Yesterday, Phil Plait pointed to a post at the Discovery Institute's dishonestly titled "Evolution News and Views" blog. It certainly has a lot of views, but no real news. Not unless you count Fox News whipped to a incoherent froth news at least.
Regardless, the article in question was titled :Why Censorship Works: The Case of Zack Kopplin". While it briefly mentions the recent and well researched article by Kopplin which demonstrated that private schools have been getting tens of millions of dollars in public funds to teach outright lies, it doesn't really say what this has to do with censorship. Nor does it dispute any of the facts.
Rather, the main thrust of the article is about trying to create a personality profile of.... people that respect the law?
No. Really. That's what it's all about. To try to insist that Kopplin is wrong, not because of the fact that the money spent doesn't violate the law, but that Creationists are somehow being noble in violating the law because it's "an act of civil disobedience". Their analogy they draw comes from Rush Limbaugh.
Sorry. I should have warned you that was coming so you could grab a bowl or something to vomit in. If you managed to keep it down, take a moment to reconsider grabbing one as I explain their analogy.
In a radio broadcast, Rush, "railed against a law in South Florida that prohibits turning on the lights after dark in your beach-side backyard for eight months of the year. The rationale, which he finds questionable, is that the illumination endangers sea turtles, luring them to shore instead of out to sea where they're supposed to be."
So, to the Creationist, this is the definition of "civil disobedience". Breaking the law because you find it a personal inconvenience. The reality is that we don't react with disdain because "You have insulted the law!". Instead, we react because you have done a shitty thing with unreasonable provocation.
Let's take an example of real civil disobedience. In fact, let's take the quintessential one: Rosa Parks. Contrary to the Discovery Institute's claims, those that fight Creationism would not oppose this act of honest civil disobedience because in this case, it highlighted a problem with the law; that a tired person be forced to give up their seat to another person due only to the color of their skin.
Returning to the case of turtles and beaches, we can ask the question: How is the law being unfair? Because you have to turn your lights off for a few hours? The Discovery Institute is really going to have to spin hard to make the case that this is such an imposition in a broad sense as to honestly compare to racial discrimination or other acts of legitimately harmful laws as to prompt warranted civil disobedience.
Coming back full circle to the point of the main article, that using public money to teach Creationism is really a good thing because it's "civil disobedience", we should be asking the same question: How is the law being unfair?
This fundamentally important and central question is answered nowhere in the article. And it's no surprise that they wouldn't want to get deep into this. Because this isn't some law about turtles on the coast. It's not even a regional law about busses. This law is the Constitution of the United States of America. Let that sink in.
If they're going to claim civil disobedience and claim it virtuous, it's to state that the law is unjust. Creationists are claiming that the US constitution is WRONG.
That's one hell of a claim and they'd better have one hell of an argument to back it. I presume the Creationists will then jump straight to the same silly talking point they have been lately; academic freedom or some other such buzzword.
I'm not going to waste my time thoroughly deconstructing this but a quick response would be that while academic freedom is a legitimate topic, there are times where one freedom bumps up against another. In this case, it's the academic "freedom" to lie to students vs the freedom of, which as the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled, requires that we be free from as imposed by the government, religion. When these two collide, it's no honest contest. One of these freedoms is enshrined in our constitution. Every single court case has ruled that teaching Creationism using government money violates that 1st amendment protection.
Additionally, I think the best summary came from the recent Ball State case in which the school's president stated, "The question is not one of academic freedom, but one of academic integrity". Indeed, when it comes to academic "freedom", Creationism doesn't even count.
Yet in the Discovery Institute's eyes, this is beside the point. The law is still unjust because it doesn't give them the answer they want.
In some senses I hope they keep thinking that way. It will keep delivering them lost lawsuit after lost lawsuit. Their gleefully breaking the law will continue to bring cases against them that will draw attention to just how poor their case is.
I only wish that they wouldn't use hundreds of millions of our tax money to do it.
But in the meantime, disobeying a law without legitimate reason doesn't make you a candidate for civil disobedience. It just makes you an asshole.