This week federal Judge John Jones will be speaking at Southern Methodist University's special program on the teaching of evolution in our public schools. Four years ago Jones ruled that the Dover, Pennsylvania school district must not question evolution in its science classes. That decision earned the Lutheran a sort of celebrity status. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine, made its list of the 100 Most Influential People, and seems to be on a never ending speaking tour. There is only one problem: the Dover decision is packed with logical fallacies.
Perhaps the most important problem underlying the decision was that Judge Jones deemed himself capable of defining and distinguishing science, and in doing so got it all mixed up. For centuries philosophers have not been able to explain just what it is about science that makes it science. And it is not for lack of trying. The problem even has its own name: The Demarkation Problem.
But Jones, who evidences no significant knowledge of the philosophy of science, was only too happy to lay down the law for the people of Dover. His ruling is rich source material for a course on flawed legal decisions. For example, evolutionary thought is based on religious premises that mandate a strictly naturalistic origins, but according to Jones evolution is just good scientific research. He simply denied the mountain of religious content in evolutionary thought.
Of course this story is not really about Judge Jones. After all he is just the messenger. Jones' denialism is simply a reflection of evolution's denialism. Religion drives science and it matters.