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