Yesterday I wrote about the case of Dr. Ned Bowden, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Iowa, who had written a letter to the University magazine calling out evolutionary biology for its gaping holes, and insisting, at the same time, that evolutionary biology comports perfectly with Genesis (that is, if you construe “Genesis” as chapter 1 but not chapter 2). In a comment to an Inside Higher Education piece about his letter, Bowden also accused his colleagues in evolutionary biology of lying about their field:
I wonder if Bowden has a wee bit of regret about his remarks. I’m sure some of his colleagues do, including the 25 who responded to his claim that there are “holes in the theory of evolution that are big enough to drive a semi-truck through.” (Bowden didn’t identify the holes.)
Well, a few minutes of Googling revealed more than just Bowden’s effusive Christianity. It seems that he also teaches a seminar at his university that mixes science with God. Have a look at the description of Chemistry 1000:
004:029:003 (CHEM:1000:0003) First-Year Seminar19 of 20 enrolledGeneral Catalog:
Small discussion class taught by a faculty member; topics chosen by instructor; may include outside activities (e.g., films, lectures, performances, readings, visits to research facilities).Subtitle: What Does Science Say about the Big Bang, Evolution, and Genesis?
A conflict between evolution and genesis has existed ever since Darwin wrote his book that first explained the case for evolution. In 1925 the famous Scopes Monkey Trial brought this conflict to a wider attention that has not gone away. Many people are firmly entrenched in their beliefs on both sides. Some folks believe that the Big Bang and evolution explain everything and eliminate the need for a god because science has all of the answers. Does science negate the need for a god? Others believe that the earth is 6,000 years old or they believe a maker that has guided and continuous to guide the universe by intelligent design. In this course we will examine these different viewpoints from the perspective of science. What does science say about the current theory of evolution and the Big Bang? How does science explain the origin of life on this planet and the “descent of man” from simpler species? How similar are the events described by scientists and Genesis, chapter 1? No assumptions about what is right or wrong will be used, we will study the current scientific understanding about the Big Bang and evolution to gain an understanding about the differences and similarities between what was written in the Bible and what scientists believe.
In this course we will read a series of short articles written for a general audience to provide a basis for discussion about different topics. For instance, we will discuss the fossil record and what it says about the current theory of evolution and what is left to be discovered. On another day we will discuss how life might have evolved on earth and what makes earth conducive to life (and has for over four billion years). All faiths and creeds will be respected; we will examine the science behind the origin of life rather than the differences between faiths. An interest in science will certainly benefit the discussions in class.
There will be short weekly readings to cover a topic, and we will discuss these readings in class. You will be expected to do the readings and come prepared with opinions and a willingness to discuss or debate what was read. Some weeks the class will be broken into two groups who will debate a topic. At the end of the course, a short 5 page paper will be assigned and form part of the basis for your grade.
The reference material and textbooks for the course are not given, though there’s a space for them on the syllabus.
Now this all seems fine—like a “let’s examine all viewpoints” course, but knowing Bowden’s views I strongly doubt whether pure naturalism will be given the same play as his view that “our salvation comes from Christ” (see his Inside Higher Ed comment on my previous post). And, given Bowden view that Genesis comports nicely with what we know about evolution (despite the “big holes” in the latter), I suspect he’s going to point that out in his section about “the differences and similarities between what was written in the Bible and what scientists believe.” Note as well that Bowden’s magazine piece says this:
If we throw out our modern definition of a day as a 24-hour period, Genesis tells us that on the first day, “God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void…”
When this story was written 4,000 years ago, they didn’t have the language to talk about things like the Big Bang theory and subatomic particles. But whether you take the Big Bang or “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ ” it says the same thing.
So is he going to argue that in his class? If so, it’s not science, but Bowden imposing his Christian views on students. Are they going to read The God Delusion, or Victor Stenger, or Lawrence Krauss? If “all faiths and creeds will be respected”, will atheism be among them? All I can say is that I’ll write to Bowden’s chairman and ask for a syllabus. Odds are that I’ll fail, even though, since his school is a public one, that information is available via the Freedom of Information act.
This whole thing smells fishy—fishy enough that I’ll try to get more information. The University of Iowa should be deeply concerned about this course, and while Bowden is free to publish his views that science proves God in their campus magazine, he’s not free to teach that to students at a public university. The school should also be concerned that a chemistry professor wants to teach about evolution and the “descent of man”, and wonder why he’s doing this. Is he qualified to do so? Maybe Bowden’s course is on the up-and-up, but there’s enough concern to warrant a bit more digging.
Some of Bowden’s colleagues went as far as calling into question his credentials for teaching a class on Genesis and Evolution.But Bowden said the professors failed to notice that he was not arguing against evolution, only pointing out unresolved holes in the theory.
“Denying that these gaps exist is embarrassing and makes science appear as arrogant,” the associate professor told me. He believes it is important for scientists to admit they don’t know everything about how the world came into being.
The faculty members also disapproved of Bowden’s acknowledgement of the existence of God. This shows the intolerance of science, Bowden said: “When you come out so strongly saying evolution has to be accepted and no one has a right to question it, people are going to be offended.”
. . .Not everyone at the university opposed the article. Faculty members contacted Bowden personally in support of his views, but said they don’t talk about what they believe because they don’t want to “stick their necks out.”
. . . But his colleagues’ reaction shows it’s not enough to embrace the theory of evolution, holes and all. To be accepted, scientists must deny any belief in a creator who brought the world into existence. Bowden wishes the scientific community would just admit that there is much they don’t know about the origin of the world: “When talking about evolution it’s 10 percent science and 90 percent creative writing.”
That’s wrong, and it’s insulting. “Creative writing,” really? How much does Bowden really know about evolution, anyway? Is he speaking from a deep acquaintance with the field, or is he, infused with his Christianity, simply buying the talking points of intelligent design creationists? What would he think if a biologist said the same thing about his field, or about physics?
Bowden is an embarrassment to his department and to the University of Iowa. Please note that I am not calling for him to be fired, or for his course to be eliminated. I just want to know what he’s teaching impressionable Iowa students, and I’d like him to either point out what those “gaping holes” are in evolutionary theory, or stop implying that the field is mostly creative writing, promulgated by biologists who lie about their field.