When atheist activists launched a battle over intelligent design at Ball State University earlier this year, they sparked a holy war in higher education that has university officials scrambling to critically examine courses and professorial credentials.
It all started after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist group, waged a complaint about a science class that taught creationism at BSU. In response, the Discovery Institute, a think tank that rejects evolutionary theory, launched a counter-grievance over a different course — one that allegedly touts secularism.
TheBlaze initially reported on the FFRF’s complaint against the public university back in May. At the time, the group argued that the Muncie, Ind.-based college was violating the separation of church and state by allowing intelligent design to be taught in physics and astronomy professor Eric Hedin’s honors class.
The description of Hedin’s course, as reported by World on Campus, said that students would “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.”
In the end, university President Jo Ann Gora explored the FFRF’s complaint and determined that intelligent design should not be taught in sciences classes, as it is not embraced by the scientific community as holding valid theoretical value.
The BSU’s new rule is that faculty should not favor nor endorse one side of the faith debate over another. And that’s where the new allegations come into play.
The Discovery Institute disagreed with cracking down on the creationism taught in Hedin’s class and, rather than back away from the debate, the think tank decided to poke holes in courses it perceives as carrying water for atheistic theory.
As The Star Press reports, the conservative group penned a 10-page letter to Gora highlighting all of its areas of concern. One of the classes, “Dangerous Ideas,” is accused of inappropriately advocating secularism.
A description of the course textbook, “What Is Your Dangerous Idea?,” reads:
From Copernicus to Darwin, to current-day thinkers, scientists have always promoted theories and unveiled discoveries that challenge everything society holds dear; ideas with both positive and dire consequences. Many thoughts that resonate today are dangerous not because they are assumed to be false, but because they might turn out to be true.
What do the world’s leading scientists and thinkers consider to be their most dangerous idea? Through the leading online forum Edge (www.edge.org), the call went out, and this compelling and easily digestible volume collects the answers. From using medication to permanently alter our personalities to contemplating a universe in which we are utterly alone, to the idea that the universe might be fundamentally inexplicable, What Is Your Dangerous Idea? takes an unflinching look at the daring, breathtaking, sometimes terrifying thoughts that could forever alter our world and the way we live in it.
The Discovery Institute believes that the text’s contents are problematic.
“This completely one-sided book appears to be one long argument for atheism,” wrote Discovery Institute Vice President John West in his letter to the BSU president, according to the Press. “Indeed, its contributors declare that ‘Science Must Destroy Religion,’ that ‘There is no God, no Intelligent Designer; no higher purpose to our lives,’ and even that science should assume the role currently played by religion and that scientists should function as our ‘high priests.’”
Now, Gora will need to investigate this course as well to determine if the Discovery Institute’s concerns are valid.
Since the class is being taught by an English professor, an interesting debate abounds. BSU has determined that a science class can no longer include intelligent design — but should an English class be allowed to teach atheistic principles? That’s the key question that officials will grapple with.
Regardless of what happens, the FFRF complaint led to some major changes on campus. Each course must now go under formal review in subcommittees. In addition to content, qualifications of faculty members will also be examined.
This is the latest flap to unfold over the church-state debate at BSU, since officials caught heat for hiring Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, an astronomy professor who embraces intelligent design, in July.
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(H/T: The Star Press)