By Colleen Flaherty
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.
Hedin declined comment on the promotion, and a university representative did not immediately respond to questions about how, if at all, past concerns about Hedin’s teaching were resolved.
In 2013, Ball State said it would investigate Hedin, then an assistant professor, after it received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation accusing him of crossing the line from teaching science to teaching Christianity. The foundation said it had received reports that Hedin was pushing his personal religious views in a course called Boundaries of Science and that its partial syllabus included works by intelligent design proponents and other “Christian apologists who lack any scientific credentials whatsoever,” such as C.S. Lewis.
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.
Later that year, the foundation again criticized the university for hiring Guillermo Gonzalez, another assistant professor of physics and astronomy who had written a book in support of intelligent design. President Jo Ann Gora soon released a statement against creationism in the science classroom.
“Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory,” and the question was not one of academic freedom, but one of academic integrity, she said. “To allow intelligent design to be presented to science students as a valid scientific theory would violate the academic integrity of the course as it would fail to accurately represent the consensus of science scholars.”
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