Christine O’Donnell v. The Constitution On Creationism In Public Schools

There’s one more excerpt from last night’s Delaware Senate debate that’s worth sharing:

BLITZER: Let’s give you a chance to respond to some of the things she said because in a television appearance back in 1998 on Bill Maher’s show you said evolution is a myth. Do you believe evolution is a myth?

O’DONNELL: I believe that the local — I was talking about what a local school taught and that should be taught — that should be decided on the local community. But please let me respond to what he just said.

BLITZER: We’ll let you respond but answer the question. Do you believe evolution is a myth?

O’DONNELL: Local schools should make that decision. I made that remark based on —

BLITZER: What do you believe?

O’DONNELL: What I believe is irrelevant.

BLITZER: Why is it irrelevant?

O’DONNELL: Because what I would support …

BLITZER: Voters want to know.

O’DONNELL: What I will support in Washington, D.C. is the ability for the local school system to decide what is taught in their classrooms and what I was talking about on that show was a classroom that was not allowed to teach creationism as an equal theory as evolution. That is against their constitutional rights and that is an overreaching arm of the government.

Basically, O’Donnell is saying that local districts have the right to decide whether or not to teach creationism and/or evolution.

The problem is that the Supreme Court has already said that they don’t. In 1987, in Edwards v. Aguillard, the Supreme Court held that school districts cannot teach creationism along side evolution in a science classroom:

The purpose of the Creationism Act was to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint. Out of many possible science subjects taught in the public schools, the legislature chose to affect the teaching of the one scientific theory that historically has been opposed by certain religious sects. As in Epperson, the legislature passed the Act to give preference to those religious groups which have as one of their tenets the creation of humankind by a divine creator. The “overriding fact” that confronted the Court in Epperson was “that Arkansas’ law selects from the body of knowledge a particular segment which it proscribes for the sole reason that it is deemed to conflict with . . . a particular interpretation of the Book of Genesis by a particular religious group.” 393 U.S., at 103 . Similarly, the Creationism Act is designed either to promote the theory of creation science which embodies a particular religious tenet by requiring that creation science be taught whenever evolution is taught or to prohibit the teaching of a scientific theory disfavored by certain religious sects by forbidding the teaching of evolution when creation science is not also taught. The Establishment Clause, however, “forbids alike the preference of a religious doctrine or the prohibition of theory which is deemed antagonistic to a particular dogma.” Id., at 106-107 (emphasis added). Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to advance a particular religious belief, the Act endorses religion in violation of the First Amendment.

So, no Christine, local school districts don’t have the right to make this decision themselves. But, then, Christine couldn’t name a single Supreme Court case she disagreed with so I’m not surprised she’d be unaware of this.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. A Na says:

    Creationism is about evolution and vice versa. While the human body evolved from some ape-like creature and then became a biped (homo erectus) it had a lowly evolved soul. However, when a certain refinement occurs, a more advanced soul is reincarnated into a human body form….the purpose being to detach from all sensory ‘pleasures’ so that after an initiation and physical death, the soul is liberated and can return to its true home. It has completely evolved to form part of the creator. ……never to be embodied again. Creationism AND evolution. It takes many creations (human births) to obtain.

  2. Well, your analysis assumes that there is such a thing as a “soul”

  3. mantis says:

    Creationism is about evolution and vice versa.

    Wrong. Creationism is about denying science in favor of literal interpretation of texts from many, many centuries ago.

    An that was the least nonsensical thing you wrote.

  4. Juneau: says:

    @ mataconis

    So, no Christine, local school districts don’t have the right to make this decision themselves.

    So in your studied opinion then Doug, the state of Kansas broke the law back in 1999 when they instituted teaching creationism throughout the state? They reversed themselves in 2000, but the point being that they are the ones who changed the policy and they are the ones who changed it back.. Interesting that – if what you state here is accurate and it is against the law for them to do what they did – during the ensuing uproar no one made a case that what the state did was “illegal.”

    Perhaps you may want to rethink your position that O’Donnell was in error…

  5. Juneau: says:

    @ mantis

    Wrong. Creationism is about denying science..

    No ,its about addressing origins, which is a philosophical and religious issue. Science decided they wanted to get into the philosophy business and that is where the conflict arises. It was no longer sufficient to explore and understand the compositions and properties of objects of study; science erroneously decided to get into the business of speculating or theorizing about the essential life force and its origins. And they still don’t have a non-contradictory “scientific” theory about it as of today. This is inescapable and undeniable because at its core, the question is not a scientific question, it is a philosophical one.

    Science simply refuses to admit that their evidence to explain origins is not science at all – it is a belief system just like religion. And science, by definition, is not about belief. It is about observable and reproducible facts.

  6. Juneau,

    Were any lawsuits filed regarding the Kansas actions? I’m guessing no, or the law would’ve been struck down post haste.

    As for your response to mantis, those questions are best dealt with in churches, not school rooms

  7. John P says:

    I wonder if O’Donnell would stand up for a Muslim district in Dearborn, MI making the same decision.

  8. Juneau: says:

    @ mataconis

    As for your response to mantis, those questions are best dealt with in churches, not school rooms

    I agree, but it was proponents of Darwinism that wanted to bring the discussion about the origin of life into the classroom, not religious leaders. It is philosophy under the guise of science, with spotty trappings of “proof” which are supported primarily by the idea that there is a scientific explanation for “everything.” Again that is fine, as long as it is appropriately treated as a belief system in its own right; it cannot and will not ever be proved scientifically. It is a theory supported by scattered and frail scientific observation (hence the many contradictions) , but the theory of evolution is not a scientific theory, it is a philosophical one.

  9. sam says:

    @Juneau

    “No ,its about addressing origins, which is a philosophical and religious issue. Science decided they wanted to get into the philosophy business and that is where the conflict arises.”

    I trust we’re all alive to the question begging nature of J’s response, right? And by question begging I mean, of course, petitio principii.

  10. Joe R. says:

    I’m more annoyed by her assertion that governments have rights. They certainly have power, and perhaps authority, but I’m less convinced of the “rights” part. It makes no sense from either a right-ish natural rights standpoint (because governments are not natural entities) or from a left-ish “rights come from government” standpoint (because something would have had to define the rights of government before that government existed).

  11. john personna says:

    Juneau, “Darwinism” is about as dead as Darwin. We are well past “Neo-Darwinism” now. A hundred years past, in fact. “Modern evolutionary synthesis” was completed in the 1940s. And so it goes, on and on. Group selection. Multilevel selection theory. …

    Just a historical note that the “evolutionists” are “evolving” more than their critics give them credit for.

  12. Brian Knapp says:

    So in your studied opinion then Doug, the state of Kansas broke the law back in 1999 when they instituted teaching creationism throughout the state?

    Actually, evolution was merely “de-emphasized” (mention of evolution was deleted in places) in the state curriculum and was thus left to the discretion of the local school boards to decide what to do with it.

    This was feared to have had the affect of degradation of scientific education in Kansas, which it didn’t have time to do since it was reversed.

    This happened again in 2004 (more specifically allowing intelligent design) and was reversed again in 2005.

    Creationism was never taught in Kansas. Teachers still taught evolution. What the state board did may have been against the law, but it didn’t have time to play out.

    No ,its about addressing origins, which is a philosophical and religious issue. Science decided they wanted to get into the philosophy business and that is where the conflict arises.

    Science IS a philosophy, albeit one that works, to explain how the universe works. Its philosophical principles are necessary in its proper application that precludes it from verifying the unverifiable (such as the existence of God or the soul).

    Those principles/assumptions are, to name a few: uniformity, that we live in an objective reality, empiricism, etc.

    Science is philosophy that is particularly rigorous is its application of its principles too (methodology), unlike most other philosophies.

  13. john personna says:

    Science IS a philosophy, albeit one that works, to explain how the universe works. Its philosophical principles are necessary in its proper application that precludes it from verifying the unverifiable (such as the existence of God or the soul).

    Actually, if He decided to leave us a smoking gun, like a 10,000 mile signature in deep oceans (“GOD was here”) science could find it.

    If you believe science is about that kind of physical evidence, and you believe that God works by faith alone (is ‘unprovable’) the two are compatible.

    Yes, science has a philosophy, and it is about deducing the rules of the visible, physical, universe.

    (Fossils are part of the visible, physical, universe and hence within the purview.)

  14. john personna says:

    (Creationists are a particular form of the religious who believe that faith supersedes physical evidence, that faith can say what fossils, never mind looking at them, mean.)

  15. anjin-san says:

    > Science decided they wanted to get into the philosophy business

    Right. Because “science” is some sort of monolithic block that thinks and acts as one. Just like like Islam.

    I guess there is some sort of comfort in existing in your simplistic world. If nothing else, very little actual thought is required, nor the effort involved in learning about the complexities of the larger world outside.

  16. Grewgills says:

    No ,its about addressing origins, which is a philosophical and religious issue. Science decided they wanted to get into the philosophy business and that is where the conflict arises. It was no longer sufficient to explore and understand the compositions and properties of objects of study; science erroneously decided to get into the business of speculating or theorizing about the essential life force and its origins.

    Juneau the theory of evolution is about how life changes once it exists and does not directly address biogenesis. Scientific threories on biogenesis do make sense in a science classroom though. If creationism or its doppleganger ID actually put forth any scientific theory it might deserve some time in a classroom, but as of this writing they have utterly failed to do so. It is them not the scientists that are dressing up metaphysics as science.

  17. mantis says:

    I agree, but it was proponents of Darwinism that wanted to bring the discussion about the origin of life into the classroom, not religious leaders.

    “Origin of life” is not what the theory of evolution through natural selection explains. You may be confused because Darwin’s work was titled The Origin of Species, but “species” does not equal “life,” but rather the differentiation and development thereof. To be sure, there are scientific hypotheses as to the origin of life on Earth, but they are not really a part of evolutionary theory, as before life, there was no evolution through natural selection. And as such, the origin of life on Earth is not really a topic of discussion in most public school biology classrooms.

    As for your contention that religious leaders are not the ones who want to bring that discussion (or recitation of dogma, in most cases) into the classroom, hogwash. They’ve done it since before Darwin and Lamarck, and have never stopped.

  18. G.A.Phillips says:

    ****To be sure, there are scientific hypotheses as to the origin of life on Earth, but they are not really a part of evolutionary theory, as before life, there was no evolution through natural selection.****?

    lol….before life, lol…….
    I for one is tired from trying to teach you guys about your religion and how dumb it is so I won’t….

  19. mantis says:

    lol….before life, lol…….

    Yes, there was a time before life emerged on Earth. It probably lasted about a billion years. Why you think that is so amusing, I have no idea, but backward idiots are always laughing at things the rest of us miss.

  20. davod says:

    “Christine O’Donnell beats expectations. . .and her opponent”

    “It’s no secret that I would be happier with Mike Castle as the Republican candidate because he would be an odds-on favorite to win a seat that O’Donnell is likely to lose. But tonight we saw one of the upsides to nominating O’Donnell – the forceful and articulate presentation to Delaware voters of the conservative case on foreign, domestic, and economic issues.

    Even if she had only held her own against Coons, the debate likely would have helped O’Donnell. If I am correct that she outdebated her opponent, the event may help O’Donnell significantly.”

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/10/027460.php

  21. davod says:

    Ps. Dougie,

    Did you watch all the debate or just look at highlights?