Discovery Institute delivered a petition to Ball State University (BSU) this week, signed by more than 7000 people, supporting besieged physics professor Eric Hedin. The Star Press in Muncie, IN, home of BSU, interviewed some signers and got some telling remarks.
As you know, Hedin is under attack by atheist flak and University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne and his friends at the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Hedin’s crime? In a course on the "Boundaries of Science," he suggested texts favorable to and critical of intelligent design. In the article, reporter Seth Slabaugh quotes Discovery Institute’s Dr. John West:
The petition was accompanied by a five-page letter that read, “First and foremost, Professor Hedin does not teach creationism in his course. None of the texts … promote the view that the Earth was created a few thousand years ago based on a literal reading of the Bible.”
The course does explore broader questions about “the purpose of life, and the relationship between science and faith,” which are “some of the most important and abiding human concerns raised since the advent of civilization,” Discovery Institute vice president John West wrote to [Ball State President Jo Ann] Gora.
Slabaugh talked to some Hoosiers who signed the petition, and one who knows Dr. Hedin personally (emphasis added):
One of them is Michael Fentz, a retired cartoonist from PAWS Inc., home of Garfield the cat.
Fentz, who met Hedin at church and has known him for years, said Hedin “is no maverick.”
“He knows the rules,” Fentz said. “He’s very careful. This class was totally approved by the university.” So Fentz doesn’t see how the university can do anything other than defend it.
He also said Hedin, who currently attends Muncie Alliance Church, is not preachy.
Acting as surrogate parents, Hedin and his wife have been known to serve as hosts for international students over the holidays, when the campus is deserted.
“I’ve been there,” Fentz said. “There was no proselytizing or preaching. There was open discussion about other cultures. Many of them were Muslim students he invited to his house for a big international meal. At Easter, he did a very short introduction as to what the Easter holiday is about and why people celebrate that. But mostly it was just hanging out.”
Other signers seem to understand the situation perfectly:
Many others who signed the petition don’t know Hedin, including Cathy Schulert, Muncie, a part-time receptionist at a Richards Restaurant.
“I don’t understand why the education system is threatened by an opposing viewpoint,” she said. “It’s a shame our educational system can’t consider two different viewpoints.”
Another signer also gets the main point:
Monte Poling, the city manager for Union City and a lay minister, signed the petition because “this is more than just spiritual, it’s censoring what people can say, especially in a university setting. Wow, if there are things you can’t talk about in a university, I get a little concerned.”
We’re also very concerned about the precedent this would set if Coyne gets his way and Dr. Hedin is censored; hence the petition. Perhaps Ms. Schulert or Mr. Poling would be willing and available to help explain things to Dr. Coyne.