Thank You for Supporting Ben Carson and Academic Freedom!
Many thanks to readers who signed our petition in support of Ben Carson and the freedom of scientists and scholars to think dissenting thoughts on the subject of Darwinian evolution. We delivered more than 2,700 signatures to Emory University president James W. Wagner on Sunday, gathered in under a week.
Some 500 of Emory's faculty and students have condemned pediatric neurosurgeon and Commencement speaker Ben Carson for doubting Darwin. He's scheduled to speak at the campus in Atlanta and receive an honorary degree this morning sometime between 8 and 9:15 AM. In seeking to cast him in an embarrassing light, the professors used the familiar tactic of attributing to Dr. Carson beliefs, patently foolish ones, he does not hold. Emory's administration supported the professors and, as far as we know at this moment, has said nothing in favor of Dr. Carson's right to think for himself.
This shoddy treatment adds to what's often called a "chilling effect" on other scholars, less well armored by fame than Dr. Carson is. If even a star like him can be subjected to the indignity of this unwelcoming welcome, then think of what a less well known figure in academia would experience if he publicly voiced similar views. Intermediate-school students have their way of bullying; adults who are professional academics have their own methods. It's how they keep genuine skeptics in line.
That's why it was so important to communicate this message in a timely fashion.
Following is the letter from Center for Science & Culture associate director Dr. John West to Emory's president, Dr. Wagner:
May 13, 2012
James W. Wagner, President
Dear Dr. Wagner:
Attached to this email I am forwarding an electronic petition gathered in the past few days by Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture and now bearing more than 2,700 signatures. The signers share a strong concern about the unworthy treatment that has been accorded to Emory University's Commencement speaker this year, Dr. Ben Carson, by Emory faculty and students.
We ask that you, as Emory's president, speak out promptly and unambiguously to affirm Dr. Carson's right to hold a dissenting view in the debate about Darwinian evolution. As you know, approximately 500 Emory faculty members, students and staff published a letter of their own not merely disagreeing with Dr. Carson on certain scientific and moral aspects of conventional evolutionary theory -- a position to which they are certainly entitled -- but grossly distorting Dr. Carson's published views and, in the process, making him appear foolish and disreputable.
The story has attracted national media attention. In public comments, an Emory University spokesman sided with the professors and said nothing in defense of Dr. Carson's right to express a different view. This had the effect of undermining the honor and welcome that normally go with the distinction of delivering a university's Commencement address and receiving an honorary degree. The signers of our petition believe that Emory's teaching staff has dishonored Dr. Carson.
This alone requires the courtesy of a statement of clarification from the university. However, even more important is the message that recent events at Emory send to scientists and scholars who are less prominent and therefore less "bullet proof" than Ben Carson.
There is a genuine and fascinating scientific debate going on about Darwinian theory -- specifically, about the explanatory adequacy of natural selection (operating on random variation) to account for the history of life's evolution, as compared to an alternative theory, that of intelligent design. The debate has important scientific, moral and cultural ramifications. Yet, for all that this is a scholarly discussion that needs to take place, scientists with doubts about Darwin are under the perpetual threat of intimidation and retaliation. As a result, many choose to maintain silence.
Distorting the views of opponents has been a key strategy of Darwin advocates, who seek to maintain the pretense of a freely determined scientific "consensus" on evolution. Responsible leaders in higher education need to take a firm stance and demand that science allow an open, no-holds-barred debate on evolution, where no one needs to fear that his name will be besmirched and his thoughts misrepresented in an effort to silence him.
The signers of this petition respectfully ask that Emory University offer a public statement calling on the scholarly community to refrain from intimidating dissenters in the evolution controversy and, instead, to allow an unhindered search for scientific truth.
John G. West, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Discovery Institute, Seattle