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FIRST-PERSON: Call Darwinism what it is — a religion

PINEVILLE, La. (BP)–The headline read, “Judge rules against Intelligent Design: Religious alternative to evolution cannot be taught in public school classes.” Evangelical and conservative commentators alike picked up the rhetoric and most bemoaned the fact of another public setback in the culture wars.

After reading the Katzmiller v. Dover case involving a Pennsylvania school district’s attempt to accommodate alternatives to Darwinism, I too join the ranks of those who wonder why Naturalism holds such a monopoly in the science classrooms of North America. In this case, the Naturalists, who embrace Darwinism to explain biological origins, used the courts to sustain their power in the public education system. Their attorneys used a carefully constructed defense that placed Intelligent Design on trial instead of Darwinism.

The local school board was comprised of well-meaning people who were keenly aware that something was not right about the biology textbooks at the local high schools. When it came to the issue of origins, only one worldview was espoused and that was Darwinism. As a learning aid, one teacher used a giant paper mural, so that students could draw the various paleontological ages. Not one word was taught about other “theoretical proposals.” The school board’s response was to use the political muscle of their local political service to promote their agenda of religious accommodation in their public school district. School employees and some parents filed suit believing that the status quo would prevail in the courts. They were correct in their assumption.

However, evangelicals need to join the chorus quickly with R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: “This was a bad case in the first place, and now we have a bad decision to go with it.” When establishing a defense for the action of the school board, the legal team attempted to demonstrate that, scientifically, Intelligent Design was on the same par with Darwinism. They attempted to use scientific data to substantiate their strategy. But in a hostile court given to secular training and modern jurisprudence, this is like comparing the proverbial apple with an orange. You may score some verbal points with the home crowd but you will lose the court battle.

While evangelicals may hold that there should be room at the table for a dualistic approach to the study of biological origins, the established system of training scientists and attorneys in North America is steeped in Naturalistic philosophy. The school district’s legal team should have invested more energy exposing Darwinism as the key tenet of a religion, namely secular Naturalism. It is this religion’s worldview that is espoused every day in our nation’s public education system and the vast majority of our nation’s public science educators are the missionaries for this religion that appeals to a student’s logic.

However, when one actually thinks about how unbelievable Darwin’s theory of macro-evolution really is, it becomes increasingly illogical. Think about it — you start with dust particles, then rocks, then through a spontaneous event, water emerges, then oceans, then over millions, perhaps billions of years there is the spontaneous concoction of atoms and molecules to form the basic trace elements like carbon and calcium. Then to top it all off, the world spontaneously experiences the formation of one-celled life forms with intelligence. After many millions and millions of years, the one-cell forms spontaneously produce multi-celled beings and, by a freak of nature, humankind arrives on the landscape with the capacity to build buildings and computers and…. For one to believe that people are the result of a random chance of nature takes a real leap of faith.

Just because many people are taught this nonsense and claim to believe it does not make it so. Nevertheless, they do believe it and because people place their faith in something, you have the formation of a religion, a worldview that filters everything they think.

Just because a religion doesn’t meet on Sunday and it doesn’t have steeples, seminaries or salvation, doesn’t mean Naturalism (Darwinism) is not a valid choice by people on the landscape of world religions. To illustrate, the United States is engaged in a war. The war against terror is not against an army of a national identity. The war is being waged with Al Qaeda. No one doubts the destruction and reality of this terrorist organization. Who can forget 9/11? Al Qaeda may not look like an army at war against the people of the United States, but we cannot, we will not forget the effect of their military actions against us.

Educators, judges, politicians may not want to call Darwinism a religion, but it is. It has adherents, organizations and a philosophical agenda wrapped in scientific language. Since Darwinism is a religion, then evangelicals must continue to call on the courts to level the playing field of the public square.

In a “non-sectarian” society, all religious viewpoints should be accommodated. In 1984, Chief Warren Burger acknowledged this perspective, stating, “There is an unbroken history of official acknowledgement by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life…. The Constitution does not require a complete separation of church and state. It affirmatively mandates accommodation, not mere tolerance of all religions and forbids hostility towards any.”

The federal judge in Pennsylvania, John E. Jones III, quoted one of the three Lemon tests to justify his ruling: “The notion animating the requirement that … principal or primary effect … be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion, is not only that government may not be overtly hostile to religion but also that it may not place its prestige, coercive authority, or resources behind a single religious faith or behind religious belief in general compelling nonadherents to support the practices or proselytizing of favored religious organizations and conveying the message that those who do not contribute gladly are less than full members of the community.” This ruling is the standard argument for sterilizing the public square of religious icons and, more importantly, philosophical values the evangelical community holds dear.

Granted, Judge Jones’ opinion is way beyond a straightforward declaration. Although he claims not to be an activist, this ruling reads like an opinion rendered by an activist court. However, had the Dover Area School Board’s legal team used their time to expose Naturalism as religious bias in the public education environment, the judge would have been without excuse to accommodate Intelligent Design with Darwinism. Now we are stuck with a judicial opinion that will be referenced in future cases as further justification to purge Christian thought from the educational environment.
John L. Yeats is director of communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention and editor of LBCLive. He also serves as recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • John L. Yeats