Judge Jones Took Credit for ACLU Writings

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Posted on December 12, 2006 in Education, Intelligent Design, Politics and Ethics

Judge John E. Jones has become somewhat of a celebrity of late, traveling and speaking about his judgment against the Dover, Pennsylvania School Board on December 20, 2005 (see 12/23/2005).  He has stated that he felt his opinion should set forth the case once for all that intelligent design is not science but religion in disguise, and wanted to write it such that it could be used by other courts in other states so that they would not have to argue from scratch.  He has been declared an “original thinker” and has been praised by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the year.
    Now it turns out that 90.9% of his 6,004-word opinion about whether intelligent design is science was lifted “virtually verbatim” from ACLU documents.  A new study released today on Evolution News details the comparisons and discusses its implications.  The entire study can be downloaded from Uncommon Descent and Discovery Institute.  Here is the Executive Summary from the study conducted by the Discovery Institute

In December of 2005, critics of the theory of intelligent design (ID) hailed federal judge John E. Jones’ ruling in Kitzmiller v.  Dover, which declared unconstitutional the reading of a statement about intelligent design in public school science classrooms in Dover, Pennsylvania.  Since the decision was issued, Jones’ 139-page judicial opinion has been lavished with praise as a “masterful decision” based on careful and independent analysis of the evidence.  However, a new analysis of the text of the Kitzmiller decision reveals that nearly all of Judge Jones’ lengthy examination of “whether ID is science” came not from his own efforts or analysis but from wording supplied by ACLU attorneys.  In fact, 90.9% (or 5,458 words) of Judge Jones’ 6,004-word section on intelligent design as science was taken virtually verbatim1 from the ACLU’s proposed “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” submitted to Judge Jones nearly a month before his ruling.  Judge Jones even copied several clearly erroneous factual claims made by the ACLU.  The finding that most of Judge Jones’ analysis of intelligent design was apparently not the product of his own original deliberative activity seriously undercuts the credibility of Judge Jones’ examination of the scientific validity of intelligent design.

    While it is not uncommon for judges to quote material provided by the lawyers in the case in their rulings, the extent of his borrowing is “stunning,” according to John West, co-author of the study, considering how much credit Jones himself has taken for it.  “For all practical purposes, Jones allowed ACLU attorneys to write nearly the entire section of his opinion analyzing whether intelligent design is science,” West wrote.  “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.”  The Discovery Institute had early published an analysis of the arguments used in the Dover decision in a book entitled Traipsing into Evolution.
    The next day, this story was picked up by Associated Press, New York Dispatch and World Net Daily and numerous blogs.  Evolution News followed up with an article claiming that wholesale copying of material from the lawyers for one side, while not illegal, is “frowned upon” by the courts.  Judge Jones had no comment.


1What “virtually verbatim” means can be easily seen by comparing the side-by-side comparisons of Jones’s decision with the ACLU document.  Jones changed a word here or there, sometimes shortening “intelligent design” to “ID” and other inconsequential changes like listing points as (a) (b) (c) instead of (1) (2) (3), and rearranging parts of sentences, occasionally inserting a phrase, but no schoolteacher would be fooled.  It’s not just the wording that is virtually identical, but the structure of the argument, the points listed, the repetition of factual errors from the ACLU.  That along with the omission of any counter-arguments from the other side makes it incredible that this decision would be hailed as original work of high intellectual rank.

Download and read the PDF file.  This revelation is sure to create a large ripple around the web.  The Darwin Party will do its best to do damage control, claiming that such quotation of documentation is common practice for judges (i.e., judges are allowed to plagiarize with reckless abandon).  But this judge has personally taken credit and received adulation for his ruling as if it were his own material.  When the public learns that he borrowed most of it word-for-word from the ACLU, a leftist-secularist-liberal organization despised by many Americans, they may return his little Christmas present with a strong “no, thanks.”
    Even those who have no particular feelings about the ACLU should be shocked at how biased Jones was to quote so much from one side – even repeating known inaccuracies – and not give due consideration to material provided by the other side.  He brazenly stated that his court was not an activist court – but now look at how he liberally used material from one of the most liberal activist organizations in the country.  Then, he went around the country speaking, getting a standing O at the Geological Society of America, accepting all this gushing praise for his intellect and originality (Access Research Network contains a list of his 2006 speaking engagements; see also an ad for his upcoming appearance at the Botany and Plant Biology 2007 Conference).  Is this how impartial judges are supposed to behave?  It doesn’t take much intellect to cut and paste.  This gives us an idea of what to do with the Dover decision: drag and drop.
    Hopefully this expose will kick the Dover crutch out from under the opponents of intelligent design and make people realize the highly-touted opinion last year came from a very biased source and cannot be trusted.  The time has come for school boards to stop fearing the Dover case and reconsider the issues about intelligent design in education fairly.  Jones’s opinion was not the last word, but the first laugh.  Everyone knows who laughs best.  For example, watch this spoof at Overwhelming Evidence.

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