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On the Fundamental Difference Between Darwin-Inspired and Intelligent Design-Inspired Lawsuits

Casey Luskin

At his blog, Darwin’s-God, Discovery Institute fellow Cornelius Hunter has been providing commentary on the recent settlement in the American Freedom Alliance (AFA) v. California Science Center (CSC) lawsuit. In one post, “Why the CSC Case is Important,” he asks:

But is this anything more than the sordid tale of a rogue department gone wrong? Were not the usual lines of authority broken and was not this department operating independently of the greater evolution movement? Surely there is plausible deniability and we cannot equate their many lies with evolution itself. Right?

Hunter provocatively answers:

Wrong. Unfortunately, the CSC case is typical. This is evolution in action. The only difference in this case is the evolutionists were found out. To understand why CSC is representative and not a loose cannon, one first must understand evolution itself.

I don’t necessarily agree with Dr. Hunter that evolutionary thinking entails “lies,” but I do agree with him that more than just science is driving the behavior of Darwin lobbyists. Politics is at work here as well.

This makes it all the more amazing that one of Hunter’s commenters writes in light of the AFA v. CSC lawsuit settlement: “If there was any doubt that ID Creationism is a political movement, this lawsuit should convince skeptics. This kind of media-driven theatrics — suing for publicity — lays bare the intellectual bankruptcy of the movement.”

The accusations from the commenter are both wrong and hypocritical.

“Litigation” is often treated as if it were dirty word, but to litigate simply means you are asserting a right; this can be done for the good, or it can be done for ill.

In the case of the ID movement and the AFA lawsuit, we are simply asserting First Amendment free speech rights. AFA’s lawsuit, which was backed by abundant evidence of viewpoint discrimination, was not motivated by publicity-seeking. The purpose was to defend free speech. Would critics consider it “intellectually bankrupt” to defend free speech?

ID is an intellectual idea, and proponents of that idea are facing illegal discrimination. If you’re a proponent of a scientific theory, sometimes litigation is necessary to defend your free speech rights to communicate your intellectual ideas. This doesn’t show a “political movement,” because the aim of the lawsuit is simply to open up intellectual discussion and debate. Opening up intellectual discussion and fighting discrimination on an important topic like biological origins is a public good, and it can be morally justified to file a lawsuit to achieve that end.

Moreover, the list of lawsuits filed by the Darwin lobby goes on and on: Kitzmiller v. Dover, Selman v. Cobb County, Hurst v. Newman, Freiler v. Tangipahoa, Edwards v. Aguillard, etc. etc. etc. If the ID movement filing a lawsuit makes it “political” (which it doesn’t), then why isn’t Darwinian theory considered a “political” movement because of its long history of suing? It’s hypocritical to attack the ID movement as “political” for filing a lawsuit when the pro-Darwin side has been doing so for years.

In that regard, consider the fundamental qualitative difference between recent litigation initiated by the ID movement and litigation that comes out of the Darwin lobby:

  • Darwin lobby litigation: In every Darwin-inspired case listed above, the Darwin lobby sought to shut down free speech, stopping people from talking about non-evolutionary views, and seeking to restrict freedom of intellectual inquiry.
  • ID movement litigation: Seeks to expand intellectual inquiry and free speech rights to talk about non-evolutionary views.

Critics of ID should have every right to express their views, but what’s unfortunate is when they go further and try to suppress those who support ID. I truly wish it wasn’t necessary for the ID movement to have to file lawsuits, but if the Darwin lobby insists on illegally suppressing the pro-ID viewpoint, we will be forced to use the court system to assert our free speech rights. There’s nothing intellectually bankrupt or inappropriately political when your purpose is to defend free speech for scientists and educators to expand intellectual inquiry.


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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