Wednesday, March 29, 2006

There Is Nothing Unconstitutional About 'Bad Science' Or 'Not Science'

Interesting take on a First Things article (article not yet online) about the Dover decision.

It begins thusly:

This is a letter I sent to First Things today.

Dear Editors of First Things:

Robert T. Miller argues that Judge Jones’ decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was correct even though Miller admits that Intelligent Design (ID) is not religion (Darwin in Dover, PA, April 2006). Miller’s conclusion is plainly a non sequitur. The Establishment Clause has one and only one purpose – to prevent the establishment of religion. If Miller is correct and ID is not a religion, a policy promoting the teaching of ID does not, by definition, operate to establish religion. Therefore, such a policy cannot violate the Establishment Clause. The inescapable conclusion given Miller’s own premises? Judge Jones erred when he ruled that teaching ID violates the Establishment Clause.

Miller argues that Jones’ decision was nevertheless correct – not because ID is a religion, but because “Intelligent Design does not belong in a science class.” (emphasis in the original) This conclusion is also wrong. Judges – especially federal judges – have a limited role in our constitutional democracy. They do not have a roving warrant to run around setting perceived errors in judgment aright. Judge Jones was entitled to strike down the Dover policy only if it established religion. Miller admits that it did not, because ID is not a religion. Therefore, Jones was wrong even if we grant Miller’s aesthetic judgment about the unseemliness of combining the teaching of two non-religious subjects (assuming arguendo that ID and science are different subjects) during the same class time. This becomes clear if we posit the combination of science and another academic subject that is not as emotionally charged as ID. For example, if the Dover school board had enacted a policy requiring all science teachers in the district to use the last ten minutes of each of their classes to teach music, the policy would have been stupid, but it would not have been unconstitutional. The citizens of Dover’s remedy would have been to throw the rascals out at the next election and hope the new school board would repeal the policy. Their remedy would not be going to court to have the “science and music” policy struck down as unconstitutional...


Michael Poole said...

What does a law professor's so-called admission that ID is not religion have to do with whether or not it is? Professor Miller claims that ID is neither science nor religion, but his basis for claiming it is not religion is unclear to me -- a blog called "verbum ipsum" describes the article in brief, saying that ID does not "appeal[] to sacred texts or other purportedly revealed knowledge", which is a rather narrower definition of religion than I have heard elsewhere or that I would use.

Professor Behe was honest enough to admit during his trial testimony that ID is in fact a religiously motivated theory -- unlike certain (former) school board members, he probably understands the penalties for perjury. Other evidence entered during that trial strongly established that the school board members had explicitly religious motivations for introducing ID to the curriculum, even though they did not understand what ID meant. Those are among the reasons that Judge Jones wrote that ID cannot "disentagle" itself from its more explicitly creationist roots.

Prof. David Opderbeck said...

Wow -- you said something similar to what I did in a similar letter to First Things! Here is a post from my site with a little more legal analysis (I'm a lawyer):