|"Haben Sie über die Religion in Wissenschaft Klasse gesprochen?"|
Jerry Coyne is shocked to find that someone, somewhere is discussing God in science class:
Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana, is a public university (i.e., part of the state university system). As such, it must abide by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which has been interpreted as disallowing religious viewpoints (or religiously based theories) in public-school science classes. It is of course kosher to teach courses on the history of religion, or on the relationship between science and religion, but those must not pretend to be “science” courses, and must present balanced views—they can’t push a particular religious viewpoint.
But it’s come to my attention that a science course at Ball State University—actually two courses, because it seems to be cross-listed—is little more than a course in accommodationism and Christian religion, with very little science. It’s my firm opinion that teaching this course at a state university not only violates the First Amendment, but cheats the students by subjecting them to religious proselytizing when they’re trying to learn science.
Herr Coyne has astutely identified the "can't pretend to be science courses" clause of the First Amendment.
Jerry provides an example of the verboten course description, and proclaims:
Can you believe that? It’s all pro-religious, and heavily larded with the works of Intelligent Design advocates (Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe), old-earth creationists (Hugh Ross!), and scientists who are Christian or religious (Guy Consolmagno, Owen Gingerich, and Paul Davies).
The syllabus for the cross-listed Honors course, which the chair of the department verified to me as accurate, is even worse, for it includes Francis Collins’s book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Anthony Flew’s There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, and Polkinghorne and Beale’s Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions About God, Science, and Belief.” As the ultimate insult, the Honors syllabus further includes C. S. Lewis—his book Miracles! What is going on here? C. S. Lewis in a science course?
You’ll have noticed, of course, the absence of any counter-accommodationist books like The God Delusion, Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing, or any of Victor Stenger’s books on physics and religion.
Inspector Coyne relentlessly tracks down his suspect: the chairman of the astronomy department, whom Jerry threatens:
Dear Dr. Robertson,
Although I’m not at Ball State, it’s come to my attention that one of your faculty members, Dr. Eric Hedin, is teaching a senior Honors course that is heavily infused with creationism and religion. The course is Honors 296, “The Boundaries of Science,” and to my understanding is listed as a science course, which students take for science credit.
I have a copy of last year’s syllabus, which is apparently the same as this year’s, and I attach it. Have a look, and you’ll see that it is basically a course on the religious implications of science. The reading list tells the tale: there are books by old-earth creationists (Hugh Ross), advocates of intelligent design (Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer), and various people who comport science and faith.
As as scientist, I find this deeply disturbing. It’s not only religion served under the guise of science, but appears to violate the First Amendement of the Constitution. You are a public university and therefore cannot teach religion in a science class, as this class appears to do. Clearly, Dr. Hedin is religious and foisting this on his students, and I have seen complaints about students being short-change[d] by being fed religion in a science course.
Could you please confirm for me that this course is indeed being taught in your department, and that this is indeed the sylllabus?
Perhaps you are not aware of this, in which case I’m calling it to your attention as chairman of that department.
Hmmm... Public universities 'can't teach religion in science classes'? That's a new one. I am unaware of any federal or state laws or judicial precedents that regulate religious speech in public university science classes. It's a voluntary course, taken by adults.
Jerry must have us confused with the Soviet Union.
I doubt that in America federal judges will be monitoring university science classes for speech crimes. Perhaps they don't need to, with Jerry doing the monitoring and all...
Coyne didn't post Dr. Robertson's reply, but it sounds like Robertson told him to shove it.
What I want to say here is that I tried to register a complaint—a complaint that, I think, is completely legitimate—and was rebuffed by Hedin’s chair.
This has to stop, for Hedin’s course, and the University’s defense of it, violate the separation of church and state mandated by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (“freedom of religion”) and which has been so interpreted by the courts. It’s religion taught as science in a public university, and it’s not only wrong but illegal. I have tried approaching the University administration, and have been rebuffed.
This will now go to the lawyers.
The good folks at Ball State provide a course for students who want to discuss the deeper scientific, philosophical and theological implications of astronomy, biology and cosmology.
It sounds like a great course. All colleges should offer it.
Characteristically, Coyne, who believes that religion doesn't belong in science class, inserts lawyers and judges into science class.
Coyne's reply to a university's exploration of the deep philosophical questions raised by science is to call the police.