MUNCIE, Ind. – This week, an influential creation organization delivered a petition to Ball State University officials, urging them to protect the academic freedoms of a controversial science professor out of fears that an investigation into the teacher was “deliberately stacked” against him.
As previously reported, Eric Hedin is a science professor at Ball State University (BSU) who has come under pressure for mentioning the theory of intelligent design in one of his honors classes. Hedin’s practice of openly discussing alternative theories to evolution drew heated criticism from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, who condemned the class as religious “inculcation cloaked in the guise of university education.”
Since then, Terry King, BSU provost and vice president of academic affairs, created a special review committee to investigate the situation and determine if Hedin’s teachings are in fact inappropriate. The committee is comprised of four professors—three from BSU, and one from Indiana University. While King recently acknowledged the difficulty of the situation, he is trusting the committee to recommend the best course of action.
“It’s not exactly clear to me [what the committee’s findings will be],” he told BSU Daily News. “If this were an ordinary differential equations math course and someone wanted to talk about no mathematical subjects in the course, then I would be very concerned. This is an honors course and it may be that discussion is appropriate, but I don’t know yet.”
Though King believes the committee will eventually deliver a fair, objective report, others are not so sure. Representatives of the Discovery Institute—a major think-tank organization devoted to promoting intelligent design—recently delivered a petition to top BSU officials, urging them to defend Hedin’s academic freedom. Well over 7,000 individuals have signed the petition.
In addition to backing Hedin’s freedoms, the petition questions the fairness and effectiveness of the review committee, saying at least three of the four professors on the team appear to be hostile to intelligent design theory. Discovery Institute’s vice president, John West, revealed that two of the committee’s members, Catherine Pilachowski and Gary Dodson, have publicly supported anti-intelligent design sentiments. Furthermore, both Dodson and the third committee member, Richard Fluegeman, participated in the 2009 “Darwin Day” conference. Even a student review from RateMyProfessors.com describes Dodson’s class as “[h]eavy on evolutionary biology theory.”
Thus, West fears the committee’s investigation and official report will be heavily biased, since the members’ beliefs appear to be in sharp contrast with those of Hedin.
Discovery Institute’s David Klinghoffer agrees with West, saying that the committee formation was directly influenced by Jerry Coyne, a radical evolutionary atheist who called Hedin “the nutty professor,” and first alerted the Freedom from Religion Foundation about his questionable teaching.
“Were we supposed to sit back and let Hedin shove Jesus down his students’ throats,” Coyne indignantly wrote on his blog, “as well as presenting creationism in his science class? Well, excuse me for informing Hedin’s chair (and then, when the chair did nothing, the Freedom from Religion Foundation) about his course.”
Ultimately, Klinghoffer believes this BSU scenario is unfortunate, because the review committee was “deliberately stacked against Hedin.”
“[T]he ‘investigation’ of Hedin is biased against him,” Klinghoffer stated, “and was so from the moment it was initiated at the insistence of atheist activists Jerry Coyne and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The more you learn about what’s happening at Ball State, the worse it sounds.”