Creationist Wisdom — Example 62

FOR your weekend contemplation, we present to you, dear reader, Schools should teach other “origin” theories, a letter-to-the-editor which appears in the Alamogordo Daily News, published in New Mexico.

We’d like to give you excerpts from the letter, but that paper is owned by Media News Group, and they’re suing bloggers who excerpt their stories without permission. So you’ll have to click over there to read it for yourself. But we’ll tell you a bit about it.

The letter-writer starts out saying that teaching only evolution is anti-religious. That’s an interesting, if unintentional, admission. He means that not teaching the “scientific” theory of Intelligent Design (ID) is “anti-religious.”

Then he quotes or paraphrases something from the Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard, claiming that teaching other theories might be okay.

Encountering a quote from a creationist is like brushing up against a leper. We must now take the time to cleanse ourselves by going to the source of the quote to determine the truth of the situation. The letter-writer refers to a US Supreme Court case in which the court declared unconstitutional a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools along with evolution.

Here’s the complete text of EDWARDS v. AGUILLARD, 482 U.S. 578 (1987). After reviewing earlier evolution-creationism cases, the court said:

These same historic and contemporaneous antagonisms between the teachings of certain religious denominations and the teaching of evolution are present in this case. The preeminent purpose of the Louisiana Legislature was clearly to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind. The term “creation science” was defined as embracing this particular religious doctrine by those responsible for the passage of the Creationism Act.

[…]

In this case, the purpose of the Creationism Act was to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint. Out of many possible science subjects taught in the public schools, the legislature chose to affect the teaching of the one scientific theory that historically has been opposed by certain religious sects. … Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to advance a particular religious belief, the Act endorses religion in violation of the First Amendment.

The very next paragraph is the one from which the letter-writer’s “quote” was taken. We’ll put the letter-writer’s out-of-context excerpt in red; and then in blue we’ll put a very important sentence which immediately follows it — and which contradicts the letter-writer’s claim:

We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. Indeed, the Court acknowledged in Stone that its decision [citation omitted] forbidding the posting of the Ten Commandments did not mean that no use could ever be made of the Ten Commandments, or that the Ten Commandments played an exclusively religious role in the history of Western Civilization. [citation omitted]. In a similar way, teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction. But because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to endorse a particular religious doctrine, the Act furthers religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Then the letter-writer claims that the decision allows creationism and evolution both to be taught. Sorry. We’ve read the decision. There is no such statement. In fact, the decision stands for exactly the opposite proposition.

Then he babbles a bit about the need for teaching all the theories.

Will we need to keep saying this forever? ID isn’t a scientific theory. Even the letter-writer knows it’s religion. His first paragraph admits it. Also, see: Kitzmiller v. Dover: Is ID Science?

Click over there to read it for yourself. We’ve decided that either his knowledge or his integrity is zero.

[Note: We checked out the letter-writer’s name. It’s the same as a distinguished retired Marine officer, who is now a military historian. But that man lives in Virginia. We’re rather certain that today’s letter-writer isn’t the same man.]

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

38 responses to “Creationist Wisdom — Example 62

  1. Quite right, that quote mining is disingenuous. You should always quote the qualifiers, context, author(s), dates etc, to be honest. This is seldom done, on both sides of the ID/ Creationism v. Evolution debate, and I’ll give an example from the science side in a moment.

    I agree with the Aguillard case based on the specifics of the case. Same goes for Dover v Kitzmiller, where the school board was guilty of pushing religious teaching, or at a minimum, violated the Lemon prongs not having a secular purpose (in the Court’s opinion). All things considered, I agree with Judge Jones regarding the board’s actions and intent, but not on the second part of his decision, which was based more on opinion, i.e. the logic he perceived from the expert testimony and briefs submitted.

    But regarding your example, although it is true that the Court gave their qualifier (and reason for the Act) which was not cited by the author, their summary conclusion was based on the ‘specifics’ of the Aguillard. Same for the Dover case. To be honest, both of these decisions applied to cases where there was indeed a religious intent, often the case in other Creationists cases, but which IMO is seldom the case regarding ID in its current, ‘evolved’ synthesis.

    A famous quote mine is the citing of Darwin’s, “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances … ” is given as disingenuous, since he follows the conundrum with a qualifier, “Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations … “. But rather than make the case for naturalistic evolution, he makes the ‘tentative’ conclusion that if numerous gradations can be shown to exist, naturalistic evolution is verified. He then goes on to give examples of a purported evolutionary progression in various lineages. It clearly demonstrates that he tended toward natural causes, but still had some doubts. Nonetheless, his true feelings don’t bear on reality, but rather the evidence(s) to this point in time are what count.

    Here’s an example of a disingenuous quote mine from the other side, and I could cite others, as well.

    Michael Behe is often quoted stating, “The peril of negative arguments is that they may rest on our lack of knowledge, rather than on positive results”, which is presented as a lame response to the enigma of incredulity, when in fact it was a response to evolutionists ‘poor design’ args. Go here for the original: http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/behepseudogene052003.htm In all honesty,

    I noted that Pim van Meurs at least was honest by stating, “Behe made his comments in objection to the argument “an intelligent designer would not have done it this way” but I believe that his statement even better applies to the ID inference.”

    http://www.iscid.org/boards/ubb-get_topic-f-6-t-000353-p-5.html

    Sadly, both sides quote out of context ad nauseum.

  2. Lee Bowman says:

    All things considered, I agree with Judge Jones regarding the board’s actions and intent, but not on the second part of his decision, which was based more on opinion, i.e. the logic he perceived from the expert testimony and briefs submitted.

    A judge is supposed to base his decision on the testimony and other evidence presented. Jones’ conduct was just fine. If the creationists couldn’t put on a better case, it’s no one’s fault but theirs. They gave it all they had, and they had nothing.

  3. comradebillyboy

    New Mexico, unlike its neighbors to the east, is not a hotbed of creationism. The Public Education Department is aggressively secular. Creationists here are notable by their rarity. Odd, because in many other respects NM is a bit backward.

  4. retiredsciguy

    If we stick to the formal, scientific definition of the word “theory” — that is , the best fit for all available evidence, then there is only one theory concerning evolution — The Theory of Natural Selection, proposed by Charles Darwin, and much expanded and refined since.

    We should constantly make the point that evolution itself, i.e., change in species over time — is NOT a theory, but observable fact. What IS theory is what causes evolution — natural selection, according to Darwin. Any other ideas about origins of species are at best hypotheses, not theories.

    So yes, we should teach ALL theories concerning origins of species. There is only one.

  5. retiredguy, you beat me to it.

    Any account for the history of life on earth has to follow the rules that we learned in secondary-school “expository writing”. Remember the 6 W’s? ID does not even make an attempt at addressing these fundamentals of exposition.

    There is no known account for the major features of the world of life which does not include “descent with modification”. Nobody has even made a speculation which would explain why living things are related to one another in the “tree of life” (rather than other ways that life might have been related, like “the great chain of being”), unless “common descent” is involved.

    Of course, there are alternative evolutionary theories, some of which might be worth mentioning in K-12 science classes, given the limited time available and pedagogical concerns.

    So, what is the “alternative to evolution”?

  6. For your delectation and demolition, SC, I offer you this spectacular (..ly bad) example of creationist “wisdom”:

    http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/kimball/090816

    Linda Kimball is Ray Comfort on steroids.

  7. John Pieret says: “Linda Kimball is Ray Comfort on steroids.”

    Indeed she is. That essay is way too long for one of my posts. It would take a medium-length book to deal with it. I’ll leave Linda for you. Your site is ideal for such an endeavor.

    Hey everybody! This is John’s blog: Thoughts in a Haystack.

  8. TomS wrote: “Remember the 6 W’s? ID does not even make an attempt at addressing these fundamentals of exposition.”

    It’s especially ironic since classic creationism, in all its mutually-contradictory versions, already did the leg work (if not the testing) to provide ID with plenty of answers to “W’s” to choose from. But to keep up the pretense of “ID is not creationism,” IDers were forced to grudgingly concede most conclusions to evolution (e.g. Behe) or play “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

  9. “I’ll leave Linda for you.”

    What’s the definition of “petard” again?

    Exposure to the stupid waves that Kimball emits could damage your sanity almost as much as spending a week naked in a bubble bath with Orly Taitz. (And if that image costs you a few neurons … well, that’s what you get for throwing this back on me.)

    Maybe I’ll see if I can get a couple of tons of 4″ lead shielding and deal with a few points before my idiot exposure badge melts.

    Thanks for the link anyway.

  10. Curmudgeon wrote: “That essay is way too long for one of my posts. It would take a medium-length book to deal with it. I’ll leave Linda for you.”

    So just post the part that discusses her alternate “theory.” Here, I’ll do it for you…Done!

  11. kevin golike

    im sorry I dont get it. exactly what religion does creationism promote? seems most all religions have a form of creation in its writings. So i dont get how it can be promoting any particular religion. We are supposed to have freedom of religion not freedom from religion. The seperation of church and state has only been recent, not from the start of this country. If our founders had meant it to be so, they would never have started congressional prayer. It was in fact Benjiman Franklin who got it started. If you value freedom then all should be allowed to practice there beliefs just as you are with out interferance from law. to tell anyone they must be silent about there beliefs , or to leave them at home , or not to have open freedom to express those beliefs is the opposite of what this country is about.

  12. The seperation of church and state has only been recent, not from the start of this country.

    No, that’s not true, though our notion of what that means as our contry became more pluralistic has … well … evolved. The difference between a little “public piety” practiced by a government body made up of adults and the use of the power of government to force religious indoctrination (even if cross-denominational) on children at taxpayer expense is significant. The courts have recognized that such government-imposed favoring of religion in general is violative of the Constitution.

    If you value freedom then all should be allowed to practice there beliefs just as you are with out interferance from law.

    And, indeed, you are. That does not mean that you can use everyone’s tax money to have the state exercise your religion for you.

    to tell anyone they must be silent about there beliefs , or to leave them at home , or not to have open freedom to express those beliefs is the opposite of what this country is about.

    And no one is telling children to be silent about them (other than in the educational context of telling children to not to interrupt lessons with matters irrelevant to the subject matter, such as religion in science classes). As one wag suggested, there will always be prayer in school as long as there are math quizzes. What you can’t do is use my taxes to have a government employee lead those prayers (or engage in the various dishonest ways to get around that rule).

  13. kevin golike

    alittle public piety? congress use to hold prayer meetings for hours, all day. many of our founders where ministers and still preached while in office. while in florida a school just denide a student to speak because they where christian, and might say something religious. no one is forcing anyone to believe anything, at the same time tax dollars are used to promote all kinds of offensive things to religious people in our schools. If you find it offensive do what i was told to do. opt out , dont participate, its about freedom and yes they are telling children to shut up . I believe all faiths and beliefs should be allowed to voice there beliefs. There are many cases of schools preventing free speech of students and attempts to prosicute children for even carring a bible to school and reading it on there own time. does this sound like freedom to you? As for the changes , it is sad that a minority of people have forced a majority to be silent, changed the meaning of the constitution that has made the best country in the history of the world. It has worked for 200 years why change it? how is praying any different than any other form of speech? just because you dont aggree with the words you want to sensor it? Religion is very relavant to many people today and to sensor it out of a persons life and actions is against everything America stands for. while you do not aggree with religion no one is forcing you to belive or participate. but you are attempting to tell other people they cannot speak because you dont like or believe what they say.

  14. Okay, kevin. That’s enough.

  15. kevin golike

    enough of what? iam following the rules of this site am i not?

  16. “denide,” “sensor,” “prosicute” “aggree,” …

    …. a veritable fount of Creationoid wisdom!

  17. Longie says: “…. a veritable fount of Creationoid wisdom!”

    You left out “there/their” and the inevitable apostrophe issues. But he knows his constitutional history.

  18. kevin asks: “enough of what? iam following the rules of this site am i not?”

    One of the rules is: “We’ll also delete comments, or parts thereof, that are nothing but incoherent babbling.”

  19. kevin golike said:

    exactly what religion does creationism promote? seems most all religions have a form of creation in its writings.

    There is a difference between belief in creation and creationism.
    Many people of faith in their Creator accept the reality of evolution.

  20. kevin golike

    i accept that tom, but i still dont understand how either one promotes a specific religion.

  21. Kevin:

    I recommend that you post your comments on the Talk.Origins newsgroup, where you will reach a wider variety of viewpoints.

    As for my 2c, I see the creationism/ID/”academic freedom” scams less about promoting religion than about inhibiting the “free exercise thererof” – specifically of those mainstream Judeo-Christian religions that consider it a sin to bear false witness.

  22. kevin, you’re fixated on the issue of a specific religion. That’s not the issue. Creationism is entirely religious, regardless of the specific sect that promotes it. Can’t promote religion — any religion — in a government run school.

  23. Kevin:

    I believe all faiths and beliefs should be allowed to voice there beliefs.

    As long as you honestly admit its faith, there’s little actual problem. Its when you want to teach your faith but call it science that we have a problem.
    ID does not belong in science for the same reason advanced calculus does not belong in History class: it is not that subject. If you want to teach ID, teach it in comparative religions. Because its faith, it isn’t science. I assure you that no scientist will have an objection to teaching creationism in comparative religion classes.

    at the same time tax dollars are used to promote all kinds of offensive things to religious people in our schools.

    Tax dollars are (hopefully) used to teach kids things the best, most accurate information we have, because it benefits all of us when the population is informed and not told lies. If you find any truth to be offensive, then the State must, not out of malice but out of necessity, offend you. And the TOE is the best, most complete explanation we have for a vast, VAST amount of scientific observations. So that is what is taught.

    When some better theory comes along, science classes will teach that. In the meantime, preventing kids from learning about natural selection because you find it offensive is about as smart as preventing kids from learning about gravity because you find falling undignified.

  24. Carl B. Sachs

    This isn’t quite the right forum for this question, but I don’t know where else to take it, and it occurred to me while reading this thread.

    Clearly the First Amendment has been interpreted as prohibiting the use of the coercive powers of the state to endorse any particular sect, creed, or church. And that can reasonably be taken as prohibiting the use of the state to enforce any substantial metaphysical doctrine of any sort, including materialism and atheism, etc.

    But: what if someone were to say that the state has a vested interest in promoting religiosity as such? That is, without reference to any particular religion, and without reference to any particular metaphysics, religiosity as such deserves the protection and promotion of the state?

    Even John Rawls, one of the foremost theorists of liberalism in the 20th century, noted that while liberal polities ought to protect and promote pluralism of metaphysical views (what he called “comprehensive doctrines”), and not play favorites with any of them, the health and stability of liberal polities requires an “overlapping consensus” of comprehensive doctrines — so that people of very different doctrines are still invested in a liberal polity.

    Might that provide a compelling reason for the state to have an interest in promoting religiosity as such?

    (I take this question to be irrelevant to whether or how evolution should be taught in public schools.)

  25. Carl B. Sachs says:

    But: what if someone were to say that the state has a vested interest in promoting religiosity as such? That is, without reference to any particular religion, and without reference to any particular metaphysics, religiosity as such deserves the protection and promotion of the state?

    All religions are already protected. It’s in places like the former USSR that religion was persecuted. And in some Middle East countries, some religions are protected — and promoted — while others aren’t. That is, some sects have a “special relationship” with the state. The situation in the US avoids all of that. It seems pretty much ideal.

  26. Carl B Sachs said:
    [John Rawls noted that] the health and stability of liberal polities requires an “overlapping consensus” of comprehensive doctrines — so that people of very different doctrines are still invested in a liberal polity.

    Might that provide a compelling reason for the state to have an interest in promoting religiosity as such?

    No, social stability is a compelling reason to promote an overlapping consensus on how a liberal polity should function.

    So, for example, the State does have a compelling interest in teaching kids of all religions and political bents that the proper way to elect congresscritters is by popular vote, rather than violent melee a la Thunderdome.

    Before promoting religiosity the State would, at a bare minimum, at least have empirical evidence that religiosity is strongly correlated with support for western democratic values.

    But, it isn’t.

  27. Carl:

    We do have a “overlapping consensus” of comprehensive doctrines of sorts that people can invest in as support of a liberal polity: the mythos of the Founders; the belief in superiority of democracy as a form of government; the wisdom of the “common man”; our status as a melting pot” (even as we rail against immigrants); and, to a lesser extent, capitalism (at least as idelized in Horatio Alger). These form a kind of “creation mythology” of the US (which is not to say they are not true, just that they serve the function of origin stories). Of course, some groups try to add their own stories to the mix, preferably by government fiat, like the myth of our origin as a “Christian nation” that is being pushed in the Texas Board of Education.

  28. kevin golike

    if your interested in truth you can see the origal documents, they are still avaliable. a book called the myth of seperation gives all the references. In all of our early charters and states it was required to be a christian to run for public office.
    still abouit 6 of the original held this untill late 1800s. if you acually read the early documents it spells it out quite clear that the united states was a christian nation.

  29. kevin golike

    the book was written by david barton

  30. I’ve been excessively lenient with kevin‘s comments. We’ve now seen the last of them.

  31. Just as well; his head would have exploded when United States Constitution Article VI, section 3, is pointed out:

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

  32. Thanks, Gabe. I’ll mull it over in the morning. I’m getting bored with Klinghoffer, but if nothing else is going on, maybe I’ll do it.

  33. Curmudgeon wrote: “I’ve been excessively lenient with kevin’s comments. We’ve now seen the last of them.”

    I offered him to take his questions to Talk.Origins, but I have not seen any there yet. So I expect yet another case of someone expelling himself then having the chutzpah to whine about being expelled.

  34. Kevin G:
    In all of our early charters and states it was required to be a christian to run for public office.

    I do not doubt that this happened (though I may question the “all”…I can’t imagine Pennsylvania having a religious test for office, given its history) . But Article VI Section 3 of the Constitution makes it clear that the States who had a religious test for office were not representing our national character, they were making a mistake.

    Your argument is straight out of Orwell’s Animal Farm. Someone writes “No religious test for office” on the barn wall, and you add “…except for a Christian test” to the end of it.

  35. Eric:

    There’s practically a requirement even now to be a non-atheist. Or should I say to say you’re a non-atheist. How do we ever know what one “is”, or truly believes? Especially politicians who will do or say just about anything for votes.

  36. I kind of miss Kevin Golike’s comments. Misspelled words, bad grammar, making up of facts. The more he comments, the worse his position looks. Let him ramble on.

  37. techreseller, it’s amusing, but ultimately a waste of everyone’s time. We don’t encourage that stuff here.