New Atheists Attack Academic Freedom

It looks like the New Atheists have taken their intolerance to a new level and have come out against academic freedom:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose mission is to act as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the principle of separation of state and church, filed an objection to Eric Hedin’s teaching.

In a letter to BSU President Jo Ann Gora, the group claims Hedin’s “Boundaries of Science” Honors College class “takes your school motto, ‘Education Redefined,’ too far.”

[….]
“BSU appears to offer a class that preaches religion, yet gives students honors science credit,” foundation attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to Gora. “BSU appears to have a class with a non-biologist undermining genuine science and scholarship of the Ball State biology department by teaching creationism, a religious belief … masquerading as science.”

According to Seidel, the foundation attorney, the course does not appear to be an honest investigation into the intersection of science and religion; the course raises legal and ethical issues for the university; and the university’s reputation is at stake.

“We don’t have a problem with the class per se, but with the way it’s being taught,” Seidel said. “A class on the intersection of religion and science would be exciting, but that’s not what’s being taught.”

Given that it is not illegal or unconstitutional to teach junk science in a university science class, there are no legal issues at stake here.

The biased FFRF asserts they have a problem “with the way it’s being taught,” but how do they know “the way it’s being taught?” They claim they received a complaint, but conveniently, they can’t tell us who it is:

[Seidel] declined to identify who complained to the foundation about Hedin, other than saying,” We found out through somebody directly impacted who got in touch with us.”

Then there is NO EVIDENCE of any complaint. We are therefore rationally justified in dismissing the complaint as just another PR stunt by the FFRF.

The FFRF then draws upon the eminently reliable site of professor review – ratemyproffessors:

Some of the students who have taken Hedin’s class have reported on Rate My Professor that he is a very nice guy who “constantly talks religion,” has “an extremely Christian bias and does not believe in evolution,” and who is “constantly bringing religion into class,” Seidel complained to Gora.

I wonder if the FFRF really wants to go down this road? What’s that? Oh yeah, they already did. Okay, so you have to wonder if there are any professors out there who teach their courses from an atheist bias or constantly promote their atheism (many of us who attended college remember them).

Well, all y’gotta do is go to google and search ‘atheist site:ratemyprofessors.com’
Whoa! Here’s a sample of complaints from students, where each quote refers to a different professor at a different university or college:

I started off great in class and got an A on my first test. It all went downhill from there. He can be very negative and talks about his atheism far to much.

If you love Karl Marx and are a devoted atheist, you will love this class. Must use book that he wrote. Refers to Christians as the Christian Taliban. His dislike for Christians is obvious. Compares Jesus to easter bunny and tooth fairy.

He’s an outspoken pro drug atheist who will devour anyone with flighty religious convictions.

I would say the worst teacher I have ever had. This class was his way or the highway. You either get with the program and become an atheist or you get out. Very discriminatory.

The most ideologically slanted professor I have ever had, and that is saying something since I am a government major. Talks just as much about politics and religion as biology. Very arrogant. Rants against religion and humankind in general. If you are not an atheist or a member of green peace, there is no way you won’t be offended.

The 1st day he slandered theists & congratulated himself on his rate of conversion from them to atheists.

If it is wrong for a professor to have a Christian bias or constantly talk religion in class, then it is wrong for a professor to have an Atheist bias or constantly talk atheism in the class. If the FFRF’s complaint is rooted in principle, they will agree. If FFRF’s complaint is simply harassment rooted in prejudice, they will not agree. If BSU sets the precedent of allowing an outside political group to pressure the university’s administration to alter the contents of a previously faculty reviewed and approved course, the door is opened wide for various other outside groups to start policing atheism in classrooms around the nation.

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6 Responses to New Atheists Attack Academic Freedom

  1. thesauros says:

    FFRF doesn’t want to be free from religion. They want to force everyone to be “free” from religion. Fascism is coming

  2. stcordova says:

    “the door is opened wide for various other outside groups to start policing atheism in classrooms around the nation.”

    That presumes the God-hating judiciary system will actually do its job. Doubtful. Other than that, yes the atheists are intolerant. If the FFRF were equitable, they’d defend the rights of believers too, but that won’t happen.

  3. dougindeap says:

    It is important to distinguish a science class from a philosophy or social studies class. Religion may have a place in the latter, not so much in the former. As I understand FFRF’s point, it is not that the class has no place in the college, but rather that it is being passed off as a science class even though it is not. The issue is not so much academic freedom (FFRF does not say the class should not be taught), but rather the integrity of the science curriculum–truth in labeling, if you will.

  4. Michael says:

    Yes, it is an issue of academic freedom – who decides what gets taught in the university class room? Faculty, administration, or the government? The FFRF apparently wants the government to decide.

    And no, it is not important to distinguish a science class from a philosophy or social studies class in this case, as it is not illegal to teach non-science in a university honors course that counts for science credit. There are no “truth in labeling” laws for university classes.

    FFRF would have to make the case that the course must be shut down because religion is being taught. Fine. But then we should not stop there. As shown above, atheism is being taught in many classes in many colleges and universities. If it is wrong for a professor to have a Christian bias or constantly talk religion in class, then it is wrong for a professor to have an Atheist bias or constantly talk atheism in the class. If the FFRF’s complaint is rooted in principle, they will agree. If FFRF’s complaint is simply harassment rooted in prejudice, they will not agree.

  5. dougindeap says:

    You seem to see lawsuits and government review where there are none. FFRF wrote a letter to the University president, called her attention to a religion class masquerading as a science class, and said it raised legal, ethical, and reputational issues. I’m not sure what legal issues FFRF has in mind, but suspect they are thinking of misrepresentation and such–or, in the vernacular, truth in advertising.

    FFRF has not suggested any effort to “shut down” the class and, indeed, made plain that it had no problem with the class per se, but rather with the university holding it out as a science class. While there may be no law against a university calling a religion class a science class (again, you seem to have lawsuits on the brain), it certainly is misleading to students and others.

  6. Michael says:

    Maybe you are right. We’ll have to wait and see what happens if the school makes no changes.

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