RDFRS, FFRF, Dawkins, Coyne protest Georgia creationist prof

Oct 29, 2014

Editor’s Note: Georgia State University has responded to our complaint“As a public university, Georgia Southern is well aware of its great responsibility to abide by all provisions of the Constitution of the United States of America, including the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.  The institution strives to investigate allegations of Constitutional violations promptly and to take appropriate corrective action based on the results of the investigation.  The institution appreciates your communication of a potential violation and will proceed with a thorough investigation of the allegations….” 



October 29, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Two renowned evolutionary biologists, Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, have joined with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, to ask Georgia Southern University in Statesboro to investigate a professor for promoting creationism.

joint letter was sent on Oct. 21, detailing complaints from students about GSU history professor Emerson McMullen’s promotion of Christian beliefs. According to those reports and FFRF’s subsequent investigation, McMullen “crosses ethical and constitutional lines.”

McMullen allegedly uses extra-credit assignments to try to “convert” students by inviting them to write about McMullen’s religious beliefs. He has reportedly also promoted Christian propaganda such as the recent movie “God Is Not Dead,” which pits an atheist professor against a Christian student.

Coyne of the University of Chicago examined some of the class material and took apart the unscientific claims, noting that most of what McMullen said on the topic was “completely wrong.”

“A teacher should be free to express opinions, however ill-informed, so long as he or she makes it clear that they are no more than his opinions. He should not be free to penalize students who fail to parrot his opinions,” Dawkins noted. “And if his opinions include Young Earth Creationism, my personal opinion is that he is no more qualified to teach history than a ‘flat earther’ is to teach geography or a proponent of the ‘stork theory’ is to teach reproductive physiology.”

“What really disturbs us is the allegation that McMullen gives students extra credit for summing up his own views on religion! That’s not teaching, that’s preaching,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Coyne is the author of Why Evolution is True; and Dawkins is author of such books as The Greatest Show on Earth, and The Selfish Gene, as well as his international blockbuster The God Delusion. Coyne’s new book, Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, is due out in May.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew L. Seidel headed the investigation.


The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science is a Washington, DC-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, founded in 2006 by renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and devoted to advancing a scientifically literate and secular world.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

11 comments on “RDFRS, FFRF, Dawkins, Coyne protest Georgia creationist prof

  • This is a science duffer trotting out tired old YEC/creationist rubbish and marketing it as education. Students should not be taught about “science” or have their work evaluated, by scientific illiterates who don’t know what science is! !

    It is also impossible for a YEC to do competent university level historical dating of artefacts.

    @OP – He should not be free to penalize students who fail to parrot his opinions,” Dawkins noted. “And if his opinions include Young Earth Creationism, my personal opinion is that he is no more qualified to teach history than a ‘flat earther’ is to teach geography or a proponent of the ‘stork theory’ is to teach reproductive physiology.”


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  • McMullen is a 70 year old History professor that is clearly past his time and incompetent to teach history let alone comment on the “truth” of academic topics beyond his expertise. The University should sensor him to address the problem and students should be advised to take courses from others. It might be time for a sabbatical or an administrative position…

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  • Indygrl76 Oct 29, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    .. . .. . .. . Or just retire from work he is not capable of performing to a competent standard.

    If he is not capable of researching proper information for his courses, filling in with creationist rubbish is not acceptable!

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  • 5
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    ……. Which is the only option that makes any sense. Allowing blatantly incompetent teachers to keep their jobs is not only detrimental to the students but it can also damage the reputation of the University. Letting go of McMullen in this case is in everybody’s best interest.

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  • Well… I already regard religious folks as having some form of mental deficiency or at the shallow end of the gene pool, but this fellow may well have a mental health illness. I’m a health professional, and I certainly don’t want to trivialize these issues. It may just be that he’s had lifelong sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies, and now coming to a head in his twilight years.

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  • 7
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    I’m sure after he’s fired in Georgia, McMullen can secure ‘gainful employment’ in Virginia teaching YECism at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where religious delusion and faithist pseudoscience are the foundational products, per their “Creation Studies” required course:


    BTW, hello again to my friends at RDFRS…. Mac…. 😎

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  • Hi Mac. It’s really nice to hear from you again and I hope you intend to stick around!

    This guy sounds like a complete jerk in addition to his Delusions.

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  • Hi Alan,

    I share your frustration. However, as I understand it, the US system of tenure for professors makes it especially tricky to, err, encourage them to retire.

    There are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, who is to say that a Professor is incompetent? For this reason tenure is designed to protect academic freedom.

    In addition there is the problem that the tenure system is designed. Like all designs, tenure is much less than perfect. There is the certain case of a Science Professor who defended a science education viewpoint in a US court, was on the losing side, but still teaches at the same university. – and that University is forced to publish a denial that they do not support that Professor’s view, to this day, on their Netsite. This is a measure of tenure’s strength.

    This story highlights the problem that tenure leans too far in one direction – it’s so strong that it defends not only academic freedom but also incompetence.

    Two things: Somone posted that this is about a history prof. teaching biology. I didn’t have time to check that out but, if true, reflects very badly on Georgia State University. They say there’s no such thing as bad advertising – but there is such a thing as revenue-negative, reputation-disaster PR.

    The other thing is that Science – the over-arching project – how it is conducted and how it self-regulates shows us how to better manage tenure.

    Peer review, where ideas and methods are scrutinized and judged by others in the same field is a key factor in throwing out bad ideas. The letter by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne is an effort to extend that model to say that teaching positions, at the highest level, may not be possible for administrators to judge – but it is possible for a Professor’s peers to judge between ideas that are renegade-yet-supportable versus fruit-cake-crazy.

    Why US universities don’t offer tenured positions on fixed term contracts is a mystery for another day.

    Whether the proposal-by-example of two professors with undoubted premier subject expertise complaining about another, less well endowed, professor will form a model for the future … is, dare I say it, in the hands of the gods!


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