Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), as I’ve reported here many times, is a virtual Who’s Who of the religious right and the historical ignorance found both in the curriculum and in their other materials is exactly one would expect. For instance, look at this page on the Founding Fathers, where they declare that the Bible was “was the foundation and blueprint for our Constitution.” They then cite this old chestnut from the David Barton jokebook:

There was a secular study done by the American Political Science Review on the political documents of the Founding era, which was 1760-1805.

This study found that 94% of the documents that went into the Founding ERA were based on the Bible, and of that 34% of the contents were direct quotations from the Bible.


The “secular study” (as opposed to what kind of study?) referred to here, done by Donald Lutz, was called, “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought.” It was published in 1984. Chris Rodda penned a brilliant critique of this distortion of the findings of Lutz’ study at Talk2Action recently. Predictably they are distorting, if not flat out lying, about the content of that study. First, almost all of the documents contained in the study that had Biblical quotations in them were, in fact, sermons reprinted as pamphlets; those simply have nothing to do with the views of the founding fathers or the basis of the Constitution.

But on the subject of the source of the ideas in the Constitution, Lutz’ study does show something important that the Christian Nation apologists never bother to mention. Lutz narrows down his study by specific years and the section on 1787 and 1788, when the Constitution was being written and ratified, completely contradicts their claim about the source of the Constitution. Rodda writes:

Of all the findings in Lutz’s study ignored by Barton and the NCBCPS, however, none are as important as those found in the section of his article entitled “The Pattern of Citations from 1787 to 1788.” As seen in the earlier chart, Lutz broke down the number of citations by decade. In addition to this, he singled out the writings from 1787 and 1788, and then further separated these writings into those written by Federalists and those by Anti-federalists. Lutz found few biblical citations during these two years, and, very interestingly, not a single one in any of the Federalist writings. The following is from what Lutz wrote about this two year period in which the Constitution was written and debated in the press.

The Bible’s prominence disappears, which is not surprising since the debate centered upon specific institutions about which the Bible has little to say. The Anti-Federalists do drag it in with respect to basic principles of government, but the Federalists’ inclination to Enlightenment rationalism is most evident here in their failure to consider the Bible relevant.

In other words, those who wrote and advocated the passage of the Constitution (the Federalists) did not refer to the Bible at all in explaining or supporting the provisions it contained. Those who opposed the passage of the Constitution (the anti-Federalists), like Patrick Henry, were the only ones citing the Bible and they did so in opposition to its passage.

Indeed, you will not find in the Federalist papers – the series of essays written by Madison, Hamilton and Jay to explain and defend the various provisions in the Constitution – a single reference to the Bible or to Christianity. Surely if the Constitution was based on “Biblical principles” those who wrote it would have said so in their attempts to explain to a predominately Christian public why they should vote for ratification of that document. The reality is that Lutz’ study argues strongly against the argument they’re making.

This is typical of the revisionist nonsense pushed by the NCBCPS. The curriculum they created is full of such distortions and false claims. Remarkably, it also contains numerous false quotes from the founding fathers – quotes that have been admitted as false by NCBCPS board member David Barton. He’s on the board, he has publicly admitted those quotes cannot be found anywhere in the writings of the men they are attributed to and they still are found in the curriculum. That alone shows what a joke the whole thing is.

Comments

  1. #1 Ed Darrell
    June 11, 2007

    Ed, did you find someone to keep you abreast of the case in Odessa, with documents, etc.? Are you planning to post them as it progresses?

  2. #2 Gerry L
    June 11, 2007

    Ed,
    Have you heard of this other so-called textbook publisher C. David Parsons and THE QUEST FOR RIGHT (all caps!!!) at http://questforright.com/ ?

    I ran across this in some comments to an article in The Atlantic Online (a response to Jerry Coyne’s rebuttal of the Sam Brownback op-ed). I did a web search and it looks like Parsons and his crew are papering blogs with excerpts from his PR. For example:

    “Just when it appeared that God may have delayed his response to evolutionists, enter THE QUEST FOR RIGHT, a masterful work on creationism. The great gulf of ambiguity that once separated Intelligent Design from legitimate scientific discourse has been abolished. It is a fact: The Quest for Right has accomplished that which, heretofore, was deemed impossible: to level the playing field between forces advocating creationism and those promoting evolution.

    “The Lord has heard the cries of His people and responded with a scientific resource on creationism that will stop these onslaughts against Christianity. The Quest for Right turns the tide by providing an authoritative and enlightening scientific explanation of natural phenomena that will ultimately replace the Darwinian view.”

    Or

    “For the discerning, scientists do not close doors; God closes doors which no man can open. Even as I write this, The Quest for Right series of seven textbooks is being considered by a state school board; their goal is to add The Quest to science curriculums. This is the book of truth for which intelligent men and women throughout the world have been hoping and praying. It is Darwanism which is passe, not the Creator.”

  3. #3 scienceteacherinexile
    June 12, 2007

    I know we’re off the subject, but I am also curious about what Ed asks. I am a Texan (although I am now living in South Africa), and I don’t see much of that news on this side of the pond.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    June 12, 2007

    Ed Darrell wrote:

    Ed, did you find someone to keep you abreast of the case in Odessa, with documents, etc.? Are you planning to post them as it progresses?

    Yes, Art Spitzer was kind enough to make the introductions to Lisa Graybill, the legal director of the Texas ACLU, and Chip Lupu did likewise with Dan Mach, the director of litigation for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. They both graciously agreed to keep me posted and send me everything as it happened. At this point, nothing new has happened. They are awaiting the school board’s response to the complaint to kick things in to motion.