After FFRF letter

Ball State U investigates whether teaching is preaching

After receiving a student complaint, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has called for Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., to investigate allegations that a physics and astronomy professor appeared to be teaching creationism at the public university.

FFRF, a Madison, Wis.-based state/church watchdog, sent a May 15 letter to BSU President Jo Ann Gora urging BSU to investigate whether the professor has been proselytizing in the classroom. The controversy has erupted on social networks and national news sites.

Professor Eric Hedin teaches the honors course, “The Boundaries of Science,” described in the syllabus as an honest, objective investigation on the intersection of science and religion. The elective class is not part of the core curriculum.

“It is our information and understanding that this class has been used to proselytize students and advance Christianity by using gaps in scientific knowledge — the ‘boundaries of science’ — in an attempt to prove religious belief correct,” wrote FFRF Attorney Andrew Seidel to Gora. “We fully understand and support the need for academic freedom and free inquiry, particularly at the university level. But, as taught, this class crosses ethical and constitutional lines. BSU appears to offer a class that preaches religion, yet gives students honors science credit. 

Seidel wrote that he was also concerned Hedin may be “preaching” as opposed to “teaching” by injecting religion into his introductory astronomy class. Students taking both of Hedin’s courses remarked on the religious bias at Rate My Professor. Comments range from “the class had an extremely Christian bias and he doesn’t not believe in evolution,” to “constantly talks religion, as an atheist, I was slightly concerned my science teacher is a devout Christian.”

Jerry Coyne, a biology professor at the University of Chicago and author of the book Why Evolution is True, an honorary FFRF director, started blogging about the situation on May 16 and has been posting regular updates.

Coyne remarked, “The students are being duped. It’s straight theology with no alternatives. It’s a straight Christian intelligent design/creationist view of the world, which is wrong. It’s not science. It’s not that it’s not science, it’s science that has been discredited. It’s like saying the Holocaust didn’t happen.”

Ball State has commented publicly to media that it’s investigating the matter. FFRF is awaiting a formal reply.

Read some of the other coverage:

San Francisco Chronicle

The Star Press 

Inside Higher Education 

The Washington Post

 

By Lauryn Seering

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of Atheist Alliance International.