Casey Luskin’s New Legal Argument

This one is a bit esoteric, as one might expect from an exercise in apologetics, so we’ll have to take some care in going through it. Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist, has just written this for the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog: If Evolution Has Implications for Religion, Can We Justify Teaching It in Public Schools?

Casey’s title is guaranteed to make your eyes roll. Who is he talking about when he asks if “we” can justify teaching evolution? And why can’t the same bizarre question be asked about astronomy? Surely there are cults out there that don’t like the implications of astronomy, so can “we” justify teaching astronomy, or any other science that conflicts with the dogma of some sect?

After you recover from that nasty stumble at the threshold, you’re curious to know what Casey is babbling about. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

In my recent article on the constitutionality of teaching evolution, I discussed how courts have found that it is legal to teach evolution in public schools.

Yes, we wrote about that last week. After arduous research, Casey reached that conclusion — see Casey Makes a Startling Admission. But it’s not that easy. Today Casey is going to tell us about some difficult legal hurdles evolution must still jump in order to meet with his reluctant conclusion that it can be legally taught. He says:

Evolutionary biology is a science, so it can be legally taught in public schools when it’s treated as a science and isn’t promoted as a support for atheism or materialism.

Isn’t that precious? According to Casey, the courts will grudgingly allow evolution to be taught, provided: (1) it has to be treated as science; and (2) it can’t promote atheism or materialism. We don’t know what court imposed those rules, but Casey’s first condition is too absurd to discuss. What biology text teaches evolution as anything other than science? As for Casey’s second condition, we don’t know of any public school teacher who knowingly promotes atheism in a science class, so that too is absurd.

And then there’s Casey’s ambiguous reference to “materialism.” As we explained in Bring Me An Angel Detector!:

The wedge document literally equates the scientific method with the philosophy of metaphysical naturalism. That philosophy asserts that nothing exists except matter and energy — things which can be detected by natural means. It assumes that everything can be explained by natural causes, as no other causes exist. The philosophy of materialism is inherently atheistic, because it assumes that supernatural phenomena — gods, devils, angels, etc. — being physically undetectable, are therefore nonexistent.

The creationists — through ignorance or artifice — equate that philosophical materialism with something very different — methodological materialism. The latter is a procedure (not a philosophy) which is inherent in the scientific method. To be a competent scientist, no philosophical materialism is necessary, and many — perhaps most — do quite nicely without it. A scientist may even believe that a multitude of spirits inhabit this world, but being imperceptible, they are outside the scope of his professional work.

[M]ethodological materialism — the process of science — says nothing at all about the existence of spiritual matters, only their inability to be scientifically studied. Methodological materialism is an operational constraint of science, not a philosophical attack on theism.

Most of you already know that, but it’s necessary to state the obvious here in order to appreciate what Casey is doing. Okay, let’s read on:

That said, few would deny that Darwinian evolution has larger implications that aren’t friendly to theism. Even if those are not discussed in a public school science classroom, and the conversation focuses strictly on the science, the implications are still there.

Oooooooooh — the implications are still there! Yes, and the same is true for the teaching of astronomy and its implications for those who are devout astrology believers. What’s a science teacher supposed to do? Casey continues:

Do the larger religious (or anti-religious) implications of a scientific theory make it inadmissible for instruction in public schools? They shouldn’t.

They shouldn’t? Is Casey making yet another startling admission? Yes, but there are strings attached. Here’s more:

Sometimes when courts have declared the teaching of evolution to be legal, they have shown great insensitivity to the fact that it impinges upon the religious views of many Americans. However, just because we’re declaring the teaching of evolution to be constitutional doesn’t mean we that it has no connections to religion. Thus, while it may sound odd to hear that we can (sometimes) declare something constitutional to teach in public schools even though it touches upon religion, there’s good legal precedent for such a finding.

Then Casey discusses some court decisions which justify that “insensitivity.” He focuses on the Lemon case, which we discussed in Justice Antonin Scalia and the Devil. We’ll skip Casey’s analysis. Then he tells us:

Of course, a scientific theory like evolution does speak to ultimate questions about origins, which are also addressed by religion. So it certainly touches upon religious questions. But when we discuss Darwinian evolution strictly on a scientific level, any effects upon religion are “secondary” or “incidental” compared to their primary effect of advancing scientific knowledge. This is in fact precisely how sensitive courts have justified the teaching of Darwinism.

Ah, so in Casey’s view, the courts have reluctantly allowed the teaching of “Darwinism.” He talks about some other court decisions, and then says:

In this manner, one can legally justify teaching evolution while being sensitive to the fact that it has larger implications that touch upon the religious beliefs of many Americans. This reasoning offers the best of both worlds. It allows science to be taught in the science classroom while respecting the beliefs of people who have religious objections to evolution.

So it’s legally justifiable to teach evolution, but you’ve got to be “sensitive” to the fact that creationists find it offensive. Now brace yourself, dear reader, because here comes Casey’s conclusion:

Many evolutionists, however, would probably dislike this way of thinking. Why? Because the very same approach would justify teaching about intelligent design in public schools.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! How in the world can intelligent design meet Casey’s conditions? It has no scientific value whatsoever. It has no data, no possibility of ever being tested, and no coherent theory — other than a vague claim that a transcendent designer — blessed be he! — did something, somehow, to create the universe and all living things. In other words, intelligent design has absolutely no justification for being included in public schools — other than to support the religious beliefs of its promoters.

So there you are. In Casey’s post, we can see the shadowy outline of the Discoveroids’ next legal argument. It will fail, like all their earlier attempts, but it’s going to be fun watching them try.

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29 responses to “Casey Luskin’s New Legal Argument

  1. If Casey’s aim is to expunge from public education any and all studies that might lead students to doubt religious dogma, he’s got a lot more to worry about than just evolution. My wife quit the Baptist church after taking college courses in history and philosophy. I abandoned religious belief after close study of the Bible itself.

  2. I noted that Casey fails to mention one particular court case… Kitzmiller.

    Kitzmiller decision:
    For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child. (page 24)
    A significant aspect of the IDM [intelligent design movement] is that despite Defendants’ protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity. (page 26)
    The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. (page 31)
    The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. (page 43)

  3. docbill1351

    The Attack Gerbil and the Tooters had their chance to defend ID in court, win their case and establish ID as science, however they chickened out and ran away. Cluck-cluck-pee-CAWWWW!

    Kitzmiller, Gerbie, Kitzmiller.

  4. docbill1351

    Ach, Mark4 beat me to the punch. Curse you tiny bladder!

  5. michaelfugate

    Is there anything that doesn’t touch on religion in some way, shape or form?

  6. Mark Germano

    A joke worth repeating:

    Casey is part of the 98% of lawyers that give the other 2% a bad name.

  7. Diogenes' Lamp

    Casey is attempting a flattening argument, a tu quoque: ‘Well OK, ID has religious implications… but so does evolution! And since you can’t ban evolution from public schools, therefore you can’t ban ID from public schools… Gotcha, atheists!!!’

    No. No equivalence, Casey. ID does not merely have religious implications, it has specific religious beliefs built into its logic. Unlike evolution, ID has religious beliefs as input, as well as religious implications as output.

    1. The whole logic of every “inference to design” assumes God of the Gaps is valid logic. Never ‘Unknown Natural Process of the Gaps’, but always and only ‘God of the Gaps.’

    2. Every time IDcreationists say “intelligent agent” they are smuggling in gods, because they define “intelligent agent” to mean “human, spirit or god.”

    3. IDcreationists start with human creations, “Mt. Rushmore… Shakespeare’s sonnets” as “proof” that only humans create information. Then they replace “humans” with “humans or gods” (= “intelligent agents”). In logic, they’ve made a disjunction and God is the disjunction. But there’s no reason to prefer the disjunction “humans or gods” over “humans or material objects” or “humans or natural processes” or an infinite number of other possible disjunctions. Their religion made them choose “humans or gods” (= “intelligent agents”) as the only allowed disjunction, because when you eliminate humans as the creators of genetic information, it leaves them with their desired conclusion, ‘God did it.’

    4. All the alleged “predictions” of ID are inherently religious and assume religious beliefs as input– they do not merely have religious implications as output. When IDcreationists say “The Intelligent Designer would not allow the human genome to be full of junk!”, they’re assuming they know the purposes of our creator, and it’s a religious belief to assume you know the purposes of our creator. You assume you know our creator created DNA to serve us, and you know our creator would not create us just to carry around junk DNA like the way mosquitoes carry around malaria. That’s your religious belief, Casey.

    By contrast to ID, evolutionary theory does not have religious beliefs as input, although evolution, like many scientific conclusions, may have religious implications as output.

  8. michaelfugate

    Like what was God thinking when it made whales on day 5 and nested them morphologically and genetically within the artiodactyls it made on day 6?

  9. @RetiredProf: As I think I’ve mentioned here before, when I was in high school I thought I’d be a minister. That is, until one summer vacation I decided to read the bible straight through, end to end and found if full of inconsistencies such as several versions of creation, two versions of the birth of the baby Jesus, and many more. Then in a Lutheran college I had to take religion courses where I learned that most of the “historical” tales, such as the exodus from Egypt never happened.

    Most ministers have probably read the entire thing, but they use “study guides” for their congregations, which contain a couple verses selected from various places in the bible chosen to make a specific point. So most people have a very limited idea of what’s actually in their “holy book”.

    And as for Casey’s rant, I fail to understand why the failure of reality to reflect someone’s beliefs is a problem for anyone else.

  10. Who said Intelligent Design Creationism has no data ?

    They have the Miracle of Phototropism !

    Think about it, even the Evolutionist Prophet Darwin was stumped by that one, which is dead easy to explain by IDC science: the ID Creator guides every leaf, every bud, towards sunlight.

    There you have it, IDC science is way superior to Darwinistic “theory”.

  11. Ken Phelps

    No Casey, evolution doesn’t “touch on” religion. Evolution is about reality. Religion, however, does touch on evolution.

    It might be time for the DI to get one of those “good touch – bad touch” lectures.

  12. I haven’t checked to see if today’s high school and university science textbooks have beefed up that bare-bones chapter 1 of such textbooks which I can recall from my own public school days–and even my grandchildren’s science textbooks of the 1970’s–which gave students only the vaguest generalizations about the definition and development of science, the nature of the scientific method, and terms like theory and law. (We were even told by our teachers, if not always by our textbooks, that a super-solid scientific theory could eventually “graduate” and become a scientific law! I still found that nonsense common among at least some of my first semester History & Philosophy of Science students as late as the 1980s, even in the honors colloquium filled with high-school valedictorians.)

    Due to the obfuscations of the Dishonesty Institute and the Ham-on-Nye disinformation campaigns, I hope science educators are no longer giving hurried, passing nods to the general foundations and nature of modern science as they did in my day.

    Do we have any experienced science teachers (or recent graduates of America’s public school systems) here who can tell us if many science textbooks today have improved their treatment of science basics in the first week of biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and earth science intro courses?

  13. Perhaps this has been brought up before, but have the IDers truly established ID as a *theory*? I think not. Considering that they’ve not even established a workable hypothesis yet, let alone tested it and confirmed that it is actually a valid hypothesis, ID cannot be given the adjective “theory”. It is wholly undeserving of it. It barely raises to the level of “idea”. It might not even rise to that level, being nothing more than an obscure “concept”.

  14. What I find particularly silly and disgusting among Discoveroids and YEC leaders is the ridiculous disinformation campaign which claims that this allegedly ominous “materialistic naturalism” of modern science was due to the insidious “hijacking of science by atheists” (so claims Ken Ham et al.) Every science student should know enough about the history of science to understand that it was largely the Islamic and Christian philosophers of the 14th to 18th centuries who defined and established the methodological naturalism of science, not “atheist hijackers”.

    Of course, they tended to call it “natural philosophy” because it was the field of philosophy which deals with the natural world. Philosophers realized that, unlike in other areas of general philosophy, the study of the natural world was greatly aided by the existence of tangible evidence and opportunities for direct observation and empirical studies. (Of course, we have at least one prominent relic of that distant past when science was usually called “natural philosophy.” Today, just as back then, the highest academic degree a scientist can achieve in his field is the Ph.D., the Doctor of Philosophy.)

    They also realized that the theologians among them–in other words, virtually all philosophers–as well as ecclesiastical authorities, too often resorted to simplistic “God did it” explanations as well as an overly-intrusive awe of the Greek and Latin philosophers of the ancient world and even the ancient physicians, especially Galen. [Contra Ken Ham, bloodletting was a product of ancient folk traditions and philosophers and approved by Galen, the master physician to gladiators and the most voluminous of all ancient writers in terms of what managed to survive. Bloodletting was not “a failure of modern science”. Is that another instance of Ken Ham’s ignorance or is it just more of his pathological lying? I leave that determination to the reader.]

    Those pioneers of modern science realized that natural philosophy could focus on Proximate Causation exclusively while general philosophy and theology could continue to deal with Ultimate Causation and most everything else. They didn’t use that specific terminology but it was Christian philosophers, not “devious atheists up to no good”, who recognized that natural philosophy, aka modern science, could thrive while producing meaningful explanations and useful technology only if freed from theological distractions and intrusions and the far more domineering interference of ancient philosophers, especially Aristotle.

    In so many of the major conflicts, such as with Galileo’s troubles, the Greek philosophers were the wet blankets putting out the fires of empiricism far more often than the Bible per se. [Despite the claims of today’s Young Earth Creationists, Christian Europe was far less grounded in Bible hyper-literalism than today’s “creation science” hermeneutics.] In a post-Roman-Empire age comparable to a post-apocalyptic world where the ancient civilizations were held in awe, it is easy to see why the surviving Greek and Latin texts represented the gold standard for wisdom and authority. Therefore, the establishment of natural philosophy as methodologically grounded in the scientific method and empiricism freed scientific investigation from not just religious dogma but from an awed reliance on ancient philosophy that could no longer be justified.

    It’s worth emphasizing again that, contrary to popular belief, theologians of the late Middle Ages generally enjoyed considerable hermeneutical leeway–as long as they were “nice” about it and generally diplomatic about their Bible interpretations speculations (which generally meant choosing one’s words carefully and including a requisite “I’m not saying the Pope is wrong and I humbly defer to the Vatican on these matters.”) In contrast, appearing overly critical or even downright dismissive of Aristotle could get one into a great deal of trouble very quickly. **

    **FOOTNOTE: Contrary to the impressions left by the COSMOS reboot, G. Bruno was not at all a martyr for science but he was a case study in being an obnoxious nitwit who managed to get on the wrong side of virtually every “side” and authority of his day. In my graduate work I recall losing track of how many times he got kicked out of town and was downright lucky to have avoided broasting for as many years as he did. My rough paraphrase of one of his Latin discourses protesting one of his many evictions was roughly, “Hey, you think you are all such big-shots… but I’ve been thrown out of much nicer bars than this one…and much more forcefully and eloquently too! I’m glad to no longer be casting my pearls before robe-wearing swines. In fact, if I felt like, I could kick your a$$ in fifty erudite words or less in any language you prefer!” [That’s a very very very rough paraphrase. But it does explain history. Both the Roman Church hierarchy and the Reformers agreed 100% on at least one thing: Bruno’s execution was long overdue–for the high crime of being a pain in the posterior.]

    Having provided this background, I ask readers: Do you think many science students today get exposed to enough of the basics of the development of modern science to understand how and why Methodological Naturalism was there from the start by the conscious intentions of most everyone involved–regardless of theological proclivities–and was not some sort of atheist or anti-religionist conspiracy?

  15. michaelfugate

    Most student get a cartoon version of the scientific method and a whiggish version of the history of science – we could do better.

  16. docbill1351

    PhD stands for what??? All these years I thought it was “Piled higher and Deeper.” Learn something new every day!

    As for the history and philosophy of science, those were sophomore level elective courses I took in college. Interesting, but had no bearing (consciously) on what I did in the lab. As a student then a TA then an RA, I learned how to “do science” by actually doing it. I don’t recall a single day before, during or after I was “Piled higher and Deeper” that I said to myself, “Self, you’re doing methodological naturalism! Let’s get a pint!” OK, well, truth be told I did say that second part to myself … often.

    As for the “Theory of ID,” or the “Golden Fleeced,” there is none. Dembski wrote that years ago. Behe has never progressed beyond his Tinker Toy analogies and Meyer is a master at bait and switch. (Yes, as Aquaman famously said, I did that on porpoise.) The Gerb’s little book, currently at 10,000,000,000 on Amazon, purports to “Explore ID” but all it does is point to non-existant gaps in evolution, concluding that each is a miracle.

    I gotta love me some Tooters, though, because I can rarely be this snarky without feeling a little ashamed. OK, I never feel ashamed, but IF I DID, I would feel LESS so about the Tooters.

  17. Casey’s argument is one of convenience, nothing more. Bash evolution, but non-critically teach creationism.

    Rick Santorum’s latest comment about climate change, an ideological stand of denial by the far right:

    Rick Santorum Wants Pope Francis To Stop Talking About Climate Change
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/02/rick-santorum-pope-climat_n_7498768.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592&ref=yfp

    If the GOP (Party of Greed) says it isn’t so, then it must not be so, even to the point of banning the use of words like “climate change.”

    Other quotes regarding evolution itself by Santorum:

    “What we should be teaching are the problems and holes and I think there are legitimate problems and holes in the theory of evolution. And what we need to do is to present those fairly from a scientific point of view. And we should lay out areas in which the evidence supports evolution and the areas in the evidence that does not.”
    ~Rick Santorum, claiming that evolution theory isn’t accurate.

    There are many on the left and in the scientific community, so to speak, who are afraid of that discussion because oh my goodness you might mention the word, God-forbid, “God” in the classroom, or “Creator,” or that there may be some things that are inexplainable by nature where there may be, where it’s better explained by a Creator, of course we can’t have that discussion. It’s very interesting that you have a situation that science will only allow things in the classroom that are consistent with a non-Creator idea of how we got here, as if somehow or another that’s scientific. Well maybe the science points to the fact that maybe science doesn’t explain all these things. And if it does point to that, why don’t you pursue that? But you can’t because it’s not science, but if science is pointing you there how can you say it’s not science? It’s worth the debate.

    And let us not forget the Santorum amendment to NCLB:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santorum_Amendment

  18. Let it be noted that nobody has offered a non-scientific explanation for the variety of life. No one has attempted an account for what happens, when, where, without making reference to evolution. The creationists at most find something that evolutionary biology does not explain. (A favorite being something like the origin of life – or even the Big Bang!)

  19. “Self, you’re doing methodological naturalism!

    And that is a reminder just how far IDers, YECists, and other denialists have fallen behind. While everybody else simply takes for granted something that was well-established centuries ago (by Christian pioneers of science who IDers and YECists proudly claim as sharing so many of their theological beliefs), such denialists are nevertheless pretending that the very definition of science those pioneers produced is some kind of horrendous impediment to scientific progress!

    Hypocrisy and self-contradiction is central to everything IDers and YECists publish and promote. That fact would be much more obvious to the general public if we taught more “general science” and not just specific fields of science. (And who decided that–at least back when my grandchildren were in high school–that the college-bound freshman students took Biology while the other kids took Earth Science? Is Biology inherently more important or more “difficult” than Earth Science? What is Earth Science associated with the less academic?)

    In hopes of at least provoking a discussion, I once proposed a one-credit hour “Introduction to Science” for all College of Arts & Science students when serving on the university’s Curriculum Revision Committee. A professor from the School of Fine Arts immediately insisted that fairness demanded a similar requirement for an “Introduction to the Arts”. Of course, it quickly degenerated into a political issue (and budget allocation to the various schools of the university due to the associated student tuition-hours) so my original purpose was entirely overshadowed.

    The science department chairs liked the idea because they all agreed that few professors devoted much attention to that requisite first chapter of every science textbook and that most weren’t well schooled in the history of science and, admittedly, weren’t all that interested in it. Yet, all of the chairs realized that a science-illiterate public jeopardizes America’s future and especially the funding of science education and NSA research. So they liked the idea. And to my surprise, one even impressed me (especially considering that this was the early 1980’s) by saying, “That would a great opportunity to explain to students why homeopathy, astrology, and creation science are not science—and really extinguish the nonsense! I don’t want to waste time on those topics and yet we have far too much of that stuff among college graduates who should know better.”

  20. As far as things being taught in school which relate to what a particular religion teaches.
    One that immediately comes to mind is the Mormon account of pre-Columbian America. I haven’t read much about it, but I understand that the Mormon account differs considerably from what “secular” history tells us. I hope that the standard account is not therefore banned from classrooms.

  21. It is my understanding that the DNA evidence is so obviously devastating to Mormon views on ancient America that they have carefully reworded some of their claims. I have not looked into it but I think they now claim that the ancient Americans described in the Book of Mormon were just a minority of the people living in the Americas at that time–and have since then either died out entirely and were lost to secular history or eventually intermarried and lost their distinct identities as people groups.

    I’ve heard that DNA science has been a major “bomb” which has really shaken up millennial generation Mormons especially. I think I heard about some major repercussions of DNA research among scientists with Mormon Church membership where grants and positions were lost because of published science which church leaders considered “dangerous” to the faithful.

    I’ve heard that there is actually a small body of “Mormon science” literature which tries to take a Ken Ham approach of telling Mormons what they should think about various scientific discoveries, such as the DNA profiles of Native Americans, for example. (I wonder if any eager, Mormon entrepreneurs are seeing an opportunity to make their fortune much as Ken Ham did.)

  22. (2) it can’t promote atheism or materialism.

    Ignore for the moment how he (and every other anti-evolution activist) defines “materialism” to suit the argument, i.e, bait-and-switch between methodological and philosophical, and assume that he means only “philosophical.” Technically nothing can’t promote it. But the law could prohibit it if it “does” promote it. And as any rational observer can see, it certainly does not. People who learn evolution correctly (the way Luskin would ban) have almost the full range of political and religious ideologies, and in fact are mostly not atheists or philosophical materialists. If fundamentalists are underrepresented it’s not because evolution made them convert, but because their parents tend to keep them out of such classes. Furthermore, when taught in a way Luskin would approve of, it demonstrably promotes radical fundamentalism at the expense of mainstream religion. Or per the Establishment Clause, it does more to “inhibit the free exercise of” religion in general than to promote it.

  23. @Gary: “have the IDers truly established ID as a *theory*?”
    Ask them how IDiocy can be falsified, lean back and enjoy either the silence or the wriggling.

    Third Prof aks:
    “Do you think many science students today get exposed to enough of the basics of the development of modern science to understand how and why Methodological Naturalism was there from the start by the conscious intentions of most everyone involved–regardless of theological proclivities–and was not some sort of atheist or anti-religionist conspiracy?”
    Depends on which country you are thinking of.

  24. Actually, the IDers should be careful what they wish for. The idea that life was designed by some designer implies that the designer (blessed be his/her/its name) was pretty bloody incompetent or stupid, or both (take your pick). Since I’ve just recovered from surgery for benign prostatic hyperplasia, one of my current favorite dumb designs is running the urethra through an organ that hypertrophies with age. Having the air and food pipes cross in the throat, guaranteeing that some of his/her/its dearly beloved will choke to death each year is another. The recurrent laryngeal nerve is another (especially for giraffes!) I’m sure most of the readers of this blog have their own list of favorite dumb design features. I got my PhD (in biology) from an engineering school in Pennsylvania, and I’m sure the freshman engineering students there could have come up with better ideas than the blessed designer. So yeah, IDers, try to force ID to be taught on schools and see how quickly people learn that either your bloody great designer (blessed be his/her/its name) was a stupid (insert whatever expletive you like here), or evolution happens!

  25. Per Casey Luskin:

    In this manner, one can legally justify teaching evolution while being sensitive to the fact that it has larger implications that touch upon the religious beliefs of many Americans. This reasoning offers the best of both worlds. It allows science to be taught in the science classroom while respecting the beliefs of people who have religious objections to evolution.
    . . .
    Many evolutionists, however, would probably dislike this way of thinking. Why? Because the very same approach would justify teaching about intelligent design in public schools.

    Not if it can be shown, as it easily can, that “intelligent design” is a mere fig leaf covering pure-D Genesis creationism.

    Casey lets the cat out of the bag when he talks not about how and why the courts have frowned on the teaching of creationism in public schools but about the reasoning for allowing the teaching of evolution. Clearly he’d love to see a return to the good old days before the Supreme Court’s 1968 decision in Epperson v. Arkansas that laws banning the teaching of Darwin’s ideas were unconstitutional.

  26. Prof. Tertius asks,
    “Do we have any experienced science teachers (or recent graduates of America’s public school systems) here who can tell us if many science textbooks today have improved their treatment of science basics in the first week of biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and earth science intro courses?”

    My entire teaching experience was at the Junior High level, and that age student (12 to 14) is just at the beginning stages of grasping abstract concepts such as the philosophy of science. That said, I can attest to the fact that the scientific method, itself an abstract concept, was part of our 7th grade curriculum, and the textbooks we selected covered the subject. However, the students were much more interested in the concrete subject matter such as volcanos, earthquakes, plate tectonics, fossils, rocks & minerals, stars, planets, galaxies, tornados & hurricanes, predators & prey (a video of a lion bringing down a zebra was a perennial favorite), etc., etc., and had a tough time understanding the difference between “hypothesis” and “theory.”

    In short, the texts at any level could do a bang-up job of treating the science basics, but it would go over the heads of younger students, and would probably be ignored by older students unless it was “going to be on the test.”

  27. Dave Luckett

    Casey’s talking through his hat – again – to say that the theory of evolution has “implications that are not friendly to theism”. The implication he’s talking about – only he doesn’t say, because that would involve examining it – is the problem of suffering. (It is not, and never has been, a problem for theism that God did not necessarily do the work of Creation by miraculous fiat.) But suffering is a problem for theism, or at least for monotheism with a benevolent God, and the theory of evolution, by explaining suffering, might actually be slightly friendly to it.

    Scripture doesn’t say that prelapsarian animal life did not suffer pain. It says that all of God’s creation was “very good”, but no more. It visits woman with pain in childbirth, but that in itself implies that pain existed already.

    So there’s no problem with evolutionary theory entailing suffering on life, not really. Life entails suffering on life. This does need explaining, true.

    But the theory of evolution doesn’t contradict scripture, provided that the story of the Creation in Genesis is read, as it is plainly meant to be read, figuratively. At the very least, there is nothing whatsoever in scripture to say that it need be read in any other way. (And no, Jesus did not attest to any need to read it literally.)

    What the theory of evolution does do is to throw light on the reason for suffering. Natural selection necessarily entails it; but natural selection is itself necessary – to bring forth new growth, to create new species, to allow life to cope with changing circumstances, to allow change and diversity. That which is necessary has reason to exist, and that reason might override the suffering. We are thus, through the theory, allowed a small insight into the mind of Almighty God. Who is to say that Darwin was not doing God’s will, to allow us this?

    Well, why not? I’ve always thought that even if I don’t believe this stuff myself, I am not thereby required to argue with theists on this head. I can get along with them, and they with me. I can agree with Christians, even Christians who really do think that the Bible is the word of God. It’s only the ones who insist on a literal reading of Genesis that I can’t – and they’re a fairly small minority. As for the rest, well, true, there are other problems with their religion, but not the theory of evolution.

  28. the very same approach would justify teaching about intelligent design in public schools
    if there were something of substance to teach about intelligent design. The advocates of ID have had many years, and their own media, in which to tell us what happens, when and where, if ID is involved, that the world of life turns out as it does (rather than some other outcome).
    Yet no one has spoken for long about ID and life without mentioning evolution. For two reasons: (1) no one has come up with an account of the variety of life without involving evolution (2) any exposition of ID ultimately relies on “whatever, whenever, however, happens, it isn’t evolution”.
    This essay of Luskins is an example. Rather than taking the opportunity to tell us what he would have taught about how ID accounts for something, he goes on about what is wrong about teaching evolutionary biology.

  29. @Dave Luckett
    I quite agree with all you said.
    But one argument on suffering that some creationists have is the creative power that suffering – death – plays in natural selection. They cannot accept the idea that God more than tolerates suffering, but actually uses it.