Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Local Paper on the Ball State ID Course

BSU prof accused of preaching Christianity

MUNCIE — Ball State University is investigating a complaint that one of its assistant professors in the department of physics and astronomy is preaching rather than teaching.The Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose mission is to act as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the principle of separation of state and church, filed an objection to Eric Hedin’s teaching.

...But Provost Terry King, a chemical engineer and the university’s chief academic officer, said, “Faculty own the curriculum. In large part, it’s a faculty matter. But we have to ensure that our teaching is appropriate. All I have so far is a complaint from an outside person. We have not had any internal complaints. But we do take this very seriously and will look into it.”

I hope they really mean that!  They interviewed Jerry Coyne, who first brought this to light:

It appears Hedin “presents a non-view of science in a science class,” said Coyne, author of the book “Why Evolution is True.” “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.”

If you've been following this story from Coyne's blog, you already know that the syllabus from a comparable course by Hedin is online and that the chair of the department acknowledged the Honors course syllabus that Coyne forwarded to him.  Nobody's making this stuff up. Hedin is teaching non-science.


Anonymous said...

This is infuriating. Have you even asked the views of students taking this class? No, just like the Muncie StarPress and the Indianapolis Star, you are simply proselytizing, pun intended your own agenda without asking the opinion of someone actually learning from this professor. I am an agnostic, and it seems to me that this class intends for nothing more than to generate open-minded discussions about the universe and everything else that perplexes human curiosity. The books you list are RECOMMENDED texts for a BOOK REPORT, not required readings of any kind. I, in fact, am reporting on “The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking. I would like you to refute that as being theological. The class is intended for Honors students, those intelligent and curious enough to engage in thought-provoking and open-minded conversations, unlike most of the degenerates who continue to comment upon this matter. As a academic-minded agnostic I actually lean more towards the tenements of science, but that does not mean that I have not enjoyed the opportunity presented by this professor to engage in conversations and debates on the possibilities of the universe. If people were more open-minded about this, they would realize that it all boils down to the students, and I do not see any of them berating this professor.

LadyAtheist said...

Thank you for commenting on my blog, and congratulations for reading a book by Hawking for your report. How did you find out about it? Did the prof recommend it or bring it up in class during discussion? Or did you just know about him from before?

The loaded reading list is really the most objectionable evidence of this course being "intelligently designed" to lead students toward God. If Hedin has expanded it to include Hawking and other atheists, that would make me happy.

Have you looked at Jerry Coyne's blog? He posted the list he had available to him, which I believe is from last semester. The Physics department still has the same syllabus on its site for ASTR 151. Is the list you have now different from last semester's list?

Considering that there are no prerequisites for the course, how is a student to know that almost all of the books on the "recommended" list are on the crackpot side of "science?" This is the main objection I have. Since Indiana is very fundamentalist in orientation, I wonder how many students are really being challenged.

I would expect honors students to be bright, but in Indiana lots of "bright" students have been home-schooled by religious fundamentalists or went to fundamentalist schools. Wouldn't it be more of a challenge to discuss atheism than to discuss God? Does Hedin bring up objections to intelligent design? Does he tell you that Behe is a laughingstock?

If these are not assigned readings, how are discussion topics selected? Are there other readings? Does God come up every time you reach the "limits of science?"

And what are the limits? Are they the limit of what is currently known? (Which is what the booklist suggests he is thinking) Or is it more about philosophy and morality, which the booklist won't address at all. (BTW, atheist authors can cover this, too)

Without a prerequisite, many students will not be equipped to know when they're being duped. Yes, these topics perplex human curiosity, which is why you should be exposed to better thinkers than the ones on your syllabus.

You should not assume that no student has complained about this course. You can contact them through their contact page. They got back to me right away when I inquired about the legality of "Baby Moses" being claimed by Christians for a Christian name and burial in Indianapolis (not illegal, just infuriating and immoral and insensitive).

Or, you could contact Jerry Coyne, who broke the story: http://pondside.uchicago.edu/ecol-evol/people/coyne.html.

Thanks for lending your insights, and come back soon!

LadyAtheist said...

whoops! stupid tiny textbox. I linked the contact page for the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They are the ones who wrote to President Gora and caused the Star Press to take notice.

LadyAtheist said...

Posted in the comments of Coyne's blog: a link to Behe's departmental statement regarding Behe's views. Perhaps Ball State could do the same in the Physics/Astronomy department.


Christian said...

I think the anonymous comment is missing one important part. This is a physics/astronomy department course, there is no place for god here when science is what you are paying to study.

I see Ball state universities web page says "education redefined" maybe they need to go back to the basics ;)

LadyAtheist said...

Actually it's an Honors College course that satisfies a kind of vague science requirement. But there's a parallel course in the Physics/Astronomy course with an almost identical syllabus and reading list.

Gary S. Hurd said...

Interesting comment from "anonymous" on 5-21.

An atheist is hardly religious. There are no atheist rituals, oaths, or other cult trappings. So, "The Grand Design" fails a a religious text.

LadyAtheist said...

I've noticed that Christians are fond of changing definitions to suit themselves, or perhaps they've redefined "religion" so that they can get away with teaching Christianity as a "philosophy." Whichever, they are deceitful and that's not very Christian of them

Gerry Gentile said...

The problem with this course is two-fold. It's a cynical attempt to sneak slyentific cretinism into a university science course, and it's actually a thinly disguised attempt to create stealth creationists. I studied geology at Boise state University in the early naughtsies (2000-2003). I was appalled to hear two of my classmates discussing with each other that they didn't accept the evolutionary model because of their faith in the Bible. I thought to myself, "You've heard the same evidence that we all did, but you intend to disregard it in favor of a religious bias?" Sadly, because of a lack of moral courage, I chose not to say anything. What is most disturbing, although I didn't realize this for several years, is that the only reason they were in the geology program was to obtain the credentials. They could then go out into the world as "experts", and use those credentials to sell mythology to folks who don't know enough to recognize they're being lied to.

It's a sad and twisted bit of irony that the same folks who slick the unknowing in God's Name, forget that Jesus said that the Devil is the father of lies. But I guess it isn't really a lie if it's done in Jesus' Name.

LadyAtheist said...

Ball State is the main teacher training university in Indiana. It's appalling that this went on for as long as it did.