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Religion in Public School Classrooms? Two Can Play That Game!

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Keith Burgess-Jackson at AnalPhilosopher has this to say about militant anti-religious atheists and their treatment of ID as a pernicious threat to be kept out of public school classrooms at all costs:

Leftist Hostility to Religion

Michael Ruse, like me, is (1) a philosopher, (2) a Darwinist, (3) an atheist, and (4) a respecter of religion. Militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Brian Leiter, who hate religion and despise the religious, are vilifying him for it. See here and here. Leiter calls theists “theocrats,” as if, given the chance, they would impose their religious beliefs on everyone. In fact, it is Leiter and his ilk who would impose their leftist beliefs on everyone. (Read Leiter for a few days. You’ll see what a totalitarian he is.) I am far more concerned about the likes of Dawkins, Dennett, and Leiter acquiring power than I am about Christians (for example) acquiring power.

Addendum: Did you read Leiter’s post—the one to which I linked? Notice the implication that Ruse is (now) an outcast. He has been cast out, by Leiter, from the inner circle of militant atheistic Darwinists. This is totalitarian thinking, my friends. Party line; dogma; true believers; false consciousness; vanguard of the proletariat; &c. One must not deviate from the party line! One must show no respect for the enemy! Solidarity! Leiter would make a terrific KGB agent.

Addendum 2: Darwinists like to say that their opposition to teaching design theory in public schools is merely prophylactic. They say they want to keep science and religion distinct. Do you believe that? Leiter and his comrades care less about the integrity of science (and science education) than they do about suppressing religion. The end, in their view, justifies the means.

Addendum 3: The Darwinian legal strategy is pure, unadulterated cynicism: Impugn the motives of those who want design theory taught in public schools. How often have you heard it said that design theory is “really” an attempt to proselytize or indoctrinate impressionable students? But two can play this game. If supporting the teaching of design theory is an attempt to sneak religion into the public schools, why isn’t opposing the teaching of design theory an attempt to suppress or destroy religion? Why are the motives of only one side questionable? And why do we care about motives, anyway? We should focus on design theory itself, not on the motives (or purposes) of those who support or oppose it. Philosophers are taught to focus on reasons, not motives. Leiter seems not to know the difference.

Well said, Keith! You hit the nail on the head!


DS, like I said above, you are kind of an exception. You take for granted the age of the earth, C.D. and phylogenic tree, etc. I truly feel your version doesn't cut itself off from further investigation. (when, how, where, etc) I see you doing that with your posts and it seems you catch some flak for it sometimes as well.

I guess my question is mainly on the "official" answers given by some I.D. leaders and articles I've read. (for instance, the Idea Club FAQ i linked to) I just don't get the impression that they want to go beyond the "is it designed" question.

For instance, while I see admission by many I.D. proponents of the overwhelming evidence for common descent, they don't explain how it plays a role with I.D. If CD exist, then it makes a profound addition to I.D.

I.D. also doesn't sort out what life forms were designed and which ones weren't. Shouldn't there be some predictive model to test whether two species differ from common descent via natural selection vs. a design event? For instance, I assume we all would accept that large cats all share one common ancestor and that throughout time, they diverged to become Tigers, Lions, cheetahs etc. Perhaps we can all agree that small cats (with retracting claws) and large cats all share a natural common ancestor. But at what point down the ancestral chain of cats, do we find evidence for a design event?

All life appears to be designed. The whole universe appears to be designed for that matter. I don't dwell on the universe being designed because there's nowhere for science to go from there as science is restricted to what's in the observable universe. Life on earth is a different story as the universe is several times older and unimaginably larger. The most complex bit of molecular machinery I can readily identify is the ribosome and the digital codes that direct its operation in the DNA molecule. These are universal in all living things and their complexity dwarfs that of the flagellum by orders of magnitude. Not only that but as far as we can tell from the fossil record these things appeared on the scene when the earth was very young and very hostile to life. So the most complex machinery had the least time and least hospitable environment to evolve. By far IMO the best fitting explanation is that the "design event" you are asking about predated the arrival of life on this planet. The hypothesis that life was seeded here and that the seed was designed to unfold into the complex biosphere we see today (within self-adjusting limits) just as a fertilized human egg is designed to unfold into a complex human being fits every bit of evidence perfectly. Read John Davison's papers on the sidebar which goes into more detail and connects the dots. Can science investigate where the seed came from? Sure. We're doing it. SETI is a prime example of such investigation as are many experiments aboard space missions. Looking for signs of life beyond the terrestrial environment is all investigation into where and how life originates or originated. Unfortunately for science all our investigations in that regard have come up empty so far and the Copernican Principle of Mediocrity is in serious trouble. It's looking more and more like earth is indeed a privileged planet. -ds Fross

"What if you ask in geology class where the matter/energy comes from that makes up the granite?"

DS, I personally don't see how that's a granite related question. FOr instance, if you ask the matter/energy question, the answer you seek covers granite, gold, and goldfish.

"What does a criminal investigator do when evidence is lost or destroyed? Are there not times when a forensic scientist hits a dead end? Or is there hope that someday we’ll be able to solve murders from 2000 years ago?"

A C.I. still works under the assumption that he/she's able to find evidence. A C.I. doesn't say their field of work has no means to. But you are right, like DS said, sometimes some questions can't be answered. But even if we can't discover how, or who murdered someone from 2,000 years ago, we at least have the "when" part answered. That's my point, every other field I can think of allows the when, where, how questions.

To DS I would ask, can you give me an example of a warm trail that leads off of I.D.?? In other words, once I conclude that something is designed, is there any other line of scientific questioning I can do? I don't see how the "when" question is off limits for a couple of reasons. I always see I.D. citing the Cambrian explosion as a design event. The Cambrian period is pretty well dated, so isn't the "when" question available to us here? Do you feel some questions are purposely off limits for now in order to keep the "big tent" big?

Thanks bud!


When and how aren't off limits. "When" is already answered in many cases from the fossil record. For instance, when did the first cell appear? Fossil evidence indicates the first recognizable living cells appeared some 2.5 bya. How is another story but given it's a one-time event that isn't repeatable and there's no surviving evidence other than imprints in rocks I don't see how science can make a hypothetical answer as an hypothesis in science requires that it be falsifiable in principle. Mechanism(s) behind prehistoric evolution are not hypotheses. They're narratives. It's the teaching of evolutionary narratives as well tested scientific theories to impressionable public school children that raises all the hackles. That and its a narrative that is legally barred from being either criticized or presented along with altnerative narratives. ID acknowledges that identifying any designers or the mechanisms they used are not scientific. If only NeoDarwinian evolutionists admitted where their science stops and their mythology starts we wouldn't have a problem. -ds Fross
"As I understand it, I.D. has a feature that sets it apart from all other fields of science. (even archaelogy, criminal investigation, etc)" What does a criminal investigator do when evidence is lost or destroyed? Are there not times when a forensic scientist hits a dead end? Or is there hope that someday we'll be able to solve murders from 2000 years ago? russ

Here's my oh so humble take on it, and my attempt at a friendly reply that I hope no one takes offense to.

As I understand it, I.D. has a feature that sets it apart from all other fields of science. (even archaelogy, criminal investigation, etc)
While it does attempt to detect design, it's the only field I know of that stops at the initial question of design, or sends you to the philosophers and theologians if you ask too many further questions. (I don't mean this as a put down, but I'm speaking from specific statements from I.D. proponents about this subject)

For example, if I'm in geology class, and we're studying granite, I can ask where, how, when some granite formation took place and be pointed to a science book or pointed to a method of finding answers scientifically.

If I'm an archaeologist and I detect design and I ask "where, when, how and who" I'm pointed to more achaeology books, or at least I have a scientific route to get those questions answered.

If I'm in an I.D. class and I ask "when, how, where and possibly who" I'm told that I.D. is currently incapable of answering those. (http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1185)
Or I'm told that the "who" question should be taken up with philosophers or theologians.

If someone teaching evolution simply stated. "Evolution occured, but the when, where and how is outside the scope of evolution theory, so no need to ask us" I think some people would consider it non-scientific as well.

Can someone point me to the error of my thinking? Or does anyone agree that I.D. should stop with the big tent strategy and start making some more specific conclusions on aspects of I.D. theory? (For instance, DS's version of I.D. can at least answer the when, where and how, since it accepts geological time and common descent.)

What if you ask in geology class where the matter/energy comes from that makes up the granite? Can science tell us where the matter and energy in the universe came from? Sometimes the trail goes cold and further questions cannot be answered. That doesn't negate the part of the trail that can be followed. We can use math & science to measure energy even though we don't ultimately know where the energy came from. Similarly we can use math & science to measure design in the universe even though we don't ultimately know where the design came from. -ds Fross
One of the letters to the editor in the March 6 edition of Time magazine, regarding the teaching of science in the US (the subject of an article in the previous issue): "If Americans are truly concerned about falling behind, why do they waste precious time teaching religion in science classes?" -- HANK DAVIS Guelph, Ont. ( http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1167735-2,00.html ) He's talking about Darwinism, right? j
Is it safe to conclude that anyone who doesn't think Dawkins and company are trying to impose their brand of atheism on everyone that they're either militant atheists themselves or ignorant of the situation? jasonng
"Why are the motives of only one side questionable? And why do we care about motives, anyway? We should focus on design theory itself, not on the motives (or purposes) of those who support or oppose it." Exacly. I think Dr Dembski addressed this point in his rebutal to the Darwinists team (in the Dover trial) and noticed that they were guilty of the genetic fallacy. Mats

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