Russell and Duenes

Christine O’Donnell and Sniveling Students

with 6 comments

Here’s a little exchange between candidates for the Delaware Senate seat, Christine O’Donnell and Chris Coons.

Several things bother me here.

First, O’Donnell is absolutely right, the Constitution says nothing about the separation of church and state. When Chris Coons implies that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” means that schools must teach evolution, then he’s the laughable one (and so is his statement that Evolution is “a settled scientific fact.”). A proper reading of the Establishment Clause would allow for public schools to teach that God created the heavens and the earth in six days. In fact, the Establishment Clause only prohibits Congress from making laws that establish religions. State constitutions could conceivably establish Presbyterianism as the official state church and not be in violation of the First Amendment, should the people of any particular state vote for such. But what Coons wants is the church of atheistic Darwinism to be the established church of our schools, and he’s quite exercised over it. Frankly, what’s needed these days is not more Senators like Coons who just take the Courts “evolving” rulings over the years as settled law. Rather, we need Congressional and Senate leaders and judges who know what the First Amendment actually means and who will begin to move us back to that original intent.

Which leads to a second thing that bothers me even more. Just once, I mean ONCE, I’d like to hear a Christian candidate – which O’Donnell claims to be – take Coon’s statement (or some other person who makes it): “Religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools,” and retort, “Oh, you mean except for the religious doctrine that ‘religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools?’ Mr. Coons, if you don’t think that your statement is a religious one, perhaps you need to rethink the whole notion of religion and secularism, for I assure you that the so-called “secular” pronouncements like the one you just made amount to an establishment of religion. If you don’t know what religion I’m talking about, perhaps I can spell it out for you and your audience here, show you what your sacred texts are, and name the high priests of your religion that is taught in the public schools everyday.” But NO, we can never get a Christian candidate to argue along these lines. It makes me want to start throwing furniture.

And third, few things rankle me more than a bunch of sniveling students, gaffawing at what they take to be ignorance, when in reality, they are the ones who need to go back to the library. This just shows the trouble we’re in. When a bunch of law students take it for granted that the First Amendment equals and is entirely tantamount to the “separation of church and state,” then we have already tumbled into the abyss. But of course, universities became hotbeds of intellectual arrogance and ignorance masquerading as wisdom and knowledge many moons ago.

Much, much more could be said here, but it is high time that Christians, and Christian candidates stop being intellectual lapdogs. These students needed to have a Republican candidate up there who could call them on their derisive laughter and raise them ten higher; something that shouldn’t be that hard to do. The fact that O’Donnell couldn’t do it would give me serious reservations about voting for her, were I a resident of the great state of Delaware.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

October 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Duenes, Government

6 Responses

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  1. 3 (and a half?) things.

    First,
    “the Establishment Clause only prohibits Congress from making laws that establish religions. State constitutions could conceivably establish Presbyterianism as the official state church and not be in violation of the First Amendment, should the people of any particular state vote for such.”
    I agree with this statement. I am the person I know that agrees with this statement, and even I do not have a water-tight argument for it. In fact, I’ve only read 1 law professor making this argument. Further, only Justice Thomas agrees with this view. 99% of legal scholars do not agree with this, including the conservative and libertarian ones.

    It’s called the federalist view of the establishment clause. The argument states that the establishment clause is a structural amendment and has nothing to do with individual rights. Thus, the 14th amendment does not incorporate it against the states because there is no privilege or immunity (or, if you are a liberal, “substantive due process right”) to be incorporated. For more reading on this argument, check out Justice Thomas’ concurrences in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) and Elk Grove United School District v. Newdow (2004). (google scholar has cases now, find them there)

    Second,
    “Oh, you mean except for the religious doctrine that ‘religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools?’
    This is awesome. I seriously want to say this everyday in my law and religion class. I completely agree with you that “the so-called “secular” pronouncements like the one you just made amount to an establishment of religion.”

    Third,
    “will begin to move us back to that original intent.”
    If you’re not aware of the distinction between original intent and original meaning, you should be. I think you will find original meaning more attractive. Basically, conservative/libertarian scholarship has pointed out that a group of people can’t intend anything, since each individual has his own intended meaning. Therefore, texts created by groups, like statutes or constitutions, should be interpreted as to their “original meaning”. Original meaning means that meaning which the average reasonable citizen would understand the words to mean in the year it was passed. This often involves going back to the dictionaries of the time and other contextual literature. For more info on original meaning, see Justice Scalia’s “A Matter of Interpretation.” It’s an awesome read that includes his theory of original meaning, critiques by other scholars, and his rebuttal to them.

    Finally, the one-half
    There is nowhere near enough room to full debate this here, but I am concerned that your about your statement regarding evolution’s status as “a settled scientific fact”. The fact is that evolution is as much a theory as the theory of relativity. It is scientific because it gets results. We can do cancer research and virology because of our assumptions about evolution. Whether or not we actually came from apes, I really don’t care. What matters is that, by using the assumptions the theory of evolution supplies, we get results. As soon as we dont get the predicted results, a new theory will be formed. ( It is for this reason that evolutionary theory is so different than it was 40 years ago). I cannot think of experimental results that would result from a creationist view of the world. As such, i would label creationism not scientific (though perhaps completely truthful as a historical fact).

    Joshua House

    October 19, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    • Josh – Next time you want to write a comment this large, just send it to me and I’ll turn it into a guest post. It’ll get more traction that way.

      -D

      russellandduenes

      October 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    • Josh – Regarding your “half point.” What needs careful definition is the word “evolution.” I used it in the sense I took Coons to be using it: A closed system whereby the entire universe around us and everything in the biological world came about through purely naturalist, material forces with no design or intelligence involved at all.” Fact is, we get results from “evolution” because, in that sense of the word, all we mean is that mutations happen within species. No one I know of denies that, not even a rock-ribbed creationist. But “evolution” meaning “the descent of all living things from one common ancestor, via unguided forces and natural selection” is not even remotely close to “settled science” as you define it. Another fact that you omit is that even hard-core atheistic evolutionist smuggle in “intelligent design” to do ALL of their science. They talk about “natural selection” as though it had powers to know what traits to best select. Further, the human cell is entirely unintelligible unless one is doing research based on a priori assumptions about engineering, physics, and nanotechnology; all of which we point to intelligent and purposeful laws and principles.

      -D

      russellandduenes

      October 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm

  2. Yes, failure to properly answer the question: “What is a ‘religion’?”, and consequent failure to identify secularism as a religious worldview, is at the root of so, so many of our problems.

    Similarly, the “creationism doesn’t belong in the science classroom!” debate hinges upon an artificial distinction between “scientific” knowledge and “other” knowledge, and upon a failure to acknowledge the religious underpinnings of certain “scientific” assumptions (like the idea that things work the same way today that they did in the past, even though that’s completely unobservable and unprovable).

    Josh – and you’re right, there’s not enough room, and if you’re in law school, you have about as much time as I do – but I want to encourage you that if you’re interested, to dig more deeply into the creationist perspective. There’s a lot of really good creationist philosophy out there.

    Saying that evolution “gets results” is way too basic to be helpful. What results, and how? I know you only didn’t answer this because you’re pressed for time, but in any event I don’t think evolution “gets results” nearly to the extent that a lot of people think it does. Here’s one quick example:

    We can do cancer research and virology because of our assumptions about evolution.

    Again, you’d have to be a lot more specific, but I don’t think this is strictly accurate. We can do cancer and virology research because of what we know about the genetic similarities between different species. How do we “know” that evolution is “true”? Partly because of the genetic similarities between different species. It follows that really, you could do the research without the evolutionary theory, because they both rest on the same foundation of “genetic similarity”. To put it another way, all you need in order to test vaccines on apes is to know that chimps and humans are similar. It doesn’t matter whether they got that way via evolution or not.

    As such, i would label creationism not scientific (though perhaps completely truthful as a historical fact).

    I don’t fully disagree with this, actually. The problem is that to the average listener “not scientific” is tantamount to “false”.

    Samson

    October 19, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    • Samson – You said it better than I could. Nothing to add.

      -D

      russellandduenes

      October 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm

  3. Samson,

    I am no biologist, but I do believe that studying the theorized change in species is important. I’ve been told this by both my friend who is a evolutionary biology grad student at UC San Diego as well as another friend who is a Biochemical Engineering researcher at UC San Francisco. Aside from that appeal to authority, my casual reading seems to indicate the same thing.

    “Researchers can compare the genomes of closely related populations or species to find out how they changed as their bones demineralized, their eyesight deteriorated or another peculiarity arose. By doing so they may reveal the genes or genetic elements that are involved in parallel human processes, such as osteoporosis, blindness or even obesity.” – http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090408/full/458695a.html (emphasis added)

    What’s more, science is defined (at least in my oxford dictionary) as studying the natural world. This creates a presumption in favor of “naturalistic” explanations. I’m as reformed as the next guy, and I believe that God is everywhere involved in our natural world. However, the common definition of naturalistic means looking for a physical cause to an effect. Whatever your definition of creationism, it probably does not posit a physical God doing stuff. I think this provides a sufficient distinction between science and history.

    Joshua House

    October 20, 2010 at 5:05 am


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