Casey Luskin, Program Officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs for the Discovery Institute, has recently published an article entitled ZEAL FOR DARWIN’S HOUSE CONSUMES THEM:HOW SUPPORTERS OF EVOLUTION ENCOURAGE VIOLATIONS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE in the Liberty University Law Review. Luskin continues to be a favorite target of the anti-ID crowd over at The Panda’s Thumb, and this article is no exception. The task of misrepresenting Luskin fell to attorney Timothy Sandefur, who frequently contributes to the Panda’s Thumb blog site.
Luskin clearly lays out the intent of the article in the very first paragraph and writes:
The common stereotype in the controversy over teaching evolution holds that it is the opponents of evolution who are constantly trying to “sneak religious dogma back into science education.”1 While perhaps in some
instances this caricature is not entirely undeserved,2 the mainstream media and legal community pay scant attention to incidents where proponents of Darwinian evolution transgress the boundary between church and state erected by the Establishment Clause. By documenting ways that evolution advocates encourage violations of the Establishment Clause—in some instances, explicitly advocating state endorsement of pro-evolution religious viewpoints in the science classroom—this Article will show the impropriety of the common “Inherit the Wind stereotype.”3
Apparently this clear of a statement isn’t good enough for Sandefur who sniffs:
It will come as no surprise to anyone that Luskin’s argument is flimsy, his evidence illusory, his readings of the case law distorted, and the overall effect essentially a fun-house mirror version of First Amendment law.
This is part and parcel of the sort of “critiques” (I’m being kind, “diatribes” would be the more appropriate term) leveled at ID proponents all the time over at PT. Never mind Luskin’s actual credentials, listed as follows at the head of his article:
As an attorney with a graduate science background, he
has published in GEOCHEMISTRY, GEOPHYSICS, AND GEOSYSTEMS; PROGRESS IN COMPLEXITY,
INFORMATION AND DESIGN; RESEARCH NEWS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN SCIENCE AND
THEOLOGY; JOURNAL OF CHURCH AND STATE; MONTANA LAW REVIEW; HAMLINE LAW
REVIEW; and THE PRAEGER HANDBOOK OF RELIGION AND EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES
(James C. Carper & Thomas C. Hunt eds., 2009).
For someone who has flimsy arguments, illusory evidence and distorted readings of case law (among other academic sins according to Sandefur), that’s a pretty impressive C.V. for anyone. But this is yet another example of the scorched earth policy adopted by the anti-ID crowd. If you don’t agree with someone, denigrate, denigrate, denigrate.
But what of Sandefur’s own argument? Near the end of his fact-free screed, Sandefur writes:
Now, let’s play “name that logical fallacy” (to steal from our friends at the Skeptic’s Guide): “[E]ither ID is a religious viewpoint that is unconstitutionally opposed, inhibited, and disapproved when this textbook is used in public schools,” writes Luskin, “or ID is not a religious viewpoint and is thereby fair game for all forms of government-sponsored attacks, disparagement, hostility, as well as endorsement.” This is all very clever, no doubt–it is, as Lincoln once said, the kind of logic whereby a horse chestnut turns out to be the same thing as a chestnut horse. It’s the fallacy of the false dichotomy. In fact, ID is a religious viewpoint masquerading as a scientific theory–it is a religious position which is layered in factually untrue or arbitrary assertions. Government is entirely free to denounce the factually untrue statements and explode those arbitrary assertions. No, it cannot say that God does not exist, and it cannot say that man was not created by God through some guided process. On that, Luskin is correct. But government violates no law when it says (and rightly) that there is no factual basis for ID’s scientific claims.
Now who is making flimsy arguments? Sandefur’s entire argument against Luskin falls completely apart here, and, in fact is a prime example of exactly what Luskin is writing about.
Upon what grounds is Sandefur claiming that “there is no factual basis for ID’s scientific claims”? If we’ve learned anything about this debate, it is that the anti-ID crowd fervently…nay, rabidly…believes that ID is not scientific. Yet, here is Sandefur claiming that ID’s scientific claims have been falsified (how else to read “no factual basis for”?). Really? By who, when, and in what lab were the experiments conducted that falsified anyof ID’s scientific claims? On the one hand Sandefur wants to argue that ID is a “religious position…”, while on the other hand, he wants to claim it is layered in “factually untrue or aribitrary assertions”. How were all these “factually untrue” claims deemed to be so? Scientifically? By who, where, in what lab? In what relevant peer reviewed scientific research journal might one be able to read these findings? And I’d really like to know how these results might be falsified. The irony here is palpable. ID isn’t science, but it has falsified by science. Huh?
Sandefur has unwittingly demonstrated the truth of Luskin’s whole argument as he resorts to claiming that ID is factually untrue, he is, in fact, saying that there is no factual basis to think there is any sort of higher intelligent cause responsible for the design of, well, anything, in all of the cosmos or biological systems. That is tantamount to telling someone whose religious beliefs say otherwise that those beliefs are factually incorrect. Sandefur tries to weasel out of that by saying Luskin is right that Government can make no statement that God doesn’t exist or had something to do with creating the Cosmos. But, the clear conclusion of the claim that ID is factually incorrect comes pretty close to saying that anyone who believes those sorts of things is wrong, and if that is allowable in a public school science classroom, then that is tantamount to Government favoring a particular religious view…which is, of course, Luskin’s whole point! Sandefur just doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that simple idea.
Perhaps it would become clearer to him if he attempted to state how he knows scientifically (and not religiously or philosophically) that the properties of the cosmos are such that any apparent design we observe in natural systems (biological or otherwise) can not be actual design, even in principle. As there is no scientific answer to that question, it would be very problematic for Sandefur to continue his line of argument against Luskin.