God Told Me The Defendant Did It

There’s nothing like going directly from John Stuart Mill to the kind of drivel one finds in, say, law schools that intend “to bring a religious perspective to the law and to legal practice.” The move from clarity and precision to muddle and sloppiness can be quite a shock to the system. As William Whewell must have found when he read what Mill had to say about his work. Poor guy. But maybe he didn’t read it.

The article in question is itself muddled, as well as reporting on an inherently muddled subject. Here for example –

These new law schools say they are a sort of counterweight to the views that dominate legal academies in the United States. “The prevailing orthodoxy at the elite law schools is an extreme rationalism that draws a strong distinction between faith and reason,” said Bruce Green, Liberty’s dean.

The claim that professors at the leading law schools lean to the left is supported by statistics. According to a forthcoming study of 21 top law schools from 1991 to 2002 by John McGinnis, a law professor at Northwestern University, approximately 80 percent of the professors at those schools who made campaign contributions primarily supported Democrats, while 15 percent primarily supported Republicans.

That’s an exact quotation, with nothing left out. Note the entirely unstated unexplained assumption that ‘extreme’ rationalism (whatever that might be) and ‘leaning to the left’ or supporting Democrats are exactly the same thing. As if there were no rationalist Republicans or (alas) irrationalist Democrats, and as if rationalism itself were inherently 1) political and 2) neatly divided along a left-right axis. But that’s just ridiculous. Yet the article maintains the confusion throughout.

Or is it a confusion. Maybe it’s a tactic. Because of course then the next step is to complain that alternatives to rationality are not welcome in law schools, and to treat that as some kind of bias or mistake or silly oversight. But that’s imbecilic. One might as well complain that inaccurate mathematics are not welcome in engineering schools. Well who knows, maybe ‘faith-based’ maths will be the next tragic victim of leftist dominance of US universities, and the Colorado legislature will have to pass a law (not based on rationality, of course) to correct the imbalance.

Peter Schuck, a law professor at Yale, where 92 percent of faculty political contributions went to Democrats, said Green was right to question whether religious perspectives are welcomed at mainstream law schools. “There is a sort of soft tolerance of competing views,” said Schuck, who described himself as a political moderate, “but no real interest in exposing students to seriously developed contrary points of view that proceed from a strong faith-based perspective. Fundamentalism is derided.”

Well, I certainly hope so. I hope law schools teach law from the perspective of ‘a strong distinction between faith and reason’ as opposed to teaching lawyers to rely on their intuition and chats with Jesus when doing their work. If that’s ‘extreme rationalism,’ well, then I’m an extremist. Extremism in the cause of liberty from faith-based loonies is no vice. Not in my book.

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