Merry Kitzmas to All! (and a tidbit on Judge Jones/Overton parallels)

The funny thing about the Discovery Institute’s Media/Judge Jones Complaint Division is how it deals with defeat. Oftentimes we will see weeks and weeks of vigorous posting about this or that political fight – but then, if they lose, they often just completely ignore it, like nothing happened.

For example, this piece, a truly pitiful one-year-after Kitzmiller v. Dover review by John West, hilariously invents “The Growing Sense of Defeat among Darwinists”, yet barely mentions the Ohio reversal (“Darwinists were able to use the ruling to bully the Ohio State Board of Education”); doesn’t mention Kansas, the ID movement’s favorite horse where they even set up a lobbying organization and blanketed the state with advertising, at all; and also doesn’t mention the Selman v. Cobb settlement ending the generations of antievolution activism in Cobb County, Georgia (back in the 1980’s, the evolution pages were literally cut out of biology textbooks; the “theory not fact” warning label was just the latest in a long line of antievolution policies there). Heck, I don’t see any mention of the conclusion of Selman v. Cobb at all on any DI webpage, despite the fact that the story is in thousands of newspapers.

The reason we don’t see much when the ID movement loses a political fight (either an election or a board of education decision) is that these guys have always depended on the opinion polls and the man-on-the-street as their ultimate support against the elitist forces of darkness in academia and the courts. So when they lose the man on the street, they’ve really got nothing left. Except, of course, pretending like nothing happened and blaming a judge for their own political losses.

Speaking of that, and in honor of Judge Jones for the flack he has taken (and probably knew he would take) for doing his job in making the Kitzmiller ruling, I would like to look at history. Judge Jones is not the first judge who was scapegoated by the creationist movement in order to distract from their own scientific and political failures.

Recently, I came across this 1982 newspaper clipping about Judge Overton, of McLean v. Arkansas fame. You may notice certain parallels between Overton’s post-decision experiences and Jones’s. Some things never change I guess.

Judge Who Ruled Against Creation Law Speaks Out

The federal judge who declared the Arkansas creationism law unconstitutional earlier this year recently said he would not rule out the teaching of evidence pointing to the possibility the world was created.

But United States District Court Judge William R. Overton said in a press conference held last month at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, that the majority of the scientific community would have to agree the evidence is valid, before he believes it could be taught in public school science classes.

**Overton said he had received hundreds of negative letters since he ruled that the law violated the Constitution’s ban on establishment of religion by forcing a “literal interpretation on Genesis” into public school.

Because of several death threats he has received, Overton traveled to Lewisburg with a federal marshal who acted as a bodyguard.** He came to Bucknell to give a speech on the issue.

Asked about what schools should teach if someone discovered good evidence that the world was created, as outlined in Genesis, he said, “Certainly, if there is scientific evidence of a sudden creation, the fact that it may involve God or a creator or something of that nature shouldn’t keep it from being taught as science, if the scientific community accepts it.

“But the scientific community, you’ll have to understand, excludes the concept of a creator in these matters, not because the scientific community is atheistic, but simply because the scientific community has to look for an explanation in nature. Those are sort of the rules for science.”

Overton emphasized that the Arkansas law was an attempt by creationists “to characterize what is essentially a religious statement as science, when in fact it’s not accepted by a credible portion of the scientific community. I personally believe that matters of religion should remain outside the school room.”

Overton indicated he is concerned that many people view his decision as a victory of secularism over religion. He said the words of the writer of one of the letters he has received actually sum up what most of the negative letter writers want: “Schools should be allowed to teach creation beliefs, my kind,” the letter said.

The judge said he has allowed the sociology department of the University of Arkansas to study the letters he has received. A paper is forthcoming on the study, he said.

One letter writer sent him a picture of a monkey. “You can hang it in your office and show everyone how proud you are of your relations,” the letter said.

“Communism, atheism, sex, and abortion get a lot of attention in those letters, apparently,” said Overton. “A lot of people accuse me of being an atheist in the letters I’ve received, and nothing’s further from the truth.”

He is a member of the First United Methodist Church of Little Rock. He noted that plaintiffs in the case, who testified against the creationism law, included Arkansas leaders of the United Methodist, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and African Methodist Episcopal churches. Other plaintiffs included Southern Baptists, the American Jewish Congress, and the American Jewish Committee.

“These people – they don’t want biology teachers teaching a brand of religion to their parishioners and a very particularistic brand of religion at that,” he said.

JIM MERKEL in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

[Bolds added. Unfortunately I do not have any reference information for this clipping, but it is from late 1982 and probably from the student newspaper at Bucknell University or a nearby town newspaper.]

Obviously the professional creationists/ID guys always opposed death threats against Overton and Jones, but if you read the old creationist literature, you will see articles and books devoted to railing against Overton’s decision for decades afterwards. Heck, a fair bit of this is still found on the DI website itself. There is even a great line from Paul Nelson, who has been around to comment on both decisions: “Judge John Jones III went for the Full Overton (see below), with an added half-rotation before entry.” If I were Jones, I’d take that as a compliment.

Merry Kitzmas to all!