10 January 2006

Spinning creationism back into the classroom

It didn't take long for the Discovery Institute to try to call "Darwinists" intolerant for attempting to keep religious advocacy out of the schools. Casey Luskin discusses, over at the Discovery Institute's Media Complaints Division, the lawsuit that Americans United for the Separation of Church and State just filed against a California school. (Ed Brayton discusses this suit in depth over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

According to Casey, because the course is listed as a philosophy class, objecting to it, "represents the true heart of these Darwinists: they don't care about keeping religion out of the science classroom, their goal is to censor any non-evolutionary views in ANY venue regardless of whether or not it is religion or science!!" This misrepresents the actual situation.

The title of the course is "Philosophy of Design," but even Casey admits that there are some problems with that title:
"The course is misnamed--it actually advocates for young earth creationism and teaches out of the Bible. Such a course would have been more aptly titled something like "Philosophy of Origins" -- but not "Philosophy of design" because intelligent design has nothing to do with young earth creationism or Biblical views."
Strangely, though, after admitting that the course doesn't meet the DI's party line on definition of Intelligent Design, he goes on to castigate "Darwinists" for trying to exclude ID from schools:
Rev. Barry Lynn, who leads Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, apparently doesn't want ID even in a philosophy course, because it's too dangerous for young minds to learn about regardless of the venue.
Consistency is clearly not a hobgoblin of Casey's mind, regardless of its size. As Casey admits, this is a class that advocates for Young Earth Creationism and which teaches out of the Bible. Casey says that those positions aren't related to Intelligent Design, so why on earth would he think that objecting to a course that does such things is the same as objecting to a class on Intelligent Design?

Near the end of his diatribe, Casey poses a question, "What objection could one possibly have to having students learn about material some people consider religious in a philosophy course?" Casey clearly thinks that this question has a clear answer:
The answer is simple: Darwinists aren't interested in keeping non-evolutionary views just out of the science classroom, they want non-evolutionary views out of students minds completely. If anyone ever doubted the full measure of Darwinist dogmatism, this lawsuit should dispell those doubts.
Casey's answer is indeed clearly stated and simple. It is also wrong.

First, let's be clear about one thing: this is not a class that is having students "learn about material that some people consider religious." As Casey admits, this is a class that "advocates for young-earth creationism and teaches out of the Bible. [emphasis mine]" Advocating for something is not the same as teaching about it.

Second, the young-earth creationist position is not "material that some people consider religious." It is a religious position. You need look no further than the various statements of faith that the different young-earth groups support to see that.

Casey tries to squirm around the separation of church and state issue with a couple of quotes, neither of which actually applies in this case. In the first, he quotes a passage from a Supreme Court decision: "education is not complete without a study of comparative religion." I actually agree with that, but unless Casey can somehow manage to explain how a class that "advocates for young-earth creationism and teaches out of the Bible," is comparative religion. In the second, he quotes Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United: "when it comes to matters of religion and philosophy, they can be discussed objectively in public schools, but not in biology class." Here, again, Casey needs to show how this course manages to be "objective".

Objecting to having young-earth creationism taught in a public schools isn't a sign of dogmatism about "Darwinism," or about evolution, or about anything to do with science. This is about keeping the state from sponsoring any specific set of religious views at the expense of others. If that's dogmatism, than I guess this is an area where I get dogmatic.
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