Eric Hedin, prohibited from teaching intelligent design at Ball State, retires and moves to a Christian university

About five years ago (can it have been that long?), I wrote a bunch of posts about Eric Hedin, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Ball State University (BSU) who was an advocate of intelligent design. My beef with the guy was that his honors course, “The Boundaries of Science”, included a lot of religiously-infused material on ID, which he was using to proselytize the students (Hedin is a devout Christian). Since Ball State is a public university, and the courts have ruled that ID, as a religiously motivated area that isn’t really science (viz., the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District case), Hedin was clearly violating the law by teaching ID. I complained and, as I recall, got the Freedom from Religion Foundation to write a letter to the school explaining Hedin’s illegal teaching.

Eventually, BSU decided that Hedin couldn’t teach his course any longer, and the President, Jo Ann Gora, issued a frank statement saying that “teaching religious ideas in a science class is clearly not appropriate”.  Hedin went back to his regular teaching, was eventually given tenure (I never wanted him punished, only to stop purveying lies to his students), and Ball State hired another Discovery Institute flack and IDer, Guillermo Gonzalez. The Discovery Institute gave me their 2014 Censor of the Year award for supposedly stifling Hedin’s freedom of speech—an award of which I remain immensely proud)—and life went on.

Now the Muncie Indiana Star Press, the paper where BSU is located, report that Hedin has retired from the school and taken a job at Biola University, a Christian school whose name was formerly the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (“Biola” is an acronym of that). Seth Slabaugh at the Star Press, who’s covered this story from the start, wrote the article below (click on screenshot to read it):

Seth interviewed me for the article, and I had the usual reaction to the promulgation of religious lies to students. Here’s a bit of the piece:

 I have very much enjoyed teaching and conducting research with my colleagues in the Department of Physics and Astronomy over the past 15 years,” Hedin told The Star Press via email recently. “This fall, I will begin a new academic position as professor and vice chair of the Department of Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif. I look forward to the opportunity to serve in Biola’s School of Science, Technology and Health, within an academic setting where the integration of science and faith flourishes.”

That, in fact, “is what got him into trouble at Ball State, trying to infuse a course in science with religious creationism, something that Ball State eventually barred him from doing since it violates both scientific truth and the First Amendment prohibiting religious proselytizing in the classroom,” said biologist Jerry Coyne, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution.

“I hope that Ball State now realizes what kind of man they hired, and how strongly he needed to mix the incompatible magisteria of science and faith,” Coyne told The Star Press. “Biola’s gain is also Ball State’s gain.”

Hedin refutes “Coyne’s insinuations of proselytizing in the classroom … My teaching is grounded in accepted science, and, as appropriate, allows for students to participate in free and open discussions of scientific evidence and its relevant implications.”

Sorry, but ID is not accepted science, and that’s what the courts have ruled. But, of course, since Biola is a private Christian school, Hedin is now free to put as much Jesus into his science courses as he wants. As a media official at Biola wrote Slabaugh, that school’s teaching of evolution seems, well, a bit diluted (my emphases):

[Hedin] has been hired as a professor of physics at Biola. To clarify, Biola University was founded as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, however, when Biola became a college in 1949, the acronym was dropped. In 1981, Biola became Biola University and is now ranked by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education as a Doctoral/Research-Intensive university. Biola provides robust coursework in science, technology and health in which evolutionary theory is discussed within a context of how best to understand God’s creative work. 
Biola is pleased that Dr. Hedin will be joining our team of outstanding professors this Fall. Biola’s School of Science, Technology and Health provides Biola students unparalleled opportunities for study in cutting-edge facilities with highly talented professors who are Christ-centered and student-focused. This rich educational experience provides a path for students to integrate their Christian faith with rigorous scientific study, enabling each one to build significant competencies with a depth of ethics and leadership potential in their chosen profession.

It has not escaped my notice (nor Slabaugh’s) that the dean of Biola’s School of Science is the former president of Ball State, Paul Ferguson, who was forced to resign from BSU on grounds unrelated to Hedin or religion. I’d bet that Ferguson had a hand in Hedin’s hiring.

In response to Hedin’s claim that he is teaching “accepted science” at Biola, I countered one more time:

Hedin had earned tenure at Ball State two years ago. He was making $70,096 at the time of his retirement. “His decision to retire was entirely his own,” BSU spokesperson Kathy Wolf said.

“As for intelligent design creationism being ‘grounded in accepted science,’ that’s simply untrue,” Coyne told The Star Press. “It’s rejected by the vast majority of biologists. Just as we don’t encourage students to debate alchemy versus chemistry or flat-earth versus round-earth views in the class, it’s not fruitful to weigh accepted science against rejected science. “

So, Hedin will be at Biola in California, making a good living by purveying lies to children, an endeavor which I consider totally reprehensible. Even if Hedin believes those lies, he’s simply brainwashing his students, and he should know better. The love of Jesus can really blind you to the truth about nature.

31 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    With the new acronym I can certainly think of a new name for BSU.

  2. Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The creationist community I was part of in college idolized the handful of professors who were known to reject “unguided” evolution. Their presence and their views gave us a feeling of legitimacy. And any time they were discouraged by the administration from proselytizing, we hailed them as persecuted martyrs. Hedin would have been one of our heroes. Needless to say, we had a rather distorted perspective.

  3. ladyatheist
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Just. Wow.

    I hope this means he continued to be “muzzled” at Ball State, and that the department hasn’t found other ways to sneak in creationism. I wonder if Guillermo Gonzalez will follow him there.

    Also… the former president of the university was one of them??? That’s a shocker. It was the president before Ferguson who had supported science, then coincidentally retired… and the school hired a closet fundy as their next president?

    Wow. Just. Wow.

    A “science” degree from Biola probably never meant much to real scientists, but perhaps this news will bring up the standards at Ball State. I can’t imagine being a Ph.D. grad from there during the dark years trying to get a decent job.

  4. Claudia Baker
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    “highly talented professors who are Christ-centered and student-focused”

    How fucking ridiculous.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      File this under “Definition of oxymoron”

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        yup

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      A new synonym for “preachers”? I wonder if Biola’s chemists are producing holy water for financial purposes.

  5. Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Not sure what Jesus has to do with ID, since if the universe was designed, intelligently or otherwise, it would have to have happened long before Jesus (or anyone else) came on the scene. Which puts me in mind of the old quip, “When the person who designed the first drawing board got it wrong, what did he go back to.”

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Jesus was inside God forever, or part of god forever, so he gets the credit for all the “great” work god did, but since he was human after all the atrocities happened, he doesn’t get the blame for those. It’s all very logical 😉

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        The ontology gets a bit complicated. It was retcon avant la lettre. 🙂

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      There several different positions that people take in the spectrum of Creationism/ID. These positions range from Young Earth Creationism and fixity of biological design, to Old Earth Creationism with evolution and speciation (but with you-know-who tweaking the probabilities here and there).
      I have not noticed that those who hold these views will debate one another. There is no consensus among them, but there seems to also be no interest in working out a consensus. It can only be because the truth is not what they are after.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        Consensus would require agreement on approximate dates; that would blow apart the big-tent right-wing coalition to smuggle it into public schools.

  6. JezGrove
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    “The love of Jesus can really blind you to the truth about nature.” Yup, and to the truth about a load of other stuff as well!

  7. Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    We have one well-known ID creationist teaching in a public Finnish university. The trouble is, this guy teaches teachers. His professorship is in a faculty of educational science.

    He’s taken somewhat seriously in some minority Christian circles trying to overturn gay marriage law and stuff like that.

    He’s a joke, but raises a question. What could be done about a tenured teacher who goes nuts years before the mandatory retirement age?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      There is a partial solution that is done here in the U.S., provided that other faculty and the administrators have the will to carry it out. That is to assign them to teach in small elective courses. The basic idea is to isolate them and minimize their contact with students.

  8. busterggi
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Wake me when the believers start publishing peer-reviewed scientific papers explaining the detail of ID.

  9. ploubere
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad to see him gone from Ball State. He should have never been hired in a science program, and that is the university’s fault.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      They also hired Ferguson and Gonzalez.

      • ploubere
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it seems there is a problematic trend.

  10. Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    This rich educational experience provides a path for students to integrate their Christian faith with rigorous scientific study…

    I don’t know how much “integration” the students are likely to experience. Have a gander at their Doctrinal Statement. Paragraph 2:

    The Bible, consisting of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, a supernaturally given revelation from God Himself, concerning Himself, His being, nature, character, will and purposes; and concerning man, his nature, need and duty and destiny. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are without error or misstatement in their moral and spiritual teaching and record of historical facts. They are without error or defect of any kind.

    …and it goes on from there, at great length. It includes plenty of testable assertions!

    • Posted July 27, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Wow, I’m sure their history department is just *loads* of fun.

  11. grasshopper
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Hedin refutes “Coyne’s insinuations of proselytizing in the classroom

    There is an increasing tendency for journalists to use “refute” instead of “dispute”. I think that facts must be adduced to support a refutation.

    My teaching is grounded in accepted science, and, as appropriate, allows for students to participate in free and open discussions of scientific evidence and its relevant implications.

    I think that if an open discussion of scientific evidence leads to religious implications, and that is what Hedin means by “relevant implications”, then the teacher ought to be saying “Lets get back to the science, because that is what I am being paid to teach.”

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      Ratemyprofessor.com has student complaints about prosletyzing in astronomy courses. Perhaps Hedin is just so goddy he can’t remember all the goddy things he says.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        A student said this in 2010 (the honors course):

        Extremely nice guy and an easy class. However, the class had an extremely Christian bias and he does not believe in evolution. Many of his views do not quite jive with those of mainstream science. Class consisted of weekly journals, short article review, and a 6 page paper.

        • ladyatheist
          Posted July 26, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

          Astronomy 100, 2009:

          Great teacher, nice guy. Constantly talks religion, as an atheist, I was slightly concerned my science teacher is a devout christian. If you have astronomy at Ball State, get Dr. Hedin. He is willing to help with just about everything in class, and gives out more extra credit. Gave me 20 ec points just for showing up one friday. Great guy.

          • Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

            Translation: Great professor, if you can endure his religious brainwashing, you are likely to pass just for showing up at the lectures.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      That first point, about ‘refute’ when the dissenter has done no such thing, really grinds my gears.

      It’s item #437 on the ‘things that make me yell at my TV list’ 😉

      cr

    • Seth Slabaugh
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Mr. Hedinused refute and I looked it up before using it as well, though not in a direct quote. Definition includes:

      to deny the truth or accuracy of: “refuted the allegations”

      • Posted July 27, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        Well, if enough people use “refute” when they mean “deny”, then “refute” will eventually come to mean “deny”(that’s how languages evolve). But till then, and despite the fact that dictionaries that are purely descriptive will record these erroneous usages, “refute” means “prove (something) to be false, esp. by means of argument or debate”. “Refute” should be used as a synonym for “deny” only in quotations, and followed by “[sic]”.

        GCM

  12. Posted July 27, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    It will be interesting to see (in a morbid curiousity sort of way) what sort of course contents he teaches at his new university, where his “true colours” are visible.


%d bloggers like this: