I confess that I really don’t know much about this fellow, Steven D. Smith. He’s a lawyer, and he seems to be firmly in the Intelligent Design creationism camp, and that about exhausts my knowledge of the man.
As Steven D. Smith, Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego, says: “The mainstream science establishment and the courts tell us, in censorious tones that sometimes sound a bit desperate, that intelligent design is just a lot of fundamentalist cant. It’s not. We’ve heard the Darwinist story, and we owe it to ourselves to hear the other side.”
I already don’t like him. He’s inaccurate — we don’t refer to IDists as fundamentalists, for the most part; we know they’re not, and we also know that many of the fundamentalists don’t like them very much — and he uses the term “Darwinist,” which throws up another big red flag.
So when Brian Leiter suggested I might find his critique of Smith amusing, I was game … but now I must also confess that I find most of the dissection of Smith’s legal philosophy and his argument that jurisprudence is heading for extinction a bit beyond me. At least, that is, until I hit this paragraph, and discovered what was amusing.
[U]nder modern conventions, academic discussion is supposed to be carried on in secular terms, meaning, for the most part, the terms of scientific naturalism and of common sense everyday experience. In attempting to explain some happening or phenomenon, it is perfectly permissible for modern scholars to refer to religion—or to people’s beliefs in God. By contrast, actual appeals to God, or to anything that looks metaphysically suspicious or exotic, are out of bounds. As a result of this drastic narrowing of the range of admissible argument or explanation, claims or positions that would once have been framed forthrightly in theological terms now must be translated into more secular terms—or else abandoned.
Oh. So Steven D. Smith believes that a sign of the decline of the significance of jurisprudence is that lawyers can no longer invoke the authority of a deity in their arguments and be taken seriously. No wonder he’s on the side of Intelligent Design creationism! Since their only argument is a claim to the inside track on what’s going on inside the mind of their divine Designer, the fact that the law doesn’t treat testimony about what God told the witness or lawyer as the literal Ultimate Word really scuttles their case.
Maybe in the next Dover case the creationists can subpoena the burning bush to get around this narrowing of admissibility.