Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pandora doesn't go as easily back into the box.

As promised, here is a picture of Darcy, our newest family member.

Harper was really apprehensive about Darcy at first, but as you can see, she's all about her now.

So yesterday in Texas, we had the primary elections for governor. I didn't care about it so I didn't bother to vote. What I didn't realize is that there were 4 or 5 propositions on the ballot, as well. One in particular caught my eye as the results came across a ticker on my TV last night. The result was not surprising at all (95% For / 5% Against), but the fact that such a proposition existed was. Here it is:
Ballot Proposition #4: Public Acknowledgement of God-The use of the word “God”, prayers, and the Ten Commandments should be allowed at public gatherings and public educational institutions, as well as be permitted on government buildings and property. YES OR NO

What the constitution says is that governement can "make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

I suppose someone could argue that the constitution refers to the Federal government, whereas this proposition pertains to state government. Maybe there's a difference. Anyway, it's just a non binding proposition, but I think our founding fathers were wise enough to know that government should stay neutral if it knows what's good for it. So what god should we honor in our public educational institutions? Where do we draw the line? With our Islamic population growing the way it is, it's not unrealistic to think that at some point in the not-too-distant future, they could have the majority and demand that Allah be represented in our schools and on our government buildings. Likewise, I doubt that Baptist parents would care much for their children's public school honoring every Catholic superstition. No, this is a door that our founding fathers knew ought to stay shut. They were kind of brilliant that way.


  1. There is a difference between Federal laws and State laws. Namely the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution that states that the "Constitution and the laws of the United States...shall be the supreme law of the land...anything in the constitutions or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." Which basically means that States can pass laws all day long but if they contradict the Constitution and Federal laws, the Federal government doesn't give a shit. This is why California can legalize medicinal marijuana, but if there are Federal laws against buying/selling/growing marijuana (which, surprise, there are), then the Feds can still come in and do drug raids. Which they did up until about a year ago when the DEA decided they didn't want to mess with it anymore. Even as someone who stays pretty neutral in the whole God/no God/one god/many gods/woman gods/animal gods/golden gods conversation, I find it kind of silly to have things like Proposition #4 on the ballot. If we're going to pay lawmakers to come up with this kind of stuff, why not make it more awesome? Like "Proposition #Bad-Ass: Public acknowledgment that Texas kicks supreme ass. This will allow us to place signs on our highways that border with Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Mexico that say things like, 'The only reason Texas doesn't fall into the Gulf of Mexico is because Oklahoma sucks!' or 'Hey New Mexico! Why don't you go back to Mexico!?' also, anyone who moves to Texas from another state has to sign an affidavit that says their home state is 'Gay'. So speaketh the State of Texas"

  2. and yes, everyone, i also know it's a proposition and not a law, so before you jump on that argument let me just say that i don't care.

  3. Who is even wasting time on these propositions? It seems so immature. "You have to recognize my god, na-na foo-foo!"

  4. I'm totally voting "Yes" on any "Texas is badass" proposition, if we're ever lucky enough to see one of those on a ballot.

  5. Cute dog!

    I'm not surprised that was on the ballot. Because, you know, we live in Texas.

    Article 1, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution:
    RELIGIOUS TESTS. No religious tests shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall anyone be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

    So you can run for office no matter what religion you are, as long as you have one. And that one has to have a Supreme Being. Notice we say just one... But we don't care what religion you are! *cough*Christian*cough*.

  6. Is that you, God? I didn't recognize you.

  7. As I live in Indiana, I don't follow Texas politics, but from what I can tell Prop 4 seems pretty tame..."use of the word God to be allowed at public gatherings". If there is something to worry about here, I don't really see it.
    The original language of non-establishment in the 1st Amendment seems different than the language of 'separation between church and state'. The former puts limits on what the government can do, and the latter puts limits on what the people can do.
    As a Protestant, I believe that respecting a person's freedom of couscous on religious matters is a command dictated by God, and so I have no desire for the government to establish a state church or religion. But there is another side to this... At what point does 'separation of church and state' become the establishment of unbridled Secularism in the government? The Soviets also used the language of separation of church and state, but even in their more tolerant phases they still prohibited the free production and distribution of Bibles, the mention of God outside of state permitted churches, and even prohibited the printing of Church phone numbers and addresses in the phone book and on maps.
    I'm confident no one here would defend the Soviets, but you have to wonder exactly what people mean when they talk about separation between church and state. It's not east to tell where positive "neutrality" becomes oppressive.

  8. Sure it is. If everyone pays for it, then it should stay neutral. If it is privately owned, then write "I love Jesus" all over it, provided that you are the owner. As long as the government that I pay for isn't endorsing anything, I couldn't care less. Privately owned businesses, churches, and schools are totally appropriate, well maybe not appropriate, but legal, places to scream about resurrection, and theton auditing, and all manner of mystical explanation.

    The Soviets weren't really being neutral. To be neutral, all you really have to do is "nothing."

    I just want my government to do nothing. How often do you get to say that about anything?

  9. Harpo is a cute little bug in that picture.

    I know you guys are happy to be living where you are + I know you're relatively close to your family & friends, but I think sometimes when I read your blog (I don't mean this specific entry, just in general) how you might like the Northeast more. It's much more liberal over here. Granted, many people are kind of cold, but I think the average person might be closer to your ideology. Plus I am here and I'd love to be buds with you guys in real life.

  10. The Pacific NW, specifically Portland OR, will give you: liberally minded people, generally nice & pleasant people, & a plethora of music venues to play at (though admittedly, probably not as many as Austin). It will also give you a good number of hipsters, but it's worth it for everything else the city has to offer.

  11. Taylor,
    The problem is that a government that doesn't do anything isn't a government.
    The structure of our political process in America (and everywhere else) is laden with ideological beliefs that are directly informed by our views about what human beings are and what the universe is like. Every civil law presupposes moral law, and we cannot consider either independently of our religious commitments (whether Humanistic or Christian Theistic). Religion intermingles with government at its very foundation, and makes things very complicated when we attempt to set up a pluralistic society.
    This becomes painfully clear if you believe that government has a responsibility to provide public education to children, for instance. Many Christian parents are frustrated that they pay for the public schools that "scream" about unguided evolution, and what they consider to be an inappropriate approach to sex education. Many of our tax dollars go to funding state universities, where in many places of the country Christian students (or anyone with right wing sympathies) are made to feel like simple idiots. Or in issues on bioethics (eugenics, euthanasia, abortion rights, stem cell research etc.).
    Again, I have no desire for the government to establish any sort of church or state religion, but there is a big difference between that and abolishing God from the public square. Doing so wouldn't be neutral- it would be the beginnings of state sponsored secularism.

  12. I don't mean I don't want my government to do nothing at all, I just mean I don't want them to weigh in on or endorse any particular religion. I'd be equally uncomfortable with a government that endorsed atheism.

    As far as Christians being made to feel like simple idiots, I don't see the problem with that, if they insist on behaving like simple idiots. It is educators' job to present what we know, not what we believe, especially in our science classrooms. We have no empirical evidence of Intelligent Design or "guided" evolution so why would they teach those things? If people feel stupid because their beliefs don't coincide with the facts, then I'm inclined to think that that's good for them. "Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one," as Malcolm Forbes said. Going into science class with the predetermined mindset that the answer is "god did everything with magic," doesn't allow for much real education, I'm sure you'd agree. What's the point in going to school if you already know everything you think you need to know, anyway?

    Surely, our government's job isn't to protect us from feeling stupid when our beliefs don't hold up to the evidence.

  13. Taylor,
    I'm inclined to agree with just about everything you've said above, except that teaching evolution need not entail sneaking Naturalism through the back door. In public schools today, it is. Science is being defined in such a way that it necessarily presupposes Naturalism.
    I consider myself agnostic about the prospects for Intelligent Design, although I do think that the incredible hostility toward it is indicative of a deep rooted ideological commitment to Naturalism. I have lots of problems with the movie "Expelled", but I do think that the basic premise of it is entirely justified. Good scientists, some completely outside the realm of ID, are being suppressed and denied tenure for presenting problems with Neo-Darwinism.
    Even I have worried a little bit about using my real name when I blog because I hope to obtain a tenure track position in the future. I'm banking on the fact that I don't have any sort of significant internet presence, and that I'm neither smart or talented or eloquent enough to be perceived as any sort of threat.
    And no, it is not the governments job to protect us from feeling stupid. My point was only that funneling billions of taxpayer dollars into universities who are so often openly hostile to Christianity is not neutral.

  14. I imagine it's incredibly annoying to be a science teacher trying to communicate to students all the things that we have come to know by the scientific method, and having special interest groups try and force their beliefs to a place of equal footing, at the expense of actual scientific theory.

    The reason ID is met with hostility is because it's not science and does not belong. It's not falsifiable and doesn't even have a theory to contend with. It simply does not meet the requirements necessary to be taught in science class, and it doesn't matter how many people believe it, or how many stories of badly treated ID scientists Ben Stein lies about, it just doesn't meet the requirements.

    I've never felt that Naturalism is snuck in, but science is the study of the observable world and that is all, so make sure you're not confusing a lack of recognition of Theism for an underhanded pushing of Naturalism. If we can't observe it, test it, or falsify it, we've no reason to be concerned with it or acknowledge it and anyone who tries and insist that ID is science is only doing so because they want to feel like they're not stupid.

    There would be no way to teach ID without full out presupposing the existence of god, so I'm curious how they would justify that in public schools.

  15. Taylor,
    I'll just add one more thing, and then give it a rest. Again, I don't have a dog in the intelligent design fight but I'll just play devil's (designers?) advocate. I seem to have imposed that role on myself lately, and I may as well keep going.

    In the contemporary debate in philosophy of science there is no consensus AT ALL on what 'counts' as science. This is called the demarcation problem. Karl Poppers views on falsification as a criterion for delineating science from nonscience have been very useful, but it is full of problems, and would eliminate all kinds of useful theories and assumptions we are all inclined to call 'scientific'. Few people seem to remember this, but Popper (an atheist) argued that Darwinism itself was a pseudoscience because it cannot meet the falsifiability criterion. Now, I think that is crazy, but it's important to notice that the same reasons that count for ID being unfalsifiable count every bit as much for Darwinism.
    Thomas Nagel (an atheist, and not an ID sympathizer) has written a really great essay on why he believes ID counts as science and why it is perfectly constitutional to present in public science classrooms. It is called: Public Education and Intelligent Design. You should really read it. There is a lot of stupid, shallow dogmatism on both sides of this issue, but Nagel is a breath of fresh air on the subject.
    Have you read any material by any ID advocates? No offense, but I get the impression that you haven't. If not, that's totally fine, but I'm sure you will agree that you are not in a position to evaluate it if you haven't educated yourself on it. If you get all your information about ID and any other challenges to Darwin from PZ Meyers or Richard Dawkins you will inevitably have a skewed perspective on the subject.
    As I said, this is my last response here, but I'm curious... What lies has Ben Stein told? I mean... as I mentioned, I have a lot of problems with Expelled because I think that (like so many documentaries in this genre) it unfairly portrays its opponents in a way that makes them look foolish. Still, the main argument has been that those that question Darwinism have been subjected to institutionalized punishment and organized exclusion from the academy. Even if you don't agree with ID, that fact seems totally uncontroversial, and (to me at least) it is something to seriously worry about. So... again... What lies are you talking about?

  16. I haven't read any ID books but I've spent sometime on ID science blogs and internet publications, and I've not been impressed. PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are both brilliant men, tenured professors, and evolutionary biologists currently working in the field. Therefore meeting the criteria for people who's opinion I would trust on these matters. Granted, it's not healthy or wise to accept everything they say because of these things, as they are both also human, it's also not fair or wise to be dismissive of them because of their stance on atheism, which I feel that you sometimes are.

    The National Center for Science Education put together a useful and concise website all about Expelled. It's located at . In addition to lying about the premise, title, and purpose of the documentary in order to get scientists to participate, it seems that Ben Stein took as many liberties as he wanted with the facts surrounding all these poor science martyrs and the oppression of their research or lack thereof.

    We both agree that Evolutionary Theory is fact. We probably both scoff at those who dismiss it based solely on preconceived beliefs or dogma. So a scientist who would teach that it is falsehood, without some pretty badass and extensive research to back it up, is similar to a history teacher who is also a holocaust denier.