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When Atheist Professors Evangelize, Freedom from Religion Foundation Is AWOL

John G. West

Historian of science Emerson “Tom” McMullen at Georgia Southern University (GSU) is in hot water for criticizing Darwinian evolution in class, which critics have equated with “us[ing] class time to proselytize students and advance his personal religion, Christianity.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne — in other words, the usual anti-academic freedom bullies — are demanding that GSU investigate and censor Professor McMullen.

Not having access to all of the relevant facts, I don’t know whether Professor McMullen has crossed any lines in his teaching, or even whether I would agree with all of his criticisms of Darwinian evolution. What I do know is that his critics’ assumption that objecting to Darwinian theory is tantamount to Christian advocacy is patently false. You don’t need to believe in Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion to question whether undirected natural selection and random mutations can explain the major innovations in the history of life. (If you don’t believe there are credible non-religious objections to modern Darwinism, I suggest you read Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt.)

The FFRF’s campaign against Professor McMullen reeks of hypocrisy. The FFRF expresses outrage because it seems to believe that critiquing Darwinian theory is an implicit method of preaching religion. But where is the FFRF’s outrage when atheist professors explicitly misuse science to promote atheism in the classroom?

A couple of months ago in the New York Times, University of Washington evolutionary psychologist David Barash boasted of giving what he called “The Talk” to students in his classes each year. According to Barash, the purpose of “The Talk” is to persuade students that “The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.” In other words, Barash actually boasts of pushing atheism in the classroom in the name of science. I have yet to see any letters or press releases from FFRF demanding an investigation of Barash. Why not?

Similarly, last year Discovery Institute provided extensive documentation of how an English professor at Ball State University has taught a course in which the sole textbook is an anthology edited by an atheist that is filled with articles attacking religion in the name of science without offering any opposing view. Contributors to the book 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.” Again, I’m not aware of even a peep from FFRF complaining about this professor’s attacks on religion in his course.

It seems to me that FFRF actually supports “proselytizing” — so long as professors misuse science to promote atheism.

I’d like to issue a challenge to the leadership of the FFRF: If you are serious about stopping college professors from pushing their metaphysical agendas in the classroom, send a letter to the University of Washington demanding that it investigate and censor David Barash for his promotion of atheism — and then issue a press release about it. If you do that, I am willing to send the FFRF a free copy our new Privileged Species DVD or a $10 gift card to Starbucks (FFRF’s choice).

Image: Georgia Southern University Public Domain/Wikipedia.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.