Materialists (Atheists) Challenge A Course at Ball State University Which Introduces Intelligent Design


I’ve been following the blog writings of Professor Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago for quite some time now, and have begun to wonder just how much teaching of biology he actually engages in. His main activity seems to be in writing numerous blog articles, many, if not most, written from a pronounced atheistic stance.

His latest crusade is against Eric Hedin, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Ball State University in Indiana  and his courses Inquiries in Physical Sciences and Astronomy 151 The Boundaries of Science. (Full disclosure: My mother’s maiden name was Hedin.)  This episode is taking on national attention as in this article from the USA Today …  Ball State science prof teaches Christianity.

Professor Coyne subscribes to an interpretation of the First Amendment that makes the claim that Professor Hedin’s course “clearly violates the First Amendment separating religious endorsement from U.S. governmental operations (these include public schools, of which BSU is one) …  .“

The actual test of the First Amendment reads

“CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF … .”

It is a stretch for Coyne to believe that somehow Congress has reached into the Ball State curriculum, and in particular one professor Hedin and has passed a law that establishes Hedin’s course content as an officially sanctioned state religion. Further, Coyne’s reading of the First Amendment would render null and void, and stricken from the history books, all references and endorsements of religion beginning at or about Benjamin Franklin’s call to prayer during the deliberations at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the very womb from which the Constitution was birthed; or the gathering for prayer and worship at the St. Paul Chapel in Manhattan immediately following the inauguration of one George Washington as our first President. The public and official endorsement of religion has been continual since those days, including the National Day of Prayer, and the swearing in of public officials with a right hand on the Bible. What has not been done is to establish an official church of the United States.

However, Professor Coyne has no problem with calling in the full weight and power of the national government in controlling the teaching of science, and even in the very definition of science. This would seem to me, the simple son of an immigrant TV repairman from Butte Montana, to be an egregious violation of the second part of the First Amendment which reads “ … PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF … .”

So let’s examine some of the teachings of Materialism and of Intelligent Design:

In the following discussion I will include some snippets from the publication”DISCOVERING INTELLIGENT DESIGN” from Discovery Institute.


A Definition of Materialism:
The philosophical belief that the material
world is the only reality that exists.

THE SEVEN TENETS OF MATERIALISM
1. Either the universe is infinitely old, or it appeared by chance, without cause.
2. The physical laws and constants of the universe ultimately occurred by purposeless, chance processes.
3. Life originated from inorganic material through random, blind processes.
4. The information in life arose by unguided, blind processes.
5. Complex cellular machines and new genetic features developed over time through purposeless, blind processes.
6. All species evolved by unguided natural selection acting upon random mutations.
7. All living organisms are related through universal common ancestry.

For materialism to be valid, all of these seven tenets must be true. Materialists and naturalists believe that they own science. After many decades of growing influence in academia, they have gained control of public education, the courts, and the mainstream media. Materialists impose philosophical restrictions upon science which prohibit any reference to intelligent causes. As one evolutionary biologist argued in the world’s leading scientific journal, Nature:

Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.

A Definition of Intelligent Design:
A scientific theory that holds that many features of the universe and life are best explained by an intelligent cause. But it does not tell us whether the intelligence was God, Buddha, Yoda, or some other type of intelligent agent.


(My own commentary continues here.)

If you look into it carefully, you will find no conclusive evidence for many of the seven items described above, and that they rely on (shaky) philosophical foundations and not science. In particular that  Life originated from inorganic material through random, blind processes. If you look at the Berkley site Evolution 101: From Soup to Cells – the Origin of Life, you will see a continuing search for the where’s and when’s and how’s of the evo9lution of life. Not included in this search are speculations (by scientists of course) that life on earth actually originated billions of years before there was even an earth in existence. And look at the article The Enduring Mystery of Life’s Origin from space.com which chronicles 7 theories on the origin of Life.  

There are many hypothesis’ on the origin of life, but for some reason the hypothesis of an Intelligent Designer is not among them, at least in the main stream scientific community. Perhaps too many in this community are of the mind set of the Catholic Church orthodoxy of Galileo’s day, or of Clarence Darrow who represented the anti-evolution orthodoxy of his day.

In the context of the current controversy, it must be noted that Ball State provides a biology course titled:

BIO 440 – Evolution
Principles, evidence, and the historical context of modern evolution theory. Some attention will be given to the origin of life and the evolution of plants and animals. Prerequisite: BIO 100, 102, or 111 or permission of the department chairperson.

And a astronomy course titled:

ASTRO 122 – Stellar Evolution, Galaxies, and Cosmology.

Continuation of ASTRO 120. Topics include stellar evolution, the Milky Way Galaxy, galaxies, quasars, active galactic nuclei, supermassive black holes, large scale structure of the universe and cosmology. Prerequisite: ASTRO 120. Not open to students who have credit in ASTRO 332.

A look at the bibliography of Dr. Hedin’s course  indeed shows a slant towards the idea of Intelligent Design, but the course outline also seems to be a rigorous examination of  some key areas of scientific inquiry and does include topics of evolution. The bibliography includes Roger Penrose, an atheist mathematical physicist

Contrary to the idea that Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic” the course outline indicates professor Hedin is not as close minded as Professor Coyne and other atheistic evolutionists who have sequestered themselves in a cave and refuse to open even a slight crack in their dogmatic approach to seeking the truth (hint: they don’t seek truth).

It could be that the list in Professor Hedin’s bibliography simply shows that there are a great number of legitimate working scientists who don’t buy into the world view of the Materialists. After all, Galileo was a lone and singular voice in his time.

My advice to Dr. Hedin is to include Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True and Richard Dawkins book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. I would also add the book Who Made God by Professor Edgar H. Andrews, and then press on with teaching this course.

In looking at one of Dr. Coyne’s recent critiques of Intelligent Design advocate Dr. Michael Behe, we see the following:

… “Hedin has also asked students to read books written by notable scientists who disagree with the evolutionary theory, such as Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe, both of whom are supporters of the intelligent design movement.”

The “notable scientist” part is laughable. Behe isn’t notable, but notorious  

Now I ask you to examine the resumes of the two men as taken from Wikipedia; Michael Behe and Jerry Coyne. On what basis does Professor Coyne attack Behe’s scientific credibility as “laughable?” Read the above snippet again and you will see the basis as ‘notable scientists who disagree with the evolutionary theory.


Two prominent cases come to mind which are instructive in this discussion.

The first is the famous case of Galileo whose work challenged the then prevailing scientific views of both astronomers of the day, and also of the Catholic Church. Galileo was convicted of heresy and  forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Atheists to this day are quick to point out the error of the Church’s ways in the matter. It would seem the case against Professor Hedin and Ball State bears striking resemblance and pertinence to the case of Galileo and the Catholic Church.

The second case of note is the Scopes Monkey Trial in which John Scopes was accused of violating Tennessee law which made it unlawful to teach evolution as against fundamentalists who said the word of God as revealed in the Bible took priority over all human knowledge. In this case, a new and alternative point of view was challenging the prevailing world view of science at the time.

And yes, I am aware of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case of November 2005 in which a federal judge decided what constituted science, at least in the sense of the study of origins, and ruled that Intelligent Design was religion and not science. So here we have a federal judge acting as did the Catholic Church did in the 1600s in determining scientific truth.  


Why are atheists so intent on shutting out all discussion of the idea of a creator and Intelligent Design? I suspect the answer lies in the question “what next?” You see, once you entertain the idea that there may be a creator at the root of all we are and all we observe, the question then becomes “who or what is that creator?” The next logical step in seeking that answer is to objectively examine the choices put before us; is this god the God of the Bible, the Allah of the Koran, the pantheistic gods still prevalent around the world, or the idea …  just like unintelligent creation from nothing (i.e. evolution) … that the Earth sits on top of a giant turtle who sits on another turtle who sits on another turtle … turtles all the way down. And if we dare entertain that the best explanation could be the God of the Bible, then what are the personal consequences for me, and am I ready to accept them?

Don Johnson – May 2013

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8 responses to “Materialists (Atheists) Challenge A Course at Ball State University Which Introduces Intelligent Design

  1. A critique of Jerry Coyne’s book “Why Evolution is True” is here:
    http://www.discovery.org/a/10661

  2. An interesting discussion on Intelligent Design is here: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/naturalism-intelligent-design-and-extraordinary-claims-part-ii/
    And it’s predecessor here: http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/naturalism-intelligent-design-and-extraordinary-claims/

    And one reader has nicely summarized the claims/counter-claims of ID vs. Darwinian Evolution as follows:
    “The only thing extraordinary about ID is that it claims that a designer of Earth life existed before the designed life (obvious enough). This is hardly extraordinary in a logical sense. The only reason it is “extraordinary” to some people is that it contradicts their received doctrine — namely that no such designer did exist before life arose. Such a design claim doesn’t contradict any empirical evidence, but it conflicts with a deep-seated a priori philosophical commitment.
    Design is really the blatantly obvious conclusion from general observation. Even committed Darwinists admit that life looks designed.
    The truly extraordinary claim — indeed, the wildly and irresponsibly outrageous claim — is that a highly scalable, massively parallel system architecture incorporating a 4-bit digital coding system and a super-dense, information-rich, three-dimensional, multi-layered, multi-directional database structure with storage, retrieval and translation mechanisms, utilizing file allocation, concatenation and bit-parity algorithms, operating subject to software protocol hierarchies could all come about through a long series of accidental particle collisions.
    That is beyond extraordinary. It is preposterous. It is laughable.”

    Thanks Eric Anderson
    Talking here of DNA of course!

  3. Whence did ANY THEORY create a CONTROL GROUP for Origin?

    Oh, that’s right, the Universe seems to be boundless. Sort of disqualifies anything of proper ‘Science’ experiment.

    Cheers.

  4. We’ve forgotten, sadly, that Science answers How and What’s very well, but cannot answer ‘Why?’. We’ve also forgotten that math, while useful, is our creation, and is thus presumptive of the universe.

    Science, to be evidenced, requires repeatable experiments. Experiments, to be valid, must have Control Groups for measure against exogenous.
    Lacking the Experiment with Control, there is no Science.

    As the creation of a Control Group for a Universe remains impossible, there is no Science of Origin, there is only Science of Existence.

    It is a formidable block or impossible quandary that to test the creation of the Universe with SCIENCE, one must be able to Control a Universe. From whence shall we begin? Perhaps the atoms under your chair, or the anti-matter next to Pluto?

    Lacking a boundary, we lack a place to end. Unknowing of what constitutes the fullness of existence, we arbitrarily set up jokes and claim knowledge.

    Perhaps most sadly, our “Scientists” have forgotten what they don’t know.

  5. Well spoken AlexW. Thank you for your insight.

  6. Pingback: Layman’s Reflections on Evolution and Creation. An Insider’s View of the Academy | A Yearning for Publius

  7. Pingback: Ball State University & Intelligent Design: My 7+ Disappointments | A Yearning for Publius

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