Friday, October 1, 2010

I Don't Believe In Peter Pan - But I Will Quote Barrie

"All this has happened before, and it will all happen again." I am reminded of the opening lines of Peter Pan when confronted with people who don't want evolution theory taught in public schools.

Earlier this year, I attended a local school board candidates' forum. One question from the audience asked each candidate if s/he would support teaching evolution in science class as a fact or theory, and if s/he would support teaching intelligent design in science class as a fact or theory. Having studied constitutional law, I recognized this as a well-settled legal question, a no-brainer. 

Of the six candidates, two--including one chemistry professor--answered that evolution is a theory, not a fact, but that it's currently the one best supported by scientific evidence and is therefore a proper subject for study in high school science. Conversely, intelligent design is incapable of support or disproof using the scientific method, and has been held by the courts to be a thinly-veiled religious argument. Therefore, it does not belong in the science curriculum. 

Each one of the other four candidates (including two incumbents, who should have at least a basic understanding of the separation of church and state) said, "If you teach one, you should teach the other," or some variation thereof. 

To present intelligent design in a public school science class would be unconstitutional. The first and fourteenth amendment prohibit public schools from trying to advance a religious theory, including the teaching of creationism as science. The only federal court to have considered the question ruled that "intelligent design" is a religious ploy to get around the laws prohibiting creationism-as-science, and therefore has no place in a public school science curriculum. 

The Flying Spaghetti Monster depicted at the top of this page was a fortunate by-product of this controversy. I entreat you to read the Wikipedia article by the same name, which includes the story of Pastafarianism's genesis, along with lots of context. I love context.

Back to the school board race. Only one of the two candidates who answered appropriately was elected to the school board; fortunately, she's also the chairman. Unfortunately, the professor didn't make the cut. So now at least two of our five school board members publicly support a hypothetical curriculum that is in blatant violation of well-settled constitutional law. 

It occurred to me that the current noise about evolution theory is similar to the upheaval about heliocentrism that lasted from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. "I don't care how much so-called 'evidence' you have; it goes against what scripture says, so it's wrong." 

All this has happened before, and it will all happen again, be the disruption theological or economic. Global warming, anyone? 


  1. Actually, I think the global warmists are like creationists. They don't allow the scientific method to be employed against their "settled fact" (belief) and use dogmatic terms against anyone who tries to argue against them (they should not be allowed in the schools, they are like Holocaust deniers, etc, etc). Just the perspective of someone who has studied the science for a long time and sees little evidence that anthropogenic global warming has occurred yet, but that's a subject for another blog.

    I wonder how many of the intelligent design folks would be happy if someone taught that the same outcome could be arrived at if an unintelligent designer just randomly started designing universes until one like ours came about that worked. There's no need for the "designer" to be intelligent. Infinite monkeys at infinite typewriters, so to speak...

  2. Todd, that concept would have provided a great title for this blog: The Finite Monkey. Dang.

  3. Note: I changed the picture at the top of this page as a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks. The one referenced in this post can be found at