Thursday, March 11, 2010

Casey Luskin Takes the New York Times to Task

Casey Luskin has written a piece about the New York Times article on "academic freedom legislation" in which he castigates the Times for getting the detail wrong in their wording on how the Georgia evolution sticker case was decided. According to the Times, the justices ruled that the sticker was unconstitutional because it singled out evolution in it focus. He writes:
The problem with the NY Times’ claim is that the Selman case did NOT rule that the sticker was unconstitutional due to the fact that “evolution alone was the target.” In fact, in the Selman v. Cobb County ruling, Judge Cooper held that the Cobb County sticker had a valid secular purpose and that it was permissible to single out evolution. In the words of Judge Cooper’s lower court ruling in Selman, “The School Board's singling out of evolution is understandable in this context” because “evolution is the only theory of origin being taught in Cobb County classrooms,” and “evolution was the only topic in the curriculum, scientific or otherwise, that was creating controversy.”

The court then found two legitimate secular purposes for the sticker. The sticker was permissible because the purpose of “[f]ostering critical thinking is a clearly secular purpose . . . [and] because [the disclaimer] tells students to approach the material on evolution with an open mind, to study it carefully, and to give it critical consideration.”
Luskin complains that he sent a correction request to the Times and received the response that their interpretation of the ruling was correct and they were standing by it. Luskin argues that the high court ruled that there were instances in which it was constitutionally acceptable to single out evolution.

This argument sort of sidesteps the science involved in favor of the law. The fact of the matter is that many that viewed the decision wondered why evolution, as a scientific discipline, was being singled out to the exclusion of all other disciplines. What is it about evolution, many wondered, that makes people see red? The Discovery Institute and other organizations that claim to support "academic freedom" and "teaching the full range of scientific views" have never addressed this issue. Other theoretical disciplines have unanswered questions. Those do not seem to get any attention from school boards, the Discovery Institute or other ID supportive groups. This, once again, begs the question: how is that for the last 150 years, the disciplines of geology, physics, chemistry, medicine, and engineering have gotten everything right (including black holes, of which none have ever been seen) and biology and palaeontology have gotten everything so totally wrong?

Luskin may have a valid point that the Times got it wrong. They tend to get much wrong, these days. But that doesn't change the court's consternation that evolution, and only evolution was being targeted.

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