Faith & Science Icon Faith & Science

Save John Harvard


It was on this date (yesterday, actually) that the English clergyman John Harvard died 375 years ago, leaving most of his fortune to the new college in Cambridge, MA. To listen to evolutionary psychologist and Harvard professor Steven Pinker, it would be inappropriate in the current era to have so much as an undergraduate course requirement on "Reason and Faith" — with various course offerings — at the school named for John Harvard. Pinker’s passion on the subject persuaded his fellow faculty to drop the idea a few years ago.

This surely is one of history’s classic cases of violating "donor intent."

However, I am told that many students at Harvard actually go to religious services of various kinds in the year 2013 and probably would appreciate an academic course on religion that did not treat its arguments derisively, as Pinker does.

Bill Federer — who publishes an "American Minute" for each calendar day — reminds us just how religious Harvard was at the outset. Indeed, John Harvard meant his legacy to sponsor the teaching of Puritan clergy.

The motto "Veritas" on the Harvard College seal references divine truth, and, notes Federer,

was embedded on a shield, which can be found on Memorial Church, Widener Library, and numerous Harvard Yard dorms.

"The shield has on top two books facing up and on the bottom a book facing down, symbolizing the limits of reason and the need for God’s revelation.

Perhaps the Freedom From Religion Foundation should write Harvard and demand that the old man’s seated statue be removed from Harvard Yard and the name of the college changed to Pinker.

Meanwhile, if Harvard students want to study the eternal verities and contemporary controversies of reason and faith they can put a blanket over their laptops in bed at night — so no one in Pinkerville sees them — and read ENV and other news and views sites where education has taken refuge.

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.