Muncie, Indiana – A state-run university in Indiana is receiving heated criticism after one of its professors was accused of promoting Christianity in a physical science class.
Ball State University (BSU) is a large research institution located in eastern Indiana, and is home to approximately 22,000 students and 3,000 faculty members. One of the instructors at BSU is Eric Hedin, an assistant science professor who has been with the university since 2003.
Hedin’s teaching first came under heavy scrutiny when the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), whose goals are to promote “nontheism” and “the separation of church and state,” mailed a letter of complaint to BSU. In the letter, the FFRF claimed Hedin is not teaching good science to his students, but rather religious “inculcation cloaked in the guise of university education.”
While Hedin does not appear to exclusively tout Christianity as truth in his class, he has purportedly presented non-evolutionary theories about the origins of life to his students. As reported by WORLD Magazine, the official course description for Hedin’s class even mentions that he openly examines some of “the boundaries of science.”
“Any hidden wisdom within this reality,” Hedin wrote in the syllabus, “may illuminate the central questions of the purpose of our existence and the meaning of life.”
Hedin has also asked students to read books written by notable scientists who disagree with the evolutionary theory, such as Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe, both of whom are supporters of the intelligent design movement. In addition, Lee Strobel’s writings have been discussed in the class. Strobel is a former atheistic journalist who converted to Christianity after carefully examining the historical evidence for Christ.
By looking at student-written reviews of Hedin, it is clear that he has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students who have taken his science classes in years past. Nevertheless, even as early as 2006, students were raising concerns about his “religious” class materials.
One student wrote, “The class had an extremely Christian bias and he does not believe in evolution. Many of his views do not quite jive with those of mainstream science.”
Another mentioned, “The one thing I didn’t like was his constant bringing religion into class.”
Are Hedin’s teaching practices unconstitutional? Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago professor, thinks so, and has pushed for Hedin’s class to be canceled. In an April 25 blog post, Coyne claimed that Hedin’s class material is an unlawful infringement on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“It’s religion taught as science in a public university, and it’s not only wrong but illegal,” Coyne wrote.
Other people, including several atheists, are not siding with Coyne or the FFRF, pointing out that Hedin’s class is an elective, so students are never forced to attend the class. If students disagree with Hedin’s viewpoints, they can simply register for different professors. In addition, attending a university in the first place is not mandated; it is entirely optional.
Casey Luskin, an attorney working for the Discovery Institute, explains that these types of controversies are often sparked by only a few angry atheists, and he suggests that the majority of college students are more than willing to engage in honest, open discussions on the different scientific theories.
“If a professor is simply teaching about these ideas … I can’t imagine why it’d be considered unconstitutional,” Luskin stated.
BSU officials have issued an official statement in response to the controversy, referencing the letter from the FFRF. Although school officials didn’t promise any immediate disciplinary action, they did mention they are taking the matter seriously.
“We will explore in depth the issues and concerns raised,” the statement read, “and take the appropriate actions through our established processes and procedures.”