Friday, June 07, 2013

Karl Giberson Weighs in On The Ball State Eric Hedin Case

Writing for HuffPo, Karl Giberson has suggested very politely that, with regard to the whole Eric Hedin Ball State controversy, Jerry Coyne go stick it where the sun don't shine.  He also cautions us about what academic freedom does and does not mean:
No evidence whatsoever supports Jerry Coyne's claim that Hedin is "proseletyzing for Jesus" in his Boundaries of Science class. Coyne is notorious for pretending not to understand the difference between a philosophically motivated theism and Christian fundamentalism and has waded into this controversy with his usual blinkered culture war mentality.

On the other hand, I can hardly agree with the intelligent design folk at the Discovery Institute that this is an academic freedom case. Academic freedom is a noble, if ambiguous, concept that can be invoked in support of many things but one of those is not the freedom to tell students things that are not true. If, as the syllabus suggests, Hedin's students are learning that the ideas of the intelligent design movement are the cutting edge of science and heralding a major revolution, there are grounds for concern. If the students leave Hedin's class believing that the scientific community is wrestling with the proposals that have come out of the intelligent design movement, then they have been misled and poorly served. Most practicing scientists understand that their disciplines have unanswered questions and "boundaries" of some sort. But virtually none of them are looking to an external "designer" to answer these questions.
I recently had a breakfast with a friend of mine who's set of twins are the age of my oldest son. They are all enrolled in a homeschooling co-op called Classical Conversations. Unfortunately, one of the books that has been assigned for this coming year is Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, a book of questionable value by Phillip Johnson.  My friend is a software designer/engineer and is, largely, unconcerned by the science/faith issues that cause me daily angst.  He was, nonetheless, quite surprised when I informed him that large sections of the Johnson book are not just different in opinion, they are wrong.  My friend was quite surprised to find that the theory of evolution is testable.  I outlined some basic instances in which this is the case.  If he has been reading any of the DI literature, I am not surprised that he thought that.  He also saw the wisdom of the question:  "how is it that all of the other major scientific disciplines have gotten their theoretical constructs correct and the evolutionary biologists have not?"  Even my pastor wonders about that.

In the end, Giberson concludes largely what I did, that this course is not what Coyne and other atheists call it and that Hedin has the right to teach it in the hopes of stimulating critical thinking in his students.  He does need to treat ID a bit more honestly, though. 

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