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For Your Consideration as We Await the Announcement of "Censor of the Year": Jamie Farren of Freethought Oasis

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As we wait for the announcement of the 2014 Censor of the Year, recognizing achievement in silencing critics of Darwinian orthodoxy, I thought I would highlight for you a dark-horse candidate who absolutely merits consideration: Jamie Farren of the wonderfully named Freethought Oasis.

Casey Luskin reported at ENV on Farren's work in successfully getting a course on intelligent design canceled at Amarillo College in Texas. World Magazine picked up on Casey's article and reported on it as well:

The situation at Amarillo College, first revealed by an Amarillo Globe-News columnist in August and detailed later by the Discovery Institute, is the latest example of pro-Darwinist bullying of academic officials. ...

According to internal emails disclosed under a state freedom-of-information law and seen by WORLD, Amarillo College officials feared the "disruption" would come from the local atheists and agnostics group, the Freethought Oasis. Group president and co-founder Jamie Farren, who describes himself as an "atheist and rogue scholar," had aggressively lobbied school officials to cancel the class. Farren was not a student at Amarillo College, but worked for the school as a part-time employee.

Farren also had a surprise confrontation with the instructor who planned to teach "Evolution vs. Intelligent Design" and questioned his teaching qualifications. The confrontation was so heated it prompted the instructor, Stan Wilson, to file a police report.

"This episode reveals that a single bully -- backed by outside pressure groups ... can scare a large public college in Texas into apparent violations of academic freedom and free speech," Wilson wrote in an email to me.

The detail about the police report is key. Farren has since tried to put a more anodyne spin on the events, writing on his Facebook page:

While leaving campus, I met a man in the hallway of the science wing whom I did not recognize. I introduced myself and he identified himself as Stanley Wilson (the proposed instructor of the course). I questioned him about the course and after several comments back and forth (during which multiple members of AC staff passed by), he walked back in the room from which he came while explicitly declining to shake my hand.

Look, you're probably anticipating that the COTY award will go to someone with higher name recognition and just overall higher status. Isn't that the way of things? Yet the competition for Censor of the Year, unlike the Super Bowl, is no blowout by a dominating nominee against challengers who seemingly have nothing to say for themselves and hardly show up for the game.

On the contrary, Farren may have only intimidated a community college, but isn't it arguable that that is where the most important work of censorship is actually done, where the individuals involved are the most vulnerable to pressure? The vilification that NYU philosopher Thomas Nagel received for writing his book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False has got a lot of attention. But Nagel is so famous and so established that I doubt it will stop him from continuing to write along the same lines in the future. He's safe.

Not so Stan Wilson of Amarillo College.

And Jamie Farren, who is he exactly? Casey in his original reporting gives the information that he was at the time all this blew up working "part-time in the AC Science Enrichment Center." Farren's Facebook page indicates only that he has worked as "Booking Agent Nuskeptix and Skeptic Fence." Can such a guy really be weighed in the same scales as Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education -- who I can tell you has been nominated for a Lifetime Achievement Award?

Yes, he can. That's because it's at at the level of relatively anonymous teachers and administrators that the censor's fear is really instilled. For Darwinist bullies, that's ground zero. The fear feeds upward from there. The more vulnerable the object of censorship, the more effective the censor is in his work.

Indeed, I'll reveal here that Farren has received nominations from our readers, one of whom commented wryly:

Just as a "desert oasis" is actually a place where one finds respite from the rigors of the desert, similarly the Freethought Oasis is obviously a place where one finds respite from the rigors of free thought.

And that is an excellent point.

I'm now on Twitter. Find me @d_klinghoffer.