There are probably better ways to inspire confidence in a candidate's prospects when he's in free fall than to call him a lost cause. But that's exactly what Sarah Palin did to one of her favorite tea partiers last night.Is there any evidence, anywhere, that Sarah Palin would like to criminalize the teaching of evolution? Is there any evidence, anywhere, that Sarah Palin doesn't love our constitutional free expression rights? Is there evidence, anywhere, that Sarah Palin would not admire a lawyer who fought to defend free speech rights against the oppressive government use of criminal law against a science teacher?
"Joe Miller - do not give up. It's you against the machine. This is it. 'Lost causes' are the only ones worth fighting for,'" Palin tweeted, quoting famed Scopes Monkey Trial attorney Clarence Darrow.
It seems unlikely that Palin is aware that Darrow was a big wig at the American Civil Liberties Union given her penchant for scoffing at...civil liberties. And one wonders whether Palin knows that, in the Scopes trial, Darrow defended John Scopes, who violated Tennessee law by teaching evolution. But there you have it.
In her memoir, Palin explains her views on evolution. Confronted with the statement "science proves evolution," she said: "Parts of evolution... But I believe that God created us and also that He can create an evolutionary process that allows species to change and adapt." That is what an awful lot of people think, and I think most American politicians if pressed on the question, would interweave God with the theory of evolution.
In any case, you don't even have to accept evolution to oppose criminalizing the teaching of evolution. The issue about evolution today isn't about barring teaching evolution. It's only about whether creationism or "intelligent design" can be taught alongside evolution if that's what schools want to do. The restriction on freedom of expression, then, is pro-evolution. Not anti-evolution. And who knows what Clarence Darrow would think about that?
But even assuming Clarence Darrow should be anathema to Sarah Palin, the quote — " 'Lost causes' are the only ones worth fighting for" — isn't from Clarence Darrow. It's from the book that became the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Here:
ADDED: Sarah Palin does name Clarence Darrow in her tweet, so clearly she had the wrong source for the quote too.
AND: "The restriction on freedom of expression, then, is pro-evolution. Not anti-evolution." Is that too concise to understand easily? I usually resist verbosity, but let me expand. Let's assume someone — Palin, Beutler, the ACLU, whoever — cares about freedom of expression and would like to oppose restrictions on it. Now, they look at the current issues that have to do with the teaching and evolution. They will not see a restriction on teaching the theory of evolution, which is generally required. The restrictions that exist today limit a public school teacher who would like to introduce alternate theories like creationism and intelligent design. The key case is Edwards v. Aguillard (1987):
[Louisiana's "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction" Act] is designed either to promote the theory of creation science which embodies a particular religious tenet by requiring that creation science be taught whenever evolution is taught or to prohibit the teaching of a scientific theory disfavored by certain religious sects by forbidding the teaching of evolution when creation science is not also taught. The Establishment Clause, however, "forbids alike the preference of a religious doctrine or the prohibition of theory which is deemed antagonistic to a particular dogma." Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to advance a particular religious belief, the Act endorses religion in violation of the First Amendment.