Timothy Sandefur posted Entry 1706 on November 22, 2005 10:00 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1701

In an article forthcoming in the Washington University Law Quarterly, Prof. Jay Wexler responds to the arguments of Prof. Francis Beckwith on the constitutional issues involved in the teaching of Intelligent Design. It’s a good article that will help the efforts of evolution’s defenders—and, as an added bonus, Wexler cites posts from the Thumb and allied blogs in his footnotes!

The article responds quite convincingly to many of Beckwith’s arguments endorsing the teaching of ID, but what interests me most is the issue of state neutrality. Beckwith has argued many times that the state must remain neutral between scientific explanations of the origin of species, and magical explanations of the origin of species (including ID). Scientistse who eschew magical or miraculous explanations have, Beckwith contends, rigged the system at the outset, and this violates the First Amendment because the state may not endorse, or teach, a “naturalistic” epistemology over a magical one. Wexler responds, first, that Beckwith’s contention that a commitment to non-magical explanations is an a priori bias is “simply not true. The fact that scientists apply the scientific method in their work reflects only a recognition that historically this method has produced tremendously successful results, in terms of explanation and prediction of natural phenomena.” (p. 7). I would probably quibble with the use of the word “only,” because for philosophical reasons I think there are reasons prior to historical experience for rejecting magical thinking, but Wexler’s answer is fair enough. So is the state forbidden from adopting the scientific method, even given this historical superiority? Of course not:

While the government may not discriminate against private speakers on the basis of viewpoint in an open or limited public forum, there is no constitutional requirement that the state’s own speech remain neutral. If the Constitution did impose such a requirement, then schools could not endorse any controversial moral or factual viewpoint whatsoever. They could not tell students, for example, to stay away from drugs, that gender equality is something worth striving for, or that the Holocaust actually occurred, without also presenting the arguments to the contrary. (Id.)

Government must be free to commit itself to “naturalism,” not only in its public utterances (or its sponsorship of private utterances), but also in its policies in general. If the state really must remain neutral between magical and scientific explanations of phenomena, then it would be literally paralyzed, even in its most basic functions. “[T]rue substantive neutrality towards religion is impossible,” writes Wexler (p. 21). The government “can take the position that racial intolerance and violence is wrong, that eating vegetables is not a sin, that the world is round, that people ought not to be vengeful, that war is sometimes justified, that it is wrong to marry more than one person, that conventional medicine works, and that it is impossible to walk through walls and fly, no matter how well one manages his or her life force.” (p. 22). A neutrality principle rigorous enough to do the work that Beckwith wants it to do would make the very existence of government impossible. (I make a similar point in my forthcoming article coauthored with Colin McRoberts: Piercing The Veil of Intelligent Design: Why Courts Should Beware of Creationism’s Secular Disguise, __Kan. J. L. Pub. Pol’y. __ (2006)). But while Wexler’s right about all this, there are some limits to which the government can embrace and really put into practice a non-magical understanding of the world. See, e.g., United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944). It would be nice to see him discuss such limits.

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Comment #59491

Posted by PvM on November 22, 2005 10:59 PM (e)

It’s a very good paper. I had the pleasure of reading it yesterday. I liked the response to the argument by Beckwith that ID and Evolution are different answers to the same question. Wexler responded that the question “should I eat pork” may be answered differently by a dietician and a Rabbi but the latter one’s response will undoubtably be religious in nature. In other words, just because it claims to answer the same question does not necessarily make it non-religious.

It’s also good to notice how the notion of scientific vacuity is spreading.

Comment #59511

Posted by ellery on November 23, 2005 2:47 AM (e)

“just because it claims to answer the same question does not necessarily make it non-religious.”

I think there is a larger issue: What is in the religious/spiritual domain and what is irrational and what is total nonsense is getting blurred.

There is huge belief in psychics, astrology, UFOs, dowsing, faith healing, appearances of the Virgin Mary–even on cheese sandwiches!–stone statues that burst into tears, in exorcism, ghosts, prayer, life after death, crop circles, body meridians, laying on of hands, foot-ology, raptures, tarot cards, nostradamus, book of Revelation, red heifers appearing in Israel, alien abductions, homeopathy, feng shui, magnetic bracelets, palm readings–all stuff related to supernaturalism–the list of irrational nonsense is endless. We are in an age of belief in silly things. It is a sign of an unhealthiness in our society.

Comment #59514

Posted by John on November 23, 2005 4:53 AM (e)

> Government must be free to commit itself to “naturalism,”

Should the govt be free to commit itself to supernaturalism, then?

Comment #59533

Posted by Joe the Ordinary Guy on November 23, 2005 8:41 AM (e)

John asks:

Should the govt be free to commit itself to supernaturalism, then?

Well, yes. But such commitments are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE! One can imagine a government based entirely on supernaturalism. But I, for one, would not want to live there. I wouldn’t trust their engineering guidelines, or their trash collection, or their military defenses.

The question for us is: “which shall it be?” I would argue that the commitment to naturalism has paid off rather well, and that there is no compelling reason to change it.

Comment #59534

Posted by Flint on November 23, 2005 8:46 AM (e)

Should the govt be free to commit itself to supernaturalism, then?

Of course. Some governments have. Which presents us with another set of historical (and present) results.

Comment #59535

Posted by k.e. on November 23, 2005 8:51 AM (e)

I wouldn’t trust their engineering guidelines, or their trash collection, or their military defenses.

This is meant as a humouous/serious aside
The men who stare at goats

http://www.jonronson.com/goats_04.html

Comment #59539

Posted by PaulC on November 23, 2005 10:05 AM (e)

Should the govt be free to commit itself to supernaturalism, then?

No. The two views aren’t equivalent. The overwhelming majority of people, including the very religious, accept that many if not most every day occurences have a natural explanation. The extension to “most” is tricky, since I don’t know where that puts believers in some kind of vitalist view of biology. Historically, people have expected life (e.g. agriculture plants and animals) to follow predictable empirical laws for the most part, whatever their underlying assumptions about its ultimate cause, so I think we can reasonably use the word “most.”

The government, by which I mean our government under the US constitution, is prohibited from preferring any religious belief, but it’s not prohibited from working from non-religious assumptions that may be useful in setting policy. So it seems pretty clear that given a well-established natural explanation for some phenomenon, the government is right in giving it privileged status over a supernatural explanation for the same phenomenon. Even people who believe in some supernatural explanations will usually accept that there is some methodology for attaching confidence to a natural one, though they might differ on whether it has been applied correctly in a particular case, and might believe that in particular cases (e.g. the Catholic belief in transubstantiation of bread and wine) that there is no methodology for distinguishing between the two.

So in preferring natural explanation, the government is working with a epistemic basis that nearly everyone accepts. As soon as it begins to substitute any supernatural belief for a natural one, it is preferring one religious view over another.

Comment #59542

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on November 23, 2005 10:21 AM (e)

I believe PaulC is correct. The government may not commit itself to supernaturalism, because the First Amendment declares that it may “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The government may commit itself to naturalism, because it may–and must–perform secular duties. It may choose to operate a fire station instead of hoping that prayer will prevent fires. It may choose to endorse viewpoints on controversial issues. It may choose to force parents to get vaccinations or blood transfusions for their children. It may choose to forbid certain crimes, even if people commit those crimes for religious reasons. The only thing it can’t do is establish religion or interfering with the free exercise of religion. Obviously there are cases in which these boundaries overlap, so that some secular goals are ruled off limits to the government because pursuing them would interfere with free exercise (e.g., Ballard). But the general rule has to be that government can take a position in favor of naturalism both in policy and its public utterances. Some folks complain that this is a bias against supernaturalism, built into the system. But there is no meaningful alternative.

Comment #59547

Posted by Caledonian on November 23, 2005 10:45 AM (e)

What is in the religious/spiritual domain and what is irrational and what is total nonsense is getting blurred.

What dividing line has there ever been? Even the relatively rational religions are full of extraordinary statements that must be accepted on faith and without logical justification.

Comment #59549

Posted by Flint on November 23, 2005 11:01 AM (e)

Timothy:

The government may not commit itself to supernaturalism, because the First Amendment declares that it may “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Yes, the government as currently specified can’t do this. We’d need to modify the First Amendment. We can do this if we choose. We even have the option of tossing the entire Constitution and selecting a new one. In fact, this is an American goal in other nations.

There’s probably a difference in interpreting the question, between “what does the law currently require” and “what are the limits to how the law can be changed”. And there’s probably no limit, except as we see fit.

Comment #59570

Posted by Keith Douglas on November 23, 2005 12:54 PM (e)

Devil’s advocate question: Why assume that supernaturalism is necessarily religious? Could one (for instance) install Platonism? (I am not sure what consequences that would necessarily have, but take this any way you want.) Obviously this is not of benefit to the theocrats, whence is unlikely to be adopted, but it might be a secular way to get some sort of theism enthroned. (Another sort of “wedge strategy”.)

Comment #59574

Posted by Mark on November 23, 2005 1:26 PM (e)

Belief in supernatural power(s) is the definition of religion, even if such a belief system isn’t necessarily an established religion, a la Christianity.

Best Regards!

Comment #59575

Posted by Ed Darrell on November 23, 2005 1:36 PM (e)

John quoted and then asked:

Government must be free to commit itself to “naturalism,”

Should the govt be free to commit itself to supernaturalism, then?

No, not the U.S. government. We agreed in that compact between citizens we call the Constitution that government would not do that – at least, we did not delegate that right of citizens to any organ or branch of government, and then in the First Amendment we specifically forbade government from acting in that sphere. Regardless one’s belief about whether the Constitution bound the state governments originally, each of the state constitutions holds a similar provision, and we fought a war over the issue of whether the Bill of Rigths protects citizens against state governments, and we passed the 14th Amendment.

In our justice system especially, we depend on methodological naturalism to achieve justice. It would be a miscarriage of the intention of our government to change to a supernatural belief in that sphere (and most of the time we’re talking states, not federal).

No, our governments are not free to encroach on our personal rights to believe in the supernatural. No, our governments may not commit themselves to supernaturalism.

Comment #59577

Posted by Flint on November 23, 2005 1:49 PM (e)

Ed Darrell:

No, our governments may not commit themselves to supernaturalism.

But of course, we are free to change our government so that it CAN make this commitment. And a depressingly large number of Americans would like nothing better. We wouldn’t even need to change the wording of the Constitution, only our intepretation of it. Like China, where the court found that their Constitutional protection of free speech only extended to freeing people to praise the government in the words of their choice. That’s how they really interpreted their document.

And similarly, many Americans interpret the First Amendment as guaranteeing every citizen the freedom to worship Jesus Christ as he sees fit. NOT worshipping Jesus Christ isn’t freedom - it’s eternal damnation!

Comment #59584

Posted by Mike Rogers on November 23, 2005 2:17 PM (e)

Flint:

Paul C’s post addresses the imprudence of any government embracing supernaturaturalism while Timothy’s addresses the constitutionality of our government embracing supernaturalim.

Although any constitution is a conventional document, unless we embrace a pretty thorough-going relativism, we can still evaluate such a document against various normative standards, such as moral (at least if you’re a moral realist, a catagory which includes many non-thesists as well as theists) or rational standards. For present purposes, we can take normative rationality broadly to include what we would normally call wisdom or prudence. Now, as to the prudence of a government committing to supernaturalism see Paul C’s excellent post.

But, before anyone gets too excercised about this, a thoughtful reading of Paul’s post suggests that this question, as phrased, is too ambiguous to really get at the substantive issues that motivate the debate. What do you mean by a government committing to supernaturalism? With regard to what?

American religious conservatives want government to commit to recognizing a supernatural God chiefly with regard to His presumed role as the source of a universally true moral and ethical precepts rather than in engineering matters or mundane questions of facts of nature. This is because they are unfomrtable with the religious and ethical diversity in modern American society and the fact that our secular legal system does not specifically encode all of those moral precepts that they regard as essential to any American society that they can relate to. Both our patriotism, our nationalistic sensibilities, and our religious identities make strong claims on our deepest sense of personal identity and how we relate to others. So the vast and fundamental differences that exist among Americans with regard to metaphysical beliefs and beliefs regarding extra-legal moral principles, particularly striking in matters of personal relationships and sexual morality, produces a great deal more stress within many people’s minds than we are culturally conditioned to acknowledge, given the strong emphasis on mutual toleration, due to competition bewteen the secular and religious claims on our sense of who we are.

The secular solutions to this has been to distinguish between personal morality, which can actually be public in the sense of being publicly acknowledged as derived from religious teachings, and secular or civil law. Secular, civil law indeed incorporates moral principles that are regarded by most people as being true or objective, along with some pure conventions. But it limits itself to principles and precepts for which a broad popular consensus is possible and which, in a cosmopolitan society, attempts to respect cultural differences (within certain limits). And it means that, lacking any such consensus, the default position is to defer to individual choices on matters of perosnal morality; this is what largely gives us modern liberalism.

Now many religious conservatives simply cannot accept that solution, particularly conservative protestants who regard their faith as the founding faith of the country so it is therefore somehow entitled to cultural and moral primacy despite the actual cultural demographic facts at the moment. Personally, the secular solution makes perfect sense to me. This is so, not the least because it seems to me that, given the fact of enormous cultural diversity (apart from the ideology that that is how things should be) the only alternative, even if I was sympathetic to religious conservatives (which I am not), would necessarily involve some form of totalitarianism. And even if one believed that the objectives of such a totalitarianism were worth the cost of personal liberty, totalitarianism isn’t even practicable. It basically always fails so it ultimately couldn’t be worth the cost even if procrustian conformity even if it were really desirable (which I think it clearly is not).

So there’s a political philosophy argument, to go with Paul C’s pragmatic argument, against the wisdom of a govermnent embracing supernaturalism.

Comment #59595

Posted by John on November 23, 2005 2:50 PM (e)

Thanks for all the responses. I’m somewhat skeptical about the ones arguing that yes, in principle it can, but it shouldn’t, because naturalism works, Yes, I agree, it shouldn’t. That’s not the point.

The point is, if one accepts that the government is indeed allowed to do it, then one shouldn’t complain when it does. That’s how it chose to act, and it had a “right” to do it.

One could argue, though (as some do here), that the government should act based on methodological naturalism - which is by definition not a religious system, contra supernaturalism. This naturalism should be presented as a default choice - indeed, it is “minimal” in its claims. One could even say it makes no positive claims. There’s nothing religious about it. Roughly, it simply says “Show me!”. The one making supernatural claims should prove them.

Any kind of supernaturalism unsupported by evidence is less parsimonious than naturalism. If govt wants to base its decision on supernatural assumptions, it should _prove_ that they hold water. E.g., if they base their decisions on existence of deities, they should prove that there are deities, etc. “Deities exist” is a religious statement, unless it is proven. “There is no evidence of deities existence, therefore we will not take them into account in making our decision” is not a religious statement, it is a statement of fact until the existence of deities is proved. Therefore, yes, the government can - and should - adopt methodological naturalism, which is not a religion, and it cannot - and should not - adopt supernaturalism, which is purely religious until demonstrated instances of supernatural events.

Comment #59605

Posted by Flint on November 23, 2005 3:20 PM (e)

Mike Rogers:

I read Beckwith as supporting a much tighter relationship between (his) church and state. Perhaps you’re right, and his goal is to (try to) reduce social heterogeneity and inculcate shared values using the combined power of (his) religion and the agency of state education (and anything else the state can do to make sure there are no public contradictons to the tenets of his religion).

I think Beckwith regards the state as a giant pulpit, capable of bestowing the glory of (his) religious doctrine on everyone, to the great benefit of everyone (else). He sees public endorsement of scientific methods and findings as government sanction of a competing faith, and wishes to insert his own faith wherever he can.

It’s not a philosophical argument, really. It’s a pure political-power issue.

And even if one believed that the objectives of such a totalitarianism were worth the cost of personal liberty, totalitarianism isn’t even practicable. It basically always fails

Ah, but this will never deter the conviction that it was the wrong kind of totalitarianism, not *truly* based on God’s love and Word (Beckwith division). If everyone were brought to believe as (Beckwith thinks) God Wills, and thus through warp-and-woof homogeneity brought forth the kingdom of heaven on earth, totalitarianism wouldn’t even be an issue. Interests would no longer conflict (it says here!).

Mind you, I find this fantasy threatening only insofar as as religious forces are using political (and trying to use legal) means to achieve doctrinal ends. Put nine Scalias on the Supreme Court, elect Roy Moores as governors and senators, let simmer for a generation or so, and Beckwith would probably be much happier. I don’t think Beckwith wants supernaturalism. What he wants is to use the civil powers of government to institutionalize his social prejudices (that is, “morality”). One step at a time, if that’s what it takes.

Comment #59637

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 23, 2005 6:45 PM (e)

Should the govt be free to commit itself to supernaturalism, then?

Of course. They will then join the ranks of such successful democratic governments as Iran under the Ayatollahs and Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Worked for them, right?

Comment #59638

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 23, 2005 6:47 PM (e)

And even if one believed that the objectives of such a totalitarianism were worth the cost of personal liberty, totalitarianism isn’t even practicable. It basically always fails

A police state is wonderful ——- if you get to be the police.

Comment #59661

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on November 23, 2005 8:10 PM (e)

ellery: We are in an age of belief in silly things. It is a sign of an unhealthiness in our society.

While not disagreeing about the present crisis… by this criterion, has there ever been a healthy society?

Comment #59691

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on November 23, 2005 10:07 PM (e)

Same old story - it’s a published and undisputed fact that the world’s leading biologists don’t pretend to know the chain of events during species transformation. The only undisputed fact Darwin offers is that environmental conditions play a part. So the known facts are that species were unrolled over vast periods of time and environment played a part. Honesty would therefore pull up the horse and coach of education about here and wait until technology allows it to proceed. So, whatever has been whipping up the horses - they’re a little foamy – is not observable, testable fact.

The other day I saw an article attributed to NATURE, saying that butterflies had evolved something a touch more sophisticated than light emitting diodes. Like so many articles in many such publications, it read as though the butterflies invented the diode. The impression came across that the author(s) actually believed it!

Do we understand why the Public is a little sceptical? Who is advocating the, quote, “magic”?

Comment #59703

Posted by PaulC on November 23, 2005 11:31 PM (e)

Like so many articles in many such publications, it read as though the butterflies invented the diode. The impression came across that the author(s) actually believed it!

Yes, impossible. Next you’ll be telling me that the sun invented nuclear fusion.

Comment #59705

Posted by Flint on November 23, 2005 11:51 PM (e)

The other day I saw an article attributed to NATURE, saying that butterflies had evolved something a touch more sophisticated than light emitting diodes.

Are you saying they did not? On what basis? I notice you carefully replace the word “evolved” with the word “invented”, so that you can mock butterflies because they are obviously too stupid to “invent” anything. Invention you understand: it’s what people do to get patents. Evolution, now, this doesn’t happen, it’s just a code word scientists use to mean “we haven’t a clue where this came from, because we are atheists and deny that Goddidit.” What ELSE could “evolution” possibly mean?

But the educated public is not skeptical. Only the ignorati and the Devout.

Comment #59708

Posted by Osmo on November 24, 2005 12:05 AM (e)

Can someone give me a coherant defintion of supernatural? I have my ideas, but I’m curious as to see what the responses are, especially from someone like Flint.

Comment #59711

Posted by Flint on November 24, 2005 12:31 AM (e)

Osmo:

Sorry, but I don’t have any clue. In practice, it seems to refer to undetermined causes of natural results; the default until natural causes are determined. In other words, it’s a synonymn for “we don’t know”, deployed by those unable to admit ignorance.

In theory? Beats me. It seems to derive from the rather woolly notion that there is some kind of “force out there”, some aspect of kismet that collapses the baffling cumulative stochastics of a nearly infintely complex universe into projected patterns of intent and purpose.

My own suspicion is that the human brain’s main strength is the ability to extract patterns from disparate bits of information. We are master data-miners, able to intuit complex relationships whether or not they’re there. Sometimes this leads to conceptual breakthroughs almost impossible to reach methodically. More often, this leads to seeing faces in the clouds and gods in the weather. So “the supernatural” is a term used to explain the “cause” of perceived patterns where there is no pattern, much as dreams are the brain’s attempts to “make sense” of random neuron firings in the absence of external inputs.

Hopefully, someone can produce something more coherent than I can.

Comment #59719

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on November 24, 2005 2:08 AM (e)

The sun didn’t invent (sorry, should I say, evolve?) nuclear fusion. The butterflies did. They needed that sort of light to navigate and a few other things. Pretty neat, eh?

Comment #59727

Posted by John on November 24, 2005 3:26 AM (e)

> Of course. They will then join the ranks of such successful democratic governments as Iran under the Ayatollahs and Afghanistan under the Taliban.

> Worked for them, right?

Already answered, see above. “Yeah, though it’s bad” is incorrect answer. So it will be a Xian Taliban, so what? Fundies will be glad.

That’s NOT what we are discussing.

Comment #59755

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 24, 2005 8:42 AM (e)

That’s NOT what we are discussing.

It *should* be.

Comment #59792

Posted by PaulC on November 24, 2005 10:39 AM (e)

Did you ever notice that when creationists claim the most incredulity about some system evolving, it’s always one that looks like a human invention: E.g., eye and camera, flagellum and outboard motor, and now “natural versions of these specialized mirrors and photonic crystals” in certain butterfly wings similar to what humans use in LEDs http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/11/… ?

What I find ironic about this is that most of what we find in nature has no parallel in human invention at all. Is mitosis any less amazing because it looks nothing like a human invention for replicating data? It seems to me it’s a lot more amazing. Or take any internal organ. We can use a dialysis machine as a poor substitute for a kidney, but artificial hearts are still not good enough, and most organs have no substitute at all.

This is pretty good indication of the cheap showmanship of creationism/ID. The track record of human invention so far hasn’t come close to the creative power of evolution over the span of life on earth. If I’m not incredulous that my body contains a self-repairing organ called a liver that does more biochemistry in its compact space than any human invention, then why am I supposed to be incredulous about butterflies having optical systems like ones that humans can understand and reproduce? What conceivable evidence would have you start with the assumption that human creativity over human lifespans exceeds the power of evolution over hundreds of millions of years? It seems more likely to me that the reverse is true.

Comment #59799

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on November 24, 2005 11:20 AM (e)

I would disagree with Flint that “we are free to change our government so that it CAN make this commitment.” Religious matters are simlpy off limits to government. Jefferson, for example, explains that

The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws. But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

(Emphasis added). And Madison:

Whatever be the hypothesis of the origin of the lex majoris parties, it is evident that it operates as a plenary substitute of the will of the majority of the society for the will of the whole society; and that the sovereignty of the society as vested in & exercisable by the majority, may do anything that could be rightfully done by the unanimous concurrence of the members; the reserved rights of individuals (of conscience for example) in becoming parties to the original compact being beyond the legitimate reach of sovereignty, whenever vested or however viewed.

(Last emphasis added). In other words, religious freedom is an inalienable right, and the people are incapable of waiving that right by “consenting” to a theocratic government. All that they can do is become victims of oppressive government, which isn’t the same thing. The point isn’t that theocracies like the Taliban don’t exist, but that they lack legitimacy and are therefore not true governments–they’re criminal conspiracies; the acts of such “governments” are not law, but mere acts of force.

Comment #59800

Posted by steve s on November 24, 2005 11:33 AM (e)

Comment #59691

Posted by Philip Bruce Heywood on November 23, 2005 10:07 PM (e) (s)

The other day I saw an article attributed to NATURE, saying that butterflies had evolved something a touch more sophisticated than light emitting diodes. Like so many articles in many such publications, it read as though the butterflies invented the diode. The impression came across that the author(s) actually believed it!

Do we understand why the Public is a little sceptical? Who is advocating the, quote, “magic”?

I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but you are one dumb son of a bitch.

Comment #59802

Posted by k.e. on November 24, 2005 12:01 PM (e)

PBH watch my thoughts….(I’ll go slow)

(Others this is real, PBH does not need to be told it is real -it just IS real)

The other day I found a new word

I looked it up

It was

Objectivist

mmmmmmMMMM I thought

Fundy reads 2500 year old dusty book and everything is REAL

Fundy = literal reading of bible

(Man I was over that in 2 minutes, when I was a kid…. its just a book and I didn’t have to listen to some old fart drone on and on and on. And I read mountains of books blah blah)

INTUITION WORKING HERE ….cogitate. gurgle

Here might help

Literal objectivism

psychodynamics of orality

objectivism = “the idea that all acceptable knowledge must take the form of exact, impersonal, context-neutral ‘facts’” p.1 related to Modernity results in ‘hyperrationalistic technocratic tyranny’

relativism = the opposite, or ultimate conclusion, where “no knowledge claims of the objectivist kind can be found, there is no true knowledge and rival knowledge claims are incommensurable”. p.1 related to late-Modernity or sometimes Post-Modernity. results in ‘deconstructive irrationalistic nihilism’. How to get beyond this objectivist-relativist dichotomy?

Thats just to get started.

Comment #59808

Posted by k.e. on November 24, 2005 12:45 PM (e)

IDists
How do you know true is TRUE ? :)

Not a trick question BTW

Comment #59811

Posted by Ed Darrell on November 24, 2005 12:53 PM (e)

Flint, Tim’s right. Legitimate government may not decide to impose itself on the very thoughts of its citizens.

Franklin, BTW, called it an unalienable right. One of these days we need to get a serious discussion over unalienable over inalienable, but as I recall, Franklin note that inalienable rights can’t be taken by government; unalienable rights can’t be given away by those who have them, even willingly.

I think Madison would have noted that repeal of the First Amendment would not in any way empower the government to act in religion, since that power was not delegated in any form to any branch of government in the Constitution.

There is also this: Madison, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton and others were concerned that it never be illegal to believe in supernaturalism. The government’s embracing one form could, and probably would, rule out many other forms. They felt the government shouldn’t be in the business of determining which supernatural belief to embrace, in order to preserve the integrity of government, among other things. Madison prevailed on George Mason to include a religious liberty clause in the Virginia Bill of Rights – the only substantial amendment Mason accepted by some accounts (Madison got to the legislature late in the process, after Mason had put the thing to bed).

But that was not sufficient. When Patrick Henry proposed a modest re-establishment in 1785, Madison drew up the petition we now call Memorial and Remonstrance. With so many signers to that petition, the legislature rejected Henry’s proposal, and took up instead Thomas Jefferson’s six-years-dormant proposal to reify religious liberty, and passed it. Jefferson’s proposal was passed exactly intact, rejecting at least one important amendment that would have supported Beckwith’s position.

Jefferson described it this way:

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and the Infidel of every denomination.

[See Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Modern Library, p. 46)]

It seems to me that Beckwith and others ask that our government rule that reality is out of line to the extent reality conflicts with anyone’s particular view of the supernatural. That is precisely what our Constitution was meant to prevent.

Comment #59820

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 24, 2005 1:19 PM (e)

The point isn’t that theocracies like the Taliban don’t exist, but that they lack legitimacy and are therefore not true governments—they’re criminal conspiracies; the acts of such “governments” are not law, but mere acts of force.

Some might say that this is true of ALL governments. (big fat evil grin)

Comment #59824

Posted by k.e. on November 24, 2005 1:29 PM (e)

Lenny I think that might be a **axist point of view :)

Comment #60013

Posted by Registered User on November 25, 2005 1:57 PM (e)

Flint, Tim’s right. Legitimate government may not decide to impose itself on the very thoughts of its citizens.

I don’t mean to derail the thread, but it’s always seemed to me that Federal trademark law implicitly protects “ideas” that entities (usually corporations) have paid to imprint into our consciousness and subconscious.

For better or worse …

That said, remember when Francis Beckwith used to show up here with his high degrees and great legal mind and attempt to explain his garbage to us?

And GWW and Lenny and steve used to make Francis look like a dissembling shill?

Remember when Francis claimed that his understanding of intelligent design wasnn’t “fully formed”?

Ah, those were the days.

I wonder if the trial in Dover helped Francis’ ideas about “intelligent design” become more “fully formed”?

I doubt it.

Is Francis still whining about “academic freedom” because so many of his colleagues think he’s a religion-peddling dork?

I assume so.

Comment #60190

Posted by Ed Darrell on November 26, 2005 3:34 PM (e)

Oh, yeah, federal copyright law protects ideas that impose themselves on our conscious and subconscious (including, of course, the Bible in the New Revised Standard Version and others) – but private ideas, not government ideas, for the most part. It’s a free market of ideas, much to the chagrin of many people on particular issues.

Beckwith’s been talking some of his other favorite issues the past few months. One can only conjecture why the defense didn’t call him as an expert witness at Dover.

Comment #60230

Posted by Francis J. Beckwith on November 26, 2005 6:55 PM (e)

Flint. Instead of just speculating about my views, why don’t you read them and after that convey them accurately and charitably. A modest outline of my views on church and state may be found in the most recent issue of the Chapman Law Review in a review-article of Phil Hamburger’s Separation of Church & State. You can find the article on my site here: http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/Chapman…

The person whose views you describe are not mine, and have never been mine. I have always been careful in distinguishing the deliverances of reason from the deliverances of revelation. I am a Thomist, which commits me to a certain understanding of faith and reason that differs from most other Protestants and their unbelieving counterparts, both of which deny the possibility of natural theology. A modest presentation of my views can be found in my review of Nancy Pearcey’s book in First Things, which you can find here: http://firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0411/reviews/b…

I welcome Professor Wexler’s critique, for it allows me to either amend or hone my case in response to a sharp and penetrating intellect. The academic enterprise is strengthened when iron sharpens iron, as the author of Proverbs once wrote.

My initial take is that Jay does not adequately respond to my one question/two answer argument. I understand what he is saying, and in some cases he is in fact correct. In fact, in a forthcoming chapter appearing in the book, Darwin’s Nemesis, I offer a tighter argument that I believe addresses this concern. The title of my chapter is “It’s the Epistemology, Stupid!” I hope to write a response to Jay’s piece over the next six months, though my role as Program Chair of the 2006 meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society will take up a huge chunk of my time. The theme of that conference is “Christians in the Public Square.”

Ed Darrell is right that ID has not been on my rader lately. I’ve been working on an article on abortion and personhood that was just accepted by a bioethics journal as well as an article on the Supreme Court’s religious motive analysis, which will be appear in the law review of a Tier One law school. I also will be publishing a paper in the book Bob Dylan & Philosophy (Open Court, 2006), which allows me to philosophize over one of musical interests, Zimmy. I’m also teaching a new course in the Spring, Philosophy of Law, which will take up a lot of my time: http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/4318.ht… I must confess that it is kinda creepy to know that Ed is “watching me.” I’ve never had a stalker, so I’m kinda flattered by the attention. :-)

Over the next year I have to work on a book on politics and religion, Is Statecraft Soulcraft?: Christianity and Politics (InterVarsity Press, forthcoming), in which I will function as an introduction to politics while offering an understanding of liberal democracy that allows for religious liberty while treating the arguments of religious citizens as legitimate reasons to be placed in the public square. This will falsify Flint’s theory that I do not embrace liberal democracy. The good thing is that this means that Flint’s theory is scientific and may be taugh in public schools, even though it is false. :-)

Because my Mom is suffering from cancer and is undergong chemo (to be followed soon by radiation), it’s given me an opportunity to critically reflect on the fragility of life and the obligations we have to others, both inside and outside our families and circles of friends. This is why I plan to conduct myself in public setttings in a way that is as charitable and kind as I can possibly be without comprising the integrity of my case or the strength of convictions. I know I will fall short. But without trying, virtue is impossible.

Hope everyone had a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Take care,
Frank

Comment #60231

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 26, 2005 7:01 PM (e)

I’ve been working on an article on abortion and personhood that was just accepted by a bioethics journal as well as an article on the Supreme Court’s religious motive analysis, which will be appear in the law review of a Tier One law school.

I hope they do better than your “reasons why teaching ID is constitutional”.

(snicker) (giggle)

Comment #60238

Posted by Francis J. Beckwith on November 26, 2005 7:25 PM (e)

Thanks for the encouragement Lenny. Yes, the abortion stuff has done remarkably well. My work was cited several times in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the subject (1996 supplement) and was the object of a respectful critique in the book by David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge University Press, 2002). My co-edited volume with the late Louis Pojman, the Abortion Controversy 25 Years After Roe v. Wade (Wadsworth, 1998), is used as a textbook at a number of universities and colleges throughout the U.S. The latter article on the Court and the religious motive analysis is another matter. I first presented the paper at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in September and at the American Enterprise Institute on the evening of September 1. It seemed to be well-received in both venues, though getting it published opens up a whole new audience of critics.

What I’m most excited about, however, is my forthcoming piece in the Journal of Law & Religion, “Rawls’s Dangerous Idea?: Liberalism, Evolution and the Legal Requirement of Religious Neutrality in Public Schools.” You can find the table of contents for the journal here: http://www.hamline.edu/law/jlr/pdfs/TOC20.2.pdf It is a response to Robert Pennock’s reply to Alvin Plantinga’s response to Pennock’s 1998 APA paper, all three of which are published in ID Creationism and Its Critics. My article is a longish response to Pennock’s “last word” in his anthology. I suspect many of you will find the article interesting. Should be out any day now.

Take care,
Frank

Comment #60249

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 26, 2005 8:20 PM (e)

Should be out any day now.

So should the Dover judge’s decision.

It trumps every law journal article you’ve ever written.

Comment #60260

Posted by Francis J. Beckwith on November 26, 2005 10:43 PM (e)

“So should the Dover judge’s decision.
It trumps every law journal article you’ve ever written.”

Hey, they said the same thing to abolitionist scholars a day or two before Dred Scott. Go figure? :-)

Comment #60265

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 26, 2005 11:23 PM (e)

Hey, they said the same thing to abolitionist scholars a day or two before Dred Scott. Go figure? :-)

You just go ahead and hold your breath waiting, Francis.

Comment #60267

Posted by Registered User on November 26, 2005 11:42 PM (e)

I also will be publishing a paper in the book Bob Dylan & Philosophy (Open Court, 2006), which allows me to philosophize over one of musical interests, Zimmy.

“In case you haven’t guessed by now, that last animal was a snake - same snake that was in the garden of Eden. Same one. Back then snakes walked around on two legs. Nowadays snakes walk around on two legs, too. Same snake that deceived Eve, that deceived Adam, who deceived all mankind.” – Bob Dylan; Akron, Ohio; May 18, 1980.

Please remember, Mr. Beckwith, that some people at the Discovery Institute claim that there is such a thing as an “intelligent design research program.” Oddly enough, none of those people have yet been able to articulate a single scientific hypothesis which could be tested and which would show how, when or if the Christian deity created every living organism that ever lived on earth.

As I recall, Mr. Beckwith, you also are unable to articulate a single testable experiment which would distinguish “intelligent design theory” from the theory that live evolved more or less as it continues to evolve today. You might be aware of that theory. It’s the theory that virtually every scientist on earth believes is the theory that best explains the diversity of life forms that we see on earth, alive and fossilized. It’s the theory that is taught in public school science classrooms.

So, who are the deceivers that Bob Dylan is referring to, Mr. Beckwith?

The hard-working scientists of the world? Or those who would speak of “intelligent design research programs” in the absence of any testable theory of “intelligent design”?

I’ve been working on an article on abortion and personhood that was just accepted by a bioethics journal as well as an article on the Supreme Court’s religious motive analysis, which will be appear in the law review of a Tier One law school.

Yawn.

Comment #60316

Posted by Steven Thomas Smith on November 27, 2005 12:30 PM (e)

Hi Frank. Two questions:

1. How will the revelation at the Dover trial that “intelligent design” is relabelled creationism change the legal arguments you’ve been publishing for the past years?

2. At your blog Right Reason, you called Barbara Forrest and Glenn Branch “blacklisters” and “witch-hunt[ers]” when they mentioned you in their Academe article about the Wedge. After I wrote

ID is pseudoscientific claptrap, useful only to ideologues who want to see religion taught in public schools.
That’s what this criticism is about, not your academic freedom that Forrest and Branch expressly defended.

You could send your critics packing by citing any plausible evidence for ID, or falsifying evolution. But you can’t …

you deleted all comments but the first cheerleading one, and claimed that the deleted comments were unrelated to your post. By the way, you failed to delete all comments from your blog—they’re available here, as well as on Google cache.

Why do ID supporters like you censor their critics?

Comment #60610

Posted by Ed Darrell on November 29, 2005 3:20 AM (e)

Stalker, hell! Beckwith and others threaten the education of my children and my Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience. They asked in 2003 to gut biology textbooks in Texas, under a specious misunderstanding of science and law.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Vigilance is not stalking, except, of course, to those who threaten freedom. It is scary when the barbarians claim to be on the other side of the gate.

Comment #60671

Posted by Joe Carter on November 29, 2005 3:57 PM (e)

Stalker, hell! Beckwith and others threaten the education of my children and my Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience. They asked in 2003 to gut biology textbooks in Texas, under a specious misunderstanding of science and law.

I’m not sure why Frank even bothers responding on this site. While I don’t want to disparage eveyone who contributes to this blog (I do respect Ed Brayton), Ed Darrell and PZ Myers have squandared the credibility and have made it easy to dismiss the inane rantings against anything associated with ID. (When the guy who writes the Dilbert cartoon says you’ve lost credibility it might be time to rethink your approach.)

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance? Good grief, Ed. Go join the Marines if you really want to fight for a worthy cause. Your grandstanding might appeal to your cohorts here in the comment section but most reasonable people will simply find it to be absurdly paranoid.

Comment #60674

Posted by Russell on November 29, 2005 4:31 PM (e)

Go join the Marines if you really want to fight for a worthy cause.

Right! Let’s fight the church-state wall eroders over there, so we don’t have to fight them here!

Oh… wait a minute.

Comment #60704

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 29, 2005 7:12 PM (e)

have made it easy to dismiss the inane rantings against anything associated with ID.

Um, do you plan on including the Dover judge in that assessment? Just curious.

Your grandstanding might appeal to your cohorts here in the comment section but most reasonable people will simply find it to be absurdly paranoid.

I don’t find it “paranoid” at all. Here’s why:

http://www.geocities.com/lflank/fundies.html

I take the fundies at their word, and asume that they will do exactly what they SAY they will do.

Nothing “paranoid” about that.

Comment #60705

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 29, 2005 7:15 PM (e)

Doh.

Should be:

http://www.geocities.com/lflank/fundies.htm

Comment #60747

Posted by Ed Darrell on November 30, 2005 1:00 AM (e)

Joe, join the Marines yourself, perhaps you could learn a bit about fighting for our nation. I myself have taken that oath to uphold and defend the Constitution on several occasions, and I regard it as a lifelong, God-demanded duty.

Threats to our Constitution most often come from within our nation, not from without. “A little establishment of religion” is no less dangerous than “a little sedition.” Worse in the Texas case, those leading the assault generally don’t recognize the damage they do.

Heck, you don’t even have to join the Marines. You could just read some solid history. Those who get their philosophy from cartoon figures … oh, good grief!

Have you never read Santayana?

Comment #60788

Posted by AC on November 30, 2005 12:50 PM (e)

Joe Carter wrote:

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance? Good grief, Ed. Go join the Marines if you really want to fight for a worthy cause.

Ah, the nebulous “other”, eternal nemesis of irresponsible men and favored scapegoat of political manipulators.

Meanwhile the apple rots from the core.

Comment #60798

Posted by Wayne Francis on November 30, 2005 3:34 PM (e)

I am a Marine. Active duty from July 1988 to July 1994. Like Ed I believe it is not just a temporary duty but a life long commitment. Secondly our creed puts Country above Corps so if I feel my Country is at threat I will fight even my Corps to save my Country. That said I don’t thing only others that have joined the military at some point are responsible for our country. It is every ones responsibility. Why wait for for the situation to need force. Better to be vocal and stop it before there is need for bloodshed if possible.

Comment #60869

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 30, 2005 7:29 PM (e)

It is every ones responsibility. Why wait for for the situation to need force. Better to be vocal and stop it before there is need for bloodshed if possible.

Amen.

But I keep my hunting rifle oiled, just in case.