Why Francis Beckwith Can’t Be Taken Seriously

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Our friend Francis Beckwith has published a new article in the University of St. Thomas Journal of Law And Public Policy, which goes on for some thirty pages to show that he isn’t and never was, and really wasn’t ever and really isn’t and never even came close to being an advocate of Intelligent Design, and so forth. Normally, such self-indulgence would not merit notice, but in the process, he drops a few entertaining knee-slappers.

My own favorite is his criticism of the Kitzmiller decision-or, rather, of the “endorsement test” in Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The “endorsement test” is simply the rule that the Constitution bars the government from engaging in activities that send the message that the government endorses some religious belief or other. One obvious question is, message to whom? The answer can’t, of course, be the hypersensitive, or the complete ignoramus, but our old stand-by, the reasonable person.

Now, the reasonable person is a very old concept-indeed, it’s the cornerstone of whole areas of the law. It is, of course, a hypothetical construct, not an actual person. As humorist A.P. Herbert famously put it, the reasonable person

stands in singular contrast to his kinsman the Economic Man, whose every action is prompted by the single spur of selfish advantage and directed to the single end of monetary gain. The Reasonable Man is always thinking of others; prudence is his guide.… All solid virtues are his, save only that peculiar quality by which the affection of other men is won.…

He is one who invariably looks where he is going, and is careful to examine the immediate foreground before he executes a leap or bound; who neither star-gazes nor is lost in meditation when approaching trap-doors or the margin of a dock…who never mounts a moving omnibus, and does not alight from any car while the train is in motion; who investigates exhaustively the bona fides of every mendicant before distributing alms, and will inform himself of the history and habits of a dog before administering a caress; who believes no gossip, nor repeats it, without firm basis for believing it to be true; who never drives his ball till those in front of him have definitely vacated the putting-green…never from one year’s end to another makes an excessive demand upon his wife, his neighbours, his servants, his ox, or his ass…never swears, gambles, or loses his temper; who uses nothing except in moderation, and even while he flogs his child is meditating only on the golden mean.…

I have called him a myth; and, in so far as there are few, if any, of his mind and temperament to be found in the ranks of living men, the title is well chosen. But it is a myth which rests upon solid and even, it may be, upon permanent foundations. The Reasonable Man is fed and kept alive by the most valued and enduring of our juridical institutions–the common jury.

The reasonable man is not expected–in tort law, constitutional law, or anything else–to be omniscient and perfect. The question is whether a hypothetical rational person, with the relevant information and background, would understand the government school to be endorsing the truth of a religious proposition. While subject to legitimate criticism, this is at least a reasonable way to approach Establishment Clause questions. But Beckwith, whether out of ignorance or a desire to misrepresent the law, would prefer to caricature it. He writes that the reasonable person “would exhibit ideal epistemological excellence,” and would “not be limited by biases.” He oh, so cleverly asserts that the Judge Jones’s use of this common legal device was hypocritical, because “[t]he ROO [‘reasonable objective observer’] would seemingly possess…a ‘God’s Eye point of view,’” and therefore, “in order to expunge the divine, or at least allusions to it, from the public schools, Judge Jones requires the divine’s assistance, or at least the assistance of a hypothetical deity.”

This is worse than a straw man–it is a juvenile attempt to make a joke at the expense of logic and the law. Indeed, it is the only “argument” that Beckwith offers against the use of the reasonable person standard in Establishment Clause jurisprudence. All for the purpose of introducing levity and silliness into a scholarly proceeding, Beckwith indulges himself by mischaracterizing the reasonable man standard, and, without bringing any substantive criticism, or even explanation of his objections thereto, simply throwing this straw man overboard.

Meanwhile, he shamelessly misrepresents what Judge Jones’ opinion actually says. For the record, Jones was not seeking to, and did not, “expunge the divine, or at least allusions to it, from the public schools.” He faithfully applied existing precedent that enforces the Constitution’s absolute prohibition against government funding the propagation of religious opinions, or promoting them as true. Allusions to the divine are perfectly constitutional and perfectly routine, in the context of a literature or history class, where tax dollars may be, and are, spent teaching children about religion. But it is neither appropriate nor legal for the government to spend tax dollars finding clever methods to tell children that some religious doctrine or another is the truth.

Yet Beckwith happily continues stacking straw men. Another–and one that is a constant theme with Beckwith, and fully justifies Barbara Forrest’s dismissal of him as simply a non-epistemologist–comes when he repeats his now hoary assertion that science’s “methodological naturalism” is somehow unjustified, or, to be more precise, that methodological naturalism is just one way of knowing, and shouldn’t be “privileged” over “explanations” of phenomena that rely on supernaturalism and magic instead. Beckwith writes that he once believed

that the best way to understand ID is to see it as a counter to the hegemony of philosophical materialism that some thinkers believe is entailed by Darwinian evolution as well as a particular understanding of science. It is a view of science that maintains that the hard sciences are the best or only way of acquiring exhaustive knowledge of the natural world and its genesis and that these sciences, in order to function, require methodological naturalism.

We’ll lay aside the obvious fact that few if any scientists (or others) claim that the “hard sciences” are the “only way” of gaining “exhaustive” knowledge. As I’ve explained at length elsewhere (and Forrest has explained better than I) methodological naturalism is not just one among other possible ways of knowing. It is employed because it has consistently shown that it yields results–predictable hypotheses, working technologies, and all that. Praying to the rain god doesn’t increase crop yields; figuring out how fertilizers work does. But more. Naturalism doesn’t just produce better results, it is also preferable from the outset. Its “hegemony” is not based simply on the overwhelming evidence that it succeeds where other approaches fail. It is also based on the fact that the world into which we are born is full of natural phenomena that impinge on our senses and call for explanations–that is, accounts. Assertions that magic did it are not explanations, they are mere dazzle and mystery. They account for nothing. Moreover, given the obviousness of the material world, it appears prima facie that such explanations should be in terms of the natural world. Maybe there is some other dimension necessary for explaining natural phenomena, and maybe some other method is better suited to explaining them. But if so, the person who makes that assertion who bears the burden of production to justify that claim. The teapot orbiting Pluto doesn’t just stand for observable entities–it also stands for thought processes. Material explanations for phenomena are a natural baseline; they are the starting point of our knowledge of the world. If there is some other dimension, and some other epistemology, it is up to the person who claims such to prove it. That’s just how logic works…unless Beckwith wants to reject logic, too, as simply one among many possible methods that unfairly enjoys “hegemony.” Don’t laugh. Some of his allies…er, former allies?…er, something.…have done just that.

As long as logic remains with us, it is the person who claims that there is an invisible Man in the sky, tinkering with the physical makeup of animals, who bears the burden of showing that the natural world we automatically see around us falls short for some reason. And Beckwith has demonstrated that if anyone’s going to satisfy that burden of production–it ain’t Frank Beckwith.

(Cross posted at Freespace)

65 Comments

you little liars do nothing but antagonize…

and you try to eliminate all the dreams and hopes of humanity…

but you LOST…

THE DEATH OF ATH*ISM - SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF GOD

http://engforum.pravda.ru/showthread.php?t=280780

Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism…

*************************************

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7vpw4AH8QQ

*************************************

atheists deny their own life element…

LIGHT OR DEATH, ATHEISTS?

******************************** ***************************LIGHT********* ************************************

depletedfools said:

you little liars do nothing but antagonize…

and you try to eliminate all the dreams and hopes of humanity…

but you LOST…

THE DEATH OF ATH*ISM - SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF GOD

http://engforum.pravda.ru/showthread.php?t=280780

Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism…

*************************************

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7vpw4AH8QQ

*************************************

atheists deny their own life element…

LIGHT OR DEATH, ATHEISTS?

******************************** ***************************LIGHT********* ************************************

Sort of more than a day late and a dollar short. April Fools was yesterday.

depletedneurons babbles:

you little liars …

It starts again. Ho hum.

Was it Beckwith that left the Discovery Institute last year and tried to claim that he had not supported the intelligent design scam?

I wonder how many of the ID perps are going to try to rewrite history.

It has to be tough to go down in history as being part of a dishonest political movement that ended up running a bait and switch scam on their own creationist support base.

“My own favorite is his criticism of the Kitzmiller decision-or, rather, of the “endorsement test” in Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The “endorsement test” is simply the rule that the Constitution bars the government from engaging in activities that send the message that the government endorses some religious belief or other. One question, of course, is, message to whom? The answer can’t, of course, be the hypersensitive, or the complete ignoramus, but our old stand-by, the reasonable person.”

Read that, Byers. You are not one of the “whoms.”

[Foghorn Leghorn voice]

What’s with, I say, what’s with the repeated … boy? Is something missing? Maybe your, I say, maybe your head’s been depleted, boy.

tupelo said:

[Foghorn Leghorn voice]

What’s with, I say, what’s with the repeated … boy? Is something missing? Maybe your, I say, maybe your head’s been depleted, boy.

Are you implying that depletedneuron is missing a few bales in the loft? That his roll is a few lifesavers short?

Francis wrote:

“methodological naturalism” is somehow unjustified, or, to be more precise, that methodological naturalism is just one way of knowing, and shouldn’t be “privileged” over “explanations” of phenomena that rely on supernaturalism and magic instead.”

Right. And putting the ball through the basket is only one way to score points in basketball. It should not be privileged over other ways of getting points, like technical fouls. Oh wait, you still have to get the ball through the basket to get the points, even for technical fouls. That’s not fair!

Crossing home plate, that’s only one way to score runs in baseball. Why should that be privileged? Shouldn’t you get runs for crying? But there is no crying in baseball, too bad. Well, actually, you can cry and bitch and moan all you want , but you are not going to score any runs that way. Now why would anybody want to get runs for crying? Maybe they are too afraid to step up to the plate and actually do some science.

As the Kitzmiller trial clearly demonstrated, the best way to understand ID is as creationism 3.0 (after creationism and creation science).

Let’s imagine that we have solid evidence for the existence of supernatural beings who sometimes meddle in the affairs of humans. This is a thought experiment, please bear with me.

The meddling can’t be too frequent in this thought experiment but what it does mean is that methodological naturalism fails from time to time when miracles occur. Maybe our hypothetical God created the original universe or tilted evolution toward humans or made the dodo go extinct. (These would not be the examples of solid evidence - there would be more direct examples in our thought experiment such as the efficacy of prayer or something like that.)

What would we do in the public schools? Do we teach our children about the observed interference of these gods and the proof of their existence? Of course we do! Do we teach them that one of the many religions is more correct than another? No, we don’t.

There are some believers who maintain that this is the situation right now. They say we should teach the “truth” without lending support to any religion. In our thought experiment they would be correct.

What this means is that we have to be careful to separate the teaching of “truth” from the teaching of religious beliefs. It’s not sufficient to simply say that a particular point of view is “religious” and then ban it from the schools. What if it is both religious and true?

Now, let’s imagine that the evidence for these supernatural beings is ambivalent. It’s not solid, it’s only suggestive. We’d like to know whether they exist or not and we’d like to analyze the data to see if we can reach a conclusion. Is this a scientific question or should we ban it from schools on the grounds that the answer supports religion?

My position is that we should examine the question. It is a legitimate scientific question. We should look closely at any arguments that claim support for the existence of gods. That includes the arguments for intelligent design. School children, especially in senior high school, should become familiar with the debate and should be able to address both sides of this important issue.

How are children ever going to understand the real science behind the Cambrian explosion and the bacterial flagella unless we directly confront the bogus scientific arguments of the Intelligent Design Creationists? I think it’s a mistake to ban these arguments from public schools on the basis of some legal manipulations that forbid mention of anything that can support religion. (This only happens in the USA.)

We should be open to any points of view that challenge current scientific explanations whether they are motivated by religion or anything else. The arguments will stand or fall on their scientific merits. We should not fear the criticisms of the creationists and we do our children a great disservice by keeping those criticisms our of the classroom where they can be exposed as the lies they are. That reeks of censorship.

These are not questions that should be decided by lawyers and courts. They should be decided by scientists and by teaching our children the importance of science as a way of knowing. In the long run, our society will be better off if we equip our children to deal with these points of view rather than hide from them.

As far as the whole “excluding the divine” thing is concerned, it seems to me that magical thinkers divide things into two groups when it should be three: the things one accepts as true which are supported by evidence (let’s call that knowledge), the things one accepts as true for which there is no evidence (belief), and the things one accepts as true which are contradicted by evidence (delusion). Creationists make the error of thinking that “not including God” is synonymous with “excluding God” - they don’t understand the concept of burden of proof. The are three categories, not two: including God, not including God, excluding God.

Anyone else tire of reading a paper where 50% of some pages is taken up with footnotes ? Its like he’s not got his thoughts together properly or something.

“These are not questions that should be decided by lawyers and courts. They should be decided by scientists and by teaching our children the importance of science as a way of knowing. In the long run, our society will be better off if we equip our children to deal with these points of view rather than hide from them. “

larry, larry , larry,

There is no scientific controversy over the Theory of Evolution as the best explanation of the variety of life on earth. Scientists continue to disagree and argue about details but not the concept. and that is what we teach in science class.

Am sorry, Larry, but there’s really no need to discuss any aspect of Intelligent Design cretinism or other related religiously-inspired mendacious intellectual pornography merely to “enlighten” students about the so-called problems you’ve noted:

Larry Moran said:

How are children ever going to understand the real science behind the Cambrian explosion and the bacterial flagella unless we directly confront the bogus scientific arguments of the Intelligent Design Creationists? I think it’s a mistake to ban these arguments from public schools on the basis of some legal manipulations that forbid mention of anything that can support religion. (This only happens in the USA.)

May come as an utter surprise to you that we have reasonably good explanations regarding the advent of the so-called “Cambrian Explosion” and the origin of bacterial flagella, based solely on our knowledge of relevant aspects of evolutionary biology.

When Xian ministers opt to teach evolutionary biology in their Sunday sermons, then I might be persuaded to take seriously your modest proposal. But, I might add, were they to do so, it might lead to substantially worse theology (Similarly, to mix the two in a science classroom would yield to exceedingly poor knowledge and understanding as to what science is. To paraphrase Ken Miller, all that you would get would be a “science stopper”.).

Last, but not least, none of the Western democracies (including Japan and South Korea) allow the teaching of science in religious studies classes (and vice versa) contrary to your breathtakingly inane claim that the United States is the one that doesn’t. Indeed, I would suspect that were we to follow your modest proposal, we would probably rank dead last behind Turkey in recent polling data showing how well the citizens of various countries understand fully what is and what isn’t science.

I agree with Larry (this is Larry M and not Larry F, right?)

Unban the arguments. All the arguments. Let’s include the evidence for and against, bogus or not for: Tooth Fairy, Stork, Santa Claus, bigfoot, UFO’s, healing crystals, magnetic bracelets, ESP, yeti, aliens, fortune telling, anti-gravity machines, Area 51, sea monsters, tarot cards, mermaids, telekenesis, Easter Bunny, astrology, lucky charms, magic spells, spoon bending, Elvis is Alive, Ouija boards, evil eye and scientific hypotheses that didn’t pan out. (Oh, nearly forgot Peter Pan and Pan, but the list is very, very long)

Tell you what, Larry, you try this in Canada and let us know how it goes.

” … show that he isn’t and never was, and really wasn’t ever and really isn’t and never even came close to being an advocate of Intelligent Design, and so forth:”

Yes, but what is his true position? Unless you can tell us this, you will only confuse us!

I love the names Kitzmiller and Dover, don’t y’all?

Larry wrote:

“Let’s imagine that we have solid evidence for the existence of supernatural beings who sometimes meddle in the affairs of humans. This is a thought experiment, please bear with me.”

Sure, let’s imagine. if you have solid evidence it becomes science, at least potentially. If you don’t, it doesn’t. Pretty simple really. So, when you have such evidence, get back to us. Maybe then there will be some hard decisions to make. Until then, “you can’t explain everything, therefore god” is not evidence. And “there might be some evidence some day, so start pretending there is right now” is not an argument.

I kind of think that such evidence would turn out to be a much bigger problem for religion than for science anyway. Science is very good at incorporating new evidence, religion not so much. Real evidence is going to falsify many belief systems. They are not going to be happy about that. Why just the discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is going to be a major blow to lots of religious belief systems, just like finding out that the earth is old and round was a problem for many.

Science is not wedded to naturalism. It uses methodological naturalism because it works. Religion on the other hand, is wedded to supernaturalism. Without that you have no real religion. And if your supernatural suppositions turn out to be wrong after all, what then?

Re Larry and Doc Bill:

What makes you think that, in the US, without a legal exclusion, science classes wouldn’t be, in fact, religion classes for the vast majority of kids?

Of course, this is self correcting in the long run as our economy collapses but I’d rather not do the experiment.

“methodological naturalism” is somehow unjustified, or, to be more precise, that methodological naturalism is just one way of knowing, and shouldn’t be “privileged” over “explanations” of phenomena that rely on supernaturalism and magic instead.”

I’ve asked these questions many times.

1. What are these “other ways of knowing”?

2. What have we found out using these other ways of knowing?

Haven’t got an answer yet. My answers.

Voices in people’s heads. Nothing.

We tried those other ways of knowing for millennia, the eras known as the stone age and the Dark Age.

Most people on PT have figured out the problem with theories that rely on supernatural explanations and magic.

There is no way to test them and find out if they are real and true. They never lead anywhere either.

It all becomes a matter of opinion. Historically and even today, supernatural explanations are decided by armies, guns, and bombs. Whoever is the last group alive gets to claim they were right.

No thanks. I’d rather publish peer review papers in the open literature and let my colleagues repeat them or not.

I forgot to mention that there is absolutely no law or rule against people using “other ways of knowing”.

Creationists are always claiming that “theistic science” is superior to methodological naturalism and those mean old scientists are suppressing it because they are all godless atheists*.

But they aren’t. There is no law against “theistic science”, no science police to kick down church basement laboratory doors. It is a free country. The religions have money. The DI and other groups spend $50 million/year, all on crude propaganda demonizing scientists. The xian churches take in c. $70 billion/year, a huge amount of money.

So why don’t they spend it on theistic science? Most likely because they know it is nonsense and will accomplish nothing.

* This is a common lie of creationists. 60% of all biologists are religious, mostly xians.

”… The meddling can’t be too frequent in this thought experiment but what it does mean is that methodological naturalism fails from time to time when miracles occur. …”

I believe this is a variation of Bender’s Description of Godhood: “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” It would seem to fall under the usual “God of the Gaps” category.

How are children ever going to understand the real science behind the Cambrian explosion and the bacterial flagella .…

How about teaching the real science?

The USA has a constitutional limit on state endorsement of religion. This is not legal maneuvering, and not a ban on discussing arguments, so Larry is trying to solve a non-problem. This is not deny problems, but question a particular diagnosis.

Individual US teachers must make their own decisions on lesson plans to teach their state standards. Some can handle the arguments Larry enjoys, some can’t. I have tried (Irreducible Complexity Demystified) to make it easy, so you can see that like most commenters here, I am quite sympathetic to Larry’s suggestion and only disagree with some implications about US laws and schools.

I think Larry wants teachers to explicitly say “Here is what creationists say” and debunk it. In practice, the students often bring up creationist arguments, and teachers do what they can within their own and their students’ limitations. I have tried (Irreducible Complexity Demystified) to make it easy. But making debunking creationism a formal policy in public schools might be explosively counterproductive. The policy is, and IMHO should be, just teach science. This can naturally debunk antiscientific claims as one consequence.

Doc Bill says,

Unban the arguments. All the arguments. Let’s include the evidence for and against, bogus or not for: Tooth Fairy, Stork, Santa Claus, bigfoot, UFO’s, healing crystals, magnetic bracelets, ESP, yeti, aliens, fortune telling, anti-gravity machines, Area 51, sea monsters, tarot cards, mermaids, telekenesis, Easter Bunny, astrology, lucky charms, magic spells, spoon bending, Elvis is Alive, Ouija boards, evil eye and scientific hypotheses that didn’t pan out. (Oh, nearly forgot Peter Pan and Pan, but the list is very, very long)

Tell you what, Larry, you try this in Canada and let us know how it goes.

It’s obvious that you can’t waste time refuting every kook who ever lived. I’d confine my class time to the most common myths in society. For example, if you live in a society where half the people are creationists then that’s a problem that you have to deal with. Better spend some time in science class showing why the creationist arguments are wrong. Banning discussion from the classroom isn’t going to change any minds. That’s about as good a strategy as the one adopted by ostriches.

Canada, like most civilized countries, allows religious schools paid for by taxes. There’s no ban on discussing ideas just because they might come from religion. I’ve debated creationists in our schools and both my children were taught in high school how to recognize a bogus scientific argument. Creationist claims were discussed in biology class. The same thing happens in Western Europe.

So, we have two different strategies. One—the USA model—strictly bans anything that might be remotely religious because of something that was written down on a piece of paper by some men who lived more than two hundred years ago. This means that students are never exposed to the other side of the debate. They only hear about the dispute from their pastors.

The other model is the one followed in Canada and much of Europe. Religion isn’t kept out of schools—even public schools—and the false claims of creationism are discussed in science class.

The experiment is running. Let’s see which model leads to an educated society that rejects creationism. So far it ain’t looking good for the USA model. Most intelligent people would take that as evidence that the old strategies aren’t working. It’s time for a change.

First, we kill the lawyers. :-)

Larry wrote:

“One—the USA model—strictly bans anything that might be remotely religious because of something that was written down on a piece of paper by some men who lived more than two hundred years ago.”

So, in order to fix this supposed problem, we should give preferential treatment to some myths that were written down on by some guys on some scrolls thousands of years ago? What makes those myths any better than any others? Why single out certain myths to be debunked based on popularity? Why not just present the scientific evidence and debunk all myths simultaneously? Why not discuss scientific theories in science class and religious ideas in religion class? Maybe then students would be able to tell the difference for themselves.

It’s obvious that you can’t waste time refuting every kook who ever lived. I’d confine my class time to the most common myths in society. For example, if you live in a society where half the people are creationists then that’s a problem that you have to deal with. Better spend some time in science class showing why the creationist arguments are wrong. Banning discussion from the classroom isn’t going to change any minds. That’s about as good a strategy as the one adopted by ostriches.

1. Public schools for kids isn’t the time or place for that. They need to learn enough to function in society on a basic level and even that is difficult enough. The place for that is college and beyond.

2. It won’t work in the USA. Estimates are that 20-30% of all science teachers are creationists already and they would simply take the opportunity to proselytize the kids with their particular xian cult dogma. It isn’t legal but they already do it anyway and get caught occasionally.

3. Bringing up xian cult creationist claims and debunking them by a teacher can and will be construed by many fundie xians as an attack on their religion. A teacher that did that would be risking parents storming the school with pitchforks and torches, death threats, and more. It’s not at all unusual for science teachers in many areas of the USA to be hounded and run out of their schools. The stories are many and some have been told on PT by the teacher victims.

methodological naturalism is just one way of knowing, and shouldn’t be “privileged” over “explanations” of phenomena that rely on supernaturalism and magic instead.”

It isn’t. It’s just privileged in science, because natural explanation are the only ones it’s science’s job to discover. The 50,000 different religions of the world can pluck out of thin air whatever supernatural explanation they want to invent, since they neither have, nor are not bound by the need to provide, physical evidence. That’s their province. They just can’t insist they be offered in US public school science classes.

PT

Scott | November 3, 2009 5:12 PM | Reply | Edit I just got back from a delightful talk last night by Dr. Eugenie Scott here in Ashland, Oregon. While there, I ran into one of the local middle school teachers I know. She told about teaching in the small town of Brookings, on the Oregon coast. In her science class, she couldn’t even say, “Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe”, without getting irate fundie parents storming in to her classroom and the principal’s office to complain. Literally: “Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe” was too controversial for those parents, and threatened the very fabric of their existence, as well as the moral certitude of their children.

This is the sort of mentality we have to deal with in US schools. A common fundie xian tactic is to storm into the schools and scream and yell whenever evolution, astronomy, geology, or whatever is mentioned.

In this case, the parents probably had no idea what hydrogen was or why claiming that hydrogen is the most common element in the universe is satanic. It sounded sciency and they just went into a religious fanatic programmed response.

Pete Dunkleberg says,

The USA has a constitutional limit on state endorsement of religion. This is not legal maneuvering, …

Gimme a break. Of course it’s legal maneuvering. There’s nothing in the constitution that say you can’t challenge evolution in a science classroom. The whole idea that “state endorsement of religion” translates into banning all criticisms—real or imagined—of evolution in a classroom is nothing but legal mumbo-jumbo designed originally as a defensive strategy in the face of an overwhelmingly religious population.

Lighten up. The world isn’t going to come to an end if you let Intelligent Design Creationists try and make their case in biology class. The real problem is that you don’t trust science teachers. That’s the problem you should fix instead of having “trials of the century” every decade.

Have you noticed that the trials aren’t having the effect you hoped for? Even in 2010 there are attempts to “teach the controversy” and it’s still true that an alarming number of people reject evolution.

Funny thing about the “victory” at Dover, the enemy didn’t surrender. They didn’t after Alabama, Arkansas or Louisiana either.

The policy is, and IMHO should be, just teach science. This can naturally debunk antiscientific claims as one consequence.

That would be a good policy. Problem is, it’s not the one being followed. The current policy is to hire a bunch of lawyers and fight like hell to keep antiscience threats out of the classroom by taking it to the courtroom.

One of these days the good guys are going to lose a court case. What will they do then? They will have missed the opportunity to improve science teaching by hiring better teachers and giving students an opportunity to debate controversial issues.

You’d be screwed if that happens because all your eggs are in the wrong basket. You trusted the lawyers to protect you from having to pay for good science teachers and develop a good education system.

Larry Moran said: the USA model strictly bans anything that might be remotely religious because of something that was written down on a piece of paper by some men who lived more than two hundred years ago. This means that students are never exposed to the other side of the debate.

You really should learn something about US law before making such foolish statements. There is no US law that “strictly bans anything that might be remotely religious” in schools. What is required is that in science classes only science is taught. There are plenty of other clases where creation myths can be explored. If Canada really spends time in science classes on creationism - well, they must have a lot more classroom time to waste than the US has.

tomh, the counter-argument is that parents who send their children to private schools are taxpayers, too, who are entitled to choice. About 35% of Australian schoolchildren receive a private-school education.

The private schools here receive subsidies from Government. These represent about the same amount as it would cost the Government to fund places in public education for their students. (Their parents pick up the rest of the tab in the fees they pay to the private schools.)

But to receive these subsidies, the private schools must meet curriculum standards, including in science. Evolution theory must be taught. It is examinable in public examinations. No person or body running a school will be licenced to do so - and yes, a licence is required, just as a licence is required to be an electrician or a plumber or a builder - unless they meet those standards. Specifically, a school may not teach creationism as science, or it will have its licence lifted.

I don’t doubt that some private schools evade these requirements where they can. But they can’t do it openly.

There are no local school boards. State education departments are responsible for administering education curricula and standards and inspecting them in all schools.

It is uncommon now, but there remains an option for public (ie State) schools to have clergy visit to conduct “scripture” lessons for the adherents of their religion or sect for half an hour a week. This is an “opt-in”. Parents must register a consent. If no consent, students are given supervised activity in a different place. “Scripture” is far less common now for two reasons: one, a far greater religious mix, with fewer real adherents to any one creed; two, a dearth of appropriately qualified clergy.

There is no legal problem about this, though, as there would be in the US, since we do not have a separation clause, and it was never intended that there would be one.

Dale -

While ACORN’s original motives may have been laudable, they have demonstrated themselves to be as corrupt as many of the local politicians and community leaders that they’ve criticized in the very impoverished neighborhoods which ACORN has claimed to serve. Again, it isn’t only fellow conservatives who have been critical of ACORN. Here, in New York City, the Atlantic Yards Project wouldn’t have existed without ACORN’s service to Forest City Ratner as the latter’s unofficial “public relations firm”, after Forest City Ratner agreed to build low income housing for ACORN on behalf of its constituents. Those in the surrounding neighborhoods affected by the Atlantic Yards Project - Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene - tend to be predominantly liberal, middle to upper middle class - white and black residents who want to keep their neighborhoods isolated from detrimental transportation (Can you imagine how much traffic congestion there will be after a New York Nets basketball game in an area that can barely handle commuters arriving to or departing from one of the major terminals of the Long Island Railroad?, other urban ecological and economic effects if the Atlantic Yards Project is built?

ACORN also seeks to foster an atmosphere in which its constitutents must rely upon government help instead of themselves for improving theirs - and their children’s - lives. This is reflected in ACORN leader Bertha Lewis’s belief that current students at Stuyvesant High School should tutor those in ACORN neighborhoods in entrance exam preparation for the New York City public specialized science and mathematics-oriented high schools (In addition to Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science, additional schools have been created; one on Staten Island and another on the campus of the City College of the City University of New York. But Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech still remain the most desirable.). Really? What she fails to understand is the fact that these students - including a vast majority from similar economic backgrounds as those residing in ACORN neighborhoods - simply don’t have time given the extremely rigorous curriculum that they have, not only in the sciences, but in English, humanities, social sciences and the fine arts too (I know this from firsthand experience since I’ve engaged in a shouting match with her about it on at least one occasion, when we both attended a panel discussion organized by a New York City-based progressive think tank.):

Dale Husband said:

John Kwok said:

Actually Mike, there were very compelling reasons to take down ACORN of which I will cite just three out of many:

1) 1997 - 1998, ACORN’s NYC Chapter seeks to have the New York City Board of Education dismantle the specialized high school entrance examinations for the elite science and mathematics-oriented high schools Brooklyn Technical, Bronx Science and Stuyvesant claiming that the entrance exams are racially biased. Board of Education dismisses their claims but does agree to have a special summer program for those students who narrowly missed the entrance exam cut off points for admission; successful completion of this program means automatic entrance into the schools in question.

2) 2002 to present - ACORN joins forces with New York City real estate firm Forest City Ratner in promoting the Atlantic Yards complex in downtown Brooklyn (including a new stadium for the New Jersey Nets basketball team

3) 2008 - Widespread allegations of voter registration fraud across the United States committed by ACORN.

Many moderates, liberals and conservatives in New York City and elsewhere found ACORN’s conduct quite objectionable. While ACORN has disbanded officially, here in New York City it still continues under a different name, as the real estate landlord of quite a few housing projects for improverished residents in the New York City neighborhoods that it claims to “serve”.

Then why not support ACORN in an effort to clean it up, instead of giving it a death sentence? Would you agree that the Republican Party also needs to be cleansed? By your logic, we liberals should be trying to destroy it outright too.

Moreover, if the United Kingdom didn’t have its own serious problem with evolution denialism, then why was the British Center for Science Education established a few years ago. Unfortunately creationism has become a serious problem throughout much of the English speaking world on four continents (North America, Africa, Europe, Australia), in The Netherlands, Germany, and increasingly, in the Muslim world as well:

raven said:

I’m sure you’d love to think that other countries are as prone to creationism as the USA. It probably makes you feel better whenever you hear of some creationists in Europe.

No of course not. That is silly and I’m not a monster. Really. Rather insulting, and rather unCanadian.

That was a warning. The USA fundies are targeting the rest of the world. Canada, Australia, and the UK are high on the list because they speak English.

I do think Canada, Australia, and the UK do underestimate their creationist problems. Ken Ham is Australian. The head of the science department in Canada is a creationist chiropracter. The BBC link I posted says 25% of the Northern Irelanders are creationists, and they are most likely mostly Protestants with some RCCs in the mix.

And 20 years ago, I said the same thing you did about the US. Creationism was a Flat Earth superstition that no one but a few kooks cared about. Nothing to be concerned about. Then Bush was elected. Our economy is a shambles and two of my friends were killed in Iraq. And creationism is slowly being driven back into Hellmouth. Very slowly.

Are you sure you aren’t just indulging in Shadenfreude? If we go down, Canada goes down. And no one is going to sleep well if half the world’s nuclear weapons are controlled by raging mad, hate filled religious fanatics.

John Kwok -

ACORN also seeks to foster an atmosphere in which its constitutents must rely upon government help instead of themselves for improving theirs - and their children’s - lives.

Not that I care much about ACORN, but this is a right wing canard.

The logical error here is false dichotomy. Either “rely upon government help instead of themselves for improving theirs” or, implicitly, “receive no government help whatsoever”.

Although I worked my way through college, my education and professional status are ENTIRELY due to government help. First of all, of course, the existence of free public elementary and high schools. Second of all, the ability of my mother, who had severe health problems, to receive social assistance, so that I could attend school rather than go to work at an unskilled occupation at an early age to support my family, as a number of my recent ancestors had to do (child labor laws helped there as well). Thirdly, government support for public universities. Fourthly, although I worked while in college, the availability of student loans, which I needed anyway.

It is axiomatic that there was a net benefit to society for all of this. I am far more productive as a highly educated person with skills that few others can master, than I would have been as one more unskilled laborer.

This is reflected in ACORN leader Bertha Lewis’s belief that current students at Stuyvesant High School should tutor those in ACORN neighborhoods in entrance exam preparation for the New York City public specialized science and mathematics-oriented high schools

In other words, she is doing the exact opposite of what you accused her of immediately above.

While she is seeking help - it’s unclear to me whether she is seeking “government” help or asking students to volunteer privately - she is seeking help that would make the tutored students in question more able to rigorously educate themselves and become more productive.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on April 2, 2010 5:57 AM.

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