Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Legality of Teaching Intelligent Design: Part II

A few days ago I wrote about a debate between Francis Beckwith and Douglas Laycock over at Legal Affairs Debate Club. Their topic: "Is Teaching Intelligent Design Illegal?" I concluded with this:
A fundamental illegality occurs when a public-school teacher is barred by law from teaching about a possible explanation for the existence of life. As it also says in the First Amendment: "Congress [and, by extension, all governmental bodies] . . . shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. . . ." It seems to me that a general proscription by any legislative body or court of the teaching of intelligent design as a possibility would be in violation of the First Amendment.
Laycock's latest entry in the debate nevertheless includes this observation:
Religious students can believe what they want about God's role in directing or even bypassing natural explanations. The Constitution protects all such beliefs, but they are not scientific beliefs, and they are not beliefs that can be taught—or opposed—in the public schools. The science course can teach only the best available natural explanation; it must leave all questions about supernatural explanations to the private sector.
In sum, freedom of speech on the subject of evolution comes down to this: If it isn't science, it can't be taught. Says who? Several months ago, in "Going Too Far with the First Amendment," I wrote this:
Think of the fine mess we'd be in if the courts were to rule against the teaching of intelligent design not because it amounts to an establishment of religion but because it's unscientific. That would open the door to all sorts of judicial mischief. The precedent could -- and would -- be pulled out of context and used in limitless ways to justify government interference in matters where government has no right to interfere.

It's bad enough that government is in the business of funding science -- though I can accept such funding wheere it actually aids our defense effort. But, aside from that, government has no business deciding for the rest of us what's scientific or unscientific. When it gets into that business, you had better be ready for a rerun of the genetic policies of the Third Reich.
Aside from advancing us down the slippery slope toward absolute statism, the argument that schools should be in the business of teaching only that which courts deem "scientific" is nothing short of fatuous. If schools were in the business of teaching only scientifically valid lessons in government, history, and economics, most of the textbooks that praise government intervention in the economic and social order would have to be burned, for there is abundant evidence of the wrongness of such teachings.

I'll make a deal with Laycock and his band of merry pseudo-scientists: I'll let you ban the teaching of ID in public schools if you'll let me reciprocate by banning the teaching of socialism in public schools.