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Hypocrisy Watch: Jerry Coyne, Dr. Hedin's Persecutor, Turns to Teaching Religion in the Science Classroom

Jerry Coyne.jpg

Here's a revealing bit of hypocrisy from Jerry Coyne, who instigated the affair that led to Ball State University's gag order against intelligent design and the intimidation and silencing of physicist Eric Hedin. Coyne gave as one of his objections to Hedin's seminar on the "Boundaries of Science" that it was taught at a public university. Hence Dr. Hedin's offering a bibliography with books favorable to and critical of ID violated the First Amendment's church-separation requirement.

FreedomUnderFire.jpgApart from that bogus challenge, BSU president Jo Ann Gora in her official condemnation, hailed by Coyne as a "victory," censured the introduction of "religious" subject matter in a science course, period. There was no indication that she would welcome it in a private university setting. In Ball State's handing of the case, Hedin was also investigated for teaching "religion" despite being untrained in a relevant academic field.

But look. Now village atheist turned avocational persecutor Dr. Coyne himself has gone ahead and taught about religion in a Duke University science course -- not an interdisciplinary one like Hedin's, but a straight science class. That is despite the fact that he's certainly untrained in religious studies. To the contrary, religion is a subject on which he regularly demonstrates himself to be blockheadedly uncomprehending.

On his blog, Why Evolution Is True, he relates that while traveling:

I addressed, by Skype, an introductory evolution/genetics class taught by my ex-student (and now chair of biology at Duke) Mohamed Noor. They are reading my book and asked lots of questions. As usual, most of those questions were about the intersection of science and religion -- students are really curious about that. Several students had also read ID books and asked me about Haeckel's "fraud," as well as more conventional creationist questions about why evolution didn't violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics (a softball!).

From a glance at the Duke course catalogue, he appears to be referring to "Biology 202L. Gateway to Biology: Genetics and Evolution."

Duke is a private university, but consistency should have required that all of Coyne's (and Gora's) other problems with Hedin's teaching apply no less to Coyne's teaching in Dr. Noor's class. In fact, they should be even more relevant since the class is not an interdisciplinary one. Recall that when Dr. Gora banned speech about ID at Ball State, she cited the supposed First Amendment concern collaterally, as what Coyne called an "added bonus." Her key point was that "Teaching religious ideas in a science course is clearly not appropriate."

Or is it? Coyne instructed a course on "evolution/genetics" about what he himself terms "religion": specifically, "the intersection of science and religion," intelligent design, "creationist" challenges to evolution based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and no doubt more along the same lines.

In his mind, it is acceptable to teach about religion in a science class, so long as you are condemning it. It's acceptable to teach about intelligent design, so long as you are condemning it. It's acceptable to teach about "Haeckel's 'fraud,'" as long as you're minimizing it. It's acceptable to teach about challenges to Darwinian evolution based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, so long as you're denying that the challenges have any force to them.

In other words, in teaching religion in science class, you're OK so long as you stick to an approved script. Ironically, in another post, Coyne complains about scholars who speak from a text: "Why do some academics, especially in the humanities, insist on standing in front of an audience and reading from their manuscript?...There is simply no excuse for an academic reading a paper in public." But in today's world of science teaching, if your subject matter takes you anywhere near intelligent design or the Darwin controversy, reading your lecture verbatim may be the safest course.

Later, if anyone charges that you committed a thought crime, uttering a sympathetic word about ID, you can produce the transcript to prove your innocence. (Though what if somebody claims you said something dangerous in an unscripted Q&A with students following your prepared remarks? A chill thought.)

Meanwhile, on a positive note, it's good to see that biology students at Duke, an elite university, are so up on intelligent design, reading "ID books" and familiarizing themselves with critiques of evolutionary icons like Haeckel's fraudulent embryo drawings. That's a welcome confirmation of the scope of our impact, notwithstanding the efforts of Coyne, Gora, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other censors.

UPDATE: For a special invitation to Dr. Noor's students, see here.

Photo credit: Daniel y Antonia/Flickr.