I vividly remember the “canceling” of Ball State University physicist Eric Hedin in 2013, the victim of a campaign by atheist biologist Jerry Coyne and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Their aim was to punish him for having the temerity to teach an honors course on “The Boundaries of Science,” which included optional readings about intelligent design. As he recounts in a new book out today, Canceled Science: What Some Atheists Don’t Want You to See:
At the heart of the controversy was the thesis that some things we find in the universe require more than a purely material cause, a view held by many philosophers and scientists down through the ages and into the present. In my course I exposed my students to some of these thinkers, along with some on the opposite side of the question. But for Coyne, that was too much.
The Power Disparity
Indeed it was. What I found most despicable about the successful attempt to silence Professor Hedin was the power disparity. Hedin was a young scientist — on tenure track but not holding tenure, and thus highly vulnerable — at Ball State University, an “institution…named after a manufacturer of glass canning jars — a benign backstory for an utterly benign university campus.” Or that was what Hedin imagined. His persecutor, on the other hand, was a prominent academic, enjoying maximum career safety at the University of Chicago. Let’s be honest: between the two, there was no contest. Coyne could move against Hedin without fear, and he did. On the other hand, Hedin’s career was on the line, and both knew it.
Hedin was stunned to find himself accused of violating the First Amendment. He was also anxious that the older, more powerful scientist was about to put an end to Dr. Hedin’s life in science. Amid a media controversy, Discovery Institute sought to intervene, but again, the power was all on the side of the atheists.
A Voice Restored
It’s wonderful that Discovery Institute Press is now able to restore Hedin’s voice to him, the voice that Coyne sought to silence. The book is released today and you can get it either in paperback or via Kindle. Hedin both recounts his story and advances his own case for intelligent design from the evidence in his field. He is winning plaudits: Rice Broocks, the author of God’s Not Dead, calls Canceled Science, “A profound and insightful look at a vital dimension of scientific inquiry from a courageous scientist. Physicist Eric Hedin shows us how science, more than ever, points to a cosmos charged with meaning and purpose, a universe in which life is no accident.”
Cancel culture had no name in 2013. It has since become one of the major worries in contemporary life, with popular and social media joining forces with scientific journals and others, calling upon the assistance of the government, to shut down non-approved opinions. Is this the United States? Or is it China? Sometimes I wonder.
Eric Hedin was an early alert as to the looming threat to free speech. His personal story is as important as his argument for design in nature. We’ll have more to say about the book in coming days.