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 The President and the Professor 

August 11, 2005 
President Bush has propelled the subject of evolution onto the cover of Time magazine. He favors the idea of “intelligent design,” which holds that life evidently comes from a Creator rather than a long series of accidents. Today's column is "The President and the Professor" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.And he supports parents who don’t want Darwinism to enjoy a monopoly in public schools.

He’s quite right, of course. When all is said, Darwinism remains mere speculation. It presupposes that the entire universe is physical, period. But what if there is more to it? What if mind is more than the peculiar matter of the brain? Why should we rule out the possibility that human reason reflects something divine in the very nature of things?

This is one of those ideas that drive liberals nuts. But why should there be any controversy about whether parents should control their children’s education? Because liberals are afraid that parents might insist that their children learn the wrong stuff. Such as religion.

That would violate the separation of church and state, as, I suppose, would teaching public-school pupils that the Declaration of Independence is correct about the self-evident truths that all men are created equal and that the Creator who did the creating has endowed us with unalienable rights. Imagine what would happen if everyone believed that! The next thing you know, someone might ban slavery, and then where would we be?

The American Republic was founded expressly on what liberals deride as “creationism.” If you don’t like it, maybe this country is wrong for you. I certainly wouldn’t want to make anyone feel unwelcome here, but there it is.

But let’s hear the other side of the story. Time quotes Steven Pinker, the noted Harvard psychologist, who reminds us, “In practice, religion has given us stonings, inquisitions, and 9/11.” Not to mention pedophile priests! So who needs it?

[Breaker quote for The President and the Professor: Defining the universe -- my way]There we have an excellent one-sentence summary of the liberal’s history of religion. When I saw the World Trade Center collapse, I had exactly the same thought: “There goes religion again! No atheist would ever do a lousy thing like that.”

But doesn’t morality get a boost, at least, from religion? Professor Pinker again: “Morality comes from a commitment to treat others as we wish to be treated, which follows from the realization that none of us is the sole occupant of the universe.” Thus the so-called Golden Rule derives not from religion, as vulgarly supposed, but from science.

Before Darwin, we humans thought we were the sole occupants of the universe, so we naturally had stonings and inquisitions. Since Darwin, we have become much nicer. Except for guys like Stalin and Hitler, who drew somewhat different lessons from evolution.

“Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work,” Professor Pinker opines, “is one of humanity’s highest callings.” Highest? Who says? Hasn’t Darwin taught us that words like highest and lowest express the egotism of our species? And if you believe that some beings are “higher” than others, you may wind up believing that there is a “highest” being — God — and start stoning those who are “lower.”

President Bush went to Harvard too, and some might say that he emerged unscathed. I wouldn’t know about that; I went to a minor college in Michigan whose most remarkable product was a serial killer. (Whether he was Darwinian or religious I can’t say.)

My point being simply that parents should have the right to decide how their children are educated. Each of us has not only unalienable rights, but also, according to three members of the U.S. Supreme Court, the right to define the universe. Not just part of the universe, mind you, but the whole thing. This principle, you’ll recall, was formulated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

That would seem to cover evolution, would it not? Why should I have to teach my child that his remote ancestor was a gorilla? It’s bad for discipline. When he gets old enough to define the universe for himself, he may have his suspicions. Or he may exercise his constitutional right to define himself as the sole occupant of the universe, which he seems to believe anyway, in spite of everything I’ve tried to tell him. Meanwhile, while I’m paying the bills, I’ll define the universe.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2005 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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