The death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 reminded me of his vote in 1986 for the Louisiana law that forbade public schools to teach evolution without also instructing students also on “creative science.” Then the Chief Justice William Rehnquist joined Scalia, who was heavily criticized by the academicians, as Jay Gould of Harvard said, “I regret to say that Justice Scalia does not understand the subject matter of evolutionary biology.” Scalia was open about the reasons for his decision. He said, “what we can really know for sure?”, criticizing his colleagues’ decision for treating the evidence for evolution as “conclusive.” To Scalia, ‘creative science’ was indeed a science as well. It was a constitutional issue of church and state to other justices, but to Scalia, it was a matter of belief, not necessarily in creation but the proof against creation science. In the 17th century, Galileo was ordered to turn himself into the Holy Office to begin trial for holding the belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun, which was deemed heretical by the Catholic Church. In 1616, exactly 300 years ago, the Inquisition found heliocentrism to be formally heretical, and heliocentric books were banned, and Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas. More than 350 years after the Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo, Pope John Paul II rectified this Church's most infamous wrongs. Three centuries from today, we will look back and find a member of the Supreme Court just as primitive as was the Church six hundred years ago. But with a caveat.
The judiciary faces judging cases based on merit and beyond a reasonable doubt. This task becomes onerous when the judgment involves amorphous considerations. There is no sharp line in judging when a decision resides on values, morality, and more particularly on the complexity of the issue that is beyond the capability the of a judge to understand. Scalia admitted, he does not get the science and has moral issues with his beliefs regarding Creation. What folks three hundred years from now will find is that there was a drastic change in the US values as the judges rendered a plurality of decisions that on amorphous grounds that changed our society for all time to come. It was too late.