Judge orders removal of "evolution disclaimer" stickers in Georgia, USA

by seattleniceguy 72 Replies latest social current

  • TD

    Hi Euphemism,

    You said:

    I would argue that the motives of the proponents are irrelevant.

    I agree to a point. While Alan, you, myself or anyone else may freely speculate on the motives of the Cobb County School Board, the Court confined itself to the three-prong test of Lemon vs. Kurtzman.

    In most Establishment Clause cases involving challenges to statutes or school board policies there is a stated purpose for the statute or policy. Motivation therefore can become an issue in light of stated purpose where such exists. (e.g. If the stated purpose of the sticker had been to promote creationism, motivation would certainly have been an issue regardless of how neutrally worded the sticker itself was.)

    In this case, the Cobb County School Board had the legal foresight to let the sticker stand on it's own with no explicit statement of purpose and the court therefore found that it passed the purpose prong of the Lemon analysis insofar as it served at least two secular purposes.

    Where the sticker failed, was not in purpose but in effect. "The effects prong asks whether the statement at issue in fact conveys a message of endorsement or disapproval of religion to an informed, reasonable observer."

    In this case, an informed, reasonable observer would be aware of the lengthy debate between advocates of evolution and proponents of creation over whether evolution should be taught as a "fact" or a "theory." With that in mind, pandering to the popular, colloquial meaning of the term "theory" effectually disavows the endorsement of evolution as a scientific theory. The court therefore held that the effect was the impermissible advancement of a religious message.

    Therefore while stating that, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" might have been appropriate in other contexts, (e.g. An elective course on origin theories) it was inappropriate in this particular context because it reflected an exact alignment with those Cobb County citizens who had voiced opposition to the teaching of evolution for religious reasons.

  • seattleniceguy

    Hey Euph,

    I would argue that the motives of the proponents are irrelevant.

    I understand where you're coming from, but I don't think it is simple motive in this case that is the issue. I think AlanF is right when he points out that this sticker does not exist in a vaccuum. Just as the message in the Awake he cites may sound neutral but be brimming with hidden messages just below the suface, supplied by the context, so this sticker is chock-full of religious connotations, and most people reading it will know what those connotations are. It is a clever example of double-speak, which depends for its power on the fact that most people can read between the lines. If this were not true, the sticker would be meaningless.

    So what we have is deliberate deception designed to advance religious ideas even if the literal, surface reading appears benign. In my opinion, however, even the literal, surface reading is totally inappropriate because of the clear lack of understanding of basic scientific concepts it reveals.


  • AlanF

    Euphemism wrote:

    : On question #1, I would argue that the motives of the proponents are irrelevant.

    And I've shown beyond a reasonable degree, as has TD, that in a certain sense, motives are extremely relevant. So as not to repeat already-posted arguments, please see my comments to czarofmischief. Note particularly my asides to you.

    : Except in cases of blatant discrimination, the idea that an inquiry into the facial constitutionality of a statute can depend on something as subjective as motive is anathema to the neutrality and broad applicability required by constitutional law. To my knowledge, the idea has not even been suggested in any field other than Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

    Well, dealing with "Establishment Clause jurisprudence" is a rather subjective enterprise. And that's what the courts are there for -- to sort it out.

    : The 20th century interpretation of the Establishment Clause as forbidding any governmental promotion of religion is a significant--albeit, IMHO, justified--departure from the original meaning of the clause. To add a test of motive is to stretch the clause beyond any reasonable reading of the text.

    If you can argue your case based on my arguments to czarofmischief, then please do. As it stands, you've not addressed a lot of important points. Such as the fact that, as seattleniceguy said, the courts ought not to allow anyone to use doubletalk and deliberately ambiguous language to insert their religious agenda into government sponsored programs.

    : On question #2, I would have to do further research before presenting a case (and I intend to do so, time permitting, and post the results on my blog, with a link here). But the overall trend of Supreme Court Establishment Clause decisions over the last 15 years has been away from the Lemon standard, which included motive in the analysis, and towards a more neutral 'endorsement' standard.

    I know nothing of such court cases, but I suspect that if many more cases come up where creationists try to sneak their agendas into school curricula, the courts will take a lot more notice.

    : The prohibited 'endorsement', however, is not merely the endorsement of one group of citizens over another; it is the endorsement of a religious viewpoint.

    : For example, there are currently 'dry counties' in the United States. In many cases, the strongest supporters of keeping those counties alcohol-free are Baptist Christians.

    Texas is a good example.

    : Still, the prohibition of alcohol does not violate the Establishment Clause.

    Correction: no one has yet seen fit to go to the trouble of bringing a challenge. If the same sort of guns were brought to bear as were brought in the 1981 Arkansas creation law case, I suspect that the laws would fall. The fact is that such laws exist purely because of religious sentiments, and it simply is not right to force everyone in a U.S. county to live by the religious standards of one segment. Indeed, the Constitution exists partly to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority, right?

    : On the other hand, if the county paid for public service announcements that urged people not to drink because it's unchristian,

    They wouldn't be that stupid.

    : that would clearly violate the Establishment Clause. The key to violation is the state's endorsement of an actual religious viewpoint, not merely a political viewpoint promoted by religious individuals.

    I hope that that changes, and the standard becomes one of consistently measuring the effect, not just the appearance of neutrality.

    : Similarily, a sticker that questions evolution--even one that singles out evolution for questioning--is not expressing a religious viewpoint. It is expressing an opinion about a secular, scientific matter.

    Not necessarily. Apparently you haven't studied the way in which creationists have gone to great lengths to disguise their religious agenda in many attempts in the last several decades to get school boards and states to adopt standards mandating the teaching of creationism or relegating the teaching of evolution to one of teaching a religious idea. These people would have no motive to do this were it not for their religious beliefs. The proof is that, as I've shown in other posts in this thread, folks like Phillip Johnson couch their arguments in secular terms for secular audiences, but in relgious terms for Christian audiences. It's all doubletalk designed to deceive. On the other hand, if someone refrained from all religious references and truly came up with purely secular objections, that would be another story. Nevertheless, the Georgia sticker is either unnecessary because it states a virtually meaningless non sequitur, or it violates the establishment clause of the Constitution because it states a meaningful religious viewpoint -- which the judge pointed out quite clearly.

    : That opinion may be woefully ill-informed, but there is no constitutional provision requiring school boards to provide accurate scientific eduction about evolution, chemistry, or any other subject.

    Constitutional, no. State-mandated -- yes indeed. And ethically, yes indeed.

    :: To creationists, the sticker's retention would have been a political victory in that it would have been a wedge that might allow further inroads into dismantling the Satanic institutions that teach Godless evolution. To evolutionists, the sticker's retention would have been a political defeat

    : Every political dispute has winners or losers. If a statute were unconstitutional merely because the winners or losers were religious or anti-religious groups, then those groups would be automatically barred from participating in politics. If that is what you are proposing, then go ahead and argue it outright, and we'll have at it.

    That is not what I'm proposing. I'm proposing something very simple: government sponsored programs should not give even the appearance of promoting any religious viewpoints. The private sector is the place for that.


  • AlanF

    For GetBusyLiving27:

    I found an extensive online critique of the book that Ray Franz was endorsing: http://www.ncseweb.org/icons/


  • czarofmischief

    Alan, I only respond to 20 percent of your argument because the other 80 percent is bunk, repetition, and prejudice. However, 1 out of 5 comments being somewhat meaningful isn't too bad, ace. Keep on swinging. Try some "clear" it'll help those old arms connect a little more. Now you've wandered off the path of what actually "is" and are striking at what you imagine must be. This sticker doesn't exist in a vacuum. Correct. It is in an atmosphere of a lot of hot air.

    You're arguments are very mixed up, czar.

    So is your syntax.

    As a non sequitur, it certainly promotes skepticism. But it also promotes creationism, via mechanisms I've taken pains to explain to you in detail, and with which the judge concurs.

    This judge. There will be others. The argument is one that was tried back in the 40's, like I said, and it failed then. It will not hold up in higher courts. It relies on an extremely liberal (in the sense of taking liberties) interpretation of both the sticker and the Constitution, as has been pointed out.

    Let's cut to the chase: You don't like the sticker, although you admit that it is in and of itself innocuous. You see the threatened "Wedge" in the words that merely urge deeper thought about what is being presented inside the textbook. A similar argument could be that the words of certain Black Panther leaders mean that no anti-segregation movementcan be allowed on the grounds that it would cause a "breach of the peace."

    Is the sticker unconstitutional? No. It does not represent a government endorsement of any religious viewpoint. If you say that it does between the lines, then federally funding textbooks that teach wrong evolutionary theories (like the ones I learned in high school) could be shot down for promoting what essentially amounted to a religious idea. (Which seems to be anything outside current scientific orthodoxy, at least in your viewpoint.)

    A side note: A sticker like that might have sparked my curiousity about the debate a little more and led me to do more research as a teenager, instead of seeing the Miller experiment being vaunted as proof of abiogenesis while knowing it to be largely discounted at the same time! That is why the sticker needs to be there, because the textbooks written cannot be relied upon to be the final word about anything, especially a science as young as evolutionary science.

    There are laws against making statements like that in certain circumstances. There's also common sense involved. Why do you think police go to some lengths to prevent a group of skinheads from getting too close to a political rally in support of racial equality?

    While you are correct in that skinheads are kept away from racial equality rallies, this is for "Clear and present danger" reasons (they having a stated violent agenda, and a history of acting on it) and NOT in a context devoid of circumstances likely to cause a breach of the peace. (ie. a sticker on a textbook in a classroom) The government's job is not to be the final arbiter of truth. It is to keep the civil order.

    How is the fact that gravity holds Titan in orbit political?

    How is the fact that the Huygens craft landed on Titan political?

    How is the field of orbital mechanics political?

    How is the observation of massive changes in life over billions of years political?

    Have you read Machiavelli? Everything that has political, social, or even imagined consequences is a political entity in its own right, creating a "weight" that draws some and repels others. It's as real as gravity.

    Speaking of which:

    The gravity that holds Titan in orbit is part of the playing field of this universe. Knowing how it works can also be utilized to create a missile that can destroy people from across the planet. That's a political effect of gravity, just one for starters. Being a constant, it is something that people rely upon without thinking about. Half of maintaining any order is the result of people taking most of it for granted. Wake up, go to work, pay your taxes. As long as the gravity's working, they don't even think about it! And that is a blessing for everyone, really.

    The Huygens spacecraft was the result of a collaboration between three different politically funded agencies. NASA is the premier American effort, recently revitalized, and this success is a material result that can be pointed to by our President. This creates a political capital that can be spent on future scientific research and efforts. Another political result is the close collaboration between the European Space Agency (the EU flexing its newfound muscles) and the Italians - creating things together results in a feeling of a tighter knit community in a continent trying to make this Union idea work. As Churchill said, "We must create a United States of Europe." Well, this is a tangible result of that political effort. The Europeans will gain confidence in their newfound government, the Americans will possibly sense a new rival / partner. The Chinese, could they be jealous much?

    Orbital mechanics? When most of our intelligence is gathered by satellite? When the expense of a new satellite is justified by advances in understanding? Good lord, how would you ever pay for your precious toys if you couldn't justify it politically? When the first nation to correctly apply orbital mechanics created a surge in scientific advancement that we are just now beginning to apprehend? The political effect of Sputnik is the kindling on which our current light of knowledge burns! I mean, we owe the creation of Tang to orbital mechanics. Tang, man! Tang! Have you no soul? (I'm being silly, but the political effects of orbital mechanics are far reaching - as well as the political origins of our current understanding of orbital mechanics. Without the political fallout, orbital mechanics would be a curiousity experimented upon in basements and empty fields by people who never applied what they learned.)

    The observations of changing life over millions of years. Hm. How could the dissolution of religious fundamentalism be a political entity? Are you being serious? If it affects people, it is political. If it affects legislation, court cases, Constitutional interpretations, it is a political "weight". And you guys are not playing the game very well, like thus:

    1.) You cannot prove that the sticker is untrue. "between the lines" arguments fall under the "presumed likelihood" rationale that was struck down in the forties and must be abandoned if you wish to win.

    2.) You cannot prove that the sticker is an endorsement of religion. "Potential motive" will never hold up in court - it would open up a huge can of worms that could easily cut either way. And the current Supreme Court isn't in your favor anyway.

    A more elegant strategy would be a competing sticker that rebuts the contents of the first sticker. It would tend to swing the debate into the arena that favors your side: science and reason. And the promoters of the first sticker could not repudiate its presence without creating political fallout that would undermine their side in court!

    Play to win, Alan.


  • AlanF

    czar, you appear to have a measure of intelligence, but your arguments are completely nonsensical, and you can't understand even the simplest of arguments that I make, but dismiss them just as JWs dismiss whatever they don't understanding. No sense attempting to discuss this with you further.


  • upside/down

    I read and then re-read this thread and learned/observed something I had hoped I was wrong about.

    Although most exDubs hate the WTS and ALL methodology of "thinking" that may seem to eminate from them, they take the same fanatacism and "put down" rhetoric and cliched phraseology and just put a new "face" on it. This style of communication is deplorable.

    I'm appalled at the absolute unyielding nature of certain ones with their "own" viewponts. So much enamorated with their own "clever" (so they feel) reasonings and "research" (dubious at best) that they actually attempt to squash all debate to the contrary of their own thought (just like the Dubs they hate). This violates the purpose of healthy debate and this forum. To dehumanize and ridicule based on your "viewpoint" is shallow and certainly unloving. Sweeping generalizations as to what certain "research" points to, and assuming the "conclusions" are foregone is both unscientific and irrational.

    No matter how clever you may think you are and brilliant you're exhaustivley repetitious "research" may be referred to, the courts will not be swayed by YOUR arguments. The courts historically are "fair" and will do what is best for all. I've seen the same style arguments used to "prove" the IRS and the "income-tax" are illegal. Well guess what- It's here and so far, a necessary evil to be sure. No court will listen to the contrary, no matter how "right" or "clever" your argument.

    If you are trying (which I'm not sure of) to dissuade me or anyone who chooses to not believe in an intelligent , purposeful "creator", that will not happen. Organized religion I detest and it's often sodomization of scripture bears this out.

    I don't see Jesus or any "mystic" of the ages being all that impressed with the preceding info at all. But what do I know? Apparently not much as only the bragadocious and well lettered can even indulge in such intellectual intercourse. Lest they bastardize the info by not being "well read" enough to engage in such cerebral gymnastics. You've accomplished what I only encountered previously with the WTS and that is to make my brain hurt conteplating this madness.

    It'll be interesting what the Judges end up deciding and what arguments are used in court and how it compares to your enlightened viewpoint.

    u/d Crazy

  • Euphemism

    TD... that's a good summary of the judge's opinion. The crux is here:

    With that in mind, pandering to the popular, colloquial meaning of the term "theory" effectually disavows the endorsement of evolution as a scientific theory. The court therefore held that the effect was the impermissible advancement of a religious message.

    So the key is in the subtext... the sticker's choice of non-religious language that is often used and proposed by religious groups. That's essentially seattleniceguy's argument, too: subtext.

    First off, let me emphasize that I entirely agree with you guys that there are pro-creationist subtexts in the message. Specifically, there are two objectionable implicit meanings:

    1) Evolution is only a theory, therefore creationism is equally viable.

    2) The "evolution is only a theory" line is constantly spouted by creationists, and so by parroting it we're implicitly endorsing creation.

    I'll take on each in turn.

    1) Rejection of evolution does not equal creationism. It's true that creationists generally advocate a rejection (or unscientific criticism) of evolution. But the reason they do that is because they have been legally barred from directly praching creationism in the schools. It's not logical to say that because creationists have chosen the secular alternative closest to their actual position, that alternative has now become 'religious'. That's like saying that if I start drinking O'Doul's because I'm not allowed to drink beer, then O'Doul's becomes beer.

    2) If only this case were at issue, I'd be inclined to agree with this reasoning. But the real issue, IMHO, is one of general principle. Can judges declare something illegal just because they determine--a fundamentally subjective decision--that purely secular phrases carry a religious (or anti-religious) subtext? Considering some of the judges we have in this country, that's a scary road I don't want to go down. And so, as much as I would love to see the principle applied in this case, if I don't want to see it as a general rule, then I shouldn't apply it in this case, either.

    I suspect that where we really diverge is that I firmly believe that Cobb County has the legal right to teach its children bad science. If you don't agree with me on that, then you're unlikely to find any Establishment Clause arguments persuasive.

    AlanF: Most of your posts have been aiming to prove that a) this sticker is a bad thing, b) its inclusion is basically a concession to the creationists, and c) it should therefore be illegal. I agree with you on the first two points. I disagree with you on the second, but it's far too subjective a question to allow for the kind of detailed debate you favor. I'll just point out that we live in a democracy, and so school curricula are determined by public vote, not by scientific consensus.

    A more objective question, which I would be happy to debate, is whether the sticker is a violation of the Establishment Clause either by sound constitutional interpretation or current case law. But since you wrote that:

    Well, dealing with "Establishment Clause jurisprudence" is a rather subjective enterprise. And that's what the courts are there for -- to sort it out.
    I know nothing of such court cases
    It doesn't seem that you're particularly up for a legal argument, so I'll desist unless you wish to engage.
  • upside/down

    Euphamism- excellent reasoning, I concur.

    u/d Bow To Each Other

  • justhuman

    Very good post AlanF

    The problem among those who support creation it is that they consider the account of Genesis a fact, without examining the science facts.

    For instance in Genesis it says that God created the big creatures of the sea and after the animals on land. In fact this statement does not condradict with Evolution because life started from the sea and then it evoloved at land.

    Genesis account has many questions that cannot be answered. First if Adam was supposed to be perfect and was able to read and write why do we have a graduate evolution in human history. It is a fact that we have different ages that lasted thousands of years. Also we have Humanoids that lived in the past and some of them are Australopythicus, Neantertal, Homo Erectus. Home Sapiens managed to survive and Evolved from the stoneage to neolithic age, iron age, copper age. Language was also evolved accordingly to the location. Sumerians, Egyptians, Phonecians, Greeks, Chineese have developted their verbal and written language long before the Genesis account that was written in Simetic language.

    In Genesis says that Adam was created "good" and the Greek Old testament says "lian kalos" translated - fair good. So there is much difference from being created"good" and being "perfect". Adam who lived in Mesopotamia was created in the spiritual form of God when God gave to Adam the Soul.Genesis and the old Testament it is dealing with the descendants of Adam - Noah,Enoch,Abraham. Bible it is not a scientific Book, it is a Guidebook for the salvation of the Soul.

    So there is nothing wrong if have been evolved and during in this proccess that lasted hundreds of thousands of years God helped us!!!

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