Monday, February 25, 2008

Discovery Institute "Discovers" Inconsistent Use of Establishment Clause

Yesterday morning I was up early savoring my first cup of coffee and looking forward to Sunday School and church when I turned on C-SPAN-2's BookTV and saw an event hosted by the Discovery Institute in Seattle. The Discovery Institute, as you may know, is dedicated to getting intelligent design into public school biology classrooms as an alternative to the "theory" of evolution. The speaker was Dr. John West, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, who was discussing his new book, Darwin Day in America.

I immediately googled Dr. West and found that he has impeccable scientific credentials to be discussing Darwinism. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from The Claremont Graduate School and has taught history and politics at various colleges and universities. I thought, good gosh, I have almost identical credentials, a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago with a doctorate orals field in political sociology, and I have taught history and politics at various colleges and universities. Maybe I should come out of retirement, move to Seattle, and get a job writing books about Darwinism and discussing them on the Tv. Anyway, I was intrigued, so I watched Dr. West's presentation.

At first I was outraged at what he was telling me--things the "mainstream media" never report. Apparently our tax dollars are going to support liberal religion in schools but not conservative religion. That's just not right. Whether it's Southern Baptist theology or Unitarian-Universalist theology, it has no place in the public classroom. Either way, that's a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Then I began to calm down as I heard him recite his evidence. It seems there's an organization called The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) headed up by some woman named Eugenie Scott, a physical anthropologist who happens to be president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (the very name is suspect). Worse, Dr. Scott and the NCSE website, said Dr. West, are promoting the idea that religion and evolution are compatible, even going so far as to encourage science teachers to bring liberal clergy into the classroom and send students out into the community to interview liberal clergy who have no problem with evolution.

To top it all off, the National Center for Science Education receives money from the National Science Foundation. Our tax dollars are going to promote liberal religion in the public classroom. As Dr. West put it, "The ACLU would immediately be on the scene" if a teacher brought in a Southern Baptist preacher as a guest speaker. I spent about 2 hours on the NCSE website yesterday, and yes, they do receive NSF funding, but I saw no indication that they were encouraging science teachers to bring in liberal clergy or send students out to interview liberal clergy. Maybe it's there, but I missed it. I did see a list of churches that seem to think evolution and Christianity are compatible, including my own denomination. Maybe that by itself is a violation of the Establishment Clause. I don't know.

I do know (again from Dr. West) that Eugenie Scott is a Humanist, who a few years ago signed something called the Humanist Manifesto III along with such other unsavory characters as Stephen Jay Gould, Katha Pollitt (columnist for The Nation), Michael Shermer (Editor of Skeptic Magazine), Oliver Stone, and Kurt Vonnegut. It was also signed by 22 Nobel Laureates, including Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.

Then Dr. West lambasted Judge John E. Jones III (a George W. Bush appointee) who ruled in 2005 that the Dover, Pennsylvania School District couldn't include intelligent design in its high school biology classes. Judge Jones' ruling, argued Dr. West, was logically inconsistent because it wouldn't allow conservative religionists to introduce intelligent design because that would violate the Establishment Clause, but he would allow the introduction of liberal religious views that supported evolution.

Now I read Judge Jones' entire decision in Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. the day he issued it in December, 2005, and I read it again yesterday--all 139 pages in pdf format. Nowhere in those 139 pages does Judge Jones say anything about allowing liberal religion into the public classroom. Why should he have? It was never at issue in the trial. (You can google the case, download it and read the full decision, if you like.)

Well, then Dr. West's talk ended and BookTV moved on to something else. I was still looking forward to church because two weeks ago we celebrated Evolution Sunday by asking the Holy Spirit to work within us, praying as Jesus taught us to pray, singing "O Mighty God" (our version of the English Calivinist "How Great Thou Art") and marveling at how God actually did it.


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