Posts Tagged “academic freedom”

Creationism - You can get away with believing anything as long as you say God wants you to.The basic premise of Ben Stein’s movie Expelled, released a couple of years ago, is that mainstream scientific institutions have conspired wickedly against a minority of scientists and others, whose conscience tells them that the science behind evolution (which is both a theory and a fact) must be ignored in favor of “intelligent design” (aka creationism). The movie claims these vile institutions have mercilessly and relentlessly oppressed sincere but innocent people whose only crime is that they fervently believe that the theory of evolution led to fascism, Nazism, communism, Satanism, pedophilia, necrophilia, split ends, and pretty much everything they see as “bad.”

All of this, of course, is 100% pure, grade-A, unfiltered bullshit. However, that hasn’t prevented proponents of creationism from cloaking their desire to proselytize public school children behind the supposed veil of “academic freedom.” (That cloak is necessary, now, because their previous facade, “intelligent design,” was ruled by federal courts as a fraudulent cover for their religion, in 2005 in the Kitzmiller decision. So these people have had to jump from one fraud to another. Nice.)

At any rate, their weeping and wailing about “academic freedom” — and “freedom of conscience” and any number of other similar euphemisms — has not, apparently, been something they’ve been willing to extend, themselves. An example of this very phenomenon was reported recently by USA Today (WebCite cached article):

When it comes to incriminating videos these days, the one of Bruce K. Waltke might seem pretty tame. It shows the noted evangelical scholar of the Old Testament talking about scholarship, faith and evolution. What was incriminating? He not only endorsed evolution, but said that evangelical Christianity could face a crisis for not coming to accept science.

“If the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult … some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness,” he says, according to several accounts by those who have seen the video. Those words set off a furor at the Reformed Theological Seminary, where Waltke was — until this week — a professor. (The seminary is evangelical, with ties to several denominations.)

The statements so upset officials of the seminary that Waltke had to ask the BioLogos Foundation, a group that promotes the idea that science and faith need not be incompatible, to remove it from its website (which the foundation did) and to post a clarification. The video was shot during a BioLogos workshop. But even those steps weren’t enough for the seminary, which announced that it had accepted his resignation.

The Reformed Theological Seminary is not making any excuses and is not conceding any wrongdoing:

Michael Milton, president of the seminary’s Charlotte campus and interim president of its Orlando campus, where Waltke taught, confirmed that the scholar had lost his job over the video. Milton said that Waltke would “undoubtedly” be considered one of the world’s great Christian scholars of the Old Testament and that he was “much beloved here,” with his departure causing “heartache.” But he said that there was no choice. …

Asked if this limits academic freedom, Milton said: “We are a confessional seminary. I’m a professor myself, but I do not have a freedom that would go past the boundaries of the confession. Nor do I have a freedom that would allow me to express my views in such a way to hurt or impugn someone who holds another view.”

In other words, Milton is asserting that it is fine for a religious educational institution to restrict academic freedom among its faculty. This stands in opposition to the Religious Right’s claim that “academic freedom” must be rigidly enforced in secular institutions.

Folks, if this isn’t hypocrisy … which was unambiguously and explicitly forbidden to all Christians by Jesus himself … I don’t know what is.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum.

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To date I’ve blogged not once, but twice, about creationists’ efforts to get their religion into public-school science classrooms in Texas. Well, the state’s Board of Education finally voted, and in an equivocating manner typical of bureaucrats and politicians, came up with a compromise decision that satisfies no one, which will not appreciably help students understand the evolution model, which will allow religionist teachers to keep presenting the evolution model as bogus and creationism as sound, and which leaves open the possibility of future interference and agitation by creationist religionazis. CNN reports:

Dueling theories of how the universe was created got a split decision Friday night from the Texas Board of Education, which required examination of “all sides of scientific evidence” in new science standards, but rejected language requiring teachers to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. …

“Science loses. Texas loses, and the kids lose because of this,” board chairman Don McLeroy, a creationist, told the Dallas Morning News.

A final 13-2 vote approved language that will be printed in textbooks beginning in 2011 and remain there for 10 years, CNN affiliate KPRC-TV in Houston reported:

“In all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental observation and testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the students.”

While this directive sounds good, it’s specifically worded so as to allow creationist teachers an opportunity to throw doubt on evolution and introduce their religion to kids as an alternative. It’s eerily similar to “academic freedom” laws that creationists — er, “intelligent design” proponents — have pushed in other states, as the CNN article goes on to mention:

“Academic freedom” bills have emerged but failed in various state legislatures, the National Center for Science Education said.

An “academic freedom” act has been adopted as law in Louisiana, and there is legislation in Florida calling for an “academic freedom” bill that would mandate a “thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.”

The center says such bills are strategies by creationists to appeal to the American sense of balance, and give the false sense that there are different sides to scientific issues such as evolution.

Creationists use this tendency to undermine the evolution model and continue to present it as questionable, even though it is nothing of the sort (again, as CNN mentions):

The scientific community has overwhelmingly scorned creationism and its latest incarnation, intelligent design, as a pretext for biblical explanations of how the world came to be, and asserts that there is no weakness or doubt in the scientific community about evolution.

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences called for the public to be better informed about the importance of understanding and teaching evolution. The academy released a booklet titled “Science, Evolution, and Creationism” — the third explanation of evolution put out since 1984 by one of the nation’s leading scientific organizations.

Allow me to be perfectly clear: There is no scientific controversy over the validity of the evolution model, even though creationists — er, intelligent design proponents — say there is one. The truth is that the evolution model is both a theory and a fact.

The religionazis’ efforts to proselytize in public-school science classrooms have not, unfortunately, abated since their tactics were revealed as disingenuous during the course of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2004) — and declared so by a conservative, evangelical Christian appellate judge who’d been appointed by George W. Bush! Exposure of their duplicity, and their explicitly-outlined strategy to undermine science in the US and replace it with religion, has not shamed them at all … if anything, they’ve become even more vocal and vehement, moving on to other strategies, such as the aforementioned (and equally disingenuous) “academic freedom” bills.

Thus, they continue to lie to people when they claim to want to improve science education and promote what they call “academic freedom.” In truth, they want nothing of the sort. They want to destroy science as we know it, since they view it as a threat to their religionism.

One final note: Contrary to what religionazis like to say — and which CNN parroted at the beginning of the article — the evolution model is not and never will be a “theory of how the universe was created.” Evolution says absolutely nothing about the creation of the universe, which took place billions of years before evolution ever started. As a matter of fact, the evolution model also says nothing whatever about how life started on this planet. The evolution model describes only how life forms change over time — not how the universe came into existence, nor even how life began. Seems to me the first step in teaching this subject is getting one’s terminology straight — and CNN could go a long way toward that by correcting this article.

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It’s tragic to have to say it, but the famous polymath Ben Stein (of whom I have been a fan for many years) has come down on the side of the religonist “intelligent designers” and their effort to proselytize to public-school kids. He’s now meddling in the revamping of curricula in Florida schools:

Actor Stein Plays Role In Debate On Evolution

Actor and writer Ben Stein joined conservative activists at the state Capitol for a news conference that dually promoted a controversial bill about teaching evolution and Stein’s controversial documentary about educators who dare to dissent from Darwin- ism.The “Academic Freedom Act” from Sen. Ronda Storms and Rep. Alan Hays would allow teachers to “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.”

Note the effort to marginalize the evolution model by calling it “Darwin-ism” (sic). Evolution is no more “Darwinism” than relativity is “Einsteinism” or the atomic theory is “Bohrism.” Moreover, it suggests the evolution model hasn’t changed since Darwin’s time — but in fact, it has. So let’s once and for all grow the hell up and stop calling it that. OK?

The Academic Freedom Act responds to the state’s new science standards for public schools, which explicitly require the teaching of the theory of evolution.Stein, who supports the bill, said it is not about teaching any particular viewpoint. “It’s about freedom of speech,” he said. “Freedom of inquiry, it’s nothing more complicated than that.,”

Sorry folks, but that’s not it, at all. The goal of the “intelligent designers’ has always been to slap a thin veneer of “science” on the religion of creationism and shove it into public schools via the science classroom. (Am I being paranoid or leaping to conclusions? No way. This is known as the “wedge strategy,” is outlined in document form, and the intelligent designers who cooked it up, admit to it!)

“Freedom of inquiry,” Ben? No, that isn’t at all what you or your intelligent-design allies want. You actually want the opposite … to have public-school children ensnared in your dogma, unable thereafter to “inquire” their way out of it.

I’m heartbroken to see that one of the most brilliant men alive, has actually become a shill for the anti-scientific and anti-intellectual intelligent design movement.

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