I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

More about Darwinism as a religion

Disclaimer -- I personally believe that religion should not be an issue in deciding how evolution and criticisms of evolution are to be taught in public-school science classes, but unfortunately the Darwinists have insisted on making religion an issue (then they have the chutzpah to claim that the fact that religion is an issue proves that criticisms of Darwinism are just based on religion).

This post is a follow-up to "Darwinism as a religious belief". That article discusses the idea that since the courts have already agreed that atheism=religion, all that is necessary to show that Darwinism=religion is to show that Darwinism=atheism, very roughly speaking, of course. Actually, Darwinism is not just associated with atheism, but is also associated with theism, as in Kenneth Miller's book, "Finding Darwin's God -- A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution."

At the outset, I think that laws, regulations, and policies concerning evolution education -- and the court cases that deal with them -- should be divided into the following categories because how the issue of Darwin-is-religion might be treated by the courts would depend on the category (highest level reached by a court case is shown as SC-Supreme Court, AC-federal appeals court, and DC-federal district court):

(1) Teaching of evolution is banned outright --

Scopes Trial (state appeals court, 1925), Epperson v. Arkansas (SC, 1968)

(2) Balanced treatment or equal time required for evolution and alternatives --

McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (DC, 1982), Edwards v. Aguillard (SC, 1987)

(3) "Evolution disclaimers" where only evolution is actually taught --

Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish (AC, 2000, oral disclaimer), Selman v. Cobb County (AC, now on remand, textbook sticker), Kitzmiller v. Dover (DC, not appealed, oral disclaimer, 2005)

Information about these cases is available on the website of the National Center for Science Education.

The court was extremely hostile towards the disclaimer and the defendants in the well-known Kitzmiller case (e.g., the opinion described the defendants' actions as "breathtaking inanity"), but in Freiler and Selman the courts actually showed a lot of sympathy for the disclaimers in those cases. The Freiler case came within one vote of being granted an en banc (full court) appeals court rehearing and within one vote of being granted ceritiorari by the Supreme Court (4 votes of the 9 justices is the minimum requirement for acceptance for review).

A finding by the courts that Darwinism is at least partly a religious belief would not likely result in the outright banning of Darwinism in public-school science classrooms, but such a finding would greatly enhance the endorsement-test argument that the Darwinists are being treated like political "insiders" while people whose religious beliefs are offended by Darwinism are being treated like political "outsiders." But even in the absence of a finding that Darwinism is at least partly religious, a finding by the courts that Darwinism offends the religious beliefs of some people -- and the courts have made such a finding -- could alone be sufficient to obtain a court ruling that those people are being treated as political outsiders and are entitled to some concession to their religious beliefs, either in the form of evolution disclaimers or even balanced treatment. Also, to use this endorsement-test argument, it would not be necessary to convince the courts that a criticism of evolution is scientific, though the maximum remedy available would probably be just an evolution disclaimer if the court is not so convinced. As was noted, the Supreme Court said 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)

The defendants in McLean v. Board of Education(1982) introduced a Darwinism-is-religion claim:

The defendants argue in their brief that evolution is, in effect, a religion, and that by teaching a religion which is contrary to some students' religious views, the State is infringing upon the student's free exercise rights under the First Amendment. . . .

The defendants argue that the teaching of evolution alone presents both a free exercise problem and an establishment problem which can only be redressed by giving balanced treatment to creation science, which is admittedly consistent with some religious beliefs. This argument appears to have its genesis in a student note written by Mr. Wendell Bird, "Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools," 87 Yale L.J. 515 (1978). The argument has no legal merit.

If creation science is, in fact, science and not religion, as the defendants claim, it is difficult to see how the teaching of such a science could "neutralize" the religious nature of evolution.

Assuming for the purposes of argument, however, that evolution is a religion or religious tenet, the remedy is to stop the teaching of evolution, not establish another religion in opposition to it. Yet it is clearly established in the case law, and perhaps also in common sense, that evolution is not a religion and that teaching evolution does not violate the Establishment Clause . . . .
(Section V(C))

As for the above statement that "the remedy is to stop the teaching of evolution," the Supreme Court had already ruled against such a remedy in Epperson v. Arkansas(1968), which held that laws against the teaching of evolution are unconstitutional. As for the statement that "it is clearly established in case law . . . that evolution is not a religion," it is definitely not established in case law that evolution does not have religious implications.

Though McLean has been widely cited, it is just a district court opinion, and as such carries almost no precedential weight. As I remember -- but cannot prove -- the 9th circuit federal court of appeals used to have a rule that no federal district court opinion could be cited in any federal court of the 9th circuit, except for purposes of res judicata or collateral estoppel.

BTW, Wendell Bird, cited above in McLean, is now an attorney for the plaintiffs in the Christian schools' suit against the University of California, and also represented the defendants in Edwards v. Aguillard(1987).

In Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District (9th Circuit, 1994), the court's summary of the allegations of Peloza's complaint includes the following statement:

He is being forced by the defendants (the school district, its trustees and individual teachers and others) to proselytize his students to a belief in "evolutionism" "under the guise of [its being] a valid scientific theory." Evolutionism is an historical, philosophical and religious belief system, but not a valid scientific theory. Evolutionism is one of "two world views on the subject of the origins of life and of the universe." The other is "creationism" which also is a "religious belief system."

Peloza tried to define evolution as solely a religious belief because such a definition was necessary for his goal: to be exempted from a requirement that teachers teach evolution theory.

Anyway, I don't think that we have seen the end of the Darwinism-is-religion arguments in the courts.

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