Monday, November 13, 2006

Mike Adams Argues Badly on Behalf of "Legislating Morality":

Or at least, the book that he shucks, Legislating Morality, by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek, does. Adams makes his case here and here. Let's look at one of the blurbs for the book:

"This is a powerful message for these feeble times. Geisler and Turek have mapped out how we can get real answers to long-perplexing questions: Should morality be legislated? And if so, how and by whom? This book is the new standard for resolving debates over the nature and necessity of legislated morality among civilized societies." D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., best-selling author and speaker

From that, I think we could predict the quality of the book's content. The book apparently relies on, you got it, both David Barton's phony quotations from our Founding Fathers, and Paul Cameron's shoddy, debunked social science on homosexuality.

From Adams's first article:

Needless to say, I can't take on all of the myths you will encounter every semester at UNC-Wilmington. In fact, each semester I design a project that focuses on just one of those myths. This semester I will focus on the myth that society "can't legislate morality."

But before I deliver my first lecture on the topic, I have decided to give you a little homework assignment. Please take the time to a) read all of the following questions, and b) write a short paragraph in response to each. I'll collect your answers before the next lecture on Monday.


Have you ever read the 1802 letter from which the phrase "wall of separation of church and state" was taken? Is there any truth to the assertion that the letter was written to a group of Baptists in Connecticut ensuring that their church would be protected from the government by a one way wall of protection?

Jefferson's 1802 letter, read it for yourself, says nothing about the "Wall of Separation of Church and State" being a "one way wall of protection." This claim was fraudulently spread by David Barton.

Adams also notes:

How many of our Founding Fathers attended seminary? (Hint: It is more than 26 and less than 28).

This is another one of Barton's talking points, which, believe it or not, I haven't yet fully gotten to the bottom of. I'll defer to J. Brent Walker's reaction to it.

Despite the questionable truth of his statement out of context, the answer is "so what?" No doubt most of the signers were religious men. But the function and purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to declare the intent of American to separate itself from its relationship with Britain....It did not in any way set up a legal form of government, Christian or not.

While Walker is right that proving a certain mass of the Founders were "religious" in no way equates with intending to "found" a nation on "Biblical principles" or debunks the notion of "Separation of Church and State," I might add that simply holding a seminary degree doesn't prove religious orthodoxy either. As I note in my article in this month's Liberty Magazine, many of the preachers who most influenced our Founders like Mayhew, West, Gay, and Clarke, adhered to the same "infidel principles" (theological unitarianism/theistic rationalism) that Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin and Washington did and preached them from the pulpit.

From Adams's second article:

Please answer all of the following questions by next week:

James Madison once said that "We have staked the future of all of our political institutions ... upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves, according to the Ten Commandments of God." Was this the same James Madison who wrote the First Amendment?

No, it's not the same Madison because Madison never uttered the quotation in question, but rather this was fraudulently spread by again, David Barton, who some years ago noted that such quotation was "unconfirmed," but apparently, it still gets passed on regularly (giving me fodder for my blogs).

Adams continues:

Take a few minutes to re-read the First Amendment. Did Madison include the word "separation" in that Amendment? How about the word "church"? How about the word "state"?

Well Madison did write:

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.

Madison, in that document, then goes on to argue that Congressional Chaplains, among other things, are unconstitutional.

Finally, Adams asks:

Given that homosexuals live about half as long as heterosexuals, is it fair to say that nature rewards with good health those who practice traditional morality?....The truth of the matter is that all laws impose morals on others. Given that obvious truth, should we legislate the morality that kills people around the age of forty or the one that preserves them until seventy-five or eighty?

Adams can only be referring to Paul Cameron's phony social science, which has been debunked for well over a decade. Of course, it's true that many gay men have died too young from AIDS, just as many women have died young in childbirth, but there simply is no credible social science which demonstrates "homosexuals live about half as long as heterosexuals." It would be like me asserting, out of thin air, that women who have children die on average 15 years younger than those who don't. Perhaps Mr. Adams and the authors of the "book" that he shucks should pay attention to the news and learn that groundbreaking AIDS treatment drugs, about a decade old, have led to an 8 year low in AIDS cases in SanFrancisco, that indeed, relatively few people in the United States die young from AIDS anymore, and that those diagnosed with AIDS are expected to live on average 24 years with the disease. Damn that science for interfering with nature's rewards. Next thing you know, we will be vaccinating babies from small pox!

In all seriousness, valid arguments about the legitimacy of legislating religious morality do exist. See for instance, this post by Eugene Volokh. But it does you no good to make what could be an otherwise valid argument with specious claims. It would be akin to Palestinians, who may have a good case that they have been mistreated and deserve an independent state, beginning their argument with "and just as the Jews like to drink the blood of Palestinian children...." Such an argument would be, if anything, counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. Adams, Geisler and Turek likewise did nothing to advance their claim that it is legitimate to "legislate" their religious fundamentalist morality.


Anonymous said...

I can't get past the phrase "feeble times" in the first quoted sentence. What does that mean? I think it means that the average person today has less courage, or perhaps less morality, than the average person historically.

The Gay Species said...

Of course we can legislate morals. We do it all the time. It's one of the chief functions of government. Our whole system of justice depends on it.

Ethics, on the other cannot be legislated. Those are acquired individually over a lifetime.

Benevolence is trickier. Far more failures than successes, but the aspiration keeps us going.

Religion, however, is prohibited by the Constitution, although it never ceases to seep through.

All four, morals, ethics, benevolence, and religion contribute to our systems of value. In this country, at least, religion is supposed to be held at arms length, a value the individual may adopt, but not the State. That is the entire crux of the matter.

Some religious propositions are also moral propositions. Some even ethical. Some even benevolent. For example, "do not kill." "Do not steal." Those religious propositions that are coincident to the moral, ethical, and benevolent are not precluded, but should be approached outside their religious context. Same objective, "purer" means.

But religious propositions in and of themselves are not to be included in any State function. Or, at least, that is the hope. If Jefferson's sobriquet had found its way into the Constitution, then it would be clear. But the two "religious" amendments that did make it into the Constitution allow for a great deal of ambiguity. Prohibition a classic case. "Under God" in the Pledge another. "In God We Trust" another. Taking an oath on a Bible another. State liquor stores closed on Sundays another. Etc.

Frankly, I would have preferred that "Wall." As of now, it's not there.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dr. Adams' pedagogical approach is appalling, and every bit as propagandizing as the lefties David Horowitz (who writes of Adams approvingly) rightly excoriates.

Moreover, his expertise is as a professor of criminology and he is obviously unqualified to speak on history or the Founders, since his sources are flawed and second-hand at best.

What a hustler.

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