Here’s How To Break The Law?

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Over at National Review Online, Prof. Lee Strang complains that "the recent Dover case shows just how far the Supreme Court's establishment-clause case law has strayed and also serves as a cautionary note to others who would include intelligent design in the public-school science classroom." He believes that the Everson case has led courts to "purge religion from the public square." This, of course, is nonsense, although very common nonsense.

Religion is present in all sorts of public squares, and it is constitutionally protected in those squares. Government school employees are not permitted to prevent students from praying or discussing religion, or reading the Bible, or engaging in other religious activities (within the boundaries of proper classroom discipline). Government employees are allowed to express their own religious views however they see fit, so long as this is done in a way that does not put an official sign of approval on those views. Many government employees, including the President and members of Congress, enunciate their religious views at virtually every opportunity. There is simply no such purge---no more than there's a "war on Christmas."

Of course, if you happen to believe that your religious freedom includes the right to force others to do what you want, or to pray as you want, or to pay for the propagation of your religious beliefs, then you might be upset when a court says no. And that, of course, is precisely what the supposed "purge" boils down to. Under the Kitzmiller decision, anyone who wishes to discuss Intelligent Design is free to do so at any time and in any place---they're just not allowed to do it on the taxpayer's dime, and with the government's symbols of authority at their back. That is all. That is a pretty weak "purge." Religion is simply not being "push[ed]...out of the public square," as Strang claims; it is being rebuffed in its attempt to place itself on the government payroll.

But even more astonishingly, Strang concludes with advice on how future school boards can more effectively break the law:

we can encourage our school boards to be circumspect if they decide to include a discussion of intelligent design in the science classroom. Instead of presenting overtly religious arguments for intelligent design, present the strong---explicitly scientific---claims put forward by intelligent-design proponents such as the Discovery Institute.... Then...federal judges will have a more difficult time declaring teaching intelligent design unconstitutional.

Yes; if you improve the quality of your counterfeiting, it will be harder to detect you. Note that Strang is not suggesting that people amend the Constitution---which would be the honorable thing to do. No, he's giving advice on how to violate it more effectively.

Worse than that, even, Strang is advocating that Christian people deny their Lord. Rather than openly acknowledge one's religious motivation and religious beliefs, he counsels his readers to pretend not to be Christians, to foreswear their savior, and to bear false witness that they're really just doing a secular thing. Perhaps, at this festive season of the year, it would be well to remind the good professor of Matthew 10:32-33: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."

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The National Review gets it wrong again. (Their previous error came through in a bizarre article claiming that intelligent design would bring healing between the west and the muslim world.) Now they’ve just put up an article claiming that there... Read More

25 Comments

Tim:

I think you are a bit too enthusiastic here. I’m not the lawyer, but it’s my understanding that it’s not illegal to present valid science in science classes EVEN IF the motivation for doing so is religious. And I think it’s clear that Strang has managed to swallow whole the DI’s claim that Intelligent Design, however religious its proponents may be, is nonetheless valid science. Strang believes that ID lost out in the Dover case not because it’s bad science, but because those trying to insert it into classrooms had religious arguments for doing so, and the court focused on the religious arguments rather than on the sound science.

Yes, I know the decision made it abundantly clear that there was no science underlying ID claims, which are nothing more than straight repackaged creationism. But Strang (and his readers) WANTS it to be science, and WANTS to believe the DI’s bogus claims. And in the religious world, this is how things come true.

His broad complaint falls along these same lines. God IS, Jesus IS, salvation IS, this isn’t religion, this is TRUTH. And here we are, trying to force everyone to pretend otherwise for spurious reasons and accomplishing nothing good, and maybe even threatening the salvation of souls. For Strang, religion is FACT, and forcing the Government to deny Jesus is like denying the sun rises. It’s plainly perverse, for no good reason.

Yes, others believe differently. But isn’t this the very thing education is supposed to be FOR, to correct error and inculcate with correct knowledge?

Prof. Lee Strang - Instead of presenting overtly religious arguments for intelligent design, present the strong — explicitly scientific — claims put forward by intelligent-design proponents such as the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington.

One problem, there are no strong explicitly scientific claims ut forward by intelligent-design proponents. I really wish that people supporting ID would take the time and actually read the “work” that is being produced by ID proponents. Just saying there is strong scientific support for ID or that there are holes in evolution does actually prove that either of those statements are true.

Prof. Lee Strang has to show the validity of ID, before it can be taught in the classroom.

I blogged about this article this morning. Two of them from NR actually. Both were wretched. I put a trackback below.

Strang’s suggestion of lying is essentially the same as a Christian lawyer talking to area clergy recently in Dover did when he suggested that “I think we need to do a better job at being clever as serpents” when hiding religious motivations.

Flint has a point: if Strang were contending that ID is science, but was struck down because people advocating it gave bad arguments for it in the future, and that people should avoid bad arguments in the future, that would be one thing. But I don’t think that’s what Strang is saying, in the context of his whole article. If that were his claim, why would he spend time criticizing the concept of separation of church and state, and claim that courts are “purging” religion from public places? His claim seems to me to accept the fact–and I emphasize, fact–that ID is religion; he then seems to be arguing that it should be sneaked more cleverly into classrooms. And that seems clearly to be recommending a course of action of how to break the law–not just the law, but the supreme law of the land, which, as a sworn attorney, Mr. Strang has doubtless taken an oath to support and defend.

The line about “being clever as serpents” was also memorable to me. It’s such an obviously immoral, even Satanic thing for a Christian lawyer to be spouting.

If the Lancaster Online article were a CS Lewis book, he would say that and then his eye would glint menacingly.

Instead of presenting overtly religious arguments for intelligent design, present the strong — explicitly scientific — claims put forward by intelligent-design proponents such as the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington.

Strang not only has no clue about what he is discussing, he obviously has no concept that “the strong - explicitly scientific - claims” were put forward in the trial, and were found to be extraordinarily weak and unscientific. Doesn’t he care at all about being honest?

He does have at least some point about the Establishment Clause being capable of other interpretations. But as long as the people pushing for other interpretations are as insipidly dull and incapable of recognizing the vacuity of ID, their attempts at changing the interpretation will not be likely to succeed. And surely from a practical standpoint at least we must hope that ignorant souls like Strang do not get their way very often.

Strang’s suggestion of lying is essentially the same as a Christian lawyer talking to area clergy recently in Dover did when he suggested that “I think we need to do a better job at being clever as serpents” when hiding religious motivations.

I can just see this in The Quibbler. “Our Pastor is a Parselmouth!”

I’m a Christian and a believer in evolution.

I suppose I have to say believer in evolution because I haven’t reviewed all the science that makes evolution what it is. Instead, I have to trust scientists to be honest in their work. Thus I believe in these people. Other scientists do this all the time. They base their work on the work of other scientists without repeating every step from the beginning. Science is a massive web of trust.

What angers me greatly is the open invitation to deceit and lying in order to promote Christianity that is an integral part of the ID movement.

A large part of my personal belief in God centers on the concept of God as both truth and light – in the broadest way possible. That cuts a lot of ways. Among them is a confidence that my faith isn’t a paper wall that I am going to punch throw accidentally if I press to hard. I’ve long had a running joke – “If God had meant man to think, he would have given him a brain”.

To lie in order to bring people to God strikes me as fundamentally wrong – even fundamentally evil. How can you bring people honestly closer to the ultimate truth and light by lying?

I don’t think you can.

I dunno. I can’t read minds, but I can read that many people know science is good and that it works, and that God exists and ALSO works. These beliefs are reconciled in different ways. I personally read Strang as believing that God is in everywhere and everything. For him ID is simply good biology without God (his version) removed (which is *always* improper), and he also sees us as a nation removing (his) god, also improperly, from public discourse, public policies, and the like. For Strang, the State is *properly* the administrative arm of the church in very important ways, especially in public education. Strang seems to think school should teach creationist science, creationist shop, creationist home economics, creationist civics. For Strang, the lie is leaving God (his version) OUT of such instruction.

I regard the “clever as serpents” comment as a practical observation that the armies of the Lord increasingly have to be devious as lawyers, NOT because it’s their nature, but because it’s necessary in the cultural war, to finesse their way around the Godless barriers being put up by the atheists.

Flint,

It seems to me that a religion that can only recruit followers via lies and deceit is the epitome of Satanic worship.

If your religion is this feeble, it’s teachings so empty of meaning that you must *lie* to convince people to practice it, then perhaps it doesn’t deserve followers. And perhaps you should shop for another religion/belief.

Jim Ramsey Wrote:

What angers me greatly is the open invitation to deceit and lying in order to promote Christianity that is an integral part of the ID movement.

You are in a manipulative cult.

You know… it’s funny. I wasn’t raised religious, and I always harbored some interest in it. When I was younger I tried to pray just to see if anything was there. I even went through a phase when I considered myself to be a Christian. I basically could not go through my life without at least seeing if there was anything to it. Over time I found that it didn’t seem to have much effect on me and so I gradually grew away from it, but I still harbored some curiosity and even hope that it might be true. I definitely devoted a lot of thought to it.

Then I met some real evangelical Christians and got a taste of Christian apologetics. Now I am absolutely certain there is no God. What I saw was not only intellectually ridiculous but also spiritually repulsive. You see, I was told that God is about love, salvation, truth, and transcendence while the devil is the “God of lies.” Now here was a person who claimed to be “saved” by that God reciting arguments from books by others who claim to be saved… and they were *lies*. Not just lies in some abstract philosophical sense, but lies in the sense that I had personally seen, learned, and even done things that proved them to be wrong.

Even worse, the authors of many of these lies were Christian authors with Ph.D’s in the relevant fields. They know better. I find it hard to believe that these guys do not know that they are lying. But, I suppose maybe I’m underestimating the power of ideologically induced blindness.

So here they were. Supposedly “saved,” and consciously lying to me. A group of people led by charismatic leaders trying to do anything they could to recruit members…

This galvanizes the Christian community,” said William Dembski, a leading proponent of the theory and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think-tank that promotes intelligent design research. “People I’m talking to say we’re going to be raising a whole lot more funds now.” - Dembski

Recruitment, money, political power. So mundane. So normal. So ordinary. So… human.

I could feel myself realize it. There is no God.

Adam,

We’re never going to agree. We start from different points. My reading of your post is that you are looking for Christianity to prove itself to you. I’ve made the decision to be a Christian and work from there. I’ve said before that becoming a Christian is like stepping off a cliff. All the knowledge you have just determines where you step off.

It’s also true that the interaction of Christianity with power and money and government over the centuries makes the current conflict over ID seem pretty small time. At least we aren’t killing people in large numbers with this one.

The irony is that there are thousands of scientists out there working away at expanding our understanding of the world around us and then going to Church or to Temple or to Mosque. These people are surprised when someone tries to tell them that they can’t do this. My guess is that they mostly ignore such silliness and get on with their lives.

There was a poster in our university bookstore (our university has an Episcopal seminary) that said:

“Christ died to take away our sins, not our mind”

I would think that the quest of truth and knowledge is our obligation as Christians. Lying is never okay. Bringing people to the faith with lies is never okay. Controlling people through ignorance and fear is never okay. Forcing one’s views on others is never okay. If it weren’t for the open-minded, searching, curious and accepting nature of my local church community, I would have given up on religion a long time ago, and not because I am interested in learning science, but because of the judgemental, hateful, ignorant ranting of some professed “Christians” around me.

Adam, Jim, and KL;

I’d like to use selective quotes from you & this thread in various other discussions in which I participate. Would it be OK for me to quote you (I can either point back to this thread, just include a name reference, quote you but not include any reference. or not quote you at all).

I think your words on this issue have very clearly expressed a very strong feeling I’ve had but been unable to adequately express about this issue for a long time.

That’s cool-my quote and $4 will get you a cup of coffee at any participating Starbucks.…

Timothy Sandefur Wrote:

There is simply no such purge—no more than there’s a “war on Christmas.”

And yet, the rubes who buy into this rhetoric from their embraced slavemasters say it and believe it even as they sit in their placid churches and place baby Jesii in the nativity displays on the lawns of their homes in placid suburbs.

Of course, one could say it’s not surprising that adherents of an ancient war god would see everything in terms of deadly conflict. What if they held a nonexistent war and a bunch of idiots came anyway?

Sure.

If you preface what we say with, “look at these idiots”, don’t tell us.

jim Wrote:

Adam, Jim, and KL;

I’d like to use selective quotes from you & this thread in various other discussions in which I participate. Would it be OK for me to quote you (I can either point back to this thread, just include a name reference, quote you but not include any reference. or not quote you at all).

I think your words on this issue have very clearly expressed a very strong feeling I’ve had but been unable to adequately express about this issue for a long time.

I don’t mind personally as long as everyone is quoted in-context. (Of course, if you were composing something mean spirited you probably would not ask permission from anyone.) E-mail me a link to whatever you write when you’re done. You can fetch my e-mail from here (I don’t post it as text due to the spam plauge that this unleashes):

http://www.greythumb.org/people/api

Jim Ramsey Wrote:

We’re never going to agree. We start from different points. My reading of your post is that you are looking for Christianity to prove itself to you. I’ve made the decision to be a Christian and work from there. I’ve said before that becoming a Christian is like stepping off a cliff. All the knowledge you have just determines where you step off.

I certainly do judge ideas by their effects. I can’t think of any other way to judge them. You are also correct in what you suspect– if an idea teaches me that if I pray there is something listening, then I expect *something* to happen (even something subtile) if I pray.

What would I expect?

Well, I sometimes do visual astronomy with a small telescope. Doing astronomy with a small telescope is a great exercise in the use of sustained focus to resolve small and subtile things. Most people don’t like visual astronomy– they expect to look through the eyepiece and see big giant planets and galaxies and stuff and they are disappointed. I remember the first time I pointed my telescope toward the coordinates of the Andromeda galaxy. I looked, and I saw nothing. I hunted around for a bit, and finally out of the corner of my eye I caught a small “smudge.” I stared at this smudge for a while, and finally I realized that it had structure. It was a spiral. I had to look at it for about an hour, but eventually I could resolve structure, a distinct core, and even what looked like individual (probably particularly bright) stars. I checked what I saw against a Hubble photo, and found that it was pretty accurate. So some things do take practice to observe, and I would expect any real mystical effect to have similar characteristics.

So I was looking for a subtile shift in thought, perception, or what some people call “synchronicity” in the world around me.

What I got was an idea that made me feel good in… I hate to parrot Marx… an opiate kind of way. But nothing else changed.

I also over the years tried other forms of spiritual/mystical practice in order to see if they produced any effect, and was similarly disappointed. There was nothing that I could resolve as distinct against background and that could not be reduced to my own mental function or self-suggestion.

Speaking of Marx, this brings me back to the part about judging ideas by their effects.

It seems to me that the Marxists in the USSR had excessive “faith” in their ideas, and this was the problem. When they tried to collectivize farming and millions died, if they were rational they would have at least partially abandoned their ideas at that point. When an idea fails, you throw it away. Ideas are tools to serve us. The entire notion of “sacrificing for an ideal” is to me an absurd inversion of hierarchy… smashing the house for the benefit of the hammer. Hammers are for building houses. Ideas are for guiding human action. An individual person is infinitely more valuable than an idea.

The way that I approach ideas is this: I make an attempt to discern what the “healthy” condition of humanity is, and then I evaluate ideas based on their ability to assist this condition.

I agree that religion sometimes helps people. If someone is a crack addict and finds Jesus and reforms, then good for them. There are certainly aspects of religious belief that can at the very least help people to believe in something and escape destructive patterns in their life. But when I look at the effect of religion writ large, it seems to me to be a net negative. The more religious a society is, the more repressive and politically corrupt it seems to be. On a large scale, there seems to be something inherent about religion that encourages willful denial of reality, faulty reasoning, delusional behavior, bigotry, and violence.

I think therefore that what we need to do with religion is isolate the aspects of it that are helpful, steal them, and incorporate them into some more rational framework. The rest should be discarded as superfluous and useless. Superstition seems to me to be something that has no value and should be discarded.

Adam,

I would have to say that when people decide their behavior from facts, logic, & reason; the society seems to be more enlightened and better for the population.

When people decide their behavior based upon emotion, superstition, and ignorance; the society seems to be as you describe more violent and much worse for the population.

I don’t think this means that religion per sea is bad. It’s just that those people that end up governing prefer to use emotion and ignorance to govern their populaces (since it’s easier to predict) than logic. Fundamentalists are more likely to try this approach.

A great example of this is jury selection. Both sides want scientists and engineers removed from the jury because they are perceived to rely more upon the facts than other jurors.

Jim You are getting warm. Ask yourself this .….why do the political promoters of this nonsense want it to become the dominant paradigm.….. Are you familiar with George Orwell ?

ke,

Yes, I understand your reference and your point.

I suppose my point is that religion is neither necessary nor sufficient to control people through emotions and ignorance.

It’s not necessary in that you can acheive this control without religion (e.g. tell a bunch of athiest feminists that you’re going to revoke their abortion rights).

It’s not sufficient in that there are religious followers that are not easily controlled through emotions and ignorance.

One thing I find especially pugnacious in the fundamentalists relgion is that it’s a sin to challenge what you’re told by either researching or out right questioning. The people caught in this web fight to maintain this status quo harder than the leaders of the movement.

FWIW,

I very much apologize for my example. I just reread my post and found it, distasteful.

I was searching for an emotionally charged issue to use as an example and didn’t fully consider how my reference my look.

Jim said: “ The people caught in this web fight to maintain this status quo harder than the leaders of the movement.”

The Fundamentalist leaders I conclude are WELL aware that the masses they control through Obscurantism (the complete opposite of enlightenment) produce a soldier mentallity, thou art that, and “thou shalt do as one is told”.…..no questions asked!

Jim Wrote:

A great example of this is jury selection. Both sides want scientists and engineers removed from the jury because they are perceived to rely more upon the facts than other jurors.

Wow. A lot makes sense to me now.

I think a root of this problem is that ripping people off through manipulation is (historically speaking) a far more efficient and easier way to obtain vast amounts of wealth than through productive work or applied and focused intelligence.

Contrast how hard it was for Google to obtain billions of dollars with… say… how hard it is for a drug lord or a cult leader to do the same. The former has to apply intense focus and reason to solve very difficult problems and then figure out how to market those solutions to the general public. The latter uses addiction mechanisms and appeals to emotion and exploits dishonest and irrational political policies. In terms of moving humanity forward, the former wins hands down. However, in terms of effort in -> money out from the point of view of the “entrepreneur,” the latter wins hands down.

Many great fortunes throughout history are founded on exploiting superstition, fear, addictive tendencies (gambling, addictive drugs), base emotions, etc. Google “opium trade” for example, or take a look at how much money televangelists rake in.

I think that the great accomplishment of the enlightenment was to create political systems that provide economic frameworks where productive effort is at least rewarded enough to make it a good choice over parasitism as a means of accumulating wealth. The result was the industrial revolution and the most unprecedented surge in human welfare in history. This was accomplished by: educating the public, restraining religion, setting up a political system based on the rule of law, universal protection of property, political stability, and the prohibition the most obvious forms of mass exploitation. If you look at the third world, the thing that makes it the third world seems to be the absence of one or more of these things.

However, this accomplishment is under attack (IMHO) from the top down by those who would rather make quick easy money through exploitation. Promoting ignorance, fear, superstition, and dogma makes the population easier for con artists to take advantage of.

If you strip out the lunatic fringe and some of the dumb ideas that fellow travel along with it, the fundamental core essence of liberalism seems to me to be efforts to reform society so as to reward productive work and cleverness more than exploitation. Unfortunately, the political class is dominated by those who profit through nonproductive (or even parasitic) derivative economic activities such as taxation and government contracts rather than by those who profit through productivity.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on December 21, 2005 5:04 PM.

Oops, DI’s Freudian Slip is showing… was the previous entry in this blog.

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