The personable Baylor prof Francis Beckwith has a review of Ronald Numbers new edition of “The Creationists”. Beckwith praises Numbers for something Numbers gets wrong (an arbitrary distinction between “creationism” and “intelligent design”), corrects Numbers on details of the Baylor Polanyi Center affair, and alludes to a “mistake” that supposedly is common among “ID critics”:
These subtle, though important, distinctions are sometimes lost on critics of ID, who often confuse an argument offered by an ID advocate with the ID advocate who offers the argument. Ironically, this mistake is likely the consequence of a wider Protestant culture that separates faith and reason in a way that influences ID critics to think of all theological (or theologically-friendly) claims as arising exclusively from a believer’s private interpretation of the Bible rather than in tandem and symbiotically with natural theology and/or philosophical reflection. It is not surprising, therefore, that Judge John E. Jones, a devout Lutheran, in his opinion in Kitzmiller v. Dover1 should make this particular mistake the centerpiece of his judgment.
Maybe there’s a point in there somewhere, but Beckwith’s convoluted construction and vague implications don’t add up to anything particularly intelligible, I’m afraid. Do “ID critics” really mistake an argument for a person? I don’t think so. Nor is there any help within the essay in trying to figure out what Beckwith considers a “centerpiece” of the Kitzmiller decision, though I know from Beckwith’s Greer-Heard Forum presentation that he thinks any consideration of religious motives of advocates in establishment cases to be unconstitutional, so there is at least the possibility that what Beckwith is trying to say above is something along those lines. I thought the argument Beckwith made at Greer-Heard was simply bizarre, in that he advocated that the courts completely leave aside any examination of intent when it comes to religious motivation of individuals, claiming that this was something prohibited by the “religious test” language of the US Constitution, even though the context is all wrong for that.
As an IDC critic, I don’t particularly care whether a religiously-motivated antievolution argument is purely formed out of “private interpretation of the Bible” or purely derives from “philosophical reflection”. The point is that privileging a particular sectarian view with government imprimatur is wrong, both morally and constitutionally. The “two-model” thinking common to all modern religious antievolution, whether called “creationism”, “scientific creationism”, “creation science”, “intelligent design”, “strengths and weaknesses”, or “academic freedom”, means that for the antievolution advocate it all amounts to the same thing, that a diminishment of one alternative is a support for the other.
In the legal context, precedent says that one does need to examine motives of advocates in religious establishment clause cases. It would be a mistake to say that the “purpose” prong of the Lemon test, for example, is about the particular provenance of an argument at issue. (Although for most antievolution arguments, the provenance is clearly from religious considerations and supports that point directly.) It is, rather, about the intended purpose the advocate has for the argument. Even if one were to (likely erroneously) attribute some antievolution argument to a not-explicitly-religious source (the generic “philosophical thinking” thing), the purpose to which an antievolution advocate puts it is pretty plainly not just generically religious, but narrowly sectarian.
We have a record of increasingly deceptive practices being used by antievolution advocates in order to get as many arguments from the ensemble of tired, old, bogus, long-rebutted religiously-motivated antievolution argumentation into public school science classrooms. Our courts don’t need to be hobbled in getting to the truth of what is going on, which would be the upshot of Beckwith’s argument that even considering purpose should be discarded out of hand.
Francis, care to try again on expressing your argument?