Ball State agrees to investigate science course infected with Christianity

Inside Higher Education reports today that the letter written to Ball State University (BSU) by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), calling attention to Dr. Eric Hedin’s “science” courses that are infused with Christianity and intelligent design, has had an effect.

An excerpt from the report:

Ball State University has agreed to investigate complaints that a course taught by a physics and astronomy professor has crossed a line from being about science to being about Christianity.

The letter was sent to Ball State’s president, Jo Ann Gora, on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the university issued this statement: “The university received a complaint from a third party late yesterday afternoon about content in a specific course offered at Ball State. We take academic rigor and academic integrity very seriously. Having just received these concerns, it is impossible to comment on them at this point. We will explore in depth the issues and concerns raised and take the appropriate actions through our established processes and procedures.”

The university’s statement did not identify the faculty member — Eric Hedin — but his course has been much discussed in recent weeks on science blogs.

The report goes on to describe how this website (based on an anonymous tip) started the controversy, how the FFRF ran with the ball, and how both Larry Moran  and P. Z. Myers disagree with my assessment of the unconstitutionality of the course—as well as with the notion of even asking the professor to stop teaching the course.  As I recall, P. Z. argued that the professor, who appeared to have been relegated to a low academic status in the department, had been treated properly, and that no other sanctions were necessary.
Thomas Robertson, Hedin’s chair to whom I’d written before complaining about the course (and who brushed me aside like a mosquito), has now issued a statement that doesn’t reflect well on either him or BSU. How can anybody look at the syllabi for Hedin’s courses and not be deeply concerned? The guy is pushing his Christian views in the guise of science!

Coyne said that he wrote to the chair of the physics and astronomy department at Ball State, Thomas Robertson. Coyne wrote that Robertson responded, but had not granted permission for his response to be published. But Coyne said that Robertson confirmed the accuracy of the syllabus and said that the course helped students challenge the ideas they had upon enrolling in college. Coyne said that the course must be stopped because it is a violation of the separation of church and state.

Robertson did not respond to requests for comment from Inside Higher Ed. (UPDATE: On Friday morning, after this article was posted, Robertson responded to the questions with an e-mail saying: “The information provided to me by Jerry Coyne contains nothing in addition to information that has been in my possession for some time.  The syllabus published was approved by our department Curriculum and Assessment Committee.  We review faculty performance regularly through student and peer/chair evaluations.  I receive complaints and concerns from students familiar with faculty performance in their classes and investigate when appropriate.  Given the totality of information available to me at this time, I do not share the opinions expressed on the web sites cited below.  We will continue to monitor our faculty and their course materials and practices and take appropriate action when deemed necessary.”)

That’s a lame and bureaucratic response.

Surprisingly, the National Center for Science Education is lukewarm on the issue:

Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, said he has been watching the emerging debate with interest. Branch said he doesn’t think enough facts are clear to know whether the course has crossed a line. Via e-mail, he called the syllabus and reading list  “suggestive but hardly dispositive.” While Branch said that there are academic freedom issues when discussing what professors say in the classroom, “it is possible for a professor’s religious advocacy, even if not breaching the separation of church and state, to go so far as not to be protected by academic freedom considerations.”

At any rate, I can see how there might be some disagreement about whether this issue should be resolved by the courts, but I still fail to understand those who maintain that this is not a violation of the First Amendment. Hedin is a government employee, teaching at a government school, using taxpayer money to push his Christian viewpoint in a science class. How is that not unconscionable entanglement of government with religion? Does the fact that the class is optional, or at a public university instead of a public high school,  make it okay? What about those students who sign up for the class and then, as some have experienced, found themselves misled?

I see even less justification for the viewpoints of Larry and P. Z. (P.Z. isn’t as clear on this as Larry) that Hedin should be left alone to teach what he wants. Really? Is it okay for a professor to teach Holocaust denial in a class on European history, or Biblical flood geology in a paleobiology class? We should allow that because of academic freedom?  I find that view indefensible.

I know we all agree that Hedin’s class is a bad idea, a bit deceptive, and certainly not accepted “science.”  But on what grounds should we allow him to fill students’ minds with Christianity, and at taxpayer expense?

“Academic freedom” is not a license to teach whatever you want. Or does someone disagree?  Never in a million years would I think of telling my students that learning evolution may lead to atheism, or that I don’t think there’s a God.  Those may be my private views, but even at a private university I don’t promulgate them, for my business is to teach science, not, as an authority figure, to intimidate an audience of students.

At any rate, I’ll be happy if this doesn’t go to court but is simply resolved by BSU telling Hedin that he can’t shove Jesus down the throats of his students.  If they don’t do that, then I have no problem with saying that the BSU administration is simply cowardly and unwilling to stand up for good science.  And it would make a lie out of the university’s statement that they “take academic rigor and academic integrity very seriously.”  They haven’t done that with Hedin.

97 Comments

  1. Posted May 17, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    The president of the university said, “We take academic rigor and academic integrity very seriously. Having just received these concerns, it is impossible to comment on them at this point.” So she hadn’t heard about this before? She never corresponded with Dr. Coyne about this? Or does he not count because he’s not a lawyer? This president sounds pretty awful.

    • Posted May 17, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      I emailed Dr. Robertson the same day as Jerry’s original post and copied President Gora as well as the editor of the student newspaper and the NCSE. Never did get a response from anybody….

      b&

      • Crystal
        Posted June 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        I’m a Ball State student and the main reason that Gora probably hasn’t commented is because this just became a issue two months ago. However, it was never an issue internally. Which is why Ben you haven’t received a reply back from our paper I assume. There have been no complaints by faculty or students. We are the ones paying for the class and receiving the education at Ball State so I think we should be the judges of how well or not well this professor is. Seeing that no one from Ball State complained shows his credibility at our campus and shows that students will stand behind him.

        • tomh
          Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

          “We are the ones paying for the class and receiving the education at Ball State so I think we should be the judges of how well or not well this professor is. ”

          Taxpayers are the ones paying this professor’s salary, not to mention paying for the buildings and other costs. Perhaps they should have a say in it.

          • Crystal
            Posted June 25, 2013 at 5:44 am | Permalink

            Taxpayers pay for a lot of useless things but paying for this professors salary isn’t one of them. The class promotes discussion and critical thinking. He doesn’t push his religious views on students. He just encourages them to have intellectual discussions that will help build there future and their own beliefs. I’m willing to pay taxes along with a $20,000 a year tuition in order to build our future. Why aren’t you?

            • tomh
              Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

              I’m willing to pay taxes along with a $20,000 a year tuition in order to build our future. Why aren’t you?”

              I’m not willing to have taxes pay for a public employee to proselytize his religion. For one thing, it’s against the law.

              • Crystal
                Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

                What credibility do you have to say that the professor is proselytizing. Have you set in the classroom? You have read articles. Each of the articles state that there have been no INTERNAL complaints. Therefore the religious and non religious students didn’t think he was trying to recruit them into Christianity. The class is designed to stimulate discussion. There are several classes at several public universities that have a tie to religion. It doesn’t mean that the professor is pushing his religion on the students.

            • tomh
              Posted June 25, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

              “The class promotes discussion and critical thinking.”

              If you look at the reading list you will see that it is entirely creationism and religious apologetics. This is the opposite of critical thinking. The entire list is anti-science with the conclusion that “God did it.” This is a professor taking advantage of his position to push his god-belief to students.

              ” Have you set in the classroom?”

              Here’s a student who has “set” in the classroom. Probably the only non-religious student in the class.

              http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/1gh0x9/i_am_an_atheist_who_took_dr_hedins_limits_of/

              “the articles state that there have been no INTERNAL complaints.”

              What religionists don’t seem to understand, is that even if every student in the class wanted him to preach the Gospel, doing it as a public employee, on taxpayer money, is not allowed.

              • Crystal
                Posted June 26, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

                You don’t know if I’m religious or not. And you can’t even begin to assume that out of 20 students in each class, teaching the class more than once a day that that one person with a negative complaint is the only Atheist. That to me is ridiculous. My boyfriend doesn’t believe in organized religion and he loves this professor. Why? because he said he’s the only professor who took time out of his day to help him with the curriculum that was NOT revolved around religion. The books are RECOMMENDED not required. And for someone who hasn’t set in the class you really like to say he pushes the gospel on his students. I’ve spoken with several Ball State students who are Atheist and they think this is wrong. It isn’t illegal for the students to discuss religion and that’s what this class does. I discuss it in several of my classrooms mainly because college is about intellectual thinking and that’s what this class forces the students to do. Keep in mind that it’s an elective, the students who sign up for the class chose to sign up for it and there is a withdrawal period. If the students disliked the professor they could withdraw at that time.

              • Tulse
                Posted June 26, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

                It isn’t illegal for the students to discuss religion and that’s what this class does.

                Right, they’re discussing religion in a science class. Would it be OK to discuss, say, the role of the super-ego in 19th century Russian literature in this class? Or stone masonry techniques used at Angkor Wat? Or iambic pentameter in Pre-Raphaelite poetry? Would those topics also be an appropriate use of class time?

                And would you be as sanguine if the religious perspective discussed was Hindu, and Hedin’s recommended readings were all about the various yugas and how they relate to cosmology? Would that be just open-mindedness?

  2. Posted May 17, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Jerry, for bringing this to light in the first place and for continuing to see it through. You’re absolutely 100% correct, and I’m surprised that the Squidly One can’t see that.

    Even on its face, the basic claims fall flat. If he’s exercising his Constitutional right to freedom of religious expression, and if he’s doing so as an official agent of the state in the classroom, he’s unambiguously crossed the line into attempting to officially establish his own religious expression in the state-sponsored classroom.

    He can have his Jesus. He can have his classroom. He just can’t have his Jesus in his classroom.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      +!

    • Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      “He can have his Jesus. He can have his classroom. He just can’t have his Jesus in his classroom.”

      Is that like, “He can pick Jesus’s nose, and he can pick Jesus’s friends, but he can’t pick Jesus’s friends’ noses.”

      That’s actually a very good sentence to test people’s knowledge of proper apostrophe placement.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        I think you blew it on that one.

        • Alex T
          Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          That snot funny.

          • darrelle
            Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

            Who really knows nose humor anyway?

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

              Isn’t it enough hanky talky already? Picky humor leaves me with a cold anyway.

              • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
                Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

                Sigh, I didn’t mean to come off negative. It _was_ funny.

              • darrelle
                Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

                You didn’t come off as negative! I understood your humor. I am terrible at humor though. I can easily kill a hilarious joke by trying to repeat it to others.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

                ….as long as everyone is keeping their noses clean.

                Sorry, I couldn’t resist. :)

      • Posted May 18, 2013 at 3:28 am | Permalink

        I was taught that words with two ess (or zed?) sounds in them, such as Jesus and Moses, do not take a third ess for the possessive. (I’m not sure I agree, though. Maybe it’s changed since 1956….) Jesus knows Jesus’ nose?

        • Filippo
          Posted May 18, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

          I myself was taught that. However, the N.Y. Times (Style Book) indicates singular possession with a “‘s,” regardless of how the word ends. One rule to remember versus two.

          How does one pronounce it so as auditorily indicate a possessive? “Je-sus-es”?

          Take the Hess corporation. “Hess’s.” “Hess-es”?

  3. Robert Bray
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Institutions of higher education, and professional organizations such as the National Center for Science Education, are notoriously pusillanimous in all matters that call for self-policing. They have to be made to act and often do so only after building a series of stone walls and ditches as they are forced to retreat. I know this personally from having, many years back, had a case of plagiarism (brought by myself and two others)treated with classic bureaucratic malingering by the American Historical Association–even though the plagiarism in question fit precisely with the organization’s own. In the end, the AHA refused to call the ‘sin against scholarship’ plagiary, then contradicted itself by declaring that the plagiarist had ‘borrowed from his sources without attribution.’

    Of course, the analogy with the astronomy/christianity case is not especially close. But the intellectual and professional point in both instances is related: do not rely on institutions to do the right thing when it comes to truth. Their prime directive is to survive, with their leaders having the highest anxiety about survival. That’s why, from department chair to president, Ball State will avoid self-policing until they have no choice other than to do so from public pressure.

    • David Sepkoski
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      I think you’re mischaracterizing the NCSE here. It is not a “professional organization” like the AHA, but rather an advocacy group with a very activist stance towards intervening in these kinds of matters (see http://ncse.com/about). It is fairly outrageous to call them “pusillanimous” about this kind of thing, at any rate. Without them, there would be an awful lot more creationism in the schools than there is.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        Or with a litigation stance, which I gather is what the US system is geared towards, there could be an even less amount of creationism.

        Which I think is what we are discussing here, how an activist stance of intervening is more natural (1st amendment issue) and (I would think is the consensus here) more profitable for education and science.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        I forgot, pusillanimous is then a natural conclusion seeing the alternative. Unless you happen to know that NCSE is taking an accommodationist theological position, which is both pusillanimous and skeptically unwarranted.

  4. Alex Francis
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I am surprised how eager you are to abandon the principle of academic freedom. The idea that a university president should be encouraged to dictate what is or is not taught in a particular course seems antithetical to the ideals of a modern university. Curricular decisions should be made only by faculty, not administrators, and advocating otherwise is extremely short-sighted.

    No one is saying that academic freedom is a “license to teach whatever you want.” (see the AAUP statement on academic freedom, here: http://www.aaup.org/report/freedom-and-responsibility)

    But there are good and bad ways of effecting changes in a curriculum, and presidential fiat is one of the worst.

    • Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      1. I’m not eager to abandon the principle of academic freedom, but it’s not there to preserve the ability of professors to tell lies to their classes.

      2. I never wrote, spoke to, or encouraged the university president to do anything. I wrote only to Hedin’s chair with the information, and he’s the right guy to contact re the curriculum.

      3. It was the FFRF, not I, who contacted the BSU administration.

      4. You should read more carefully.

      • Alex Francis
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Agreed on all counts (esp. #4). But perhaps you can see why I might have gotten the wrong impression about who was asking the BSU administration to act, given your last paragraph that seems to advocate administrative action.

  5. Tulse
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Does the fact that the class is optional, or at a public university instead of a public high school, make it okay?

    From a legal standpoint, quite possibly. The FFRF letter didn’t offer any case law that actually covers this situation.

    What about those students who sign up for the class and then, as some have experienced, found themselves misled?

    They can presumably do whatever they would do if they signed up for a chemistry course and found that the prof was teaching macrame — they could request that portion of their tuition back, or they could sue for recompense. But offering an inaccurate course description is not in itself unconstitutional.

    • David Sepkoski
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Agreed. I think the legal approach is probably less effective than simply calling attention and embarrassment to the university. Who knows–it’s possible that a judge somewhere might rule that this is unconstitutional–but the much more likely result is that the university will simply want to make this go away, because it makes them look bad.

      In either case, though, it’s great that Jerry and the FFRF have put pressure on them. My one concern is that conservatives are already anxious to attack genuine academic freedom by scrutinizing syllabi taught by “liberal” professors and accusing them of bias. That shouldn’t stop us from criticizing this kind of thing, but it’s also a good argument for leaving the ultimate decisions to internal faculty review boards, who will by and large (hopefully) do the right thing, and using the courts only as a last option for the most egregious cases.

      • Brygida Berse
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        I think the legal approach is probably less effective than simply calling attention and embarrassment to the university.

        I agree. And the latter also applies to private schools. Harvard or MIT wouldn’t (I hope) allow teaching creationism in a biology course, not because it would be unconstitutional, but because it would make them look ridiculous.

        • tomh
          Posted May 17, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          And the latter also applies to private schools. Harvard or MIT wouldn’t (I hope) allow teaching creationism in a biology course, not because it would be unconstitutional,

          Because it wouldn’t be unconstitutional in a private school, they can teach anything, any way they want, witness Liberty U. and the rest of them. The whole point is that public funds are being used to promote religious indoctrination. I hope it goes to court, I don’t think they have any constitutional defense at all.

          • Brygida Berse
            Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

            Because it wouldn’t be unconstitutional in a private school, they can teach anything, any way they want, witness Liberty U. and the rest of them.

            I know, but there is a reason why Harvard and other prestigious private universities do not do that. My point was that, in addition to a potential legal issue, the school’s reputation is (should be) at stake. Not being a lawyer myself I don’t really hold an opinion on the constitutionality of state schools’ curricula, but I suspect that a legal action, even if not without merit, may be lengthy and difficult.

      • eric
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        In either case, though, it’s great that Jerry and the FFRF have put pressure on them.

        Since I’m somewhat opposed to Jerry’s position on the legal issues here, I’d like to make plain that I agree with this. Constitutional or unconstitutional, I think its great that both are working to improve science education where they see creationism being taught.

        Maybe its legal for this Emporer to go without clothes. Maybe its not. Either way, yes we should point out that he has no clothes, and that the panderers complimenting him on his wardrobe are full of baloney.

  6. eric
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Larry Moran and P. Z. Myers disagree with my assessment of the unconstitutionality of the course—as well as with the notion of even asking the professor to stop teaching the course.

    I guess I split the difference. I don’t think its unconstitutional, but I do think the Uni has every right (and ought to) tell him to stop.

    As I said before, a big issue for me is false advertising; he’s supposed to be teaching a ‘fundamentals of science’ course but he isn’t.

    My second is a more contractual complaint. If the Uni employs you to teach A, then they have every right to make you teach A. Sure, as a professor they probably give you leeway to define the curiculum for your upper-level class “Minituae of My Research from the Last Ten Years.” But they do not give you complete freedom to change the Bio 101 curricula at your whim. What he’s doing now is equivalent to radically changing a Bio 101 to cover basket weaving. Answer: no.

    Hedin is a government employee, teaching at a government school, using taxpayer money to push his Christian viewpoint in a science class. How is that not unconscionable entanglement of government with religion?

    Well, to be pithy, you university profs are somewhat hoist by your own petard here. You’ve been so successful at defending your academic independence that both the courts and students now see you as independent. You’ve been very good at keeping what you teach independent from your funders, and so it should be no surprise that everyone now believes what you teach in class is independent from your funders.

    Isn’t that a good thing? Don’t you, Jerry Coyne, think its a good thing that neither your students, nor the University, nor any of your peers see you as merely a tool of the University Of Chicago? You have probably fought very hard not to be seen as merely a mouthpiece of your funders. Well, congratulations…you aren’t! But this accomplishment comes with an inevitable downside: neither is Hedin seen as a tool or mouthpiece of the State of Indiana.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a student who decides to go to a state university to expect not to be prosletyzed at. Indiana is full of theologically-oriented colleges and universities. If a student wanted to hear Christianity dressed up as science, they would go to Anderson, or Taylor, or Notre Dame, or Indiana Wesleyan, or Butler.

      • eric
        Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        I don’t think its unreasonable either, and I hope the university tells Hedin to stop (at least).

        The question is whether what he’s doing is illegal, and I don’t think it is. The school takes money from the state; this is not equivalent to every professor being seen as speaking for the state – as endorsement.

        Now, maybe folk like Jerry and Tomh can argue that the law should see it that way. But in terms of facts on the ground, the courts don’t see it that way, and they never have when it comes to universities.

  7. derekw
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Is there not a place (debatable whether its part of science curriculum or philosophy or religion) at a public university to teach students about what responses are out there from the ‘religious’ to questions posed by naturalism/evolutionary theory? Even a well educated atheist should know what the faithful are proposing. I think his chief wrongdoing is that the curriculum doesn’t have material from the respect of the ‘other side’ (ie Dawkins, Hawking, Carroll etc.)

    • Brygida Berse
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Is there not a place (debatable whether its part of science curriculum or philosophy or religion) at a public university to teach students about what responses are out there from the ‘religious’ to questions posed by naturalism/evolutionary theory?

      I don’t think it is debatable whether it should be part of science curriculum. It shouldn’t. That “response” isn’t part of science any more than astrology is part of astrophysics. It could at best be used as an example of unscientific thinking – a tempting but politically risky move, because on one hand it could look as a push for atheism (inappropriate in a science class), and on the other, it would give credence to the whole “teach the controversy” nonsense. It’s best to leave it out and stick to science.

      In a philosophy or religious studies class it is of course appropriate and I’m sure there are courses out there that cover the religious point of view on these topics.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Sure a philosophy or history of science course. I took a philosophy course called atheism, scepticism & religious faith and I’m sure there could be one on religion and science.

  8. JBlilie
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Well done sir!

    I agree on all these points:

    “Academic freedom” is not a license to teach whatever you want.

    “Never in a million years would I think of telling my students that learning evolution may lead to atheism, or that I don’t think there’s a God. Those may be my private views, but even at a private university I don’t promulgate them, for my business is to teach science, not, as an authority figure, to intimidate an audience of students.”

    Right on! Well done: People are listening to you. You are raising consciousness like Dawkins does.

    • tombesson
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Agreed! Academic freedom is limited to teaching whatever you are teaching, as long as you label it for what it is. If professor Hedin prefaced his remarks with something along the lines of, “Of course, what I’m about to say is all bull sh*t, but academic freedom gives me the right to say whatever I want”, then I’d be all for a student to decide whether he or she wants to hear the rest. It’s when the professor uses his position to imply that what he presents is the truth that he steps onto truly thin ice. Then again, as Kurt Vonnegut once said, “If you’re standing on thin ice, you might as well dance.”

  9. krzysztof1
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    It’s important to think carefully through the issues raised by this case. On the one hand, it’s legitimate to examine the assumptions underlying scientific inquiry. That is the principle behind peer review. However, the same needs to be done to the claims of persons who take issue with the work of science, in this case the area of evolution. So a course that analyzes the reasoning presented on all sides fits well within the guidelines of academic freedom. The question is whether a well-designed course like that should satisfy a general education science requirement.

    What isn’t acceptable is a professor pushing a particular point of view in such a course, because that is inconsistent with the course goals. Note that if it is a straight course in evolution, it’s not a violation of academic freedom NOT to discuss intelligent design or young-earth creationism, and all that the instructor has to say to students who ask why opposing views are not represented is that the purpose of the course is to present the science in peer-reviewed articles, and there are none that support those other views. The evolution-creation conflict is a subset of the science-and-religion relationship and as such is more a cultural thing than a debate within the science community.

    Now in this case, it would appear that the professor is teaching the course as a science course, since it satisfies the science requirement of the general education curriculum. However, as Jerry points out, the syllabus is all about the limitations of science to provide a complete worldview, and the need to consider theological implications–“beginnings”, anthropic principle, etc. And the booklist is astonishing. There appears to be nothing on it that calls intelligent-design, etc., into question. At the very least, the professor should be questioned intensively about this. The way the syllabus reads shows it is a profoundly unscientific, or even antiscientific, approach and as such should not satisfy any science requirement.

  10. Kevin
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I’d like to know where right of “academic freedom” is enshrined in the Constitution.

    It’s not. Doesn’t exist. There is no such right.

    We have decided as part of educational policy that instructors at institutions of higher learning ought to have a certain degree of latitude in what they teach and how they teach their subject matter. This is by no means a “right”. Nor is it inviolable.

    No, it’s not in the First Amendment. Sorry, just don’t go there. We tell teachers what to teach and not to teach all the time. Heck, the entire “No Child Left Behind” thing is precisely and exactly about that — telling teachers what to teach. And if the biology curriculum at Ball State suddenly started teaching how Lamarckism was the correct interpretation of evolutionary theory — well, you can see how quickly that idea would get shot down.

    I know you academics aren’t going to like to hear this, but academic speech is commercial speech. It can be regulated by your employer. And should be. As Jerry points out, an academic who teaches a history class on WWII who declares there were no concentration camps and no one died in gas chambers would have his speech regulated in a heartbeat.

    Jerry was right to bring this to the attention of the department chair — he’s the guy in charge of this person’s speech. That he ignored those warnings is the same as if the chair of the history department ignored warnings of a Holocaust denier in their midst.

    Again, I’ll repeat my assertion that if this is rebranded as a religion course, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Which again speaks to the fact that we’re not talking about censoring this person at all. He can teach whatever he wants — just not by branding it as science — which is what it is clearly not.

    • eric
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      As Jerry points out, an academic who teaches a history class on WWII who declares there were no concentration camps and no one died in gas chambers would have his speech regulated in a heartbeat.

      Maybe. (Way back when) I took an ethics course on the holocaust and discussions of denialism was a part of the subject matter.

      The issue is whether the professor is intellectually honest about the view they are teaching. If you want to cover a wildly-different-from-mainstream view, you’d better identify it as such. You should not misrepresent the mainstream or sin by omission (i.e., pretend or imply that there aren’t good arguments againt the wierd position you’re covering). It should probably not count as a ‘core’ course for the major because covering far-from-mainsteam views is almost tautologically not ‘core’ to the discipline.

      So, if you’re passing denialism off as “WWII history” or “the core WWII history class in the history major,” absolutely not. OTOH if professor Bob wants to teach ‘history elective 666: Professor Bob’s Pet Theory That Nobody Else Believes,’ well, as long as he’s honest about what he’s teaching and why everyone else rejects it, I don’t see much of a problem with it.

    • neil
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Academics do not think they have a constitutional right. Rather they know they have tenure which protects their “academic freedom” and prevents them from being dismissed for espousing unpopular views or doing politically incorrect research. (There was a case many years ago of a professor researching the sizes of the genetalia of different races that caused a kerfuffle.)

      What views you can espouse depends on which course you are teaching, as well as societal norms. An harangue about marxism in a physics class would be out of place, but not necessarily in an economics class. Most professors choose their words carefully when talking about race or gender issues.

    • tomh
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Kevin wrote:

      Again, I’ll repeat my assertion that if this is rebranded as a religion course, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

      Really? Where would you draw the line, if at all? I don’t see why it matters what you call it. If this were a history of religion course, for instance, and the professor was insisting that Christianity was the one true religion, (which means, of course, that many other religions are false,) would you be OK with that? Academic freedom and all? Because it seems like that is what this professor is doing, teaching that Christian beliefs are true. I don’t see why you should be allowed to use public money to proselytize and promote a particular religion in any class, science or not.

    • Alex Francis
      Posted May 20, 2013 at 3:02 am | Permalink

      You are correct that academic freedom is not enshrined in the constitution. Nor should it be. However, there are plenty of regulations on civil discourse that are not so enshrined, and yet they help structure significant aspects of our society, are often of great value in protecting individual freedoms, and thus are often afforded special legal status.

      Academic freedom is probably best thought of as a professional standard – something that academics (not just professors) and their organizations, including public and private universities, accept and respect as one of the principles guiding professional interactions and providing certain accepted protections for speech and speakers. It is typically “enshrined” in professional policies that both limit and protect the range of acceptable speech within the context of university employees’ activities (virtually every US university has some statement on academic freedom in their regulations governing faculty and administrative activities). Like attorney-client or doctor-patient privilege (non-constitutionally enshrined professional standards that nevertheless have been given specific legal status), it can, under certain circumstances, lead one to make different decisions about how to speak or act than might otherwise be reached in other types of discourse.

      In that regard, bringing this to the attention of the dept. chair was certainly quite appropriate. Asking the president to investigate may have been less so (not that Jerry did that – though I think it’s possible to infer from the above post that he supports the FFRF doing so).

      As for classroom speech being commercial speech, that is an oversimplification of the current state of the legal status of classroom speech. While it’s true that the courts (i.e. in the Garcetti decision) have now established that even public university employees are subject to employer control over their professional speech (as private university employees and employees of other private organizations long have been) by stating that “when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” It is also important to note that the majority response to Judge Souter’s concern that “today’s majority does not mean to imperil First Amendment protection of academic freedom in public colleges and universities, whose teachers necessarily speak and write ‘pursuant to official duties.’” was to state that “There is some argument that expression related to academic scholarship or classroom instruction implicates additional constitutional interests that are not fully accounted for by this Court’s customary employee-speech jurisprudence. We need not, and for that reason do not, decide whether the analysis we conduct today would apply in the same manner to a case involving speech related to scholarship or teaching.” (the “Garcetti reservation”). In other words, they acknowledge that there may be some merit to the idea that classroom (and scholarship) speech may be afforded more protection than other types of professional speech by academics (e.g. related to promotion or internal policy debates). Thus, while it’s entirely possible that, in the future, classroom speech may be regulated in exactly the same way as e.g. “commercial speech,” we’re not there yet.

  11. Marcoli
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I think everyone here will put up with a lot of controversial teaching to protect academic freedom. What is surprising to me, though, is the consistent confusion over whether the establishment clause of the constitution — which is a highfalutin legal matter — is somehow trumped by academic freedom. At present I do not see how that can be the case.

  12. darrelle
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I don’t recall anyone claiming that academic freedom is a Constitutional Right. I do agree that a few people have expressed that they think academic freedom is of the highest importance. I am not so sure about that myself, high, but not highest.

    In general I think this whole conversation has been plagued by people mixing up, in both directions, statements about the way things should be with interpretations of what laws, regulations and precedent actually entail. Pretty common thing actually. Accurate communication can get difficult real quick, especially when strong biases are involved. A problem everybody has.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      How did I screw that up?

      This was supposed to be a response to Kevin’s comment number 10.

      Sorry for the confusion.

      • Brygida Berse
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        How did I screw that up?

        This was supposed to be a response to Kevin’s comment number 10.

        Same with mine (now #13) and I am sure that I hit “Reply” under Kevin’s post. Possibly a WordPress glitch.

        • Brygida Berse
          Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          Now the blockquote function isn’t working. Oh, well.

    • Kevin
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      PZ and Moran both make this argument. That academic freedom is some super-right that trumps all other considerations.

      I have a hell of a lot of respect for both. I agree with PZ 99.9999999….% of the time.

      This time, he’s just wrong.

      • Marcoli
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, that is my experience too with Pharyngula. About every week he raves about something that makes me cringe, but then I start to think about it and think to myself ‘actually, I think he is right…’. But this time I hope he is wrong.

    • Marcoli
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      I think you put that quite well: there seems to be confusion over what should be over what is a matter of the law. In the end, this will be a legal matter. Of course, even if any court determination finds that this is not a constitutional issue, for some reason, the ever widening rumbling over it might make the course ‘go away’ anyway.

  13. Brygida Berse
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I know you academics aren’t going to like to hear this, but academic speech is commercial speech. It can be regulated by your employer. And should be.

    Most academics, especially those in the humanities but also in basic science departments, don’t want to think of it that way. There is more glory in being a guru than a bureaucrat.

    Engineering or medicine professors are much more resigned to the fact that they will not be left alone to teach whatever they please.

  14. RFW
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I think, Jerry, that you are pulling your punches by emphasizing that this is unconstitutional. It’s much worse than that; it’s simply wrong.

    If Eric Hedin doesn’t understand that his position as a science teacher is not a platform for expounding his personal religious views, then he’s unfit to teach, at least not in a publicly funded university.

    It would be equally wrong under any political system except a theocracy. It would be wrong in Russia, it would be wrong in China, it would be wrong in North Korea. It would be wrong, for that matter, even in many religiously operated universities. I betcha Notre Dame wouldn’t stand for it for a minute.

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    If Ball State had responded appropriately to Jerry’s and others’ complaints, it wouldn’t have gotten as far as it has. You’d think the university would care about its reputation and about ensuring that courses were taught appropriately.

    I hope they react now and stop this course being taught as a science course.

  16. still learning
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Eric Hedin? Does he comment on Ed Brayton’s site frequently? Other commenters often sneer at Prof. Hedin and pick fights with him. Do any of you know if this is the same person?

    • JScarry
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      I think you are referring to Heddle. And it boggles my mind that anyone takes him seriously.

    • steve oberski
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      David Heddle is an associate professor of physics at Christopher Newport University.

      He does comment on Dispatches as “heddle” and to quote him I believe the bible is the inerrant word of god.

      Must be pretty noisy inside his head.

    • still learning
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Oh, yes, Heddle. Thanks for the correction!

  17. Filippo
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Were this happening at a private university, would there be any recourse beyond merely the hope that the university would embarrass itself?

    One would expect this from outfits like Liberty University and Bob Jones University. (By the way, are these institutions “accredited”?)

    How about a private university receiving government funding?

    It seems that the more the speech of flesh-and-blood human beings is construed as “economic” (versus “political”) speech, and the more human beings are treated as human “resources” and human “capital,” the more humans are constrained and controlled by the Masters of Mankind. Is this one of those “American Values” allegedly worthy of being preserved, protected and defended, on behalf of which the Masters of Mankind expect youth in their prime to enter military service and go in harm’s way to possibly be killed or maimed for life?

    • Marcoli
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      A private university can do whatever it wants, as can a private K-12 school. There are private religious universities (Liberty University, etc.), and they are openly creationist in their science classes. There is no question that they are legal.

  18. Gabrielle Guichard
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I thought academic freedom was about the way you teach, not about what you teach, which was chosen by the university, or the college. According to the comments I was wrong, but it worked.

  19. Posted May 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    I have deep concerns with the how this is playing out. Hedin’s course is abysmal just based on the syllabus and ratemyprofessor.com listings. So a letter campaign is initiated with the expectation that immediate investigations and actions are taking. It looks like Hedin’s course is in for some changes, which seems to be the right decision.

    So what happens when 50,000 Fox news followers write in to complain about courses teaching global warming and demanding immediate investigations? The precedent is being established that public opinion campaigns get to tie up university resources.

    How many of us embraced republican legislators asking their constituents to identify NSF proposals that should be flagged for investigation?

    Who decides which set of complaints are valid? Is it just those who we agree with that get to have their complaints followed up on?

    • ladyatheist
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Global warming isn’t comparable because it’s not a matter of opinion but evidence. A professor of a science course who ignores ore misinterprets evidence based on a preconceived idea isn’t really a scientist and isn’t really teaching science. Let him teach in the philosophy department and debate postmodernist marxist critiques of otherness if he wants to make opnion his life’s work.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 17, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        …and I should add that fear of what the lunatic fringe may do should not inform how we deal with blatant teaching of untruth masquerading as science.

    • tomh
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Who decides which set of complaints are valid?

      The law decides. Global warming and NSF proposal aren’t promoting a religious viewpoint with taxpayer money. Hedin’s course is.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      They can try and the University can ignore them. There is not constitutional issue in teaching global warming AND it is fact and since a university deals in facts and evidence complainers can go away. Yes Humanities rely on evidence too – it isn’t anything goes.

  20. rosie
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Ball university? Where did it get that name. Can you imagine some one asking what college did you go to.And you say Ball, and they say what ?You say that is the name. Could go on but no enough.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      It’s named for the Ball family, of Ball Jars, which used to be made in Muncie.

    • Crystal
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      Ball State University not Ball University. It’s named after the Ball brothers who started the university and created the popular Ball mason jar along with other things. MATURE

  21. Posted May 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Having never attended college I am astounded that this scenario is a possibility. I had no idea that “academic freedom” includes proselytizing as course material in a scientific class. This does not sit well with me. I would have thought that teaching credentials inherently embody intellectual honesty and the responsibility of accurately teaching these classes with relevant information to the subject. Hrm…I should fix that last sentence somehow…but I’m tired lol.

  22. Posted May 18, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    On the question of constitutionality, Jerry wrote:

    Hedin is a government employee, teaching at a government school, using taxpayer money to push his Christian viewpoint in a science class.

    Game, set, match; Coyne.

  23. Steve Bracker
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Gotta say that the reaction to this story is mighty discouraging. Just a few days ago, I would have assumed that: (1) advocates of good science teaching would never in a million years defend Hedin’s course, because it’s utter bullshit through and through, (2) advocates of living within the law (e.g. applauding Dover) would never suggest that some contorted version of academic freedom might somehow trump the Constitution, and (3) many people on “our side” would never waste time torturing logic trying to cobble together some feeble excuse for Hedin’s dereliction of duty (in Jerry’s felicitous words). Wrong, wrong and wrong, it seems.

    I suppose that nothing in this world is an absolutely “open and shut case”, but this issue comes about as close as any I’ve seen. Just as some of us accept a definition of empirical fact as “findings supported by evidence so compelling that it would be perverse to withhold assent”, I guess I find it perverse that anyone should find the Hedin brand of teaching in a public university to be either acceptable or legal. The professor, the professor’s department, and the entire university are disgraced by this course. The course should be shut down, and Hedin fired.

    Unfortunately, this kind of malfeasance is far from rare, even in disciplines that call themselves science or science-based. Reading Orac on the rise of “quackademic medicine”, even in some of the most prestigious med schools, is equally discouraging. But in that case, it’s only bullshit, not explicitly unconstitutional bullshit, that’s being taught.

    To all those who excuse Hedin’s teaching in a public university I ask: How much worse would it have to get before you would advocate legal action? Does the bullshit have to be piled so high that the lower layers are compressed into the stuff of neutron stars or collapse into a black hole?

    After all, maybe we’re a pretty useless lot, preferring to polish our buttons while the onslaught of bible-thumping unreason threatens to overwhelm us.

    • eric
      Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Just as some of us accept a definition of empirical fact as “findings supported by evidence so compelling that it would be perverse to withhold assent”, I guess I find it perverse that anyone should find the Hedin brand of teaching in a public university to be either acceptable or legal.

      I accept the empirical record of court cases, which tells me that it’s almost a sure bet that they will rule in favor of Hedin. The courts have approved voucher programs that indirectly fund religious promotion. The courts have approved religious charities competing for government funding, which indirectly supports their religious activities. When it comes to federal law, they have consistently rejected the notion that merely being a taxpayer gives you the right to sue over a perceived funding violation of the law. They use the Lemon test, which does not rule out government action that has a religious component, it only eliminates government action for which the primary effect is religious.

      So, if you’re going to go all “some of us are empiricists sniff sniff,” tell me: do you accept this evidence, or conveniently ignore it?

      What does the fact that the overwhelming majority of courts disagree with you on this matter of law tell you? Does it empirically lead you to believe that in this case, they will suddenly ignore all past precedent and rule different than they have ever ruled before?

      • tomh
        Posted May 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        What does the fact that the overwhelming majority of courts disagree with you on this matter of law tell you?

        That’s a bit of a stretch. In fact, this issue has never been decided by the Supreme Court for public universities. One could just as well argue that they could merely extend the ban on religious indoctrination from public lower schools to public higher schools. The few state courts that have met the issue are hardly unanimous. The Washington State Supreme Court, in the case we mentioned before, said, referring to classes at the Univ of Washington, said, “There can be no doubt that our constitutional bars are absolute against religious instruction and indoctrination in specific religious beliefs or dogma.” Equating it to things like religious charities, or faith based grants, or whatever else you are comparing it to, is also stretching things. For instance, charities or faith-based grants, can’t use public money to proselytize, only for the charity part of the work.

        As I asked before, would you draw the line anywhere? If the class in a public university were the Bible as Literature, and the professor preached in every lecture that the Christian religion is true, other religions are false, and students that don’t accept the literal truth of the Bible were going to Hell unless they converted right now, would you claim that there was no Constitutional issue? Even though he’s paid with taxpayer money? Because, if so, then we just have an intractable disagreement.

        I don’t think Ball St will take any meaningful action at all, though they may do something cosmetic. As ladyatheist pointed out above they hired Hedin from an evangelical Christian college, they must have known his views on teaching, since he doesn’t appear to hide them, and from their response to Prof Coyne they seem to approve of those views. That’s why it needs to go to court, so the facts can be sorted out.

      • Steve Bracker
        Posted May 19, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, but the legal momentum is not nearly that one sided. As others have pointed out, case law in this matter is a mixed bag. You can pick a set of court decisions that seemingly point to a Hedin victory; others can put together their own set that trends toward a Hedin loss. I assume that FFRF and friends will not go to court unless there is a reasonable prospect of victory. I will gladly contribute to fighting the case if there is even a 20% chance of winning, because I think it’s important to put a stop to this kind of abuse taking place in a public university.

        So sorry too about the empiricism thing. (I paraphrased the definition of “fact” to help define my upcoming use of “perverse”, not to stick a wad of “more empirical than thou” up anyone’s nose.) The facts, big stacks of all the pertinent court decisions, are what they are, and yes, we will all be good little empiricists and accept that. But what they all mean for the Hedin case (should it happen) is not nearly as clearcut as you seem to think.

        Win or lose, I am willing to spend some money just for a little clarity. I would like to see whether anyone can persuade five Supreme Court justices to say “Sure, no problem if you want to preach the Gospel instead of teaching science, in a science class, in a public university.” It’s just more empiricism, you see — another data point marking the descent of a once great nation into the pitcher plant of religious fantasy and sectarian strife.

        I’m a fairly old guy, and I suppose the grim reaper won’t stay his hand forever, but one thing I would like to do my part in leaving to today’s kids is a robust public university system where kids who enroll in a science course have a reasonable expectation that their science prof knows and teaches, you know, science. If that can’t be, if Jesus has run off with their inheritance, they have a right to know.

        We’ll certainly lose if we just walk away. But of course we might win.

    • Alex Francis
      Posted May 20, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      It is possible to (a) agree completely that this course (or any course like it) has no place in a science curriculum and (b) still maintain that the principle of academic freedom supports a different process for removing it from the curriculum than asking the university president to intervene.

      At least at my university (a public university located in Indiana, for which I do not speak) it takes about a year to add or remove a course from the official curriculum if all standard procedures are followed. And that’s when there is active support from the professor teaching the course. If the university senate had to be involved (the appropriate highest authority when it comes to curricular matters), as might be the case if the professor wanted to argue for preserving his course, it would certainly take longer. Presumably, some of the standard procedures could be set aside in the case of a blatantly illegal course, but expecting faculty to act, even on something as serious as this, within a few weeks, especially at the end of the semester when faculty are extremely busy or during inter-session when there is not likely to be a quorum (as many of us are not paid during that time) is at best unreasonable.

      • tomh
        Posted May 20, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        it takes about a year to add or remove a course from the official curriculum if all standard procedures are followed.

        I’m guesssing it would be a lot quicker if a court ordered the state to stop offering a course consisting of religious apologetics disguised as science.

        • Alex Francis
          Posted May 21, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

          Sure – the question is, what might the court order require? Will the course be removed by the unilateral action of a non-faculty administrator, or will the university faculty be allowed to follow established procedures for changing a course, preserving faculty control over curricular content? One is fast, the other quite slow. My only concern here is that, by supporting the circumvention of accepted standards of academic freedom, a lawsuit like this is very likely to promote increasing administrative interference in curricular content in the future. Despite the fact that course content to be solely under the purview of faculty for reasons that are intrinsic to the same spirit of free inquiry that underlies much of the objection to the course in the first place!

          One might applaud the application of direct administrative control in the short run when it works against something one finds objectionable, just as one might applaud the suspension of civil liberties during wartime. But, in the long run, such changes will ultimately work against precisely the causes, such as freedom of inquiry, that most need to be protected and that many on this blog strongly support. I am concerned that this will become a case of “destroying the village in order to save it.”

  24. Posted May 19, 2013 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    I am convinced by the arguments that this is not a First Anendment issue and that the professor should not be coerced into changing the content of his course. I don’t see a legal reason why the course cannot be offered through the science department. However, as legal as the situation seems to be, an accreditation committee might have a problem with the fact that the course satisfies a science requirement. In October if this year, Ball State will complete the evaluation process to determine whether or not it will remain accredited for another ten years. Some letters to the accreditation committee might be in order.

  25. Posted May 19, 2013 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    Here’s a link to contact info for Ball State’s accreditor: http://www.ncahlc.org/contact-us.html

  26. Andrew
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Did anybody see what’s emblazoned across this university’s homepage?…..

    “EDUCATION REDEFINED”

    Oh! The irony!

  27. Crystal
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    To Tulse there are classes that discuss other religions at Ball State, not just Christianity. The students know what the class will be when they sign up for it. It’s not meant to be a science class. If it was strictly science it would be a required course like Biology or Anatomy. Ball State is a great school for culturing its students. Religion is a part of culture and while we are in school we have the opportunity of taking classes that let us hear about the food, architecture and religions of other places. Religion is a large part of culture. This class does not only discuss Christianity but it discusses all the theories of how the world was created and the students get to discuss them. It speaks about evolution and the big bang theory too.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Crystal, no one is arguing that Hedin is not a good professor to his students or that the topics he discusses should not happen in a university.

      What we are arguing is that the course be placed in a philosophy or history of science course because as it stands, what is being taught is not science; the course materials lean heavily toward intelligent design (not science). We are also arguing that the reading materials reflect more balance even if moved.

    • Tulse
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      there are classes that discuss other religions at Ball State, not just Christianity

      Right, but those aren’t science classes, they are (presumably) comparative religion classes.

      It’s not meant to be a science class.

      Isn’t it called “Inquiries in Physical Sciences”? Doesn’t it fulfill science requirements of the Core Curriculum?

      Religion is a part of culture

      But not part of science, just like literature is not part of science. No one has any objection to teaching about religion — the objection is teaching about religion in a science class (and a specific religion at that).

      • Crystal
        Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        I agree that it could be moved to the philosophy department. However, that isn’t what some people are arguing. Papers are saying he may be fired and they are taking jabs at his personal character and saying the class shouldn’t be at a public school all together. It doesn’t fulfill a science requirement. It’s an elective. It fulfills an extra science requirement for the Honors college but that’s after we have taken the basics. Such as Biology 101, Chemistry or Astronomy. It isn’t a required class.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

          Well, I think the papers are hyping things up. I doubt he would be fired and no one officially opposing the course in a science class is calling for him to be fired.

        • Tulse
          Posted June 26, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

          It doesn’t fulfill a science requirement. [...] It fulfills an extra science requirement for the Honors college

          You just contradicted yourself in the space of three sentences. If it fulfills a science requirement of any kind, it fulfills a science requirement. That’s kind of a tautology.

          • Crystal
            Posted June 26, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

            The Honors College is a separate curriculum than what the general students have. If you read on I said that they had to fulfill the basic science requirement first. I don’t know what your point of arguing this is or why your interested since it doesn’t affect you. We are the students and many of us believe that this professor doesn’t deserve the scrutiny he’s receiving.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 26, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

              People here feel it does affect them because if a university teaches something as accepted science when it is not accepted science, the students then go out and perpetuate that misunderstanding. This spreads scientific illiteracy and we really don’t need more of that. It would be like teaching students that alchemy is real chemistry or that you get sick because someone put a curse on you and then those students go out into the world and spread that misinformation as fact.

              As I’ve said before, and I think you are okay with this, we aren’t saying the perspectives in Hedin’s class cannot be taught, just that they should not be taught as science and they should be more balanced. Whether the course is an elective or not is moot as far as I’m concerned because elective or not, it is being taught as science which is inaccurate.

              • Crystal
                Posted June 26, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

                I agree with you. What I don’t agree with is some of the comments in this articles or all the others. I also don’t agree with our school getting sued or the professor getting scrutinized when the class was passed through the university. It’s not all his doing.


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