Mike Kueber's Blog

March 29, 2012

Is there too much talk of religion in politics?

Filed under: Issues,Politics,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 1:25 am
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An article in the San Antonio Express-News last week reported on a nationwide poll that found a slight plurality – 38% – of Americans think that politicians talk about religion too much.  But 30% think politicians don’t talk about religion enough, and only 25% think the amount of talk is just right.    The article also noted that only two years ago the numbers were almost reversed with on 29% thinking there was too much talk of religion by politicians and 37% thinking there wasn’t enough talk.

Although the numbers reveal declining support for the religious right, I would be careful not to read too much into them.  In my opinion, poll results like this one are misleading because they don’t reveal the passion or lack of passion for a position.  I am reminded of that bumper sticker that said, “Pro-life candidate will always get my vote.”  Some voters care deeply about one or a few issues, and a candidate’s position on that issue controls the vote.  Other voters don’t feel deeply about any particular issues and no particular issue controls the vote.  Even more importantly, voters who care deeply about an issue are much more likely to vote than someone who doesn’t have that deep concern.  That is why the NRA and Pro-Life lobbies have so much clout.

Thus, even though the pro-religion voters appear to be outnumbered by the anti-religion voters in the latest polling,  I don’t expect them to be outnumbered at the pools in November later this year.

June 24, 2011

Creationism and intelligent design

While driving back from North Dakota, I continually switched from listening to talk radio and CDs of the book American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips.  As I previously blogged, the former warned that cultural liberals were causing America to become a secular state while the latter cautioned that the Religious Right was producing scientifically backward country.  As an example of backward science, Phillips referred to intelligent design, which he said was a Christian attempt to provide a scientific alternative to those who refused to accept the science of evolution.

Coincidentally, shortly after hearing from Phillips on this topic, I heard talk-show host Sean Hannity being challenged by a listener who wondered how someone as intelligent as Sean could believe in God.  Sean responded by giving a heartfelt explanation that relied heavily on the concept of intelligent design – i.e., certain features of the universe and living things, such as irreducible complexity and specified complexity, are best explained by an intelligent cause, not by an undirected process such as natural selection.

The listener didn’t accept this explanation, but before he could put forward follow-up questions, Sean disconnected the call.  My follow-up question would have been how Sean’s explanation supports his view that Christianity is the only true religion.

Upon returning to San Antonio, I decided to research the issue of intelligent design to determine if the positions of Kevin Phillips and Sean Hannity are in conflict, and I concluded that they are not.

The term “intelligent design” has been used since 1847, but the concept came to the forefront in 1987 when the US Supreme Court held in Edwards v. Aguillard that a state couldn’t require the teaching of “creation science” as an alternative to evolution science.  The Court came to
this holding after reviewing supportive amicus briefs from 72 Nobel prize-winning scientists, 17 state academies of science, and 7 other scientific
organizations that described creation science as essentially consisting of religious tenets.  Therefore, requiring that creation science be taught as an alternative to evolution was a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

In response to the Aguillard decision, Christian groups decided to push the “science” of intelligent design, but in 2007 in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District a federal district court held that requiring the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution was infirmed
for the same reason creation science was – i.e., it violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

Based on these legal decisions, it appears that Kevin is correct in declaring that intelligent design is not science, but rather is a thinly-veiled effort of Christians to challenge the science of evolution.  But evolution is not inconsistent with Sean’s belief in intelligent design.  Teaching of the belief, however, should be reserved for religious instruction, not public schools.