Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!

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Ah, once again, the Evil Atheist Conspiracy of Judges is censoring innocent, decent people who are just trying to make the world a better place. That’s how Christopher Levenick sees it, anyway. Levenick, who is not a lawyer or a scientist, argues that

Having found that disestablishment applies to all levels of government, the modern courts work hard at suppressing any nonmaterialistic account of human origins. For its part, the ACLU has abandoned its commitment to defending the free speech of those who teach alternative theories and now actively roots out any teacher who dissents from Darwinian orthodoxy.

Of course, this is nothing short of a lie. Modern courts do not “work” at “suppressing any nonmaterialistic account” of anything anywhere. The Free Exercise Clause, the Free Speech Clause, and many state constitutions and laws, protect any religious person’s right to say absolutely anything about a “nonmaterialistic” (i.e., supernatural) account of anything whatsoever at any time and in any appropriate place. By appropriate, of course, I mean, that so long as he is not disrupting the classroom, any religious student has a well-protected Constitutional right to defend his views as to the supernatural origins of human beings in any government classroom in this country. (And the ACLU has been a reliable defender of students who do so.) Likewise, any religious teacher has the right to express his religious views as long as they are expressed on his own time and not with my money.

Allow me to say this again so that it is perfectly clear: nobody is being suppressed at all. What is being stopped is the attempt by preachers of religion to use my tax dollars and the government classrooms that belong to all—religious and non-religious, Christian and Jewish and Hindu alike—to propagate religious doctrine in the guise of science. Mr. Levenick believes that he has the right to take away people’s money and use it to teach his religion to the children of other people. And when a court dares to stand up and say no, Levenick calls that suppression. How disappointingly common. And how embarrassing to a large portion of the American people that he would call this backwards viewpoint “serious Christian[ity].”

Note, too, that Levenick doesn’t even limit his assertion that religion is being “suppress[ed]” to the classroom context! He seems to be saying that courts are actively censoring people who simply assert their belief in creationism, anywhere and at any time. This is simply the taunting of a demagogue. Shame on the Wall Street Journal for giving space to such an irresponsible and fraudulent assertion.

Hat tip: Claremont Institute

4 Comments

The WSJ is a curious paper. It’s actually really good, as long as you avoid the editorial page. I’ve even seen scientific stories recently about pollution and global warming which cast the Bush administration in an unfavorable light.

By the way, like a lot of people who grew up around conservative influences, I thought the ACLU was a bunch of frothing loonies. That all changed when I went to their website and read a bunch of their position papers. I found I agreed with about 80% of what they said, and mailed off membership dues the following week. Having been a member now for a few years, I see that they have their hands in a staggering number of cases, and my previous opinion was formed by a technique of propaganda by the right. In a very small fraction of the cases, the ACLU does seem to take a nutty position. By showing their supporters only these examples, the right has convinced a lot of people that the ACLU is high-octane crazy/unamerican/antichristian etc. In reality, the ACLU is a force for good, and I encourage everyone to join.

On the subject of WSJ: In the 5 Aug issue there is an article titled “Very Old Eggs Reveal A Fast, Changing Path Through Evolution” by Sharon Begley, a very readable (by me – a nonscientist) discussion about what may be some assumption-changing work in evolutionary biology. Midway through Begley notes: “It has always struck me as odd that evolutionary biology is caricatured by opponents as being static, a tower of unchanging (and unchangeable) dogma dating from Darwin. In fact, it is full of competing ideas, new discoveries and bickering scientists.”

Yes, let’s “teach the controversy” – but let real scientists (and real science teachers) explain just what the controversies are.

The news pages of the WSJ are operated by experienced editors and highly-qualified, well-compensated, well-educated reporters. The editorial page is operated by just-out-of-school conservative activists. The news pages are operated by wizened consumers of the news, and the editorial pages are operated by people who, last year or the year before, were sitting in a student union somewhere wondering how to raise hell by writing something almost witty, but snarky enough to really aggravate people to produce an eruption of “controversy.”

Builders vs. bomb throwers. I’m not sure whether to hope the twain never shall meet, or wish that they do meet. I’m not sure who would win at a picnic.

In the 5 Aug issue there is an article titled “Very Old Eggs Reveal A Fast, Changing Path Through Evolution” by Sharon Begley, a very readable

There were a couple of needlessly stupid parts in that article, though.

“Thousands of scientific papers presume that the fraction of retained mutations depends solely on how beneficial they are.”

Well, scientists have known for a while that there is lots of room for chance to preserve neutral, and even slightly harmful mutations, or for chance to accidently wipe out even helpful mutations. Evolution is not so deterministic, and no one sensible has ever claimed otherwise.

The more egregious quote:

“Another pillar of evolution is that natural selection sculpts species towards some ideal fitness”.

Even if the author was too ignorant to realize that not a single biologist would claim such a thing, you would think that she would deduce that at least some biologists don’t beleive it, simply from the contents of her own article. After all, there wouldn’t be any “Red Queen” model to talk about, if the whole biological community took it as a “pillar” that the “racing to keep up” model was inconsequential, compared to the “evoling to perfection” model.

The WSJ gives editorial space to Roy Moore, who obviously has nothing of any value to say about Wall Street. It’s odd, but I think the only conclusion to draw from all this is that the fiscal, social, and religious right-wings have become hopelessly entangled. There’s absolutely no reason for the WSJ to pander to evolution deniers and the likes of Moore, but they can’t seem to stop themselves.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on August 5, 2005 10:10 PM.

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