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Universities Would Be More Honest if They Required a Darwinist "Faith Statement"

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Peter Conn, an English professor at University of Pennsylvania, writes today in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how he's upset over religious colleges receiving academic accreditation despite the fact that some require faculty to sign faith statements. At other institutions, faith requirements may be implicit. Accreditation, of course, is the key to students getting federal financial aid.

There is the usual stuff about a presumed war on science, with Rep. Paul Broun and his no doubt immortal "straight from the pit of hell" line throw in for good measure to stir up the readership:

Let me be clear. I have no particular objection to like-minded adherents of one or another religion banding together, calling their association a college, and charging students for the privilege of having their religious beliefs affirmed. However, I have a profound objection to legitimizing such an association through accreditation, and thereby conceding that the integrity of scholarship and teaching is merely negotiable. I also object to the expenditure of taxpayer dollars in support of religious ideology, in particular when that ideology has set itself in opposition to the findings of modern science.

The retrograde battle that religious fundamentalists are waging against science has become a melancholy fact of our contemporary cultural life. Legislators around the country conspire to find academic room for the oxymoronic charade called "creation science." According to Rep. Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican who sits on the House science committee, evolution is a lie "straight from the pit of hell." By effectively endorsing such blinkered sentiments through its accreditation process, American higher education is betraying itself, and providing aid and comfort to those who would replace reason with theology.

Stepping back from the immediate question of religious institutions, wouldn't it be much more honest if science departments at places like Penn, and at public universities too, required scientists to sign a statement affirming that they reject any "findings of modern science" if those findings vary from materialist orthodoxy? That would simply be a matter of recognizing the status quo. Call it a "faith statement" -- what else?

Biologist Jerry Coyne at the University of Chicago was just giving voice to what many of his colleagues take for granted when he wrote, in reference jointly to an anti-discrimination law in Texas and the case of astronomer Martin Gaskell, that any scientist caught sympathizing with the theory of intelligent design should be barred from consideration for a job:

I abhor discrimination against hiring simply because of someone's religion, but adherence to ID (which, after all, claims to be a nonreligious theory) should be absolute grounds for not hiring a science professor.

The Gaskell, Hedin and similar stories demonstrate that science faculty are subject to requirements that they not give comfort to those who question the adequacy of Darwinian theory to explain how life evolved. Nor may they entertain the possibility that biology or cosmology gives evidence of design. You can be sure the same is true in the humanities.

Peter Conn teaches about American literature. Imagine some young, untenured up-and-comer in the same department at Penn who decides to write an article saying pro-ID scientists should not face discrimination for exploring the evidence of design in nature or presenting their research to university students or other thoughtful adults. Maybe she picked up her interest in the subject from her study of Nabokov, novelist, lepidopterist, and self-described "furious" Darwin-doubter.

You don't think such an article would count as a major black mark against the author? Of course it would! That's why any scholar in the humanities or the sciences would strongly hesitate to say such a thing in public, precisely because she would know the cost.

Give those religious colleges some credit: They have the honesty to state up front what they require. There's something hygienic about that. No one on the inside or out is fooled.

Institutions under the sway of materialism go about it in a passive-aggressive way, always seeking to cover their tracks and give the impression they are doing something other than what they are doing: requiring intellectual conformity.

Our current cover story about the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is a perfect illustration of how a state institution preferred to cover up rather than admit the truth.

Obviously, the ideal would be if institutions like the University of Pennsylvania, Ball State (Hedin), the University of Kentucky (Gaskell) and the rest sought enlightenment unsparingly, and allowed faculty to think and teach in line with such a commitment. But failing that, I'd rather see them put their insistence on dogma on the line, stand up for it, and call it by name. Take a lesson in courage, if nothing else.

I'm on Twitter. Find me @d_klinghoffer.

Image source: pwbaker/Flickr.