For the record: Pearceys’ slam at Judge Jones unwarranted

Rick and Nancy Pearcey — she the author of Christian best-seller Total Truth — have a blog called Pro-Existence. A few days ago I stumbled across the blog because they quoted me :

Praise:University of Chicago geophysicist Raymond Pierrehumbert called Jones’ ruling a ‘masterpiece of wit, scholarship and clear thinking’ while lawyer Ed Darrell said the judge ‘wrote a masterful decision, a model for law students on how to decide a case based on the evidence presented.’ Time magazine said the ruling made Jones one of ‘the world’s most influential people’ in the category of ‘scientists and thinkers.'”

Well, they didn’t quote me directly: They borrowed the quote from a Discovery Institute paper. That’s only significant because such copying is, by their definition, the academic sin of “plagiarizing,” judging from the way they attempt to accuse a federal judge of not doing his duty. (And, if I had to guess, I’d guess they didn’t read the report, but instead copied their stuff from a report in WorldNet Daily — plagiarism of a copy! At least they linked, even if they didn’t attribute, to that publication.)

They borrowed the DI’s criticism of Judge John E. Johns, of the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in his decision against a school board’s requiring intelligent design be inserted to the curriculum of the local schools. DI clumsily, and erroneously, labeled the decision a piece of plagiarism.

I wrote a response. The Pearceys have not seen fit to publish it (it’s a closely moderated blog, and apparently anything that they don’t like, or that calls them to Christian task for their errors, doesn’t make it). I post my response to the Pearcey’s below the fold. If they respond here, I won’t censor them.

This is what I wrote very early on December 28:

1. Did you read Jones’ opinion? Or did you, as others did, simply copy the Discovery Institute press release? I ask because when I went back to the opinion I was struck by how much of the opinion DI left out of their analysis. They chose only one section of the opinion, that section that makes the court’s findings of fact. As we were taught in law school, and as we learn in trial school, these findings are proposed by the attorneys for the respective sides prior to the end of the trial. Each side proposes what they hope the judge will determine, usually in the light most favorable to their clients. In a case like the one in Dover, where the defense was not a good one, it is not unusual to find the judge picking exclusively from the Proposed Findings of Fact of the winning side. And really, the pro-ID side lost every argument at that trial.

But I’m curious why you don’t speak out about the bias of the DI’s analysis, if you read the decision. If you read the decision, you know that by far the majority of the writing is Jones’s — or his clerks, if he has clerks. In law, there is much work to get the words accurate first. The best judges in our nation use clerks. In the Supreme Court, each justice has about three clerks doing this work.

I suppose, if one dislikes fairness and accuracy in the justice system, one could complain about this process, even to the point of calling it “plagiarism.”

But then, the Proposed Findings of Fact are public record. Judge Jones runs an open and transparent courtroom — so anyone who had followed the trial would not call it plagiarism, knowing that the attributions were there all along.

Discovery Institute paid several people to be at the trial, as I understand it. One thing one might wonder is what DI got for its money, if the people they paid to be at the trial and follow it, foul this up so badly.

The claim of plagiarism against Judge Jones is pure calumny. It smacks of the threats made on Supreme Court justices that Justice O’Connor spoke of last year — it’s an attempt to intimidate the judges from doing their job. You should not participate in such activities, it seems to me.

2. Do you disagree with the findings of the Judge on the facts? Among other things, the defendants were revealed to be extremely forgetful, or liars, in cross examination. Liars generally should not get a lot of credence from a judge in the decision. You appear to be shocked — shocked! — that Judge Jones would pick the witnesses who appeared to be telling the truth, and stick with their version of the facts.

That’s exactly what judges are supposed to do.

Out of the thousands of decisions I have read, this one strikes me as a masterwork of clarity. Judge Jones writes well, with originality, and he cites carefully, especially to the trial transcript.

I’ll wager your own fact checkers are not so careful. Do you employ them? Do you have them screened by a national agency that certifies them as ethical and fully qualified to do the work, as judges and lawyers do? Will your books withstand similar scrutiny?

If so, I find it curious that you come down on the side found to be not telling the truth on the stand. Is there a new standard you wish to propose for justice, or is this a momentary error on your part?

3. The Discovery Institute’s analysis has been thoroughly fisked, by good lawyers and good researchers. Their analysis is goofy — what is “virtually verbatim?” Verbatim either is, or is not. Have you looked to see how the DI’s analysis stands up?

Here, for example, is the analysis of the DI’s claims, done by attorney Tim Sandefur:

Sandefur, in his day job, is a legal beagle for the very conservative Pacific Legal Foundation. He can be trusted on these matters.

What? You didn’t check the facts before you posted?

I see: You wish to hold a judge to a much different standard than you stick to — and to a standard that you can’t meet with this post.

Please reconsider then. It pains me to see people who urge ethical behavior on one hand, be sucked in by unethical press releases they don’t check out thoroughly, on the other. It is in charity that our left and right hands are supposed to ignore each other, not in accuracy, not in the truth.

There it is, in the spirit of total truth. In the intervening days, they’ve had time to post a link to the body of Saddam Hussein, to show people celebrating Saddam’s death, to poke at Rick Warren and a controversy on his blog in the comments, and to tout Steve Turner’s diatribes against modern culture and his book, The Gospel According to the Beatles. (No, I’m not making that up.) But they’ve not released by comments as of this afternoon, on December 30.

Look, my stuff isn’t brilliant. It was late at night, and I wrote it quickly. But their stab at Judge Jones is unChristian, unfair, unwarranted and inaccurate. Their post deserves correction at least, and I would favor a notice of retraction.

I wonder: If we check the Pearceys’ blog, will we find their post in which they take Anne Coulter to task for her plagiarism and recycling of old stuff?

Update: Five days later, and the Pearceys’ blog has new comments from ID advocates and other creationists; my calling for them to repent is nowhere in sight.

One Response to For the record: Pearceys’ slam at Judge Jones unwarranted

  1. JimV says:

    Thanks for the good work and fighting the good fight on behalf of reason, and Happy New Year.


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