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Freethought Today · August 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

President: Creationism doesn’t cut it at Ball State

Ball State University’s president issued a statement July 31 agreeing with the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the inappropriateness of teaching intelligent design in public universities.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel first alerted officials at the Muncie, Ind., school about biology Eric Hedin’s “teaching” style in a May 15 letter. Hedin is an assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department. “There is a serious difference between teaching religion and preaching religion,” Seidel wrote.

In her statement addressed to faculty and staff, Ball State President Jo-Ann Gora concurred with the principles FFRF enumerated in its letters. The university appointed a review committee of four professors to review the allegations.

Gora wrote that neither creationism nor any of its derivatives belong in a science classroom. She reiterated that intelligent design is a religious theory and has been rejected by reputable scientists.

Gora stated that academic freedom, while important, is not an issue in this case. “Teaching intelligent design as a scientific theory is not a matter of academic freedom — it is an issue of academic integrity. [Academic freedom] cannot be used as a shield to teach theories that have been rejected by the discipline under which a science course is taught.”

FFRF had raised concerns about academic integrity and a possible state-church violation when the same university department that hired Hedin also hired another prominent creationist.

The only outstanding issue is precisely how Gora’s principles will alter Hedin’s course, “The Boundaries of Science,” Seidel said. FFRF has been told that Ball State is working “to ensure that course content is aligned with curriculum and the best standards of the discipline.”

The prominent evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne first alerted FFRF to Hedin’s actions, after a non-Christian student reported the proselytizing nature of Hedin’s class to Coyne.

Gora further stated, “The gravity of this issue and the level of concern among scientists are demonstrated by more than 80 national and state scientific societies’ independent statements that intelligent design and creation science do not qualify as science. The list includes societies such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, theAmerican Astronomical Society, and the American Physical Society.

“Discussions of intelligent design and creation science can have their place at Ball State in humanities or social science courses. However, even in such contexts, faculty must avoid endorsing one point of view over others. The American Academy of Religion draws this distinction most clearly.”

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