Re: Viewpoint discrimination or careless reading.

From: Pim van Meurs <>
Date: Sun Oct 09 2005 - 00:17:18 EDT

Ted Davis wrote:

>Your various posts in response to mine raise at least two very good points.
Thanks Ted. Let me iterate that I am not necessarily convinced that what
the University of Idaho was either a smart thing, a good thing or a
legal thing to do. My objections at this moment lie mostly with the
rethoric from the Discovery Institute and the 'viewpoint discrimination
argument' by DeWolf.

>(1) The legal rulings about academic freedom, which I was not aware of, are
>quite interesting. Institutions do have their own guidelines, in many
>cases, and courts do typically pay attention to those. But it's
>extraordinary IMO for a university president to rule that professors in one
>cluster of disciplines (history, phil, religion, etc) may "teach" a subject
>and professors in another cluster of disciplines (sciences) may not. I have
>in fact never heard of such a thing, althoug this doesn't mean that it has
>not happened.
Anyone may teach the topic, just not in a science curriculum. I believe
the University of Ohio did something similar?

I recently wrote this on PT

Two recent articles in Inside Higher Ed News are presenting a good
overview as to how academics view Intelligent Design.

Drawing a Line in the Academic Sand
<> and Common Ground
on Intelligent Design <>

The first article discusses the statement by the President of the
University of Idaho.

    President White wrote:

    “Because of the recent national media attention on the issue,” reads
    President Timothy P. White’s letter, “I write to articulate the
    University of Idaho’s position with respect to evolution: this is
    the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our
    bio-physical sciences.” The short letter goes on to allow for the
    teaching of “views that differ from evolution” in other courses,
    like religion and philosophy, but not as a scientific principle,
    which is “testable and anchored in evidence.”

They quote Harold Gibson, a University of Idaho spokesperson

    Gibson said that if he were a faculty member interested in
    “intelligent design,” he would actually feel better because of the
    letter. “It clearly states there is a place for teaching of views
    that differ from evolution, as long as they’re in faculty approved
    curricula,” he said

Predictably, the Discovery Institute (DI) was not amused and through
senior fellow DeWolf, they argued “viewpoint discrimination”. DeWolf
hoped that the “American Association of University Professors (AAUP)”
would recognize this. However, the AAUP responded that

    Jonathan Knight, director of the Office of Academic Freedom and
    Tenure at AAUP, isn’t worried. “Academic freedom is not a license to
    teach anything you like,” Knight said, noting that the letter says
    “views that differ from evolution may occur in faculty-approved
    curricula” outside the physical sciences. Knight said that the way
    to determine if something is scientifically grounded is “by what the
    community of scholars determines by decades of testing.” He added
    that if a professor “wants to teach that the Holocaust did not occur
    following writing of David Irving folks in the history community
    would say that’s not well grounded in historic facts.”

Scott Minnich, a well known Intelligent Design (ID) supporter and a
tenured professor at the University of Idaho, accepts that the
University has certain responsibilities but wants to clarify with White
that addressing questions about intelligent design raised in class is
not prohibited.

    Minnich wrote:

    Minnich said he thinks the university has “a right to oversight,”
    and that “the president has a right to show the public that we
    haven’t gone off the reservation here,” he said.

Seems that the ‘complaints’ by the Discovery Institute are falling
mostly on ‘deaf ears’ even among its own supporters.

In a latest development
<>, University
of Idaho president White was admitted to hospital after complaining of
chest pains and underwent emergency heart catherization. He is in
serious but stable condition

The second article titled Common Ground on Intelligent Design
<> describes how more
and more faculties around the country are expressing their opinions on
Intelligent Design.

    The heads of the Universities of Kansas and Idaho recently declared
    in open letters that “intelligent design” is not appropriate
    material in science classrooms.

    While scientists agree, many faculty members in natural science
    departments around the country see little need for an administrative
    decree, because, as Neal Simon, chair of biological sciences at
    Lehigh University, put it: “The scientific community has recognized
    that this is a social and political issue … and that this is not

>The Univ of Idaho is the first and so far the only university whose
>president has made such a ruling. An historian writing about this in 50
>years will notice that, as I have, and will surely connect this with Scott
>Minnich's upcoming testimony for the defense. Indeed, it would be
>incompetent of such an historian NOT to make that connection, it's just so
>obvious. If 20 other schools had already done this, and none of them had on
>their faculties scientists who were going to testify for the defense, it
>would be another matter.
Timing may or may not have been coincident. Minnich seems to hold no big
grudges as far as I can tell from the newspapers, he accepts that the
university can set guidelines and wants to clarify that he is free to
address questions about ID in class.

>(2) Your point about universities stopping creationism, etc, is important
>and I sympathize with it. However we should be able to learn the results of
>an important case along these lines--I haven't taken time late tonight to
>look, perhaps I can do so on Monday. As you may realize, Pim, for many
>years an important evolutionist who is an expert on abiogenesis taught
>introductory biology at a university in California. I mean Dean Kenyon.
>Following his conversion to Christianity followed by his conversion to YEC
>(a rare case, but it is as a describe it), he started teaching some YEC
>ideas in that course and his colleagues took that course away from him. I'm
>pretty sure he sued his university, and I think he was reinstated. I'd have
>to check those details. But in any case his situation, involving YEC ideas,
>is much more extreme. So if he won out in his situation (which I think he
>did, pending correction), then Minnich should win out in his.
Interested in the Dean Kenyon case, I chose to do some research. So far
nothing about a lawsuit. All I found is that the academic freedom
committee agreed with him but the department demurred. The AAUP got
involved and Kenyon was reinstated. In this case afaict the AAUP is on
the side of the University of Idaho (see my above posting for details).
I need to do more time line research to understand the exact
circumstance surrounding Kenyon. An interesting case indeed.
After his removal, Kenyon claimed his intellectual freedom had been
abridged and appealed to the faculty senate's Academic Freedom
Committee. The committee agreed with him, but the department demurred.
Tensions escalated in November, when the American Association of
University Professors weighed in, praising the committee's report and
urging resolution of the issue. And finally came the endorsement of
Kenyon's reinstatement by the Academic Senate.

But Kenyon's views have been a matter of chronic concern since he began
injecting them into his teaching more than a decade ago, says university
dean James Kelley, an oceanographer. So "18 years of student complaints"
seems like enough evidence. Department chairman John Hafernik adds that
there was no due process to violate. He calls Kenyon's reassignment a
"scheduling decision" that should never have gone outside the
department. But it did, and now it's back. Kelley says Kenyon (who is
now teaching only labs) has been offered the chance to conduct an
advanced seminar where his ideas can be explored. But Kenyon wants his
intro course back, saying "I'm not going to drop this issue." He won't
get more specific, but university officials fear a lawsuit is in the making.

In 1980/1981, the Department of Biology had its first Creationism
Controversy. This controversy centered on the presentation by Dr. Kenyon
of creationism, then called "scientific creationism," in
Biology 337 Evolution. At that time, Dr. Kenyon challenged anyone on the
faculty to a debate on the merits of evolutionary theory versus
"scientific creationism." There was much discussion in faculty meetings
as well. Eventually the faculty voted (none opposed, seven abstentions)
not to alter the description of Biology 337 to include creationism. The
precedent set, in the context of the 1980 discussions, was that the
Department did not support teaching creationism.

When the controversy arose anew in the fall of 1992, I acted in a way
that was in line with the views of the faculty expressed in 1980.

The Present

The present controversy began when students in Dr. Kenyon's Biology 100
class complained to me that he included unscientific material
(creationism) in his lectures. They also complained about other aspects
of Dr. Kenyon's class.

Some points to keep in mind are as follows:

1. The Department of Biology, through its chair and biocouncil, is not
saying that there should be no place for the discussion of Dr. Kenyon's
philosophical views within the University's curriculum. No one is
attempting to restrict the expression of his views in his personal
professional endeavors. What is being said is that students in an
introductory general studies science class should learn the ways of
science. To mix science and the views of oneUs religion together does
students a disservice.

2. The University Guidelines for Academic Freedom and Responsibility
include the following statement: "Students have the right to the
instruction promised them in official University
publications." In this case instruction in science and not religion.
Students are entitled to truth in advertizing.

3. The topic of evolution, as used in the course description of Biology
100, is not generally considered synonymous with the topic of "origins"
as used by Dr. Kenyon and the Academic Freedom Committee. "Origins" is a
more politically correct term used by creationists for special creation.

4. "Intelligent design" as used by Dr. Kenyon is a concept historically
associated with "creationism."

5. If there is a dispute as to what constitutes science or appropriate
application of scientific standards, the dispute should be resolved by
those who are most knowledgeable, peers
within the discipline.

6. Decisions about the specifics of the class schedule for the Biology
Department must be made by the Department not by a committee composed of
faculty members from other departments, nor
by upper level administrators.


US 11th Circuit

In 1987, an exercise physiology professor at the University of Alabama
referred to his religious beliefs in his exercise physiology course. He
also organized an optional after-class meeting for his students and
other interested persons wherein he lectured on Evidences of God in
Human Physiology." His lecture included the notion that man was created
by God and was not the by- product of evolution. The University told him
to stop expressing his religious views in class or in class meetings
associated with his class. He sued citing infringement of his First
rights. In 1991, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh
Circuit ruled, and the Supreme Court allowed to stand, that the
University of Alabama could instruct a faculty member that he could not
interject his religious beliefs into class lectures. In that decision,
the court made the point that "free speech does not grant teachers a
license to say or write in class whatever they may feel like, and ...
the propriety of regulations or sanctions must depend on such
circumstances as the age and
sophistication of the students, the closeness of the relation between
the specific technique used and some concededly valid educational
objective, and the context and manner of
Received on Sun Oct 9 00:20:28 2005

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