I wouldn’t have believed this possible for a serious newspaper, but maybe I’m naive about the state of politics in Indiana, and of the need of a newspaper to cater to its readers. What is palpably true, though, is that the Muncie Star-Press, in its latest editorial, “Our view: BSU prof deserves fair treatment”, has come out on the side of ignorance and anti-science.
Brief repriese: Muncie is the home of Ball State University, which is currently investigating Eric Hedin, a professor who taught a science course (one of only three available for Honors students) whose readings and curriculum were slanted toward the view that phenomena in the universe give indubitable evidence for the Christian god. I’ve documented this extensively; if you want to see the evidence, just search on this site for “Hedin”.
There is no doubt that this course was not a genuine science course, nor a course that, as it claimed, challenged students to think. There is no challenge in having an overwhelmingly Christian group of students have their views confirmed, for there were no readings presenting the other side—the side that there is no scientific evidence for divine intervention in the universe. There could, for example, have been readings from Victor Stenger, Richard Dawkins, Sean Carroll, Steven Weinberg, and Lawrence Krauss, but instead the students got John Lennox C. S. Lewis, and other religious accommodationists.
Not by the farthest stretch of the imagination did Hedin present any “challenging” views. Indeed, in one class of 25 students, all were religious save one. What is perhaps most odious is the huge number of readings on intelligent design (ID): a discredited, religiously-based theory that Hedin apparently supports. By not presenting criticisms of ID, which are many and convincing, Hedin was in effect purveying lies to students in a public university. That appears to violate violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution
So what does the local paper do? Publishes an editorial supporting Hedin and asserting, contrary to all evidence, that he was conducting a fair and balanced course.
Per the editorial’s title, of course Hedin deserves fair treatment. I am fully in favor of the university’s investigating the course fairly, looking at its aims and its syllabus, and seeing if the course was truly a science course that challenged the students to think, but also taught solid science.
And I don’t think “fair treatment” means that Hedin, if found remiss, should be fired. My view is that the course needs to be restructured to get rid of Christianity (if it’s to remain a required science course), or moved to philosophy or religion, with addition of balancing views.
But the editorial goes farther, and claims that Hedin’s course really did fulfill its aims:
The course description for “Boundaries of Science” hints at the possibility religion might be discussed:
“In this course, we will examine the nature of the physical and the living world with the goal of increasing our appreciation of the scope, wonder, and complexity of physical reality. We will also investigate physical reality and the boundaries of science for any hidden wisdom within this reality which may illuminate the central questions of the purpose of our existence and the meaning of life. This course is designed to allow students to take a more in-depth look at the beauty and complexity of the universe and life and to give food for thought about deeper questions which remain central to human existence.”
We don’t think there’s a problem here, so long as students enrolled in the course know exactly what they’re getting into. In fact, a healthy discussion about science, especially the origin(s) of the universe, ought to include religion. After all, isn’t a college education supposed to challenge students to go beyond facts and look at theories, and their merits or fallacies? Isn’t higher education supposed to include an understanding of controversial, perhaps unproven, ideas?
Yeah, like astrology, homeopathy, and flat-earth “theory,” all of which are exactly as credible as ID.
HONR 296 – Inquiries in the Physical Sciences
Study of introductory principles within the physical sciences, emphasizing the relationships of the sciences to human concerns and society. Study of social and ethical consequences of scientific discoveries and their applications to critical issues confronting contemporary society. Open only to Honors College students.
A scientific understanding does not automatically preclude the existence of God. Although it might. It also might help develop or reinforce one’s belief in a higher being.
Lest anyone think Hedin is a closet Christian in the classroom, one ought to take a look at the titles (or better yet, read) the publications he has helped author. Here’s a couple of them: “Combined Aharonov-Bohm and Zeeman spin-polarization effects in a double quantum dot ring,” and “Spin-polarized electron transport through nanoscale devices.” Sounds pretty scientific to us. Of course, what is published and what is taught can be wildly divergent.
The biggest was when I asked him why the Christian god is the answer to whatever science cannot explain. He said that it was not just his beliefs, it was a simple fact that it must be the Christian god. He then said, and this is a direct quote, “It’s not like it was some Hindu monkey god.”
We hope Ball State and the rest of academia do not lose sight of this: Hedin’s reputation and possibly his career could be sullied, or upheld, by the findings of this investigation. The stakes are high for Ball State as well.
That’s why this investigation must be thorough, impartial and, we hope, as open to the public as legally allowed.
Truth, whether in scientific inquiry or investigations into professors, can be elusive, but it must be pursued nonetheless.
They should also not lose sight of the facts that 1. Hedin was pushing Christianity in a science class; 2. This was a violation of the First Amendment; 3. The brand of “science” Hedin was pushing is a discredited form of creationism; 4. No alternative viewpoints to the religious one were presented, either in class or the readings; and 5. In a course for science credit, students should not be taught creationism nor told that the Universe reflects the face of God. That is not science but theology.
The students of Ball State University were shortchanged by Hedin’s course, which is simply Christian scientific apologetics— natural theology. And the citizens of Muncie, and the state of Indiana, are being shortchanged by a cowardly newspaper which, trying to pander to its constituency, implicitly endorses the teaching of creationism in its public-university science classes. This is an example of how a newspaper’s desire to be “fair and unbiased: has gone awry. There is no fairness in teaching woo and discredited science to students.
I close with this cartoon produced by reader “Pliny the In Between”, reflecting his take on HedinGate:
This cartoon is infinitely more savvy than the misguided editorial of the Muncie Star-Press.