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Fact-Check: Inside Higher Ed Misrepresents Eric Hedin at Ball State University (Again)

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In a recent article for Inside Higher Ed, Colleen Flaherty makes the same harmful, erroneous statements about physicist Eric Hedin that she did back in May in a piece on Hedin’s earning tenure.

She writes:

Scientists aren’t always hostile to creationist colleagues — Ball State University granted tenure earlier this year to Eric Hedin, a professor of physics previously accused of proselytizing creationism in a science seminar, for example.

Hedin was not “proselytizing.” Neither was he promoting “creationism.”

I noted the following after the publication of Flaherty’s May article:

First, Inside Higher Ed reporter Colleen Flaherty gives credence to false claims that Hedin proselytized. She notes:

Eric Hedin, the associate professor of astronomy and physics at Ball State University who was investigated in 2014 for allegedly teaching intelligent design, has earned tenure. That’s despite claims that he was proselytizing in a science class and the university’s strong affirmation of the scientific consensus around evolution in light of the allegations.

The foundation said it did not object to the premise of the honors science seminar, described in the syllabus as an investigation of “physical reality and the boundaries of science for any hidden wisdom within this reality which may illuminate the central questions of the purpose of our existence and the meaning of life. Rather, the organization said it objected to the course “as taught,” based on reports that Hedin was proselytizing and endorsing a Christian viewpoint over others presented. As a public university, Ball State could be in violation of its obligation to separate church and state, the foundation said. [Emphasis added.]

In an article at the time, John G. West, the Center for Science & Culture’s Associate Director, noted:

[T]he complaint against Hedin did not identify any student who was willing to complain on the record against Hedin. Instead, it merely highlighted a few anonymous (and ambiguous) comments from RateMyProfessor.com, a website that doesn’t even verify whether those posting comments are in fact college students, let alone whether they ever took courses from the professor in question.

Furthermore, according to documents released by Ball State, students reported that the course was evenhanded:

  • “I’m an agnostic and I find absolutely nothing wrong with… [Professor Hedin’s] teachings; … as far as intelligent and thought-provoking discussions go, [Hedin’s Boundaries of Science course]… is one of the most INNOVATIVE classes I have had during my time at Ball State. I lean more towards scientific evidence than anything else, but being an intelligent, curious, and open-minded individual, I appreciate all of the discussions that this class has had and all of the new ideas I have come to understand. There is nothing wrong with this class, and I would recommend it to anyone, no matter what their religious beliefs are.”

  • “I took the honors physics course taught by Dr. Hedin in the spring of 2011. While learning about scientific concepts such as quantum mechanics, black holes, the formation of stars, and other topics, Dr. Hedin’s instruction challenged me in a way that my other university classes did not. This course made me a better learner. It allowed me to become much more competent in these complex scientific areas of study and prompted me to become an individual who is committed to learning more about these topics in my own time. At times, in the classroom, students would pose questions which were related to spiritual concepts, but Dr. Hedin merely facilitated discussion giving EVERY single student an opportunity to provide input. Furthermore, Dr. Hedin goes above and beyond the actions of a typical college educator.”

Inside Higher Ed‘s reporter puts unverified student reports, damaging to Hedin’s reputation, front and center in her article, while ignoring positive reviews.

Of course, these are the typical mischaracterizations directed at those who set a foot outside the limits of rigid evolutionary dogmatism — mislabeling the content Hedin taught as creationism (he only taught intelligent design (ID), which is not creationism, and ID was only one among several topics covered in the interdisciplinary honors — not core science — course), and then going the extra step and labeling Hedin himself as a creationist.

Dr. Hedin, a responsible scientist and fine teacher, does not deserve this rehashing of false accusations.

Photo: Ball State University campus, by Matt Ruddick [CC BY 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.