31 January 2006

Which religion does ID "establish"?

Okay. Here's the "disclaimer" which caused all the furor:

"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

"Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

"Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves."

In reaching his decision Judge Jones treated four issues:

1. Whether an Objective Observer Would Know that ID and Teaching About "Gaps" and "Problems" in Evolutionary Theory are Creationist, Religious Strategies that Evolved from Earlier Forms of Creationism (Opinion, 18 - 36).

On this question we are treated to an historical review of the controversy over evolution going back to the 1920s and 1930s. And, of course, he does find that, in fact, "an objective observer would know that ID and teaching about 'gaps' and 'problems' in evolutionary theory are creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism." I see at least two logical problems here.

First, it ignores the issue of whether there are "gaps" or "problems" with evolutionary theory. Let's say, for purposes of argument, that creationists were the first to talk about gaps and problems with evolution. So what? That in and of itself is irrelevant to the question of whether there are gaps or problems. It is, in fact, a form of ad hominem; it's called a bulverism, an attempt to refute an argument by making a statement about why a person is making the argument. Joe says to John, "There are gaps and problems in the theory of evolution." John responds by saying, "Joe, you only say that because you are a creationist." Seriously, what has Joe's being a creationist have to do with whether there are gaps and problems with the theory of evolution. What if, Joe is a creationist because he first came to believe that there are gaps and problems with evolution? Let's turn things around a bit. John says to Joe, "Evolution is true." Joe responds, "John, you only say that because you are an atheist." The proposition, "Evolution is true" is not refuted by asserting anything about the person stating the proposition. In the same way, Joe's being a creationist is irrelevant to the question of whether there are gaps and problems with the theory of evolution.

The second problem is that, Judge Jones's reasoning here would mean that there could never be any meaningful talk of any gaps or problems with evolutionary theory. Let's say that someone whom even evolutionists recognized as a bona fide scientist (for our purposes, let's say the late Stephen J. Gould) started talking about gaps and problems in evolutionary theory. There could never be any mention of it because, as Judge Jones now informs us, any such talk is a religious strategy that evolved from earlier forms of creationism.

2. Whether an Objective Student Would View the Disclaimer as an Official Endorsement of Religion (Opinion 37 -- 50).


3. 3. Whether an Objective Dover Citizen Would Perceive Defendants’ Conduct to be an Endorsement of Religion (Opinion 50 -- 64)

The answer to these two questions is obvious enough, I suppose. The real problem here is that a constitutional prohibition of establishing a religion (i.e., a specific religion) has been translated into a prohibition of endorsing "religion." And what constitutes "endorsing" religion? Well, whatever the courts say constitutes it.

Note also the absence of specificity. We have gone from Congress's being prohibited from making some (specific!) religion the religion of the land, to every governmental entity in the republic being prohibited from "endorsing" some entity called religion. And what, exactly, is it for something to be a religion? Why, again, whatever the courts tell us it is.

A third problem is, in addition to the aforementioned translation of the constitutional prohibition of establishing a national religion, how the term religion is so obviously re-defined (especially in this present case) to mean just theism. Anything that seems to lend credence to theism counts as an endorsement of "religion." There's just one problem: theism is not a religion ; it is a philosophical school, a position on the philosophical question of the existence of God, in contrast with atheism. There is a second problem: not all religions are theistic, like Buddhism, for example.

I think this last point raises a problem. If teaching ID supports or endorses "religion" because the "intelligence" behind the design must surely be God, then the teaching of evolution must also endorse religion because with its tacit denial of "intelligence" it lends support to non-theism and, by logical extension, non-theistic religions like Buddhism and secular humanism (arguably, of course). Not only that, but since the state is supposed to be neutral with respect to religion, this implies that the state should (a) teach nothing which lends credence to religion and (b) teach nothing which would militate against religion. If so, then evolution is hardly religiously neutral, since it militates against theism, which the courts equate with religion.

Be all that as it may. I am still hard-pressed to understand in just what way allowing the teaching of ID constitutes an endorsement of religion. Which religion does it endorse? Christianity? Judaism? Islam? Hinduism? If so, then how? Merely because ID is consistent with these religions? And why would that be a problem, given that evolution is consistent with (in addition to atheism, which is not a religiously neutral position) a religion like Buddhism?

It begins to look as if the real problem is not endorsement of "religion" but the acknowledgement by the state of any intellectual respectability for theistic "religion." Witholding that acknowledgment is not neutral.

Besides, what the Constitution prohibits is the establishment of a specifically identified religion (i.e., Roman Catholicism, Presbyterianism, Conservative Judaism, etc.), not the vague notion of some "endorsement"of some formless entity called "religion".

Next: Whether ID is science

19 January 2006

Going backward is progess?

Permit me, in catching up after a short absence (due to business elsewhere), a brief rant.

Liberal Democrats like to refer to themselves as "progressive" now-days. Progressive. Forward moving. A rather obvious implication is that the opponents of "progressives" are--what?--regressive, I suppose. Hmmmm. Submitted for your perusal:

1. This past weekend, Nancy Pelosi gave a townhall meeting. When asked if Democrats could come up with a candidate who could beat a Republican nominee, she said yes, and that this Democrat contender would be comparable to F.D.R.

2. We all know that Democrats like to talk about the Iraq theater of the war on terror as if it were a repeat of Vietnam. As if. I grew up surrounded by men who were actually in Vietnam...fighting, not reporting. I have eyewitness testimony of the events in Vietnam. Iraq is not Vietnam--not yet. (But it will be if the Alien Media Nation have their way and this war gets run by the Legislature and not the Executive! But I digress.) One has to wonder: As long as they want to go back to F.D.R. why don't they frame discussions of the war on terror as if it were World War Two?

F.D.R. and Vietnam. It seems that, for Democrats, moving forward means going backward. Now we know why they think conservatives are wrong on the issues: they think that we are the ones going in the wrong direction. But what can you say to people who insist that moving ahead requires living in the past?

Nor ought we to entertain the notion that their position on health care provides any evidence that--on at least that issue--they are moving ahead. They tell us that we are one of--if not the only--advanced nation on the planet without nationalized health care. Look at Great Britain, they say. Look at Canada. Great Britain and Canada, among others, have had nationalized health care for some time, right? That means, again, that Democrats are looking to the past saying, in effect, not only, "Let's move in reverse" but also "Let's go back and join others who are failing in their own attempts to solve the problems we are working on."

These are the same type of people who tell us, among other things, that we no longer live in 1789 and therefore need a "living, breathing" constitution. It's fine to go back to the 1960s and 1940s (include the 1970s, if you want to talk about impeachment), but not the 1700s. It is difficult, at times, to be charitable in thinking and writing about them and their fear-rooted policies. Darn them to heck.

(I've finished studying the recent Intelligent Design decision. And under the heading of "better-late-than-never" I will have some things to post about it. It's not as if this is going to go away any time soon.)
17 January 2006

Nagin is pulling a Pat Robertson

I have a confession to make. I never believed Pat Robertson.

When Pat Robertson "apologized" for wishing on-air that someone would take out Hugo Chavez, he did so by saying that taking someone out doesn't really mean assassinating them. Of course, to most of us who talk about taking someone out, it means assassination. Color me sceptical when it comes to Robertson's apology. (Besides, when you apologize for saying something by saying, in effect, that you really didn't say what you are apologizing for saying, it really doesn't count as an apology; it's a denial. That's what my wife says, anyway.)

Now, New Orleans mayor Ray "Everyone-is-to-blame-for-the-devastation-of-Katrine-but-me" Nagin is apologizing for claiming that N.O. was meant, by God apparently, to be a chocolate city. Now, I have to confess when I heard that I was sure the he intended to mean that N.O. was meant to be a predominantly black city. Of course, if Nagin is to believed his comments about a chocolate city were not intended to exclude whites. After all, he is quoted as saying, chocolate is made with milk. (You can read the story here.) Again, color me sceptical. Nagin's comments came after it became clear that, thus far, the majority of those who have returned to N.O. are white.

New Orleans is sinking. I've posted on that fact before, citing this article. Why anyone would care whether a sinking city were vanilla or chocolate is beyond me. I mean, what is Nagin saying? "Come sink with us"? (How's that for some spin.)
06 January 2006

A family affair

I have linked here several times to the Dragon Master Gunner's blog. It seems that the "Master Blaster," as I call him (it's a tanker thing; and actually it really is technical) has the honor and privilege of serving with his younger bother, Cav Tanker. They have a collaberative blog, Tanker Brothers. I highly recommend it.

I love these guys. First, they are soldiers; as a former soldier, I'm a bit partial. Second, they are tankers; as a former tanker, I'm extremely partial. But more than that. As Jar-Jar Binx might say, "Deez-sah boiz bomb-bad!" (Yeah, I hated Jar-Jar too, but he had some cool expressions, which, of course, sound better when I use them. Ahem.) Master Blaster and Cav Tanker are remarkably well-informed, intelligent (well, they are tankers, after all!), and they write very well. Moreover, if I may say so, they also do a fine job of damaging what I believe is a consistent stereotype of hispanics. (Andale muchachos!) That, and they make me miss the Army more than I normally do! Hooah!

Guys like these shatter the idea that people join the Armed Forces because they are so stupid and uneducated as to have no other prospects. Some do; no doubt about that. But most join because (surprise, surprise) they actually believe that despite our country's checkered past (e.g., slavery, segregation, the Indian Wars, etc) there is still a lot of good here and it's worth fighting for. I've no doubt, with the quality of thought these two exhibit that they do not belong to the class we might label as "Otherwise Without Prospects." These guys are sharp; and they reflect well upon the Army, the whole tankin' community, and their country. Visit them regularly. Sign their battle roster.

And when the Master Blaster runs for President be sure and vote for him because he has indicated a willingness to make me, Jaime Francisco Solís y Bernardo, his Secretary of Defense. When you read his blog you will find yourself saying to yourself, "Self, if ever we are to have a latino in the Oval Office, it should be this man, or someone like him." Besides, he's a war veteran. And as John Kerry has informed us, being a war veteran is an unassailable qualification for the highest office in the land.

All kidding aside, read their blog.

Normally, I'm not this emotionally expressive. Mostly walk around like I've got something uncomfortable in my fourth point of contact. But, like I said: I love these guys.

03 January 2006

Debate over

Well, that was a knock-about of pure fun! Perhaps even a waste of time. Who knows? Anyway, I'm done debating the ussue of ordination of women in the PCA. It was one of those debates in which those who argued for it, did a better job of persuading me against it.

I've been busy reading and thinking about the recent decision regarding the Intelligent Design controversy. If I can do so in a timely manner I may post something about it. Talk about a philosophy of science trumping science! One thing I have decided about this whole Intelligent Design mess: If every scientist in the entire world came to believe that the intricacies in something like a cell indicated that such intricacies existed by design ID will still never end up being taught in schools. This is because the current state of "separation" jurisprudence means that ID will always have a religious purpose if only because it lends credence to certain religious doctrines. (And never mind that Darwinsm also lends credence to religious doctrines, like atheism [as contrasted with theism], for example.)

I also have some work to do on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP), a.k.a. the Federal Vision (FV), at my other (collaberative) blog, Westminster Brass.

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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