The Ninth Circuit comprises the following “judicial districts” in the western U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii; it is only one step below the Supreme Court in its power, and the Circuit’s inclusion of California makes its decisions especially important.
Brian Leiter, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, reported that Trump appointed nominated former Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke as a justice to this court, a nomination pronounced by the Las Vegas Review-Journal as a “stellar choice.”
Well it isn’t. Regardless of his legal views, Leiter reports that VanDyke is a creationist, and, as noted on Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports, an unrepentant and obdurate creationist:
As a student at Harvard Law School fifteen years ago, Lawrence VanDyke (Trump’s nominee) published an incompetent apologia for Intelligent Design creationism, under the guise of a “review” of a book shilling for creationism, in the Harvard Law Review. I excoriated it on my philosophy blog, while further efforts by Mr. VanDyke to defend himself only resulted in his digging his hole deeper.
Of course, an intellectually disgraceful book review fifteen years ago shouldn’t be disqualifying, but surely Senators will want to find out if Mr. VanDyke is still a shill for creationism and how that might effect his rulings.
You can follow the links (some of them don’t work) to see VanDyke’s approbation of Intelligent-Design creationism , but it appears that VanDyke, who wrote a note favoring ID for the Harvard Law Review (???), has dug in, hardening his criticisms of evolutionary theory after Leiter went after him. Granted, VanDyke’s initial publication was in 2004, but it’s still worrisome that nominated Federal judges can be creationists.
Indeed, unlike Leiter, I think that adherence to creationism or its gussied-up twin Intelligent Design creationism, should be disqualifying for a judge. After all, what if a judge said he didn’t believe in gravity, or bacteria? Wouldn’t that count as strong evidence about his ability to adjudicate evidence? And it’s not a certainty that more court cases about the teaching of creationism could arise. (Sometimes I quail when I think of the U.S. Supreme Court revisiting them, just as it may revisit Roe v. Wade.)
Yes, I hope the Senators responsible for VanDyke’s confirmation ask him about his creationism. In fact, this question should be asked of Trump as well (I have no idea what he’d say, but it’s guaranteed to be gibberish), as well of all the Democratic Presidential candidates (I suspect they all adhere to established science).
Acceptance of evolution is a touchstone of rationality in modern society, as is accepting the safety and efficacy of vaccinations, and since these are both matters that have been of legal interest, they’re fair game.
h/t: Greg Mayer