Seth Slabaugh has been covering the Eric Hedin case for the Muncie [Indiana] Star-Press, and has published a longish piece in today’s issue, “Panel investigates Christian BSU prof’s class” (note, it’s four pages long, so click at the bottom of the story to continue).
As you will remember, Eric Hedin is the Ball State University professor who taught an honors science class at that public university, a class that was infused with Christian religious prosyletizing, including teaching intelligent design. I became aware of this course through an anonymous student who complained to someone in the area, and that person then informed me. After investigating Hedin’s syllabus, I wrote to Hedin’s chair, letting him know about the course and its strongly pro-religion syllabus. The chairman blew me off, defending Hedin’s course as having been approved by the University and offering a diversity of viewpoints (not true). You can read more about Hedin’s course here.
Nothing else happened until the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), whom I contacted after being tossed under the bus, wrote to Ball State letting them know that they may be in violation of the First Amendment requiring that government not promote specific religions.
Slabaugh’s piece begins with a picture of one of the three textbooks used in the course, John C. Lennox’s odious God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (Answer: of course not!). Here’s a picture of the book; I’ve looked at it and the one other textbook available in the University of Chicago Library (the third is apparently a nonreligious book on cosmology). The cross on the cover gives it away, and it’s as expected: a deeply Christian analysis of science, showing that everything we know about evolution, physics, and biochemistry comports with Christianity. It’s also creationist, suggesting that the gaps in the fossil record mean that macroevolution didn’t happen, and that natural selection on random mutations couldn’t possibly explain evolution. (It also goes after our ignorance of how life began, slyly insinuating that maybe God did it.) Those are classic creationist arguments.
The other textbook I’ve seen is The Hidden Face of God by Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew. It does the same thing as Lennox’s book, but using the Old instead of the New Testament, also comporting science with the Bible. (It’s not quite as bad as Lennox’s book, but that’s not saying much.) Clearly, the use of both books as texts, with no dissenting material, constitutes proselytizing for religion. It’s unconscionable if you have any love for true science untrammeled by the albatross of woo.
Slabaugh’s story has some new information of interest, including the following (quotation marks include direct quotes from the paper):
- “State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, was among the first to call Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora after news broke that Eric Hedin, an assistant professor of physics, had been accused of encouraging students in a science class to believe in the Bible.. . . “I come from a Christian perspective and a conservative perspective,” Kruse told The Star Press on Friday. ‘I’m under the impression academic freedom should be for everybody, not just liberal, non-God people but Christians as well, who should have the liberty to teach what is the best thing for kids to learn.’ The chairman of the Senate education committee, Kruse last year unsuccessfully sought the teaching of creationism in schools. This year he filed a bill, also unsuccessfully, that would allow public schools to require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, though individual students could opt out if they or their parents preferred.”
LOL. Kruse is the perfect advocate for Hedin! Several of Hedin’s students also wrote the University’s president supporting his course, but there are also dissenting students whose complaints have not been made public, either because they are currently wary of revealing their names (no surprise!) or because the University won’t release the student evaluations, despite the fact that they are anonymous:
- “Ball State denied The Star Press’ request for access to student evaluations of Hedin’s ‘Boundaries of Science’ course, even without the students’ names. The university said the evaluations are private because they are ‘deliberative documents that are used for the purpose of recommending personnel decisions about promotion, tenure and salary.’. . . Hedin lectured only a few times, [one] student wrote to Gora. ‘The sole content of these lectures involved the life cycle of stellar bodies and the Big Bang Theory.’ Twice, while Hedin was away at conferences, the class watched movies, one of which ‘detailed specific gaps in evolutionary theory,’ the student reported.
I am nearly 100% certain, from what I’ve heard, that the movie in question was the intelligent-design movie “Expelled”, featuring Ben Stein.
It’s heartening that a former BSU trustee also wrote to the University’s president:
- “Academic freedom is not to be confused with the right of freedom of speech, former BSU trustee James Garretson wrote to Gora on May 26. ‘Instructors are not free to teach whatever they want but are obligated to present the best knowledge of the day on their particular subject,’ wrote Garretson, a member of FFRF. When authorities can’t be convinced that they are breaking constitutional law when they sponsor sectarian activities, ‘FFRF sues, and it wins more often than not,’ he wrote.A retired social studies teacher at Carmel High School, Garretson told The Star Press his interest is ‘merely academic and pride in BSU. I have no problem with creationism being compared to evolutionary science, so long as it is not taught as a science. The Supreme Court settled this years ago …’”
And we now know who will investigate Hedin’s class and his behavior.
- “Following established policies, a review will be conducted by four faculty members, [spokeswoman Joan Todd] told The Star Press. ‘They will consider carefully all the course materials and speak with Dr. Hedin. They will then render a decision on the academic integrity of the course.’ The review committee members are Catherine (Caty) Pilachowski, a professor of astronomy at Indiana University and past president of the American Astronomical Society; and three BSU faculty: Gary Dodson, professor of biology; Juli Thorsen Eflin, professor of philosophy; and Richard Fluegeman Jr., professor of geological sciences.”
The only thing that irks me is that Hedin’s chair, Thomas Robertson, brushed me aside when I complained, and it took a complaint from the FFRF to get the investigation launched. Well, such is the power of that organization, and I’m glad they interceded. But I say this to Dr. Robertson: “Pity you didn’t listen.”
Finally, this statement early in Slabaugh’s piece threw me for a loop (my emphasis): “A variety of others also have contacted Gora, including a trumpeter from Tempe; a school teacher and ex-Hoosier from Okeechobee; alumni; a former member of BSU’s board of trustees; academics; a Methodist church member from Fort Wayne; the parent of a BSU student; and students who have taken the controversial course.”
A trumpeter from Tempe? That sounded familiar! Sure enough, it was our own reader and owner of Baihu, the prolific Ben Goren:
“As a fan of atheist Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago who brought the complaint against Hedin to FFRF’s attention, Ben Goren, a semi-professional trumpet player and database consultant from Tempe, felt compelled to contact Gora. He claimed two of the textbooks used by Hedin are ‘as outrageously off-the-wall as those on conspiracies of space lizards who directed the building of the pyramids.’”
Classic Ben Goren! I’m not sure, though, why I was identified as an “atheist”. And I’m not sure, either, how Christians will react to the comparison of Jesus with a space lizard!