Judges and Science

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Me in late 2005, on a then-recent court ruling about intelligent design:

Whether something is science has not one thing to do with the law, and is the purview only of philosophers and scientists, not lawyers and judges. Frankly, this part of the ruling alone should cause scientists and educators who oppose ID to fear, not rejoice.

I elaborated on this fear in the comments:

... this judge just said he has the power to say that no public school may teach any particular subject in science class if he determines, based on whatever he decides to feel at the time, with no legal guidelines, that it is not science. If he decides that quantum theory is not falsifiable, and thus not science, he can forbid teachers from teaching it. This is the power you are saying the judge should have.

In other discussions, I used global warming as an example of something a judge could ban the teaching of, under these same guidelines. Then comes the recent news of the court in Britain that attacked Gore's movie. Granted, it's not the same legal system. But I think my point that those applauding the court deciding science should not have been so happy is borne out by quotes like this from the DailyKos, at the same time:

... the advocates for Intelligent Design Creationism in the Dover case lost their bid to have IDC included in that school's curricula today--and by lost their bid, I mean to say they were utterly eviscerated. ... "The judge ruled unequivocally that ID is a religious idea dressed up in scientific sounding language ..."

And then, DailyKos on Friday about a judge criticizing Al Gore's movie:

The list follows.  I don't believe a judge has the cred to make these judgements [sic] ...

But they did two years ago? Or was that just OK because you agreed with it?

As much as I think scientists are idiots like the rest of us, that doesn't mean I think the courts should be deciding science. And not because judges are also idiots -- they are, of course -- but because science is not a matter of law, and courts have no -- or, should have no -- jurisdiction, except in the very limited sense of forbidding that which by explicit law is forbidden.

So if there's a law that says "incorrect science cannot be taught," which would be a stupid law, since courts and government officials suck at determining such things, then yeah, the court could make such a determination. Otherwise, it cannot, and should not.

This is not about the particular issues and people. Courts should be, as much as possible, blind to such things (hence the famous statue of a woman with a blindfold). This is about the inadequacy of a court to decide on science, and how many people on both sides are picking and choosing their position on that matter based on their preferred outcome. slashdot.org

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on October 15, 2007 12:01 AM.

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