May 12, 2008

Is a New Creationist Strategy Being Road-Tested in Maine?

A commenter on Pharyngula hit one of my concerns about the SAD 59 Creationist situation right on the button:

I thought this looked like a new tactic on the part of creationists:

We can't even get ID through the small wedge we created into science classes, so lets pull evolution out.

Spanish Inquisitor

This is something that concerns me as well. The Neocreationists/IDolators have, until now, always used strategies that attempted to get something they wanted into science curricula. The latest of these, which we saw in Florida among others, was the idea that "academic freedom" requires that all "alternative theories" be given equal footing, so Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolutionary biology — even if only because some particular teacher wanted to do so.

That strategy presents a real problem, though, because at least one judge in recent memory had ruled that Intelligent Design wasn't science and still represented a religious idea. While that ruling technically was binding only upon a single jurisdiction, the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover was still likely to be seen as a precedent for future rulings.

Matthew Linkletter is without doubt an unabashed classical Creationist and believes in a literal six-day creation, young earth, the whole medieval enchilada. Why, we should be asking, is he saying that he doesn't want Creationism taught in Maine's public schools?

Linkletter and his cohorts in Maine aren't asking that anything be inserted into a curriculum. They're trying to get something removed. Unlike previous strategies, this one wouldn't violate any religious bias or church-state separation law, at least not on the face of it. Not teaching about evolution and not teaching some version of Creationism doesn't endorse a particular religion because you can't endorse something by not saying anything about it. If they're successful in this effort, however, they still achieve what has been their goal all along, which is to get evolutionary biology out of K-12 classrooms.

If evolutionary biology isn't taught in school, it almost certainly won't be taught anywhere. It doesn't matter whether or not Creationism is taught in a classroom because it will still be taught in churches, Sunday schools and homes. Remember, the point of this assault on biology has never been about making a positive rebuttal to accepted science. All that Neocreationists have ever done is to attempt to poke (illegitimate) holes in evolutionary theory. They don't care about replacing it with something better, only about getting rid of it entirely.

That's one major reason why I've been rather alarmed at the situation in Maine. As far as I know, this modus operandi hasn't been used before and it may prove to be a highly pernicious one.

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