Battle of Ball State: Setting the Stage

The battle of Ball State is looming. The troops are gathering. Each side is shouting taunts at the other. But the fighting has not begun. Someone will have to fire the first shot. When that happens, the side that ultimately wins is the side that is already prepared by having studied the enemy’s tactics so they know what to expect. The winning general is already choosing the best ground and deploying his forces where they’ll be needed.

It was only yesterday that we posted about a Statement from Ball State University’s President on the impropriety of teaching intelligent design in science class. The university’s president, Jo Ann Gora, said:

Creation science and intelligent design represent worldviews that fall outside of the realm of science that is defined as (and limited to) a method of inquiry based on gathering observable and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. … Teaching religious ideas in a science course is clearly not appropriate.

[…]

[S]ome have asked if teaching intelligent design in a science course is a matter of academic freedom. On this point, I want to be very clear. Teaching intelligent design as a scientific theory is not a matter of academic freedom – it is an issue of academic integrity

She confined her statement to the controversy over Eric Hedin, an assistant professor of physics, who is alleged to have been teaching intelligent design in an honors science class titled “The Boundaries of Science.” We were never concerned about that issue, so while other bloggers blazed away, we ignored it.

We did become interested, however, when a pattern seemed to be emerging, motivating us to write Ball State University Hires Guillermo Gonzalez. He had been hired away from his position at a bible college — a faculty post that isn’t the greatest science credential — but ordinarily it wouldn’t have troubled us. However, Gonzalez is well known to be a Discoveroid “senior fellow,” so adding him to the Ball State faculty struck us as far more controversial than the contents Hedin’s course. Yet Jo Ann Gora’s statement didn’t mention Gonzalez.

Nevertheless, what she said was strong enough that it resonated in the dingy offices of the Discovery Institute — they’re described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. Today they have not one but two posts at their creationist blog about the situation.

A compassionate person might feel a bit of sympathy for the Discoveroids — just when they seem to be making progress in achieving at least one of the theocratic goals of their notorious wedge strategy, something always comes along to cause them problems. But your Curmudgeon is not very compassionate when the subject is aggressive creationism.

The Discoveroids’ first post about the issue is Ball State University President Imposes Gag Order on Scientists Supportive of Intelligent Design. It’s very predictable and therefore not very interesting — except for the pleasure of watching them squirm. It says, with a bit of bold font added by us for emphasis:

In a blatant attack on academic freedom and the unfettered consideration of scientific viewpoints, the president of Ball State University (BSU) in Muncie, IN, has imposed a gag order on science faculty forbidding their discussion of the theory of intelligent design (ID) in science classrooms.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s all we need to give from that one. We saved the best for last. The Discoveroids’ other new post is by John West (whom we affectionately call “Westie”). Most of you know who he is. Westie is Associate Director of the Discoveroids’ creationist “think tank,” which makes him a really important man in the twilight zone. His latest is Ball State President’s Orwellian Attack on Academic Freedom.

Lordy, lordy. Just that title is delicious. For the Discoveroids to accuse anyone else in this universe of being Orwellian is … well, in the immortal words of Bert Lance: “It’s like being called ugly by a frog.” Long ago, in the first year of this humble blog, we pointed out that the Discoveroids use Their Own Version of Newspeak. Anyway, Westie says:

Memo to President Gora: Academic freedom was designed to protect dissenting and unpopular views among faculty. That’s the whole point. Redefining it as the “freedom” to teach only the majority view isn’t academic freedom; it’s a power play right out of the pages of George Orwell’s 1984. Gora’s statement makes a mockery of true academic freedom. It also exposes Gora as a complete hypocrite on the subject.

If ever we were gifted with the ability to foresee the future, it’s at this moment. The creationists’ lawyers are already dusting off their copies of the pleading files from earlier litigation over claims of “viewpoint discrimination.” Maybe this time they’ll win one. If not, maybe they’ll raise enough of a fuss to coerce a settlement out of the university in order to put an end to the otherwise endless expense and publicity. Trust your Curmudgeon — the lawsuit is coming. It’s as certain as the sunrise.

We’ll skip almost all of Westie’s post. You know what he has to say, and if you want to read the whole thing you can. This is his final paragraph:

If anyone thinks that Gora’s statement is the end of the Hedin matter, they are mistaken. This is just the beginning. BSU is a state university, and its blatant double standard on academic freedom raises fundamental questions that will need to be answered.

We must now do the one thing we’re really good at — observing what isn’t there. You may have noticed that there was something missing from Westie’s rant — the same thing that was missing from Jo Ann Gora’s statement. What was that? Oh, come on, you know — we’re talking about Guillermo Gonzalez, the Discoveroid “senior fellow” who is now on the Ball State faculty.

A word of advice from the Curmudgeon to Ball State: Don’t worry about the Discoveroids’ feigned concern over Hedin, and don’t be troubled when they say you’re Orwellian. Remember the teachings of Sun Tzu. War is often about deception and diversionary maneuvers. The Discoveroids’ indignation over Eric Hedin’s class is merely a distraction. Keep your eyes on Gonzalez.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Battle of Ball State: Setting the Stage

  1. Westie didn’t mention “academic integrity” once. Not once.

    That was the key take-away from Gora’s message.

    “Teaching intelligent design as a scientific theory isn’t a matter of academic freedom – it’s an issue of academic integrity.”

    That needs to be thrown into the Tooter’s face at every opportunity.

  2. retiredsciguy

    AP has another article on this today. It appeared in the Lafayette, Ind. Journal & Courier:
    http://www.jconline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013307310017

    Another article from the same website relates to the architect of Indiana’s voucher system, which can be used to promote creationism at state expense. I posted a previous story about this here a few days ago:

    http://www.jconline.com/viewart/20130801/NEWS04/308010014/Official-Tony-Bennett-resign-Florida-post-amid-Indiana-grading-controversy

  3. retiredsciguy

    docbill: Have to agree 100% that it’s all about academic integrity, because Intelligent Design is 100% bad science.

  4. Pete Moulton

    “Have to agree 100% that it’s all about academic integrity, because Intelligent Design is 100% bad science.”

    Gotta disagree with you on this, rsg. ID is 100% no science at all, good, bad, or indifferent.

  5. retiredsciguy

    @Pete: Yeah, I thought of that after writing. You are right — at any rate, it has no place in any science class, no matter what type of institution the science class is a part of — public, private, religiously affiliated, whatever. It’s not science; therefore, it is a violation of academic integrity to include it in any science class.

    Gora’s comments sure got the Discoveroids in a lather.

  6. I checked their web pages, and Ball State does offer a major in Marketing in the College of Business. No reason to teach ID in the social sciences or humanities, any more than in the sciences.

  7. If I were a betting man, I’d heavily bet there will be no lawsuit out of this. The only person with “standing” to sue is Hedin and, so far, he has cooperated fully with BSU by keeping his mouth shut, talking to the review committee, discussing changes to the course and otherwise being a “good soldier.” Now, something down the line (say if he is denied tenure) might change that, but my vibe is that he is not about to rock the boat of his academic career. Gora’s rather effusive praise of Hedin in her statement is further evidence of that.

  8. John Pieret says: “my vibe is that he [Hedin] is not about to rock the boat of his academic career.”

    Right. It’s best to get tenure first and then spout creationism.

  9. It’s best to get tenure first and then spout creationism.

    We could call it the Behe Principle.

  10. Tripp in Georgia

    I’m probably repeating myself, but I think someone should start actually teaching creationism – scientifically and using proper academic protocols – in some appropriate university department like Social Studies or Philosophy.

    Review as many of the creation myths as they have time for. Discuss the role of these tales in the development of ancient cultures. Teach about why the subject cannot be taught in science class – that it is not science and has no supporting evidence or valid hypothesis. Go over the Kitzmiller vs Dover case and discuss the legal standing of creationism in this country. Discuss the history of efforts to teach creationism as science in the U.S.

    Such a course could break the ice on teaching creationism and put it in its proper place in academia.

  11. The whole truth

    “and the unfettered consideration of scientific viewpoints”

    The thing is, religious fairy tale beliefs are not a scientific viewpoint.

  12. They are forgetting an important factor in what is allowable as a theory in science. Evidence which the ID “Theory” has none of. It’s not even a good hypothesis.

  13. Tripp in Georgia: “I’m probably repeating myself, but I think someone should start actually teaching creationism – scientifically and using proper academic protocols – in some appropriate university department like Social Studies or Philosophy. Review as many of the creation myths as they have time for.”

    I also repeat that often. But rather than referring to them as “creation myths,” I prefer the more emotionally neutral “origins accounts.” In such classes there’s really no need to bring up “creation” or “design,” as that just plays in to the hands of the scam artists who are hell-bent on baiting-and-switching between (testable) proximate causes and (untestable) ultimate causes.

    The US (Judeo-Christian) origins accountS (plural) alone make for a fascinating study. First, they come in several mutually-contradictory versions. The heliocentric young-earth one is the favorite of Biblical activists, but not necessarily of rank-and-file evolution-deniers. One can show how Old-earth was dominant among activists in the Scopes era, but because of the gradual reluctant concessions to mainstream science, it was strategically necessary to repackage the belief system into pure pseudoscience to “rationalize” keeping Genesis as literal as possible while not making it so absurd (flat-earthism, geocentrism) that the average nonscientist won’t buy it.

    In that class one could encourage exactly what the Discoveroids want to censor which is to have students critically analyze the testable “what happened when” claims of those mutually-contradictory accounts, and see their fatal weaknesses. The best part of the class would be to trace the gradual retreat in the strategies to:

    “Don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when, just use every trick in the book to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution. And if that fails, just whine about a ‘conspiracy’ of scientists to replace God with Hitler (as in ‘Expelled’).”

    The class would show that ID strategy had begun to evolve well before the 1987 Edwards v Aguillard decision forced activists to hastily leave that neat “transitional fossil” of “cdesign proponentsists.”

    In case any students react with “what’s the harm, let them believe,” this would be required reading.

  14. Tripp in Georgia

    Frank, thanks for that!