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Finding Shared Values in a Diverse Society: Lessons from the Intelligent Design Controversy

57 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2010  

Alan E. Garfield

Widener University - Delaware Law School

Date Written: January 1, 2008


One of the nation’s more profound and volatile ideological divides is between fundamentalist religious adherents and secular members of society. This divide has been particularly salient in recent years as issues challenging traditional religious morality – abortion, gay marriage, and stem-cell research – have been exploited as wedge issues for political gain.

In this Article, I join the efforts of other scholars to find a way to bridge the gap between religious and secular Americans. By focusing on one particularly contentious front in the religious-secular wars – the teaching of intelligent design – I am able to identify a value shared by both religious and secular Americans. What I discover is that both sides in the evolution/intelligent debate are committed to the sanctity of human dignity, but each fiercely disagrees about the source of this commitment.

I argue that religious and secular Americans can celebrate this shared commitment to human dignity through the vehicle of the neutral, but widely revered, U.S. Constitution. I say this not because of the Constitution’s inherent perfection but because of what this imperfect document symbolizes fro Americans. This secular document – one that never mentions God – symbolizes our nation’s religious-like commitment to the sanctity of human dignity. It represents a brazen decision by “We the People” to treat people as sacred, even though we may never as a society agree on whether God exists, whether people are divinely created, or whether our commitment to human dignity is part of a larger divine plan. This view of the Constitution can be shared by fundamentalists and moderate secular Americans alike and can be a source of common values that transcends faith, race, and origin.

Keywords: constitutional law, constitution, intelligent design, religion, secularism

JEL Classification: K1, K10

Suggested Citation

Garfield, Alan E., Finding Shared Values in a Diverse Society: Lessons from the Intelligent Design Controversy (January 1, 2008). Vermont Law Review, Vol. 33, p. 225, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Alan E. Garfield (Contact Author)

Widener University - Delaware Law School ( email )

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0406
United States


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