Is the Establishment Clause a form of censorship?

| 23 Comments

One of the central parts of Michael Egnor’s argument (if such it can be called) for sneaking religion into science classes in violation of the First Amendment is to argue that restricting science classes to science is a form of censorship: that is, that the prohibition on putting a government imprimatur on a religious claim (i.e., Establishment Clause) is a violation of the principle of free speech.

23 Comments

So, in other words, the first amendment violates the first amendment. Bravo, Dr Egnor.

Egnor is demonstrating that he is as much a mediocre student of the Constitution as he is of contemporary biology. Maybe he needs a “refresher course” on the Establishment Clause from none other than Federal Judge John E. Jones III.

Well said, John. Judge Jones recently commented that we need not only better science instruction, but also better civics instruction in this country.

Except for people being forced to waste time countering actual political activities here, why does it sound as if anyone gives half a shit about this looney’s “ideas”? Just to bother rebutting such nonsense here, save as a hobby, gives him far too much credit - he’s nothing more or less than a silly, lying goon.

Egnor is getting refuted up badly, v.badly. He should go over all his posts on this thread to see how many times he has tried some “clever” gambit, only to have it read and refuted. The dense doctor doesn’t realize that just a while ago he was equating “strengths and weaknesses analysis” with routine research in the labs and universities. Great! But does he also realize that in his opinion until recently these scientists have all been doing 3rd rate research? There is a real lack of discipline at the Seattle dodgers, made worse by their utter incompetence and incoherence on anything related to science and civics. Every one of these guys would have serious trouble qualifying for high school science and history. Terrible!

BTW Tim, I am enjoying this smackdown, although it must be keeping you away from more serious stuff. But then what is almost as much fun as shooting fish in a barrel? Watching someone do it!

CryingofLot49 said: Except for people being forced to waste time countering actual political activities here, why does it sound as if anyone gives half a shit about this looney’s “ideas”?

You answered your own question: because of the actual political activities, of course. :)

Think of it this way. The DI spends millions of dollars a year on outreach. Their folks show up as subject matter experts in courts and write reports for school boards. These same people also write essays on the web. By commenting on their web essays, we make it easier for school boards, courts etc… to find and understand that what they are saying is baloney. If you are a board member, and some other board member gives you an Egnor white paper, and you look him up on the web, wouldn’t it be nice if Sandefur’s responding essay and PT popped up?

My layman’s understanding is that the first amendment restricts the government’s activities.

So if you’re acting as the government (for example, a public school science teacher), your speech is restricted because you are speaking for the government.

If you wish to spew nonsense to seventh-graders, you are welcome to do so on your own time (assuming assent by the kids or parents), but not as a government agent.

So it seems to me that the real problem is that the Egnorant of the world are being tempted by this low-hanging fruit - large collections of kids who have to be in a particular building six hours a day five days a week. It’s hard to get a captive audience of kids that size for that long without a Jonas Brother or at least some ice cream, both of which are expensive.

Public Choice Theory at its finest. It’s often cheaper to talk your government into doing your legwork for you. Good thing the John E. Joneses of the world aren’t buying it.

Timothy Sandefur Wrote:

If Dr. Egnor is so concerned about an open scientific debate, why are his efforts not directed at university research departments? Why is it that he and his colleagues are not out there doing the science? Publishing their results? Performing experiments? Demonstrating the truth of their arguments? Why is it that instead their efforts are directed at elementary and secondary school children?

And the answer is that all these activities on the part of the ID/Creationists are unequivocal hallmarks of a pseudo-science. No science is ever conducted that way.

Egnoramous Wrote:

“We should teach and study the strengths and weaknesses of evolution, with public funds, without hindrance. We need more academic freedom, and more teaching and research on evolution, not less.”

All one has to do is replace the word “evolution” with “shop class”, or “home economics” or “health”, or “mathematics”, or “music”, or even “physics” or “chemistry” to see the ludicrousness of the ploy.

Indeed, we should be keeping the spotlight on these slime balls permanently. The more they babble, the stupider they look. Hopefully, someday, maybe even the rubes who adore them will begin to find them revolting.

It’s always amazing how they can be so dishonest as to claim that forcing their indoctrination into the science classroom constitutes any kind of “free speech.”

Quite apart from the Establishment Clause, that is the exact opposite of freedom of expression (to broaden the issue). Freedom is actually about being able to take a proven empirical pathway to truth, and not having to endlessly discuss dishonest myths and dishonest criticisms of the working theory, particularly not while trying to actually teach the scientific method (the real enemy to the IDists).

Of course, these dolts have pretty much given up trying to persuade anybody that their criticisms are sound, or that ID is science, at least in any free forums.

Now they sit on their censored forums, calling for “free speech,” without ever having to address the real issues (censored forums aren’t censored–or comment-free, in the case of “Evolution News and Views”–for no reason). Clearly they know how to exploit US freedom, while trying to curtail it.

Glen D

http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

A couple people asked why I’m wasting time shooting Egnor in a barrel. Actually, it’s mostly for the fun of it, but also because I wanted to be able to earn my Steve Novella “dissed by the DiscoTute” skeptical badge of honor.

What part of “there are exceptions to the right to free speech and this is one of them” doesn’t this guy understand? Should I go to his church and yell obseneties during the sunday morning services under the guise of free speech?

If you don’t like the Constitution Dr. Egnor, move to another country. No one is going to let you pull this crap. If you disagree you can always file a law suit, at your own expense.

Well, I wouldn’t go that far, DS:

DS said:

What part of “there are exceptions to the right to free speech and this is one of them” doesn’t this guy understand? Should I go to his church and yell obseneties during the sunday morning services under the guise of free speech?

If you don’t like the Constitution Dr. Egnor, move to another country. No one is going to let you pull this crap. If you disagree you can always file a law suit, at your own expense.

Instead, as I suggested before, Dr. Egnor needs a quick refresher course on relevant aspects of Constitutional Law - most notably the Establishment Clause - from Federal Judge John E. Jones III.

Shooting fish in a barrel. If only it was that easy.

Egnor will never be schooled or accept that his “arguments” have been refuted, for the same reason Luskin will continue to bellow Academic Freedom (which doesn’t apply to high school teachers), or Freedom of Speech (which doesn’t apply), or Freedom of Religion (which also doesn’t apply).

Doesn’t matter. It sounds good, just like that nitwit on Fox News at a “tea party” shouting “No taxation without representation!” having no freaking idea what he was saying.

Unfortunately the Egnors succeeded in Kansas, Dover and Texas (to name a few) because they had the votes in a democratic process and no amount of shooting in the barrel would change their minds. In Kansas and Dover the boards were voted out and the policies changed, but the individual ex-board members remain creationists. In Texas the same may happen and perhaps the legislature will get it’s act together and come up with some oversight process, at least until Texas secedes from the Union!

I applaud Timothy’s work in educating the public on both constitutional and law issues, and on the science, but also the ploys used by creationists to con the public. It’s up to each of us to talk with our families and friends to support strong science education, to prevent pseudo-science from taking root in our K-12 schools.

And lest you underestimate what we’re up against I give you Kurt Wise, PhD, Harvard, a creationist, and perhaps the only honest creationist in creation, who has stated that even if ALL the evidence in the Entire Universe supported evolution, he would still be a creationist.

As for Egnor, I’d probably let him operate on my brain because by all accounts he’s a good mechanic, but educate my kids? Not a chance.

Doc Bill said:

Shooting fish in a barrel. If only it was that easy.

Egnor will never be schooled or accept that his “arguments” have been refuted, for the same reason Luskin will continue to bellow Academic Freedom (which doesn’t apply to high school teachers), or Freedom of Speech (which doesn’t apply), or Freedom of Religion (which also doesn’t apply).

Doesn’t matter. It sounds good, just like that nitwit on Fox News at a “tea party” shouting “No taxation without representation!” having no freaking idea what he was saying.

Unfortunately the Egnors succeeded in Kansas, Dover and Texas (to name a few) because they had the votes in a democratic process and no amount of shooting in the barrel would change their minds. In Kansas and Dover the boards were voted out and the policies changed, but the individual ex-board members remain creationists. In Texas the same may happen and perhaps the legislature will get it’s act together and come up with some oversight process, at least until Texas secedes from the Union!

I applaud Timothy’s work in educating the public on both constitutional and law issues, and on the science, but also the ploys used by creationists to con the public. It’s up to each of us to talk with our families and friends to support strong science education, to prevent pseudo-science from taking root in our K-12 schools.

And lest you underestimate what we’re up against I give you Kurt Wise, PhD, Harvard, a creationist, and perhaps the only honest creationist in creation, who has stated that even if ALL the evidence in the Entire Universe supported evolution, he would still be a creationist.

As for Egnor, I’d probably let him operate on my brain because by all accounts he’s a good mechanic, but educate my kids? Not a chance.

I wouldn’t let that whackjob come within 100 feet of me with a scalpel.

I would make one small correction to DS, who says “there are exceptions to the right to free speech and this is one of them.” Not really. The Establishment Clause is not an exception to the right of free speech, because government has no constitutional right of free speech; only persons–not governments–have that right. So the Establishment Clause is not an “exception” to a right: it is a limit against government. I think it’s best to avoid using terminology that suggests that governments have rights. Governments have prerogatives, or discretion to act, or sovereignty. But rights are something only individuals can have. Although sometimes terms like “states rights” or “the rights of the government” are sometimes used as a shorthand to mean “states have the authority to do such and such and cannot be stopped by another government when they try to do such and such,” that terminology is misleading. No legitimate government has rights valid against the people. The people are the masters, and government is the servant; it is better to say that governments have sovereign powers, or jurisdiction, or whatever, than to say that government has rights–precisely because it leads to confusion over things like whether school boards are being “censored” by the Establishment Clause. They’re not: school boards have no “right” to free speech and cannot be “censored” in this sense. Individuals certainly do have that right of free speech (and creationists and their organizations have every right to express themselves by spreading their lies and nonsense on their own dime). But once elected to official positions on school boards, they have no legitimate authority to promulgate their religion officially–and that is not censorship.

Tim,

Thanks. That is in fact exactly what I was trying to say. The individual does not have the right to express his religious opinions when acting as an agent for the government. That would mean that the government was endorsing a particular religious view. And he certainly doesn’t have the right to present his own religious views in place of science or to deliberately misrepresent science when he was hired by the government expressly to teach science in a public school. That would be immoral as well as illegal, much like the actions of a certain public school teacher much in the news lately.

It’s always amazing how they can be so dishonest as to claim that forcing their indoctrination into the science classroom constitutes any kind of “free speech.”

Allow me to doubt the sincerity of this amazement. From time to time, folks here document their experiences with creationist forums - invariably, places where censorship is instant and total, and the Official Truth is enforced with humorless rigor. Folks who came to what would become the US for religious reasons did NOT come to practice religious freedom, but to follow the One True Faith (theirs) in the most totalitarian and intolerant manner they could engineer.

The Catch-22 beauty of using peoples’ sense of fairness to create something completely unfair, to use equality as a stepping stone to its opposite, to deploy the ideal of academic freedom as a way to introduce indoctrination-or-else, has a certain paradoxical appeal. How delightfully appropriate this is, for a group one of whose primary directives forbids false witness.

Restricting science classes to science is not a form of censorship. It’s about having standards. Something which Egnor long since lost.

That’s told ‘im. That’s Egnor smashed to pieces!

Forgive me if somoene said this already, but Egnor is absolutely right. In fact, people in theaters also have a constitutional right, under the First Amendment, to freedom of speech regarding yelling “fire.” Oh…they don’t?…Never mind. ;-)

Novparl said:

That’s told ‘im. That’s Egnor smashed to pieces!

You are getting awfully close to a reference to Lewis Carroll’s version of Humpty Dumpty, who famously used words to mean what he chose them to mean.

Timothy Sandefur -

A couple people asked why I’m wasting time shooting Egnor in a barrel

I don’t think you’re wasting your time.

As much as I disagree with both your underlying philosophy and your tendency to deal only with weak, easily trumped critics, I appreciate your rebutting of Egnor.

Egnor is in a prominent position - one that he undeniably earned through hard work and talent - in medicine. Medicine is one of the most important fields of applied science, and actually overlaps with and makes contributions to basic science.

Although Egnor’s arguments are transparently false, he makes them from a prominent position, and it is good that they are thoroughly refuted as soon as they are issued.

So now Egnoramous is over at the DI’s blog blithering and caterwauling (www.evolutionnews.org/2009/04/censorship_in_freespace.html#more) that Sandefur doesn’t support the government’s paying for chaplains–now whining that Sandefur is against what he so recently claimed that Sandefur was for.

Of course the huge problem is that Egnor can’t get anything right, and doesn’t really seem to care to do so. He spins anything into an attack on atheists/evolutionists, hence, why should he bother to get his facts straight?

What’s surprising about Sandefur opposing the government’s concessions to religion? Many atheists oppose those. I don’t (I don’t happily accept the title “atheist” either, but it’ll do where distinctions are not very fine), yet that seems to put me in the minority among atheists on the web forums. He’s shown, once again, to be the blowhard that he is, but instead of apologizing for being a jackass (once again), he’s merely attacking Sandefur for being consistent (at least according to Egnorant standards), where he was just accusing him of being inconsistent.

Egnorant fool seems not able to even make a case there for “censorship in free space,” counting on blank assertion to create such a state by divine fiat. Indeed, perhaps that is the primary impetus behind creationism–they want to be able to produce a state of affairs by means of “speaking, and it is thus.” If that is not the case, they have no case, as they only have rhetoric to “back up their claims.”

Give up the belief that lying makes truth, and ID falls apart immediately.

Glen D

http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on April 16, 2009 12:44 PM.

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