Reason and Common Ground: A Response to the Creationists' 'Neutrality' Argument

27 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2008  

Timothy Sandefur

Goldwater Institute


Although it is a well-established scientific fact, evolution remains a controversial subject in the United States, and especially the issue of teaching evolution or creationism in public schools. An argument that appears to be increasingly popular among creationists is based on a postmodernist notion that science is simply one among many different but equal "ways of knowing," and that its ascendancy over other methods is due to conflicts between social power structures rather than any objective superiority. Several creationist writers have argued that science's exclusive reliance on natural causes (so called "methodological naturalism") is an a priori assumption, or an arbitrary preference, and therefore that both it and religion are equally valid epistemologies. In addition, they argue that the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment prohibit government from endorsing or granting "preferences" to science over supernaturalism.

This article is a response to these theories. In Part I, I argue that science is an objectively superior means of knowing, and that methodological naturalism is not an a priori assumption, but both an a posteriori preference and one that is necessary for any valid epistemology. I also reject the argument that naturalism or "humanism" are "religions" or that science requires a "leap of faith." In Part II, I address whether the First Amendment requires the government to remain "neutral" between supernatural and naturalistic worldviews. I conclude with some general observations on the conflict between science and supernaturalism.

Keywords: evolution, creationism, education, stephen w. trask, methodological naturalism, science

Suggested Citation

Sandefur, Timothy, Reason and Common Ground: A Response to the Creationists' 'Neutrality' Argument. Chapman Law Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Timothy Sandefur (Contact Author)

Goldwater Institute ( email )

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