category of ‘scientists and thinkers,'” said West. “But Jones’ analysis of the scientific status of intelligent design contains virtually nothing written by Jones himself. This finding seriously undercuts the credibility of a central part of the ruling.”

The study notes that, while judges routinely make use of proposed findings of fact, “the extent to which Judge Jones simply copied the language submitted to him by the ACLU is stunning. For all practical purposes, Jones allowed ACLU attorneys to write nearly the entire section of his opinion analyzing whether intelligent design is science. As a result, this central part of Judge Jones’ ruling reflected essentially no original deliberative activity or independent examination of the record on Jones’ part.”

Jones’ copying was so uncritical that he even reprinted a number of factual errors originally made by ACLU attorneys.

For example, Jones claimed that biochemist Michael Behe, when asked about articles purporting to explain the evolution of the immune system, responded that the articles were “not ‘good enough.'” Behe actually said the exact opposite: “it’s not that they aren’t good enough. It’s simply that they are addressed to a different subject.” Jones’ misrepresentation of Behe came directly from the ACLU’s “Findings of Fact.”

Again copying from the ACLU, Jones insisted that “ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed… publications.” But, in fact, the court record contained evidence of several such publications.

The study, titled “A Comparison of Judge Jones’ Opinion in Kitzmiller v. Dover with Plaintiffs’ Proposed ‘Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,'” was co-authored by West and law professor David DeWolf and is available from Discovery Institute’s website at

West noted that “those who thought the Dover decision would end the debate over Darwinian evolution were obviously wrong. That debate is just as vibrant and vigorous as it ever was, and Darwinists know it.” West cited a recent New York Times report about a gathering of scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in November where there was “a rough consensus” that the theory “of evolution by natural selection” was “losing out in the intellectual marketplace.”

“A year after Dover, it’s the Darwinists who seem filled with gloom, not us,” said West, highlighting several positive developments over the past few months:

  • In March, the Lancaster School District, in Southern California, adopted a philosophy of science policy stating that “that Darwin’s theory should not be taught as “unalterable fact” and states that “Discussions that question the theory may be appropriate as long as they do not stray from current criteria of scientific fact, hypothesis and theory.” The policy further allows the use of supplemental materials by teachers in teaching about science.
  • In June, South Carolina adopted a science standard requiring students to learn how “scientists… investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”
  • In September, legal scholar Francis Beckwith, whose support for the constitutionality of intelligent design is well-known, was granted tenure at Baylor University after an effort by Darwinists to deny him tenure backfired.
  • At the end of November, the Ouachita Parish School District in Louisiana enacted a policy that protects the academic freedom of teachers to objectively cover scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution as well as the evidence in favor of the theory.

“As we made clear from the beginning, Discovery Institute opposed the Dover school board policy because attempts to mandate intelligent design are counterproductive,” said West. “At the same time, Darwinist efforts to use the courts to restrict open discussion of evolution offend free speech and academic freedom. We are delighted that the Darwinist attempt to muzzle the debate has failed.”

For more information please see Traipsing Into Evolution (Discovery Institute Press 2006)

Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute promotes thoughtful analysis and effective action on local, regional, national and international issues. The Institute is home to an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued.