You know about the controversy over creationism at Indiana’s Ball State University. If not, see our post from yesterday: Battle of Ball State: Setting the Stage. Now we have a reaction from a faculty member of that institution — one who isn’t involved in the ruckus, and who can therefore be expected to take an objective, disinterested look at the situation.
Eric Damian Kelly is a professor of urban planning at Ball State University who has served the university as a college dean, a department chairman and, for two years, as chairman of the university senate, which is the over-arching body in the shared governance system.
Urban planning? Isn’t that some kind of — pardon the expression — intelligent design applied to the growth and development of cities? Urban planners are always battling against natural, free-market growth (that’s “sprawl,” you know) and allowing only their own kind of growth according to their own vision. Well, why not? They’re so much smarter than we are.
The urban planning profession is like applied sociology or something, legalized coercion of city dwellers who are required to live according to the dictates of the planners. Sometimes their plans appear to be lovely (that’s often true of utopias) but if they really are that wonderful, why do their plans have to be enacted into law and enforced with guns? Other than an invading army, nothing could be more deleterious to our liberty than being governed by armed utopian dreamers.
But wait — there’s more. Today’s author has also held various administrative posts at the university, so he’s not only an urban planner, he’s also an academic bureaucrat. We’ve had an occasional run-in with that type. Who hasn’t?
We pause for a moment to address our gasping readers. Well, what did you expect? You knew that when you came here you were going to get a dose of the Curmudgeon’s thinking, and that’s just what you’re getting. Now you know that the author of today’s newspaper article isn’t our kind of guy. Nevertheless, we won’t pre-judge Professor Kelly’s opinion. We’ll wait until we see what he has to say. So let’s get to it. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
The scientific community rejects intelligent design. So be it. I accept for the sake of argument our university president’s assertion that nothing but science should be taught in a science course.
But even accepting her assertion, I am convinced that the heavy-handed manner in which the university addressed the recent issue involving Prof. Eric Hedin (whom I do not know) represents a significant threat to academic freedom.
Kelly definitely sounds like a full-blown idiot. He says, right up front, that he doesn’t have a clue as to whether intelligent design is science or not, but even if it isn’t, he thinks Hedin should be free to teach any blithering nonsense he wants in his science class. We’re off to a good start. But it gets even better:
In the “shared governance” system at the university, the faculty, not the administration, is responsible for academic matters, ranging from the content of courses through the requirements to earn a particular degree. The governance and administrative system includes mechanisms to deal with course content.
He then describes a vast, bureaucratic labyrinth of seemingly endless committees and reviews which he says are the appropriate way to handle disputes such as this. And at the end of that mushy process, what happens? Then the university starts to kick butt. Oh yeah, that’s when it really hits the fan. Get this:
If they fail to deal with a real issue, the college dean can and should perhaps intervene.
“Can and should perhaps” — Wowie! Kelly is a no-nonsense, two-fisted disciplinarian. He runs a tight ship. He’s the kind who makes the trains run on time. Let’s read on:
If Hedin was doing something weird in his course, deviating from the approved course description, he should have expected to hear from his department chair, Thomas Jordan. … But to have the two top-ranking officers of the university intervene directly in a review of what he was teaching, with the help of four senior faculty members — two not from his department and one from another university — had to be terrifying to an assistant professor hoping someday to earn tenure.
It had to be terrifying! The urban planner continues:
With the limited knowledge of a non-scientist, I believe that the Big Bang is much closer to reality than any theory of so-called intelligent design.
No one cares what an urban planner thinks about the Big Bang, but here’s more:
I note, however, a couple of factoids: Stephen Hawking in “The University in a Nutshell” (2001) referred to the Big Bang as a “theory,” not a scientific fact; and there is a long history of persecution of astronomers and others in the field for pursuing unusual theories — perhaps beginning with the Catholic Church’s charging Galileo with heresy 500 years ago for asserting that Copernicus was right and that the planets revolve around the sun, not around the earth.
The Big Bang is only a theory? Egad — who knew? But never mind that. What’s coming next will be our last excerpt from Kelly’s article, and it’s a humdinger:
One era’s heresy sometimes becomes another era’s theoretical anchor. Has the administration controlled a loose cannon or repressed a Galileo?
Okay, dear reader. When we began, we told you that were willing to consider what the urban planner had to say, and only then would we judge him. Well, we’ve given his opinion a fair hearing, and now we have made a judgment. You don’t need to ask what it is, do you?
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