More on HedinGate: Discovery Institute claims that Hedin panel is stacked (with real scientists), and readers write in

The saga of HedinGate continues as Ball State University (BSU) continues to investigate whether physics and astronomy professor Eric Hedin transgressed either academic freedom or the First Amendment by teaching Christian doctrine and intelligent design (ID) in a science class for Honors Student. The Discovery Institute has been collecting signatures on a petition to allow Hedin to continue, the local newspaper continues to report on the case and readers keep writing in letters (mostly pro-ID) to Indiana newspapers.

The latest articles include today’s piece by Seth Slabaugh in the Muncie, Indiana newspaper (the town that’s home of BSU), “Group claims prof panel review bias.” After the Freedom from Religion Foundation complained to BSU about Hedin’s religious content and proselytizing in his class, the Ball State provost appointed a panel of academics to investigate Hedin’s class. Reporter Seth Slabaugh notes that Discovery Institute vice president John West is beefing about the composition of that panel:

In response, Provost Terry King named a faculty review panel, whose members are Catherine (Caty) Pilachowski, a professor of astronomy at Indiana University and past president of the American Astronomical Society (AAS); and three BSU faculty: Gary Dodson, professor of biology; Juli Thorson Eflin, professor of philosophy; and Richard Fluegeman Jr., professor of geological sciences.

West is complaining that:

• Pilachowski was on the governing council of AAS when it issued a declaration denouncing intelligent design in 2005 and stating it shouldn’t be taught in science classes.

• Dodson signed an anti-creationism petition circulated by the pro-Darwin lobbying group the National Center for Science Education. Dodson is currently listed as an official scientific consultant for The Clergy Letter Project, another staunchly anti-intelligent design and pro-Darwin group. In 2009, Dodson was a presenter and discussion leader for the Darwin Day conference organized by the Ball State Freethought Alliance, an avowedly anti-religious group.

• Fluegeman delivered the opening lecture at the same Darwin Day conference in 2009.

Note the use of the word “railroaded” in the DI’s reaction:

The Discovery Institute seeks to demonstrate that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design and to challenge the conception of a “self-existent, self-organizing universe and the Darwinian view that life developed through a blind and purposeless process.”

“In fairness to the panel, people are sometimes able to go against their ideology and prejudices,” West said in an interview. “Maybe the panel is willing to do that.”

But it raises “huge red flags” when it appears that a professor like Hedin is “being railroaded by the university through a process not applied before.”

Well, it has to be applied for the first time some time, right? The fact is that Hedin’s case is unique, involving the teaching of a religiously based theory of “science” in a public university science class. A previous case, involving BSU music professor George Wolfe, who in 2004 was accused by students (and conservative flak David Horowitz) of “indoctrinating students in a peace studies class with an anti-American, anti-military, pro-terrorist agenda.” The BSU provost dismissed that case without investigation as being groundless. But Hedin’s case is not groundless, for his syllabus, his textbooks, and the objections made by some of his students are a matter of public record.

[West] also complained that King appointed no physicists to the panel.

“In this case, they shut out his (Hedin’s) department (in naming the review panel),” West said.

West described Eflin as a feminist scholar whose views on intelligent design are not readily clear.

My reaction?

Violin complaining cat copy

It would be hard to find a reputable scientist who hadn’t at some point criticized intelligent design, or at least was opposed to it. If a professor was accused of teaching flat earth-ism, or Holocaust denial, would the panel have to comprise those who had no opinion on the sphericity of Earth, or whether the Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis? And since the Discovery Institute has said that they don’t want intelligent design taught in the schools, why are they sending petitions to BSU saying that Hedin should be allowed to teach it?

****

In the meantime, there are two letters to the editors, both by academics, worth reading. Well, only one is worth reading for content, and the other for how misguided and obscurantist an academic can be.

The Indianapolis Star, published a letter that stands out from the spate of  other reader commentary that is ignorant of both the First Amendment and the real meaning of academic freedom. It’s by Craig Gosling, Professor emeritus of Indiana University’s School of Medicine, and is called “Ball State professor’s class should not be taught as science“. An excerpt:

 [A previous letter writer who argued that Hedin was being "bullied"] has conveniently ignored the real issue, which is a constitutional one. The U.S. Constitution was not written to protect the majority, it was written to protect the rights of the minority, even one student or taxpayer who has been treated unfairly. I agree with Professor Jerry Coyne and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who simply want Hedin’s course renamed more accurately to describe its contents and moved to another area of study such as philosophy or religion. Hedin’s course is pure religion and no science. His critics do not want Hedin punished or BSU’s good name tarnished; they want to protect the rights of minority students and taxpayers.

The situation is not as dire as the Ball State alumnus fears. Hedin needs to be advised that he can’t teach his course in a science department. He should be invited to teach his course elsewhere and to change the name and description of the course. As it is now, his course has nothing to do with “boundaries of science” and it blatantly promotes Intelligent Design and creationism, both of which have been debunked in court and found to have nothing to do with science.

. . . Fair-minded people, including faculty and alumni, need to remind the BSU administration that Hedin is making Ball State and Muncie into a national laughingstock, similar to the Scopes Monkey trial in Dayton, Tenn. As an Indiana taxpayer, I strongly object to BSU allowing one of its faculty to promote religion in a science classroom.

A breath of fresh air!  And indeed, if BSU allows Hedin to continue teaching Christian apologetics in the guise of science, and allows new hire Guillermo Gonzalez (another intelligent-design advocate) to do the same, they’ll look pretty dumb to the rest of the country.  While most Americans are either creationists or theistic evolutionists, they seem to want their kids taught real science in the science class.

Given Gonzalez’s hire, I suspect that someone in the Ball State Physics and Astronomy Department is sympathetic to Intelligent Design. and I also suspect the higher administration didn’t know this. They’re now getting a rude shock.

****

For a taste of ignorance, as well as dreadful writing, have a look at the Op-Ed by Paul Chandler in the Muncie Star-Press:Professor Hedin’s Big Bang theory.” It’s too long to reproduce here, but it’s a defense of Hedin couched in labored language, and is written by Paul Chandler, described as a “soon-to-be-retired Ball State associate professor of natural resources. In other words, he’s a biologist. (One wonders why he’s retiring without having attained the rank of full professor.)

Here’s how it starts:

Apparently, Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora has heard the trumpet’s call announcing the latest displeasure among her peer group of minor league academicians.

It is hard to know for certain because, as is usual for Gora in the face of controversy, she is “unavailable for comment” until an intonation of how the music will likely end reaches her ear.

This same unavailability to stand up to peer pressure and defend Professor Eric Hedin from the Freedom from Religion Foundation as he boldly explores “The Boundaries of Science” with his students might just as easily be ascribed to any review panel however chosen from among America’s overwhelming majority of fashionably “spiritual” when not aggressively atheistic academics.

These have made a blatantly outspoken Christophobia all the rage throughout academia today as so many colleges and universities, especially those third-tier examples like Ball State, find themselves in a desperate competition for the tuition dollars that follow along with international students recruited from far beyond the boundaries of what at one time was widely known as Christendom.

Somebody give professor Chandler a copy of Strunk & White!  The last two sentences are labyrinthine! And really, “Christophobia”? Are public schools supposed to show Christophilia? Chandler then goes on to argue that the Big Bang points to God, since it violates the Law of the Conservation of Matter and the Law of Conservation of Energy, and therefore required a miracle and that “such a creator could well be God.” He concludes with an admonition to the panel investigating Hedin:

In this case, the question is not if we “believe in the Bible.” (A trip to almost any bookstore will demonstrate that it clearly exists.) The better question is this: Do we believe the Bible? If not, we have no business sitting in judgment of Professor Hedin.

So, to the review panel, feel free to use this argument as you call out your peers for their presumptuousness as well as their ignorance of some basic science.

Just think how smug you can feel then.

In other words, the investigating panel should comprise only Bible-believing Christians. The DI would love that!

This “letter” is very long, and wouldn’t be published in most newspapers.  I suspect, and I’m just guessing here, that someone at the Muncie Star-Press is sympathetic to Hedin and intelligent design.  After all, they have their creationist readers to satisfy. The paper has a “he-said/he said” approach to the story, pitting the Discovery Institute against scientists like myself and the investigating panel.  What is missing is some evaluation of what exacctly Hedin taught in his class,  what the contents of his textbooks were, and what his disaffected students said. Let’s hope we see more about that in the near future.

h/t: Diana, Amy

78 Comments

  1. Posted July 2, 2013 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Christians suffer from the pathological needs to feel victimized and to seek “martyrs”. For them Hedin is just the next martyr.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Which reminds me of a silly joke:

      What did the sadist reply to the masochist when the masochist said to the sadist, “Hurt me! Hurt me!”?

      “No!”

  2. Posted July 2, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Chandler then goes on to argue that the Big Bang points to God, since it violates the Law of the Conservation of Matter …

    There is no such law. Matter can be and is created and destroyed all the time (a nuclear bomb transforms matter into energy).

    … and the Law of Conservation of Energy …

    Nope, the Big Bang doesn’t do that, the whole point of most Big Bang models is that the energies cancel out to give a zero-energy Big Bang.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      Sean Carroll (the cosmologist) sez:
      Energy is Not Conserved
      It’s clear that cosmologists have not done a very good job of spreading the word about something that’s been well-understood since at least the 1920′s: energy is not conserved in general relativity.

      • Posted July 2, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        Though he also says (from your cite):

        “In particular, a lot of folks would want to say “energy is conserved in general relativity, it’s just that you have to include the energy of the gravitational field along with the energy of matter and radiation and so on.” … There’s nothing incorrect about that way of thinking about it; it’s a choice that one can make or not, as long as you’re clear on what your definitions are.”

        Whichever way you play it, we would agree that the Big Bang does not violate any physical laws.

        • Posted July 2, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

          I see Sean’s cosmological perspective as another variation on the theme of discovering that matter and energy can be converted into each other.

          In both cases, conservation naïvely holds at small enough scales. At larger scales, a conversion of sorts takes place but overall conservation is preserved; conservation only appears to be violated if you examine the property without considering the entire context.

          In other words the equations still balance out even if the terms have more degrees of freedom and complexity than initially thought.

          That would be why I’d personally go with the “offsetting negative gravitational energy” alternative that Sean dislikes in favor of his emphasis on the non-sonservation of energy. The important part isn’t that what once was thought to be a constant is now better understood as a variable; that’s secondary. The important part is that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. “Energy is not conserved” coming from the likes of Sean is just going to fuel the zero-point quantum flux perpetual motion crowd.

          b&

          • Reginald Selkirk
            Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

            I wonder if Hedin knows enough about cosmology to point out Chandler’s error to him.

            • Posted July 2, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

              Conservation of mass-energy (or energy in the broad sense), not anything with matter. Matter has energy as a *property*; in fact this can be regarded as its essential property.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

            Yes, Sean’s point is pedagogic, and I’m not sure it is pedagogical.

            Other problems is that the basic FRW equations are based on energy conservation [which is also a problem for Chandler, natch], that the simplest model for its equations is a thrown ball with its energy conservation, that general relativity itself conserves energy (including black holes) [ http://arxiv.org/pdf/gr-qc/9701028v3.pdf ], and that all FWR universes behaves as zero energy systems [ http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/587/2/483/pdf/56020.web.pdf ].

    • Observer
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Doesn’t the law refer specifically to chemical reactions? That was always my understanding.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Matter can be and is created and destroyed all the time

      Ironically here, in inflationary standard cosmology matter is created when the excess potential energy of the inflaton field is converted to heat as inflation stops and our low energy vacuum appears.

      Chandler needs to catch up on the last 10 years of cosmology.

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Why are these folks always so insufferably pompous in their scientific ignorance?

      /@

      • ladyatheist
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        As in other fields, certainty and ignorance go together

  3. Tulse
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    When someone uses “Christendom” unironically, you know their deep their own religious delusion.

  4. NewEnglandBob
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    As expected, the god-soaked side shows their ignorance and arrogance while obfuscating, lying and fabricating nonsense instead of responding with anything resembling a fact.

  5. TJR
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    I was going to criticise your comment “One wonders why he’s retiring without having attained the rank of full professor” for being rather ad-hominem, but then having gone on to see what he wrote …… OK fair enough.

    • Garnetstar
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      I was going to say, too, that some professors prefer to specialize in teaching, or don’t want to maintain the 80-hour weeks of research that it takes to be promoted to professor.

      But, hmmm…”minor-league academicians, “third tier” institutions, and the rest….yeah, I can see it.

      • Filippo
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        It could be he knows one when he sees one.

    • eric
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      There are still many possible good reasons for it. To add to Garnetstar’s comments, my first thought was: second job. With that writing, maybe he retired from the priesthood to teach some classes at the local Uni.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    The DI really thinks that if they aggressively push a petition in support of Hedin’s course (signed by anyone who listens to their podcasts or visits their website), BSU will have no choice but to let Hedin continue. What they just don’t get is decisions like these are made by experts in how a university course should be structured and these experts reach their decision by doing something advocates of ID cannot fathom: assessing evidence!

    The DI has one tool in its toolbox: coercion. They’ve found talking loudly and deceptively has worked in the past so if mount some sort of public action they should be able to get their way. It is no surprise supporters of the DI and their foolish ID throw tantrums when it dawns on them that they actually cannot influence the experts on the panel – they then cry “unfair”.

    The more the paper publishes incoherent pieces that support the teaching of Hedin’s course, the sillier they look, especially when contrasted with thoughtful pieces expressing the opposite view.

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      Actually, I don’t think the DI cares which way the case gets decided.

      If Hedin gets to teach the course unmodified with a pat on the back and a hearty “Well done, sir!” then that’s a victory for them.

      If he gets fired and then bankrupted as his students sue him for turning their degrees into shit, then that’s ample fodder for the Christian persecution complex.

      The worst possible outcome for them is the one we’re long since past and the one that should have happened: as soon as he submitted his original proposal and syllabus for the class for initial approval, Hedin gets told, “What the fuck are you thinking? Is this some kind of bad joke? You can’t teach that shit here. This is supposed to be a science class at a major educational institution, not some bullshit superstitious voodoo nonsense in some dirt hut in the jungle. Pull this kind of shit again and you’ll be fired so fast your head will spin.”

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

        Nah, they will be able to use your last outcome as persecution as well – and more “evidence” that the staunch establishment is closed minded.

        What would annoy them is if BSU moves the course to philosophy. That way they can’t claim persecution or victory.

        • Posted July 2, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

          The thing is, if that had happened when Hedin first proposed the class, long before it ever got published in the catalog, nobody would ever know about it but Hedin and the chair.

          Of course, realistically, in an institution where such would have happened, Hedin never would have been hired in the first place….

          b&

        • Reginald Selkirk
          Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

          What would annoy them is if BSU moves the course to philosophy.

          Not going to happen. There’s a philosophy prof on the panel, and she surely can recognize the lack of quality in the course.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Here is the DI whining about their petition as if it bears equal weight to case:

        http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/07/more_than_7000_074001.html

  7. Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    ID has nothing to do with religion — but complaining about it indicates that academia is full of “Christophobia”. And the bit about “Christendom” has a whiff (maybe more than a whiff) of “filling up our schools with damned furriners” about it.

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I thought that a “phobia” had some sort of physical component. This marriage of “phobia” to a mere philosophy or mental outlook is a yet another piece of ‘language abuse’.

      Is our failure to mention Egyptian gods to be regarded as “Thothphobia” and the like? I mean, a phobia has to have some sort of physical component. What is Christophobia? Looking at a ….what? Hearing…what?

      Once again, religionists insert these made-up terms that are 100% nonsense, yet proceed as if everyone ‘agrees’ that it is sensible terminology. “Christophobia” (and, Islamophobia) are nonsense terms.

      100%

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      I disagree Eamon, ID has everything to do with religion. The guiding principle of the Discovery Institute, the Wedge Strategy Document, made it quite clear that ID was nothing more than a stepping stone, a wedge so-to-speak, to reintroducing theistic-friendly explanations to the science curriculum. ID is based on Creationism minus the specific mention of God. It is a tactic clearly described in their document. Academias can, and should defend academics. Science for science classes, math for math classes, philosophy for philosophy classes . . .
      So if ID can be taught as science, are you against Phrenology in Psychiatry, Alechemy in Chemistry, and Numerology in Math classes?

      • Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Um, I knew that — I’ve been following the ID debates for about 20 years (good god, am I really that old?). I was sarcastically pointing out one more instance of the common trope that the followers of ID can’t resist god-talk for more than about five minutes, thus blowing the cover story.

  8. Jonathan Houser
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Local newspapers I don’t think are going to be very sympathetic in general. They cater to their audience, and the audience for local newspapers tend to be older conservative people. My local newspaper posts anti-gay articles, and paranoid rants about how Obama is trying to destroy christianity.

  9. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Chandler praising a textbook he used on scientific methodology:
    Leedy was explicit in his argument that science was in no way suitable to any task such as the proof or disproof of the existence of a creator. One, if so inclined, must instead engage in the more demanding domain of moral inquiry, or take such an existence on faith.

    And this appears in his letter supporting Hedin in teaching a course which claims to provide scientific evidence for Jesus.

  10. Hempenstein
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Good to know there is a Ball State Freethought Alliance – first mention of them I’ve heard. But where are they in all this?

  11. Dermot C
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    God created the universe. Where is the logic in ID that the thing which does the making obeys natural laws beyond, and different to, the thing being made? Why can’t it just conform to the same natural laws as its creation? And therefore not be a God?

  12. Mattapult
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Maybe they haven’t prayed hard enough at the DI.

    Or maybe God is trying to teach them a lesson.

  13. Larry Gay
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Borrowing from someone whose name I’ve forgotten: Chandler’s one-sentence paragraphs probably sounded better in the original German.

    • David Sepkoski
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      That was the late, great Molly Ivins on Pat Buchanan’s 1992 Republican Convention speech. Still one of my favorite lines.

      • Larry Gay
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        If there were a heaven, Molly would surely be there. Thank you.

  14. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Any idea in what timeframe we can expect results from the panel?

  15. David Sepkoski
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Jerry, just a quick edit suggestion: you write that “The Indianapolis Star, published a letter that stands out in the spate of reader commentary that is ignorant of both the First Amendment and the real meaning of academic freedom.”

    Technically, the subject of the sentence is unclear, which made me think you were saying that it was the letter “that is ignorant,” and not the “spate of reader commentary.” I then read the letter, and had to re-read your sentence a couple of times to resolve my confusion.

    Sorry for sounding like a pedant–I know you compose these posts quickly and this is no criticism of your fine writing. Just want to make sure nobody else misinterprets your opinion of Prof. Gossling’s letter!

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Yeah, you’re right: the sentence was awkward. Your diagnosis was also correct: fast writing, which is imperative on a site like this. I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it clearer (I hope).

      Thanks!

      • David Sepkoski
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Glad to help–I have no idea how you do it, by the way. By the time I get through just my morning emails I’ve already lost half the day. You must not need much sleep!

      • RFW
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        That sentence is a little ambiguous, but in such cases this rule comes into play: pronouns (including the relative pronouns) refer to the nearest previously mentioned noun. Hence it’s the reader commentary that is ignorant.

        I’m quite sure that rule must have exceptions, but I have resorted to it many times to elucidate the meaning of ambiguous prose.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          English sucks because it relies too heavily on word order – let’s use Latin instead which throws out word order and uses cases and agreements

          Apologies, I couldn’t help it.
          :)

          • Juggler_Dave
            Posted July 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

            hmmm. Check out Eddie Izzard on Latin – you can find the stand-up bit on Youtube.

  16. Filippo
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    “Apparently, Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora . . . is ‘unavailable for comment’ until an intonation of how the music will likely end reaches her ear.”

    Bloviation! Ought she not wait for the report from the committee before presuming to opine about the matter? Perhaps Grand Pontificator Chandler thinks that all involved (except Hedin, DI operatives and the local paper) should give him a quit-claim deed to their critical thinking powers.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      I can’t help but wonder how Hedin is taking all this. The DI getting involved probably makes it worse for him.

  17. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    [West] also complained that King appointed no physicists to the panel.

    An astronomer should be able to handle cosmology (or excuse himself), despite the differences in methodology. I don’t see a proiblem of principle here.

    And statistically cosmologists & particle physicists should be even less creationist than astronomers. Either West relies on corruption (of “his (Hedins’s) department)” somehow getting input) or he is a typical IDiot.

    most Americans are either creationists or theistic evolutionists

    Potato, potatoe. Creationists for short.

  18. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    he boldly explores “The Boundaries of Science”

    What!? By cowardly singling out one religion and suppress the others, as well as science?

    And moreover, that Hedin’s position is erroneous isn’t a statement on courage either. It is a statement on stupidity and cheating both.

    Big Bang points to God, since it violates the Law of the Conservation of Matter and the Law of Conservation of Energy,

    Surely Chandler have taken Thermodynamics 101 at some point or other? Relativity conserves energy (or our particle accelerators would be useless), and energy conservation holds for local isolated systems (or we wouldn’t see redshift in cosmology). Heck, taking basic cosmology would probably suffice to know this.

    That our cosmology can be described as a local, closed system analogous to a thrown ball (c.f. Susskind’s cosmology lectures), simplest by a transformation with the help of Gauss’s law, is not necessary to see Chandler’s problems with physics.

  19. eric
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I’m just guessing here, that someone at the Muncie Star-Press is sympathetic to Hedin and intelligent design.

    Evidently they didn’t get the “shhhh…don’t call it religious!” memo from the DI, though. Publishing a letter which accuses the academy of Christophobia and asks people whether they believe the Bible…whatever sympathetic editor decided to include that one as a definse of teaching ID, they didn’t do Hedin any favors if it comes to a court case.

  20. Chris
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    “In this case, the question is not if we “believe in the Bible.” (A trip to almost any bookstore will demonstrate that it clearly exists.) The better question is this: Do we believe the Bible? If not, we have no business sitting in judgment of Professor Hedin.”

    I am basking in the absolute WTF-ness of this paragraph from Chandler.

    Just…. wow. If this is the pinnacle of his reasoning then that speaks rather too much about BSU.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      The whole piece was so incoherent I had a hard time following what was going on.

  21. Neunder
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, you and Gosling call for Hedin to just teach his course in the religion or philosophy department.
    But most colleges require you to have a degree in religion or philosophy to teach in those fields.
    So, if he doesn’t have such degrees, that isn’t an option.

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      He won’t ever be a full-time faculty member in a religion or philosophy department without acceptable CV, but many schools permit individual classes taught by someone other than a degree’d faculty member.

      • Filippo
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        It seems state governors and other politicos qualify to teach at the college level, e.g. at “schools of government,” apparently by virtue of having won popularity contests so as to attain their previous political positions.

      • Chris
        Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:09 am | Permalink

        Do they do the same for science courses??

        *ahem*

        • Filippo
          Posted July 3, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

          Re: science teaching: a science Ph.D. is qualified to teach science at the university level, but is not “certified” (apparently in teacher ed circle synonomous with “qualified”) to teach science at the K-12 level. The same with a math Ph.D. How is it that someone well-versed in calculus and partial differential equations and trigonometry is not trusted to teach A = Pir^2 to 6th graders and the subtleties of ax^2 + bx + c = 0 to 10th graders? It is on my long “to do” list to explore why this should be so.

  22. Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    So BSU is where Guillermo Gonzalez ended up? Last I heard he was in a non-tenure position af a small Christian school in PA. I will bet that if he is in a tenure seeking position at BSU, he will pay a bit more attention to the requirements of tenure than he seemed to at Iowa State.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      Hedin flew under the radar at Ball State for years. I wonder how long Gonzalez can hang on.

      • Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        For as long as he does something different and focuses on his job for a change. If he tries to teach his ‘Privileged Planet’ nonsense in an Astronomy class, he won’t last.

        He should look to Michael Behe at Lehigh University for inspiration. Tenured and even respected for his non-ID related accomplishments. But he doesn’t teach ID as if it were science!

  23. RFW
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    “The Discovery Institute seeks to demonstrate that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design”

    That is as unscientific a point of view as possible. Science starts with a blank slate, observes, and then (and only then) asks what the causes are. That’s what Darwin did.

    The DI is, by this statement, clearly possessed of a preconceived explanation and merely shopping around for scraps of evidence to support that. In the process, they chop logic and distort the meaning of words and phrases to bolster their preconceived position.

    But here’s the catch: thanks to our understanding of living organisms given to us via our understanding of evolution, we are able to come up with novel medications otherwise inconceivable. What has the DI done that is at all comparable? AFAIK, exactly nothing. As one savant put it, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

  24. Pirate
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Apologies if you’ve addressed this before, but I don’t get the whole “Move the course to the philosophy or religion department” thing. I thought the objection to the course was that the First Amendment prohibits a public university from promoting religion. Presumably this doesn’t just apply to science classes. If the class is genuinely promoting Christianity, why would it be any less unconstitutional as a philosophy or religion class?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 2, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Well, it also has to be balanced better as well. The objection is it isn’t science & it leans heavy to ID.

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      I very much doubt that the class as it stands now would pass muster at Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies.

      It would probably work if he re-worked it as a survey of religious attitudes towards questions at the boundaries of science, but it’d have to give lots of time to other religions than just Christianity.

      Or it could be an in-depth analysis of Intelligent Design, but it’d have to present the scientific viewpoint — and, again, it’d need to include origins and development myths from religions other than just Christianity.

      You could even make a valid case in a religious studies department for a class along the lines of “Christian Perspectives on Evolution and Design,” but I’m pretty sure it’d get turned down with a suggestion that the focus is too narrow (and that seminaries are better suited to such classes).

      Hedin’s over-the-line remarks about Hindu monkey gods, of course, make clear that the course cannot possibly stand as is at any public institution. And no amount of modification can make a discussion of Creationism and its offshoots a valid topic for any science class, outside of an historical or sociopolitical or anthropological context. Creationism in astronomy is so far beyond the pale it’s ludicrous.

      Cheers,

      b&

  25. moarscienceplz
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    “In this case, the question is not if we “believe in the Bible.” (A trip to almost any bookstore will demonstrate that it clearly exists.)”

    I don’t know if this is a new trend or if I just haven’t noticed it before, but this habit of christian apologists (especially the ones that aren’t very good at it) of poring over the dictionary and cherry-picking definitions of common words in order to mangle their opponents’ arguments is both ridiculous and disgusting. It’s as if I saw a headline that says, “Man hits his wife” and decided it meant he gave his whole-hearted approval to her. Sheesh!

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      It’s not a new trend, I wish it were. But in the past the words ‘Theory’ and ‘Belief’ are two examples of mis-using words with multiple definitions in order to support an unsuportable position or malign an opposing viewpoint.

      Think about it, if you define ‘theory’ as an idea, then ID makes the cut. But when applied to Science, ID is no more a scientific theory than Astrology.

      ‘Belief’ is another example, if you ‘believe’ a scientific theory to be true, then you are doing nothing more than belief in one diety of another. See how the definition of ‘Belief’ is mis-used.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted July 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you about “belief”, but “theory” is commonly used to mean guess or hypothesis. I don’t generally fault people for misunderstanding when a scientist says, “theory”, although I do try to explain it to them.

        • Posted July 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          I don’t fault most folks, but I do fault folks like the Discovery Institute when they popularize things like ‘Evolution is ONLY a theory’.
          Evolution is not only a theory, it’s a scientific theory, which is considerably more than being a guess or hypothesis.

          Recently I had an acquaintance ask, “If Evolution is more than just a theory, why hasn’t it become a Law yet?” After hanging my head is shame for the incredibly poor scientific education this individual must have received, I tried to assist in his understanding, but think I failed. But then again he’s also one who visits the Creation Museum annually to ‘refresh’ his understanding.

          • moarscienceplz
            Posted July 2, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

            “If Evolution is more than just a theory, why hasn’t it become a Law yet?”

            OMG!

            • NewEnglandBob
              Posted July 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

              Even making a Law wouldn’t be enough. It would have to be on Law & Order or Judge Judy on television.

          • ladyatheist
            Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

            I think changing the terminology would remove some of the confusion for everyday people. The fewer syllables a word has the more important the idea it represents!

            • Posted July 2, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

              I would normally agree, but whatever terminology you use, folks, like those at the poorly named ‘Discovery Institute’ will play lawyering-word-games to mislead and mis-direct for their core audience.

  26. Mark Joseph
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Chandler then goes on to argue that the Big Bang points to God, since it violates the Law of the Conservation of Matter and the Law of Conservation of Energy, and therefore required a miracle and that “such a creator could well be God.”

    But, presumably, not some Hindu monkey god. Rather, the preferred god of his own sub-sub-culture.

    So, if I understand correctly, the DI is complaining that a panel of real scholars and scientists was convened to pass judgment on a scholarly and scientific issue. Quelle horreur! I think Jerry’s comment “If a professor was accused of teaching flat earth-ism, or Holocaust denial, would the panel have to comprise those who had no opinion on the sphericity of Earth, or whether the Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis?” is destined for a long and happy life.

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      A few years back the Vatican formed a meeting to discuss Life’s Origins and invited a number of actual scientists . . . but neglected to invite the DI. Bruce Chapman was not a happy camper, one of the reasons might have been this report:

      “In addition to intelligent design, creationism has come under disdain at the conference. In his opening address, Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke dismissively of fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. who want schools to teach biblical creationism alongside, or instead of, evolution.”

      That’s gotta hurt the donations!

  27. Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    Only one question – Is it science?
    No, then keep it in church and out of academia. Simples

    • Posted July 3, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      In two short lines you have explained why the Discovery Institute opened it’s own pet Lab, why AIG hires believers with degrees, and why ICR tried to get approval to award Master of Science degrees.

  28. JBlilie
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    “And since the Discovery Institute has said that they don’t want intelligent design taught in the schools, why are they sending petitions to BSU saying that Hedin should be allowed to teach it?”

    Maybe Lying for Jesus should become an NCAA-sanctioned sporting event! :)


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