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Was the 'Intelligent Design' decision intelligent?
Scripps Howard News Service


December 27, 2005

A sure sign that a belief system has triumphed over its opponents is that it stops thinking of itself as a belief system at all. Instead it becomes "what every rational person knows to be the case," or "simple common sense," or, more concisely still, "the truth." In other words, the truly orthodox never think of themselves as orthodox. This allows them to crush all dissent to their orthodoxy with a good conscience, since what reasonable objection could there be to sincere attempts to stamp out self-evident falsehoods?

Thus we have just been treated to the remarkable spectacle of liberals shouting hosannas to the heavens in praise of a federal court ruling that makes it illegal to even mention the existence of a dissenting point of view in a public-school classroom. The court held that a Dover, Pa., school board violated the Constitution when it mandated that a short statement be read at the beginning of the school year to ninth-grade science classes.

The statement noted that students are required to learn Darwin's theory of evolution; that there are gaps in the evidence for this theory; that an alternative theory called Intelligent Design exists; that the school library contains a book that students may consult if they wish to learn about this dissenting point of view; and that they are encouraged to keep an open mind about theories in general.

Judge John E. Jones ruled that reading this statement violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because doing so advances "a particular version of Christianity." Let's be clear about what this ruling means. According to Judge Jones, it's against the law for a public-school science teacher to mention that Intelligent Design theory exists, except, one supposes, for the purpose of immediately declaring it to be "not science, but religion."

Another interesting feature of orthodoxy is that it tends to cause a species of mental retardation in otherwise intelligent people. Consider some of the justifications put forward for the proposition that it's a great day for truth, justice, and the American Way when a federal court makes it illegal for teachers to mention the existence of a dissenting point of view to their students.

- Science has refuted theories such as Intelligent Design, because science is based on the postulate that theories such as Intelligent Design cannot be true. It says a great deal about the power of orthodox thought that many people of normal intelligence are apparently incapable of seeing what's wrong with this argument. To quote the philosopher Bertrand Russell: "The method of 'postulating' what we want has many advantages. They are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil."

- Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory, because it cannot be refuted. This claim is true only in the trivial sense that no scientific theory can be refuted from within the theory itself. Consider the theory of naturalism, which undergirds the argument in the previous paragraph. Naturalism assumes that all events have natural causes. Is there any evidence that could refute this theory in the eyes of someone who adheres to it? Obviously not, since any evidence such a person examines will always and already be interpreted within a framework that excludes the possibility of a supernatural cause.

- Metaphysical orthodoxies about the origins of life, the universe, and everything become something other than a form of religious belief when you use the word "science" instead of the word "God." Even more preposterously, it's asserted that requiring one particular form of metaphysical orthodoxy to be presented in public schools as The Truth allows the government to maintain "neutrality" toward religion.

But, as has been noted in another context, no one ever expects the Spanish Inquistion.


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