Louisiana Approves New Rules Allowing Teachers to Challenge the Basis of Evolution While California Court Rules that Teacher Violated Constitution By Criticizing Creationism

140px-Charles_Darwin_by_G._Richmond180px-Creation_of_the_Sun_and_Moon_face_detailThere are a couple of interesting stories on the continued struggle over teaching evolution in public schools. In Louisiana, the state has approved special rules allowing teachers to challenge the basis of the theory of evolution. In California, a court ruled that a history teacher’s criticism of creationism violated the Constitution.

Louisiana, which has long had some of the lowest achievement levels in public education, will now have teachers challenging the basis of evolution. The alternative is obviously a belief in creationism. This will allow the use of supplemental materials, presumably including “intelligent design” material.

For the full story, click here.

While you can criticize evolution in Louisiana, you cannot criticize creationism in California. A court found that European history teacher, James Corbett, 62, violated by Constitution by referring to creationism as “superstitious nonsense”.

Chad Farnan, a devout Christian studying at California’s Capistrano Valley high school, had originally sued over a series of comments made by his teacher. It appears that Farnan spent many months collecting a dossier of material against Corbett before bringing the action.

The court threw out all but the last comment.

He is represented by Jennifer Monk, who works for a not-for-profit Christian law firm, Advocates for Faith and Freedom. She still claimed victory in establishing that the comment was actionable. I think she is right that it was a considerable victory. While the Court recently ruled that her client could not recover damages from the teacher, it still established the principle that a teacher cannot criticize creationism. It just shows that, if you want to argue for creationism, find a Monk.

What is interesting is that the basis for the ruling is that creationism is a religious belief. However, creationists have been advancing the same views under the label “intelligent design” and insist that this is not teaching religion. Thus, in places like Louisiana, they are likely to be calling for intelligent design material to be used in class. Does that mean if Corbett said “intelligent design is “superstitious nonsense”, it would not violate the Constitution?

Judge James Selna’s decision draws a curious line. He found that it does not violate the establishment clause for Corbett to say such things as “when you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth” because this statement was made in a historical context. He also ruled that it was not a violation to say “conservatives don’t want women to avoid pregnancies — that’s interfering with God’s work” and that there was as much evidence that God created the world “as there is that there is a gigantic spaghetti monster living behind the moon who did it”.

Ok, I am now confused. Selna insists that “there was no legitimate secular purpose to the statement and it constituted ‘improper disapproval of religion in violation of the establishment clause.'” The big spaghetti monster didn’t raise the same issue?

It sounds to me that Corbett went a bit far and should be a bit more circumspect. However, teaching evolution necessarily rejects the concept that a divine being simply created all of nature in a few days — just a few thousand years ago. While politicians still insist that carbon dating is a myth and the Earth was relatively recently created, teachers teach facts not faith. Evolution is a fact.

The other issue is the fact that this is a high school class. I would be very concerned about such comments in an elementary or middle school. However, in high school, teachers will often try to challenge their students and engage them in spirited debate. That is usually a matter for internal review at the school as opposed to fully fledge litigation.

Selna did rule in favor of Corbett on the issue of “qualified immunity,” holding “Corbett is shielded from liability – not because he did not violate the Constitution, but because of the balance which must be struck to allow public officials to perform their duties.”

For the earlier story, click here

For the latest story, click here.

127 thoughts on “Louisiana Approves New Rules Allowing Teachers to Challenge the Basis of Evolution While California Court Rules that Teacher Violated Constitution By Criticizing Creationism”

  1. What are the ‘scientific facts’ of evolutionism? There is indeed a controversey because plain and simple, there just isn’t any cut and dry hard core, testable, provable evidence that backs up the theory of evolutionism. That’s also why the theory is still a theory. But the teaching of evolutionism has been politically sheltered from scrutiny or examination in the classroom beacause it is supposedly a sacred-cow ‘fact’ – yet no one can bring up a single ‘fact’ of evolution. The superstitious nonsense of evolutionism is politically protected in the school system and it is shameful that people won’t even let criticisms of evolutionism see the light of day. The students aren’t allowed to examine all the problems with the theory of evolutionism. Heck, even Darwin had several problems with evolutionism – for one the marked absence of transitional fossils. To this day we STILL haven’t found that abundance of transitional fossils that should literally be everywhere, if evolutionism is true.

    The students can’t study Creation, even though we see remarkable intelligent design in created things that our best ‘scientists’ can’t explain. But they aren’t allowed to even think such a way. To do so would violate the sacred cow protection of evolutionism. A lot of states even have laws regarding the accuracy of the textbooks used but the laws aren’t enforced. For example, to this day, there are some textbooks that still use the fraudulent drawings of Haeckel, regarding alleged gill slits on human embryos. These were proven fraudulent over a hundred years ago but are STILL used. That alone is a red flag to question everything taught about evolutionism.

  2. It has been suggested by some that we should ‘teach the controversy’. But when we do that, this is what happens. If you teach the “controversy” over evolution, you end up teaching evolution, and then pointing out that some people still refuse to accept scientific facts, and instead cling to their superstitious nonsense. So a science teacher gets sued for stating a scientific fact, simply because the way he said it felt ‘hurtful’ to weak-minded religionists.

    What people who say “teach the controvery” actually want is for us to pretend they have any facts whatsoever on their side, or even that they have logic on their side. When creationism/ID is presented in a factual, balanced way in a science curriculum, there is only one honest way to do it: point out it is superstitious nonsense that was refuted definitively almost a century ago, at best.

  3. I have always wondered why some Christians interpret the Bible so literally. I know a lot of other religions, which despite their followers who at times are very close-minded and orthodox thinking, generally do not challenge sciences, be it the science of evolution, or healthcare sciences, such as when those people withhold medical care from their families. I do not follow any religions, never read the Bible, but there must be really some flawed teachings there to result in this kind of blind faith and a diminished ability in critical thinking, as opposed to being an independent thinker. The people who in the 21st century, still believing in that nonsense of creationism tall tales, opposing all scientific evidence, need to get real. They are bad for society’s progress. The most advanced and happiest societies are the least religious ones in the world such as some European countries.

  4. Buddha,
    Well said. Creationism is a poor excuse for science. It was developed for the purpose of challenging scientific fact with religious ideology.

  5. jim corbett 1, September 17, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Just for the record, I did not disparage anyone. My comment (superstitious religious nonsense) referred to the teaching of a biology teacher at my school who was teaching “young earth creationism.” He sued the District, Dept. Chair, Principal, administrators and student newspaper (I was the adviser), asserting his right “as a qualified biology teacher,” under the principles of academic freedom, to teach that nonsense at a public high school while ignoring the state curriculum, directives by his superiors, and in spite of many complaints from parents. He lost the suit which the judge tossed out noting that it was a “frivolous lawsuit filed in bad faith.” What I said in class was that John Peloza (the teacher)was teaching “superstitious religious nonsense,” not science.

  6. I don’t see why the decision in this case is so absurd (and, for the most part, neither does Turley who says the teacher “went a bit far and should be a bit more circumspect”). Let me be clear: I’m not religious, I believe in a strong separation of religion and state, and I think creationism and intelligent design have no place in science classes because they’re not science.

    But the state is supposed to be neutral in matters of religion. So it seems to me that a teacher telling a student that creationism is “superstitious nonsense” crosses the line of neutrality.(I think the teacher could say “I don’t think it’s science,” or “I think the topic belongs in a comparative religion class.”)

    I don’t know whether the teacher’s statement is distinguishable from the other statements Turley brings up.

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