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Why Censorship at Ball State Matters, and What You Can Do About It

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If you're like me, the Ball State University affair brings to a head, not for the first time, a source of great frustration. Here is a large public university clamping down on discussion of the theory of intelligent design by any professors who should care to talk about the subject, whether in a science or even a humanities course. What can I do about it?

FreedomUnderFire.jpgEven if I lived in Indiana, where Ball State is located, even if I were a student or a faculty member at Ball State, what could I do? Well here's something you can do, positively and right now: Go to the new webpage Discovery Institute has launched that makes it easy to learn how to register your opinion with the only group of people, short of the state legislature that pays the bills at Ball State, with the power to reverse President Jo Ann Gora's gag order against talking about ID on the campus. Those people are Ball State's Board of Trustees.

Do that now. It's fast, and it's important.

Why important? This isn't only about physicist Eric Hedin, Ball State's shabby treatment of him following an absurd accusation by outsiders that he violated the First Amendment, or the Orwellian denial of academic freedom -- in the name of academic "integrity"!

If it were just about Hedin's case it would be outrageous. In fact, it's much graver than that. If President Gora's anti-ID speech code stands, it will have ramifications far beyond Indiana. This is a crucial test of the limits of open inquiry and scientific discussion.

Before we heard of Dr. Hedin, intelligent design was already forbidden science on most campuses. Even the scientific critique of Darwinian theory, a different though related subject, was dicey for many researchers. Gora's gag order, unless overturned, cements an intimidating state of affairs and makes it much worse.

Discovery Institute, though perpetually challenged to find the funding necessary to do our work, is at least an independent research entity committed to candidly exploring the scientific case for design in nature. Not so other academic institutions, where anyone who considers talking with colleagues or students about the argument for design, or God forbid writing about it in public, faces the threat of being punished for his subversion of the ruling orthodoxy.

We've seen it so many times, from Sternberg to Coppedge and all the stories in between, many of which we can't share with you precisely in order to protect researchers whose livelihoods and professional futures would be put in peril if we did.

Left in place, Gora's code of silence -- omert´┐Ż, it would be called in some non-academic contexts -- is a warning to scientists across the country. Its ripples extend to both coasts. The academic world is watching. Overturned, though, it would at least grant some relief to those in fear.

Darwinian censorship, arguably, has never been fiercer than at this moment, probably because we are winning the argument on the merits, and they know it. We've already shared with you what happened to the volume of papers from the conference at Cornell, Biological Information: New Perspectives, deep-sixed by Darwin activists who intimidated the publisher. Another publisher later stepped in and brought the book to light in open-access form.

That was a happy ending. Less so was the recent tale from Amarillo College in Texas where atheist malcontents stampeded the college into cancelling a course on intelligent design.

What about outside the academy? I've said here before that no single author associated with the intelligent design community arouses more fear and loathing than Stephen Meyer. His current book, Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, has been the subject of venomous invective ever since it was announced that the book would be published this past June by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins.

In that case, Darwin's censors had no apparent leverage over the publisher, so they switched tactics and settled on a strategy of giving a false impression of what's in the book, what Meyer says and how he makes his case. To date, no critic has honestly wrestled with the main argument of Darwin's Doubt. The height of absurdity was reached by John Farrell in National Review who tried to impute malpractice or worse to Meyer with obscure, dark mutterings about punctuation -- the placement of an ellipsis!

From overt censorship to character assassination to mere misinformation, it's all part of a single effort by Darwin defenders to a) flee from a fair fight on the merits of the respective cases for design v. Darwin as an explanation of life's evolutionary history, and b) to stop anyone else from fairly considering the case for design in a balanced, open-minded fashion.

The Ball State affair presents the rare opportunity we all have to cast a meaningful vote, that if successful would actually make a difference, in favor of intellectual freedom and honest debate. I strongly urge you not to miss that chance. Go here now and find out how to communicate your views to Ball State University's Board of Trustees. And let your friends know they should do so as well!