RE: [asa] The fight in Texas over evolution training in schools

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Mar 25 2009 - 14:32:32 EDT

This will have to be my final post for several days, and I think it also puts me over the limit for today.

I respond to Gregory Arago's question about the need to have a "clear secular purpose" for discussing ID in a public school setting. I am using here the words of Ed Larson, who put it either in those exact words or a close equivalent when he taught a legal seminar about creationism in Harrisburg a few years ago.

Ed was simply summarizing the state of legal opinion regarding this issue. If you have a clear secular purpose for teaching something involving religion, then it isn't a violation of the received interpretation of the First Amendment. If your purpose is religious, it's out of bounds. I can't defend or explain that viewpoint at much length; I am simply conveying it as an authoritative summary of the state of affairs presently. Ed is a leading authority on creationism and the law. It is of course possible that I have not accurately stated what Ed said, or that Ed is mistaken in his analysis. I don't think the former is true, and I'm certainly in no position to make the latter claim.

My point was not meant to suggest that science or science education is value-free. I don't believe that either of them is value-free, but the courts have proceeded on the assumption that they are, at least when it comes to religious values. In the Arkansas creation trial many years ago and again in the Kitzmiller v Dover trial, federal courts (I do not say the Supreme Court) bought the arguments of Langdon Gilkey, Michael Ruse, John Haught, and Ken Miller that science and religion are in separate spheres. To a significant extent I agree with that, as many here know; but not entirely, and thus I dissent from the Kitzmiller decision to that extent. Had I been a witness at either trial, perhaps the courts would have said something different--but that probably suggests too much about the value of any testimony I might have given, and it's a moot point anyway since no one asked me to testify (in the Kitzmiller case, the ID folks wouldn't have wanted me anywhere near the witne!
 ss stand, since I do not believe that ID qualifies as science).

So, Gregory, I'm not implying or stating anything for myself about science being value-free; I'm simply reporting what the case is, as I understand Ed Larson's view.


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Received on Wed Mar 25 14:33:23 2009

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