Judge Selna is saying that creationism may not be taught in schools, because it is a religious doctrine; but – precisely because it’s a religious doctrine – teachers may not say it is superstitious nonsense. Explicit hostility to religion on the part of government (including teachers in class in state schools) violates the first amendment just as much as promoting religion by creationism does.
Steve Newton at the California-based National Centre for Science Education (NCSE), which campaigns against creationism in schools says: “This is a very bizarre case. I am concerned about the chilling effect it will have on teachers hearing about it. Science teachers now are going to hear about this and think ‘whoa, if you criticise creationism you’ll get sued and you’ll lose’. We haven’t yet got a call from a science teacher. [But] this is potentially disastrous.”
The case looks like a particular defeat for the NCSE, which has been fighting for years to establish in the public mind that evolution and religion are perfectly compatible. For its pains it has been reviled by hardliners – Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, and their followers – as “accommodationist”, “Neville-Chamberlain-atheist”, and so on.
Dawkins recently mused on his blog about whether it wouldn’t be better to treat the religious with “naked contempt”; Myers, perhaps the world’s most influential science blogger, calls religion “one of the most corrupting and untrustworthy causes of all”. All these men are biologists and enemies of creationism.
For all the hardliners, creationism is real religion (never mind what the Pope says about evolution), and religion exemplifies the superstitious irrationality, from which science is meant to deliver us. That certainly seems to be the line taken by Corbett in his lessons. But it turns out to be tactically disastrous in the struggle for real science teaching.