MUNCIE, Ind. — Four state lawmakers are investigating Ball State University’s decision toprohibit the teaching of intelligent design in a science course.
University President Jo Ann Gora concluded last summer that intelligent design is overwhelmingly regarded by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory.
A Boundaries of Science class taught by Eric Hedin, an assistant professor of physics, allegedly promoted the idea that nature displays evidence of intelligent design, as opposed to an undirected process like evolution.
The four legislators said in a letter to Gora this week that “serious questions have been raised about … academic freedom, free speech and religious liberty.”
The letter also expresses concerns about whether a faculty review panel appointed to investigate complaints against Hedin “was filled with persons … who were predisposed to be hostile to his viewpoint.”
Because the university has declined to release the review panel’s report, “We feel unable to judge whether the investigation was fair and impartial,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter gives Gora until March 24 to answer the following question: “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?”
Republican state Sen. Dennis Kruse, chairman of the Education Committee, Sen. Travis Holdman, Sen. Greg Walker, and Rep. Jeffrey Thompson, all Republicans, also say they are “disturbed by reports that while you restrict faculty speech on intelligent design, BSU authorized a seminar that teaches ‘Science Must Destroy Religion.’”
In the past few years, Kruse has unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation mandating the teaching of creationism and allowing prayer in public schools.
Ball State spokesman Tony Proudfoot said the legislators apparently were referring to an honors seminar called Dangerous Ideas, which uses a book titled “What is Your Dangerous Idea?”
One essay in the book is titled “Science Must Destroy Religion.” Proudfoot says other essays in the book include these titles: “Science May Be Running Out of Control,” “Science Will Never Silence God” and “Religion is the Hope that is Missing in Science.”
“It is important to note that this is an honors colloquium with honors credit,” Proudfoot said. “It is neither a science class bearing science credit nor a religion class bearing religion credit.”
Kruse was unavailable for comment, his press secretary said.
The legislators are acting on behalf of The Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank, whose vice president, John West, told The Star Press he is hopeful the legislative investigation will force Ball State to release the report of the review panel, which West called “an ad hoc kangaroo committee.”
Discovery Institute officials have been meeting with the legislators.
“If Ball State isn’t more transparent … it is risking legislative intervention,” West said.
Courtesy of USA Today