Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is It Illegal to Teach Intelligent Design Creationism in American Universities?

Jerry Coyne has discovered that a course at Ball State University (Indiana) teaches science from a viewpoint that's sympathetic to Intelligent Design Creationism [“Science” course at Ball State University sneaks in religion]. It looks like a really bad course and I'm glad that it's getting a lot of negative publicity. It looks like the instructor is advocating Intelligent Design Creationism.

I defend the right of a tenured professor to teach whatever he/she believes to be true no matter how stupid it seems to the rest of us.1 I'm troubled by the fact that some people are calling for the instructor's dismissal and writing letters to the chair of his department. We really don't want to go down that path, do we? Academic freedom is important and it's especially important to defend it when a professor is pushing a view that we disagree with.

But that's not the only troubling thing about Jerry Coyne's post and the comments it has stimulated. Jerry thinks that it is unconstitutional (i.e. illegal) for a university professor to be advocating religion in a publicly-funded university. He says,
Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana, is a public university (i.e., part of the state university system). As such, it must abide by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which has been interpreted as disallowing religious viewpoints (or religiously based theories) in public-school science classes. It is of course kosher to teach courses on the history of religion, or on the relationship between science and religion, but those must not pretend to be “science” courses, and must present balanced views—they can’t push a particular religious viewpoint.

But it’s come to my attention that a science course at Ball State University—actually two courses, because it seems to be cross-listed—is little more than a course in accommodationism and Christian religion, with very little science. It’s my firm opinion that teaching this course at a state university not only violates the First Amendment, but cheats the students by subjecting them to religious proselytizing when they’re trying to learn science.
Is he right? Does the US Constitution really specify that you can't advocate a religious viewpoint in a university classroom?

That's very scary. It probably means that you can't criticize religion either. Does this mean that there's going to be a bevy of lawyers on both sides of the issue examining the content of university courses all across America?

UPDATE:
PZ Myers: I have to disagree with Jerry Coyne


1. There are some limitations, but let's not quibble over details. Teaching that Michael Behe, Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and Bill Dembski might be right don't qualify as exceptions.

79 comments:

  1. "...as such, it must abide by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which has been interpreted as disallowing religious viewpoints (or religiously based theories) in public-school science classes." The key word being "science." One can teach whatever they want, but they can't teach Inteligent design and call it science. See Kitzmiller v. Dover.

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    1. And just the other day the mighty exhibit A used by Ken Miller in the Dover trial has fallen, fancy that.

      http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/3/559.full.pdf

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    2. Which is, of course, irrelevant in terms of what the law currently IS. Perhaps this is another opportunity for ID advocates to attempt to establish their views as scientific under the law, in which case they should welcome the challenge.

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    3. Andre,

      Could you explain this? I'm not familiar enough with the trial to know what "the mighty exhibit A" was. How does that paper you linked dispose of that evidence, whatever it may have been?

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    4. Andre,

      you're citing a study that is based entirely on evolutionary methods that employ evolutionary assumptions, genius.

      Can you cite some discoveries made based on assuming that genes were poofed into existence magically?

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    5. LOL, shall we check if Andre has read the paper and understood it? Or has he only been to EnV for his daily dose of predigested pulp?

      http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/04/an_icon_of_the_071421.html

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    6. Yes Andre, please explain the upshot of the "important" paper you just cited, in technical terms.

      We'll Google your response to see if it's copied n pasted.

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    7. I see now. Looks as if Andre and his source failed to note that the beta-globin pseudogene is hypothesized to be functional because of evolutionary sequence conservation, which is exactly the main clue Larry and others here have been pointing to as evidence of functionality, and something that most pseudogenes lack.

      Now, since Miller, in the trial, used the pseudogene as evidence of common descent, we don't care all that much whether it's nonfunctional as long as the mutation that renders it no longer protein-coding is the same in several lineages. Which it is.

      So, to recap: the paper doesn't support Andre's claims either about the trial exhibit or about junk DNA. In fact it would tend to refute his claims if he were only capable of reading.

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    8. "In fact it would tend to refute his claims if he were only capable of reading."

      He's capable of reading, alright. What he isn't capable of doing is understanding what he's reading, so he resorts to have an IDiot on a creo website "interpret" the results for him so that he can come here and parrot them. Then he makes a fool of himself, as usual.

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  2. Speaking hypothetically, would you suggest any sort of action to take against a tenured professor who taught in his Intro to Astronomy course that the earth is flat, that the sun goes around it, and that the stars are tiny objects embedded in a solid heavenly roof?

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    1. In most departments such a professor wouldn't be assigned the task of teaching introductory astronomy or they would be reassigned if it were discovered that they were teaching nonsense.

      There's nothing wrong with matching teaching assignments to the qualifications of the professor. There's nothing wrong with criticizing your colleagues if they have stupid ideas. What you can't do is punish a professor just for having ideas that you disagree with.

      In this case, writing to the departmental chair and publicizing your letter will have the exact opposite effect from what you expect. That chair now has to bend over backwards to protect the academic freedom of his colleague.

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    2. Can you deny tenure for ideas you disagree with?

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    3. No, of course not. Professors are these very special human beings for whom even worst possible display of incompetence has no real repercussion to their professional lives.



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    4. Larry Sez: "What you can't do is punish a professor just for having ideas that you disagree with."

      No, you've dodged the question. If he's teaching that the Earth is flat, he must employ factual falsehoods to do so. He's not just disagreeing with me, he's disagreeing with the facts.

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    5. A agree with Diogenes. I think we may be confusing what the issue is here. The point is not if this teacher is religious or not or if the questions raised in his course lead to a religious discussion. He is certainly free to have a course were the scientific facts and theories are used as a backdrop for discussing philosophical/religious ideas and concepts. I don't have any problem with the idea of discussing the social implications of religious facts and theories.

      However, that doesn't seem to be the case here. He is using arguments from Dembsky, Behe, Denton, etc that have been debunked countless times and that are neither facts nor valid scientific arguments. Then he uses them, apparently, to promote his religious/teleological views in the class. Notice for example that apparently he doesn't question if the Earth is the teleological product of the cosmological evolution of the universe. He apparently doesn't question either if there is a "meaning of life"; he simply assumes there is. And so forth and so forth.

      So the problem here is that this is not a science course. It's not even good philosophy. If he wants to discuss these themes than he should present a *balanced* view of pro and con arguments from design, and he should be aware that those arguments are scientifically invalid and present the articles that have shown them to be so. Otherwise this is the equivalent of teaching a science course were the Earth is presented as being flat and with the Sun orbiting around it. Would this be acceptable for a science course? No, and neither should this course be. This professor is entitled to he's own views, but presenting proven fallacies as facts and scientific theory is not permissible in a science course.

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    6. Regarding the whole "constitutional" thing, I'm not from the US so I can't pronounce my opinion on it. I' don't have the knowledge not the social US experience to argue for or against. However this teacher apparently is a)promoting religious views and b)based on pseudoscience. That seems to me like going against any constitution in any secular country in the world.

      Plus, the "constitutional" argument is not the real issue here, and again Jerry Coyne is just indulging in some of his occasional dumb arguments and over-reactions, which is one of the reasons why I don't follow his blog. The real issue is that this course is neither science nor philosophy, it's just religious promotion based on pseudoscience.

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    7. @Diogenes,

      I did not dodge the question. Many of my colleagues teach parts of biochemistry that are factually incorrect. I try to convince them that they are wrong but I don't try to get them fired. When the problem becomes severe I recommend that they stop teaching.

      In order for universities to promote critical thinking and encourage skepticism, our society has to tolerate a diversity of opinion among professors. Unfortunately, that means we have to protect the kooks as well as those who are going to win Nobel Prizes for being ahead of their field. We can't start down the path of setting up thought police who decide what's factually correct and what's not. Don't you see where that will inevitably lead?

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    8. @DK,

      I understand how bitter you are about not getting a faculty position but I wish you'd try a little harder to understand the complexities of the issues. As you know very well, I'm not a big fan of the jobs that many of my university colleagues are doing and I don't hesitate to criticize them when necessary. However, I will stand up for academic freedom and fight those who want to turn universities into glorified high schools, or get rid of them altogether as you have suggested.

      As for levels of incompetence, I'm much more comfortable defending universities than many other large organizations such as corporations, banks, and governments.

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    9. Right, I also oppose thieving politicians because I failed to get into politics. And greedy lawyers that make a mockery of justice - because I failed to get into law school. Good thinking.

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    10. We can't start down the path of setting up thought police who decide what's factually correct and what's not. Don't you see where that will inevitably lead?

      Larry, this is richly ironic. It is the exact reason teaching religion as fact in a state-supported school, i.e., for legal purposes an arm of the government, violates the law. Because we cannot allow the state - literally, the police - to use its power and the taxes it collects to enforce a religion-driven orthodoxy of ideas. Don't you see where that will inevitably lead (has inevitably led, historically)?

      What about classes, paid for by legally enforced tax levees, on human sexuality teaching that students who experienced homosexual feelings were perverts who would suffer eternal torture in Hell? Would supporting such classes be a blow for academic freedom, or support for state suppression of the students' freedom of thought?

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    11. @judmarc,

      There's nothing ironic about my comments. We're talking about academic freedom in universities and how that has to be protected.

      However, now that you mention it. I'm also opposed to the thought police interfering with what's being taught in the public schools. The situation there is more complicated—especially in America—but as a general rule I favor teaching the controversy whenever possible.

      These days, I'm as much concerned about the politically correct thought police as I am about right-wing conservatives. You and your allies want to suppress all mention of religion in public schools and you are using the law to enforce your views. Just because I happen to agree with your worldview doesn't mean I support your tactics.

      You are still advocating thought police tactics and, in the long run, that's bad for democracy. Besides, we now have plenty of evidence that the tactic doesn't work. Evolution is still being ignored in public schools and the creationists have not been defeated by court victories based on the American Constitution.

      Isn't it time to try another tactic? How about open debate as a way of defeating creationism rather than trying to suppress it?

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    12. You and your allies want to suppress all mention of religion in public schools and you are using the law to enforce your views.

      Heavens (pun intended) no! I would very much favor teaching the (non-existent, scientifically speaking) "controversy." But the impression I gained from your post (perhaps inaccurate?) is that there was no controversy being taught, but religious orthodoxy presented as fact.

      Religious orthodoxy misrepresented as fact in the classroom doesn't perturb me on a legal level unless public monies, collected on a compulsory basis under the state's taxing power, are used to pay for it.

      I very much respect John Pieret's credentials in this regard, but I don't think the legal issue is quite a "slam dunk" (though admittedly with today's Supreme Court, even more favorable to religion than prior Court lineups that found municipally funded manger scenes during Christmas to be secular rather than religious in nature, I might be arguing uphill here).

      Isn't it time to try another tactic? How about open debate as a way of defeating creationism rather than trying to suppress it?

      When a teenage girl and her family are forced to leave town due to death threats after she successfully sued to avoid having enforced prayer at school football games, a teacher trying to hold an open debate on creationism would be taking a tremendous risk in the current US political-religious climate.

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  3. This would be illegal in a city/county/town high school. Universities usually provide more choice of courses than high schools and university students are adults. So it is unclear to me that this would also be deemed illegal in a university context. But the EC restrictions absolutely do apply to state universities and to all other government institutions. It doesn't bother me that maybe it could be deemed illegal in the context of getting credit for science education. Jerry Coyne acknowledges that such a course would be legal at a state university if the course credit was allocated to philosophy instead of to science.

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  4. Don't think it is illegal. It is in Ball State's interest not to have crappy courses, though, and they can take steps to improve that situation.

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  5. Is he right? Does the US Constitution really specify that you can't advocate a religious viewpoint in a university classroom?

    No. Because students are not required by the government to attend Ball State University and take this course. Therefore the state is not advocating a religious position.

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    1. But it's paid for by taxpayers.

      How is a taxpayer-funded college legally different than a taxpayer-funded grammar school? Legally.

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    2. Because students are not legally required to attend Ball State or take this class. That's how it's different. Also, just because some tax dollars go to the university does not mean those funds are supporting the course. There's something called tuition that does support this course directly, but again only students who choose to attend BSU pay it, also only tuition dollars tend to follow the courses (usually). That's why courses with little to no enrollment get discontinued.

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    3. Lorax is right. The Constitution declares that there will be no officially sanctioned or 'state' religion, so that all may be free to practice religions as they choose, and none may impose their religion on another. So in public schools, where the curriculum is basically set, you can't teach a Christian-centric 'science' course. You also can't have an atheist science teacher using the course to persuade children that their religion is wrong.
      In universities, it's different. If someone at Ball State wished to teach a course labeled as a science class that defended Native American creation myths, students should have the option of taking it or not. Universities can't offer everything, just by the natural limitations of having teachers to teach everything. So they are not really 'universal' although some of the really big schools like Ohio State seem to offer just about every course under the sun. But if they can hold a class that enough students are interested in attending, that is hardly 'illegal'.

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    4. the other side of the coin is that if the United States starts declaring what is and isn't 'knowledge', rather than allowing inquisitive minds to sort these things out for themselves, you are getting into Orwellian territory.

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    5. Bullshit. No one is required to attend public schools or public colleges and it's legally irrelevant. You can take your kid out of public school and put him in private school or home school him.

      If taxpayers pay for it, it cannot promote religion. Period. End of story. Cut the bullshit.

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    6. Dio, get elected or become a SCOTUS member, then. "Promote religion" is a meaningless concept at the university level. Students take courses on Hindu mythology, Buddhism, whatever, at big universities like UT, OSU, Cal, etc. You can get PhDs in 'Asian Philosophy and Religion'.

      You can draw some weird line between 'teaching' and 'promoting' if you want, but right now it looks like that isn't your job.

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    7. Diogenes, You may not like the fact that the course is not illegal, but the fact remains it is not. You're beating the tax dollars horse to death but ignoring things like tuition, which actually pays for courses. Using your argument, we shouldn't fund roads because some of them lead to churches and many people use them to get to church.

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    8. Diogenes:

      If taxpayers pay for it, it cannot promote religion. Period. End of story. Cut the bullshit.

      The military pays for chaplains. Many state universities have religion departments and even schools.

      The case that held that teaching creationism in public schools was unconstitutional was Edwards v. Aguillard. Justice Brennan, in his decision specifically said that the courts are "particularly vigilant in monitoring compliance with the Establishment Clause in elementary and secondary schools." The theory is that the courses and their content are mandatory if you go to a government school and that is putting a government stamp of approval on particular religious beliefs. While I don't believe that SCOTUS has addressed university courses, I suspect the argument would be that there is less government influence over course requirements and content in universities and, therefore, no apparent endorsement of particular religious views.

      The answer to Larry's question as to whether the US Constitution specifies that you can't advocate a religious viewpoint in a university classroom is: "not that anyone presently knows."

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    9. John Pieret:

      The theory is that the courses and their content are mandatory if you go to a government school and that is putting a government stamp of approval on particular religious beliefs. While I don't believe that SCOTUS has addressed university courses, I suspect the argument would be

      You suspect. So, IOW you've got nothing.

      So, none of you can point to any EVIDENCE OF substantial difference between colleges and public schools. You speculate, but you got nothing.

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    10. Lorax

      You're beating the tax dollars horse to death

      Like the Founding Fathers of the US did on this very topic-- like the author of the US Constitution, Madison, did-- as he wrote often on the First Amendment and his, Madison's, standards for implementing it.

      Madison's standards were all about tax payer dollars; he said that if even three pennies of his were used to fund a religious belief, then he's compelled to support someone else's religion.

      THREE PENNIES.

      That was the standard of the Founding Fathers. If you don't like it, you must prove their interpretation of the document they wrote is wrong.

      Using your argument, we shouldn't fund roads because some of them lead to churches and many people use them to get to church.

      Pathetic argument. If taxpayer dollars can be used to build a college and pay college profs using apologetics to convert people, why can't taxpayer dollars can be used to build a church and pay reverends to convert people?

      Diogenes, You may not like the fact that the course is not illegal, but the fact remains it is not.

      You may not like the fact that the course is unconstitutional, but the fact remains that it is, by the standards the Founding Fathers considered relevant.

      You have to prove that the Founding Fathers' interpretation of the document they wrote is wrong.

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    11. @Diogenes,

      It might be worth pointing out that John Pieret is a lawyer with 20 years of experience in the evolution-creation debates.

      I hate to break it to you, but I trust his opinion on this issue far more than I trust yours.

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    12. Larry,

      I hate to break it to you, but I trust James Madison's opinion on this issure far more than I trust John Pieret's.

      What use is Pieret's vast intellect if he does not USE it for something, like forming an argument based on facts?

      Here's the guy whose opinion matters more than Pieret's:

      “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute threepence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?”

      [James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, 20 June 1785]

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    13. James Madison has been dead for 177 years. The people who count today are people like Anton Scalia.

      No wonder your country is so screwed up.

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    14. Wow, walk away for a couple of days and your reputation gets trashed (and praised!).

      Diogenes, I hate to break it to you but, in case you haven't noticed, our government doesn't actually work the way Madison envisioned. Now, at least for the most part, I'm firmly with you that things would be much better if it worked the way Madison wanted it to. But it doesn't. It didn't work that way even in Madison's day.

      So what we have here is a failure to communicate. I'm talking about the America that not only pays for military (and Congrssional) chaplains and religious depatments in state schools, but pays for "In God We Trust" on all our money, and numerous other examples of taxpayer support for at least generic religion. That is our government on the ground, as opposed to some ideal of some people long in the past.

      With that understanding, it is hardly a stretch that, under our present constitutional jurisprudence, adults at a public university will be deemed capable of choosing their majors and electives in such a way as not to be unduly burdened by religious ideas. Nor is it clear that the indirect funding of such courses by state or Federal funding is unconstitutional under the current interpretation of that document. That's an empiric fact, not a consumation devoutly to be wished.

      Larry:

      No wonder your country is so screwed up.

      Yeah, yeah. Because Canada is perfect. Still paying taxes for Catholic schools, Larry? I want my country to be better just as much as you want yours to be.

      judmarc:

      I certainly wasn't asserting that the question is a "slam dunk." Quite the contrary. My point was that nobody knows, at the present time, which way SCOTUS would go on public funding of religious courses in public universities ... though my educated guess would be that it would not rule it unconstitutional.

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    15. John, thanks for your latest response. Re your educated guess about SCOTUS, I fear you might be correct. Don't know if there's an intellectual heir to Rehnquist, who was able to write "with a straight face" that manger scenes are secular (just as he was earlier able to write that distinctions on the basis of pregnancy are not gender-related), but that wouldn't necessarily stop the current lineup from following those precedents.

      I have an educated guess of my own regarding whether portrayals of Vishnu or Mohammed in the public square paid for with tax dollars would get a pass as "secular"....

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  6. Why do you always say ID creationism and type IDiots all the time?

    How would you feel if I refered to you as ALL (Atheist Low-Life) or NDP (Naturalist Dunk Pile)?

    Why don't you address the real issues instead of making a Larry Moron of yourself.

    Blogs will be the "Origin of Species" of the future and you will be indentified as Galileo's Simplicio.

    Is that what you want?

    Stop acting as a sex deprived teenager!

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    1. Pepe,

      I don't have very many rules on Sandwalk but one of them is don't call me names without justification. You now have two strikes against you. You and your next offensive post will disappear without further warning.

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  7. The object of education is to teach the truth.
    Origin subjects are about teaching the truth. They are about conclusions on origins.
    Therefore censorship either means the truth ids not the objective and so the student is/may be getting what is not true or the state has decided as settled fact that the censored material is not true.
    If the state is saying some doctrines of religion are officially NOT true then this is a state opinion on religion.
    I understand its illegal for the state to make this conclusion and enforce it.

    Banning creationism in science class is plain old censorship of conclusions.
    Its plain old hostility to Christianity just like in some Islamic countries I understand.
    The logic here must be submitted too.

    The very protestant Yankee and Southern people who created the constitution back in the day DID NOT prohibited the truth being taught about origins.
    They did not make teaching God/.Genesis illegal in science class.
    Its an absurdity.
    In fact the people would of banned any opposition to same.

    Public schools must be about teaching the truth.
    ITs too bad if God or Genesis is considered truth by historic North America.
    Who are these people telling us we are wrong, to be censored , or fired.?
    What movie are we in? THE UNBELIEVERS.!!

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  8. My reaction is that we should "fight our corner" but that the way to do it is not via lawyers and courts but by appealing to the Math and Science departments of Ball State with evidence, such as the fact that all of Dr. Behe's proposed examples of irreducible complexity have been debunked (by the identification of evolutionary precursors), and that Dembski's "complex specified information" is a non-starter mathematically (see work by Shallit, et al) - which he himself admitted once at UD before taking it back. All it would take would be about a half-hour's work at talk.origins to show that everything mentioned in the course syllabus is junk science, not worth anyone's tuition money.

    I do wonder at the ethics of teaching a science course based entirely on ID sources, with no conflicting sources (such as Dr. Ken Miller) used. If I were a student there and somehow found myself in that course I think I would consider myself justified in suing the university for misleading me about the state of scientific knowledge.

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  9. I teach ID creationism in a state university classroom. Of course, I teach the evidence against it, but my right to do that means someone could also teach the evidence for it. As a matter of academic freedom, the university administration needs to keep its hands off the curriculum and pedagogy.

    Of course, where it really gets opposed is by one's colleagues. We have a curriculum to support. Someone flouting that curriculum is not helping, and is going to face a lot of internal pressure to get back in line.

    I've been in one department where we had such a crank. He ended up getting squeezed out of the core curriculum and ended up stuck with the odds and ends. I know of another who was just so awful at his job (and he'd somehow gotten tenure before losing his mind) that he was basically ostracized and given no teaching assignments -- he was on indefinite vacation. He was draining his department of a faculty line, so there was all kinds of administrative pressure to get him out...and he was eventually paid off and retired.

    But no, there's no legal recourse to say a professor *must* teach some particular idea.

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    1. That's exactly what happens in my experience as well. I'm shocked that some university professors don't seem to understand why it has to be this way.

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    2. another who was just so awful at his job (and he'd somehow gotten tenure before losing his mind) that he was basically ostracized and given no teaching assignments -- he was on indefinite vacation.

      I'm shocked that some university professors don't seem to understand why it has to be this way.


      Good one, Larry. Yeah, keeping crap permanently employed should be a high priority. Ummm.



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    3. Yeah my first thought was wondering what his departmental peers think of this course being taught. Looking at the syllabus and reading resources, it is pretty bad. One would think it would become subject to intense internal pressure...if I were on that faculty I might at least advocate that a disclaimer be placed in the course description similar in nature to the disclaimer Lehigh U Dept of Biology has on its website re: Behe or request that the course not be offered thru the Faculty of Science. Departments and Faculties do and should self-regulate themselves.

      DK said: Yeah, keeping crap permanently employed should be a high priority. Ummm.

      Tenure obviously pisses you off, but surely you know why it exists unless you view professors as no more than servers of state-prescribed curricula to children.

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  10. I think many of you are missing the fact that this class is supposedly teaching about 'controversies' in science but only representing one side, i.e., it is a misrepresentation.

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    1. If we held all university courses to this standard (i.e. present both sides of a controversial issue) then not many would pass muster.

      Perhaps you've heard of problems with teaching evolution from an adaptationist perspective, or teaching that junk DNA is a myth, or any of the other problems we've discussed on this blog? And what about courses in American history or business management? Do you really think that the British get fair treatment when discussing the Revolutionary War or that the benefits of socialism are explained to business students?

      Returning to science, believe it or not, there are many scientists who are opposed to the idea of teaching the controversy.

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    2. It's a bait-and-switch! Students sign up for a science course and get a religion course.

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  11. I think this is the issue: if someone signs up for a science class at a public university, then they have the reasonable expectation that they will be taught science and the professor isn't at liberty to promote religion to a captive audience.

    Now if the class has a religious component, then it is reasonable for the student to expect that religion be discussed.

    Ollie ("Harriet" is an old joke name)

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    1. If you read Coyne's post, the outline of the course makes it very clear what is being taught. Furthermore, these days uni students have lots of resources with which to research a course before signing up, such as "Rate My Professor", a popular website that Coyne cites in his post. It is dubious that some wide eyed student is going to walk in and be shocked, SHOCKED that the course presents a theistic viewpoint.

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    2. No doubt they may not be shocked and I don't doubt that because of their religious upbringing many students will even like the course. However, given the suggested and/or required reading for course, it is inescapable that the students will be told outright fabrications such that: 1) there is no or little evidence that supports evolution and 2) there is considerable doubt about the validity of theory even in the scientific community.

      These two points (and likely others) are outright and unmitigated lies generated for political reasons by the ID community. My fear is that students will not know this and will be unable to ascertain the truth because no resources challenging these positions are offered in the course nor will any other course probably even refer to the ID position on "the controversy". While differing opinions in any field are fine, students should at least be able to trust that they are not being fed outright bald-faced lies.

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    3. ...I mean, specifically with regard to point two above, students since they have no history within the scientific community will have trouble ascertaining that there is in fact little or no sense of controversy in the scientific community regarding the overall validity of theory of evolution.

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    4. SRM, there are ways to weed out dishonest courses that don't call for putting the government in charge of what does and doesn't get taught in universities. Most of them have already become little more than job farms as it is.

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    5. there are ways to weed out dishonest courses that don't call for putting the government in charge of what does and doesn't get taught in universities.

      Exactly. We don't want a world ruled by big brother. Really. Why do people have such a hard time understanding this?

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    6. "SRM, there are ways to weed out dishonest courses that don't call for putting the government in charge of what does and doesn't get taught in universities."

      On another note but somewhat related to this: In my homecountry every University, no matter if it is public or private, has it's curriculum evaluated by a state entity that has the power to give a permit for the university to teach the courses/programs or may fail them. If the quality of the teaching is not deemed to be acceptable, that university will have it's rights to teach revoked. This has happened in the past with some private universities (here in Europe the "good" universities are the public ones, with private universities being basically for people who don't get into the public ones).

      Isn't it so in the US?

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    7. What I mean is, if a course offered actively promotes religious beliefs (instead of studying them as in religion courses) based on a fallacious presentation of scientific theory and facts, isn't there any state entity that has the power to take measures in the US?

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    8. SRM, there are ways to weed out dishonest courses that don't call for putting the government in charge of what does and doesn't get taught in universities.

      I know, hence my earlier comment regarding self-regulation up-thread.

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    9. I think the only outside entity that could influence this would be the accreditation organizations, which are not government agencies. There is one for the university as a whole and a bunch for specific subjects

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    10. The military pays for chaplains.

      There is legal tension between the free exercise and anti-establishment clauses of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. This doesn't mean the anti-establishment clause does not exist. If the university course in question purported to be teaching religiously inspired ideas, that would make for more of a free exercise argument as against the anti-establishment argument. Though your argument that university students are not quite so much a "captive audience" as high school students may hold some weight, I do not know that it would be at all dispositive. Religious monuments on federally owned land maintained with government tax dollars have been taken down, and no one was being forced to visit them.

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  12. From wiki,
    'Academic freedom
    An important idea in the definition of a university is the notion of academic freedom. The first documentary evidence of this comes from early in the life of the first university. The University of Bologna adopted an academic charter, the Constitutio Habita,[4] in 1158 or 1155,[5] which guaranteed the right of a traveling scholar to unhindered passage in the interests of education. Today this is claimed as the origin of "academic freedom".[6] This is now widely recognised internationally - on 18 September 1988 430 university rectors signed the Magna Charta Universitatum,[7] marking the 900th anniversary of Bologna's foundation. The number of universities signing the Magna Charta Universitatum continues to grow, drawing from all parts of the world.'

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  13. Professor Moran:

    Would you agree that teaching deceit in schools and universities should also be just as illegal?

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    Replies
    1. No.

      I don't want lawyers to be making decisions about what's right and wrong in science.

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    2. Professor Moran:

      I others words, you don't see it to be a problem teaching your students obvious and proven-beyond any doubt, lies?

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    3. No, I see it as a major problem that has to be fixed. Please try and keep up.

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    4. Professor Moran:

      Thank you very much for your honesty. I really appreciate that. I too don't believe that lawyers should be making decisions about what should and shouldn't be taught in schools. However, problems need to fixed and a lot of them. Having an engineering background and physics, I see problems in my own backyard. Unfortunately, someone like Lawrence Maxwell Krauss doesn't help us Canadians. Dawkins is your problem, but Krauss is psychotic to many physicists and cosmologists I have spoken to. To me he either doesn't understand the fundamentals of physics or he wants to be a Hollywood star.The later fits the profile.

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  14. If scientists still don't understand how evolution works at the molecular level, how could evolution be taught as a fact?

    "DNA: Celebrate the unknowns"

    Philip Ball
    Nature 496, 419–420 (25 April 2013)

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v496/n7446/full/496419a.html

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    Replies
    1. Evolution is a fact even if we don't understand everything there is to understand. BTW, we DO understand how evolution works at the molecular level. You are confused about the difference between understanding a mechanism and understanding the history of life.

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    2. Professor Moran:

      I have great respect for your knowledge and I wouldn't question it unless I had a valid reason. I think most creationists feel the same. If they don't, well, that's too bad. However, Nature article, although behind the pay-wall for most, does bring up some issues that must bother evolutionist like yourself. I may very well be confused as to the real issue, as you may have indicated, which I don't mind admitting to.

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    3. @Milosh:
      Nature article, although behind the pay-wall for most, does bring up some issues that must bother evolutionist like yourself.

      No, it does not. It's written by a moron journalist and is full of idiotic misconceptions. A large portion of posts on this blog is devoted to showing these errors. Yes, you are simply confused as to the real issue.

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    4. DK
      So, what is the real issue? I don't think you have specified it. So, you have the opportunity to teach morons like us...

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    5. Milosh,

      Why do you think that it is valid to conclude from a press heading that the article must be about complete and utter ignorance of how evolution works? If you read any newspaper, you would know that headings are designed to lure-in readers with just a hint of something, not necessarily an overly powerful and conclusive story. In this example, not an overly powerful and conclusive story about how much we understand about evolution at the molecular level. If the article is behind a pay-wall, why do you allow yourself to jump to conclusions, such as:

      1. That truly nobody understands one bit about how evolution works at the molecular level.
      2. That therefore people cannot know if evolution is a fact or not.

      Besides your jumping to ridiculous conclusions from a heading (sorry, but it is ridiculous to jump that far from a press heading), I can explain a couple of things that might help you understand a bit better that even when we knew little to nothing about molecules, there was no reason to doubt that evolution is right, just like we can't deny the fact of gravitation even if we don't understand it. At least I have no idea about relativity's take on the issue, therefore I don't understand how gravitation works (or how it is understood to work at that level), yet I can talk about it as a fact. Can't I?

      Well, for evolution there's plenty of evidence that makes it an undeniable fact. There's was plenty by Darwin's time. Enough that many had hinted at it before darwin himself, even though people had not understood how it happened. Today we have a pretty good understanding of how it happens, many of the processes involved. yes. Also at the molecular level. But, even if we did not know any molecular details, there's enough evidence otherwise that show evolution to be a fact as hard as gravitation.

      As per the article, it is a discussion about the ENCODE project and the hotted debate about the meaning of their results. Unfortunately the writer makes a lot of mistakes, historical and scientific, so he does not help the discussion one bit. Anyway, in the end, he does not talk about how much or how little we know about how evolution works at the molecular level. That heading seems to come from one arguer saying something similar, but no evidence about ignorance and knowledge is presented. It's just a note by some writer who missed a good deal of points.

      Have a great weekend.

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    6. "If scientists still don't understand how evolution works at the molecular level, how could evolution be taught as a fact?"

      If Einstein is wrong about gravity will you fly if you throw yourself from a rooftop? Will your wife stop having babies if our theories of development are wrong?

      Do you understand the difference between a fact and a theory?

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    7. (Even then, it's false that evolution is taught as a fact. The textbooks I have checked talk about evolution as the best scientific explanation, or words to that effect, rather than as a fact.)

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    8. Milosh asks,

      Nature article, although behind the pay-wall for most, does bring up some issues that must bother evolutionist like yourself.

      I've put up a post about the Nature article. As you can see from that post, there's nothing in the article that bothers me or anyone else who understands evolution.

      The only thing that bothers me is why major scientific journals continue to publish articles by freelance science writers who don't understand the issues.

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    9. There outta be a law against that! :)

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  15. The commentary in this opinion piece seems to imply that there's some kind of scary government overreaching in keeping science and religion as defined as other subjects must be kept. All the opinion being criticized states is that it should be considered a violation of the freedom from religion - a part of the constitutional right, freedom of religion - to allow a specific religion to use a public institution to adapt the meaning and definition of science to spread its religious teachings and beliefs.

    The science classroom is a place to teach science, not Christian mythology, and no classroom is a place for loose definition and mislabeled of what is truly being taught. intelligent design is not science.

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