Creationists' new angle--it's in the name of academic freedom
Christian Dem in NC printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 12, 2009 at 04:59:43 PM EST

(cross-posted at dKos)

Looks like the creationist crowd is trying a new tack to try and get a toe in the evolution debate. Apparently shutting out discussion of creation amounts to a denial of academic freedom.

Today (February 12) is Darwin Day, proclaimed by its celebrants as "an international celebration of science and humanity." The observance, according to the event's website, "expresses gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity."

The same day, a counter-celebration -- Academic Freedom Day -- is being observed, encouraging students across the U.S. to defend their right to debate the evidence for and against Darwin's theory of evolution. John West, a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute, explains that the idea for Academic Freedom Day came from evolutionary critics who believe the pros and cons of evolution should be discussed in public school classrooms.


The Discovery Institute is the same outfit that helped touch off the Dover controversy--and had its head handed to it in that case when the judge all but said it was trying to get creation through the back door.

 

Admittedly, it's a clever ruse--all we want is equal time. The problem is that it's been proven time and again that "creation science" is not science, but simply putting a scientific gloss on "Well, God made it that way." It's not stifling debate. We're simply saying, "You want to make your argument? Fine. Just don't call it science."

Also, their ultimate goal is not merely "a place at the table," but to push out evolution entirely. The Discovery Institute all but admits this in the first paragraphs of its manifesto, the Wedge Document.

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West's greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.


So no matter what the evidence for evolution, it's invalid because it's rooted in materialism. Believe it or not, this is actually a common argument from the anti-evolution crowd. For instance, one anti-evolution site lists the number-one reason for why evolution is invalid is that it promotes atheism. Nope, it's not the usual arguments that it's bad science. It's because it turns people away from God.

So when you hear the religious right complain about academic freedom being stifled, just remember--it's another dog whistle. Fortunately, as a reality-based charismatic/pentecostal Christian, I can hear the pitch.



Display:
  1. a student's right to demand and receive class time to discuss items not related to the course objectives and format, or a student's right to receive credit for assignments when the student does not fulfill the assignment but substitutes some other topic outside the limits of the assignment. An assignment of "Discuss scientific predictions made on the basis of the theory of evolution, and proven to be accurate" or "Describe what Darwin actually said" does not mean that the student can get an A for maundering on about how only God can design a flagellum.
  2. a teacher's right to offer any course on any topic, regardless of the teacher's area of expertise, the needs of the department, and financial viability of the course. Physicists do not get to have salary support and classroom space to teach biology courses based on intelligent design.
  3. a university's obligation to offer courses providing affirmation of all possible viewpoints, whether fact-based or not. The university is under no obligation to provide a course teaching Holocaust denial as fact.
  4. a faculty member's unilateral right to refuse to teach a validly registered student on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. instead of lack of prerequisite courses or specific skills, or a credible threat made by the prospective student to the faculty member or other students in the class (in other words, faculty can refuse a stalker). The student is the customer of the university, and the faculty member is the employee of the university, expected to provide contracted services to eligible students.

Academic freedom IS
  1. the right of faculty and students to present your minority, but still fact-based and peer-reviewable methodologically sound, interpretation regarding subject X, in addition to presenting the consensus fact-based interpretation. Faculty member can't hand the students opinions pulled out of faculty member's own ass (can't be unprofessional), and students can't do the same to faculty (not fulfilling assignment).
  2. the (slightly limited)* right to express your own opinion in print etc outside the confines of the course objectives, on your own dime. If a biochemistry professor wants to express admiration for Ayn Rand or Marx on a private blog, who cares, as long as that prof. isn't stating that the article represents official university policy? Or maybe the famous biochemistry professor has decided on no particular evidence that a common molecule cures all disease, and advocates its use in a non-scholarly, non-peer-reviewed book aimed at the public - but doesn't teach this as received fact in a medical school biochemistry class (Linus Pauling and vitamin C). Who cares?

*The limits are controversial, and relate to prejudice against the academic capacity of an entire gender, race, religion, ethnicity. This implies, but does not conclusively prove, an unwillingness to teach and an unwillingness to be fair when evaluating the performance of a university's student-customer belonging to the disparaged group. If proven, this unwillingness would be a breach of contract with the university. An example: a (male) maths teacher at an all-women college frequently states that women are too stupid to understand maths, and to prove his point gives graduate level course content instead of the contracted introductory level undergraduate course, and flunks everyone. (Mount Holyoke College, 1972-3, non-tenured faculty contract terminated early for breach of contract - I was a freshman student in one of his intro courses).

by NancyP on Sat Feb 14, 2009 at 01:31:52 AM EST

As long as they can fool the public into using their views of 'fairness' and 'freedom to express' to pervert their meaning for the Creationist's own purposes against the general public they will not stop. They know that the majority of people in this country are illiterates when it comes not just to basic science but even in the areas of cognition but analytics and deconstruction of ideas too are lacking among those enthralled with monster trucks and football games. Anywhere that the electorate are woefully lacking in knowledge and having an underdeveloped sense of separating the garbage from the jewels when it comes to ideas and notions. But when you have a mystical view of reality it becomes harder as it slides from the physical to the metaphysical. Much like in ancient times. Where the "Enlightenment" is a dirty word to them.

by Nightgaunt on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 02:50:07 PM EST


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