The physicist Steve Barr tells the story of a lecture Daniel Dennett gave last year at the University of Delaware, in which he claimed that Darwin had shredded the credibility of religion and was, indeed, the very “destroyer” of God.
In the question session, a philosophy professor named Jeff Jordan suggested to Dennett: “If Darwinism is inherently atheistic, as you say, then obviously it can’t be taught in public schools.” “And why is that?” inquired Dennett, incredulous.
“Because,” said Jordan, “the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution guarantees government neutrality between religion and irreligion.”
Dennett, looking as if he’d been sucker-punched, leaned back against the wall and said, after a few moments of silence, “clever.” After another silence, he came up with a reply: He had not meant to say that evolution logically entails atheism, merely that it undercuts religion.
Barr notes that Jordan’s question reveals how the self-appointed defenders of the scientific method are trying to have it both ways. Don’t allow religious philosophy to intrude into biology classrooms and texts, they say, for that is to soil the sacred precincts of science, which must be reserved for hypotheses that can be rigorously tested and confronted with data. The next minute they are going around claiming that anti-religious philosophy is part and parcel of the scientific viewpoint.
There’s a kind of old-fashioned animus in it all, an Enlightenment claim of a sort of—oh, I don’t know—enlightenedness about our escape from the dark ages of religion....
But there are other pieces of the puzzle that are worth noticing. The tides of book publishing shouldn’t be discounted. The flood of atheism books over past two years followed the flood of theocracy books over the previous two years—and for much the same cause: Because publishers are sheep, they follow in droves, and they want their new books to be like their previously successful books. If Sam Harris’ End of Faith had not made the bestseller list, Christopher Hitchens would not have written his atheism book now, however atheistical he happens to be.
Still, there are reasons Sam Harris started the flood. The attacks of September 11 fit in here somewhere: the sudden unavoidable awareness of Jihadism and radical Islam put a weapon in the hands of opponents of religion. Here are crazies announcing they want to kill us in the name of God, and thus—by the logical fallacy known as illicit conversion—everyone who believes in God must be a murderous lunatic. Here are neo-fascists who are creating theocratic states across the Middle East; and, by that same illicit conversion, America’s evangelicals and Catholics—and Orthodox Jews, for that matter—must want to build Gilead in Harvard Yard.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Why The Constitution Prohibits The Teaching of Darwinism in Public Schools
An interesting excerpt from today's First Things blog: