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Un-natural Selection: Ms. Dean Invites Us to Justify Academic Discrimination

In Monday’s New York Times (“Believing Scriptures but Playing by
Science’s Rules”
), Cornelia Dean joins Eugenie Scott of the Darwin lobby
NCSE (National Center for Science Education) in raising the tantalizing
thought that (as “some say”) maybe scientists who have earned legitimate
doctorates in scientific fields, but are known to hold private views that
question Darwinism, should be denied their professional degrees. Take that
in: Perhaps doctoral candidates whose personal views deviate from an
ideological party line should be punished professionally. Presumably, if
they are in a later stage in their career, you can thwart their application
for tenure; or later still, a promotion to full professor.

This has long been suggested by firebrand Darwinists, such as those
attending the “Beyond Belief” conclave in San Diego late last year. Now it
is posed coyly as an open question on the news pages of the New York Times.
Corny Dean, from my experience, decides on her own what terms — and
science standards — mean. For example, “creationism” in the Dean Lexicon is a
totally flexible term that embraces without distinction people who support
intelligent design and those who support a Young Earth. Dean knows the
difference in common usage, but she isn’t about to let the readers in on it.
For her the pejorative terminology carries too much ideological advantage to
let mere accuracy, let alone nuance, intervene.

She likewise wields the word “fundamentalist” as a club against anyone
who is religious and also questions Darwinism. This, her editors, if they
consult their own style book, know is a misuse. Even at the New York Times
you are not supposed to call people “fundamentalists” unless that is what
they call themselves. Ms. Dean apparently makes her own rules.

Dean is adroit enough to report the views of a few academics who resist
persecuting colleagues for their personal beliefs. But she clearly comes
down on the side of redefining the responsibility of scholarship in a way
that serves her purposes. Why not discriminate against students and
professors suspected of religious or anti-Darwinian views? After all, she
concludes, citing Eugenie Scott, “fundamentalists who capitalize on secular
credentials to ‘mis-educate the public’ were doing a disservice.”

A fine Orwellian sentiment, isn’t it? You can now lose your hard earned
doctoral degree for “doing a disservice” in the eyes of some Eugenie Scott
or Cornelia Dean at Hale-Bopp U or Quark College. This is like the other
euphemism one discovers at tenure time, “lack of collegiality,” which really
means “we don’t like the person’s views.”

Copy the Times article from the paper’s website (they won’t let us
reprint it here) and send it to your friends. It is a keepsake for the day
when the history of academic discrimination in this era is written.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.