Darwinism as a religious belief
Judge John "I am not an activist judge" Jones tried to dissociate Darwinism from atheism by pontificating in the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion,
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator. (page 136)
But the religious beliefs of some people are irreconcilable with evolution theory. Basically, Jones is telling people what their religious beliefs are supposed to be. Yet Darwinists see nothing wrong in this. To Judge Jones and many other Darwinists, people who reject or doubt Darwinism because of religious beliefs are crackpots, but the Supreme Court said that the courts have no right to sit in judgment of people's religious views: " The religious views espoused by respondents might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people. But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect." U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, at 86–7 (1944)
An open letter by attorney Edward Sisson astutely observed that the idea of political "insiders" and "outsiders" is important here. This idea is part of the endorsement test, which was introduced by Justice O'Connor in a concurring opinion in the Lynch v. Donnelly case:
The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person's standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive entanglement with religious institutions . . . . . The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. Disapproval sends the opposite message.(pages 687-688)
So it can be argued that banning criticisms of Darwinism in public schools makes the fundies feel like political "outsiders" while the Darwinists are treated like political "insiders." This argument is greatly enhanced if Darwinism is considered to be at least partly a religious belief. Also, Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in the majority opinion in Lynch v. Donnelly:
Nor does the Constitution require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.(page 673)
I assert that banning the mere mention of criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools shows "hostility" towards the fundies. Even if evolution disclaimers such as the Cobb County textbook stickers are allowed in the public schools, the Darwinists would still be the favored "insiders" because only Darwinism is actually being taught.
Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton commented about the relationship of the 7th circuit decision to litigation over evolution education. As usual, Ed puts words into people's mouths -- he said, "The court [the 7th circuit federal court of appeals] did not say 'atheism is a religion', it said that for the purposes of equal protection when applying laws that benefit religious viewpoints, they should consider atheism equivalent to a religion."(emphasis added) Here is the opinion excerpt that Ed cited:
Without venturing too far into the realm of the philosophical, we have suggested in the past that when a person sincerely holds beliefs dealing with issues of "ultimate concern" that for her occupy a "place parallel to that filled by...God in traditionally religious persons," those beliefs represent her religion. We have already indicated that atheism may be considered, in this specialized sense, a religion. See Reed v. Great Lakes Cos., 330 F.3d 931, 934(7th Cir. 2003) ("If we think of religion as taking a position on divinity, then atheism is indeed a form of religion.") (references omitted and emphasis was possibly added by Ed).
Ed's interpretation is based on the words "in this specialized sense," but in the excerpt above, the court did not say exactly what "specialized sense" it was referring to. In the above excerpt, the court never said that its definition of atheism as a religion applied only to "equal protection when applying laws that benefit religious viewpoints," and in fact such a restriction would be absurd -- if, say, the definition of atheism as a religion were not applied to the establishment clause, then the government would be free to establish atheism as the official state religion! Also, the court cites a 7th circuit precedent which said, "If we think of religion as taking a position on divinity, then atheism is indeed a form of religion." Ed pretends that he has a crystal ball that enables him to read judges' minds. Ed accurately described his own legal analyses when he said, "That's the sort of reasoning that would cause a con law professor much laughter while grading a paper." The only worthwhile observation that Ed made here was that the statement that the ruling was "not overturned by the Supreme Court" was misleading -- the SC only refused to review the case. The success of Ed's blog is partially attributable to his practice of banning people who disagree with him, which results in the false appearance that he is usually indisputable.
This is also discussed on Uncommon Descent.
Labels: Evolution controversy (3 of 4)