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Good Democracy, Bad Democracy, and No Democracy

Henry Neufeld is entitled to an opinion. So are all these people:

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=581

Only 12% of the adults in the U.S. think Darwinian evolution should be taught in a vacuum. Biblical creationism is out on establishment clause grounds but ID is neutral on the nature of the intelligence and widely supported as contrast for unintelligent evolution. What kind of democracy are we living in when 12% of the people get to censor what 88% want to their children exposed to in public schools? A bad democracy at best. ID may never be accepted in the halls of academia but it’s already overwhelmingly accepted by the public. The only question that remains is whether a vast majority will allow a small minority to continue dictating public school curricula to them.

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26 Responses to Good Democracy, Bad Democracy, and No Democracy

  1. I agree that ID has just as much of a right to be taught as unintelligent evolution. But I rue the day that public opinion dictates science.

    What are your thoughts on federal judges dictating science? -ds

  2. This is my commentary on the Dover case. I am a Christian and a keen supporter of the intelligent design hypothesis. I do feel that intelligent design’s assertions constitute a valid critique of the Darwinian notion that random variation/natural selection can (by itself) account for all diversity and sophistication in living things, and I do wish that Darwinism’s central tenet could be critically examined in the high-school biology classroom. However, I honestly fail to see how such critiques could be admitted in that particular setting without simultaneously violating church-state separation and eroding the public’s esteem for intelligent design.

    Intelligent design advocates cannot count on biology instructors to make consistently neutral presentations of their idea nationwide. If intelligent design was allowed widespread dissemination in biological science lectures, some teachers would remain suitably vague regarding the designer’s identity. This would be proper because the designer’s specific characteristics are unknown. However, other teachers would inevitably hint that Jesus Christ was the designer and append pro-Christian remarks to any discussion of ID. They would make biased statements with a missionary zeal that is very characteristic of members of the Christian far-right. Such religious fervor would be delivered in many cases with an assertive demeanor that would prove offensive to both students and their parents. The negative reactions would be amplified by the often mandatory nature of high-school biology courses. Students exposed to such overtly religious content in a setting where their attendance is compulsory would justifiably regard themselves as a captive audience. The leaders of the intelligent design movement invoke academic freedom and Darwinism’s arguably questionable conclusions regarding species origins and the rise of metabolic complexity as reasons for an intelligent design counterpoint in the classroom, and insist that the result would be a balanced treatment of evolutionary theory. They fail to appreciate another consequence: that Christian missionary soundbytes would lace biology lectures nationwide and condition many students to respond to intelligent design with resentment – not appreciation.

    Therefore, I propose a compromise to both sides of the Dover, Pennsylvania debate: intelligent design advocates should promote voluntary exposure to their ideas rather than mandated instruction. One ideal venue of exposure would be elective philosophy courses. Philosophy has been arguing teleology for centuries. Student organizations and clubs promoting intelligent design outside the classroom could also disseminate the idea. Voluntary public meetings and publishing would supplement their campaign. Such relative humility would maximize student (and public) receptivity to intelligent design, whereas mandated promotion of ID would precipitously erode sympathy for the concept. Science students should hear intelligent design’s critiques of Darwinism on a voluntary basis only. Best regards to all! – apollo230

  3. “However, other teachers would inevitably hint that Jesus Christ was the designer and append pro-Christian remarks to any discussion of ID.”

    Teachers can make all sorts of inappropriate remarks in the classroom. Imagine the number of openings a sex education class provides. This is why there are disciplinary actions ranging from verbal warnings to written warnings to suspension to termination for these things.

    Now that I think about it termination isn’t the worst that can happen. Teachers can say or do things that’ll land them in jail too.

  4. apollo230

    “They would make biased statements with a missionary zeal that is very characteristic of members of the Christian far-right.”

    I am afraid, as we lawyers say, your argument proves too much. You have proposed the following criterion to govern Establishment Clause analysis: If there is a danger that some teachers will run amuck and teach the metaphysical implications of the theory – rather than the theory itself – with missionary zeal, we must rule the theory out of bounds for the government schools.

    If this were actually the criterion governing Establishment Clause analysis, the very first thing we would have to do is ban the teaching of Darwinism in all of the government schools as soon as possible, because it is certain beyond the slightest peradventure that metaphysical naturalists are using Darwinism as a stalking horse to indoctrinate our children with their religious/metaphysical/philosophical (that is to say, non-scientific) views.

    So you see, your criterion applies just as much to the teaching of Darwinism as it does to the teaching of ID. And if your criterion were incorporated into the law, there would be no logical reason to allow the teaching of Darwinism and not ID unless we choose to discriminate in favor of the religious views of metaphysical naturalists and against the religious views of theists of any stripe, including, but not limited to, far right Christians.

  5. Henry Neufield: “Many Christians right now are deceived into thinking that somehow these scientists who advocate ID have “proven” the existence of God and the presence of the creator. Because they believe this has been scientifically proven, they cannot see why it should not be taught as science in the classroom.”

    It would be nice if Neufield could both qualify and quantify his phrase “many Christians”, for this is not my experience at all. I run in Christian circles of varying degrees and have yet to find one example of someone believing that God has been scientifically proven. Unless Henry is tapping the statistically insignificant front end of the Bell curve here, I am confounded as to whom he is referring. He might hunt down those who believe Elvis alive as well.

    Indeed, it can rightly be argued that the vast majority of Christians have no need of (and little interest in) scientific proof whatsoever. My faith is my faith and ID, proven or not, changes it not a whit. For, if it did, I would hardly own a place among the faithful. ID may enhance it, may provoke it, may prod it, may make it more intellectually fulfilling, but it has no monopoly on me.

    Thus, as always, ID detractors, from mild to malicious, from the front or the flank, must first pronounce their quarry idiots on whom they may then shower their burgeoning intellect. Tiresome, to say the least. Visitors with agendas who alight here, almost to a person, presume a confederacy of dunces only to be promptly hoisted on their own petard (anyone remember coiled computer cable guy?). Where are the thoughtful ID skeptics who can stand toe-to-toe without magnanimously stooping to dither with their “inferiors”? That skeptic, and that skeptic only, might deserve a Christian’s respectful attention.

    Mr. Neufield, I’m not sure what church you attend or what churches you visit, but mine can claim doctors, lawyers, engineers, CPA’s, and other professionals of myriad occupations. It can also claim truck drivers, grocery clerks, civil servants, warehouse workers, carpenters, and masons. They believe in God. They do not believe, do not even desire to believe, that God has been scientifically proven. Get a grip.

  6. I don’t see how Neufeld could be anything but wrong when he calls ID “bad theology”. It’s not theology at all. I tentatively classify ID as a philosophical concept which makes testable claims as to the origins of natural phenomena by comparing and contrasting them with the products of known intelligent agents as distinguishable from the products of understood unintelligent natural processes. To claim that some particular entity (God, angels, demons, aliens, etc…) is responsible for a valid design inference would require extra information–i.e. independently acquired information which essentially puts a name tag on a designer. One effect of such independently acquired information is that it can give us the ability to predict where, when, and how the designer will act (See what I wrote here.), Such information can lead us directly to supernatural explanations, but as has been made quite clear elsewhere, it is extraneous to that required to make a valid design inference. In summary, strong supernatural implications are not the same thing as supernatural invocation. Nature shows what nature shows. Theological paradigms just have to adapt to the facts; if I understand what Neufeld wrote, he agrees with this.

  7. “I agree that ID has just as much of a right to be taught as unintelligent evolution. But I rue the day that public opinion dictates science.”

    The problem is not the (non-scientist) public dictating science, but the science establishment dictating what the public is allowed to know.

  8. “I rue the day that public opinion dictates science.”

    I don’t often find myself in agreement with Qualitative, but on this point I am. Leaving the ID/Evolution debate aside, public understanding of science is rather sad, and I bet you could get a decent portion of the population to support the teaching of just about anything, especially if you framed it as a teach the controversy scenario. For example, in a 2002 NSF survey, less than half of those polled answered that humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time. This in mind, I think you’re entering dangerous territory when you advocate letting public opinion dictate what we teach in science. I know it’s tempting to support this when it supports your cause, but we can’t very well say that the public only gets to pick on this one issue. I think this would open a metaphorical floodgate that in the end wouldn’t be worth it even for those who do want ID in the classroom.

    Exactly how is it going to matter whether the guy that fixes your car, delivers your mail, owns the gas station, know whether or not dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time? Given your inability think through any of the nonsense you write I’m surprised that you know dinosaurs and humans didn’t live at the same time. Now go away and take both your brain cells with you. -ds

  9. “I rue the day that public opinion dictates science.”

    I don’t often find myself in agreement with Qualitative, but on this point I am. – Tiax

    ————————-

    Experts deceive themselves, each other and the general public all the time. Citizens in a democracy have no obligation to ignore their B.S. detectors when they’re pegged out by the pronouncements of science (or any other) experts.

  10. Thanks for your response, BarryA! I read your response in detail and sincerely enjoyed it.

    Yes, many teachers of evolution are stressing that evolution is an unguided process with no mind, purpose or foresight, and this does amount to a promotion of what you termed metaphysical naturalism (I take that to mean strict materialism). They have no business making such grand, sweeping and blatantly unproven assertions. You are absolutely right, Barry! They talk just like far-right Christians with their “this-is-it, period!” attitude. If evolutionary biologists were intellectually honest about evolutionary mechanisms, they would be very tentative and cautious in their pronounced judgments. They should be saying things like “our best guess is” rather than “this is so”.

    How to remedy the current institutional bias that stands in favor of metaphysical naturalism? Challenging Darwinist violations of the Establishment Clause, and promoting ID in the environment of mandated school courses, amount to a very-uphill battle considering the strong secular tradition in our legal system. Given this fact, I do not foresee a legal struggle having any success. Also, I still have misgivings about promoting intelligent design within the environment of mandated courses for reasons I already gave. My alternative strategy for ID-promotion: elective philosophy courses, publishing (Dembski’s fine books are strong weapons), after-school student clubs and public meetings would certainly keep ID in the public consciousness. I vaguely recollect a Chinese proverb that says flowing water will wear down the rocks given time. If a confrontational legal strategy is certain to fail, we must put our faith in more gentle, protracted strategies to make the case for ID.

    Another thing that can be done is to create an association of universities for research into design detection. This umbrella organization would link diverse faculty together to share research findings, and they would issue their own journal. Most of the schools involved initially would (predictably) have religious mission statements, but even such a group could get the message out and establish the tradition of design research at the university level. If this group were inter-denominational and stressed design detection (in various fields, not just evolutionary biology) rather than religious dogma, that would be a start.

    Best regards,
    apollo230

  11. Exactly how is it going to matter whether the guy that fixes your car, delivers your mail, owns the gas station, know whether or not dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time? Given your inability think through any of the nonsense you write I’m surprised that you know dinosaurs and humans didn’t live at the same time. Now go away and take both your brain cells with you. -ds

    Because the child who might grow up to be a scientist, and make important contributions to our society won’t be taught science, and will instead end up to be the guy who fixes the car or delivers the mail. Sure, by the time they’ve grown up and missed their chance it won’t matter, but we’re talking about kids who still have a chance at growing up to have a job where science is important.

    Excuse me for pointing out your illogic again, but ID doesn’t teach that that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. If a large number of people don’t know humans and dinosaurs didn’t live at the same time it’s the fault of CURRENT science education which DOES NOT include ID. Don’t be telling us IDers how to teach science when the Darwin apologists have failed so miserably. Three strikes you’re out. Goodbye. -ds

  12. “What are your thoughts on federal judges dictating science? -ds”

    …deplorably fascist.

  13. There is a huge disconnect here about about the general public. I can point to anarchist and gothics who worship at the feet of Marilyn Manson while he tears Bibles apart:

    http://www.google.com/search?h.....lyn+manson

    The majority will tell you God does not exist. They are for the most part ignorant of the most simple concepts of evolution or ID. They are ignorant, uninformed and lost.

    Should I equate them all with the Science of Evolution?

    According to the projections of Panda, I should and my doing so would be equally as valid in comparison.

    The argument put forward by Neufeld is a false-positive. It feigns ignorance of the entire subject because of misrepresentation by certain groups.

    By his very definition – because Marilyn Manson fans believe in evolution we should all eschew it due to their level of ignorance.

    Next….

  14. “However, other teachers would inevitably hint that Jesus Christ was the designer and append pro-Christian remarks to any discussion of ID.” Y’ know a lot of us, scientists included see the Big Bang as the creation event. The fact that the big bang can be so interpreted must surely establish that it also is a religious perspective, and should not be taught due to the establishment clause. After all, who was it that referred to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Big Bang?

  15. apollo230

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the approach you suggest. The point of my post was very narrow — Christians are not the onlyh ones that preach their religious beliefs with missionary zeal, and if you cast your net to catch preaching you’ll haul in both naturalists and theists.

  16. Tiax

    “I think you’re entering dangerous territory when you advocate letting public opinion dictate what we teach in science.”

    We live in a constitutional democracy. The will of the majority expressed through their elective representatives controls everything except in those very narrowly circumscribed cases where the Constitution protects minority rights (I don’t mean racial minority necessarily. By “minority” I mean any group of people opposed to the will of the majority).

    Where the Constitution protects minority rights it says to the majority ocean: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” For example, the Constitution prevents a majority, no matter how large, from establishing a religion; or imposing double jeopardy on a criminal defendant; or denying a newspaper the right to publish its editorial position.

    But in all cases where the Constitution does not speak, the majority rules. That’s what it means to live in a democracy. If you don’t like what the majority has done you can agitate for political change, accept it, or move to the next state. You have no right to ask a judge to overturn the will of the majority, no matter how foolishly you believe they have behaved.

    Where does science fit into this mix? A school board can mandate the teaching of anything – even if you and I agree that it is utterly foolish – so long as it does not violate someone’s constitutional rights. For example, the overwhelming majority of cosmologists accept some form of the big bang. But if a school board insists that its teachers teach a steady state universe, there is no remedy other than to go to the polls and throw the rascals out.

    Conclusion: Whether you like it or not, public opinion already dictates what is taught in science classes in this country. The only reason you don’t realize this is that this power is rarely, if ever, abused. There is only one exception to majority control over our science classes of which I am aware. That is the case where a federal judge has abused his power to interpret the Constitution to impose his social policy beliefs on his fellow citizens by excluding one particular scientific theory of origins from the government schools.

  17. Cheerfully acknowledged, Barry, the net would catch both. I am in full agreement with you.

  18. Barry wrote:

    For example, the Constitution prevents a majority, no matter how large, from establishing a religion; or imposing double jeopardy on a criminal defendant; or denying a newspaper the right to publish its editorial position.

    Not even these can stand against a 75% majority of the states.

  19. Barry, I know you like constitutional issues. Has it occurred to you that a minority of voters may, in theory, be able to amend the constitution? Amendments require ratification of 75% of the states. But in each state legislature, or constitutional convention, only a simple majority is required. For the sake of argument let’s presume the conventions are referendums so each voter gets a direct vote.

    If we add up the populations of the smallest 75% of the states it is far less than 51% of the total population of U.S. It’s barely a third.

    I didn’t add it up by red state and blue state but given states with smaller populations tend to be red states… the next constitutional amendment might be quite interesting. I can hear the howls from the blue states already. :cool:

  20. Q:
    But I rue the day that public opinion dictates science.

    Public opinion should at least dictate an honest and open discussion. That would be a good start.

    Nostrowski:
    Indeed, it can rightly be argued that the vast majority of Christians have no need of (and little interest in) scientific proof whatsoever.

    Two things- science is not about proof and as Einstein told us “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

  21. ID’s fate is not decided in a court-room, or in Congress, or in school board meetings. It is decided in human minds. It will live in some and die in others. That’s the way it’s going to be.
    Best regards,
    apollo230

  22. DaveScot:

    Article V states: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress;”

    Thus, all amendments must go through two hoops: Hoop 1: Either 2/3 of both houses of Congress or 2/3 of the state legislatures shall call a convention to propose amendments. Hoop 2: Ratification of the proposed amendment by 3/4 of the state legislatures or 3/4 of the stated conventions.

    The only way amendments have ever actually been apprived is through the 2/3 of Congress to 3/4 of the state legislatures method. The convention method, while still possible in theory, has never been tried.

    By requiring each amendment to jump through both of these hoops, the framers ensured that no amendment would be ratified unless there was a widespread consensus.

  23. BarryA

    I qualified referendum conventions with “for the sake of argument”. I also said it was possible “in theory”. Nothing you said disputed the theory, only that it had never been done in pratice.

    You weren’t quite right on conventions either. Hoop 2 of the 21st amendment was via convention. Hoop 1, introducing an amendment, has never been utilized. That’s why I said “in theory”.

    My point still stands as firmly as ever. In theory a minority can modify the constitution.

    I’ll go further by roughly quantifying that minority. If 66% of the smallest states collectively constitute 33% of the population of the US (the actual number is less than 33%) then 51% of the voters in those states can introduce an amendment via convention. Thus it requires, properly apportioned by state, only 17% of the voting population in the U.S. to introduce an amendment.

    Furthermore, if 75% of the smallest states collectively constitute 50% of the US population (the actual number is less than 50%) then 51% of the voters in those states can ratify an amendment via either legislatures or conventions, assuming the legislature votes according to a majority of the residents. Thus it requires, properly appportioned by state, only 25% of the voting population in the U.S. to ratify an amendment.

    The constitutional amendment process isn’t what you think it is if you think the founders meant for it to be the “will of the people”. They meant it to be “the will of the states” with each state getting a separate but equal vote regardless of whether that state is New York (current population 19 million) or Delaware (current population 619,000).

    I used New York and Delaware because they were both amongst the 13 original states. The maximum population skew is actually 70:1, California vs. Wyoming respectively. Imagine that. Little red state Wyoming with a population of 500,000 has an equal vote in proposing and ratifying constutional amendments as does big blue state California with 35 million residents.

    It isn’t at all difficult to understand how it purposely came to be that constitutional amendments are a matter of the will of a majority of states not the will of a majority of people. When the original constitution was ratified it the small states who were attending the constitutional convention weren’t dummies. They knew that much larger states could run roughshod over them by virtue of number of voters so they insisted on certain powers that couldn’t be diminished or increased by number of voters. Among those powers were equality in the constitutional amendment process and equal representation in the US Senate.

    If you haven’t guess by now I’m strict constitutional constructionist and that includes strong independent states rights. Where the constitution reads The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people I pay heed.

    If I could choose an amendment for repeal (or modify in this case) it would be the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment which has been used to force state compliance with such things as federal interference with abortion and education. Can you imagine the founders wanting Washington, D.C. micromanaging the states on things like abortion and education? I can’t. The federation was formed to provide for 3 things; a common defense, a common currency, and regulation of interstate commerce. How on earth do abortion and education fall within any of those? If I could choose a second amendment to modify it would be the 16th – income tax. This has been abused as well to interfere with the independence of states. The federal government directly collects a usurious percentage of income from state residents then offers it back to the state legislatures with strings attached. The old 55mph speed limit is my favorite case in point. Because there was no way to possibly justify the constitutionality of a federal 55mph speed limit on intrastate highways the feds threatened to withhold highway construction/maintenance funds from any state that didn’t make a statewide maximum speed limit of 55mph. That’s just plain ugly and wanton abuse of power by the feds.

  24. DaveScot,

    I meant that the convention method has never been used to propose an amendment, which is true. You are quite correct that the 21st amendment, while proposed by 2/3 of each house of Congress, was ratified by conventions of 3/4 of the states.

  25. DaveScot,

    Now that I’m thinking of it, a case could be made that, in theory, the Constitution could be amended by a few thousand people, not a few million. Nothing in the Constitution requires the voters of the states to approve a convention. Therefore, the legislatures of 2/3 of the states could call conventions to propose an amendment, and that amendment could in turn be ratified by the legislatures or conventions of 3/4 of the states. No voter is ever asked for his/her opinion on the matter.

    When I was in the Colorado legislature there was a proposal to call a constitutional convention to propose amendments for some matter (I forget what; I think it had something to do with putting some teeth in the 10th Amendment). I opposed it on the ground that a convention, once called, can run amuck, as did the first convention. While the first run away convention did good work, I would not hope for the same today.

  26. BarryA

    Interesting. I was presuming that state legislatures would be faithfully representing a majority of their constituents but of course once elected there’s nothing binding them to it and there’s considerable debate about whether they should even attempt it with those that do often earning the pejorative “poll-driven politician”.

    Twenty-six states have laws authorizing recall elections. If the scenario you mention happened against majority wishes in the two thirds of proposing states would there be time for recall elections before ratification was possible? I’m not aware of any limiting time table so a well organized effort could get it done in a very short time. I think most state legislatures have debate rules that allow filibuster so simple majorities wouldn’t cut it as the opposition could drag it out long enough to get a recall election.

    At any rate, someone should start a grassroots movement and name it the “Red State Movement” or something like that. Check out all these cool maps. Almost 66% of the states are red but the red/blue population is almost evenly split. Since the constitution favors majorities of states over majorities of people we (as members of red states) should be interested in taking greater advantage of numerical (number of states) superiority.

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