Intelligent Design: Hoosier Lawmakers Demand Answers from President Gora

MUNCIE, Indiana – Earlier this month, Jo Ann Gora, President of Ball State University, was being showered with accolades at the Muncie City Council meeting, and even presented a key to the city by Mayor Dennis Tyler, but a lot can happen in mere days.

Jo Ann GoraIt appears that several Indiana legislators at the state level would like to rescind her accolades by admonishing her and the Board of Trustees for how they handled the summer’s intelligent design issue with Professor Hedin. Senator Dennis Kruse, Senator Travis Holdman, Senator Greg Walker and Representative Jeffrey Thompson all signed a letter which addresses their deep concerns about the, “academic freedom, free speech, and religious freedom” of Professor Eric Hedin.

In 2013, Prof. Hedin wanted to teach an honors class called “Boundaries of Science” which explored intelligent design or creationism. The class created lots of controversy thanks to Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Chicago. Well, a committee was convened, a ruling issued, and Prof. Hedin was allowed to respond to the findings. Dr. Gora wrote to the staff:

Teaching intelligent design as a scientific theory is not a matter of academic freedom – it is an issue of academic integrity. … Said simply, to allow intelligent design to be presented to science students as a valid scientific theory would violate the academic integrity of the course as it would fail to accurately represent the consensus of science scholars.

Well, then all Hell broke loose, including the wrath of Discovery Institute which penned a ten page letter to Dr. Gora last September. In the letter, they dissected her declaration to faculty and staff and then admonished her for being hypocritical about how she handled this case versus one with George Wolfe several years ago,. They even applied her logic to other programs offered at B.S.U. claiming they didn’t pass her logic test, then finished with demands that Dr. Gora answer 10 “troubling” questions.

Dr. Eric Kelley, an urban planning professor,  entered the fray by sending a letter to the editor of The StarPress claiming, “Ball State botched the Hedin case” (This letter is in TSP’s archives if you wish to pay to read it).

One of the many goals of education “reformers” is creating a façade of school “choice” to allow private religious institutions to teach creationism as science to their children, or allowing public tax dollars be used to fund private schools. A continuation of the secular vs. non-secular viewpoints which has been settled in court many times, but our socially conservative legislators keep on fighting by rewording the same concept. Very similar to the strategy of voting to repeal Obamacare 50 times, despite losing a presidential race and SCOTUS ruling.

Who is Discovery Institute?

It’s a “bi-partisan socially conservative think-tank”. According to several sources, they are a private organization and do not show their donors – red flag. This is a false flag…I read free market in many place on their site, so combined with socially conservative, this is another libertarian Astroturf organization which hires some folks with impressive sounding credential to lend credibility to the reports they generate.

It’s the same premise as the climate denying and free-market “think-tanks” used by the Koch brothers and a handful of other libertarian billionaires to push their political agenda. Indiana is home base for many of these entities. They further their political agenda by funneling millions into these organizations and extending donations to universities across the U.S. with the caveat of “educators” of their choosing be hired. All public colleges are feeling the heat since public tax dollars are shrinking due to intentionally played austerity measures across the globe via a manufactured crisis.

We headed over to Wikipedia to check on this group, and there is really nothing positive being said about them. They are a political group pushing ID in public education. Numerous foundations are cited as withdrawing monies from Discovery because scientific evidence is lacking. Well, of course there is no science to support it – it’s a belief system requiring faith in power beyond human which created man, or anti-evolution. It’s a religion which belongs in humanities and/or social study classes – not science.

The John Templeton Foundation was specifically asked if they fund Discovery and their response was:

No. We do not support the political movement known as “Intelligent Design.” This is for three reasons 1) we do not believe the science underpinning the “Intelligent Design” movement is sound, 2) we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and 3) the Foundation is a non-political entity and does not engage in, or support, political movements.

End of story, right? Jo Ann Gora made the right decision, informed the staff to move on – keep your beliefs in philosophy class where they belong. I happen to enjoy discussing religions, all religions. All cultures have a religious belief about mans place in the universe and how we developed. The fundamental problem is once you consider the stories behind the faith as “science” and justify creation of the human species, then all religions must come into play. Intelligent design, as practiced by Discovery Institute, only considers a Christian deity – God as architect.

If God is the real architect, then it creates a problem for all other religious practices which don’t view God as the creator. This is one of the reasons creationism or intelligent design falters. Also, it’s extraordinarily difficult to analyze and breakdown faith with scientific principles.

This will not stop the likes of social conservatives like Dennis Kruse (R) from Auburn, who has taken up the case of Discovery Institute. If you remember, he wanted to allow kids in public schools to say the “Lords Prayer”. He also wanted to give students the right to challenge teachers to prove themselves to the class under the auspices of “critical thinking”.

Can you imagine giving students even more power over teachers in 2014? I am sure this would force all remaining teachers, who have already been bludgeoned to death by state lawmakers, into early retirement.

Anyway, he is the lead author of the letter sent to Gora. The press release from Discovery Institute and Kruse was provided below for your reading pleasure.

We did some digging on the DI’s website to see what they were saying about the four Hoosier lawmakers who were picking up their case against Ball State. David Klinghofer was addressing Jerry Coyne’s prediction of “Nothing will come of the lawmakers request/demands.” He writes, “Senator Kruse is only the chairman of the Senate Education Committee. In 2012 Ball State received $143.5 million of its $352 million budget from the state of Indiana. That is 41 percent. That suggests some influence these lawmakers can bring to bear.”

Apparently, the Discovery Institute’s David Klinghofer expects Senator Kruse and his republican colleagues to “shakedown” Ball State if their demands aren’t met. You can almost hear the phone call between Mr. Klinghofer and Senator Kruse – “Don’t worry gentlemen, she’ll listen to me because I’m the acting Chairman of the Education Committee, which makes recommendation on appropriations for public colleges in Indiana. She’ll either let ID have equal time in a science classroom to legitimize our religion, or I’ll cut her funding next year.”

Well, the legislators give Dr. Gora and the board of trustee’s until March 24th to respond to his question. I’m sure she’ll politely whisk them away with a well written response, or ignore them – we shall see. Either way, maybe Senator Kruse should receive a letter from our readers informing him of his role as a public servant.


Discovery Institute Press Release: Indianapolis—Four state legislators led by Senate Education Committee Chair Dennis Kruse (R–Auburn) have sent a letter to Ball State University’s (BSU) President and Board of Trustees expressing serious concerns about the university’s treatment of BSU physicist Eric Hedin and its imposition of a speech code censoring faculty speech on intelligent design.

Prof. Hedin previously taught an honors course on the “Boundaries of Science” which briefly discussed the idea that nature displays evidence of intelligent design, but the course was removed from BSU’s course schedule for Spring Semester 2014 following a controversial investigation that operated outside of normal procedures.
In their letter, legislators expressed concerns “about whether improper procedures were followed while investigating Prof. Eric Hedin’s course, and whether an ad hoc committee appointed to investigate him was filled with persons with conflicts of interest…We are also concerned about the cancellation of Hedin’s class and the policy you announced last summer restricting faculty speech on intelligent design. We are disturbed by reports that while you restrict faculty speech on intelligent design, BSU authorized a seminar that teaches ‘Science Must Destroy Religion.’

Your policy banning professors from expressing their views on intelligent design raises many troubling questions. One of the most important is: Does the policy forbid science professors from explaining either their support or rejection of intelligent design in answer to student questions about intelligent design in class?”

The legislators promised to send additional questions to BSU in coming weeks. The legislators’ letter comes after nearly 10,000 people signed a petition urging BSU to allow academic freedom for Prof. Hedin.

“Thus far BSU has refused to answer many questions about its mistreatment of Prof. Hedin,” said Discovery Institute attorney Joshua Youngkin. “BSU even recently filed a complaint with the Public Access Counselor to delay disclosing emails requested under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act. It’s time for BSU to stop stonewalling.”

“Senator Kruse and his fellow legislators are to be applauded for investigating BSU’s actions violating academic freedom and open discussion,” added Donald McLaughlin, Discovery Institute’s Indiana representative and an alumnus of Ball State.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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