Re: [asa] Question from Nick Matzke

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Thu Mar 01 2007 - 14:57:06 EST

On 3/1/07, Ted Davis <> wrote:

> The concerns that weigh most heavily on me, when I think about this
> issue
> broadly rather than narrowly, are about justice. Whatever we might
> think of
> creationism or ID or evolution, we have to be struck by the fact that
> large
> numbers of American families are very unhappy about how this issue is
> handled (or not handled) by the government school system. Science is
> not
> democratic, but in a democratic republic such as ours science
> education sure
> as heck needs to be democratic, as far as possible. It doesn't seem
> like
> justice to me, when large numbers of families believe that their
> fundemantal
> beliefs and values are being assaulted in the only schools that their
> tax
> dollars are allowed to fund, so that for many of those families there
> is no
> realistic alternative. We have an interesting situation here, in this
> nation. When students are old enough to have a choice about getting
> further
> education, we allow them to use lots of state and federal tax dollars
> to pay
> tuition at a wide range of public and private institutions, including
> even
> institutions like Messiah (and hundreds more like us) that openly
> discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs when hiring faculty. But
> when students are not old enough to have a choice about being
> educated, we
> don't allow them to use any tax dollars to pay tuition at a wide
> range of
> public and private institutions. Plainly speaking, we have a publicly
> funded monopoly that does not reflect anything like genuine
> diversity--and
> all of this despite the headlong pursuit of "diversity" in public
> education.
> I think this is not a tenable situation, long term, and I wish the
> would speak directly to this in a more satisfactory, more genuinely
> sensitive, way.

I think the distinction between neo-evangelicalism and fundamentalism as
whether they endorse the so-called warfare model is a valid one. But, you
have to be extremely careful what war means. Warfare here is defensive and
not offensive. Fundamentalist thinking is a society dominated by statist,
elitist, and evolutionary thinking ready, willing, and able to trample their
rights where all they want to just raise their (and not others) children. It
wasn't until Falwell and the Moral Majority that Fundamentalists even would
have anything to do with the Devil's playground of politics. It's ironic
that the Fundamentalists are the ones accused of trying to establish
theocracy when it was the neo-evangelicals -- and I think Ted's and
Terry's labelling neo-evangelicals as neo-calvinists is a good one -- that
were more politically engaged, following in the footsteps of Abraham
Kuyper. The difference between the political involvement of the two groups
was whether the secular institutions were used (neo-evangelical) or
replacement institutions were created such as Bible Colleges
(fundamentalist). The pendulum is swinging back to its natural apolitical
state with the rise of the so-called evangelical middle best represented by
Rick Warren of Saddleback.

One misunderstanding of the current fundamentalist concerns is dealing with
the First Amendment. Nick's organization is obsessed with the establishment
clause while the fundamentalists are similarly obsessed with the free
exercise clause. One of the reasons that this is even a debate is the denial
of the fundamentalists in modern times to set up parallel organizations.
Nick would be good to study the trials and tribulations of the home school
movement, particularly Michael Ferris and HLDA. In particular, forcing
private and home schools to adopt secularist standards pushed the
fundamentalists to start running for school boards to allow them to teach
their children at variance with those standards. Nick and I may view the
standards in of themselves as reasonable but the zero choice, no win,
universal imposition of these standards is not reasonable.

Another misunderstanding is that Creation Science and ID are not at their
root evangelical. (Ted and Terry should be able to comment on this in more
detail.) My limited understanding is that Creation Science came out of Seven
Day Adventism and ID is heavily dominated by Roman Catholics. The only major
leader of ID that could be stretched into being labelled as evangelical is
Philip Johnson. This may explain why ID is more common in that
neo-evangelicalism because there is less anti-catholicism in that portion of
the evangelical spectrum. These movements do not organically come out of
evangelicalism but since the group is so large they were pitched to them.
Again, one of the major places that this pitch happened was in the context
of home schooling. If you attend these conventions, you had major places
devoted to creation science product (note while creation science product is
not attempted to be sold to the public school market the home school market
is alive and well). The anti-evolution rhetoric portion of ID also fit in
well in the pitch and that's why you find ID material there, also. The
distinction was unintentionally or intentionally blurred in order to push
the ID material. For example, you would be hard pressed to find an
evangelical layman that would know that Behe believes in common descent and
note Philip Johnson mumbling about the age of the Earth.

Which leads me to my conclusion, telling an evangelical (neo or otherwise)
that ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo is profoundly wrong-headed. It only
reinforces the warfare position which many of us in the ASA are opposed to.
They know that ID as crypto-creationism is not their position (I have
literally heard this in a conversation between evanglicals.) and that piece
of rhetoric only confirms their worst suspicions of the "establishment".
When trying to establish science standards a relief valve is needed allowing
parents to raise their children as they see fit no matter how wrong we
believe that they are. As Ted noted, science is not democratic as our
overall society is. The Dover decisions was decided in part so that the
diversity of opinion can be allowed in our pluralistic society. But, that
cuts both ways and the opinions of those who believe that evolutionary
theory is a pile of bovine excrement need to be accomodated as part of their
free exercise rights under the Constitution.

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Received on Thu Mar 1 14:57:28 2007

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