Casey, Corbett, Creationism, & the Constitution

OVER at the always-entertaining creationist blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids), we find a long article by Casey Luskin — everyone’s favorite creationist: Is It Legally Consistent for Darwin Lobbyists to Oppose Advocating, But Advocate Opposing, Intelligent Design in Public Schools?

Casey is flogging the same line that Panda’s Thumb reported here: Luskin, laws, and lies, and that another creationist — John H. Calvert — was promoting elsewhere, which we discussed here: Cognitive Blowout!

The basic idea these people are trying to sell is that if creationism is religion which can’t be taught in the public schools, then science (especially evolution) is also a religion (Calvert says it’s secular humanism). Casey also seems to argue that even if it’s not a religion, it’s prejudicially anti-religion, and that too must be kept out of the schools.

We’ll spare you the details of Casey’s argument, because it’s simply too painful to plow through his prose. The bright spot in his argument, in his opinion, is the case of James Corbett, about which we’ve been writing. See Corbett: Update 25 Jun ‘10. That’s currently on appeal, but at the trial court level, a judge held that Corbett’s classroom remark that creationism is “superstitious nonsense” violated the Constitution’s establishment clause. Corbett had been sued by Chad Farnan, a creationist student.

Casey loves the Corbett case. Hey, why not? If creationists can’t teach their religion or their pseudo-science in school, then it’s only fair that science teachers can’t say anything that might upset the sensibilities of creationist students. Much of what Casey says at the Discoveroid blog consists of quotes from an article he wrote, which is published in the distinguished Liberty University Law Review. If you want a link to that, click over to Casey’s Discoveroid article and you’ll find it.

This is what Casey says in his blog post. The bold font was added by us:

Assuming ad arguendo [sic] that ID’s critics are correct in holding that ID is a religious viewpoint, then it should not only be unconstitutional for the government to “advance” ID, but also to “inhibit” ID. If ID is a religious viewpoint, the government may not violate the “absolute” prohibition against opposing it or showing hostility or disapproval towards it.

See how it works? If creationists can’t teach ID, then sane people can’t criticize it. That’s how Casey’s mind works. So in Casey’s universe, if some confused student says there’s no evidence for evolution and the teacher points out a ton of it, the teacher has been “hostile” to the kid’s religion.

Oh, by the way: Hey, Casey — “arguendo” is in the ablative case and it requires no preposition in the context you’re using it. “Ad” — were it needed here — takes the accusative case. Don’t they have any editors at the Liberty Law Review?

Casey then drones on and on, expressing his satisfaction with the Corbett trial court results, but he says it doesn’t go far enough:

While the holding in C.F. [the initials of Chad Farnan, the creationist student who sued Corbett] in some sense validates this Article’s contention that there comes a point where critique of creationism is no longer constitutional, there is much room for criticism of the ruling. As noted, the court found that calling creationism “superstitious nonsense” is unconstitutional, but calling it “scientifically . . . nonsense” is permissible. Is this a distinction without a difference?

Casey asks that question as if it were worth thinking about. Let’s read on:

[C]ourts have consistently held that advocating creationism in public schools is unconstitutional. In this regard, this present author [i.e. Casey the Discoveroid] agrees with courts that there are certain core tenets of creationism — namely its adherence to supernatural or divine forces — which make it an unscientific and untestable religious viewpoint that cannot be constitutionally advocated in public schools.

How magnanimous of Casey to concede that. But that’s as far as he’s willing to go. His paragraph continues:

That having been said, there is a glaring asymmetry in the law when courts hold on the one hand that creationism cannot be advocated in public schools because it is not science, but on the other hand that it can be disparaged as “scientifically . . . nonsense,” also because it is not science. To put it another way, those who desire legal symmetry will find the law sorely lacking if advocating creationism is prohibited on the grounds that it is religion, but nonetheless courts permit public schools to critique, attack, and oppose these views as false.


Courts cannot treat these viewpoints like religion in order to strike down their advocacy, but then treat them like science (or ignore thinly veiled attempts like Corbett’s to paint them as false) when they are being critiqued in order to sanction their disapproval. Either a viewpoint is religious and thereby unconstitutional to advocate as correct or critique as false in public schools, or it is scientific and fair game for both advocacy and critique in public schools.

That’s pretty much the core of Casey’s long Discoveroid blog post, and his even longer law review article. Our response is to call Casey’s attention to an earlier case involving the same school district as Corbett’s: Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District. It was decided in 1994 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — the same appellate court that will decide Corbett’s case. A few excerpts from the court’s opinion will say what needs to be said, with footnotes and legal citations deleted, and a bit of bold added by us:

John E. Peloza is a high school biology teacher. He sued the Capistrano Unified School District and various individuals connected with the school district under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges in his complaint that the school district requires him to teach “evolutionism” and that evolutionism is a religious belief system.

But the court said:

Peloza uses the words “evolution” and “evolutionism” interchangeably in the complaint. This is not wrong or imprecise for, indeed, they are synonyms. Adding “ism” does not change the meaning nor magically metamorphose “evolution” into a religion. “Evolution” and “evolutionism” define a biological concept: higher life forms evolve from lower ones. The concept has nothing to do with how the universe was created; it has nothing to do with whether or not there is a divine Creator (who did or did not create the universe or did or did not plan evolution as part of a divine scheme).


According to Peloza’s complaint, all persons must adhere to one of two religious belief systems concerning “the origins of life and of the universe:” evolutionism, or creationism. … Thus, the school district, in teaching evolutionism, is establishing a state-supported “religion.”

We reject this claim because neither the Supreme Court, nor this circuit, has ever held that evolutionism or secular humanism are “religions” for Establishment Clause purposes. Indeed, both the dictionary definition of religion and the clear weight of the case law are to the contrary. The Supreme Court has held unequivocally that while the belief in a divine creator of the universe is a religious belief, the scientific theory that higher forms of life evolved from lower forms is not. Edwards V. Aguillard. [citation] (holding unconstitutional, under Establishment Clause, Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment for Creation-science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act”).

There’s more to the court’s opinion, of course, and it’s well worth reading. But the point is — and maybe Casey will figure it out one day — science isn’t a religion. And where it runs counter to the dogma of creationism, it’s still not religion, nor is it the suppression of religion. It’s just science.

Deal with it, Casey.

See also: Casey, Corbett, & the Constitution, Part II.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “Casey, Corbett, Creationism, & the Constitution

  1. retiredsciguy

    Casey, if you want ID taught in public schools, it first must be established as science. To be established as science, a body of compelling evidence supporting ID must be developed through observation and/or experimentation. So far, all that ID proponents have come up with is the claim that living organisms are too complex to have developed through the natural means of evolution. This is NOT evidence. It never will be evidence, no matter how many times you repeat it.

    You know full well that Intelligent Design is nothing more than an end-around the Constitution to get creationism into the public schools. You make a fool of yourself by insisting otherwise.

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    Funny how Casey keeps talking about “creationism”. I thought that the Discovery Insitute was about “intelligent design” and that the two have nothing whatever to do with each other.

  3. Casey will only earn his lesson, sore needed, that the courts are not is playground, and that science classes are not democracies, if and when this stupid case is determined properly and the full costs are awarded AGAINST him and his stupid parents.

    I then suggest those costs are persued aggressively with the full wieght of the law, and impoverish this idiot and his equally shabby irresponsibe parents.

    Use it to ensure this retards only possible career options include regular repetition of the phrase “Would you like fries with that sir?”.

    This case is just another in a long long line of inevitable stupidity, and as long as you continue allowing this to go on you have NO rights to complain.

    Build up Mr Jeffersons wall, then slam the faces of the Caseys of this world into it hard and repetitively till they shut up.

    That or just carry on pissing your education budgets up the wall on f*ckwittery like this.

  4. I should have just taken your advice instead of slogging through Casey’s article. He certainly didn’t have anything more convincing to say.

    Casey’s complaining about this supposed double standard. The thing is, the proponents of both creationism and intelligent design go to great lengths to mislead people into thinking that their religious viewpoint is science. If a science teacher were to criticize the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation as “nonsense”, that would probably be uncalled for. But if the church started saying that it was a measurable phenomenon, and cited some misleading evidence to back it up, then a teacher would be completely right in calling them out.

    Same thing for creationism (and intelligent design, Casey): if you’re going to pretend you’re doing science, then be prepared to have good teachers criticize it on scientific grounds. And no, that doesn’t mean you can teach it as science, because it’s still not science.