Creationism After Dover

Creationism After Dover

As I wrote elsewhere, it looks as though the question is not whether the Intelligent Design Creationists will lose the Dover case, but how badly. But I don’t imagine for a moment that they’ll just throw up their hands and give up. So the question is, what’ll they do next?

As seen in testimony in the trial, after Edwards v. Aguillard, scientific creationism morphed into intelligent design. The Supreme Court ruled that you can’t teach religion in a science classroom, so the creationists took out all of the explicit references to God from their material, filed the serial numbers off of creationism, and rebranded themselves as Intelligent Design. Instead of “God created humans”, it’s now “an unspecified designer (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) created humans.”

It’s safe to assume that the judge in Kitzmiller v. Dover will deliver a smackdown from the bench. Edwards v. Aguillard gave us “you can’t teach religion in school”; Kitzmiller v. Dover will give us “you can’t even look as if you’re teaching religion in school.”

So the obvious thing would be if Creationism 3.0 were even more vague, and perhaps emphasize advanced space aliens or panspermia rather than an unspecified “designer”. The problem is that a lot of the fundies already think that ID — Creationism 2.0 — doesn’t go nearly far enough. They want God and Jesus, by gum, and they want to stand for the Truth of the Bible. It’s already been hard enough for the IDists to get people to shut up about God long enough to get ID into schools, and the fundie base isn’t going to stay quiet much longer.

But why is it illegal to teach religion in school? It’s that pesky separation of church and state thing in the First Amendment. And a lot of conservative fundies already think that’s a myth. Plus, there’s been a lot of whining about “activist judges” “legislating from the bench” (presumably by saying that your rights don’t allow you to trample all over other people’s rights). So I expect the fundies to continue pursuing that angle. They’ll take Dover not as a defeat, but as a setback. And the way to overcome this setback will be to appoint more conservative judges, ones who’ll be more sympathetic to their views. That, and elect fundie-conservative legislators who’ll enact laws weakening the wall of separation between church and state.

I doubt there’ll be a frontal assault, such as a movement to repeal the establishment clause of the First Amendment. For one thing, it’s hard to spin “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” as being anti-Christian. For another, they just don’t have the numbers. While many in the rank and file might vote for such an amendment, there are enough clues in the upper echelons to realize that such a proposal would never pass, and would alienate a lot of potential allies.

So presumably the assault will be more indirect, involving a lot of bills with “restoration” in the title, and lots of innocuous-sounding phrases about “religious freedom” and whatnot. Perhaps there’ll be something saying that curricula should be pleasing to the community, and not determined at a wine-and-brie party by Princeton liberals.

They’ll continue to push for school vouchers and tax breaks for homeschooling, so that kids don’t have to be exposed to Evilushionism. And they’ll continue diluting science standards anywhere they think they have the clout to do so.

Perhaps they’ll even try to dismantle the public education system itself, reasoning that anyone who attends a public school will be exposed to Darwinism, and therefore it’s best not to have public schools at all.

It’ll be harder to shut down the universities (and if you do that, there won’t be any more college football!), but they may try it anyway. The easiest way to do this would be through budget cuts. I think this might be relatively easy: there are always bad years, and always budget cuts. A lot of what a university does is blue-sky research, and if the university doesn’t have a good community outreach program, the locals may not see much benefit in having it around.

If it goes far enough, the US might devolve into a virtual theocracy, or perhaps third-world theocracy in all but name.

Or we might have a national awakening. Perhaps the French will beat us to Mars, or China will clone a human, or something, and the president will make a speech and announce that befoah this decade is ovah, we shall put a man on the Moon genetically engineer a goose that lays golden eggs, or some such. And this will lead to a renewed interest in science, technology, and education for a decade or two.

IMHO it all boils down to education. The unchanging core of creationism, which will have to be retained in version 3.0 and beyond, is opposition to evolution. But most of the opposition to evolution seems to come from people who don’t even know what it is, who think that it’s about the origin of life, or that it says that individual organisms magically changed shape or gave birth to radically different organisms.

And, of course, there are the teeming masses in the middle, the ones who think of themselves as religious and go to church every once in a while, who think that science is cool in some vague abstract way, especially when it comes up with large-screen plasma TVs or cell phones, but who don’t really think about either one very much. Maybe there’ll be a new Carl Sagan who can explain what evolution and science are all about to the average person.

Maybe the fundies themselves will finally go too far. Although survey after survey shows that Americans are very religious and opposed to the teaching of evolution, I don’t think most care that much. They’re just going along with what they hear around them, and that includes priests and talking heads on TV.

I don’t know what will happen, or how to fix things. Maybe we need a sea change in society, but maybe this sea change could be achieved more easily than I think, with perhaps just a few high-profile events, like Jon Stewart calling a creationist a douchebag to his face, or Britney Spears going to Canada for a life-saving operation, thus casting doubt on the state of medical technology in this country.

I don’t know. If you do, let me know.