A team of us, including Richard Dawkins, Professor Ceiling Cat, and, especially, the lawyers and co-presidents of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), have gotten together to protest the religious proselytizing of a professor at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia, Emerson T. McMullen. Although an associate professor of history, McMullen teaches courses like these, which he heavily imbues with Christian creationism:
- HIST 3435 The Scientific Revolution
- HIST 4336 Science and Religion
- HIST 4534 Dinosaurs and Extinction
Georgia Southern University is a public school, and so teaching creationism as science violates the First Amendment. If you have any doubts about McMullen’s views, take a look at his personal website at Georgia Southern (that site has a disclaimer that it doesn’t reflect the university’s views, but it’s still hosted on their server). You’ll be horrified at how mired the man is in wrongheaded Biblical creationism.
I was given some material about McMullen, including his exam questions, some student evaluations, and so on. As one example, here’s an excerpt from one of McMullen’s study guides listing two potential essay questions and the answers he would expect from students. There’s no doubt that this is heavy with creationism:
Essay Question #9: What is Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) known for?
1) Louis Pasteur, in his old age, was one of the most famous men of his time, and rightfully so. 2) Pasteur’s germ theory of fermentation eventually led to the pasteurization processes. 3) he saved the beer, wine, and silkworm industries of France. 4) He was the first to vaccinate sheep against anthrax. 5) He used vaccination for the first time against rabies. 6) He discovered optical isomers and thus founded stereochemistry. 7) Coupled with skillful experiment, he showed as conclusively as possible that life did not come from non-life. 8) Thus, there is no such thing as spontaneous generation. 9) Although some “scientists” today claim that life originated from non-life, this does not explain the origin of our genetic information. Science shows that earth, air, water and other materials have no genetic information. 10) Pasteur correctly stated that the great principle of biology is that life comes from life.
Essay Question #11: Discuss the pros and cons of Darwin’s idea of evolution (descent, by modification and natural selection, from a common ancestor to man, complex species)
Pros: It was appealing at a time of great progress. It appeared scientific. Darwin was upper class in a class-conscious society. Some like its naturalism.
Cons: Darwin had no proof of evolution, only of adaptation (basically, change within a being’s genetic code). There was (and is) no solid evidence for descent from a common ancestor, and for the multitude of predicted transitional forms from one species to another. There was (and is) evidence that the earliest animals (like the trilobites) were complex, not simple. (The eye of the trilobite was fully adapted right at the start.) There was (and is) evidence that the earliest animals were very diverse. Darwin’s idea went against the fact that genetic information degrades from generation to generation, which explains why we see extinction today and not evolution. The implications of evolultion’s naturalism also undercut Judeo-Christian morality, replacing it with notions like “might makes right” and that the “unfit” do not deserve to survive. This laid the foundation for eugenics, which led to sterilization for the “unfit” in the US.
These questions (as well as my criticisms of McMullen’s expected answers) are reproduced in the FFRF and Dawkins Foundation’s letter to Georgia Southern (see below); I’ve put them above for easy access. But that’s only a part of McMullen’s injection of God into the classroom; other disturbing instances are described in the FFRF and RDFRS’s letter. Another complaint is that he gave his students extra credit to go see the execrable anti-atheist movie “God’s Not Dead”!
After reviewing this stuff, I gave the FFRF my “expert” opinion on McMullen’s scientific claims, and the FFRF and the Dawkins Foundation have cowritten a letter protesting McMullen’s proselytizing, which clearly violates the Constitution. The FFRFs announcement is here, and you can find a pdf of the letter here. Do read the letter if you want to see how bad things are at Georgia Southern, and have a look at some sample student evaluations of McMullen at the end of the letter. I’ve also put those here:
This is bad stuff, and we’re all insistent that it has to stop. If the school is smart, it will bring McMullen’s preaching to an end pronto. If they don’t, they’ll almost certainly have a lawsuit on their hands.
Besides, I want to retain my status as the Discovery Institute’s “Censor of the Year”!
Special thanks to FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel who worked with me on this and, as always, to Dan and Annie Laurie for their tireless work for the Foundation.