Academic Freedom ... For Some: It's Animal Farm at Ball State

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Academic Freedom ... For Some: It's Animal Farm at Ball State


BreakPoint.org

They don’t teach George Orwell’s classic work Animal Farm in university science courses, but perhaps they should — or at least at Ball State University. Orwell’s dystopian novel, of course, is famous for the slogan “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” You see, this public university in Indiana, says it believes in academic freedom — but its actions seem to say academic freedom only applies to some professors. You be the judge.

Eric Hedin [Huh-DEEN], assistant professor of physics at Ball State, teaches an interdisciplinary honors seminar called “The Boundaries of Science.” It covers scientific issues as well as important questions raised by science — including the possible existence of God.

The Discovery Institute, which advocates for Intelligent Design, notes that the course “seeks to probe arguments and evidence that reality may extend beyond the limits set by rigid naturalism. Hedin teaches about the Big Bang, cosmic fine-tuning, the enigma of life’s origin, theistic evolution, the limits of science, and most provocatively: ‘Beauty, complex specified information, and intelligent design: what the universe communicates about God.’”

The two required books for the course are a noncontroversial, standard text on the Big Bang and a book by John Lennox called God’s Undertaker. Lennox argues that the claim that science has disproved the existence of God is greatly exaggerated, to say the least. And by the way, Lennox has three doctorates, is professor of mathematics at Oxford, and has an incredibly long and impressive academic resume — hardly a lightweight, you might say.

Lennox is just the kind of alternative voice you’d expect to find in an interdisciplinary honors seminar on philosophical questions raised by science. You’d think Professor Hedin would be praised for giving his students a range of opinions, or at the very least that his academic freedom would be respected.

Unfortunately, referencing Orwell again, some professors’ claims to academic freedom are more equal than others. An outfit called the Freedom from Religion Foundation, as well as prominent University of Chicago evolutionist Jerry Coyne, are claiming that Hedin may be teaching — gasp! — Christianity to students, supposedly violating the separation of church and state.

But in fact, all Hedin is doing is alerting students to current controversies in science and allowing them to make up their own minds, free of indoctrination.

In response to the foundation’s threat of legal action, the university says it will review the course and take any “appropriate actions.” If that vote of non-confidence in Hedin were not chilling enough, Ball State’s president, Jo Ann Gora, has said that science faculty may not teach Intelligent Design as science in the school’s science classes. She says, “Teaching intelligent design as a scientific theory is not a matter of academic freedom — it is an issue of academic integrity.”

Well, you could use the “academic integrity” line to attack almost any subject! Talk about Newspeak — another Orwell gem. Of course, the “Boundaries of Science” class doesn’t even teach ID as a theory. And it’s not Hedin who is using intimidation tactics to control thought and to enforce his worldview.

The fact is, Hedin has received glowing reviews from students who actually took the class. And he isn’t doing anything his department’s curriculum and assessment committee hadn’t already approved.

Really, folks, if Hedin’s supposedly inviolable academic freedom is taken away due to the bullying tactics of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, then academic integrity, which is already greatly suffering at the hands of intellectual ideologues, is up for grabs.

The Discovery Institute is collecting signatures on an Academic Freedom Petition in support of Eric Hedin. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll let you know how to sign it.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: September 17, 2013

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