An Interview with the Honorable Judge John E. Jones, III
Our article on Monday about the presentation by Judge John E. Jones was a hit (six deleted comments and one full-on creationist meltdown), so here’s another very interesting interview with the Judge, a George W. Bush appointee who presided over the trial in Dover, Pennsylvania that ended up totally discrediting the “intelligent design” hoax: Taken to School: An Interview with the Honorable Judge John E. Jones, III.
Among other good points, the section I’m quoting describes a phenomenon we’ve seen repeatedly here at LGF: the readiness of hardcore creationists to lie in order to promote their beliefs. In our comments, we’ve seen creationists lie about having scientific backgrounds, lie about being biology professors or physicists, and even lie about being creationists. We’ve even seen creationists pretending to be atheists or agnostics, in order to trick people into listening to their propaganda. As Judge Jones recounts in this interview, the Dover creationists actually got on the witness stand in court and took an oath on the Bible, then proceeded to lie about their discussions of creationism at school board meetings.
Gitschier: I don’t know if you’re even allowed to answer this. Before this case landed on your lap, did you have any thoughts about creationism or evolution, or the debate?
Jones: The precursor to my answer is that it doesn’t matter. A judge could be an avowed creationist, but he’s got to rule based on the facts and the law. In that event, he’d have to hold his nose and do his duty as a judge.
I am a person of faith. I’m certainly not an atheist or an agnostic and I see some divine force somewhere. That said, having had a pretty good education, a great liberal arts education at Dickinson College, I must say that I never had any substantial doubts about evolution generally. I had forgotten, admittedly, a lot of what I had learned about evolution back in college. Moreover, a lot had happened since the ‘70s, so my understanding was rudimentary. But I never had a crisis of confidence about evolution or a reason to doubt that it constituted a valid theory and good science.
Gitschier: Regarding the Memorandum Opinion itself, I found parts of it astonishing. You used words like “mendacity,” “sham,” “breath-taking inanity of the board’s decision.”
Jones: You should have been there.
Gitschier: I wish! Going into this you are impartial. What were some of the highlights? What were the transformational points in the trial that then allowed you to say, “OK, I’m going to rule this way”?
Jones: I don’t think there was an epiphany. The very first witness for the plaintiffs was Ken Miller. He is very invested in this issue. He writes a textbook that is used substantially in high school biology classes throughout the country. And I think it’s fair to say that the plaintiffs knew what they had in terms of their judge. They knew that I was not a scientist, but hopefully that I had a reasonably good head on my shoulders, that they were going to need to take me to school. So their first witness did just that.
I will always remember Ken Miller’s testimony in the sense that he did A–Z evolution. And then got into intelligent design. And having laid the foundation with the description of evolution, got into why intelligent design doesn’t work as science, to the point where it is predominantly a religious concept.
Gitschier: Is the other side objecting all the time?
Jones: They can object to a question that is truly objectionable. But there weren’t a huge amount of objections. I let both parties try their case. They knew they’d have their turn.
Which gets me to the next point. Another remarkable moment on the science side was Michael Behe, who was the lead witness for the defendants, and a very amiable fellow, as was Ken Miller, but unlike Miller, in my view, Professor Behe did not distinguish himself. He did not hold up well on cross-examination.
So on the science side those were the two remarkable witnesses, although there were many expert witnesses in the field of theology, paleontology, biology, pedagogy.
Gitschier: It’s almost like a command performance! There’s no jury, it’s not televised. All of these knowledgeable people …
Jones: Playing to an audience of one. Which was fascinating.
In the realm of the lay witnesses, if you will, some of the school board witnesses were dreadful witnesses and hence the description “breathtaking inanity” and “mendacity.” In my view, they clearly lied under oath. They made a very poor account of themselves. They could not explain why they did what they did. They really didn’t even know what intelligent design was. It was quite clear to me that they viewed intelligent design as a method to get creationism into the public school classroom. They were unfortunate and troublesome witnesses. Simply remarkable, in that sense.