Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Victor Stenger on the Ball State Controversy

Victor Stenger has written a HuffPo article on why Eric Hedin's classes should be canceled.  Before we go into this, it should be pointed out that Stenger's views fit very comfortably with those of Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and Sam Harris.  His books include God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist and God and the Atom: From Democritus to the Higgs Boson.  In short, he has no use for religion of any sort.  In his column, he writes:
In his April 25 blog Why Evolution is True, University of Chicago biology professor Jerry Coyne revealed that Hedin is using science as a guise for promoting his personal, fundamentalist Christian world-view. This is clearly evident from the course syllabus and is confirmed by students' comments and a perusal of his reading list.
The course includes scientific-sounding but highly dubious arguments for the existence of God and promotes intelligent design, miracles, and spirituality. The authors on the book list are almost all Christian apologists without a single dissenting view represented.
Hedin's reading list is headed by Michael Behe, the author of Darwin's Black Box (1998), which has been thoroughly refuted, and includes all the other cohorts of intelligent design as well as Christian apologists who are not scientists. There is no entry from any proponent of evolution or atheism. Hedin promotes notions that, for the most part, have as much honest scientific support as a flat Earth
As I mentioned in the last post: Does it focus on ID? Sure does. Does it include some scientifically dubious books in the reading list? Sure does. What is not evident is a fundamentalist Christian world-view.  I have not taken the course.  Neither have the people that wrote in and commented on Coyne's site.  There are other reasons that this vitriol is misplaced, however.  For one thing, it is an elective, which means that nobody has to take it.  People that are taking it are doing so because they want to.  Here is the course description:
In this course, we will examine the nature of the physical and the living world with the goal of increasing our appreciation of the scope, wonder, and complexity of physical reality. We will also investigate physical reality and the boundaries of science for any hidden wisdom within this reality which may illuminate the central questions of the purpose of our existence and the meaning of life. This course is designed to allow students to take a more in-depth look at the beauty and complexity of the universe and life and to give food for thought about deeper questions which remain central to human existence.
Yes, he does get into trouble with the Intelligent design books but there are other books there that don't toe that line. Are atheist books missing? It sure seems that they are. Would they be appropriate in this kind of course? Probably. It seems that he has chosen not to go that route, as is his prerogative. I am surprised and somewhat amused that both PZ Myers and Larry Moran (Sandwalk) have gone on record as saying that it is his choice to teach this if he wants to and people should butt out. Stenger and Coyne do not agree.  They argue that Hedin in teaching a patently false view of the universe.  I would challenge them to demonstrate that.  Stenger's logical error is especially egregious, given that he has argued that science can show the non-existence of God.  Science can do no such thing.

I tend to agree with Myers and Moran. I am no supporter of ID but it seems that people are getting some differing views, if not the atheist one.That a religious view is being vaguely promoted at all is what burns Stenger and Coyne up. 

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