More on the Ball State affair: Christian News Network reporting standards far lower than that of the BSU student paper

In a short piece on the Ball State/Eric Hedin case, the Christian News Network manages to get four things wrong.

1. “Are Hedin’s teaching practices unconstitutional? Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago professor, thinks so, and has pushed for Hedin’s removal from BSU. In an April 25 blog post, Coyne claimed that Hedin’s class material is an unlawful infringement on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

I never called for Hedin’s dismissal; what I want is for him to stop teaching Christianity to his students under the rubric of science. If Ball State stops him, that’s fine. If they don’t, they should be taken to court. In neither case will he be fired.

2. “Casey Luskin, an attorney working for the Discovery Institute, explains that this controversy was first sparked by only a few angry atheists, and he suggests that the majority of college students are more than willing to engage in honest, open discussions on the different scientific theories.”

The controversy came to my attention when one student, who took Hedin’s course but is not an atheist, complained to one of my acquaintances about Hedin’s cramming Jesus down the students’ throats. That, and some information provided by my acquaintance, is what “sparked the controversy.” Nota bene: the original complaint didn’t come from an atheist.

3 & 4. “Hedin has also asked students to read books written by notable scientists who disagree with the evolutionary theory, such as Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe, both of whom are supporters of the intelligent design movement.”

The “notable scientist” part is laughable. Behe isn’t notable, but notorious, and Meyer isn’t even a scientist, though he got a bachelor’s degree in science (his Ph.D. was in the history and philosophy of science).

Meanwhile, the BSU student paper, the Daily Unified, has a far more objective story, and doesn’t get anything wrong.  And it has this telling quote from a student who took Hedin’s class. Apparently, contrary to Hedin’s chair, there wasn’t much “open discussion” about religion in the class (my emphasis):

Fifth-year senior criminology major Jake Owens said he was in Hedin’s astronomy 100 class in the Fall Semester of 2011 and that he wasn’t bothered when Hedin brought up religion.

“He brought it up a lot when he would get into the constellations and how amazing the universe was,” he said. “He didn’t bring it up, obviously, when he was going into the scientific aspects.”

But Owens, who identified himself as a Christian, said Hedin did not open religion up to discussion in his class..

“I hate to say it, but it was more of a preaching type of thing,” Owens said. “It wasn’t like he said it and then opened it up to say, ‘Does anybody else have an opinion on this?’ If I remember correctly, some people did say things, whether they agreed or disagreed, but he didn’t really open it up for discussion.”

Meanwhile, while a few of Hedin’s colleagues and students are defending his class, others disagree (see the comments following the Muncie Star Press piece on Hedin).  Here’s another religious student who went public about his discomfort with Hedin’s proselytizing:

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 5.45.29 PMI’m not asking for Hedin to be fired, but his Science Crusade for Jesus simply has to stop.  If a First Amendment case has yet to be adjudicated in a public university, then I say that it’s time. The matter is not whether a class is elective, but whether students who take a class (and some really have no choice) can be subject to religious proselytizing by a government employee. I say “no way”! This may not be the case to adjudicate, for we need students to be plaintiffs in the case, and I haven’t seen any yet, but if the courts haven’t settled whether the First Amendment doesn’t apply to public universities, it’s about time.

Meanwhile, some LOLs from the Muncie paper’s comments (there are some good and heartening comments there, too):

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 5.54.06 PM

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 5.54.50 PM

But this is my absolute favorite. Read it slowly to savor every misguided word:

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 5.57.16 PM

OMG.  “Science ONLY teaches us how silly we are!”  Ten to one Mr. Castor uses a cellphone, takes antibiotics when he has an infection, and benefits immensely from all the benefits of science that, he says, don’t exist. Without science, Castor would have a life expectancy of about 35 years.


  1. Dominic
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    As Puck says to Oberon, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

  2. Alex Shuffell
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Mr Castor’s post at the end made Prof Coyne say “OMG” 🙂 Surely it should be “OMCC”?

    Isn’t believing in evolution believing in something? Not even a line and he contradicted himself. “The perfect orbit, the perfect laws of nature, the perfect atmosphere.” It’s quite common for creationists to hold an early 19th century view of science, but this bloke isn’t even 17th century. Then gravity is just a theory and it was just made up by Newton. From looking at his picture he obviously doesn’t believe in gravity anyway.

    • Sastra
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Not only is his thinking pre-enlightenment, but I think it smacks of the sort of reasoning a small child would use. Of course, even the most sophisticated apologetics suffer from that.

      Ten to one Mr. Castor uses a cellphone, takes antibiotics when he has an infection, and benefits immensely from all the benefits of science that, he says, don’t exist.

      Technology tells us the how — but science tells us the why.

      • Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

        How: you grab the kettle, put some water in it from the municipal supply (if you should be so lucky), put tea in the teapot (from the food distribution network), steep and enjoy…

        Why: a) you live in a society that used science to upgrade our existence to the point where potable water flows from the tap, gas or electric streams from their receptacles, and tea ships from India. b) combustion of fuels (in one way or another) drive the heating process, heating the liquid until its internal vapor pressure equals that of the atmosphere causing boiling, and steeping the tea with the hot liquid which accelerates the process of dissolving the desired chemicals from the tea into the water. All because you wanted some tea, “wanting” being a state of mind depending on a host of memory and decision-making processes that we are slowly arriving at better understandings of.

        Hmmm. Can I be a philosopher of science, nao?

    • abandonwoo
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      I’ve been accused of being a non-scientist nitpicker for this opinion (I readily admit I am quite ignorant of much scientific, and could not conceal this fact if I tried), but I try to avoid use of the word ‘belief’ unless I am referencing opinion/supposition that is associated with superstition or religion or the like. In all other cases, I either know or I don’t know.

      Epistemology is poorly apprehended as it is; I crusade to emphasize the crucial distinction between belief and knowing. Of course, I still f^_k this up from time to time myself and hope people will be gentle with me. I mean well.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        Yeah, English doesn’t have a good choice for this concept. Actually, “know” isn’t correct either. Nobody “knows” the TOE is the true answer. Rather, we accept that TOE is the best explanation that fits all the evidence that humankind has after 150 years of investigation. But who wants to say that mouthful every time we meet a Creationist?

        • Posted May 23, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

          How about “have every reason to believe (and no good reason to doubt)”?

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

            I say “I accept…” If pressed, I say “I accept evolution (or whatever) because it is supported by the evidence.”

            Whenever I’m asked any question beginning “Do you believe…” I always answer “I don’t believe anything.” This always gets a nervous laugh, and gives me a chance to explain the difference between believing and accepting on the basis of the evidence, if my interlocuteur is interested.

  3. John K.
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    I had to laugh out loud at “science once believed the earth was flat”. No, that was actually the Christian Bible (among other ancient belief systems).

    • coyotenose
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Didn’t the Bible actually drag us backwards from the Classical Greek understanding of a round Earth?

      • Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        The name you’re looking for is, “Eratosthenes.”


        • John K.
          Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

          I had thought to bring him up but could not recall the name. Well done.

  4. Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Since I just replied to Jeff D on yesterday’s thread on the topic and it’s still in my clipboard, permit me to point out that Hedin and Ball State very emphatically and unambiguously fail both the second and third prongs of the Lemon Test:

    1. The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;
    2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
    3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

    Remember: Ball State University is a government agency and Hedin is a public official acting in his official capacity when he teaches the course, and courts have repeatedly determined that ID is religion. Promoting religion in the classroom is exactly the sort of thing those second and third prongs are supposed to guard against.

    The astute will note that failing even a single prong of the Lemon test is sufficient to consider the activity in question unconstitutional. There is nothing that can redeem such an activity — not even “academic freedom.” Fail just one prong of the Lemon test and that’s it — game over.



    • Sastra
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      What effect would the application of the Lemon Test have on the teaching of Theology in a public university? Game over?

      • Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

        I should think so!

        Are there even any public universities with publicly-funded theology departments? All the ones I’m aware of are either privately funded (there’s a huge LDS building on the Arizona State University campus, but the church runs it and nothing they do is in the course catalog) or at private universities (University of Denver, for example, has a pretty big theology school).

        Now, a religious studies department is another matter entirely — so long as it’s in the liberal arts school. But even then there can’t be any indoctrination, only “this is what religion X believes / does / etc.,” and it must be as broadly inclusive and non-preferrential as possible.

        Just quickly looking at the catalog for ASU’s religious studies department, they have upper-division classes on “Different Voices in Contemporary Islamic Discourses” alongside “Mesoamerican Shamanic Cosmographies” and right next to “Religion, Violence, and Conflict Resolution.” Those are all quite legitimate. And, hey, whaddyaknow, they even have, “Religion and Science” right there where it belongs.

        But, honestly? I don’t think Hedin’s class would even make it past the first cut in ASU’s religious studies department. Not only is what he’s doing naked proselytization, it’s bad scholarship to boot.


    • Jeff D
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      To repeat, a state university is NOT a “government agency” for First Amendment / Establishment Clause purposes, and state university employees (such as professors) are NOT state employees or agents of the state.

      Yes, failing a single prong of the 3-prong Lemon test means that the state statute or other “state action” violates the Establishment Clause. But first, one has to identify a state statute or other “state action.” And that is not easy to do when the entity that has received government tax money (and which is engaged in the objectionable action) is a state college or university. If it were easy, then we’d already have numerous reported court cases in which state university students successfully sued their universities for Establishment Clause violations. We don’t have such cases.

      Does a state-supported university violate the Establishment Clause when it accepts tax revenues and offers religious-studies courses? Generally, no. A student plaintiff’s suit was dismissed for “failure to state a claim” in La Freniere v. Regents of the University of California (9th Cir. 2006), 207 Fed.Appx. 783, 2006 WL 3316362.

      • Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        Jeff, I’m fully aware that the law is often irrational and inconsistent.

        But, when I was a faculty associate at Arizona State University (in a non-teaching position), I had to swear a loyalty oath to the state and the federal government, and my paychecks came from a government bank account, and portions of my earnings still remain in the state-run retirement fund exclusively for government employees.

        If I wasn’t actually a state government employee, it was solely for some illogical and contrived legal perspective.

        (And, yes — full professors are hired and paid and insured and what-not the same as the janitors; it’s only the job titles and descriptions that differ.)

        For that matter, the first signature on my diploma is the Arizona governor’s, at the recommendation of the Arizona Board of Regents.

        Maybe state universities are run differently outside of Arizona, but I rather doubt it.

        I honestly think you’re making a much bigger deal of the lack of precedence than is merited. Before the Dover trial just a few years ago, there was a similar lack of precedence at the pre-collegiate level.


        • Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink


          • Jeff D
            Posted May 23, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink


            It sounds like Arizona State handled its salary payments and retirement plans differently than the state “land grant” colleges in the Midwestern States like Indiana. Here, they are definitely not “state government-issued” paychecks and not state-pension-system checks. State university faculty members participate in the TIAA-CREF retirement plans, not in the Public Employee Retirement Fund plans.

            FWIW, My diplomas (from one state university for my undergrad degree,and from another state university law school for my J.D. degree) do not have any state government officials’ signatures on them.

            There were ample precedents before Kitzmiller v. Dover involving public schools and the unconstitutionality of including creationist / “balanced treatment” nonsense in the public school science curricula, including the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and the 1982 District Court decision in McLean v. Arkansas, both of which relied in part on Epperson v. Arkansas (1968, effectively invalidating all state laws that prohibited the teaching of biological evolution in public schools).

            Lawyers are trained (and usually paid, although not here, for this) to emphasize the existence or absence and the applicability of precdedent, and to make as much or as little of the earlier cases as will support the client’s position. It’s what we do. Sorry.

            • Posted May 23, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

              Seems to me one of the first questions that would need to be settled, should this go to court, would be the actual degree of government involvement at Ball State.

              If it’s like Arizona, I can’t see how it could be anything other than a cut-and-dried establishment violation.

              According to their Web site, at the very least, there is a nine-member board of trustees appointed by the governor of Indiana whose primary duties are the management, control, and operation of the university. To me, that means that it’s a government institution just like any other such as public works or parks and recreation or law enforcement or the libraries or whatever — even if the employees aren’t paid directly from a government account.

              You might want to double-check your information about the governance of the other universities in Indiana you’re referring to. I can’t imagine Ball State being the only one whose administration reports to Mr. Pence.



              • Jeff D
                Posted May 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

                I had previously checked the applicable state statutes here in the Hoosier State. Although the Indiana Governor does appoint trustee to the Ball State University’s board, the governor chooses the student and alumni trustees from slates of nominees developed by a search-and-screen committee (student trustee) and an alumni council (alumni trustees).

                The other state universities have similar procedures for selection of their trustees, except that the alumni of Purdue and I.U. directly elect a minority of the members of their boards of trustees, with the election rubber-stamped by the governor.

                Further, the trustees do not “report” or answer to the governor, and are not required to obtain any state government approval, with respect to the details of course design, hiring and firing of faculty, or other aspects of operations. Indiana state government (such as the State Commission on Higher Education, which reviews proposed and actual university budgets) is excluded by statute from being involved in such operational and management decisions. Ind. Code 21-18-6-4.

                After trustees are appointed, they are independent; their contact with the governor and other state authorities are largely limited to (a) lobbying for increased state aid or fewer restrictions on tuition increases and (b) generalized mutual back-scratching. It was the latter that led to Purdue University’s Trustees deciding to hire former Gov. Mitch Daniels as the current President of Purdue.

                So no, Ball State University is not a governmental entity like a city council, a state agency, or a parks-and-recreation department. Far from it.

                You’re correct, Ben, that if someone did sue BSU for an Establishement Clause violation (Hedin’s course), the issue of whether the University’s actions or inaction constituted “state action” would be a key issue, and probably a fiercely constested issue.

                In contrast, if some student who had wasted her time and money on Hedin’s course decided to sue the University for misrepresentation and breach of warranty, the status of B.S.U. as “an arm of the state” or as quasi-governmental would be irrelevant.

              • Posted May 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

                Jeff, what you describe is a bog-standard hiring process. It’s exactly how upper administrations work everywhere. And, not just at Ball State, but pretty much everywhere the titular head is almost always completely removed from anything other than pro-forma decisions.

                But it’s not the practice that matters for these things; it’s the symbolism.

                The President does not give orders to a private. The President doesn’t even know the private exists. But it’s the President who holds ultimate responsibility for the actions of the private. It’s the fact that the chain of command ends at the President that makes the private an official agent of the United States.

                I can’t see anybody buying into the fiction that because the governor doesn’t very often or actively exercise his authority it’s therefore the university is an independent agency except as a most transparent fig leaf to cover patently inappropriate activity.

                Again, might a religiously-inclined judge and / or jury reach for such a fig leaf? Sure. Of course. But, as I noted, said fig leaf really is most transparent indeed.


      • Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        And — religious studies is not an establishment of religion any more than political science is the endorsement of a particular political party, so I don’t have a hard time understanding why the court didn’t think a claim had been stated. I’m obviously not familiar with the case and don’t feel particularly inclined to look it up, but I rather doubt that it’s the same as what Hedin is doing.


        • Jeff D
          Posted May 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

          Ben, I assure you that in Establishment Clause litigation in federal court, it takes more than talk of “symbolism” and vague hand-waving to satisfy the burden of showing that the actions or inaction of a state university Board of Trustees is “state action” in the legal sense. Arguments about fig leaves and organization charts and how the university is, in substance, a state agency or an arm of state government is not going to cut it.

          In the civil rights arena (under the Civil Rights Act, etc.), it is much easier to hold a state university or a private contractor liable, because the mere receipt of federal government funds is the “hook.” Not the case when one is trying to prove an Establishment Clause violation.

  5. ladyatheist
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    It is no longer the “Ball State Affair!” It has risen to the level of Ball State Kerfuffle!

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Kerfuffle vs. Kerfluffle – explore the controversy.

  6. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Freedom from is not the freedom to do anything but freedom to do the Right thing.
    What a bleeped up notion of freedom.

    • Sastra
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      I think his bleeped up notion of freedom starts bleeping on that part about the Right Thing.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      How does that comport with the notion of Free Will being the right to be wrong?

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    The proclamation that “…this controversy was first sparked by only a few angry atheists….” is damning. It suggests that if only a few non Christians (namely atheists) complain, that doesn’t matter because majority rules and that majority is Christianity and Christians get to enjoy privileged while everyone else is relegated to the position of 2nd class citizen. I’m pretty sure this goes against the US Constitution.

    I won’t even get into the bigoted notion of atheists as “angry”.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      It makes me angry that atheists are always referred to as angry.

  8. Sastra
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I never called for Hedin’s dismissal; what I want is for him to stop teaching Christianity to his students under the rubric of science.

    A class on Theology is at least upfront about what you’re getting … and it avoids the conflict with the Establishment Clause. Once they try to bring their religious beliefs into science they’re no longer allowed to protect them with all the bells and whistles surrounding the respect for Faith. And I think that includes the ‘hands-off’ policy of the First Amendment.

    Is religion supposed to be kept out of science classes because of the Establishment Clause? Or is religion supposed to be kept out of science classes because it is wrong? The legal answer is the first one … but the honest answer is the second.

    So it’s both.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      A serious philosophy department wouldn’t go near Hedin’s course. Ball State don’t have a theology faculty. With a thoroughly revised reading list, to include Dawkins, Hawking, Pinker etc. and no personal expression of religious bias the course could conceivably remain where it is, otherwise it should be shovelled into religious studies with the title “Intelligent Design arguments for the existence of God”. Some possible slots:

      403 Reading and Special Study.
      Allows opportunity for guided investigation of aspects of religion not covered in available courses.

      420 Themes in Religion
      A thematically-organized examination of an issue in the study of religion. Some examples: myth, ritual, pilgrimage, religious autobiography, gods and goddesses, asceticism, “texts” in contexts, or religion and cultural studies.

      450 Critical Issues in the Study of Religion
      Advanced study of a select issue of importance in the study of religion and culture, e.g. women and religion, religion and politics, religion and ethics.

      470 Perspectives on Religion.
      A critical analysis of aspects of one or more religious traditions through one or more distinctive methodological perspectives, such as anthropological, sociological, psychological, historical, or philosophical.

  9. Dermot C
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I never fail to be shocked at Christians misrepresenting the facts of the case, as they have done in having a go at Jerry; you’d think I’d get used to it but I can’t.

    I suspect that if this happened in the UK, we might not have a leg to stand on, there being no separation of Church and State, and the cultural privileging of the ‘essential goodness’ of religious morals.

    All the best to you,you Americans; how I wish we had a First Amendment.

  10. Timothy
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Behe is notable and he is sort of a scientist, maybe. He just isn’t notable for his science.

  11. MAUCH
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Todd Castor is your best example of what happens when America does not receive even a basic education in science. It is an embarrassment to even read his comments. He seems to take pride in being blessed with deep religious faith and profound ignorance.

    • Sunny
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Explains why he works for the “Small Engine Warehouse”:). I hope he is not allowed anywhere near the big ones.

  12. Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Two can play at the discounting your information game. Only our side has science and evidence and facts to support it. So, without further ado:

    Exodus was impossible. Israel, in the time of Exodus was part of Egypt. It’d be like Moses fleeing St. Louis (about the middle of America) for the New England states….

    Add in there is NO EVIDENCE in the Sinai desert (despite there being tons of evidence of everything else that happened) of this huge event…

    Yeah, science for the win. And, unlike the Bible thumpers who have nothing but a tale that happened, not only do we have actual archeological evidence that it didn’t happen, but the evidence of its being a complete fairy tale is only getting stronger. We no longer live in the days of “Bible and Spade” archeology where the goal was to ‘prove the Bible’ rather than find out the truth.

    Or how about the origins of the Jewish people in Israel and Judea? That’s another key component of the bible and the grounding of much of the “Modern Israel” nationhood claims.

    We now know from DNA studies that Sephardic Jews (used in the wider ,modern sense of the word which includes the Maghrebim and Mizrahim populations, not the narrower original sense of the Iberian peninsula Jews) are the same base ethnic group as the other inhabitants of the region.

    So the story of the Jews (Abraham) migrating to Israel from (bugger and damn I just forgot) some far away place is bogus as well. (Ur? Ugh? Ah? One of those one-syllable countries before they used up all the short names…)

    The Israelite Jews (of those days) were nothing more than ethnic Canaanites that, over the centuries, changed their form of worship. Something that has been done, over recorded history, pretty much everywhere in the world.

    So we’re talking two, fundamental cores of Judaism, Christianity and (to some extent Islam) that are clearly false. Not a little false. But “made up out of whole cloth” false.

    And yet, no rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian…

    • ladyatheist
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      And according to Bart Ehrman, the only time that all the places mentioned in the Exodus story were all inhabited at the same time was the time of Josiah, about 700 BC, which appears to be when the O.T. was written.

      • Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        You’ll want to take anything from Ehrman with a big grain of salt. He’s dome some good stuff in the past, but all of that should be re-evaluated in light of his evangelization of an historical Christ…especially considering the embarrassingly pathetic standards of scholarship and reasoning he displayed therein.

        He not only claimed overwhelming contemporary evidence for Jesus’s existence and the veracity of the Gospels, he actually gives that evidence in the book as a transliteration of a fragment of a popular Aramaic phrase in one of the Greek gospels. That’s it — his whole case for historicity comes down to the equivalent of an American saying, “gesundheit,” a century after some massive German zombie invasion.



  13. matt
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    “sales and marketing manager”

    of course he is.

  14. Sunny
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    May I ask what Todd Castor is doing on his knees?

    • Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Looks to me like he’s sampling the street cheese.

      I hope he believes in antibiotics.

  15. matt
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    my favorite bit of mr. castor’s post is, “sure, god allows…”

    how very noble of Him. haha.

  16. Tom Millar
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Why stop at “they use the benefits of science”? Why not go further and point out that they themselves use science (and perform scientific experiments) – every day?
    Science is basically asking “Why did A happen? Is it because B happened? What if I did B again? Or did C instead?”
    If one of the writers defending Hedin noticed their tomatoes weren’t growing as well as their neighbour’s, they’d probably ask things like “Is he using a different fertilizer? Do his get more/less sun/water?”
    It’s not the same level of science that’s happening at the LHC, but it is basically the same process.
    The advantage of this idea is that when someone like Todd Castor says “Why do you fools think science is a valid way to understand the material world?”, we can answer “For the same reasons you do!”

    Simple-minded people like Todd like to see the world divided into scientists/non-scientists, but it really isn’t the case. Every religious person is a scientist.

  17. Michael Fugate
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    “The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it”

    ― Lawrence M. Krauss

  18. HaggisForBrains
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    “BSU” – I know what BS usually stands for, I assume the “U” stands for university.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink


  19. DrBrydon
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I don’t think comments like Todd Castor’s will help Hedin’s case. They seem to support the argument that this is about religion.

    On another note I look forward to the day when, as an Atheist, I can post comments expressing my opinions about God on Twitter, while self-identifying my employer, and not have it be an issue. I have too many customers and co-workers who, when I ask how they are, say “blessed”. Must be nice.

  20. Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    You get to be an anti-religion tub thumper and we are just on the far fringe. Where is the fairness in that? 🙂

  21. Emerson
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    “… we accept as a fact” No. This is not true. Let’s see some examples (adapted from Fitzgerald’s book “Nailed…”):
    Contemporary Romans
    – Seneca the Younger (c. 3 B.C.E. – 65) Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who wrote the on nature Quaestiones Naturales, where he records eclipses and other unusual natural phenomena, but makes no mention of the miraculous Star of Bethlehem, the multiple earthquakes in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death, or the worldwide (or at the very least region-wide) darkness at Christ’s crucifixion that he himself should have witnessed. In another book On Superstition, Seneca lambasts EVERY known religion, including Judaism. But strangely, he makes no mention whatsoever of Christianity.
    – Gallio (died 65 C.E.) Seneca’s silence is compounded by the fact that his older brother was Junius Annaeus Gallio, who actually appears in the Bible. According to the author of the book of Acts (18:12-17), Gallio was the magistrate who heard Paul’s case and
    threw it out of court. But he apparently he NEVER talked about Jesus and his miracles to his younger brother.
    Jewish historian
    – Justus of Tiberias (died c. 101) was a native of Tiberias in Galilee (not far from Jesus’ hometown), was personal secretary to King Herod Agrippa II (who allegedly met the apostle Paul), and even wrote a history of the Kingdom of Judah covering the entire time when Jesus lived. And it’s very interesting to read what he says about Jesus: he DOESN’T say A SINGLE thing. The work is lost but the 9th century Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius read it and said:“I have read the chronology of Justus of Tiberias… being under the Jewish prejudices, as indeed he was himself also a Jew by birth, he makes not the least mention of the appearance of Christ, or what things happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did.”
    (Photius, Bibliothec, Codex 33)
    – Philo of Alexandria (c.20 B.C.E. – c. 50) Writer, political commentator and esteemed Jewish statesman, Philo was above all the greatest Jewish philosopher of the Greco-Roman world; He was certainly interested in fringe religions, and not afraid to talk about them. He wrote a great deal on other Jewish sects of the time, such as the Essenes and the Therapeutae, but nothing on Jesus, or on Christianity either, even though his home of Alexandria was supposedly one of the early cradles of Christianity.
    “…creationism can’t be proven wrong!” which version? Why is the ex-nihilo creation (and there are other kinds of creation myths too, like from caos) myth by a trinity god better than any one of these here? Arandan (Aruntan) Ashanti Assyrian Aymaran Baluba Basonge Batak Blackfoot (Siksika) Bon (Bonpo) Boshongo Bulu Bushmen (San, Basarwa) Canaanite Cheyenne Christian Chukchee Creek (Muskogee) Dinka Efik Egyptian Ekoi Fang (Fan) Fon Gnostic Guarani Hebrew Inca Indian Inupiat (Inupiaq) Ipurina (Apurina) Islamic Jain Kagaba Kikuyu Kono Kootenay (Kutanai, Ktunaxa) Kukulik Laguna (Kawaik) Lenape (Delaware) Lugbara Maasai Malozi (Lozi, Alyui, Barotse)Mande Maori Mapuche Mariana Islands Marshall Islands Mayan Muysca (Muisca) New Hebrides Ngombe (Bangala) Nugumit Nup Nyamwezi Omaha Pawnee Penobscot Polynesian Pomo Romanian (Rumanian) Samoan San Cristobal Scientific Sikh Snohomish Sumu Swahili Tahitian Talmudic Tantric Thompson Indians Tierra del Fuego
    Toltec Tuamotuan Uitoto Ute Wahungwe Welsh
    Winnebago Wyot Yaruro Yolugu Zapotec Zuni.
    Is any of these myths comparable to this? “In Defense Of the Big Bang”

  22. Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Jerry, David Klinghoffer is *very cross* with you: “Intimidation against physicist”;

    • Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      It is very telling that these kinds of IDiotic sites have no place for outside commentary. I got a real chuckle (or perhaps an up-chuckle) from a quick skim of Klinghoffer’s screed. Thank you.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Good grief, I do hope there are more people who think like us than think like these guys. This article pulls out the old “look how mean the scientists are in suppressing our foolish ideas with their orthodoxy & intimidation” that I complained about earlier today:

      The seeming agreement among many scholars that forbids even mild criticism of Darwinism, and automatically invalidates even strictly scientific alternatives to the theory, is the product of a culture of sclerotic orthodoxy in some academic quarters.

      On Darwinian evolution, younger scholars rightly fear airing heterodox views. The “consensus” is maintained by intellectual intimidation.

      Then there is this gem – oh I DO hope I can be one of Jerry’s “atheist confederates”:

      In a novel development, to suppress dissent, Coyne and his atheist confederates want to introduce the police power of the courts.

  23. Steve Bracker
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    “I never called for Hedin’s dismissal; what I want is for him to stop teaching Christianity to his students under the rubric of science. If Ball State stops him, that’s fine. If they don’t, they should be taken to court. In neither case will he be fired.”

    Let me try to make the case for firing him.

    Suppose that I somehow found myself on the neurosurgery staff of a hospital. (Since I’ve never spent a single day in med school, I think the chances of that happening are very low, but maybe a comedy writer among us can come up with a story. Perhaps there are some hints in exploring how Hedin was hired to teach science classes at Ball State.) Anyway, I’m seeing patients, and treating them with homeopathic nostrums and shaking rattles over them. In due course, my treatment methods come to the attention of people outside the hospital staff (Orac?) and a kerfuffle ensues. At a minimum, I would expect that my right to treat patients would be terminated, and some inquiries about previous patient outcomes would made. Supposing that I can’t be prosecuted for fraud, murder, etc., what more, if anything, should the hospital do about me?

    Certainly they could keep me on, and assign me to write a treatise on the history of neurosurgery, or the philosophy of neurosurgery — same position, just different responsibilities. Or they could offer my services to patients as an alternative to conventional treatment, where my unusual treatment methods are spelled out ahead of time. But does anyone seriously want to argue against the only course that makes sense — firing me?

    What Hedin is doing is as great an affront to science and science teaching as my treatments are to medicine. Creationism rebranded as intelligent design is emphatically not “just another way of understanding the data”, any more than my rattle shaking is “just another way of practicing medicine”. It’s “not even wrong”. So why should money and department resources be spent supporting some “alternative service” for a crackpot who has proven himself unworthy of science and his students, and has done so for years?

    Hedin’s course is certainly not science, but it’s also not even acceptable philosophy of science, or anything-else of science. The man should not be teaching science, nor should he be teaching about science; Jesus has helped him become broadly incompetent, suited only to serve as a monument to what good science and science teaching isn’t.

    And while we’re at it, how about the people who hired Hedin to come to Ball State? I’ll bet the folks who hired me to perform neurosurgery would be subjected to some pretty serious scrutiny themselves, because who is to know whether their next hiring decision might be even worse — e.g. homeopathy, rattles and a chainsaw. How far up the “chain of command” does the intellectual rot extend? What will be done to prevent a Son of Hedin sequel in a few years?

    • Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      As a comedy writer wannabe, I’m seeing a hackneyed plot involving your brilliant twin brother (separated at birth, a madcap mixup had you adopted and raised by Vodoun-practicing Haitians). Extraordinary coincidences bring you to the hospital where your brother works (we can work out those details later), the same day he dies hilariously in a garbage bin mishap. You are recognized by your brother’s colleagues, who berate you for being late, and rush to scrub you into the morning’s surgery.

      If we can get someone to pitch this to the right people in Hollywood, I bet this gets green-lighted.

      • Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Well done. “Dies hilariously” – nice touch.

  24. Diane G.
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “He brought it up a lot when he would get into the constellations and how amazing the universe was,” he said.

    Constellations? Pretty much blows the astronomy pretense outta the water.

  25. Jim Cliborn
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Diane at #22 is right. Think of all the interesting questions giving entree to the science of astronomy by showing an orthogonal view of the same now completely different ‘constellations’ due to the vast separations of component stars throughout space as seen from a different position in space!

  26. Jim Cliborn
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    To further amplify my comment at #23 if we assign the constellation the Big Dipper for example as the “plan View” in mechanical drafting, then rotate it 90 degrees to get the edge view, as I was indicating in my previous comment, then the constellation looks like a slightly squished capital “W” to observers at that location. Gotta love science!

    • Posted May 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Which makes me wonder… if we looked at Cassiopeia orthogonally and it looked like a dipper, would that be definitive proof of Ceiling Cat? (not that I doubt the existence of Ceiling Cat for a moment, mind you)

  27. sam
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Weird – why is Luskin, and ID advocate, supporting a religious person on ‘origins’? I thought ID wasn’t religious?

  28. Posted May 23, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    This is really about liberal atheists attacking the Churches. Or, at least, that is what O’Leary claims at the UD blog.
    So why are you going into debt for higher education?

    I guess that’s an expected reaction.

  29. John
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t get really fired up about this issue (although I appreciate its significance) until I read that last comment referring to science as being “nothing,” and Jerry’s response, reminding the writer that the quality of his life depends directly upon science. The deniers always baffle me by their total lack of reflective thinking. Without the germ theory of disease, for example, and our knowledge of biochemistry and microbiology, that pitifully uninformed person may well have died of a simple childhood infection. That obvious truth apparently eludes him completely. I try not to get angry, but sometimes its is liking talking to children.

  30. Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    The author of the “absolute favorite” comment says that his family didn’t evolve from apes. You know, he’s probably right. Maybe he and his family still haven’t.
    And by the way, the guy works as a manager at a small engines warehouse, according to his comment. Wasn’t it science that made possible these engines that he owes his job to?

  31. Me
    Posted May 24, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Why oh why do they have such a terrifically hard time accepting that we aren’t so special and unique in the universe. I believe life is ubiquitous and we have interesting power to learns and comprehend, however Christianity as well as all religion, only serves to elevate our own narcissistic tendencies of our species. Why can’t these ppl just THINK and realize we create meaning and ‘purpose’ all the time. It’s only temporarily emotionally difficult to accept there is no God but then you realize how freeing and empowering it is and that you have the lovely responsibility for self. It’s not that HARD PPL! Give yourself some credit!

    • Dermot C
      Posted May 24, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      In answer to your first sentence, I suspect it is because it sometimes feels like we are ‘special and unique in the univese’. Hell, I’ve had atheists asserting to me, ‘Man is the centre of the universe’, without bothering to define any of the nouns, and equally as vacuous as the religious response. It’s what we do, the cry of the oppressed, I suppose.

      • Me
        Posted May 24, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        Perhaps but I wonder how really ‘lowly’ we may be in the universe. Earth being 3.7 billion yrs old and we evolved in such a short amt of galactic time, what about far away with a planet that is far older in our 13 + bill yr old universe? Couldn’t there have been far more evolution elsewhere where we r the lowest animal? I mean even if we are ‘in the middle’ we really can’t imagine what evolution was on another planet. Humans self awareness empowers them in both ways, good and bad. Fear keeps so many from facing our infinitely small realm as compared to universal size.

        I liken evolution not to Omnipotent design but rather I describe the following analogy. If u pour water into a odd shaped container them it molds and fills to the shape of that container. So, too, with evolution. Species of all types simply fill every niche it can simply bec it is free to do so(to a point- predators). That’s why things look so much like design but really it’s just taking advantage of the shape of the container. Bet complexity on cosmos scale could be far greater than us humans.

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