Indiana lawmakers pull the “academic freedom” trope

What the hell are they doing?

Ball State University president, Jo Ann Gora’s decision to scrap a science class,”Boundaries of Science” class taught by Eric Hedin, an assistant professor of physics, was her response to complaints that the class was promoting intelligent design, as opposed to evolution. Obviously, that is NOT a scientific take on nature.

Creationist lawmakers have stepped in to question this decision. Wait, what?

Indiana lawmakers probe Ball State over intelligent design.

State lawmakers are investigating Ball State University’s decision to prohibit the teaching of intelligent design in a science course.

BSU President Jo Ann Gora concluded last summer that intelligent design is overwhelmingly regarded by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory.

Four legislators, including Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, chairman of the Education Committee, say “serious questions have been raised about whether academic freedom, free speech and religious liberty have been respected by BSU in its treatment of professor Hedin, its subsquenet establishment of a speech code restricting faculty speech on intelligent design, and its cancellation of professor Hedin’s … class,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Gora this week.

The letter concludes, “In order to determine if legislative action is required, we feel obligated to investigate whether BSU has acted in accord with state educational policy, legal requirements, and BSU’s own published standards.”

The legislators are acting on behalf of The Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank, whose vice president, John West, told The Star Press he is hopeful the legislative investigation will force Ball State to release the report of the faculty review panel, which West called “an ad hoc kangaroo committee.”

“That report should be public so the public can judge whether what happened was fair or biased or whatever,” West said.

What a fiasco! This appears to be another way non-scientist lawmakers are sticking their noses into places it doesn’t belong, a university curriculum, in order to push their ideology of religious belief. Are there any scientists who are complaining that ID should be taught? No, just religious lawmakers. It’s a science class and shouldn’t the university have the say about what is taught in their classes? They have gone the route of the scientific consensus. An argument might be made that they are limiting ideas. There is more to the story than we see here, of course. But it appears to have been a mistake to approve the course in the first place.

Reading further into the article, it is alleged that evolutionary biologist Dr. Jerry Coyne was involved in the complaints against the course:

The institute is seeking access to any emails between any Ball State faculty and Coyne, who was instrumental in getting BSU to crack down on Hedin’s course. The institute suspects a Ball State faculty member contacted Coyne, known for his blogs attacking intelligent design, in an unsuccesful [sic] attempt to sabotage Ball State’s hiring of Guillermo Gonzalez as an assistant professor of astronomy. Like Hedin, Gonzalez is an advocate of intelligent design.

“That’s crazy,” Coyne said of the institute’s suspicions. “I made it clear I didn’t think Guillermo Gonzalez or Eric Hedin should be fired. The question was whether religion can be taught as if it were science. Like president Gora said, it’s not only wrong but illegal to represent religion as if it were science.”

He added, “The Discovery Institute is hurt because they lost, so they’re trying to make trouble. This is a watershed thing, the first time the issue of intelligent design came up in a university as opposed to a high school or elementary school. Ball State was the first time they tried, and it failed.”

I’ll send this to Dr. Jerry to see if he wishes to respond.

Tip: Mike Hill

COMMENTING ON SOMEONE ELSE'S SITE IS NOT A RIGHT, IT'S A PRIVILEGE. READ AND UNDERSTAND THE COMMENT POLICY BEFORE SUBMITTING. NONSENSE IS NOT PERMITTED.

  7 comments for “Indiana lawmakers pull the “academic freedom” trope

  1. March 16, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    I’ve responded on my website: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/discovery-institute-and-indiana-legislators-ratchet-up-pressure-on-ball-state-di-issues-threats-and-seeks-emails-sent-to-me/

    The idea that anyone tried to sabotage Gonzalez’s hiring is crazy, as I said: I learned about his being hired only after it had already happened and he was assigned to teach classes at BSU. It was a fait accompli, to which I was calling attention. I also added that I never asked for (or wanted) either Hedin or Gonzalez to be fired, and explicitly said that on my website.

    This is just a desperation move of the Discovery Institute, which appears to have some creationist Indiana lawmakers in their pocket.

    And of course I was involved in the complaints against the course, for I called it to the attention of both the head of the Physics and Astronomy Department (who rebuffed me; I published my email to that chairman), and to the Freedom from Religion foundation. So that part is true, and publicly documented. And, of course, Ball State deep-sixed the course on the grounds that a bad theory based on religious belief should not be taught in their university.

    I’m not sure why the university approved the course in the first place, but the original course description gave no idea of how religious the content would be. So they could have simply been blindsided. But the fact that the department chairman blew me off after I brought the course content to his attention suggests that he, at least, was sympathetic to that content.

    It would all be amusing (I think the legislator’s tactic will backfire) were it not that there seems to be a cabal of benighted, creationists legislators in Indiana who are in the back pocket of the Discovery Institute.

    • Cletus Amlung
      March 17, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      Thanks for your efforts keeping ID out of science classes.

      It seems pretty clear. Intelligent design is a form of Creationism (Dover V. Kitzmiller) Intelligent design is not science.

      Teaching Intelligent design is unconstitutional, per the establishment clause.

      If Ball State allowed this, they could be looking at a potential costly lawsuit..

      • One Eyed Jack
        March 17, 2014 at 4:35 PM

        Educational laws are a bit different when it comes to universities. Students are paying to attend and choosing the classes they take. It gets murky.

    • One Eyed Jack
      March 17, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      This is just a desperation move of the Discovery Institute, which appears to have some creationist Indiana lawmakers in their pocket.

      I doubt the DI had to do much to get them there. The Indiana legislature has no shortage of fundamental Christians. Those of us that vote against them every election are vastly outnumbered and many etimes it comes down to voting for the least extreme.

  2. March 16, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    The legislature has no authority to tell a university what courses it MUST teach any more than it can tell a newspaper what articles it MUST print. Freedom of the press belongs to them what own one.

    If the professor has tenure and the course was approved then the university has a problem but still not one that would involve the legislature, I would think.

  3. Count Otto Black
    March 16, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    Living in the UK where we have much less of this kind of religious madness (apart from that splendidly Surreal occasion when a group of ultra-radical Muslims used their democratic right of free speech to hold a demonstration against democracy where they solemnly chanted “Freedom go to hell!”), I’m not sure exactly how this sort of thing works according to US law, but is it not the case that, if a teacher feels that what the Bible says about evolution is more important than what science has to say on the subject, even if he’s supposed to be teaching a science class, should he not be legally obliged to defer to the Bible in EVERY case where its teachings are at odds with currently accepted scientific theories?

    For example, just sticking with biology, a teacher who rejects evolution because it contradicts the story of the Creation must surely also be obliged to tells his pupils that a genetically diverse breeding population of any creature, including mankind, is completely irrelevant, so all that rubbish about inbreeding being a bad thing is a wicked lie put about by sinful atheists to make the Bible look inaccurate. Also, black skin is God’s ugly, shameful punishment to you for being descended from somebody who accidentally saw his drunken father naked, and, despite appearances, locusts have four legs and are birds.

    I mean, if you’re the kind of Christian who can leave out bits of the Bible because, although they may have made sense when they were written thousands of years ago, they’re now obviously wrong and/or downright silly, you’re no better than one of those awful godless scientists!

  4. March 16, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    ” I’m not sure exactly how this sort of thing works according to US law, but is it not the case that, if a teacher feels that what the Bible says about evolution is more important than what science has to say on the subject, even if he’s supposed to be teaching a science class, should he not be legally obliged to defer to the Bible in EVERY case where its teachings are at odds with currently accepted scientific theories?”

    Nope, they are not legally obliged to do anything like that. They are however obliged to resist the temptation to use their position as a science professor (he’s not tenured btw) to promote their religion. That’s ethics, not the law. State legislators are prohibited from enacting laws favoring one religion or repressing any religion, but the creep Cruze who the DI put up to this attempts to put forth unconstitutional Christian-themed bills every year. He’s an embarrassment to the state.

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