Here’s the entirety of a letter that Casey Luskin, Discovery Institute flack, had published in the Muncie Star-Press yesterday. Muncie, of course, is the home of Ball State University (BSU), where University president Jo Ann Gora, who’s retiring in June, announced that intelligent design (ID) could not be taught as science in science classes. (Note: she did not, as some IDers are maintaining, “ban discussion of ID from campus.” Presumably it’s still a valid topic in classes in the sociology or philosophy classes, or in “contrasting viewpoints” classes that aren’t science classes.) Here’s Luskin’s screed:
Discovery Institute, Seattle
In “Lawmakers probe religion vs. science at BSU,” Tony Proudfoot touts three chapters from a BSU honors course textbook, “What’s Your Dangerous Idea?” as religion-friendly. This is a gross misrepresentation. The first chapter he cites (“Science May Be Running Out of Control”) has nothing to do with religion; the other two are deeply anti-religious.
In the second chapter, self-professed atheist Jesse Bering predicts “Science Will Never Silence God,” not because he’s happy about that, but out of his “fear” that religion will persist and “banish” scientific progress. He concludes: “As scientists, we must toil and labor and toil again to silence God.”
In the third, “Religion is the Hope that is Missing in Science,” Scott Atran calls himself “an atheist” and argues that rather than being inspired by God, “Religion … is an evolutionary byproduct.” Atran maintains, “Human beings are accidental and incidental byproducts of the material development of the universe,” and that religion exists merely to help us endure that harsh truth.
The introduction to “What’s Your Dangerous Idea?” is by new atheist Steven Pinker, the afterword by Richard Dawkins, and its editor (John Brockman) was ranked among “the 25 most influential living atheists.” None of its 108 chapters advocates traditional religion. BSU’s attempt to spin this book as religion-friendly is a shameless falsehood.
Indiana taxpayers and BSU donors should be asking: Why did BSU cancel Eric Hedin’s honors course that discussed evidence for intelligent design, while simultaneously defending an honors course whose sole textbook is an anti-religious polemic?
Note that Luskin characterizes the book as an “anti-religious polemic,” citing the atheists Pinker, Dawkins, and Brockman. I don’t have a copy of the book here, though one of the essays is mine (and not an anti-religious one!), but I have read Pinker’s introduction and it is not in the least anti-religious. Neither is Dawkins’s afterword, which you can read here. Luskin is simply blowing hot air by listing those names. Just because an atheist writes something doesn’t mean that what he or she writes is “pushing atheism.”
What’s especially telling about Luskin’s letter is his tacit admission that ID, if it’s to be criticized in any class, must be balanced with “traditional religion”. If ID isn’t religious, and is, as the Discovery Institute claims, purely science, and if its scientific conclusions point to the existence of a designer with intelligence, why on Earth would that have anything to do with “traditional religion”? I believe Michael Behe said that the designer could have been a space alien. Worship of aliens is not “traditional religion.”
The reason Luskin and other DI flacks are going after supposedly “atheistic” courses is because ID has been identified as a religiously motivated viewpoint—a form of creationism—which is why it was, properly, rejected by Judge Jones in the Dover case. It’s also bad science, and has been rejected as such by the scientific community. But if ID were shown to be true, and there were strong evidence for a designer, then ID could indeed be taught as science—so long as there’s no attempt to identify the designer, without evidence, as the Abrahamic God.
What ID should be doing, and what they initially promised to do, was scientific research demonstrating unequivocal evidence for design. We all know they haven’t done that, and so they’re reduced to grousing about evolution and saying that if anti-religious stuff is taught anywhere in a university, so must ID (or its apparent equivalent, “traditional religion”).
At any rate, the stuff supposedly promulgated in that non-science honors class (taught by Paul Ranieri, a devout Catholic and advisor to BSU’s student Catholic group!) wasn’t anti-ID material but atheism. And there’s not the slightest evidence that the Catholic professor was pushing atheism on his students. He was merely exposing them to a group of divergent viewpoints on all kinds of issues. This is the point made by the commenters below, and their comments are heartening. This is a refreshing contrast to the usual pack of yahoos who comment on letters like this.
I like the last comment, which makes the point that Gora didn’t ban ID at BSU—just its teaching as science and the endorsement of religion (or antireligion) in the teaching of its faculty. We already know that Eric Hedin endorsed religion and ID in his science class. We have absolutely no information about the “Dangerous Ideas” class. And, given Ranieri’s Catholicism, I strongly doubt whether he endorsed atheism in his course!