Now that Jeff Lowder has started his own blog, I’ll seize the opportunity, as the occasion presents itself, from time to time, to offer some friendly commentary. Having known Jeff since college, I’ll try my best not to let my claws show. My ferocious reputation notwithstanding, I do have retractable claws.
For his part, Jeff is, of course, more than welcome, with or without claws, to return the favor by commenting on my comments.
On his blog, Jeff refers the reader to a sister site. Following the link, an article by James Still caught my eye:
Well it’s old news now. Parents have filed a lawsuit against the El Tejon Unified School District because the Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec, California, is slipping an intelligent design course into its curriculum. Entitled "Philosophy of Design," the district's attorneys told the school board that "as the course was called 'philosophy,' it could pass legal muster."
ID proponents are trying to frame this maneuver as perfectly legal because it's a philosophy course and not a science course…Obviously, the very thin disguise is an attempt to get around the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover in which Jones ruled that ID does not belong in science class.
Of course this sneaky tactic is doomed from the start. Their mistake is in thinking that Kitzmiller v. Dover narrowly applies to what can be taught in science class. But that wasn't what Judge Jones ruled.
It's pretty clear that ID is not allowed in a public school in any capacity because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Since ID cannot decouple itself from its religious roots it will always be religious content. You could teach it during dodgeball class in the gym and it would still be unconstitutional. This is bad news for the ID intelligentsia, like Dembski and Richards, who have been telling people to treat ID strictly as science so that it will pass constitutional muster.
By way of comment:
1.As a general matter, I agree with Still that Christians sometimes play semantic games to skirt SCOTUS rulings, viz. the Ten Commandments as a “historical” rather than “religious” document, or Bill O’Reilly’s “philosophy” of Jesus.
2.I regard this tactic as a necessary evil. To begin with, judicial activism has forced the Christian community to make its case on a tilted playing field.
In addition, modern jurisprudence is all about semantic quibbles and arbitrary technicalities.
3.While, in this particular case, the classification of ID as “philosophy” may well be a legal ruse, there is a bona fide discipline known as the philosophy of science, and the concept of design can quite properly be discussed as a metascientific issue.
4.I also deny that Dembski et al. have chosen to classify ID as “science” as a legal ploy to skirt SCOTUS rulings.
There is no good reason to suppose that Dembski, Behe, Barr, and Denton, to name a few, don’t regard ID as genuine science.
I realize that many opponents of ID try to recast ID as a Trojan horse to smuggle creationism back into the classroom, but this characterization is demonstrably false.
i) To begin with, it’s demonstrable that the leading proponents of ID are not, as a rule, young-earth creationists who take Genesis literally. They are not fundamentalists.
ii) Moreover, the existence of God is not a presupposition of ID. Rather, the existence of God is an inference from the concept of design, which is, in turn, an inference from the scientific data. ID theory is not “rooted” in religious. The theistic inference is a conclusion rather than a premise of ID reasoning.
iii) Furthermore, the God of ID theory is not a sectarian God, identical with the God of Scripture. Indeed, many conservative Christians have criticized ID theory precisely because of its theological neutrality and ecumenicity.
5.Even if ID were a Trajan horse, to discredit ID on that account commits the genetic fallacy. That is not an intellectually respectable excuse to disregard the actual argumentation of its leading proponents.
6.It is premature to say that ID violates the three-pronged Lemon test. For ID has yet to be adjudicated by SCOTUS, and cases like this often wend their way up to the Supremes.
7.Is Still saying that any course material with “religious content” is unconstitutional? Is it unconstitutional for a high school history teacher to discuss the Pilgrims or the Great Awakening?
8.More to the point, Still’s contention is predicated on certain assumptions of judicial activism which many conservatives reject. He is assuming the right of judicial review, although the Constitution does not, in fact, grant that authority to SCOTUS.
He is also implicitly endorsing the theory of a “living Constitution,” whereby SCOTUS is at liberty to flout original intent. This is a personification run amok.
To say that teaching ID in a public classroom runs afoul of the Establishment Clause is a classic example of judicial revisionism.
The Establishment Clause only applies to the Federal gov’t. (“Congress shall make no law…”), not to the states. The Establishment Clause is all about states’ rights. The whole point of the Establishment Clause was to keep the Feds from meddling in the internal religious affairs of the states. It was a blocking maneuver to prevent the Federal gov’t from establishing a national church along the lines of the Church of England.
However, it left the states free to maintain their own established churches. Indeed, several of the 13 Colonies had established churches, which is why they insisted on the Establishment Clause, in order to preserve the status quo ante.
As far as the Establishment Clause is concerned, a public school teacher could teach full-blown creationism in school.
9.The liberal establishment has tried to rig the game from start to finish:
a) It has twisted the Establishment Clause into a disestablishment clause, wholly subverting original intent.
b) It levies property taxes on Christians to subsidize public schools, but denies the right of Christian parents to have a say in the curriculum.
c) When Christian parents remove their kids from the public schools system in order to home-school them, the liberal establishment tries to prosecute the family for truancy or attempts to impose a secular curriculum on homeschoolers.
d) When Christian parents remove their kids from the public schools in order to educate them in private Christian schools, the liberal establishment insists that they must continue to pay property taxes for the upkeep of the public school system even though the public schools are no longer educating their own children.
Liberals complain that vouchers would divert money from the public schools. True enough. But where is the money going? Shouldn’t the money be following the student? And whose money is it, anyway?
e) Liberals also try to shut down private Christian schools unless they comply with secular accreditation criteria.
There is not the slightest effort to be evenhanded.