New Law Review Articles Discuss Teaching Evolution: Darwinist Law Professor Supports Censorship of ID Ideas - Evolution News & Views

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New Law Review Articles Discuss Teaching Evolution: Darwinist Law Professor Supports Censorship of ID Ideas

In a recent law review article in Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Stephen A. Newman, law professor at New York Law School, provides a wonderful example of how prevalent among some academics is the idea that it is acceptable and appropriate to censor intelligent design ideas. Newman writes:

Consider the experience of two librarians who received copies of two intelligent design books, Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe and Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson, as donations to their high school collections. When the librarians refused to put the books on the school library shelves, they were accused of censorship. In fact, exercising their professional judgment, they concluded that these books had "little or no value to our students and come from those with ulterior motives." The books did not meet the usual selection criteria, which required that books "support the curriculum, receive favorable reviews from professional journals, and be age-appropriate." Noting that intelligent design theory had been "repudiated by every leading scientific organization, including the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences," the librarians determined that teaching intelligent design "would be tantamount to teaching about the existence of Santa Claus."

(Stephen A. Newman, "Evolution and the Holy Ghost of Scopes: Can Science Lose the Next Round," 8.2 Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion (Spring, 2007), internal citations removed.)

But are these AAAS and NAS statements legitimate authorities? Since the AAAS issued an unresearched press release against ID and the National Academy of Sciences (whose biologist membership, keep in mind, is ~95% atheists and agnostics) published a booklet (co-authored by Eugenie Scott, no less) against ID, these librarians apparently feel it's OK to censor ID not just from classrooms, but from libraries.

In this present situation, we're not talking about making Darwin's Black Box or Darwin on Trial part of the required curriculum. We're simply talking about donating books to a library so students can have access to information about a controversial scientific and social issue over how life began. The censored books' authors are well-credentialed professors at top universities whose views are shared by other well-credentialed academics. Michael Behe's book was a New York Times bestseller and Phillip Johnson's book was debated by scholars such as Stephen Jay Gould and even deemed a view worthy of consideration by scientists like David Raup. There's no rational basis for banning these books from a library, other than plain and simple censorship of ideas you don't like.

Newman praises the "professional judgment" (i.e. the imposing of a viewpoint via censorship) of the librarians and ironically, he quotes the case Board of Education v. Pico to support his view: "Students must have access to ideas, to prepare 'for active and effective participation in the pluralistic, often contentious society in which they will soon be adult members.'" (quoting Pico, pg. 868). Newman then asserts, "Undermining the teaching of evolution deprives them of access to the best ideas in science."

But nobody in the ID-movement is advocating that any less evolution be taught than currently is taught. Evolution should be taught, but it should be taught with both its scientific strengths and it scientific weaknesses. This concept was well-captured by the Conference Report to the No Child Left Behind Act:

[A] quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.
Newman has turned academic freedom on its head: He is advocating censoring ideas that are non-evolutionary viewpoints. Newman hypocritically tries to cover his censorship by praising the pro-academic freedom language in the Pico ruling, stating that "[s]tudents must have access to ideas, to prepare 'for active and effective participation in the pluralistic, often contentious society in which they will soon be adult members.'" But does he practice what he preaches? Newman concludes his discussion by bemoaning "how often local librarians elsewhere yield to such pressure and quietly add these volumes to their school collections." It is a travesty that "pressure" is even necessary to merely add pro-ID books to a school library. But clearly Newman does not want pro-ID ideas in library books. Academics like Stephen Newman have mindsets that aren't even in the same solar system as those who truly support the view that "[s]tudents must have access to ideas."

Res Ipsa Loquitor
Keep in mind that Discovery Institute strongly supports teaching evolution and isn't trying to remove any scientific viewpoint from the classroom. Who is really opposing "access to ideas" here? As Randy Olson says in Flock of Dodos, "Res Ipsa Loquitor" (Stephen Newman speaks for himself).

The rest of Newman's article contains much water-cooler speculation about how the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court would respond to a lawsuit challenging the teaching of evolution. This section really doesn't interest me because it's just a lot of speculation about how certain Justices on the Court might vote in certain hypothetical situations.

More alarmingly, Newman ends his article by using unscholarly and pejorative terms to describe Christians. Newman ends his article by declaring a desire to "protect science teachers from involuntary enlistment into the ranks of proselytizers of the Christian faith." His incredible bias is shown in the fact that such language passes acceptability in a legal journal without any thought that it is intensively demeaning to the religious beliefs of millions of Americans.

[Author's note: edited to remove a mistake regarding the case Board of Education v. Pico.]