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Jan 12 2006

IDC losing yet more support

There are signs that even more people are feeling that introducing Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC) ideas into science classes is not something worth fighting for. The Cleveland Plain Dealer deputy editorial director Kevin O’Brien, who would have been the most likely person on their editorial board to support IDC writes in a December 28, 2005 column:

What’s with these Intelligent Design people? For years, they’ve been lampooned as anti-intellectual, marginalized as religious nuts, and voted out of office whenever they’ve managed to sneak in under the radar. Now they’ve taken a solid whipping in federal court. And just watch: They’ll be back for more.

[A]s taxpaying members of the public, Christians have just as much right to a say in educational policy as anyone. But if they hope to be effective, they have to make an argument that’s scientifically valid.

Intelligent Design isn’t it. Neither the existence of a higher power nor its participation in the origin of life can be observed or measured, which is what science is all about.

Nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, who identifies himself as a religious conservative, says in a December 28, 2005 Washington Times column that he actually welcomes the judge’s ruling:

The decision by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III to bar the teaching of “intelligent design” in the Dover, Pa., public school district on grounds it is a thinly veiled effort to introduce a religious view of the world’s origins is welcome for at least two reasons. First, it exposes the sham attempt to take through the back door what proponents have no chance of getting through the front door. Judge Jones rebuked advocates of “intelligent design,” saying they repeatedly lied about their true intentions. He noted many of them had said publicly their intent was to introduce into the schools a biblical account of creation.

This leads to the second reason for welcoming Judge Jones’ ruling. It should awaken religious conservatives to the futility of trying to make a secular state reflect their beliefs. Too many people have wasted too much time and money since the 1960s, when prayer and Bible reading were outlawed in public schools, trying to get these and other things restored. The modern secular state should not be expected to teach Genesis 1, or any other book of the Bible, or any other religious text.

Both O’Brien and Thomas acknowledge that the US is built on secular principles and that Christians should stop trying to make it into a theocracy. O’Brien says:

This nation’s founders wisely drew up a secular system of government, but they understood that the system they created was geared to a moral people who were capable, especially in their public lives, of restraining themselves.

And there’s the key for Christians living in today’s America: Our fight should not be to win control of government institutions – even so small an institution as a classroom – so as to restrain others. Our fight should be to win control of the nation’s culture by persuading Americans to see the value of restraining themselves. (my emphasis)

Thomas agrees, saying:

Culture has long passed by advocates of intelligent design, school prayer and numerous other beliefs and practices that were once tolerated, even promoted, in public education. People who think they can reclaim the past have been watching too many repeats of “Leave it to Beaver” on cable television. Those days are not coming back anytime soon, if at all.

Thomas recommends that those people with strong religious beliefs who are concerned about what they are being taught in the secular public schools should do what they should have done all along: take their children out of the public schools and put them in religious schools or home school them.

I have long been writing that a secular public sphere with great freedom for the private practice of religion is the system that has the best chance of promoting peace among the various religious beliefs. I had not expected such ringing support for this view from such unlikely allies as O’Brien and Thomas. It is very welcome.

POST SCRIPT: Crash

After my postings on race and prejudice, a reader kindly sent me a DVD (thanks, Josh!) of the film Crash (the 2004 film written and directed by Paul Haggis, not a different 1996 film having the same name), thinking it would appeal to me. I saw it and can report that it is a terrific film, with an excellent ensemble cast, including the minor characters. It captures how race is the prism through which most people instinctively initially view things, even though they may know better intellectually. It also shows the unpleasantness and damage that such unreflective responses can cause. It shows how people are complex in their motivations. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

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