Casey Luskin, never what you might call intellectually honest, published an article recently in the Hamline Law Review purporting to assist public school teachers in knowing what they can and cannot teach about evolution in government classrooms. The article, of course, is all centered on the basic misrepresentation in all that the Discovery Institute does: namely, the lie that “intelligent design” is a “scientific” approach or constitutes a “scientific critique” of evolution.
It is, of course, true that nothing in the Constitution bars public school teachers from teaching science to students, including the scientific critiques to which evolutionary science was subjected after it appeared in the mid-nineteenth century. For example, prior to the rediscovery of Mendelian genetics, one genuinely scientific critique of evolution, voiced by Francis Galton and others was that there was no agent for the generation of mutations necessary for the evolutionary process to work. This is, of course, now an obsolete critique, but it is perfectly legitimate to teach it to students. It is not a religious conception, and teaching it in a government-funded classroom does not violate the First Amendment because it does not tend to establish a religion. Likewise, certain scientific disputes—like the question of “punctuated equilibrium,” or the significance of the so-called “Cambrian explosion”—are wholly secular, and are perfectly constitutional subjects of discussion.
Casey Luskin, of course, desperate to make himself out as a persecuted minority in a world in which a diabolical “Darwin Lobby” seeks totalitarian control over education, claims that “the NCSE and the rest of Darwin’s public defenders are probably hesitant to admit” that “scientific critique” is constitutionally permissible. This is folly masquerading as silliness. Nobody at either the NCSE or at The Thumb would deny that genuine scientific debates are constitutionally permissible, and welcome, in classrooms. What’s not constitutionally allowed is religious indoctrination, and Intelligent Design, a variety of creationism, cannot therefore be constitutionally promulgated with tax dollars.
Intelligent Design is a variety of creationism, not of science. It posits, not a scientific critique of prevailing evolutionary theories, but a supernatural Entity—a Designer—Who designed (intelligently or otherwise) the universe. That is, ID is simply the old-fashioned argument-from-design for the existence of God; the old Paley’s Watch argument. Now, one may personally find such arguments convincing, or one may not. But whatever one thinks of it, it is nevertheless a religious argument, and it cannot therefore be endorsed as true by an agent of the government, including a government school teacher.
(Of course, public school teachers can teach about religion. They can teach that there are people who do not believe in science, and even why those people don’t believe in science. What they cannot do is teach students that a religious viewpoint is the truth. They cannot teach that God created the universe and the animals and whathaveyou. To do so is to spend tax dollars to promulgate a religious viewpoint, something absolutely prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.)
Luskin writes that “the big debate in public schools today isn’t about teaching creationism, and it isn’t even about teaching intelligent design (which is of course different from creationism).” This is simply a falsehood. Science belongs in the science classroom, including public school classrooms. Nobody—whether in an alleged “Darwin Lobby” or not—denies this. It is precisely the fact that Intelligent Design is a type of creationism, which posits a supernatural Designer, that makes it a religious, rather than a scientific position. And the First Amendment forbids government from promulgating a religious position as true.
In their efforts to disguise their religious position as “science” and thereby to sneak it into government classrooms, ID advocates are simply following the tradition established by their Young Earth Creationist progenitors…with, of course, certain adaptations inherited from their past struggle for existence.
What public school teachers need to know is simply this: do not be fooled by the cdesign proponentists who disguise their religious doctrine as a scientific theory. Whatever one’s own viewpoint with regard to the existence or nonexistence of God, the United States Constitution forbids government-funded classrooms from being used to teach any religious opinion or position as truth. Religious history, religious literature, religious sociology—these are all important parts of any education. And of course, any genuine scientific dispute is a proper component of education. But teachers in taxpayer-funded classrooms simply may not tell students that life was created by a supernatural being. To do so is to violate the supreme law of the land.