Recently I spoke to a university senior who is a leader in a political club at her school. I wondered how things were going for the club, given today’s campus climate where a free exchange is not always welcome, to say the least. She told me that students with a range of views show up, eager to hear perspectives not taught by professors. The club hosts discussion times, where they share about issues informally.
When I heard what the club was doing, it made me think, Isn’t that what should be happening in the classrooms? The answer is, evidently, that unconstrained substantive conversation is not occurring where it should.
No Great Surprise
That comes as no great surprise, though. Students want to discuss the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution, too — but you can be sure that isn’t welcome in their courses. There’s probably more room for open communication about politics than about biology.
Why do our Summer Seminars attract science undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs? Why do they want to spend ten days in Seattle, learning about intelligent design? (Why, that is, apart from the enviable Pacific Northwest summer weather.) It’s because their professors don’t permit discussion of ID in the classroom. Or if they do, it is to disparage the concept and poison the well before any honest discussion can take place. On this subject, distortion and bullying, not sincere curiosity, are the rule in academia.
The Summer Seminars are the only chance that most students will have to hear a presentation about ID from top ID proponents themselves. Instructors include Michael Behe, author of the new book Darwin Devolves, out next week, as well as Stephen Meyer, Richard Sternberg, Jonathan Wells, Ann Gauger, Paul Nelson, and more. Students can take what they’ve learned back to school with them. Now, at least, they’ve heard the other side of the story that they won’t hear from their professors. That is a precious opportunity for the truly open-minded learner.
Sound intriguing? If you’re an interested university student, the application for the 2019 Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design is now available. There are two tracks, focused respectively on the sciences — to “prepare students to make research contributions advancing the growing science of intelligent design” — and the humanities. Please pass this on to others as well!
Learning from the Medieval University
Free speech at universities is a worthy goal. How can we encourage academic freedom on evolution?
After reading Michael Keas’s new book, Unbelievable, it seems to me that the medieval attitude towards learning was, in key respects, more open than the modern one. The university, as birthed in the Middle Ages, was a place where students and professors raised questions and discussed issues. These were centers of learning, not places of censorship. As Professor Keas recounts, universities encouraged translation of works from pagan sources. Franciscan friar Roger Bacon drew on Greek and Islamic works in his study of light, and this influenced Kepler’s research on light and optics.
Today, in university classrooms, dissenting from evolution is strongly discouraged as unorthodox. The good churchman Bacon was free to draw from the works of Islamic scholars, but a biology student who doubts unguided evolution on scientific grounds must keep her mouth shut.
Perhaps we can return to a free flow of information and open discussion in the pursuit of knowledge. How can one raise awareness? Encourage your elected state representatives to consider our model Student Freedom in Science Resolution. Perhaps you could host a small gathering with friends to discuss academic freedom on controversial scientific issues.
I hope that at some point in the future students won’t have to seek out a special club where discussion is allowed. Perhaps they will be able to explore issues in class. Imagine that!