While Chris Comer’s lawsuit made a bogus case for discrimination, there are cases documenting genuine discrimination–against scientists who support intelligent design (ID). One of those incidents took place at George Mason University (GMU), where Caroline Crocker was ousted from teaching biology because she challenged to neo-Darwinian evolution and favorably mentioned ID in the classroom. Dr. Crocker later appeared in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, but now many more details about Caroline Crocker’s story are revealed in her new autobiographical book, Free to Think: Why Scientific Integrity Matters.
Free to Think tells the story of a biology professor who cares deeply about students, received glowing student reviews, wouldn’t compromise her integrity when challenged to disregard anti-cheating rules, and produced high quality curricular tools. But Crocker had one fatal flaw: she would not capitulate to the Darwinian consensus in the classroom. When some GMU administrators learned that she’d challenged evolution, they told her that she had to be “disciplined” because she taught “creationism.” While GMU now denies that Crocker’s dismissal had anything to do with evolution, her book explains that this is most definitely not what she was told behind closed doors.
But Free to Think is not some sob story. It contains heartwarming and amusing accounts of Crocker’s interaction with students. What struck me were the lengths to which Crocker would go to accommodate and help students facing difficult life circumstances. It is saddening (though not surprising) that she has received many attacks on her character from evolutionists who know neither Crocker nor her story.
For example, the NCSE’s attack on Expelled tries to muddy the waters about Dr. Crocker’s plight. On the one hand, they suggest she was let go “simply for staffing reasons,” further stating that “[w]e do not know for certain why Crocker was not re-hired for her non-tenure track job.” On the other hand, they try to impugn Crocker by claiming she received “student complaints,” and was “unable or unwilling to teach accurate science.” So which version of the NCSE’s story is true?
Neither is true. The true story is told in Free to Think: until Crocker challenged evolution in the classroom, she was recognized as an outstanding teacher. At the very time Crocker was told by her Department Head that she would be disciplined for challenging Darwin, she received a performance review from her Provost that called her teaching “outstanding” as “evidenced by unusually high student rankings”! The Provost even praised her, saying, “This kind of teaching quality is essential for this vital educational program, and we’re very grateful for your successful efforts.”
Such statements hardly describe a teacher who would otherwise be expected to soon lose her job. Yet Crocker did subsequently lose her job, and we know exactly why. As Crocker documents in her book, her administrators didn’t want her challenging Darwin.
Free to Think elaborates on what Crocker really taught–and it was not creationism. Rather, she discussed sound challenges to neo-Darwinism and briefly mentioned ID. Evolution was part of the description of her Cell Biology course, and she did teach the pro-evolution evidence. But she felt that intellectual honesty demanded that she inform students about where that evidence was weak. The book explains that GMU’s academic freedom policy purports to grant faculty “unrestricted expositions on subjects within one’s field…without fear of censorship or penalty.” Apparently that holds true, as long as you’re not a biologist who wants to support ID.
With a Foreword written by Ben Stein, Free to Think offers intriguing new details about her case. For example, Crocker wasn’t the only person “expelled” during this incident. Without giving away the whole story, Mr. Ed Sisson started off as her attorney advocate and ended up a victim himself. Read Free to Think for the full story.
Even if you think you know Caroline Crocker’s story, you should read Free to Think. It will open your eyes to what pro-ID faculty face in the academy and encourage you that there are still scientists who care about the truth and will not back down when pressured.