Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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Bullying Campaign Against Ball State's Eric Hedin Goes On, Now with Enhanced Phony First Amendment Argument

It will soon be four weeks since Ball State University announced it would investigate physics professor Eric Hedin for teaching a class including material favorable to intelligent design (along with material critical of ID). Why is the Ball State administration taking so long to dismiss bogus claims by University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne and the extreme atheist-activist group Freedom from Religious Foundation that Hedin violated the First Amendment?

Maybe the reason has something to do with the fact that Coyne is not a nobody (though he is an ignoramus on anything to do with the intelligent design controversy). People are overly impressed by his university affiliations. And he keeps banging away at the issue on his blog, trying to put Hedin out of a job.

Make no mistake, that will be the ultimate result if Coyne gets his way. While Jerry Coyne sits comfortably in Chicago, secure in his employment as he snaps photos of his own boots and the meals he eats and posts endless videos of cute cats, Hedin is surely in fear for the future of his career. (You don't believe me about Coyne's popular blog, Why Evolution Is True? Go over there periodically and see. He is currently administering a contest for readers who photograph themselves with a cat under their nose so it looks like a beard. Really!)

Remember, Dr. Hedin is as yet untenured. If your university ended up reprimanding you for a class you teach that it deemed, after investigating you at Coyne's instigation, to be in breach of the U.S. Constitution, what impact do you think that would have on your tender hopes for winning tenure and keeping your job in the long term? At your current university, or any other? Coyne's campaign against Hedin is not only stupid. It's cruel.

In pressing his case against Hedin, Coyne now thinks he's found justification in a 2008 law review article by Frank S. Ravitch ("Legal scholar: teaching intelligent design in public universities is both a scientific and First Amendment no-no"). Casey Luskin already dismantled Ravitch's article here at ENV when it came out, and has since taken apart Ravitch's 2011 book Marketing Intelligent Design: Law and the Creationist Agenda. But imagine if Ravitch and Coyne set the rules at public universities. Coyne summarizes: "Teaching ID in public universities and colleges is a likely violation of the Establishment Clause. That is, it can be prohibited as an unwarranted incursion of religion into public schools."

So you see that for all the stupidity and cruelty of trying to get Hedin's young career fried, what's really at stake is the freedom to teach at universities and colleges around the country -- about one quarter of such institutions of higher education (public versus private). If Coyne the would-be censor triumphs in the case of Eric Hedin, that would throw a major scare into scholars who want to explore the evidence for intelligent design. He would like to see teaching about ID in public university sciences classrooms made illegal.

It's called intimidation. I see that Coyne's fellow Darwin-activist blogger PZ Myers disputes (to put it very mildly) our Joshua Youngkin's use of the term "bullying" to describe intimidation directed at high school science teachers who teach about the evolution controversy. But bullying is exactly what Coyne wants to see more of, and it's what he is doing right now in the Hedin affair. It's pure and simple bullying.

And that is why you need to sign the petition we're gathering in defense of Dr. Hedin. We'll be giving the signatures we collect to the administration at Ball State University. Please take a moment and sign now!