Because this letter from a lawyer complaining about the decision to have the anti-evolution sticker removed from textbooks makes my brain bleed. This was the sticker that said,
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
That sticker was nothing but sneaky creationist propaganda—it strangely singles out evolution for critical thought, it implies an inappropriate meaning to the word “theory” (that it is the opposite of a fact), and it’s clearly an attempt to sow uncertainty and doubt in the minds of schoolchildren in an area where there shouldn’t be any. It was thrown out by a judge, but this creationist lawyer is now trying to say that decision was wrong.
The guy has 3 general arguments against the court decision.
The first issue of concern relates to the possibility that the trial court will assess
not the actual effect on actual people in Cobb County of the actual sequence of events
that led to adoption of the Sticker, but will instead assess the potential effect knowledge
of the sequence of events could have had on hypothetical individuals, had those
hypothetical individuals been exposed to information they could, perhaps, have learned
of but that, in reality, they never were exposed to.
If a policeman caught me in the act of picking your pocket, I could argue that any harm done was purely hypothetical; perhaps you would never have noticed your missing cash, except for the fact of the policeman alarming you. Therefore, the picking of pockets is perfectly legal unless you can actually demonstrate that the person picked was aware of my intent and was conscious of a material loss.
Do all lawyers think this way? It’s freaking me out, man.
There is a second profound problem in the Appellate decision. The Appellate
Court appears to accept that it is appropriate to analyze the “effect” of the Sticker by
itself, divorced from its essential context, namely, in the context of the adoption by the
School Board for the first time of a textbook teaching evolution, without removing the
evolution material. To ignore the School Board’s inclusion of pro-evolution material in
the curriculum as part of the “sequence of events” leading to the Sticker would be like
looking at the war between the U.S. and Japan War 1941-1945 but omitting the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor. Including the evolution material in the teaching curriculum sent
exactly the opposite message from the message condemned by the trial court: namely, it
sent the message that those who endorse evolution are now the political insiders, and
those who doubt evolution are now the political outsiders. The trial court must analyze
the entire sequence of events, including the inclusion of the evolution material for the
first time in the curriculum, to determine the “effect” of the Sticker. After all, the
inclusion of the pro-evolution material is the reason the dispute arose in the first place.
Plaintiffs are attempting implicitly to take this part of the sequence of events off the table,
as if the inclusion of the pro-evolution material were a constitutional requirement whose
effect should be ignored. So far, in the United States, it is not.
Well, that’s just lovely. We have a sticker inserted into a textbook with clear anti-science intent; he wants to turn the complaint around, and blame the original addition of scientific content to a science textbook. After all, what possible reason could a science textbook author have for including science, unless it was either a) religious motivation, or b) the Constitution tells him to do so?
So, when I’m caught picking your pocket, one of my lines of defense is to claim that just maybe your money was obtained by robbing a bank, and if it was, I’m not guilty.
A third fundamental problem with the Appellate decision is that it appears to
accept an implicit assumption that “those who endorse evolution” do so because they
have made a rational, independent evaluation of the scientific data offered as evidence for
its truth. But if, in fact, they endorse evolution because they have chosen to give
unquestioning deference to science experts, it may be appropriate to treat their position as
simply another religious position, rather than being a position divorced from religion.
This may affect the application of the constitutional test, if it appears that the plaintiffs
are in effect trying to support their own religious views by suppressing the Sticker. The
court should take evidence as to the reasons why, prior to filing the lawsuit, the particular
individual plaintiffs “endorsed” evolution, rather than simply presume that their reasons
for endorsing evolution were grounded in their science education. Surely plaintiffs who
did not experience formal academic instruction in evolution should be questioned as to
why they endorsed evolution prior to filing the lawsuit.
Archy has a good summary of why that particular argument is wacky—it appears to argue that anything anyone believes can be defined as a religion. This is going to be a useful defense at my trial: I’m going to show that the policeman’s unquestioning deference to the law means he was practicing a religion, and was therefore in violation of the separation of church and state, and that my belief that your wallet belonged to me was merely a tenet of my religion, and that the whole trial is therefore an attempt to suppress my right to express my profound faith in the oneness of everyone’s pockets. I’m also going to get the prosecuting
attorney priest disbarred.
Until this silliness by Edward Sisson gets laughed out of a court somewhere, though, I recommend you stay away from ol’ Sticky Fingers Myers.