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The Fruit of Richard Dawkins’ Efforts on the Intelligent Design Debate

Casey Luskin

After posting about the law review article in the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion which argued that Judge Jones went too far, I was sent an unsolicited e-mail by someone I’ll call SGB with the subject, “Intelligent Design is Not Science.” The e-mail was sent as a letter to the Editor-In-Chief and Managing Editor of the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, apparently intended for public consumption. I was cc’d on it, along with Richard Dawkins and Glenn Branch (of the NCSE). It’s a long letter, which largely misunderstands ID and Mr. Italiano’s legal arguments. But SGB’s conclusion was most interesting:

In a book titled “The God Delusion”, author Richard Dawkins considers “the God Hypothesis.” He defines the God Hypothesis as follows: “there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us” (page 31). He asserts that “God is a scientific hypothesis like any other” (page 50). He concludes that the validity of the God Hypothesis has a “Very low probability [of being correct], but short of zero” (page 51). He regards God as “a pernicious delusion” (page 31) and I agree with his assessment.

Religion can be compared to a brain virus. Religion impedes a person’s capacity to think rationally. If the members of a public school’s governing board try to inject that disease into the brains of children then their efforts should be stopped cold. I therefore applaud Judge Jones’ ruling in the Kitzmiller case.

Intelliget [sic] design is not science!

Sincerely, [SGB]

cc: Casey Luskin, Richard Dawkins, Glenn Branch

(emphasis added)

Clearly SGB misunderstands the Kitzmiller ruling. Judge Jones emphatically declared it is “utterly false” to believe that “evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being.” Judge Jones even ruled that evolution “in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.” (online version, page 136) It thus seems highly unlikely that Judge Jones would agree with SGB that religion is “a brain virus” or that Judge Jones intended his ruling to be used a polemic against all religion.

Despite Judge Jones’ efforts, it’s clear that persons such as SGB (and Richard Dawkins) are happy to rely upon Kitzmiller as part of their crusade against religion. But 2 questions remain:

  • (1) Do SGB’s actions support Judge Jones’ bold holding that evolution “in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator”? (emphasis added)
  • (2) In light of these quotes from Judge Jones, what business does a federal judge have ruling on the proper theological interpretation of a scientific theory? The quote from U.S. v. Ballard answers this question below.

SGB and Judge Jones Have More Common Ground than They Think
Richard Dawkins’ crusade may have misled SGB to think the Kitzmiller ruling was an all-out attack upon religion. But in the final analysis, SGB and Judge Jones may have more in common than they think: they both use evolution and Kitzmiller to attack religious viewpoints. SGB attacks all religious viewpoints, while Judge Jones merely attacks those religious people whose religion tells them that “evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being,” as Judge Jones ruled that such a belief is “utterly false.” (The Kitzmiller ruling thus squares nicely with Judge Jones’ publicly stated endorsement of the view that “true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry” and stated that such “precepts and beliefs … guide me each day as a federal trial judge.” (Dickinson College Commencement Address))

In conclusion, all should be reminded of a passage from a famous U.S. Supreme Court case from the 1940s which makes it clear that it is not the business of a court to declare any religious belief false under any circumstances:

Heresy trials are foreign to our Constitution. Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines or beliefs. … The religious views espoused by respondents might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people. But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect. When the triers of fact undertake that task, they enter a forbidden domain.
(U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, at 86–7 (1944) (internal citations omitted))

See here for more details.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



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