Unless you’re a nerd, you probably didn’t know that PBS recently aired a documentary about the Dover Intelligent Design Trial called “Judgment Day, Intelligent Design on Trial.” Laudably, instead of striving for an artificial journalistic balance, the piece instead went for overall accuracy, which, needless to say, has left the Discovery Institute profoundly pissed. They’ve naturally been bitching up a storm about it, which is always a grand new opportunity for avid fans of falsehoods to get their fix.
Taking the cake with the silliest possible argument, however, is resident DI barrister Casey Luskin, who seems to think that he’s hit upon a truly devious bit of spin: that repeating the program’s claim that “evolution is not inherently anti-religious” would violate the establishment clause if ever mentioned in public schools. “We’re afraid that teachers might get sued,” says Luskin.
Well now. Even if this “fear” weren’t about as sincere as vultures being deeply concerned about the well being of a hiker lost in the desert without a canteen, the logic here is truly daft. I suspect it relies almost exclusively on choosing not to understand what the word “inherently” means. Instead, Luskin seems to be pretending that the sentence reads “there is no possible conflict between evolution and your religious beliefs,” which really would violate the establishment clause if taught in a public school. But it just doesn’t say that, no matter how you look at it. It simply says that a conflict between the two is neither necessary or universal: a simple fact that in no way contradicts anyone’s belief that their religious beliefs are incompatible with evolutionary science.
In effect, the statement is logically equivalent to saying that “evolution does not necessarily have to conflict with ones religious beliefs.” This is basic grammatical logic here folks: diagram the sucker out with neutral terms if you don’t believe me. “X is not inherently B” in no way implies “X is never B” or even “it’s wrong to think that X is B in my case.” It just means that “X isn’t always B, and doesn’t have to be B.”
Luskin’s logically illiterate interpretation is instead just flat-out phony. For a guy who spends the rest of his article whining about alleged straw men and misrepresentations, you’d think he’d take more care in this area.
Besides, how can any statement about the way in which evolutionary science is defined be a “religious” view? Evolutionary biology just isn’t inherently anti-religious: this is simply a matter of understanding what it actually says, not an opinion that depends on anyone’s particular theology. Even if you do think that the conclusions or methodology of evolutionary science violate your religious beliefs, you’d still have to admit that they aren’t in conflict with all possible religious views, or with religion in general. You’d probably even have to admit that evolution does not itself purport to be anti-religious.
After admitting that, you’re then more than welcome to make arguments that evolution is, ultimately, a tool of Satan or destructive to all that is good and pure, or whatever. I still might think you’re wrong, but at least I won’t think you’re the sort of smirkingly dishonest douchebag that Luskin is.