Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Separation of church and science

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones issued a decision today ruling that the decision by the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district to mandate teaching so-called "Intelligent Design" in science classes alongside the theory of evolution, was an illegal "establishment of religion" in violation of the First Amendment.

Judge Jones is a Republican and a church-going Christian, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush. I'm sure that's all just deep cover for his true mission as part of the liberal conspiracy to destroy Christianity in America, though.

Judge Jones makes clear that the Intelligent Design Movement is a religious, not scientific, movement. The purpose of I.D. is to mask the religious doctrine of creationism in scientific-sounding language to make creationism appear to be science.

The following quote from the actual text of the decision is a bit long, but I think it illuminates the subject quite well. I have emphasized a few highlights.

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the [First Amendment] Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
The scientific evidence points overwhelmingly to the process of evolution of species over millions of years. There are only two possibilities: either evolution happened (and continues to happen), or a malevolent God maliciously created evidence of evolution to mislead humanity.

The scientific theory of evolution does not address the great cosmic "Why" of life. Evolution is neither hostile nor friendly towards belief in a divine creator; it is resolutely neutral. For example, it is entirely consistent to believe that a wise and benevolent God created the process of evolution to carry forth His vision for life on earth.

The Bible, read with narrow-minded literalness, holds that God created the earth and all life upon it in a period of 6 days. He created Adam, a male human being and then, as an afterthought, added a female, Eve. They had children who intermarried, somehow producing — in a scant few thousand years — all the races of humanity. God also created every species of life on earth individually and later fit two of every land-based creature onto a single boat during the great flood. If you recognize this mythical story as an allegory, filtered through the limited knowledge and understanding of people millennia ago, it need not challenge your religious faith. However, if you believe the account as a precise and literal historical account, you are led inexorably to the conclusion that God is a capricious miscreant, bent on deceiving humanity.

There are some questions that science is well-suited to answer. Science is very good at predicting the orbits of planets and moons, calculating the forces that will bear on a bridge or a skyscraper, and understanding the process by which life adapts to changing conditions on the earth. There are other questions that religion is better suited to answer. Religion provides answers to the unknowable: Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What is the nature of good and evil? Science cannot answer such questions.

Science and religion best co-exist when they respect the separate realms of inquiry they inhabit.