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Rawls's Dangerous Idea?: Liberalism, Evolution and the Legal Requirement of Religious Neutrality in Public Schools*

Abstract

Since the mid-1990s the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools has acquired new life, largely as a result of a new generation of critics of evolution. In comparison to their predecessors, today's critics are better credentialed, have published works with respected academic and university presses and periodicals including peer-reviewed ones, and offer much more sophisticated arguments. The purpose of this essay, however, is not to engage the scientific merits of the arguments offered by these maverick scholars. Rather, the purpose of this essay is to explore a problem of jurisprudence, raised by philosopher Alvin Plantinga and responded to by philosopher of science Robert T. Pennock, whose resolution has relevance to the constitutional question of whether the teaching of evolution along with the works of its critics is permissible in a society whose citizens embrace contrary philosophical and religious points of view.

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The title of this article was inspired by the title of a book authored by philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (Simon & Schuster 1996). I began working on this article while I was a Madison Research Fellow in the Politics Department at Princeton University (2002-03). For this reason, I would like to thank the Director of Princeton's James Madison Program, Robert P. George, for providing me and the other visiting Madison fellows an idyllic setting in which to work on our various projects. While on the faculty at Princeton, I delivered an earlier version of this paper at the 2002 meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), November 20-22, 2002. A number of attendees, especially William Lane Craig (Talbot School of Theology, Biola University), offered valuable comments, some of which found their way into this article's final version. Special thanks to Alvin Plantinga (University of Notre Dame) for reading another earlier version of this paper and providing important feedback. Thanks also to an anonymous referee whose suggestions improved the quality of this article. However, I take full responsibility for this article's flaws.

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1. See Book Note, Not Your Daddy's Fundamentalism: Intelligent Design in the Classroom, 117 Harv. L. Rev. 964 (01 2004); Woodward Thomas, Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design (Baker Books 2003); Forrest Barbara & Gross Paul, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford U. Press 2004); Beckwith Francis J., Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design (Rowman & Littlefield 2003).

2. For example: Michael Behe is Professor of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University in Pennsylvania (Ph.D. in biochemistry, University of Pennsylvania); William A. Dembski is Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ph.D. in philosophy, University of Illinois, Chicago; Ph.D. in mathematics, University of Chicago); Robert Kaita is Principal Research Physicist, Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University (Ph.D. in physics, Rutgers University); Alvin Plantinga is John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy, University Notre Dame (Ph.D. in philosophy, Yale University); Walter L. Bradley is Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Baylor University (Ph.D., in materials science, University of Texas, Austin); Scott Minnich is Associate Professor of Microbiology, University of Idaho (Ph.D., Iowa State University); and Del Ratzsch is Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College (Ph.D. in philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst).

3. See e.g. Behe Michael, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (The Free Press 1996); Dembski William A., No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence (Rowman & Littlefield 2002); Dembski William A., The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge Studies in Probability, Induction, and Decision Theory No. 6, Cambridge U. Press 1998); Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Dembski William A. & Ruse Michael eds., Cambridge U. Press 2004); Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (Campbell John A. & Meyer Stephen C. eds., Mich. St. U. Press 2003); Meyer Stephen C., The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories, 117 Proc. Biological Socy. Wash. 213 (2004); Lonnig W.E. & Saedler H., Chromosome Rearrangements and Transposable Elements, 36 Annual Rev. Genetics 389 (2002); Plantinga Alvin, An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, in Faith in Theory and Practice: Essays on Justifying Religious Beliefs (White Carol & Radcliffe Elizabeth eds., Open Court 1993); Plantinga Alvin, Warrant and Proper Function 216237 (Oxford U. Press 1993); Denton M.J., Marshall J.C. & Legge M., The Protein Folds as Platonic Forms: New Support for the pre-Darwinian Conception of Evolution by Natural Law, 219 J. Theoretical Biology 325 (2002); Behe M.J., Self-Organization and Irreducibly Complex Systems: A Reply to Shanks and Joplin, 67 Phil. Sci. 155 (03 2000); Craig William Lane, God, Creation, and Mr. Davies, 37 British J. Phil. Sci. 168 (1986); Craig William Lane, Barrow and Tipler on the Anthropic Principle vs. Divine Design, 38 British J. Phil. Sci. 389 (1988); Mims Sarah A. & Mims Forrest M. III, Fungal spores are transported long distances in smoke from biomass fires, 38 Atmospheric Env. 651 (2004); Ratzsch Del, Nature, Science, and Design: The Status of Design in Natural Science, Philosophy and Biology Series (SUNY Press 2001); Minnich Scott & Meyer Stephen C., Genetic Analysis of Coordinate Flagellar and Type III Regulatory Circuits, in Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Design & Nature (Rhodes, Greece) (Collins M.W. & Brebbia C.A. eds., WIT Press 2004); Behe M.J. & Snoke D.W., Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues, 13 Protein Sci. 2651 (2004); Chiu D.K.Y. & Lui T.H., Integrated Use of Multiple Interdependent Patterns for Biomolecular Sequence Analysis 4(3) Intl. J. Fuzzy Systems 766 (09 2002); Denton M.J. & Marshall J.C., The Laws of Form Revisited, 410 Nature 417.1 (03 22, 2001); Wells Jonathan, Do Centrioles Generate a Polar Ejection Force?, 98 Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum 37 (2005).

4. Plantinga Alvin, Creation and Evolution: A Modest Proposal, paper delivered at the Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Washington, D.C. (12 27-30, 1998). This paper was subsequently published under the same title in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives 119 (Pennock Robert T. ed., M.I.T. Press 2001). Citations of this essay are to the published version.

5. Robert T. Pennock, Reply to Plantinga's “Modest Proposal,” in Intelligent Design Creationism, supra n. 4, at 793.

6. See Rawls John, Political Liberalism (1st ed., Colum. U. Press 1993) [hereinafter Rawls, PL1]; Rawls John, Political Liberalism (2d ed., Colum. U. Press 1996) [hereinafter Rawls, PL2]; Rawls John, A Theory of Justice (Harv. U. Press 1971).

7. Darwin Charles, On the Origin of Species, A Facsimile of the 1st ed. (1859) (Mayr Ernst intro., Harv. U. Press 1964).

8. See id. at 80-130.

9. Dawkins Richard, The Blind Watchmaker 39 (Norton 1986).

10. Futuyama Douglas J., Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution 95 (Pantheon Books 1983), quoting from Darwin, supra n. 9, at 4 (emphasis added).

11. The “Big Bang” is the dominant theory of the origin of the universe in cosmology: “The presently accepted view … suggests that at a distant time in the past the whole universe was a small sphere of concentrated energy/matter. This substance then exploded in a big bang to form hydrogen first and then eventually all the galaxies and stars.” Strickberger Monroe W., Evolution 76 (3d ed., Jones & Bartlett 2000).

12. Id. In this widely-used textbook, now in its third edition, the author presents in great detail in 25 chapters this grand materialist explanation.

13. The Wright Center for Science Education (Tufts University), Cosmic Evolution: An Interdisciplinary Approach, from the website Cosmic Evolution—From the Big Bang to Humankind (available at http://www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/cosmic_evolution/docs/fr_1/fr_1_site_summary.html (accessed Aug. 8, 2005)).

14. Crick Francis, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul 5 (C. Scribner's Sons 1994) (emphasis added).

15. For example, Futuyama writes:

By providing materialistic, mechanistic explanations, instead of miraculous ones, for the characteristics of plants and animals, Darwin brought biology out of the realm of theology and into the realm of science. For miraculous spiritual forces fall outside the province of science; all of science is the study of material causation.

Futuyama, supra n. 10, at 37. What Futuyama is suggesting is that Darwin's theory resulted in a shift in the dominant “scientific episteme.” According to J.P. Moreland, “a scientific episteme is not just a view within science about the nature of living organisms and their development. It is also a second-order philosophical view about science that defines the nature, limits, metaphysics, and epistemology of ‘good’ science.” Moreland J.P., Christianity and the Nature of Science 215 (Baker Books 1989).

16. See Crick, supra n. 14, at 7 (“Many educated people, especially in the Western world, also share the belief that the soul is a metaphor and that there is no personal life either before conception or after death”); Ruse Michael, Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?: The Relationship Between Science and Religion 153 (Cambridge U. Press 2001).

(If evolution be true, then in some very real sense we humans are all part of one big family, no matter what our numbers. For the Christian, is this not the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham? “I will make of you a great nation” …. Christians shou!d not read this literally. Rather, as one could read the creation stories metaphorically - as telling us of God's relationship to humans and our obligations to nature—so one could read this promise metaphorically, as referring to the family status of humankind.).

17. “God-of-the-gaps” is said to occur when a scientist, unable to develop a natural explanation for an observation or event, resorts to God or some other supernatural agency or power as an explanation. When the scientist or a future scientist discovers a natural explanation, God is no longer needed to fill the gap and so is discarded as an explanation. So, according to conventional wisdom, a God-of-the-gaps strategy short circuits scientific investigation. For analyses of this problem, see Reynolds John Mark, God of the Gaps: Intelligent Design & Bad Apologetic Advice, in Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design 313331 (Dembski William A. ed., InterVarsity Press 1998); Moreland J.P., Theistic Science & Methodological Naturalism, in The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer 5960 (Moreland J. P. ed., InterVarsity Press 1994).

18. An implicit example of this is John Searle's candid comments about why just about every philosopher of mind embraces some view of the mind that relies on a materialist (or physicalist) construal of the human person, even though it seems inconsistent with our well-grounded intuitions:

How is it that so many philosophers and cognitive scientists can say so many things that, to me at least, seem obviously false? …. I believe one of the unstated assumptions behind the current batch of views is that they represent the only scientifically acceptable alternatives to the anti-scientism that went with traditional dualism, the belief in the immortality of the soul, spiritualism, and so on. Acceptance of the current views is motivated not so much by an independent conviction of their truth as by a terror of what are apparently the only alternatives. That is, the choice we are tacitly presented with is between a “scientific” approach, as represented by one or another of the current versions of “materialism,” and an “unscientific” approach, as represented by Cartesianism or some other traditional religious conception of the mind.

Searle John, The Rediscovery of the Mind 34 (M.I.T. Press 1992).

19. In the preface to a 1984 pamphlet published by the National Academy of Sciences, its then-president Dr. Frank Press writes,

It is false … to think that the theory of evolution represents an irreconcilable conflict between religion and science. A great many religious leaders and scientists accept evolution on scientific grounds without relinquishing their belief in religious principles. As stated in a resolution by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences in 1981, however, “Religion and science are separate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought whose presentation in the same context leads to misunderstanding of both scientific theory and religious belief.”

National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences 56 (1984).

20. This is what seems to me to be lurking beneath what is often called the “culture wars.” That is, there is an epistemological division of labor which tells us that science or empirical knowledge is about facts and religion or theology is about opinion, matters of personal taste, and/or deeply held spiritual beliefs that have no relation to the real stuff that science and our senses know. So, this is why Ron Reagan, the son of the late U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan, can tell a national television audience in his speech before the 2004 Democratic National Convention that many who oppose embryonic stem cell research “are well-meaning and sincere,” but this is based on nothing more than belief, “an article of faith,” to which of course they “are entitled.” However, asserts Reagan, “it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.” Ronald P. Reagan, PBS Online NewsHour, Democratic National Convention, Tuesday, July 27, Speeches, Ron Reagan, Jr. (available at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/vote2004/demconvention/speeches/reagan.htm).

Reagan seems to be saying those who oppose embryonic stem cell research for apparently theological reasons are advancing a position inconsistent with our nation's tradition of church-state separation. For the pro-life position on abortion or stem-cell research—that the fetus is a full-fledged member of the human community and thus a subject of rights from the moment of conception—depends on a religious metaphysics. E.g. the extended argument in Wenz Peter S., Abortion Rights as Religious Freedom (Temple U. Press 1992). This is partly correct, for opponents of both abortion and embryonic stem cell research usually accept a view of the nature of the preborn that is consistent with their religion's philosophical anthropology. However, those who offer this point of view in the public square do not merely stipulate the veracity of their position, as one would expect from people whose purpose is to simply propound indefensible dogmas to condemn their irreligious adversaries. Rather, they offer arguments that consist of reasons that are remarkably public. For these reasons are not extracted uncritically from a religious text or from the pronouncements of a religious authority, and they are fully accessible to even those who dispute their veracity and/or the conclusion for which they are conscripted. See e.g. Lee Patrick, Abortion and Unborn Human Life (Cath. U. Am. Press 1996); Moreland J.P. & Rae Scott B., Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics (InterVarsity Press 2000). But Reagan and his allies attempt to justify their position by offering a different metaphysical account, one that picks out certain presently exercisable abilities or functions that a being must have in order to be accorded the protections of our laws. So, for example, Reagan explains that early embryos “have no fingers and toes, no brain or spinal cord. They have no thoughts, no fears. They feel no pain.” Reagan, supra n. 20. Surely, Reagan must know that his opponents know these facts as well but do not consider them decisive in judging whether a human being has rights. It is his duty to respond to that point of view and the arguments offered for it rather than merely to recite the well-known facts of embryonic development and dismiss his opponents as embracing nothing more than an ungrounded belief. Thus, there seems to be no good reason, except for a type of crass philosophical apartheid, to accept Reagan's view as “science” and his opponents' view as “religion.”

21. Johnson Phillip E., Darwin on Trial 4 (Regnery/Gateway 1991).

22. For Aristotle, “God” was a theoretical entity, an Unmoved Mover, he posited to explain the motion of the universe. God was not an object of worship. See Aristotle, Physics, VII, 311, a, 4; Aristotle, Metaphysics, XII, 6, 1071, b, 2.

23. I say “in this essay,” because, given the common and legal definition of “creationism,” other non-naturalist alternatives, such as intelligent design, are not “creationist.” However, in order to offer the strongest version of Plantinga's position, I define creationism in this essay more broadly and far more inclusively than the courts and ordinary opinion understand it. In other words, my definition of creationism includes views based on revelatory claims (e.g. Creation-Science) and those that appeal to established empirical claims, well-founded conceptual notions, and reasonable inferences from both (e.g. intelligent design, some forms of theistic evolution). For an overview of the differences between creationism (in its ordinary usage) and intelligent design, see Beckwith Francis J., Public Education, Religious Establishment, and the Challenge of Intelligent Design, 17 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Policy 461, 497500 (2003).

24. For example, the Court writes in Epperson v. Ark. that “government … must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice. It may not be hostile to any religion or to the advocacy of nonreligion; and it may not aid, foster, or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against the militant opposite. The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” Epperson v. Ark., 393 U.S. 97, 103-104 (1968).

25. See Rawls, PL1, supra n. 6, at 22-28. Rawls's two principles of justice are:

a. Each person has an equal claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic rights and liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme for all; and in this scheme the equal political liberties, and only those liberties, are to be guaranteed their fair value.

b. Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society.

Id. at 5-6.

26. Id. at 135.

27. Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, at 175.

28. Id. at 195-211.

29. Rawls, PL1, supra n. 6, at xxviii.

30. Rawls writes: “[The] impartiality [of political liberalism] is shown in various ways. For one thing, political liberalism does not attack or criticize any reasonable view. As part of this, it does not criticize, much less reject, any particular theory of the truth of moral judgments.” (Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, at xxi-xxii). He adds elsewhere:

[I]t would be fatal to the idea of a political conception to see it as skeptical about, or indifferent to, truth, much less as in conflict with it. Such skepticism or indifference would put political philosophy in opposition to numerous comprehensive doctrines, and thus defeat from the outset its aim of achieving an overlapping consensus.

Id. at 150. See also id. at 150-154.

31. Id. at xl.

32. George Robert P., Public Reason and Political Conflict: Abortion and Homosexuality, 106 Yale L. J. 2475, 24772478 (Summer 1997) (note omitted).

33. Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, at 178.

34. Rawls writes:

Thus, the aim of justice as fairness as a political conception is practical, and not metaphysical or epistemological. That is, it presents itself not as a conception of justice that is true, but one that can serve as a basis of informed and willing political agreement between citizens viewed as free and equal persons …. To secure this agreement we try, so far as we can, to avoid disputed philosophical, as well as disputed moral and religious, questions.

Rawls John, Justice as Fairness: Political Not Metaphysical, in Collected Papers 394 (Feeman Samuel ed., Harv. U. Press 1999).

35. Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, at 10 (note omitted).

36. Rawls makes a distinction between secular and public reason, arguing that the former depends on a comprehensive doctrine, a secular one:

We must distinguish public reason from what is sometimes referred to as secular reason and secular values. These are not the same as public reason. For I define secular reason as reasoning in terms of comprehensive nonreligious doctrines. Such doctrines and values are much too broad to serve the purposes of public reason.

Rawls John, The Idea of Public Reason Revisited, 64 U. Chi. L. Rev. 765, 775 (1997). Because the courts have considered irreligion, or secularism, as a religion for both establishment and free exercise purposes, it seems fair to say that when the courts use the term “secular reason” or something similar to it, they mean roughly the same thing as Rawls does when he employs the term “public reason.” On the legal definition of rehgion, see McConnell Michael W., Garvey John H. & Berg Thomas C., Religion and the Constitution 869905 (Aspen Publishers 2002).

37. Rawls, supra n. 36, at 786.

38. Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, at xlvi.

39. Weithman Paul J., Introduction: Religion and the Liberalism of Reasoned Respect, in Religion and Contemporary Liberalism 1213 (Weithman Paul J. ed., U. Notre Dame Press 1997). To support this interpretation of Rawls, Weithman cites Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, 217, 218, 243. This seems to be consistent with one of Rawls's most recent works: Rawls, supra n. 36. For recent critiques of Rawls's view of public reason, see George, supra n. 32; Finnis John, Public Reason, Abortion, and Cloning, 32 Val. U. L. Rev. 361 (Spring 1998).

40. According to Rawls,

[I]n a democratic society public reason is the reason of equal citizens who, as a collective body, exercise final political and coercive power over one another in enacting laws and in amending their constitution. The first point is that the limits imposed by public reason do not apply to all political questions but only to those involving what we may call “constitutional essentials” and questions of basic justice … this means that political values alone are to settle such questions as: who has the right to vote, or what religions are to be tolerated, or who is to be assured fair equality of opportunity, or to hold property. These and similar questions are the special subject of public reason. Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, at 214.

41. See e.g. George Robert P., In Defense of Natural Law 201205 (Oxford U. Press 1999).

42. Plantinga, supra n. 4.

43. Methodological naturalism is, according to William A. Dembski, “the view that science must be restricted solely to undirected natural processes …” Dembski William A., Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology 119 (InterVarsity Press 1999). According to Phillip E. Johnson, “[a] methodological naturalist defines science as the search for the best naturalistic theories. A theory would not be naturalistic if it left something out (such as the existence of genetic information or consciousness) to be explained by a supernatural cause.” Therefore, “all events in evolution (before the evolution of intelligence) are assumed attributable to unintelligent causes. The question is not whether life (genetic information) arose by some combination of chance and chemical laws, to pick one example, but merely how it did so.” Johnson Phillip E., Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law, & Education 208 (InterVarsity Press 1996)

44. Ontological materialism, which may be employed interchangeably with the terms “naturalism,” “philosophical naturalism,” “scientific materialism,” and “materialism,” is the view that the natural universe is all that exists and all the entities in it can be accounted for by strictly material processes without resorting to any designer, Creator or non-material entity as an explanation or cause for either any aspect of the natural universe or the universe as a whole. Thus, if science is the paradigm of knowledge (as is widely held in our culture), and it necessarily presupposes methodological naturalism, then ontological materialism is the only worldview for which one can have “knowledge.”

Although one may employ the terms “naturalism” and “materialism” interchangeably, they are not necessarily synonymous. As J.P. Moreland points out, “[O]ne could be a naturalist without being a physicalist [or materialist], say be embracing Platonic forms, possibilia or abstract objects like sets, and one can be a physicalist [or materialist] and not a naturalist (e.g. if one held that God is a physical object).” Moreland, supra n. 17, at 50.

45. Plantinga defines philosophical naturalism as “the idea that there is no such person as God or anything or anyone at all like him: on this use, naturalism is or can be a quasi-religious view.” Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 780.

46. Id. at 781.

47. Id.

48. Id.

49. Id. at 783.

50. Id., citing, and responding to, a paper presented by Pennock at the same meeting at which Plantinga delivered his paper, the 1998 annual meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association. Pennock's paper was subsequently published under the title, Why Creationism Should Not Be Taught in Public Schools, in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, supra n. 4 at 755.

51. Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 784.

52. As Rawls writes,

To secure [the agreement of political liberalism] … we try, so far as we can, to avoid disputed philosophical, as well as disputed moral and religious, questions. We do this not because these questions are unimportant or regarded with indifference, but because we think them too important and recognize that there is no way to resolve them politically …. Philosophy as the search for truth about an independent metaphysical and moral order cannot, I believe, provide a workable and shared basis for a political conception of justice in a democratic society.

Rawls, supra n. 34, at 394, 395.

53. Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 784 (note omitted).

54. Id. (attributing this objection to Stephen J. Gould). Gould suggests what he calls the NOMA principle, “non-overlapping magisteria”:

Each subject [science and religion] has a legitimate magesterium, or domain of teaching authority—and these magesteria do not overlap …. The net of science covers the empirical universe; what it is made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value.

Gould Stephen Jay, Nonoverlapping Magisteria, 106 Nat. History 16 (03 1997).

But to what magisterium does NOMA belong? It seems to be a philosophical principle by which Gould assesses the nature of science and religion, and thus Gould is implying that philosophy is logically prior to science and thus the appropriate discipline by which to assess questions of the nature of science. If that's what he is implying, then it is not clear on what grounds he could object to or not seriously consider intelligent design arguments against methodological naturalism, for they are typically philosophical challenges to the prevailing view of the nature of science.

55. Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 785.

56. Id.

57. Id. (attributing this objection to Pennock, supra n. 52).

58. Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 785-786.

59. Id. at 786.

60. Id.

61. The words of philosopher John Kekes, who is not a critic of evolution, are instructive here:

Science is committed to several presuppositions: that nature exists, that it has discoverable order, that it is uniform, are existential presuppositions of science; the distinctions between space and time, cause and effect, the observer and the observed, real and apparent, orderly and chaotic, are classificatory presuppositions; while intersubjective testability, quantifiability, the public availability of data, are methodological presuppositions; some axiological presuppositions are the honest reporting of results, the worthwhileness of getting the facts right, and scrupulousness in avoiding observational or experimental error. If any one of these presuppositions were abandoned, science, as we know it, could not be done. Yet the acceptance of the presuppositions cannot be a matter of course, for each has been challenged and alternatives are readily available.

Kekes John, The Nature of Philosophy 156157 (Rowman & Littlefield 1980). See also Laudan Larry, The Demise of the Demarcation Problem, in But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question In The Creation/Evolution Controversy 337 (Ruse Michael ed., Prometheus Books 1988); Laudan Larry, Progress and Its Problems: Towards a Theory of Scientific Growth (U. Cal. Press 1977); Moreland, supra n. 15.

62. Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 786.

63. Id. at 789.

64. Id. at 790.

65. Id.

66. Id. at 781. As an aside at the beginning of his reply, Pennock claims that Plantinga “uses idyosyncratic and shifting definitions of evolution, seriously underestimates the evidential support for various evolutionary hypotheses, and makes some misleading statements about these.” Pennock, supra n. 5, at 793. In an endnote following this quote, Pennock provides an illustration of Plantinga's confusion:

For instance, while it is true that scientists still know rather little about how life originated from nonlife, that organic life arose from inorganic is well confirmed, and progress continues to be made in understanding the chemical processes that were involved, such as the discovery that RNA can act as its own catalyst.

Id. at 796, n. 1. Yet, in another place Pennock asserts “the schools should limit their science curriculum to scientific findings—testable conclusions that we can rationally draw on the basis of observational evidence and the methodological assumption of natural law.” Id. at 796. But if we do not know “how life originated from nonlife,” in what sense is the claim “that organic life arose from inorganic “ testable, “well confirmed,” and based on observational evidence?

67. Id. at 793.

68. Id. at 794.

69. Permock suggests that Plantinga offers little if any support for the BR. He does, however, attribute to Plantinga one reason: “Professor Plantinga argues for (BR) as follows: ‘The teacher can't teach all or even more than one of … conflicting sets of beliefs as the truth; therefore it would be unfair to select any particular one and teach that one as the truth.’” Id. at 793-794, quoting Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 781. Pennock correctly dismisses this reason as not sufficient to establish the BR: “[T]his argument is seriously flawed; even if there is no way for everyone to eat the whole pie, it does not follow that there is no fair way to divide it or even to pick just one person who will get it.” Id. at 794. But, as we shall see, there is good reason to believe that the reason Pennock attributes to Plantinga is not doing the logical work Pennock seems to think it is doing.

70. Id.

71. Id.

72. Id.

73. Id.

74. Id. at 794-795.

75. Id. at 795.

76. According to Rawls, as I noted in n. 40,

the limits imposed by public reason do not apply to all political questions but only to those involving what we may call “constitutional essentials” and questions of basic justice …. This means that political values alone are to settle such questions as: who has the right to vote, or what religions are to be tolerated, or who is to be assured fair equality of opportunity, or to hold property. These and similar questions are the special subject of public reason.

Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, at 214.

77. Writes Rawls:

Since we start within the tradition of democratic thought, we also think of citizens as free and equal persons. The basic ideas [sic] is that in virtue of their two moral powers (a capacity for a sense of justice and for a conception of the good) and the powers of reasons (of judgment, thought, and inference connected with these powers), persons are free. Their having these powers to the requisite minimum degree to be fully cooperating members of society makes persons equal.

Id. at 18-19.

78. Rawls, supra n. 34, at 395.

79. See id. at 393-395. Rawls claims that this notion of equality is not dependent of any metaphysical or epistemological position.

80. For example, Steven Pinker writes:

[Ejthical theory requires idealizations like free, sentient, rational, equivalent agents whose behavior is uncaused, and its conclusions can be sound and useful even though the world, as seen by science, does not really have uncaused events …. A human being is simultaneously a machine and a sentient free agent, depending on the purpose of the discussion.

Pinker Steven, How The Mind Works 5556 (Norton 1997).

See also Wilson E.O., Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Harv. U. Press 1975); Wilson E.O., On Human Nature (Harv. U. Press 1978); Posner Richard A., The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1638 (1998); Ruse Michael, The New Evolutionary Ethics, in Evolutionary Ethics (Nitecki Matthew H. & Nitecki Doris V. eds., SUNY Press 1993). Ruse writes:

[Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, [morality] it is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves …. Nevertheless, to a Darwinian evolutionist it can be seen that such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, and has no being beyond or without this … [A]ny deeper meaning is illusory …

Ruse Michael, The Darwinian Paradigm: Essays on Its History, Philosophy, and Religious Implications 268269 (Routledge 1989).

Of course, not all Darwinists agree with this assessment of morality. See e.g. Wilson James Q., The Moral Sense (The Free Press 1993); Dworkin Ronald, Darwin's New Bulldog, 111 Harv. L. Rev. 1718 (1998).

81. See e.g. Does God Exist?: The Debate Between Theists and Atheists 111135 (Moreland J.P. & Nielsen Kai eds., Prometheus Books 1993); Hare John E., Naturalism and Morality, in Naturalism: A Critical Analysis (Craig William Lane & Moreland J.P. eds., Routledge 2000); Garcia J.L.A., “‘Dues sive Natura’: Must Natural Lawyers Choose?,” in Natural Law, Liberalism, and Morality (George Robert P. ed., Oxford U. Press 1996); Pojman Louis P., A Critique of Contemporary Egalitarianism: A Christian Perspective, 8.4Faith & Philosophy 481 (10 1991); Pojman Louis P., Are Human Rights Based on Equal Human Worth?, 52.3Phil. & Phenomenological Research 605 (09 1992).

82. Pennock writes: “Aristotle had held that all species were characterized by some defining essential characteristic that differentiated them from other species, and Darwin's discoveries overturned this view forever.” Pennock Robert T., Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism 156 (MIT Press 1999). See also Pennock's rejection of natural teleology in id. at 242-272.

Of course, one may still believe, and think that one has justification for, holding to some form of egalitarianism or objective morality while affirming a materialist worldview that denies any form of essentialism or teleology. But it is not clear how one can actually pull this off without bracketing the metaphysical implications of materialism from one's ethical deliberations. This is why, for example, Kai Nielsen writes:

We're [Rawls and I] concerned with the justification of moral beliefs, practices, and principles, so we don't try to say what truth is, whether there's moral truth or anything. We say here's a bunch of moral judgments that a culture shares and that I may or may not share. And we see whether those fit together with everything else we know and match with our considered convictions.

Does God Exist?, supra n. 81, at 128 (note omitted). According to the late atheist philosopher J.L. Mackie, the presence of moral properties in the universe “constitute so odd a cluster of qualities and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events, without an all-powerful god to create them.” Mackie J.L., The Miracle of Theism 115 (Oxford U. Press 1982). Instead of wrestling with the strongest presentation of this problem, Pennock sets up a straw man that virtually no sophisticated defender of theistic moral realism would actually defend: he employees Socrates' famous Euthyphro Dilemma to reject the notion that objective morality is best grounded in a theistic worldview. See Pennock, supra n. 82, at 324-337.

83. For example, Darwin writes:

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes … will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest Allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as the baboon, instead of as now between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.

Darwin Charles, The Descent of Man 178 (2d ed., A.L. Burt Co. 1874).

84. King asserts: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” King Martin Luther Jr., I Have a Dream, speech, 1963 (available at http://www.csamerican.com/Doc.asp?doc=King#dreams).

85. Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 779.

86. Pennock, supra n. 5, at 795.

87. Rawls, supra n. 34, at 395.

88. This is why I think that Plantinga does not have to resort “special circumstances” to explicitly exclude Nazi-ideas from being taught in public schools. See Plantinga, supra n. 4, at 782.

89. Rawls, supra n. 34, at 394. It should be noted that Rawls asserts that “we do this not because these questions are unimportant or regarded with indifference, but because we think them too important and recognize that there is no way to resolve them politically.” Id. (note omitted).

90. Pennock, supra n. 5, at 795-796.

91. Id. at 795.

92. “Is it right to teach children that something that is known to be true is false?” Pennock, supra n. 50, at 756.

93. For example, Pennock writes “[S]cience rejects all special ontological substances that are supernatural, and it does so without prejudice, be they mental or vital or divine.” Pennock, supra n. 82, at 324. But he writes elsewhere that “Aristotle had held that all species were characterized by some defining essential characteristic that differentiated them from other species, and Darwin's discoveries overturned this view forever.” Id. at 156. But to say that a particular metaphysical position is overturned forever is to prejudge all future arguments as unsound, that is, to embrace a prejudice. In addition, one cannot reject all non-natural substances without prejudice unless one knows either that non-natural substances cannot in-principle count against Darwinian accounts of the natural world (but that can't be, because Pennock says that Darwin's discoveries overturned them) or that non-natural substances cannot exist by definition (but in that case, there was nothing for Darwin to overturn).

94. Pennock's comments cited in the above note (n. 93) seem to be consistent with his believing that this is in fact the case.

95. See Larson Edward J., Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution 5872 (Oxford U. Press 1985).

96. Epperson v. Ark., 393 U.S. 97 (1968).

97. Id. at 103.

98. McLean v. Ark. Bd. of Educ., 529 F. Supp. 1255 (E.D. Ark. 1982).

99. Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987).

100. Id. at 593.

101. Id. at 594.

102. Id. at 605; see Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 319 (1980); McGowan v. Md., 366 U.S. 420, 442 (1961) (Powell, J., concurring).

103. According to the Court, Louisiana's Balanced-Treatment Act did not give teachers any more academic freedom than what they already had in supplanting “the present science curriculum with the presentation of theories, besides evolution, about the origin of life.” Edwards, 482 U.S., 587. Because “[t]he Act provides Louisiana school teachers with no new authority[,] … the stated purpose is not furthered by it.” Id. at 587. The Court of Appeals made a similar observation. See Aguillard v. Edwards, 765 F.2d 1251, 1257 (5th Cir. 1985).

104. As I pointed out in n. 36, Rawls makes a distinction between secular and public reason, arguing that the former depends on a comprehensive doctrine, a secular one:

Since the idea of public reason specifies at the deepest level the basic political values and specifies how the political relation is to be understood, those who believe that fundamental political questions should be decided by what they regard as the best reasons according to their own idea of the whole truth—including their religious or secular comprehensive doctrine—and not by reasons that might be shared by all citizens as free and equal, will of course reject the idea of public reason.

Rawls, supra n. 36, at 771. As I also pointed in n. 36, because the courts have considered irreligion, or secularism, as a religion for both establishment and free exercise purposes, it seems fair to say that when the courts use the term “secular reason” or something similar to it, they mean roughly the same thing as Rawls does when employs the term “public reason.” On the legal definition of religion, see McConnell, Berg, Garvey, supra n. 36, at 869-905.

105. Rawls, supra n. 36, at 786.

106. Rawls, PL2, supra n. 6, at xlvi.

107. The federal district court took motive into consideration, though it was not dispositive:

The unusual circumstances surrounding the passage of Act 590, as well as the substantive law of the First Amendment, warrant an inquiry into the stated legislative purposes. The author of the Act had publicly proclaimed the sectarian purpose of the proposal. The Arkansas residents who sought legislative sponsorship of the bill did so for a purely sectarian purpose. These circumstances alone may not be particularly persuasive, but when considered with the publicly announced motives of the legislative sponsor made contemporaneously with the legislative process; the lack of any legislative investigation, debate or consultation with any educators or scientists; the unprecedented intrusion in school curriculum; and official history of the State of Arkansas on the subject, it is obvious that the statement of purposes has little, if any, support in fact.

McLean, 529 F. Supp. 1264. (footnote omitted; emphasis added).

108. The Court writes in Edwards:

Besides Senator Keith, several of the most vocal legislators also revealed their religious motives for supporting the bill in the official legislative history. See, e.g., id., at E-441, E-443 (Sen. Saunders noting that bill was amended so that teachers could refer to the Bible and other religious texts to support the creation-science theory); 2 App. E-561—E-562, E-610 (Rep. Jenkins contending that the existence of God was a scientific fact).

Edwards, 482 U.S., 593 n. 13.

109. For example, Barbara Forrest writes: “At heart, proponents of intelligent design are not motivated to improve science but to transform it into a theistic enterprise that supports religious faith.” Forrest Barbara, The Newest Evolution of Creationism: Intelligent Design is About Politics and Religion, Not Science, 111.3Nat. History 80 (4 2002).

110. McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618, 626 (1978) (emphasis added).

111. Reynolds v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145, 166 (1878). The Court did say in Wis. v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 220 (1972) that “[t]his case [Yoder], therefore, does not become easier because respondents were convicted for their ‘actions’ in refusing to send their children to the public high school; in this context belief and action cannot be neatly confined in logic-tight compartments.” However, I do not believe the general principle in Reynolds is jettisoned, for in Yoder the concern was whether the state's prohibition of the religious action in question (the free exercise right of Amish parents to be exempted from the compulsory education laws) could be rejected on the grounds that their actions and not their beliefs were being prohibited by the state in a case in which belief and action overlapped at points. But it was clear the Court did not touch the long-held principle that mere belief could not be proscribed by government.

112. The Court writes in McDaniel, 435 U.S. at 626:

If the Tennessee disqualification provision were viewed as depriving the clergy of a civil right solely because of their religious beliefs, our inquiry would be at an end. The Free Exercise Clause categorically prohibits government from regulating, prohibiting, or rewarding religious beliefs as such … [references omitted]. In Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961), the Court reviewed the Maryland constitutional requirement that all holders of “any office of profit or trust in this State” declare their belief in the existence of God. In striking down the Maryland requirement, the Court did not evaluate the interests assertedly justifying it but rather held that it violated freedom of religious belief.

113. Rawls John, Justice As Fairness: A Restatement 184 (Kelly Erin ed., Harv. U. Press 2001).

* The title of this article was inspired by the title of a book authored by philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (Simon & Schuster 1996). I began working on this article while I was a Madison Research Fellow in the Politics Department at Princeton University (2002-03). For this reason, I would like to thank the Director of Princeton's James Madison Program, Robert P. George, for providing me and the other visiting Madison fellows an idyllic setting in which to work on our various projects. While on the faculty at Princeton, I delivered an earlier version of this paper at the 2002 meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), November 20-22, 2002. A number of attendees, especially William Lane Craig (Talbot School of Theology, Biola University), offered valuable comments, some of which found their way into this article's final version. Special thanks to Alvin Plantinga (University of Notre Dame) for reading another earlier version of this paper and providing important feedback. Thanks also to an anonymous referee whose suggestions improved the quality of this article. However, I take full responsibility for this article's flaws.

Associate Director, J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, and Associate Professor of Church-State Studies, Baylor University, Waco, Texas. Ph.D. (philosophy), M.A. (philosophy), Fordham University; M.J.S. (Master of Juridical Studies), Washington University School of Law, St. Louis.

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