Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A win for sanity in Dover

So, I'm back from my vacation, to more news of political messes as well as the encouraging news that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones has ruled against adding "intelligent design" to the biology curriculum in Dover, Pennsylvania. Judge Jones's 139-page opinion eviscerates ID's scientific pretensions, noting that it is "a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory," and that it utterly fails all the tests a scientific theory must meet. He also pointed out the fundamental dishonesty of the pro-ID school board faction in Dover: "Several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID policy."

This is a good day for science and reason. I'm particularly pleased that Jones is a Bush appointee, which runs counter to political stereotypes of Republican and conservative judges and which should also, at least in theory, mute the ID backers' cries of a liberal conspiracy to keep them down. Only in theory, of course: Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who represented the old school board in the case, was quick to tell the Associated Press that the ruling looked like "an ad hominem attack on scientists who happen to believe in God." Nice try, Mr. Thompson; keep obfuscating about the fact that most scientists who "happen to believe in God," and even those who happen to teach at religious colleges, firmly support evolutionary theory and reject ID.

By the way, Judge Jones is not only a Republican but a churchgoer as well. Not that it's going to stop the ID'ers from painting themselves as victims of anti-Christian bias, but it may make it harder for their whining to be taken seriously by others.

Update: John Cole points to news that some of the witnesses who testified for the Dover school board may be investigated for perjury.

Update, again: Added link to the Kitzmiller ruling. See also Richard Bennett for a good roundup.

And more: ID advocates react. Here's a contender for dumbest quote of the week:

"This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove. "This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries -- if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung."

Can you say "unhinged"? I'm hoping Land is wrong and there's no reason to believe that Roberts and Alito are going to be any more receptive to pseudo-scientific buffoonery than Judge Jones.

52 comments:

Russell said...

Suppose most books, newspapers, magazines, and web sites were paid for by taxes and controlled by the government. Suppose further that, after a long, expensive legal battle, a judge ruled in favor of your point of view in a dispute over the content of a particular book that was going to be published. I can see why you'd think that would be better than the judge ruling against your point of view, but . . . would you really feel like celebrating?

In the Dover case, we have a judge issuing a pronouncement on a scientific matter (also a religious matter, as I'll discuss in a moment). As a result, a lot of people will be forced to pay for the dissemination of a viewpoint they find abhorrent--sometimes to their own children. Why should we feel good about this?

Lots of people like to say there's no inherent conflict between science and religion, because science is about the natural world, and religion is about the supernatural world. But that's not really true. Real-world religions, the kind that real people actually believe in, take positions on all kinds of matters: history, biology, medicine, etc. Creationism is a case in point. When public schools choose to teach evolution rather than creationism, the government is taking a stand against some people's religious views. It's saying, for example, that God did not create Adam from dust, and God did not create Eve from Adam's rib. There's an inherent tension between public schooling and the goal of separating religion and state.

Okay, great, the forces of science and reason won a battle against the Jesus freaks. I guess I'd feel bad if it was the other way around, but this isn't the kind of victory I'm going to feel good about.

(BTW, even if you think public schooling is a good idea, do you think it's a good idea for curricula to be determined at the federal level?)

rick said...

As a result, a lot of people will be forced to pay for the dissemination of a viewpoint they find abhorrent--sometimes to their own children.

Well besdies the fact that the reason they find the idea of evolution as abhoorrent is silly, the alternative is to have MANY MORE people pay for a dissemination of a viewpoint they find abhorrent. If people find science abhorrent, well then I don't really feel bad for them when they are forced to pay for it. Their abhorrence is unfounded.

[The Government is] saying, for example, that God did not create Adam from dust, and God did not create Eve from Adam's rib

Well this has the benefit of being TRUE, which is why its ok to teach it.


(BTW, even if you think public schooling is a good idea, do you think it's a good idea for curricula to be determined at the federal level?)

Probably not. I think what seperates this case is that there was a potential violation of the constitution.

Anonymous said...

russell, I gather that you haven't read the ruling. The judge did *not* say that ID was false. Nor did he say that evolutionary theory is true.

He said, rather, that ID is a religious belief, not a scientific one. He documented in wearisome detail the Christian roots of ID, the Christian beliefs of every major ID supporter, the fact that ID is simply a watered-down version of the old Scientific Creationism which is itself a watered-down version of young-earth Creationism. The mendacious behavior of the ID supporters on the Dover school board was also noted. And finally, he noted that, according to the testimony of the Board's own expert witnesses, ID makes no testable predictions and therefore is not science.

None of this means that ID is false, as the judge carefully stated more than once in his ruling. It does mean, however, that we have two powerful reasons to keep it out of public school classrooms: 1) ID is rooted in a specific, sectarian religion and as such fails the religious neutrality test; and 2) ID is not science and thus doesn't belong in a science classroom.

Anonymous said...

Russell wrote "[The Government is] saying, for example, that God did not create Adam from dust, and God did not create Eve from Adam's rib"

No, the government is not saying that.


Rick wrote "Well this has the benefit of being TRUE, which is why its ok to teach it."

You do not understand the government's position. You should read this ruling. I don't often read judicial opinions, but this particular one is a marvel of balance, evenhandedness, and respect for the law.

rick said...

You do not understand the government's position.

Stop that.

The governments position was that ID was religion in disguise, and was therefore unconstitutional. Therefore, its not OK to teach it in a public school. Now, it is ok to teach evolution for a number of reasons. One is because evolution is not religion, therefore teaching it is not unconstitutional. Another reason is that evolution is science, so it is appropriate to teach it in a science classroom, and because of the intellectual weight the theory has, there is a duty to teach in in a science classroom. The third reason why evolution is ok to teach in public schools is that it is probably true, or as true as we could have a theory about which it attempts to explain.

Don't characterize me as not understanding something when it is clearly not the case.

Russell said...

Rick, you wrote, "the alternative is to have MANY MORE people pay for a dissemination of a viewpoint they find abhorrent."

That is one alternative. Another is to stop forcing people to pay for government schools, and let them choose for themselves which viewpoints they will support.

anonymous wrote, "The judge did *not* say that ID was false. Nor did he say that evolutionary theory is true. . . . He said, rather, that ID is a religious belief, not a scientific one."

Okay, the judge ruled on what is and is not science. I suppose judges have to do this in some cases (regarding forensic science, at least), but I think it's best to leave these disputes to civil society when possible.

anonymous (same person?) wrote, "No, the government is not saying [that Adam and Eve were not specially created by God]." Yes, it is, when (as I said) government schools teach evolution. I'll allow that the judge may not have said that in his ruling.

Anonymous said...

russell wrote: "I think it's best to leave these disputes to civil society when possible."

Um, yes. This was a civil court. When a public school board makes a decision that is repugnant to the majority of citizens in that district, what are they supposed to do? This is what civil courts are for.

russell earlier wrote: "the government is taking a stand against some people's religious views. It's saying, for example, that God did not create Adam from dust, and God did not create Eve from Adam's rib."

What does this have to do with the case at hand? You write as though you are unaware of what ID actually says. ID makes no mention whatsoever of any hypothetical persons named "Adam" or "Eve", nor does it give any opinion on how any persons may have come to exist, other than to postulate that some unspecified intelligence must have been involved in bringing them into being. The judge never mentions Adam or Eve in his ruling, and you can bet the Dover School Board didn't mention them either (in public), since they went to great lengths to deny any connection between ID and Genesis.

I'm afraid that the theory of origins which you advocate had no chance at all in this case. Neither side supported it. Although, the fact that you perceive one side as supporting you is telling. The judge perceived it too, which contributed to his ruling the way he did.

Russell said...

anonymous,

You don't seem to understand what civil society means. See here.

You asked what Adam and Eve have to do with Intelligent Design theory. Nothing, I suppose. I just cited the Adam and Eve story as an example of a religious belief that the government says is wrong when it teaches evolution. This was in the course of making the point that there's an inherent tension between government schooling and the goal of keeping the state out of religious matters.

It's interesting that you seem to assume I'm a Bible-believing creationist. In fact, I'm an evolution-believing atheist. But I prefer to persuade people of my views through discussion and debate, rather than use the power of government to force my views on other people.

You asked, "When a public school board makes a decision that is repugnant to the majority of citizens in that district, what are they supposed to do?" Well, I would hope they would agitate for an end to public schooling, so they don't have to fight bitter and impassioned battles over what gets taught to everybody's children.

Suppose the government taxed people to pay for food and then held elections to decide what everyone should eat every day. Suppose Jews and Muslims were upset because they were required to eat pork sometimes. What would you do? Tell them it's too bad they're not in the majority? Or would you tell them it's time to end such a ridiculous system?

Pooh said...

I wonder whether people who claim the government should not be in the business of education really understand all the implications of complete privitization.

From my perspective, education is the best prophylactic we have against too-rapid expansion of a social safety-net. If you find the mere existence of such as safety net objectionable, I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on both moral and prudential grounds.

Pooh said...

Oh yeah, welcome back Cathy. You didn't miss much...

Anonymous said...

russell: well, you did a good job of acting like a creationist. Forgive my misperception.

But you are still wrong. The gov't is not saying that Adam and Eve were not created by God on the 6th day. Evolutionary theory does not say this, nor does it say that any other religious belief is false. It is worth noting, as our blogstress did in her posting, that only one (1) Christian college or university in the US teaches ID, and none that I know of teaches recent creationism. Evolutionary theory is compatible with Genesis, and I suppose (though I don't really know) that it is compatible with other religious beliefs as well.

Your larger point seems to be that public schools are inherently divisive. This may be true, but the example that you keep citing does not demonstrate it.

Russell said...

pooh,

I'm not sure what you're saying. If you're worried that the poor aren't educated under a regime of fully privatized schooling, I think you're mistaken.

In any case, even if you think government should make sure poor people get an education, that's different from saying it should maintain a socialist system of schooling. Better a food-stamps-like system than government provision.

anonymous,

How was I acting like a creationist? Did I assert that God specially created all life on earth? Did I attack evolution? As far as I can tell, I just made a plea for tolerance and an end to the use of government in prosecuting culture wars. The problem is that you're so caught up in your righteous struggle against the forces of ignorance and stupidity that you think any call for peace is a brief on behalf of the "enemy."

Of course evolution contradicts the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis says that Adam was created from dust, and Eve was created from Adam's rib (I think there's another, contradictory story about Eve's origins). It also says Adam and Eve are the ancestors of all people. Evolution says people evolved from other organisms.

I can believe that some Christians believe in evolution, but not if they take the Bible literally.

Pooh said...

Russel,

Interesting link. I'm not fully convinced that those results are applicable to the U.S., and I worry about selection bias (if the private schools have better student/teacher ratios, it implies some degree of selectivity, which will naturally push achievement scores upwards.).

Aside from that, I think the socialization aspect of public schooling is important if we agree that multi-culturalism is an important goal in American life. Increased private schooling seems likely to induce further fault-lines along racial, economic and religious differences.

Am I saying that our current education system is perfect? Of course not. But between tweaking the current system and swithcing to even 'voucher-based' privitization, I prefer the former.

rick said...

Okay, the judge ruled on what is and is not science.

To nitpick, the judge ruled on what is and is not religion. If it is religion, and is taught it public schools, its unconstitutional. Civil society should not judge what is or isn't constitional, judges should.

I just cited the Adam and Eve story as an example of a religious belief that the government says is wrong when it teaches evolution.

The government is not saying it is wrong. The government is saying it is religion and therefore can't be taught in public schools. SCIENCE is saying that the idea of Adam and Eve is wrong. Frankly, I have no problem if the government were to go around proclaim something (Adam and Eve) that is self-evidently false. But thats not the issue.


Suppose the government taxed people to pay for food and then held elections to decide what everyone should eat every day. Suppose Jews and Muslims were upset because they were required to eat pork sometimes.

There is a difference here. Science can tell us about the origins of our species, how we came to be. ID and Creationism are in conflict with some scientific claims. Religion has stopped answering metaphysical questions (however dubiously) and started to claim to answer physical questions. BIG DIFFERENCE here.

This is not the case with animal rights. The realms of morality and science don't really conflict. Also, one doesn't need to subscribe to a particular religion to abstain from eating pork or to think that slaughtering animals for food is immoral.

rick said...

Pooh-

Yes. Vouchers will be funded by the taxpayers. A number of parents will send their children to religiously minded schools with those vouchers. Therefore, taxpayers will be paying for kids to go to religiously minded schools. A number of taxpayers are going to be pretty upset about that.

Russell said...

pooh wrote, "I think the socialization aspect of public schooling is important if we agree that multi-culturalism is an important goal in American life. Increased private schooling seems likely to induce further fault-lines along racial, economic and religious differences."

According to writer Sheldon Richman, the desire for cultural homogeneity was actually the impetus behind the drive for public schooling in America in the early 20th century. Richman writes, "Just as the Prussian system was intended to unify Germany, the American educators' goal was to create a national culture out of the disparate subcultures that comprised the country in that period. (Catholic immigrants were a prominent target.)"

I'm not threatened by the idea that lots of people might be taught different things and end up with different beliefs. In fact, I welcome such intellectual diversity. I'm more worried about government schools creating cultural strife by forcing people to pay for schools that indoctrinate their children with views they may find abhorrent.

rick wrote, "The government is not saying [the story of Adam and Eve] is wrong. The government is saying it is religion and therefore can't be taught in public schools. SCIENCE is saying that the idea of Adam and Eve is wrong."

And government schools teach science. Therefore, government schools teach that the idea of Adam and Eve is wrong.

rick also wrote, "Religion has stopped answering metaphysical questions (however dubiously) and started to claim to answer physical questions." No, relgions have always claimed to answer more than just metaphysical questions. The Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Koran all make claims with implications for history, law, geology, and other fields. It's really disingenuous for secularists to tell religionists that they needn't feel threatened by science. They should feel threatened. They just shouldn't feel threatened by the government.

Richard Bennett said...

russell, you clearly didn't understand Judge Jones' ruling. The case wasn't as much about education as it was about an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment. So as much as the Libertarian Party faithful like to rant and rail against public education, doing so in this case really demonstrates the tin ear about politics which is probably the primary characteristic of LP faithful.

The value of public education over private education is the transparency of the curriculum. Intelligent Design is a lie, and teaching children that ID is true and evolution is false is tantamount to child abuse. Private schools are permitted to abuse children in this way, but public schools are not owing to the First Amendment. The fact that private schools run by fundamentalist Christians and Muslims teach children that God created man during his 6 day spurt of creativity gives me pause and leads me to support public education more, not less, than I would otherwise. Science is not a popularity contest or even a democratic exercise in which truth is established by polling. It's an orderly, rational system in which experiment and transparency play key roles.

The people, most of them, want children to be taught good science in school and are content to let scientists determine what that is. This is why the creationist members of the Dover School board - all Republicans - were voted out and replaced by Democrats in a county that's got a Republican majority.

Don't sidetrack this discussion with your foolish analogies. Public education is in the constitutions of the 50 states and it's staying there. Dover only underlines why.

Pooh said...

rick,

Not quite right. Religion can be taught, it cannot be endorsed in public schools. The distinction is minor but non-trivial, and is the crux of why teaching non-falsifiable religious claims as science is unconstitutional.

Things taught in a science course carry a gloss of empiricism not shared by a philosophy or literature class, thus religious teachings in that setting can inherently be seen as endorsing those teachings as true.

Russell,

I'm not opposed to intellectual or cultural diversity, but I am worried that in a private-school regime, sub-groups will become increasingly insular. My ideal (in this as in all things as people familiar with my comments might note...) would be a happy medium between common 'American' culture and divergent 'heritage' - the best parts of American culture, IMO are the fusions between various sub-cultures. It seems that family groups fill the roll of maintaining 'heritage' based-identity, while public institutions are best equipped to handle the assimilation portion.

Russell said...

Richard, I didn't read Judge Jones' ruling, and I wasn't commenting on it (except once in a tangential way). So you clearly don't understand what I've been writing about. I used this particular case as a springboard to raise larger questions about the compatibility of government schools with government religious neutrality.

When government schools teach evolution, they are teaching that Genesis is wrong, and any religious tradition that demands acceptance of the Genesis story is wrong. So the government is taking a position on a religious matter.

"Intelligent Design is a lie, and teaching children that ID is true and evolution is false is tantamount to child abuse."

Child abuse? So I guess the government should prohibit parents from teaching it to their children right? Churches too, I guess. I guess the media should be censored too, lest children be confronted with evil thoughts.

"Science is not a popularity contest or even a democratic exercise in which truth is established by polling. It's an orderly, rational system in which experiment and transparency play key roles."

I never claimed otherwise.

"The people, most of them, want children to be taught good science in school and are content to let scientists determine what that is."

Then, in the regime I advocate, those people will demand that kind of science from their private schools. Others who are not content to let the majority of scientists dictate what their children be taught will go their own way. So what?

"Don't sidetrack this discussion with your foolish analogies."

Sidetrack the discussion? My analogy, foolish or not, was very relevant to the point I was making. You seem to be upset that I'm "sidetracking" the discussion away from the discussion you wish to have, in which the issues I want to discuss are regarded as settled. You seem like a bit of a bully.

"Public education is in the constitutions of the 50 states and it's staying there."

If so, that's too bad.

Incidentally, I am not a member of the Libertarian Party, if that's what you were trying to imply.

Richard Bennett said...

russell claims: When government schools teach evolution, they are teaching that Genesis is wrong,

False. You can perfectly well believe Genesis as a piece of high-flown religious or poetic allegory and still accept the scientific explanation of the natural causes of natural phenomena. The idea that there is some sort of irreconcilable conflict between Biblical and scientific viewpoints was specifically called out and crushed by Judge Jones in his ruling.

Genesis says that God created stuff for three "days" before making the Sun. Those were pretty clearly not "days" as they're understood by science, but metaphorical or allegorical days.

And he also claims: Child abuse? So I guess the government should prohibit parents from teaching it to their children right? Churches too, I guess. I guess the media should be censored too, lest children be confronted with evil thoughts.

Not "evil thoughts", delusional ones that harm the child. In America, there are legal limits to how far parents can go in the exercise of delusional religions where children are concerned. Seventh Day Adventists may not refuse transfusions to their children. Creationists should not be allowed to teach their nonsensical crap to children either, and under your hardcore Libertarian ethos they can. That's wrong.

One of the legitimate functions of government is to protect the weak from the strong, dude.

Russell said...

Richard wrote, "You can perfectly well believe Genesis as a piece of high-flown religious or poetic allegory and still accept the scientific explanation of the natural causes of natural phenomena."

You could. The point is, there are religions that take Genesis literally. When government schools teach evolution, they are saying that those religions are wrong.

"Genesis says that God created stuff for three 'days' before making the Sun. Those were pretty clearly not 'days' as they're understood by science, but metaphorical or allegorical days."

Clearly. Jews and Christians who thought otherwise for thousands of years were pretty dumb to miss that.

As for the rest, I'm afraid that I remain a "hardcore libertarian" in that I reject the idea it should be illegal for parents to teach their children ID. Just to be clear, do you also believe that no one should be allowed to teach children ID? That would seem to follow from your position.

Richard Bennett said...

When government schools teach evolution, they are saying that those religions are wrong.

Nope, science doesn't have anything to say about Genesis and neither endorses it or opposes it. If there's a conflict between science and some wackjob interpretation of Genesis the conflict falls solely on the shoulders of the wackjob, not science.

Just to be clear, do you also believe that no one should be allowed to teach children ID?

No one should be allowed to tell children ID/creationism is the truth, but they should be allowed to teach it as an example of lying or propaganda. The penalty for mis-teaching ID/creationism should be burning at the stake. There's a nice precedent for that in connection with other forms of heretical belief.

Cathy Young said...

Russell: there are some people who believe that their religion mandates the execution of gays, adulterers, blasphemers, witches, and the like. Is the government telling them their religion is wrong when it refuses to execute such evildoers and, worse yet, insists on prosecuting men who kill adulterous wives? There are people who interpret the Bible to mean that women should never be in a position of authority over a man. Is the government telling them their religion is wrong but putting women in positions of authority? Is the religious freedom of people who believe sodomy is a deadly sin violated by legal benefits for gay couples? etc. etc.

Parents have the right to teach creationism to their children if they want to. They have the right to send their children to private religious schools or home-school them. (However, if there is to be a voucher system, I don't think that taxpayer money should be used to subsidize schools that teach ID as science.) Parents with children in public schools have every right to each them at home that they should take the word of God over the evidence of science. I don't think they have the right to not have science taught in public schools because science conflicts with some of their beliefs.

Furthermore, I don't think even total privatization of education would solve the problem; ID proponents would start suing universities for refusing to give credit for "science courses" to students from fundamentalist Christian schools who've taken creationist "biology" classes.

Russell said...

Richard wrote, "science doesn't have anything to say about Genesis and neither endorses it or opposes it."

Texts on evolutionary biology don't normally say, "Genesis is wrong," but that is a direct and obvious implication of what they do say.

Richard wrote, "If there's a conflict between science and some wackjob interpretation of Genesis the conflict falls solely on the shoulders of the wackjob, not science."

Richard, when you refer to "some wackjob interpretation of Genesis," you're talking about the traditional, obvious interpretation, the one that emerges from a plain reading of the text, the one that the author(s) probably meant.

If you're saying that the author(s) of Genesis never meant it to be interpreted literally, and that believers for thousands of years have gotten it all wrong, that's ridiculous. The believers didn't get Genesis wrong. Genesis itself is wrong. That's inconvenient for you to acknowledge, because you want to pretend that Genesis doesn't conflict with evolution. But it's true.

Moreover, whether a literal reading of Genesis is wackjob or not, that reading is part of some religious traditions. So evolution does conflict with some religions, whether you think those religions are wackjob or not, and whether you like it or not.

I'll let the rest of your post stand without a response.

Russell said...

Cathy,

It's one thing for a government to protect people's rights and refrain from obeying a religion's dictates. It's another thing for it to promote a viewpoint that is directly contrary to a religious doctrine. But government will inevitably do that whenever it gets in the business of promoting viewpoints, because there are a lot of religions and they hold positions on all kinds of issues. That's why public schooling doesn't sit well with the separation of church and state.

Suppose Congress wanted to issue a proclamation declaring that the book of Genesis is false. Do you think they should be able to do that? If not, why not? And how would that be different in principle from government saying so through its schools?

You wrote, "Furthermore, I don't think even total privatization of education would solve the problem; ID proponents would start suing universities for refusing to give credit for 'science courses' to students from fundamentalist Christian schools who've taken creationist 'biology' classes."

Since university accreditation would be done by private institutions who would have the right to accredit whoever they want using any standards they want, I don't see what legal leg the ID proponents would have to stand on.

rick said...

So the government is taking a position on a religious matter.

Only indirectly. They are taking a position on a matter of fact, and it just so happens that the religous belief feels that the fact is not really a fact.

rick said...

Russell- It's another thing for it to promote a viewpoint that is directly contrary to a religious doctrine.

There is nothing intrinsically bad about a government promoting a viewpoint that contradicts a religious viewpoint. Islamic fundamentalism abhorrs democracy, so should we feel bad by endorsing a viewpoint that contradicts a religous viewpoint?

Pooh said...

Russell, you're falling prey to the false dichotomy that presages ID. It's not either Darwin or God. Though some claim that evolution proves that god does not exist, they are mispeaking in that they see evolution as evidence which they find convincing. However, the conclusion "No God" is not logically compelled by the proposition "Assume Darwinian Evolution".

mythago said...

Okay, great, the forces of science and reason won a battle against the Jesus freaks

No, the forces of maintaining a religiously neutral State won a battle against the people who go against the word of their own Bible to push an egotistical strain of faith.

Anonymous said...

However, if there is to be a voucher system, I don't think that taxpayer money should be used to subsidize schools that teach ID as science.

Should taxpayer money be used to subsidize (Catholic) schools that teach that the literal body and blood of JC is consumed in communion (assuming spectral analysis shows it to be wine and unleavened bread)?

Cathy Young said...

Should taxpayer money be used to subsidize (Catholic) schools that teach that the literal body and blood of JC is consumed in communion (assuming spectral analysis shows it to be wine and unleavened bread)?

Well, I'm no expert on Catholic doctrine, but I think the idea is that the bread and wine somehow become the blood and body of Christ in a methaphysical sense (surely the people taking communion know they aren't tasting actual flesh and blood). So I don't see how spectral analysis could disprove it, especially if the transsubtantiation takes place at the point of swallowing.

In this case, we're talking about a religious claim of a miracle or a supernatural process which I don't think science can prove or disprove.

If a Catholic school was teaching that transsubstantiation was proven by scientific analysis, then I'd say they should not only not get vouchers, but their students should not get their science classes counted for credit for university admissions, because they're obviously teaching pseudo-science.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm no expert on Catholic doctrine, but I think the idea is that the bread and wine somehow become the blood and body of Christ in a methaphysical sense (surely the people taking communion know they aren't tasting actual flesh and blood).

I'm not an "expert" in the legal sense, but Wikipedia confirms what I learned - transsubstantiation happens when the priest consecrates the wine and bread. I'm sure there are dogmatic explanations for why the altered substances retain their original form, but I'm confident a scientist would assert that the transsubstantiated material was in fact the same substance.

The point is, religion teaches stuff at odds with the scientific method and makes quasi-scientific claims about it - creationism seems about the same as transsubstantiation to me. If the government gets to decide which "imaginary friends" are real enough to fund through vouchers, there are going to be endless establishment problems.

rick said...

I think the issue with the establishment clause and education is not funding, but with the setting up and administering the apparatus. For example, private colleges still receive tax breaks from the government and are allowed to endorse religion. I don't think the establishment clause prohibits the public funding of orginizations that endorse a specific religious viewpoint. I think the establishment clause prohibits a government institution endorsing a specific religous viewpoint.

Richard Bennett said...

Russell says: Richard, when you refer to "some wackjob interpretation of Genesis," you're talking about the traditional, obvious interpretation, the one that emerges from a plain reading of the text, the one that the author(s) probably meant.

Probably not, as people who lived in the Mid-East 3000 years ago weren't obviously stupid. Some guy spun a yarn, and he knew he was spinning a yarn. If a few wackos later on took the yarn to heart, that's their problem.

Your complaint about government schools accommodating extreme religious viewpoints isn't really the indictment of "statism" that you'd hoped to make. All social institutions, public and private, face the challenge of dealing with irrationality, religious and otherwise. Irrational parents hope to pass their irrationality on their children, a harmful practice that has to be curbed and controlled for the sake of all of us.

Most people are, face it, not too bright, so the libertarian fiction that they should be allowed all the autonomy in the world is fanciful at best.

And there's an inherent conflict between the autonomy of parents and that of children. Surely no self-respecting libertarian believes that parental status endows people with the right to permanently reduce the autonomy of their offspring by warping their minds.

So the state has to step in and protect children from the consequences of their parents' irrational beliefs, religious and otherwise, like Plato's Guardians. That's life.

Anonymous said...

Surely no self-respecting libertarian believes that parental status endows people with the right to permanently reduce the autonomy of their offspring by warping their minds.

Untrue. This self-respecting libertarian believes that the state has no right to interefere with a parent "warping the mind" of their offspring.

Statism (by both the right and left) is ugliest when it wraps itself in protecting "the children" as though sentimentality substitues for sense.

reader_iam said...

With regard to whether the creation story in Genesis was meant to be literal rather than metaphorical or allegorical:

Who knows what the "original" teller (and note that I mindfully chose the word "teller") had in mind?

The fact is that Genesis contains not one, but two, recountings of the creation, and they differ. So at least those who could read have known there that there are two differing accounts--differing interpretations?--contained within that book of the Bible for hundreds and hundreds of years. That's based on a "plain reading of the text" alone.

And yes, I know some of the responses to that (chief would be that any seeming contradictions can be chalked up only to human beings' inability to reconcile them). But I think that would take us far OT.

For the record, I am a believer. The evolution vs. creation debate has never, from a personal faith standpoint, ever engaged me. From my personal religious viewpoint, I embrace certain elements of the ID theory--that is, that all of creation is a reflection of the awesome mind and power of God. But as to the specifics, I leave that up to God. Evolution in and of itself is no contradiction to me. And so I don't exercised about it in terms of my faith.

From a public policy standpoint as relates to public school, however, it does matter to me. ID is simply not science and shouldn't be taught as such, for all the reasons already covered in this thread.

mythago said...

the creation story in Genesis

There are two creation stories in Genesis as reader_i_am notes.

Richard, I didn't read Judge Jones' ruling, and I wasn't commenting on it (except once in a tangential way)

You most certainly commented on it, in your very first post.

miltie said...

Why doesn't the government just sterilize Creationists. Problem solved. For the next generation at least.

beAzl said...

Richard,

Since Cathy links to your blog approvingly, as an ally in the fight against ID, I guess you are someone whose views we should consider seriously.

You write:

No one should be allowed to tell children ID/creationism is the truth, but they should be allowed to teach it as an example of lying or propaganda. The penalty for mis-teaching ID/creationism should be burning at the stake.

Do you think this view is compatible with the first amendment, the one you praise Judge Jones for enforcing?

Cathy, is this the kind of eliminationst rhetoric that we should avoid, even in humor? Why do you persistently link to his site?

BTW, I thought Judge Jones's opinion was well-reasoned. It convinced me, anyway. It's hard to see how the IDM will recover for quite some time. Though if there were enough Richard Bennett's spouting views like the one above, I suspect the momentum would change fast.

Richard Bennett said...

beazel, I don't know that Cathy and I are allies in a fight against ID. I'm not involved in any such fight, as I've yet to lift a finger in it. I don't consider blog commentary a form of activism. And while Cathy may find some of things I write useful, you shouldn't take it on yourself to believe that she endorses all of my ideas.

You seem upset that I suggest burning at the stake as a penalty for heretical thought. I can appreciate your delicate sensibilities, but I'm a bit of a traditionalist with a great deal of respect for our religious heritage, so please don't attack my faith.

And speaking of faith, I happened to read part of Genesis today, where God gives man dominion over various creatures including fishes, fowl, and cattle. It's a clever God who could include cattle in that list, as they didn't exist until domesticated in India some 10,000 years ago, long after man's first appearance on the Earth. I take that as a clue that the Big Fella is an evolutionist.

Cathy Young said...

beAzl, actually I linked to Richard's blog even before I knew he was involved in the ID dispute, because I was interested in his commentary on other issues.

I don't recall Richard ever making statements of these kind on his website, though I know his manner can be rather blunt sometimes. And for the record, I find this sort of humor pretty offensive.

DougJ said...

This is another outrage. Why does the left get to define what science is? This is supposed to be a Democracy.

Faith-based approaches are increasinly successful: in medicine, in economics, in foreign policy. Why not in science too?

Cathy Young said...

Doug: unlike John Cole, I don't look kindly upon trolling on this site. I respectfully ask you to lay off.

(FYI to everyone, DougJ posts at BaloonJuice and other sites impersonating a rabid right-winger.)

DougJ said...

You got it.

Cathy Young said...

Doug: much appreciated.

Pooh said...

But Dougie does it well.

Happy happy to all! (Even you dougie)...

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