From his dissent in Aquillard v. Edwards, 482 U.S. 578 (1987):
The people of Louisiana, including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools, just as Mr. Scopes was entitled to present whatever scientific evidence there was for it.
Relative to the dumbest thing I think I’ve ever heard Scalia say, which coincidentally was also about the Establishment Clause, this is pretty smart. Scalia’s dissent (joined by Rehnquist) seriously called into question the so-called Lemon test‘s inquiry into legislators’ purported intent or purpose, which in my opinion (at least in this context) smacks of ad hominemism. (The federal district court judge’s 2005 ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District relied an awful lot on Lemon’s ad hominem approach.)
This post is occasioned by my comment on a Popehat post by Ken in which he lamented as a sign of the end times that apparently every viable Republican candidate for the 2012 presidential election favors teaching Intelligent Design in schools. My comment was:
Several critical responses followed, including this one from Chris (aka Gorko):
Taking Chris’ advice, I pulled off the bookshelf “a single popular book on the controversy” — my heretofore unread copy of Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson. As Chris would probably have to agree, my hopes of settling this question once and for all in my own mind by reading this book are likely forlorn.
But I think I can already advance some tentative conclusions after only reading the first chapter of Darwin on Trial and a few random things on the internet. While I am for good reasons based on personal experience not prone to accept on faith what is represented to me as the scientific “consensus” on evolution, and would not be surprised to find that the grander and more notorious claims of evolution (e.g., that man evolved from apes) are not as supported by the scientific evidence as people have been led to believe, I am from the get go skeptical of the notion that Intelligent Design can be demonstrated by scientific evidence. Disproving (or at least debunking) evolution is one thing; proving Design quite another.
When I said above that “natural intuition and common sense is arguably on the side of design rather than evolution,” I think what I had in mind is not so much the classical argument from design but what I might call an “argument from pragmatism,” as I expressed it here as follows:
Perhaps we should trust our senses, moreso than what we think we know, or can infer from all the evidence we’ve gotten secondhand, about evolution and how it is has hardwired our brains. Perhaps one of the most fundamental senses we should, must, trust is the sense that life makes sense. If everything we know will ultimately pass into oblivion, will eventually disintegrate into nothing but mindless space dust, then life makes no sense. Then there would be no point in doing anything, including talking or thinking about anything. But all of our science and all of our thinking and all of our doing is premised on our sense (the sense of all senses) that life makes sense.
I don’t think this “argument from pragmatism” can be dismissed as mere wishful thinking. Rather, I think it’s simply a reasonable recognition that there’s a very good chance that the premises upon which we necessarily base everything we do are true.