Intelligent Design Is Religion, and That's Fine--But Not in Science or Public Schools

Intelligent-design creationists are not lunatics, nor are they scientists.


Guest blogger Richard B. Katskee is assistant legal director at Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C.

Casey Luskin's responses to the commentaries that Robert Pennock and I wrote for this blog are, sadly, characteristic of what passes for scholarship in the intelligent-design movement: Luskin does no original work, but instead crudely strings together out-of-context quotations and debunked creationist canards in order to fabricate the appearance of support for his movement's pretensions to science. In the process, he rejects genuine science as "dogma," and he dismisses careful legal analysis as "judicial activism"—the term that we lawyers use when we really mean, "I don't like that decision." Others have exposed these tactics before, so I won't belabor the point here.

I do feel the need, however, to correct one misstatement in Luskin's article. Perhaps too quick with the cut-and-paste buttons, Luskin incorrectly attributes to me a quotation in an ABA Journal article some years ago that refers to those who advocate for intelligent design as the lunatic fringe of science. I was not interviewed for or quoted in that article; I did not make the statement that so enrages Luskin—and I do not believe it. Intelligent-design creationists are not lunatics. Nor is their endeavor science—fringe or otherwise. Intelligent design's proponents are people with religious beliefs that, though different than my own, are no less sincere. Far from dismissing those beliefs as lunatic, I celebrate the vibrancy of the religious diversity that is, after all, just what James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and the other Framers of our Constitution hoped to achieve with the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. It is only because Judge John E. Jones III (the author of the Kitzmiller decision) and others on the federal bench have upheld the principal of church-state separation that Luskin and I are able to practice our respective religions openly, without fear of governmental oppression.

But therein lies the problem with intelligent-design creationism. Luskin and his colleagues are free to believe what they wish in matters of faith; but they should recognize that the rest of us have that same right. Pawning off their religious views as science is not now, nor has it ever been, a genuine attempt to expand the frontiers of scientific knowledge or to improve science education; thus, the fact that intelligent-design creationism lacks any scientific bona fides does not trouble its proponents too much. Their real goal is, after all, to use science class as a forum for indoctrinating our children into their religious beliefs. But that requires getting around the U.S. Supreme Court's consistent rulings that parents have the right to make choices about their children's religious education; public-school teachers, school boards, and state legislatures do not. Beliefs don't become scientific theories just because you label them "science," and they don't cease to be religious views just because you say they aren't. Insist as loudly or as adamantly as you wish—science is still science, and religion remains religion.

Able to claim no original research, no peer-reviewed scholarship, and no successes (or even efforts) in the laboratory, the intelligent-design movement is not a revolution in science. It is a crusade in the classroom. Our children need sound science education if they are to be successful in the modern world. But more than that, they deserve the same respect for their religious beliefs that Luskin and his fellow creationists enjoy.