Monday, January 16, 2006


This item is nearly a week old, and I apologize for my neglectful ways of late. The offline world has been interfering badly with my proper business of venting my spleen in this space. But it does concern a question with a certain amount of shelf life -- the new Inquisition -- and so I suppose it's very nearly as timely today as it was last Wednesday.

It seems that "Americans United for Separation of Church and State" have once again caught the subversive whiff of heterodoxy and rebellion. The current offender against evolutionary orthodoxy goes by the name of "intelligent design," and it refers to the notion that irreducible complexity is not the product of random action. The school district in question is obviously trying to sneak a fast one past right-thinking folk everywhere:

Superintendent John Wight, who did not immediately return a phone call for comment, said last week that the class, "Philosophy of Design," was not being taught as science and was an opportunity for students to debate the controversial issue.

But you have to get up a little earlier in the morning than that, to fool the watchdogs of vigilance at Americans United:

"The course was designed to advance religious theories on the origins of life, including creationism and its offshoot, 'intelligent design,"' the lawsuit said. "Because the teacher has no scientific training, students are not provided with any critical analysis of this presentation."

And, speaking of the teacher, we haven't heard the worst yet -- no, not by a long shot!

The class is taught by social studies teacher Sharon Lemburg, whose husband is an Assembly of God pastor.

Not only that, but the Sacred Principle of Equal Time is being violated:

The five-member school board was divided when it learned about the class last month and discovered three guest lecturers were scheduled in support of intelligent design but none for evolution.

A few questions occur to me.

If a class in which the words "intelligent design" were heard was taught by a teacher with "scientific training," would it be OK? (I didn't think so.)

In a typical righteous, upstanding, Darwinist biology class, are any lecturers scheduled to support a non-evolutionary position? (Yeah, right.)

Have any orthodox Darwinist biology teachers been subject to investigations of the occupations of their spouses? Could any of them be married to ... uh ... atheists, by any chance?

Why is it that so many right-thinking, progressive, rational, scientific heirs of the Enlightenment seem to think that the way to handle dissenting views is to suppress them, by force of law? Why do so many who claim to value a scientific viewpoint respond only with the "argument from authority," followed by McCarthyesque guilt-by-association (the teacher's husband is a pastor!!!)? Whatever happened to the glorious "marketplace of ideas?"

By the way, "separation of church and state" is probably a fine idea (I include the qualifier only because of the contemporary uncertainty about what is meant by the phrase). But it's worth wondering, I think, as the state claims more and more territory in our lives: if the church is to be excluded from every area in which the state asserts control or authority, what space, exactly, is going to be left for the church? While pondering that question, keep in mind that the flush capacity of the water closet in your home is determined from Washington.


Craig said...

Not to be too specific, but the person who taught me the most about evolutionary theory was a devout Roman Catholic. I know that's not your point, but I just thought I'd mention it.

By the way, when my house was remodeled, I bought bootleg toilets.

Bartleby said...

By the way, when my house was remodeled, I bought bootleg toilets.

Excellent! Good for you!!!

I keep hoping that by such small acts of defiance will tyrants someday be brought down ...

lemming said...

There's a very simple solution to this debate, and it sickens me that no one has yet screamed it from teh rooftops.

It's called "Social Science" and it should be taught more often.

In my SS class we covered creationism, evolution, and discussed the creation stories of other cultures and religions. The teacher presented none of them as "100% proved" but simply as possible explanations that some people accepted and others didn't.

I remember next to nothing from 8th grade US History, but tons and tons from 7th grade Social Science class.

Cathay said...

Reminds me of the joke about the scientist who tells God that he can create life from only dirt. God then asks "Can you create the dirt?"

Pro: Intelligent Design gives a coherent explanation that hangs together.

Con: Intelligent Design steps outside the boundaries of science.

Pro: Intelligent Design explains what evolution must leave untouched.

Con: Intelligent Design only shifts the "unknown" another step backward by attributing its explanation to God.

TW said...

The notion that irreducible complexity is not the product of random action seems quite plausible to me. At least it is a plausible possibility to the questions that currently remain unanswerable.

Religious or not I see no problem with making known this quite reasonable concept. You can chalk it up to a far more intelligent alien being if that makes you more comfortable. At least it sounds better than we don't know and are too stupid to even think of any possibilities to investigate at this time.

Anonymous said...

The problem in state-run schools is not evolution vs. creation or intelligent design. The problem in state-run schools is ... the state is running them. If we abolished public schools altogether, the market would jump in with a cornucopia of schools, with one that's sure to please every parent. Joey can learn evolution, Sally can go to the Christian school, and the problem is solved. (This is one of my favorite soapboxes! Why does no one listen to me?)