Thursday, March 27, 2008

Establishment of Religion?

Imagine the following as part of a discussion taking place in a public school biology class: “Each of the eleven major human body systems is so incredibly complex, efficient, functional, and seamlessly integrated with the ten other major systems, that the option of design by an intelligent agent cannot be ruled out.” Government jurists would rule (and have ruled) that permitting such discussions would be an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Any similar proposal with the faintest hint of a religious overtone would be excluded because naturalism is the only permissible investigative option in the science community. The concepts of design and supernatural cause and effect may not be involved in any challenge to naturalist proposals of evolution within our public school walls.

Now we may ask, "Could religion, or religions, be enlisted to support the teaching of evolution by an agency receiving federal funds?" The answer is a surprising "Yes." The NCSE (National Center for Science Education) receives funding from the NSF (National Science Foundation), which, in turn, is an agency funded by the federal government to the tune of $6.06 billion. The NSF supports basic scientific research. It has given $450,000 to NCSE to support a website called “Understanding Evolution.” Its purpose is to instruct teachers about how to teach evolution. The website lists seventeen major church denominations and religious organizations that endorse evolution. It encourages teachers to tell their students that “most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution.” Religious beliefs, therefore, MAY NOT be used to question evolution, but MAY be cited in support of evolution. More astonishing, government money may be used to support the campaign.

A lawsuit to prevent such use of government funds was dismissed by controversial San Francisco federal judge Phyllis J. Hamilton in 2006, on the grounds that the internet is an Establishment-Clause-Free-Zone. In theory, therefore, the government could promote any sort of religion on the internet. The case is still in the legal pipeline. This amounts to government endorsement of particular religions - those endorsing evolution! What an irony that NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott, a self-proclaimed secular humanist and non-theist, counsels teachers to have students read statements by theologians and interview ministers!

The issue of evolution stretches beyond the scientific realm into cultural, political, and theological territory. The Christian must be thoroughly familiar with these implications, for they are among the most vital issues of our day.