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. One of my professors in college was the founder of “bibliotherapy”, which was to be used as a treatment modality in the therapeutic relationship between counselor and client. Jung employed “art therapy” as a means of unlocking elements of the subconscious…

  2. Byron:

    “I disagree with them.”

    Specifically how?

    “Neurons firing in your brain because you are tripping on acid is not the same as actually experiencing something in reality. Now I wont argue that the effect on the brain may be the same but it is not reality.”

    Epistemically speaking, how do you know?

    “I dont know really anything about Kant, but wouldnt he say the same thing as James and Huxley?”

    Not really, but he could definitely show you how to tell the difference between a transcendental illusion and a cleverly disguised rock.

    “That a dream/hallucination is just as valid as reality because it exists within the brain. We dont necessarily need our senses to experience reality.”

    Before completely discounting any of the ‘varieties of religious experience’ you may want to do a little more research. I guess it’s just the Socrates in me that says “what do I know?”

    C.G. Jung: “In the same way that our misconception of the solar system had to be freed from prejudice by Copernicus, the most strenuous efforts of a well-nigh revolutionary nature were needed to free psychology, first from the spell of mythological ideas, and then from the prejudice that the psyche is, on the one hand, a mere epiphenomenon of a biochemical process in the brain, or, on the other hand, a wholly unapproachable and recondite matter. The connection with the brain does not in itself prove that the psyche is an epiphenomenon, a secondary function casually dependent on biochemical processes.” (C.G. Jung, ‘The Undiscovered Self’)

  3. Well stated lottakatz, couldn’t a said it better myself. Sorry, if you felt I capped on you kinda hard, no hard feelings..

  4. During the time period in question there was no public education was there? One relied on patrons, private tutors and The Church to educate people. Knowledge was a threat to faith and power and withheld from the masses. Dissing Church educated scholars kind of dismisses most of the trained thinkers of the time does it not?

  5. BobEsq:

    I disagree with them. Neurons firing in your brain because you are tripping on acid is not the same as actually experiencing something in reality. Now I wont argue that the effect on the brain may be the same but it is not reality.

    I dont know really anything about Kant, but wouldnt he say the same thing as James and Huxley? That a dream/hallucination is just as valid as reality because it exists within the brain. We dont necessarily need our senses to experience reality.

  6. Last time I checked you were championing the virtues of Luther, mespo. Was he not a dogmatist? Oh yeah, I forgot you like his dogma because he was in opposition to the Catholic Church. I read your posts dude, you speak with forked tongue…

  7. Byron:

    “strictly speaking about LSD and other mind altering drugs don’t they just cause hallucinations? Your brain is not perceiving reality but the hallucinogenic effect of the drug.”

    William James & Aldous Huxley would disagree.

  8. Bob,ESq:

    I am not so sure our favorite Greek philosophers were dogmatic religionists, but if so, they too had the same blind spot all dogmatists do when it comes to believe in the foolish. They don’t lose the mantle of intellectual since they were not parsing a collective delusion like the some of the other names mentioned, but their mantle does seem a bit tattered. As you know, Aquinas was no fundamentalist believing that reason would be the substitute for the rare divine revelation. He was an Aristotelian, so my pithy comments may have been somewhat hasty, but I remain convinced no intellectual believes the Bible’s nonsense literally.

  9. BobEsq:

    Watch out for that Aristotle cat, man he thought that the sun revolved around the earth.

    But that might have been because he held man in such high esteem.

  10. Mespo:

    “One wonders how the word “intellectual” can used to reference a group of men who piously believe in a talking snake. Sincere, articulate, persuasive to those already believing, but intellectual? Forgive me, but that is a term of the Enlightenment, not the Dark Ages.”

    I see, so, within ‘your mythology’ Socrates, Plato & Aristotle are to be ignored as being non-intellectual simply by virtue of the myths which they believed?

    I must say you subscribe to a unique definition of the term “intellectual.”

  11. Mespo:

    those men may have been from the middle ages but they were indeed intellectuals. Ockham’s razor comes to mind as does the Summa Theologica.

    William of Ockham basically came up with modern scientific inquiry.

    fundamentalist christians of this era have very little in common with these men. Men like Aquinas questioned and probed.

  12. Byron:

    “What about Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham and other religious intellectuals?”

    ************

    One wonders how the word “intellectual” can used to reference a group of men who piously believe in a talking snake. Sincere, articulate, persuasive to those already believing, but intellectual? Forgive me, but that is a term of the Enlightenment, not the Dark Ages.

  13. It’s worse than you suggest Mike, physics now tells us that two people can experience the same event from different perpectives, witness two seperate and distinct outcomes of the event, and both can be correct. Reality is actually maleable. The only difference is perspective.

  14. Mike:

    obviously there could be things beyond our perception but we can only really deal with that which we can be percieved via our 5 senses. This input and our ability to reason allows us to interact with our world

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