More creationist shenanigans at Georgia Southern University

The case of Emerson T. McMullen—an associate professor of history at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia—just gets weirder and weirder. He’s a diehard creationist and apparently has been foisting his creationism on his history-of-science and science-related classes for years. (Georgia Southern is a state institution, not a private school.) And the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has just found out that McMullen, canceling something called a “D-Day talk,” offered students instead extra credit for commenting on a creationist essay that he (McMullen) wrote! This happened just a few days ago

Here’s the offer of extra credit sent to his class:

10-16-2014 email to students to summarize %27No Evidence for Evolution%27 REDACTED

You can find the essay here; it’s called “No evidence for evolution” and it’s full of the worst creationist pap you can imagine. Here are just two paragraphs from its opening:

These examples show just how poorly science handles history. The beginning of life and the origin of living things are historical events. They are not happening now and scientists cannot observe them. We have no time machine to ascertain what really occurred. Yet we find evolutionists claiming to have the correct insights into these important historical events. Many assert that we came from chemicals and evolved from a common ancestor. Are these assertions based on science, or a naturalistic worldview?

For a list of well-known scientists who dissent from Darwinism, click here: 100 dissenting scientists. Scientists on this list include Russell W. Carlson, Prof. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, U. of Georgia; Jonathan Wells, PhD Molecular & Cell Biology-U.C. Berkeley; Dean Kenyon, Prof. Emeritus of Biology, San Francisco State; Marko Horb, Researcher, Dept. of Biology & Biochemistry, U. of Bath; Tony Jelsma, Prof. of Biology, Dordt College; Siegfried Scherer, Prof. of Microbial Ecology, Technische Universität München; Marvin Fritzler, Prof. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, U. of Calgary, Medical School; Lennart Moller, Prof. of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Inst., U. of Stockholm; Matti Leisola, Prof., Laboratory of Bioprocess Engineering, Helsinki U. of Technology; Richard Sternberg, Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute (2002).

Imagine those poor students who want or need extra credit. They don’t have to even discuss or analyze this piece of garbage written by McMullen; all they have to do is summarize it.  That is, he’s making students raise their grades by regurgitating his creationist ideas. I’d say that’s a pretty clear case of religious indoctrination.

McMullen’s espousal of blatant creationism has to be curtailed; he’s conducting his career by lying to his students, and making them repeat his lies.  This is unconscionable, and a clear violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The man is a fool, and a danger to science education in Georgia. I have of course called the attention of Georgia Southern’s biology department to McMullen’s foolishness, which, I’m sure, the department would firmly decry.

At any rate, Andrew Seidel, an attorney for the FFRF, sent the following letter to Marcia Copeland, the General Counsel in the Office of Legal Affairs at Georgia Southern. I reproduce it with permission.

Dear Ms. Copeland,
Please find attached additional evidence for the investigation into Prof. McMullen’s preaching/teaching.  Attached is a screenshot of an email Prof. McMullen sent to his students on October 16, 2014 granting them extra credit for summarizing an essay he wrote entitled, “NO EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION: Scientists’ Research and Darwinism.”  That paper can be found here: https://sites.google.com/a/georgiasouthern.edu/etmcmull/no-evidence-for-evolution-scientists-research-and-darwinism  I’ve also attached a screenshot of this link, which clearly shows the GSU masthead above the anti-evolution essay.
I trust you will forward this information to the investigators.  We look forward to hearing how the investigation is progressing (as confidentiality concerns permit).

Warmest,

Andrew L. Seidel
Attorney
Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.
PO Box 750
Madison, WI 53701

61 Comments

  1. Posted November 4, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Oxtapus *blueAction.

  2. francis
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    //

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      //

  3. Michael Day
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    As a Georgia resident, this gives me the Statesboro Blues.

  4. bobkillian
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    The 100 Dissenting Scientists are an amusing clown car.

    • Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t there a list of 100 scientists *called Steve* that do “believe” in evolution?

      /@

      • efctony
        Posted November 5, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

        Not 100. Last I heard it was up to 1,000

      • Dragon
        Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        Project Steve at NCSE

        http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

        Now at 1354.
        And none of the current Project Steve list has asked to be removed…very much the opposite of the creationist list of 100.

        • Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

          Are those folks asking to be removed because they now realise that they were wrong or are they just fed up with being bugged about being on that list?

          /@

          /@

  5. Posted November 4, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    It should be noted that McMullen’s course info is engaging in the stealth mode currently in fashion among antievolutionists, presenting the smiley face Intelligent Design (Discovery Institute edition) version of the issues, keeping his own strictly YEC beliefs under wraps. Even then, of course, McMullen’s arguments are sloppy, but the fact that he is playing by the ID/DI play book reminds us of the current apologetic landscape and how to focus criticism of them more tactically

  6. GBJames
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Jerry… that link just goes to the UC login page. (for me)

  7. mecwordpress
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne

    You may be delighted* to know that McMullen quotes you;

    “Many evolutionists today are Neo-Darwinists and so this article deals mostly with them. However, a few subscribe to Punctuated Equilibrium, an evolutionary theory proposed by Niles Eldredge and the late Stephen J. Gould. Here is two scientists’ criticism of Punctuated Equilibrium:

    In the past 25 years, Eldredge and Gould have proposed so many different versions of their theory that it is difficult to describe it with any accuracy. If a scientific theory is to be of any value as a tool for exploring the real world, it must have some stability as a set of propositions open to empirical test. Punctuated equilibrium has undergone so many transformations that it is hard to distinguish its core of truth from the “statement that morphological evolution sometimes occurs episodically.”

    The above quotation by Jerry A. Coyne and Brian Charlesworth, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, appeared in Science, Volume 276, Number 5311, 18 April 1997, pp. 337-341. Their point is that Punctuated Equilibrium is not testable. One criterion of science is that theories have to be testable, otherwise they are not scientific. So according to this criterion and to Coyne, Punctuated Equilibrium is not a scientific idea.”

    *if today is Opposite Day.

  8. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    What a crackpot. It’s bad enough that he foists these ideas on students but on top of that he actively discourages them from thinking for themselves – the very opposite of what you are supposed to be doing at university!

    How the university could be blind to all this is beyond me – I suspect he has ID allies in the administration.

    • eric
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      When you consider the student evaluations, one reasonably possible conclusion is that the students (or most of them) are so wise to this guy’s act that they don’t even bother mentioning the creationist stuff to their science professors. IOW they cynically do the assignments to get the grade, then move on to learning real science in their science courses without even blinking. At least, that is what the student evals somewhat say to me.

      • Filippo
        Posted November 4, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        Why do they take the course? A cynical easy A?

        • eric
          Posted November 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          Is that really that hard to believe? When I was in college the students used to trade info on the easy A courses all the time.

          • reasonshark
            Posted November 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

            Darn, the implications of that on student motivation are depressing. Whatever happened to love of learning for its own sake?

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted November 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

              Whatever happened to love of learning for its own sake?

              That probably went out of the window when student grants were replaced by loans which had to be repaid.

  9. h2ocean
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I think it is telling that he is asking people to SUMMARIZE it as oppose to CRITIQUING it, or writing a reflection or commentary on it.

    • eric
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Yes I agree. Its so unusual an assignment that it makes me wonder if he used to ask the students to write commentary on it, but didn’t like the results so he changed it.

      • Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        My critique would be like the first sentence of that famous review of Bob Dylan’s “Self Portrait” album: “What is this ….?

  10. Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m always fascinated by their claims of “100 dissenting scientists” as if that’s a lot. NZ has a population of only 4.5 million. It would be less than 1% of the scientists employed here in the major universities, research institutions, and government departments. Worldwide, it’s miniscule.

    I’d like to see them stack their numbers up against how many scientists accept evolutionary theory, and explain why all those who don’t accept it also belong to a strongly creationist-teaching religion.

    It’s all a bit pathetic really.

    • bric
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      This claim is very ably shown up by the Steve Project (Scientists who happen to be called Steve* who affirm their full acceptance of evolution – currently 1354)
      http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      “I’d like to see them stack their numbers up against how many scientists accept evolutionary theory”

      Do you know the “Project Steve”?
      ( http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve ) They have 1354 signatories, suggesting that more than 100 000 scientists support evolution as a major unifying principle in biology.

      Desnes

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted November 4, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        Yep. I have a couple friends on that list.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      100, eh? If they knew anything of the history of science they would have made it 99, or 101, or something… 100 is irresistibly reminiscent of “100 Authors Against Einstein” and Einstein’s killer riposte, “If I were wrong, one would have been enough”.

      • Wunold
        Posted November 4, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

        Try 300 (if they can even find such numbers) in regard to the battle of Thermopylae. It would be fitting, because like the Spartans they face an overwhelming opposition. They’d lack the ~7000 allies the Spartans had, but hey, life is tough.

  11. Mark R.
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    “These examples show just how poorly science handles history.”

    So true! The bible handles history so much better. Plus it’s all perfectly explained in just a few pages.

    I’m picturing a savvy student giving this idiot the finger saying: “Summarize this.”

    • Tulse
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      “These examples show just how poorly science handles history.”

      I’ve never understood this claim. Do these people not read murder mysteries or watch police procedurals? Those genres are all about people using evidence and reason to piece together an account of events they did not personally observe. Do they really think we can never speak of happenings that did not have reporting witnesses?

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 4:27 am | Permalink

      These examples show just how poorly religion handles history. The birth of Jesus and the crucifixion are historical events. They are not happening now and scientists cannot observe them. We have no time machine to ascertain what really occurred. Yet we find Christians claiming to have the correct insights into these purported historical events.

      FIFY

      • Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        Where you there (when they crucified my Lord)?

        [Johnny Cash video goes here]

        /@

  12. Walt Jones
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Wow, 100 on the list. Some organization like AIG or the Discovery Institute have over 700.

    On the other hand, Project Steve has 1,354, and they don’t even claim to be valid. http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

    • stuartcoyle
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      A quick search on the page of 100 Dissenting scientists reveals that they have exactly 1 Stephen, no Stevens, Steves nor Stephs.

      That make it 1354 to 1 in Evolution’s favour.

      What a stupid game.

      • stuartcoyle
        Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        And I forgot to mention, that Stephen is actually a Philosopher of Science, which really doesn’t count as a scientist, in the same way that a critic of music is not necessarily a musician or a commentator of sport is not necessarily a sportsperson.

        • Filippo
          Posted November 4, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          “Critics can’t even make music rubbing their legs together.”

          – Mel Brooks

          • John Scanlon, FCD
            Posted November 6, 2014 at 5:38 am | Permalink

            Nice pun!

  13. Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know the title of the course for which McMullen handed out this assignment? I’m struggling to come up with a title for which both D-Day and creationism might be on-topic.

    • stuartcoyle
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      It must all be because Hitler was an evil evolutionist, therefore D-Day was a fight
      for the cause of creationism.

      There you go, I’ve Godwined the whole thread.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I’m wondering if ‘D-Day’ is supposed to be a belated reference to Darwin Day (Feb 12.)

      • Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Doubtful. He specializes in both history of science and military history.

  14. johnpieret
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Well, at least he is realistic about his essay’s substance, if he thinks it can be summarized in two pages of double-spaced 14 point type.

  15. tubby
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Assigning your own essays as class reading is a thing? Was this an actual history class he assigned this to instead of a creative writing class?

    • eric
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      That’s really not the part that’s disturbing: I’ve known several professors that used their own texts in their classes. And most of the time there’s nothing wrong with that (though there will obviously be exceptions). In some sense its just a byproduct of the university system: the university may hire someone because of their publication record and demonstrated expertise. The whole point of doing that hire is to let that person impart their expertise to the students. So yes you absolutely have the professor impart their own research and ideas to the students, beacause that is (in some cases) the reason you brought them on in the first place: to let the recognized expert educate students on the subject of their expertise.

      The disturbing part is how blatantly old school creationist it is. And that he wants them to summarize his own position – speak it back to him – rather than do any critical thought on it.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        It would be fun to write the two pages just creatively mocking his paper. He doesn’t say that you won’t get the points if you summarize it with some extras. It would be even better if you could summarize it as a short story.

        • Wunold
          Posted November 4, 2014 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

          It would be fun (and very bold) to summarize it with one word, “Bullshit”, and back it up with enough evidence to defend it before the university’s officials.

    • tubby
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Oh, this isn’t even creative writing.

  16. Michael
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Mr. McMullen couldn’t be bothered to work on his assignment, and padded out his paper with quotes instead. I hope he’s not expecting a credit for this poor piece of work.

    • johnpieret
      Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      “Padded” isn’t quite the right word. At least 3/4 of the “essay” is just a list of quote mines he mostly got from, of all people, Walt Brown!

  17. Wayne Robinson
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    A book recommendation. There’s a new book out – “Earth’s Deep History” by Martin Ruddick, who trained as a palaeontologist and then changed careers to become a historian of science.

    There’s nothing much new about the history of the Earth or the history of Life (and how we know it happened), but it’s nicely packaged and written.

    He puts his criticism of creationism in an appendix regarding it as irrelevant to the story he’s telling. A modern anomaly, not something with a history of its own.

  18. ladyatheist
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Am I reading this right? Most of the “essay” is really a string of quotations from one source published by a creationist publisher? He didn’t even format it himself!

    I hope the reason he cancelled class was that he had an appointment with H.R. to choose between sudden retirement or administrative leave while they process his ouster.

  19. Draken
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink


    My summary of Prof McMullen's
    "No evidence for evolution"

    Student: Draken, stud.no 1984xxxx

    CODSWALLOP.

    • Posted November 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      tt tags? or code?

      /@

      • Chris
        Posted November 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        I think that we need more marquee just to annoy the designers amongst us.

  20. Randy Schenck
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry but this must be Georgia Stupid University. Your tax dollars at waste.

  21. Posted November 4, 2014 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    14 point font? I’ve never heard of that. Why not just go for 96 point instead and give extra credit for the first page saying, “JESUS” and the second saying, “SAVES”?

  22. Jeffery
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    McMullen will be defiant to the very end, of course; it’s obvious that he’s one of the “committed” (“anointed to bear the message”, in his mind) types who equates resistance to the “secular” law of man as a way of demonstrating the strength of his faith in his spurious belief system. I do enjoy seeing these arrogant ones, who have been allowed to do what they do for so long that they think they’re entitled to do it, get “slapped down”. It’s gonna be the “Whack-A-Creationist” game until the last one of these morons is dead; they don’t give up!


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