Pay No Attention to The Establishment Behind The Curtain!

| 73 Comments

Non-lawyer Joseph M. Knippenberg of the Ashbrook Center has posted this article attacking the Kitzmiller decision on the grounds that it represents "hostility" to religion. I've pointed out many times that this accusation of "hostility" is generally just a complaint by people who believe that their religious freedom entitles them to use the government for their religious purposes, which is not correct. Freedom only means that we have the right to do what we want on our own time and with our own money; it does not include the right to use other people's money or infringe on other people's rights. Religious freedom does not include your right to use the government's school system to teach religion to people. When the court stops you from doing so, that is not "hostility," despite Dr. Knippenberg's claims to the contrary.

Knippenberg starts his post, understandably, by quoting the Dover ID disclaimer. But he then contends that since "the Board's statement doesn't explicitly mention, let alone endorse, religion," it therefore cannot violate the Establishment Clause. Of course, this is the kind of argument-from-superficiality that the Supreme Court has rightly rejected time and time again. As the great Justice Stephen Field once put it,

what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. The Constitution deals with substance, not shadows. Its inhibition was levelled at the thing, not the name. It intended that the rights of the citizen should be secure against deprivation...under any form, however disguised. If the inhibition can be evaded by the form of the enactment, its insertion in the fundamental law was a vain and futile proceeding.

Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 277, 325 (1866). In religion cases, the Court has been particularly keen on avoiding silly formalism, and has held that even a law that appears on its face to be religiously neutral, can violate the Establishment Clause if it discriminates in substance. "[T]he Establishment Clause extends beyond facial discrimination. The Clause "forbids subtle departures from neutrality," and "covert suppression of particular religious beliefs...." [It] protects against governmental hostility which is masked, as well as overt." Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 534 (1993) (citations omitted). Courts will therefore look behind a law to see if it is, in reality, enacted for unconstitutional reasons. In Hialeah, a law prohibiting the killing of animals in certain circumstances, which might have been seen as a legitimate public health law, was in fact a religiously motivated attempt to curtail religious animal sacrifice, and was unconstitutional. In Kitzmiller, Judge Jones found overwhelming evidence to support the conclusion that, like the law in Hialeah, the Dover ID policy was adopted for religious reasons despite whatever facial neutrality it might have.

Knippenberg acknowledges that "[o]ne's sole purpose in enacting a piece of legislation or pursuing a policy cannot be to promote a purely religious point of view," but complains that the Dover ID policy was not such an instance. There are secular reasons, he says, for adopting that policy, and therefore it ought to be upheld. Of course, this is not correct: the argument that species today are the product of a supernatural creation is a religious argument, no matter what it chooses to call itself. Knippenberg argues that the argument for design "is an argument from reason," but of course it is not. Positing a supernatural cause is not an argument from reason, but an argument from faith, since it depends necessarily on an Entity which is beyond nature and beyond comprehension. Still, this is not relevant. The Constitution, after all, does not make a distinction between the state endorsing a religious viewpoint for "religious" reasons as opposed to endorsing a religious viewpoint for purportedly "rational" reasons. It makes it illegal for the government to engage in any act "respecting an establishment of religion." That means, the government may not take any official position on the existence vel non of a godhead, whether that position is based on faith, loyalty, patriotism, algebra, indigestion, romantic longing, artistic inspiration, or political expediency. It is simply irrelevant for First Amendment purposes whether the ID disclaimer was supported by "a rational argument, in principle accessible to anyone who has reason." The Constitution forbids the state from making such arguments, or any arguments, to students supporting the existence of God.

Then Knippenberg engages a straw man. The Kitzmiller case, he claims "mean[s] that one could not teach the history and philosophy of science as part of a high school science curriculum without running afoul of the First Amendment." Of course, the decision makes no such claim. Schools are perfectly free, both before and after the decision, to teach students that people once believed that the origin of species was attributable to supernatural causes. They may even teach students that people still believe that the origin of species is attributable to supernatural causes. What they may not do is teach them that the origin of species is attributable to supernatural causes. This proposition is so clear, and has been restated so many times in the decisions on this subject, that it is discomfiting to run into it time and time again. See, e.g., Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 593-94 (1987).

Knippenberg mischaracterizes Kitzmiller in an indefensible way:

This, then, is where Judge Jones would leave us: the fact that religious people agree with a rational argument is sufficient to make that argument religious and, consequently, to make it impermissible for a school board even to suggest it as an alternative to widely-held scientific orthodoxy. An argument that does not demand, but simply permits one to supply, a religious conclusion is religious and hence impermissible.

Only Phyllis Schlafly could have done a better job of misrepresenting what the case actually decided. Kitzmiller does not, in any way, suggest that religious people agreeing with a rational policy makes that rational policy into an impermissible religious viewpoint. Nothing like that happened in Dover. What Kitzmiller says is that there is no such thing as a scientific theory of Intelligent Design---a conclusion for which the trial judge describes a compelling amount of evidence; it is instead a religious viewpoint masquerading as science, and a religiously motivated school board sought to promulgate that viewpoint in government-run schools. This is unconstitutional, because the First Amendment prohibits the government from teaching that a religious viewpoint is true. If Dr. Knippenberg is going to accuse people of "disingenuousness," perhaps he should ponder the beam in his own eye.

Not satisfied with blatantly mischaracterizing (or at least, misunderstanding) what the decision actually holds, Knippenberg proceeds to adopt the old ID canard that teaching science in a government school science classroom is somehow an establishment of religion. "We can establish and protect scientific orthodoxy, but not religious orthodoxy," he complains. But there are two fundamental problems with this.

First, nobody objects to teaching genuine scientific controversies as such. The problem is that evolution is simply not a scientifically controversial matter, and teaching evolution as true is not "protecting" an "orthodoxy," any more than teaching students that the earth orbits the sun, or that human babies are not delivered by a stork. If a school were to teach these "alternatives," it might might very well be described as "unorthodox," but these "theories" do not deserve any serious attention because they are not scientific theories; they are simply untrue. To bar them from the classroom isn't censorship---it's responsible science education.

Second, and most importantly, there is no constitutional prohibition on teaching what Knippenberg calls "scientific orthodoxy." Government schools are free to teach a lot of things, including things that we might wish they wouldn't teach. Such schools are even constitutionally allowed to lie to children. But what they are not allowed to do is to teach children that a religious viewpoint is true. Religion is simply off limits. Religion is treated differently by the Constitution than are anything else, for solid historical and political reasons.

Knippenberg's mischaracterization of the decision, and his adoption of tired old fallacies (teaching science is establishment! it's hostility to not let me use the government to teach my religion!) should suggest to us the tremendous vacuum that makes up the argument supporting ID.

73 Comments

Just out of curiosity - is there anyone at all out there who is basing their argument against the judge’s decision on the trial transcripts? I mean, that’s where you’d have to make any substantial complaint, right? You’d have to dig through the transcripts, and determine that the judge misinterpreted something, you know, from the actual trial. But so far, all I’ve seen are references to the ruling itself being supposedly incorrect, without any supporting evidence from the trial itself.

tada!

This horse is dead, folks.

The IDers can bitch and moan all they want. They had their day in court. They were able to present any evdience they wanted to, to trot out all the scientific experts they thought they needed, and to cross-examine the “evolutionists” and point out any errors or flaws they thought they saw.

They shot their load.

They lost.

I have no interest in their weeping.

It’s time for them to quit their damn whining and get used to it. (shrug)

Just out of curiosity - is there anyone at all out there who is basing their argument against the judge’s decision on the trial transcripts? I mean, that’s where you’d have to make any substantial complaint, right? You’d have to dig through the transcripts, and determine that the judge misinterpreted something, you know, from the actual trial. But so far, all I’ve seen are references to the ruling itself being supposedly incorrect, without any supporting evidence from the trial itself.

But then you wouldn’t be “scary” any more!

But Lenny, the ACLU had too many lawyers, it Wasn’t Fair, they’re SO MEAN!!!!!!!!1

AHAHAHAHAHA

Just out of curiosity - is there anyone at all out there who is basing their argument against the judge’s decision on the trial transcripts? I mean, that’s where you’d have to make any substantial complaint, right? You’d have to dig through the transcripts, and determine that the judge misinterpreted something, you know, from the actual trial. But so far, all I’ve seen are references to the ruling itself being supposedly incorrect, without any supporting evidence from the trial itself.

This relates to one of my motivations for starting the McLean vs. Arkansas Documentation Project.

Several times over the years I got into debates with creationists where the McLean trial came up and the creationist would imply that the trial had been unfair, or that the judge in the case had been biased.

So I thought the trial transcripts should settle the question (unfortunately it turned out getting the transcripts wasn’t so easy).

Dag nabit! the link to the McLean site didn’t take. Could one of you Thumbers put it in for me please?

http://www.antievolution.org/projec[…]te/index.htm

Feel free to delete this msg afterwards.

Sandefur

If a school were to teach these “alternatives,” it might might very well be described as “unorthodox,” but these “theories” do not deserve any serious attention because they are not scientific theories; they are simply untrue.

Ah, but just wait until you hear my “rational” argument for the earth-centered universe thory.

Then you’ll have to EAT your words, Mr. Sandefur, along with the other atheists.

Religious fanatics can be rational, too, you know. How do you think we figured out that junk DNA would have a function, just as predicted if an intelligent being designed the flagellum? You think we read that in the Bible?

No, it was our minds, even as you sit and scoff at it.

Perhaps if scientists spent less time in court and more time doing experiments they would discover that they can’t make life from a mixture of dirt and water. And then they would understand why the people in Dover needed a textbook that wasn’t filled with materialist lies.

Religion is treated differently by the Constitution than are anything else, for solid historical and political reasons.

Check the grammar.

The arguments against the Dover decision are an eerie echo of the arguments against evolution. They both say: We know what’s right and what’s wrong before we start; these things are obvious to anyone of sincere faith. The arguments against evolution, as a whole, are arguments that we must somehow be misinterpreting the evidence. We already KNOW the answer; either the evidence supports that knowledge, or our interpretation of that evidence must be wrong. And the same with Kitzmiller - there certainly is no question of *whether* Jones got it wrong, we know he did ipso facto, because he decided for the wrong side. The only task remaining is to comb through the evidence/decision in search of just how the error could have been made.

I suppose Knippenberg could make the same claim as the creationists - “Look, I’m not a lawyer/biologist and maybe my understanding of the law/science is imperfect, but even the veriest dunce can see evolution/Kitzmiller is surely wrong *somehow*, provided that dunce isn’t a God-denying atheist.”

And then they would understand why the people in Dover needed a textbook that wasn’t filled with materialist lies.

You can either provide at least 2 examples of lies in that particular textbook, or admit that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

“Dr. Peter Paulinmary, Creationist” - again I am unsure. Is this a parody post?

If so 8/10, arf arf arf. If not, er…

We’d love to entertain your “rational” argument for the earth-centered universe theory. Make sure you know what theory means, though. In the scientific sense, that is. If its really good, well help you submit it for peer review and you van really start to change people’s minds.

‘How do you think we figured out that junk DNA would have a function, just as predicted if an intelligent being designed the flagellum? You think we read that in the Bible?” — I like this stuff. What do you predict about men having nipples? You seem to be getting at ‘everything has a purpose’ — is that what you meant?

I for one am eager and open minded for your SCIENTIFIC theory. Get posting!

Knippenberg Wrote:

This, then, is where Judge Jones would leave us: the fact that religious people agree with a rational argument is sufficient to make that argument religious and, consequently, to make it impermissible for a school board even to suggest it as an alternative to widely-held scientific orthodoxy. An argument that does not demand, but simply permits one to supply, a religious conclusion is religious and hence impermissible.

One is strongly inclined to return to the halcyon public-school days of “Our Miss Brooks”:

Osgood Conklin said:

What manner of bovine jest is this?

Dr. Peter Paulinmary wrote:

Religious fanatics can be rational, too, you know. How do you think we figured out that junk DNA would have a function…

Taken out of context, that’s a great joke all by itself.

But I have to ask, what function does junk DNA have?

But I have to ask, what function does junk DNA have?

the debate appears to be still out on whether Dr. P is really a creationist or just a lame parody of one.

Steve S and Lenny -

You guys got it all wrong. In reality, the IDiots carried the day in Dover, but that damn Commie Athiest Activist Judge Jones just couldn’t resist legislating from the bench!

I’ll bet ya that he didn’t even say “Merry Christmas” this past holiday, er, um , I mean Christmas season.

Dr. Peter Paulinmary, Creationist

why don’t we See What Tomorrow Brings because it’s No Easy Walk to Freedom.

Peter Paulinmary Wrote:

Perhaps if scientists spent less time in court and more time doing experiments they would discover that they can’t make life from a mixture of dirt and water. And then they would understand why the people in Dover needed a textbook that wasn’t filled with materialist lies.

Actually one of the guys over at ARN (not one of the IDers, needless to say) has been mucking about with that for some time. He’s been trying to vaguely approximate what the early earth would have looked like. So far the interesting conclusions are that not only does protein tend to stack up massively around beaches but, in the presence of hydrophobic molecules like lipids (he used oil) you tend to get little cell-like bubbles of protein forming with a hydrophobic shell.

Completely unrigorous but very cool - I think that this sort of hands-on science could be an excellent educational tool.

yeah, phospholipids smooshed through the right sized holes will spontaneously form phospholipid bilayers. standard biophysics or biology technique. did it when i was studying single-molecule proteins with FRET.

Troy:

Just checked out your McLean Project site. Fantastic! I’m stunned the courts are so sloppy preserving their trial records. I also sent you via email a Michael Ruse reference you may be able to use in your bibliography.

Excellent work!

Corkscrew and Steve S, there’s some really remarkable work currently being done with replicating RNAs and liposomes.

The emergence of competition between model protocells.

Chen IA, Roberts RW, Szostak JW Science. 2004, 305:1474-6

The transition from independent molecular entities to cellular structures with integrated behaviors was a crucial aspect of the origin of life. We show that simple physical principles can mediate a coordinated interaction between genome and compartment boundary, independent of any genomic functions beyond self-replication. RNA, encapsulated in fatty acid vesicles, exerts an osmotic pressure on the vesicle membrane that drives the uptake of additional membrane components, leading to membrane growth at the expense of relaxed vesicles, which shrink. Thus, more efficient RNA replication could cause faster cell growth, leading to the emergence of Darwinian evolution at the cellular level.

PDF available here.

Perhaps if scientists spent less time in court and more time doing experiments they would discover that they can’t make life from a mixture of dirt and water.”

It bears repeating…the theory of evolution is concerned with the how species evolved, not how life originated.

NJOsprey,

while I agree that the TOE does not directly address the origins of life, it nevertheless has deep implications for many such theories. See the abstract that I posted directly above your most recent entry for an example from the current peer-reviewed literature.

About the Ashbrook Center … Some of the world’s most noted political figures, including Ronald Reagan, Colin Powell, Margaret Thatcher, Dick Cheney, Benjamin Netanyahu, Henry Kissinger, and William J. Bennett have participated in the Center’s programs.

A nicely balanced group that indicates that the Ashbrook Center is sincerely interested in a search for truth.

while I agree that the TOE does not directly address the origins of life, it nevertheless has deep implications for many such theories.

Not really. It’s the facts of cell biology that have implications about abiogenesis, not the TOE as such.

nah: care to turn that assertion into an argument?

Posted by Dr. Peter Paulinmary, Creationist on January 4, 2006 07:36 PM (e) (s)

Sandefur

If a school were to teach these “alternatives,” it might might very well be described as “unorthodox,” but these “theories” do not deserve any serious attention because they are not scientific theories; they are simply untrue.

Ah, but just wait until you hear my “rational” argument for the earth-centered universe thory.

Then you’ll have to EAT your words, Mr. Sandefur, along with the other atheists.

Religious fanatics can be rational, too, you know. How do you think we figured out that junk DNA would have a function, just as predicted if an intelligent being designed the flagellum? You think we read that in the Bible?

No, it was our minds, even as you sit and scoff at it.

Perhaps if scientists spent less time in court and more time doing experiments they would discover that they can’t make life from a mixture of dirt and water. And then they would understand why the people in Dover needed a textbook that wasn’t filled with materialist lies.

Religion is treated differently by the Constitution than are anything else, for solid historical and political reasons.

Check the grammar.

LOL. That was funny. But who are you? My first guess would be Lenny, however the total resistance to insert a (shrug) makes me think otherwise. Doubt it is Sir T-J or he would have been debating himself. I am going to go for a guess at K.E.

Dr. Peter Paulinmary, Creationist…please unmask. BTW I particularly appreciated your last 2 sentences.

Do any of you ever answer the questions that the ID people bring up or do you just make ad homonym attacks and talk about the separation of church and state?

I know lots of scientists that aren’t creationists that have lots of problems with evolution and some of it’s claims.

We need to make sure that we don’t become so dogmatic that we close our eyes about other ideas.

By the way can anyone here explain the mechanism of evolution or that there are good questions regarding the fact that evolution might be breaking the second law of thermodynamics.

Your thought full scientific answers would be most appreciated.

By the way can anyone here explain the mechanism of evolution or that there are good questions regarding the fact that evolution might be breaking the second law of thermodynamics.

*sigh* an ad-hominem attacker accusing all of PT of being ad-hominem.

anywho, go here les to answer your questions:

http://www.talkorigins.org/

there you will find the direct refutation of using slot to argue against ET, and many other dogmas taught by creationists.

there was even a thread recently posted to PT completely devoted to slot, if you had bothered to examine the front page of the site (which, btw, contains many links to great resources to answer your questions).

here is the slot thread:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]tml#comments

don’t blame me if you get lost in the physics nuances.

I suggest you check out the talk origins archive, and do a search of the database for the slot argument before you check out that more recent thread.

you might also check out this site:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

which is an excellent and easy to understand introduction to the essentials of evolutionary theory.

get out there and learn, man!

it isn’t scientists that teach dogma, les. that would be the ID side.

“care to turn that assertion into an argument?”

Um, it’s self-evident that the facts of cell biology constrain theories of an abiogenesis that gave rise to those facts. The ToE, OTOH, explains biodiversity, not abiogenesis. The facts of cell biology also constrain the ToE. You are committing a logical fallacy:

P -> Q P -> R —— Q -> R

In this case, P is the facts of cell biology, Q is the ToE, and R is abiogenesis.

“We need to make sure that we don’t become so dogmatic that we close our eyes about other ideas.”

Gee, ya think so?

Posted by Stephen Elliott on January 5, 2006 02:39 AM (e) (s)

Dr. Peter Paulinmary, Creationist…please unmask. BTW I particularly appreciated your last 2 sentences.

Nup not I. I’m more of a Gospel of Thomas Guy(Almost Zen Koans) although Mary had a few choice words in her own Gospel and I don’t think she would have let Peter or Paul since she had to warn them off changing a few things ;> Besides the only team sports I play are one on one. And I don’t know a thing about messing people around.…..ooops I mean oils ;0

Corkscrew wrote:

Ah, Lenny’s Pizza Guy, I was wondering if you were around. Completely offtopic, but I thought you might find this EULA spoof amusing.

Ugh! That would be even funnier if it weren’t so uncomfortably close to the truth… Who would even want to re-heat or share most of that “corporate” pizza?

Almost as funny as LaLaLarry

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 3, column 13, byte 81 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Way back in #67867

Greg H Wrote:

You do realize that asking a supporter if ID to provide positive evidence of a claim is like putting a pig in a mudhole with the admonition “Ya’ll stay clean now, hear me pig?” All you get is a lot of “problems with this other theory” and no actual positive arguments.

And a dirty pig.

I totally disagree. Asking an ID supporter for positive evidence of a claim is far more like inserting your arm into the anus (and beyond) of a slightly kinky bull to relieve it’s constipation. The bull may enjoy itself, heck it may even feel relieved, but it is very rare that you get covered in anything other than bovine faeces. (This is the toned down version!)

Larry Fafarman Wrote:

I myself have made the following criticisms of the Dover opinion without looking at the trial transcripts —

Um, Larry since you are totally lacking in knowledge of the facts in evidence (since you have avoided becoming familiar with the actual trial record), you are without information to basis your arguments on for at least points (2) and (3).

For example perhaps for (2) the defendants explicitly waived any privilege and introduced the board’s lawyer’s advice into evidence themselves. You don’t know ‘cause you’ve intentionally kept yourself unfamiliar with the trial record. Wouldn’t you look like a super-dork if that were the case? I know you’re smugly thinking “but it’s not the case”, but until you familiarize yourself with the trial record you have no basis for asserting this.

Same thing for your argument (3), you don’t know in what form the official order was entered into evidence because you are ignorant of the trial record. Argument from ignorance - a powerful (yet erroneous) tool for creationists of all stripes.

Now your choices are either (a) get familiar with the trial record and base your arguments on facts or (b) be dismissed for admitting that you’re arguing from ignorance of the facts.

Wow, I was just hit by a stroke of genius!

Just like Larry, I’ve never studied nor am I competent in many many subjects! That means (according to Larry) I’m the ultimate expert in just about everything!

So feel free to ask me questions on about any subject you need information on. However, you’d better avoid asking me questions on engineering, project management, and various IT subjects since I do have some educational and/or practical experience in these fields.

But on Law, Biology, Medicine, Economics, Education, etc., etc., etc. you should regard my opinion as final!

Same here Larry ask me anything except about Dancing Norwegian Cow Girls.… I might still make it there one day.

But on Law, Biology, Medicine, Economics, Education, etc., etc., etc. you should regard my opinion as final!

Jim: what’s your opinon about Larry?

See how evil evolution is? It even promotes cannibalism!

hmm. if eating humans is cannibalism, and eating sh*it is coprophagy, what would eating words be?

etymophagy? etymobalism?

Stephen Elliott replying to LF:

“Neither side in the trial wanted this intervention. This and other relevant points have been explained to you painfully repetitively. Do you ever listen to other voices than your own?”

Methinks he always listens to those voices in his head.

What would eating words be?

How about corvophagy? (Hint: Google Corvus.)

Sir Toejam,

Larry is a doo doo head!

Comment #67714

Posted by Dr. Peter Paulinmary, Creationist on January 4, 2006 07:36 PM (e) (s)

Sandefur

If a school were to teach these “alternatives,” it might might very well be described as “unorthodox,” but these “theories” do not deserve any serious attention because they are not scientific theories; they are simply untrue.

Ah, but just wait until you hear my “rational” argument for the earth-centered universe thory.

Then you’ll have to EAT your words, Mr. Sandefur, along with the other atheists.

Religious fanatics can be rational, too, you know. How do you think we figured out that junk DNA would have a function, just as predicted if an intelligent being designed the flagellum? You think we read that in the Bible?

No, it was our minds, even as you sit and scoff at it.

Perhaps if scientists spent less time in court and more time doing experiments they would discover that they can’t make life from a mixture of dirt and water. And then they would understand why the people in Dover needed a textbook that wasn’t filled with materialist lies.

Religion is treated differently by the Constitution than are anything else, for solid historical and political reasons.

Check the grammar.

Is this parody? It’s always difficult to tell when someone is being serious and engaging in parody.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on January 4, 2006 5:44 PM.

Cobb: Court Not Misled was the previous entry in this blog.

Ken Miller Webcast Archived is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter