The Herald Bulletin

September 13, 2013

Group challenges Ball State faculty over teachings


The Herald Bulletin

---- — MUNCIE — Did Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora open a legal can of worms when she took a strong stand this summer against the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom?

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that believes supernatural forces shaped the universe, believes so.

"This dispute is not over by a long shot," John West, vice president of the institute, told The Star Press on Aug. 1. "If the president thought that she was ending the controversy, I think she will think otherwise in coming weeks."

On Tuesday, West and an attorney at the institute sent Gora a letter demanding that she investigate associate professor of English Paul Ranieri's Honors 390 seminar "Dangerous Ideas," which allegedly uses "What is Your Dangerous Idea?" as its sole textbook.

"This completely one-sided book appears to be one long argument for atheism," West wrote in the 10-page letter. "Indeed, its contributors declare that 'Science Must Destroy Religion,' that 'There is no God, no Intelligent Designer; no higher purpose to our lives,' and even that science should assume the role currently played by religion and that scientists should function as our 'high priests.' "

Other excerpts:

— "Living creatures capable of reflecting on their own existence are a freak accident, existing for one brief moment in the history of the universe."

— "... beliefs in angels, deities and eternal souls can be understood in part as wish-fulfilling metaphors for an unpleasant reality that most of us cannot fully comprehend and accept."

— "Beyond Earth, there is no intelligence ... that is watching out for us or cares. We are alone."

The institute contends the course violates Gora's new policy "forbidding its faculty from favoring or endorsing one side of a religious debate over another."

On July 31, Gora said intelligent design and creationism "can have their place at Ball State in humanities or social science courses. However, even in such contexts, faculty must avoid endorsing one point of view over others."

Gora earlier this year received a complaint against Eric Hedin, an assistant professor of physics, who was accused by the Freedom From Religion Foundation of indoctrinating science students in an honors seminar with a conservative, faith-based agenda promoting intelligent design.

In that case, Gora said in her July 31 ruling that intelligent design is "not appropriate content for science courses" because it is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief, not a scientific theory. Hedin remained a member of the physics and astronomy department.

"Although we believe that Professor Ramieri's apparent teaching of a one-sided course on religion should be allowed as part of academic freedom, BSU must now do unto its other professors as it has done unto Dr. Hedin, for the sake of self-consistency and legal compliance," West wrote.

Joan Todd, Gora's spokeswoman, told The Star Press that Ball State has received the institute's complaint letter and is reviewing it. She declined to comment further.