Thursday, October 13, 2005

Voices of the secular opposition

Kurt Anderson has a good piece in the New Yorker highlighting the importance of the Dover evolution trial and the resurgent creationist/intelligent design movement. He argues that this has the potential to become the tipping point in the transformation of America into a theocracy.

So far, the trial has gone extremely well for secularists. The discovery phase of preparation for the trial unearthed a smoking gun. Early drafts of the intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People show the shift in language from creationism to intelligent design. The change of language can be further tied to the date of a court decision that the creationists lost. So the claim that intelligent design is independent of creationism is refuted. Creationism is in fact the rhetorical ancestor of intelligent design.

If the case is decided on the merits, we have already won. Still, John E. Jones III, the judge hearing Kitzmiller v. Dover, is an active Republican whom Bush appointed. And even a victory in this case is not the end.
    Whatever his verdict, the losing side will undoubtedly appeal the case up to the Supreme Court. The last time the court ruled on creationism, overturning a Louisiana education law in 1987, the vote was 7-2, with Justices Scalia and Rehnquist dissenting. That court didn’t include Clarence Thomas—who in last year’s “one nation under God” case made the Talibanic argument that the First Amendment’s “establishment clause” applies only to the federal government and was never meant to prohibit individual states from adopting official religions. But even in the unlikely event that both Chief Justice Roberts (an observant Catholic) and, say, Harriet Miers (a born-again Evangelical) voted with Scalia and Thomas to allow intelligent-design provisos in science classes, the court would presumably still be 5-4 in favor of keeping church and state separated.

    So we are probably safe for now—as a jurisprudential matter. But politically, secularism will lose no matter what. If it’s decided correctly, Kitzmiller v. Dover can become a new Roe v. Wade, a landmark judicial bone in the craw of Christian America, a fresh means for right-wingers to depict their children as victims of godless liberals. At least on Roe v. Wade, a big majority of Americans have consistently supported the decision. As far as teaching straight science goes, however, the big majority is against us. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, 64 percent of Americans are in favor of having creationism and evolution taught in school—and it seems most of those would actually prefer to replace evolution altogether with scriptural teaching.
There is also a quite interesting paper Religion and Respect by Ophelia Benson which trys to think through what ways we should be expected to respect beliefs we do not share (via Pharyngula).
    [W]hy should I “respect” belief systems that I do not share? I would not be expected to respect the beliefs of flat earthers or those of the people who believed that the Hale-Bopp comet was a recycling facility for dead Californians, and killed themselves in order to join it...I lament and regret the holding of such beliefs, and I deplore the features of humanity that make them so common. I wish people were different. And ...,I also wish people were not keen on separating themselves from others, keen on difference and symbols of tribalism. I don’t warm to badges of allegiance, flags, ostentatious signs of apartness, because I do not think they are good for the world.
The problem is that there is a kind of slippery slope, or as Benson puts it "respect creep."
    ‘Respect’, of course is a tricky term. I may respect your gardening by just letting you get on with it. Or, I may respect it by admiring it and regarding it as a superior way to garden. The word seems to span a spectrum from simply not interfering, passing by on the other side, through admiration, right up to reverence and deference. This makes it uniquely well-placed for ideological purposes. People may start out by insisting on respect in the minimal sense, and in a generally liberal world they may not find it too difficult to obtain it. But then what we might call respect creep sets in, where the request for minimal toleration turns into a demand for more substantial respect, such as fellow-feeling, or esteem, and finally deference and reverence. In the limit, unless you let me take over your mind and your life, you are not showing proper respect for my religious or ideological convictions.
The Dobson quote I put up yesterday is an illlustrates this point exactly.
    ''There is no question that the beliefs of conservative Christians are under attack," Dobson told the Globe. ''Any conviction founded on religious faith is vilified; any stand on absolute truth is denigrated as old-fashioned at best, or reminiscent of the Taliban at worst; any view out of lockstep with the left's agenda is met with anything but tolerance and acceptance."
His delusions of persecution are derived from the failure to gain respect in the very strongest form. He is complaining about the lack of reverence and deference for his beliefs, for the disrepect of others who willfully refuse to let his values rule their lives.


At 10/13/2005 10:05 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

I found this blog surfing.

I'm more optimistic than you. I think those that believe in intelligent?? design, are a very loud minority. They always, and need to feel persecuted, to exist. It is ok to slap them around. They are never happy.

Good blog. All the best.


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