Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Dover Decision III: Is it Science?

With this post we continue our examination of Judge Jones' much acclaimed opinion which he handed down in Kitzmiller v. Dover, and turn to his discussion of whether ID is science sensu strictu. Parenthetically, this is a question we find largely irrelevant to whether it should be permitted in science classes, for reasons we'll explain below.

The judge writes:

As previously noted, the Supreme Court held in Santa Fe that a public school district's conduct touching on religion should be evaluated under the endorsement test from the standpoint of how the "listening audience" would view it; and, if members of the listening audience would perceive the district's conduct as endorsing religion or a particular religious view, then the conduct violates the Establishment Clause.

Moreover, a review of the letters and editorials at issue reveals that in letter after letter and editorial after editorial, community members postulated that ID is an inherently religious concept, that the writers viewed the decision of whether to incorporate it into the high school biology curriculum as one which implicated a religious concept, and therefore that the curriculum change has the effect of placing the government's imprimatur on the Board's preferred religious viewpoint.

Accordingly, the letters and editorials are relevant to, and provide evidence of, the Dover community's collective social judgment about the curriculum change because they demonstrate that "[r]egardless of the listener's support for, or objection to," the curriculum change, the community and hence the objective observer who personifies it, cannot help but see that the ID Policy implicates and thus endorses religion.

Of course, many of those same letter writers believed that Darwinism is a religious concept as well, and they were moved to write because they're tired of that religious view being granted immunity and preference in our schools to the exclusion of all others. Evidently, however, the opinion of these folks on the religious implications of Darwinism is of little interest to the judge.

...we find it incumbent upon the Court to further address an additional issue raised by Plaintiffs, which is whether ID is science. To be sure, our answer to this question can likely be predicted based upon the foregoing analysis. While answering this question compels us to revisit evidence that is entirely complex, if not obtuse, after a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area.

Aside from the fact that the judge probably meant to say abstruse, not obtuse, it is ironic that just a few days after his decision a philosopher from Amherst, Alexander George, published a column in the Christian Science Monitor in which he claimed that ID is indeed science, but that it's bad science and for that reason shouldn't be taught. His column pretty much dismantles the arguments of the "ID isn't science" brigades, and is really quite well done except for the interesting fact that, although he effectively argues that nothing about ID disqualifies it as science, he never really demonstrates that it's "bad" science. He merely asserts it.

Anyway, even if it were granted that ID is not science per se, it's certainly part of the domain of the philosophy of science and, specifically, the philosophy of biology. As such there is no reason for excluding it from a science classroom unless it is, indeed, bad philosophy, which no one has suggested it is. There is much philosophy taught in any science classroom, even bad philosophy (such as the standard scientific method), to which no one objects. Indeed, there's one bit of metaphysics that masquerades as science in our classrooms which Judge Jones has himself immunized from criticism - the idea that all of life has arisen as a result solely of blind, purposeless processes. We'd like to hear how the judge would subject that claim, a fundamental tenet of Neo-Darwinian evolution, no less, to scientific scrutiny.

Finally, we will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.

Well. It's certainly true that there has been a tremendous waste of resources and time in the adjudication of this question, but one wonders whose fault that is, really. Is it the fault of some misguided board members who tried to the best of their abilities to neutralize the corrosive threat to their students' religious beliefs that the "universal acid" of Darwinism presents? Or is it the fault of the handful of parents and their abettors in the ACLU who were just scandalized that their board would ever dare to do such an innocuous thing as put a disclaimer in a textbook, clumsily worded though it was, suggesting that there may be other theories on the matter of origins that students could investigate if they're so inclined?

We'll have more to say on the Judge's reasoning in a day or so. See here and here for our previous posts on his decision.

Getting it Really Wrong

Mona Charen pulls all the MSM-generated myths about Katrina and New Orleans together in a single column. She points out that from the size of the storm to the number of casualties, to the conditions in the Super Dome, to the disproportionate effect on the poor, to the inability of the poor to escape, the media got just about everything wrong, and in some cases, really wrong.

The question is, why did they blow it so badly? The answer, at least in part, perhaps, is because they saw a chance to hurt Bush, and they took it. The media obsession with discrediting this president has brought much more discredit to themselves than it has done harm to Bush.

Christian Belief V

Taken as a whole the Bible points insistently toward the salvific role of sacrifice, and Christians have long held that this recurrent theme is a kind of prelude to the greatest sacrifice in history: The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Jesus' death is seen by Christians as being more than just a martyr's execution. It has for 2000 years been viewed as a substitutionary atonement for the sin of all mankind.

Our betrayal of God - our falleness - requires, in the Divine economy, that our self-imposed estrangement from Him be permanent. The divine law demands a complete divorce with no reconciliation, but Divine Love also has its demands and it was out of that love that God refused to give up on His beloved. He chose rather to do all He could to redeem mankind from the stringent requirements of the law.

His solution was to take our place, to die physically in our stead, to pay the price for our sin. Somehow, even the temporary death of an infinite God was commensurate to the eternal deaths of finite men. God's death in Christ settled a debt that otherwise could never have been paid and insured that even though we still must endure the fears and sufferings of physical death ourselves, our separation from God need no longer be forever. There is now a chance for reconciliation, both corporately and individually. Because of His death, ours is now more like a birth into a new existence, a reunion with the creator and source of all that is good in this world.

But a question arises: Was the death of Christ sufficient to guarantee that no one at all would be left out of eternal union with God? Christians have historically given several answers to this question. One answer is that this salvation from eternal death is granted only to those who repent of their sin and accept Jesus' forgiveness and own Him as their God. This pretty much limits eternal life to Christians and is a view called "exclusivism" by theologians.

Another answer to the question says that Christ's death paid the price for everyone's sin and therefore everyone will ultimately have eternal life. This view is called "universalism" since salvation is seen as extending to everyone who ever lived no matter what their life was like.

A third view, called "inclusivism," falls between the other two. It agrees with the exclusivists in that it maintains that apart from Christ's sacrifice no one would have eternal life, but it also partly agrees with the universalists in believing that God accepts into His bosom more than just those who've made a willful decision to accept Christ as their savior. It holds that salvation is a matter of the condition and attitude of one's heart toward God.

Jesus' work on the cross is the price paid to secure salvation for anyone who obtains it, but those who never heard of Jesus, or who for cultural reasons, perhaps, find it exceedingly implausible that Jesus' death was a divine gift are nevertheless not excluded from receiving it. People whose hearts are open to God, people who, indeed, may be infatuated with God, are embraced by Him even though their understanding of His redemption is inadequate or attenuated. After all, whose understanding isn't?

Theological conservatives (fundamentalists and evangelicals) tend to hold the exclusivist position, liberals (e.g. unitarians) tend to be universalists, and moderates tend to be inclusivists.

But what of those who choose not to accept Christ, whose hearts are closed to God, who would prefer that He not even exist and who would find eternity with Him to be a kind of hell? A possible answer to this question is that God compels no one to love Him. He forces no one to accept His embrace. Those who find the very idea of God repellant, who want to have nothing to do with Him, will be given their way. They will be, for as long as they wish and/or as long as they exist, separated by their own volition from the source of everything that is good. They choose for themselves a destiny devoid of the love, peace, happiness, and intellectual stimulation that flows from God.

It's a tragic choice, but God will not force us against our will to choose Him. It might be noted that if this is true then universalism must be false. People can choose not to accept heaven. Read C.S. Lewis' fanciful description of this state of mind in The Great Divorce.

Our earlier posts on Christian Belief can be found here(I), here(II), here(III), and here(IV).