The Curmudgeon’s Statement of Principle

We’re experiencing another news drought, so that means your Curmudgeon is likely to get into trouble with an off-topic post. But this won’t be too far off-topic — just enough to bother some of you.

Most of you know our opinion that Debating Creationists is Dumber Than Creationism. Although we amuse ourselves here by discussing the things that creationists say, we never debate them, and we don’t think anyone else should either. But our thinking goes far beyond the wisdom of debates.

Scientists must be free to pursue their work and to teach their subjects without political or ecclesiastical censorship, and so far, that hasn’t been much of a problem. Creationists can rant all they like, but we become concerned only when some crazed sect threatens to go malignant, often with the help of government.

The usual first step they take is forcing their doctrines into public school classrooms — either directly, by legislating equal time for religious “theories” in science classes, or in the guise of what creationists misleadingly call “academic freedom” laws that require teaching evolution’s alleged “weaknesses.” If creationists were to succeed in taking over the public schools, your lab would be their next target.

Absent such creationist malignancy — which requires vigorous opposition — our position toward them is one of benign neglect. But our policy goes far beyond creationism. We’ve attempted to formulate a Statement of Principle, to be used not only in controversies about creationism, but also regarding other “social” issues. Here it comes:

1. Everyone is free to believe, preach, read, and write whatever he wants, pray to any gods he selects, and teach what he believes to anyone willing to listen. However, no one can force such activities on anyone else, or compel anyone else to pay for such activities. Teaching is a special case, because, government-run schools are properly forbidden from engaging in religious activities, so despite the howls of creationists, government-paid teachers in public schools are not allowed to teach religion.

2. As with ideas, so too with other things. Everyone is free to buy (or not buy) goods and services from willing sellers, to sell (or not sell) to willing customers (in each case without fraud or coercion, of course), and to do so without demanding special privileges in the marketplace. We’re not libertarian fanatics, however, so we recognize that special rules are required for goods that may be inherently harmful — narcotics, explosives, etc.

3. We don’t stop with ideas, goods, and services. Regarding personal behavior (intimate or otherwise), everyone is free to associate (or not) with consenting adults — provided that such activity is conducted in private, at the participants’ own risk and expense.

4. No one has the right to interfere with those who engage in any of the foregoing activities.

All of that can be derived from Constitutional principles, so there’s really nothing new in any of the foregoing — but some of it is likely to be controversial anyway. We’re used to that. so say what you will, dear reader.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “The Curmudgeon’s Statement of Principle

  1. Your treatise reads like what could be called Classic Liberalism.

    Wish more folks believed that way.

    But as we see the return of “brownshirts” in various guises its clear that a lot of folks believe just the opposite and are willing to browbeat or just plain beat anyone who dares to disagree.

    Bah! and may their armpits be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels.

    So sayeth the other Curmudgeon…

  2. Dave Luckett

    “Everyone is free to believe, preach, read, and write whatever he wants”,

    Including, “Kill the pigs”? How about, “Hitler had the right idea about Jews”? Or “Muslims need shooting”? Or “Convert or die”?

  3. Meantime,in Scotland, we are struggling to get rid of (you may have difficulty in believing this!) Church appointees sitting alongside the elected members on our Local Authority Education Committees. Your support is invited: How the Church of Scotland justifies its unelected Education Committee appointees; assumption, presumption, and privilege

  4. Nothing controversial here, dear SC.

  5. Signed, PB.

  6. @Dave Luckett: Bad speech is in need of protection as well as good or acceptable speech; that’s the point. The *ideas* expressed can and should be roundly condemned and criticized, where applicable, not censored.

  7. Sensuous Curmudgeon for President!

  8. Control yourself, longie!

  9. “Make the Enlightenment Great Again!”

  10. Only four days before Election Day, Curmie. Better start advertising and get out the vote! How nice it would be to have a rational choice.

  11. You need to be careful when you say “government-run schools.” Creationists and other cranks usually use the term to claim that public schools are operated by the federal government, when they are overwhelmingly run by local municipalities (with some state oversight regarding curricula).

    What really ticks off these people is that federal money won’t go to the schools they favor if they do things like, oh, I don’t know, peddle sectarian religion (in whatever disguise). They want to violate the principle of separation of church and state and get paid for doing so.

  12. @Eric Lipps: Actually, very little federal money goes to public education. In most states and municipalities the funding of public schools is close to 50-50 state — local, with the local half coming mostly from property taxes. I have a sneaking suspicion that the railing against “government schools” is just a means to gain support for vouchers to funnel public money into private schools for the benefit of politically-connected school owners. Allowing this voucher money to go to religiously-affiliated schools is a necessary concession to gain support from the portion of the public already sending their kids to parochial schools.

    Be wary when you hear politicians bad-mouthing public education. It’s often the means used to justify vouchers — you know, giving parents a “choice”. The problem is, vouchers take money that would otherwise be available for public schools, which are charged with the responsibility of accepting and educating all children. Private schools can cherry-pick. Public schools can’t. They must accept all — disabled, mentally-challenged, etc. etc.

    The problem is, politicians have been quick to approve vouchers (buying votes, perhaps?), but they have been slow to raise taxes to pay for them, leaving less money for public education.

    [Stepping down off of soapbox.]

  13. Holding the Line in Florida

    A rousing “Huzzaahhh!” from the choir to you Retiredsciguy!! I remember a conversation with a Charter School Founder here in FL saying “the education industry” needed to have more parental choice! I was amazed at those words, Education Industry. Never thought of it that way!!! Says it all.

  14. Thanks, HLF. There are things that need to be said, and exposing the ulterior motives behind some of the bad-mouthing of public education is one of them.

  15. Dave Luckett

    Katatonic: May you have the invariable experience of success in rational discourse, as practiced here, and may you never see the effect of a howling mob whipped into a frenzy by a demagogue.