Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pisces, Aquarius, Torquemada & Jones Ltd

It occured to me the other day that the famous Dover Trial in Pennsylvania, the one that determined that you couldn't use Intelligent Design curricula in public schools, was an Inquisition.

It proceded exactly along Inquisitorial lines: first there was a complaint from someone (a biology teacher & sundry parents) to a higher authority (Feds) that someone lower down in the hierarchy (the Dover school board) was teaching false doctrine (Intelligent Design) to people who didn't know any better (high school students). So the higher authority investigated, put the accused on trial, brought in the testimony of experts, determined that, yes, in fact the lower authority was teaching false doctrine to people who didn't know any better and that the lower authority would have to repent (agree not to teach said doctrine) or suffer the consequences. (Which makes me wonder what the Feds would have done if the Dover school board had barricaded themselves in their conference room.)

So if you agree with the methods and outcome of the Dover trial, then it seems to me you have given up our society's most significant reason (Freedom!!!!) for sneering at the Inquisition. Which isn't to say there aren't other reasons to decry the methods and, occasionally, the purposes of the Inquisition, but just to recognize that the Enlightenment was pretty naive about the way that truth gets discovered and taught in any human society, and that the Dover courtroom is a pretty glassy house from which to be tossing the stones of modern intellectual liberty.

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