There’s an editorial in the News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana with this headline: Another fight over religion at Ball State University.
The subject is one we’ve been discussing lately. All the background information can be found here: Ball State Imbroglio Update — 03 Oct 2013. The editorial reviews the facts and then perceptively analyzes the issues. They amusingly refer to the Discovery Institute as:
the Discovery Group, a think tank devoted to “intelligent design”
Getting their name wrong is a splendid touch. It suggests that the Discoveroids are an obscure, virtually unknown bunch of cranks. But the editorial is good on substance too. A few excerpts (with bold font added by us) will show you what we mean:
In the first case [about physics professor, Eric Hedin, who was allegedly teaching intelligent design in his course on the “Boundaries of Science”], BSU President Jo Ann Gora investigated and concluded that intelligent design “is not appropriate for science classes” in a public university classroom because it is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief, not a scientific theory.
Right. Now the the next issue — the Discoveroids’ allegations than an honors seminar titled “Dangerous Ideas,” taught by English associate professor Paul Ranieri, is promoting atheism and bashing intelligent design:
She says she will investigate this case, too, to determine the course material’s appropriateness.
A lot of people will be watching to see how she rules. If it’s wrong to bring religion into the classroom, is it just as wrong to bring in atheism (assuming the charge against the class is true)? Does keeping one out but not the other amount to “favoring or endorsing one side of a religious debate over another,” as the Discovery Group is contending?
That’s the claim of the Discoveroids (a/k/a the “Discovery Group”). Let’s read on:
One big difference is that the intelligent design objection was raised about a science classroom, which made the introduction of religion obviously inappropriate. Certainly intelligent design and other forms of creationism belong in college, just not in science classes.
Yowie! They understand! The editorial continues:
But the dangerous ideas book is being taught by an English professor. Should such a class be required to have balance by presenting counter-arguments to everything? Or is it just religious and anti-religious ideas that have to be pitted against each other? Isn’t college exactly the place for “dangerous ideas” as demanding teachers push students to think critically about things?
That’s enough. You can click over there to read it all. But now that we have your attention, we’ll take advantage of that and give you our own thinking about how we see the Discoveroids’ litigation strategy.
First, as has always been the case, the Discoveroids will not directly appear in the litigation as a party. As in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, they may advise the parties privately, they may supply a witness or two (as they did with Behe — see Kitzmiller v. Dover: Michael Behe’s Testimony), they may even file an amicus brief or two, but their name will not be directly involved. Why? A full frontal defeat would be catastrophic. They prefer to send in useful idiots as expendable troops; that way they can shrug off their losses and keep going.
We see the coming litigation shaping up as a pincer movement, sometimes called a “double envelopment.” According to Wikipedia, that’s a military maneuver in which the flanks of the opponent are attacked simultaneously in a pinching motion after the opponent (in this case, Ball State University) has predictably advanced towards the center.
In the forthcoming Battle of Ball State, the university has made a predictable move and has assumed a position in the center — the university’s president, Jo Ann Gora, has clearly announced a defensible policy that intelligent design doesn’t belong in science classes — see Statement from Ball State University’s President.
That makes sense. We already know that some creationist types have obtained positions on the Ball State faculty. First there’s Eric Hedin, and of course we know about Guillermo Gonzalez. There may be others. It’s good that the university has awakened to their presence, albeit belatedly, but they may not yet grasp the whole picture. They probably see this as a faculty vs. administration policy issue, because those are the forces that now seem to be opposing each other in the center. But in our humble opinion, the coming litigation will not be decided on that front alone.
One of our commenters, ladyatheist, provided us with some insight by linking to Ball State students want all topics, including religion, to be discussed in classes. And thanks to the Christian Broadcasting Network, whose story we wrote about yesterday, we know about a creationist group of students (possibly including those who wrote that letter) who are already spouting the Discoveroid line to the press, and who may be ready to participate in whatever litigation is being planned.
As we see it, the litigation being orchestrated by the Discoveroids will simultaneously hit the university from two directions: (1) a few creationists on the faculty will claim that their “academic freedom” is being suppressed; and (2) a group of creationist students will claim that they are being indoctrinated by atheistic professors. The university will then have to defend itself against accusations that it is not only abusing its faculty, but that it is also abusing its students.
And while that is going on, the distracted university may also be attacked in its rear. The Discoveroids undoubtedly have an imbecilic stooge or two in the Indiana legislature. They will introduce legislation to curb the “abuses” of the university, and they will also hold legislative hearings about the university’s “one sided” science policy. We’ve seen that in Louisiana, where the list of “experts” called to testify is loaded up with bible college professors, so the appearance of a scientific controversy is created, thus justifying a policy of teaching “both sides” — see Louisiana Legislature Used Creation Science Witnesses.
In the din of battle, as resources are diverted to protect the flanks, the center will weaken. The university’s fundamental position that intelligent design has no place in science class may be lost in the chaos. It would be a classic pincer movement.
Your Curmudgeon suggests that the university should study the victory of Alexander at the Battle of the Granicus. Alexander was outnumbered. Before the battle began he conspicuously led a cavalry movement to his right. The Persians deployed a force to counter that, thus weakening the Persian center, through which the Greeks immediately charged. It’s somewhat like a quarterback who deploys a wide receiver, and when the opposing team shifts around to guard against that, he keeps the ball and runs up the center.
What are we suggesting? Ball State should avoid getting crushed in a pincer movement. They should throw their opponent off balance, as Alexander did at the Granicus River. But don’t merely pretend to move from the center; actually do so. Attack the Discoveroid flanks now, before the litigation begins. Investigate that student creationism group. Do they discriminate on the basis of religious belief? It’s quite possible that they do. Then revoke their charter. Toss ’em off campus. De-legitimize them, so there’s one less group of plaintiffs. Then it really will be a contest between a few creationist faculty members and the administration. What about the legislature? The university undoubtedly has friends there. Talk to them — now. Prepare them for what’s coming. Then the university can’t be outflanked. After that, let the Discoveroids give it their best shot. The center will hold.
Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.