Luskin, laws, and lies

| 28 Comments

Casey Luskin has an article in the Liberty University Law Review which he claims isn’t about Intelligent Design creationism, but is instead meant to show how “zeal for Darwin encourages certain violations of the Establishment Clause.” It will come as no surprise to anyone that Luskin’s argument is flimsy, his evidence illusory, his readings of the case law distorted, and the overall effect essentially a fun-house mirror version of First Amendment law.

Luskin’s thesis is that criticizing Intelligent Design creationism = attacking a religious viewpoint. He combines this with an insistent denial that ID is a religious viewpoint, which is an amusing effort to stick to the Discovery Institute party line, but is not, strictly speaking, illogical. His position is that, if we assume the fact (which is a fact, but he assumes, rather than believing it) that ID creationism is a religious viewpoint, why, then, it violates the First Amendment to disparage it: “Sylvia Mader’s 2007 introductory biology textbook, Essentials of Biology…plainly communicates that ID runs counter to the factual scientific data,” he writes. “If she is correct that ID is a religious viewpoint, is it appropriate for state schools to use her textbooks that unambiguously claim ID is empirically wrong?”

The correct answer is, yes, it’s perfectly constitutional and perfectly appropriate–but of course, to Luskin, the answer is no: “Students who support scientific creationism would thus hear that their ‘set of religious beliefs’ is not only an ‘arbitrary faith,’ but that they are not using their ‘God-given gifts to reason and to understand’ in the way God intended. While many might agree with such arguments, religious neutrality forbids the government from attacking, opposing, and disapproving of such a ‘set of religious beliefs’ in this fashion.”

This is false. The neutrality requirement in the First Amendment forbids the government from taking a position on the truth or falsehood of a religious doctrine in religious terms, but it may take a position on any matter on areligious or non-religious terms. That is, the Constitution forbids the government from endorsing or propagating or censoring the doctrinal truth of a religious proposition, but it does not forbid the government from endorsing or propagating the factual truth of a proposition, even if those propositions turn out to be the same in content. It does not forbid the government from reaching a conclusion, and stating or endorsing that conclusion, from secular premises, even if that conclusion happens to clash with someone’s religious view. Government may not take religious positions, but it take secular positions that happen to clash with positions endorsed by a religious viewpoint.

This ought to be plainly obvious. Some people, for example, believe that AIDS is a punishment sent from God to scourge sodomites, or that blacks are inherently inferior to whites, or that ancient Indian tribes descended from Israelites and fought wars in chariots, or that earthquakes express Vulcan’s displeasure at man’s hubris.* The First Amendment forbids the government from taking any official doctrinal positions on these matters–but it does not forbid, and could not possibly forbid the government from teaching that, in fact, AIDS is caused by a virus, that blacks are not inferior to whites, that American Indian tribes have no relationship to the Israelites and lacked chariots, and that earthquakes are caused by geological activity. The First Amendment does not forbid the government from saying that there is no documentary evidence (or no fossil evidence or no eyewitness evidence) for P, even though P falls within a religious doctrine–and the Amendment cannot sensibly read to require this, because it would make all communication and all activities impossible. The most arbitrary claims would be insulated from challenge, and each person would have a heckler’s veto over government’s actions–the more irrational and mystical, the better.

To put it a bit more technically, if proposition P can be supported by religious argument R and also by secular argument S, government is entirely within its constitutional authority to take an official position on P on the basis of S. In fact, it’s even entitled to throw people in jail for P. But it may do nothing whatsoever on the basis of R. It may not support or oppose or endorse it. That’s why the government can make it illegal for people to use intoxicating drugs–even if they do so for religious purposes–but why it may not prosecute faith healing, even though faith healing is obviously fraudulent bunk.

Now, let’s play “name that logical fallacy” (to steal from our friends at the Skeptic’s Guide): “[E]ither ID is a religious viewpoint that is unconstitutionally opposed, inhibited, and disapproved when this textbook is used in public schools,” writes Luskin, “or ID is not a religious viewpoint and is thereby fair game for all forms of government-sponsored attacks, disparagement, hostility, as well as endorsement.” This is all very clever, no doubt–it is, as Lincoln once said, the kind of logic whereby a horse chestnut turns out to be the same thing as a chestnut horse. It’s the fallacy of the false dichotomy. In fact, ID is a religious viewpoint masquerading as a scientific theory–it is a religious position which is layered in factually untrue or arbitrary assertions. Government is entirely free to denounce the factually untrue statements and explode those arbitrary assertions. No, it cannot say that God does not exist, and it cannot say that man was not created by God through some guided process. On that, Luskin is correct. But government violates no law when it says (and rightly) that there is no factual basis for ID’s scientific claims.

It’s amazing that Luskin can get 88 pages out of this silliness–even if it is through Liberty University. But the bottom line is this: government may inhibit (short of censorship or compelled speech), oppose, and disapprove of any factual proposition whatsoever–including factual propositions that religious groups have taken a position on–so long as it does so from a secular background.

*–Update: I feel so bad. Vulcan was not the god of earthquakes; that was Poseidon/Neptune. I did not mean to denegrate, oppose, or disapprove of this non-materialistic explanation of earthquake generation, and I sincerely apologize to all members of the Supreme Council of Ethniokoi Hellenes.

28 Comments

88 pages? How does he even expect a Liberty U “student” to be able to read so much? Although, if you can rig up a printer to print on toilet paper, you can give his words the worth the deserve.

It’s amazing that Luskin can get 88 pages out of this silliness

Maybe, but it would be far more amazing if he could have written something short, clear, and concise that could appear to be convincing to more than a few uneducated marks.

One requires many words to cover up the fact that one can make no case. Luskin has written many words in several venues for just that purpose.

Glen Davidson

The tactic that seems to be gaining favor among the ID/creationists is “viewpoint discrimination.”

So all we have to do is ask them to define “viewpoint” and watch the pretzel-like logic begin to flow.

And then the cock crows (three times, is it?).

Sigh, not only is Casey “Luskito” Luskin whiny … he is extremely long-winded in his whining.

I cannot figure out how to break my own thinking processes enough to anticipate that creationists would try to leverage off the Exclusion Clause in their assault on the Exclusion Clause.

It’s not like I’m surprised in hindsight, it’s just that I cannot pervert my own thought processes to anticipate such a thing. I can certainly have perverted thought processes, but it’s usually for humor and other entertainments. The Luskito, inconceivably, is serious.

I suppose from the distant view the ploy is just a variation on the old reliable if sadly tattered “Evilutionism is a religion.” One has to disguise it, of course, since the courts made it clear they didn’t buy that argument a long time ago.

So let me get this straight. This guy claims that ID is not religion, it is purely science. But, when someone actually takes it seriously and mentions it in a textbook, that’s not OK? Really? You would think that this guy would be happy to just be noticed in a real textbook.

Look man, if you want to play the science game, you got to have the goods. Otherwise you don’t get no respect. And deservedly so. Deal with it. Why do these guys always want to have it both ways? Does he think that science cannot point out that the sun does not go around the earth, just because some religious nuts claim otherwise?

“Liberty University Law Review”

Those words don’t make any sense together, whatsoever.

Bizarro World, indeed. (headshake)

You are so mean to me,… I mean Mr. Luskin.

I am sure Mr. Luskin only wants to to The Lord’s work and draw his paycheck and besides lying for Jesus is always okay to do. But if Mr. Luskin were here, he would forgive you, because that’s what good Christians do, when they are not lying or stoning sinners as God told them to do, and then they forgive their enemies, even though the posters at Panda are so mean to them that sometimes they just want to cry, even though it might make their mascara run.

Yours In Christ,

Lacey Buskin

My religious tradition tells me that Casey Luskin rapes piglets. Now he can’t sue me for slander without violating my civil rights.

It’s amazing what constitutes a “religious” viewpoint. He complains that TEs are well, uh, theists and because we have religious views our views are preferred over anti-evolutionary people! Luskin makes it sound as if we had our own “denomination”. He undermines his own point by surveying all the religious differences between us. You can hear the blatant viewpoint discrimination oozing from the lips of Keith Miller as quoted by Casey Luskin where Keith shows utter contempt:

“Seeing the history of life unfolding with each new discovery is exciting to me. How incredible to be able to look back through the eons of time and see the panorama of God’s evolving creation! God has given us the ability to see into the past and watch his creative work unfold.”

Free clue, Casey: We come to the same conclusion despite our religious beliefs, not because of them.

I feel so bad. Vulcan was not the god of earthquakes; that was Poseidon/Neptune. I did not mean to denegrate, oppose, or disapprove of this non-materialistic explanation of earthquake generation, and I sincerely apologize to all members of the Supreme Council of Ethniokoi Hellenes.

This made me laugh. Hard. I could have used some warning.

Doc Bill said:

“Liberty University Law Review”

Those words don’t make any sense together, whatsoever.

GW Bush relied heavily on Pat Robertson & LU to recruit many people in his administration, and the courts, unqualified though they may be, and I assume many are still actively pursuing their goal to infiltrate the government with the religious right’s nonsense.

Badger3k said:

88 pages? How does he even expect a Liberty U “student” to be able to read so much? Although, if you can rig up a printer to print on toilet paper, you can give his words the worth the deserve.

This serves two purposes.

First he wants the reader to think he’s actually educated and has something to say, which we know he doesn’t.

Second, creationists are good at verbosity and trying to confuse the listener and/or reader. Typically creationists spew forth their nonsense and try not to answer any questions at presentations until it’s all over and everyone has forgotten what they’ve said. Somewhat like being at a seance where the seer is invoking spirits and white sheeted “ghosts” hanging from thin threads begin to circle in the room. By interrupting you’d be “breaking the spell.” And in writing it’s merely to confuse and confound the reader trying to pore over their drivel. To the rube it looks impressive, to the knowledgeable person it’s just B.S. But then again I’m stating the obvious.

“The People’s Republic of Korea Human Rights Journal”?

Nope.

“Lessons in Humbleness: Vox Day”

Nope.

Well, I tried. Only a automatic Godwin would ever come close.

There is NOTHING that I could have less respect for than the “Liberty University Law Review”.

It sounds like a parody even though it clearly exists in physical form.

I can’t see why the Supreme Council of Ethniokoi Hellenes would particularly care about you denegrating a Roman god.

tupelo said:

There is NOTHING that I could have less respect for than the “Liberty University Law Review”.

Really? What about the “Liberty University Journal of Natural Science”? (I’m not saying it actually exists-one can only imagine what a travesty it would be if it did.)

Should that not be “Liberty University Law Zeitschrift”?

@ Mike -

Ken Miller alludes to “viewpoint discrimination” in his “Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul”, by expressing the fear that Intelligent Design advocates - if they succeeded - would transform science into a field of study as relativistic as much of social science and the humanities are (Here he refers to Allan Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind” to make his case.).

@ Timothy -

You have committed blasphemy against Zeus. You are destined to become a permanent guest of his brother down in Hades.

(EDITORIAL NOTE: Sorry about that Timothy, I felt compelled to say that after reading your final sentence.).

On a more serious note, thanks for a most erudite analysis of Luskin’s latest legal film-flam. Wonder how he managed to earn a law degree if he thinks that this absurd treatise is something that could stand up in a court of law. Poor Casey. I think he needs to join the Kathy Perry Band soon as a second-string guitarist. That would be a far more admirable line of work than his current occupation.

Ja. Ja, ein Deutsche:

Amadan said:

Should that not be “Liberty University Law Zeitschrift”?

John Kwok said:

Ja. Ja, ein Deutsche:

Amadan said:

Should that not be “Liberty University Law Zeitschrift”?

Tut tut, John. “ein Deutsche” is ungrammatical.

What sort of a High School did you go to anyway?

Luke said:

I can’t see why the Supreme Council of Ethniokoi Hellenes would particularly care about you denegrating a Roman god.

Ah, but the problem wasn’t that he was insulting Vulcan, but that he was insulting Poseidon, whose title “Earth Shaker” is, I believe, found even more in Greek literature than his name.

I do have to give some credit to the thought process in one respect, jumbled and distorted though it is. Think about it this way, if they’ve been told repeatedly by the courts that it is unconstitutional to teach that ID/Creationism is accurate (and scientific!) because it is actually religious, shouldn’t it (darn it) be just as unconstitutional to teach that ID/Creationism isn’t accurate because it’s religious?

Liberty University Law School’s law review seems to be on a full-blown crusade to promote this “secular science = religion” theme. If I may be forgiven this one link to my own humble blog, I recently posted about another article in that worthy journal. It’s by yet another creationist legal scholar, John H. Calvert, and it got written up in WorldNetDaily: Cognitive Blowout!

Supreme Council of Ethniokoi Hellenes. No o there. The greek -ikos (pl. -ikoi) suffix is where you got your -ic suffix(through latin (c=k)). Ethnikos (pl.ethnikoi) = ethnic = national in greek.

If I recall correctly, it (ethnikos) came to be synonymous of pagan (and thus evil) during the time the Christians got powerful and started prosecuting the old timers (you know,smashing down statues and temples,closing schools,burning libraries, killing philosophers and people objecting to conversion to Christianity and so on). The same way and time, the proper greek ethnonym Hellen (pl.Hellenes) came to be a satanic word,only to be reinstated to its proper place very late in the Eastern Roman Empire.

Luke said:

I can’t see why the Supreme Council of Ethniokoi Hellenes would particularly care about you denegrating a Roman god.

Graeco-roman world;Rings a bell??? Religious syncretism then??? No??? :) I.e. the Roman emperor Julian is seen as an evil apostate by the Christians and as a great tragic hero by the old timers(and the modern followers of them ,not to mention also by most free-thinkers and rational people :) ).

Robin said:

I do have to give some credit to the thought process in one respect, jumbled and distorted though it is. Think about it this way, if they’ve been told repeatedly by the courts that it is unconstitutional to teach that ID/Creationism is accurate (and scientific!) because it is actually religious, shouldn’t it (darn it) be just as unconstitutional to teach that ID/Creationism isn’t accurate because it’s religious?

No it shouldn’t. If it is religion and not science, then you don’t need any other reason not to teach it as science. That’s the whole point. Whether it is right or wrong doesn’t matter if it isn’t science.

Now if it is science and not religion, then it is perfectly appropriate to teach that it is factually wrong.

I suppose that technically, you should not claim that it is religion and then prove that it is factually wrong in science class. That might be seen as a direct attack on a particular religion. However, as long as you are attacking the factual basis of the claim and not the religious basis, you should be fine. That’s why it is important that religion should not make factual claims. It really tends to destroy the whole infallability thing. Religion cannot prevent science from discovering the way that the natural world works, nor should it.

Amadan said:

John Kwok said:

Ja. Ja, ein Deutsche:

Amadan said:

Should that not be “Liberty University Law Zeitschrift”?

Tut tut, John. “ein Deutsche” is ungrammatical.

What sort of a High School did you go to anyway?

Indeed. In grade school we learned that it should be said “auf Deutsch” (to German).

Otherwise… “eine Deutsche” = a German woman. “ein Deutscher” = a German man.

Another translation of the journal name could be:

Freiheit Universität Gesetz Zeitschrift” or FUGZ

“We do it for teh FUGZ!”

Hmmm… I kinda like that ;-)

Never studied German, Amadan. Have picked it up from some Austrian friends and acquaintances. They’re teaching me all the bad habits:

Amadan said:

John Kwok said:

Ja. Ja, ein Deutsche:

Amadan said:

Should that not be “Liberty University Law Zeitschrift”?

Tut tut, John. “ein Deutsche” is ungrammatical.

What sort of a High School did you go to anyway?

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on August 10, 2010 7:00 PM.

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