Intelligent Design, Then Tenure

May 15, 2016

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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15 comments on “Intelligent Design, Then Tenure

  • @OP – “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.”

    Spot on!



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  • Having recently been in a discussion about Galileo and the RCC’s denial of science on another forum, it seems not much has changed since 1633. Science of course has moved on, – the religios haven’t. Or at least the characters in this story are still stuck in the Dark Ages.



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  • Intelligent Design cannot be formed into a testable, negatable hypothesis. It can never, therefore, be scientific. All it can do is await rabbits in the pre-Cambrian.

    Evolution often buiilds arches deemed impossible by IDers, by the simple techniques of building interim features subsequently lost in the mists of time upon which, say, an arch was constructed and happened to remain. What is fascinating is the way every IDer scientistic truthyist NEVER starts with trying to disprove their discovered pre-cambrian rabbit, irreducible complexity, or whatever. Their imaginations, their knowledge of how evolution has worked, are so impoverished they cannot piece together the myriad of ways their odd features could more realistically have happened.

    Dull witted, ill-educated? Or am I just being kind?



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  • phil rimmer #3
    May 16, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Evolution often builds arches deemed impossible by IDers, by the simple techniques of building interim features subsequently lost in the mists of time upon which, say, an arch was constructed and happened to remain.

    I love the analogy with those “irreducibly complex arches”, which men could not have possibly formed on their own!
    I mean without support and all the precisely shaped and placed stones present simultaneously and interconnected, the arch would just fall down!!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centring

    Perhaps the IDers (or should that be the No-Ideas), are just thicker than the heavy timbers used in arch construction, and so cannot fathom out how structures are formed!



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  • I’ve had this idea, for a long while, to try to make a model I call “Chemical Intelligence.” The idea came to me when nearly 24 states (or so, can’t remember source, from 2006) in the US had been lobbied, to various degrees of success, to mandate that their Dept of Ed require that biology/science courses devote and give equal time to lecture about Intelligent Design theory. Ugh, for so many reasons, one of which is the overwhelming amount of info, in biology, to be covered in such a short amount of time! [I always wished that my science course lectures, and texts, parsed the encyclopedic information apart from the hard science and put it into a new class, one that would be, most likely, more useful and accessible to those students who are not interested in the hard sciences, but who want to know the human/people side of the story of science, as well as to create more time in the hard science classes to cover the technical subject of the hard science and math.]

    A few years ago I started, sketching pictures, trying to imagine how to graph and model elementary chemical interactions that create structure such that a formal/measurable system of information is passed forward, and/or it affects its environment to cause other chemicals/systems to become ordered, and at what point is the system “intelligent”, creating chemical trophic levels of sorts, to get to the peptide, protein, and cellular level. A rough draft of an early venn diagram, for a trophic level for a primitive cell, or chemical/physical system, has, originating from the same point, three circles: the radius of one represents nutrients/resources needed to maintain itself, the second circle represents excessive potential energy available within the system, and the third circle is a dotted line that represents death/destruction of the ordered (“intelligent”) system. [A fourth circle would be resources available in the environment, and its point of origin would not share the same origin with the study, but could be abstracted into the factors that affect the dotted line if a study wants to be less defined and simplified.]

    Mutations that occur in DNA, or whatever the chemical/system that is passing information forward, that can exist within the excessive boundary (between the first and second circle) of available nutrients/resources, that don’t exceed the terminal dotted circle, may or may not be beneficial (increase/decrease of GF). Various factors move the dotted line around, closer or farther away from the point of origin (origin of radius for the three circles), and some are static and others dynamic with similar/asimilar influences. Factors may also change the radius of the nutrient needs and available resources, as well as the primary circle’s radius.

    These ideas are just rough ideas in my sketch book. I’ve been known to draw lots of circles. The scheme could be called anything, but I thought it would be viral to call it Chemical Intelligence, to try to redefine the phrase “intelligent design” by using “chemical intelligence.”

    Hopefully, in some yet to be known future, two people in a coffee shop will argue over the meaning of the word intelligence, and it would be too passe to ramble about Intelligent Design, so the two folks argue as to what length of time, of an ordered system, must exist to be “chemically intelligent”, a nanosecond, a microsecond, a second, a minute, a day, etc. and whether groups of micro-intra-assemblies, that create ordered chaos, qualify as a system?

    So, I’m flipping through the pages of a magazine at my health practitioner’s office, and I notice an ad for the RDF. I flip a few pages more, and see a venn diagram, for intraspecie relationships vs energy cost modeling of exclusive behavior to protect needed resources (if I remember correctly). The data of a high trophic system, of varied and different animals, within the axioms of the analysis, looks somewhat similar to my sketches for primordial compounds forming elementary “intelligence.” I’m not going to jump to conclusions about it, still working on trying to get back into school to finish a degree, but . . . if true, this would be so cool, recursive in an organic chemical sort of way!

    Even with successful modeling of Chemical Intelligence, a Diest would confide their belief system still exists. However, if there is no God, life is even more special and truly precious, because there is no God to fix it, remake it, renew it, when the radius of the dotted line shrinks to a terminal level.

    I freely offer to share the term Chemical Intelligence to anyone, who wants to try to model it, with the one condition that I get to publish my future work using the term Chemical Intelligence somewhere in my title and in my computer program.



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  • Jeremy #5
    May 16, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    I’ve had this idea, for a long while, to try to make a model I call “Chemical Intelligence.”

    The chemistry of intelligence has been well documented by neuroscientists.

    The idea came to me when nearly 24 states (or so, can’t remember source, from 2006) in the US had been lobbied, to various degrees of success, to mandate that their Dept of Ed require that biology/science courses devote and give equal time to lecture about Intelligent Design theory.

    Of course in terms of the scientific meaning of “theory”, there is no “Intelligent Design Theory” – only various design notions which fail on testing, so while scientific illiterates lobby, and some clueless politicians go along with this, the expert scientific bodies are unequivocal in rejecting flawed claims as scientific theories unless some evidence can produced to support the claims. – So far none has been produced, and on the present record of attempts it seems likely none ever will be!

    http://oregonstate.edu/instruction/bb317/scientifictheories.html

    So, what does the word “theory” mean in science?
    According to the National Academies of Sciences, “some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory. In everyday language a theory means a hunch or speculation. Not so in science. In science, the word theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature supported by facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena”.

    People who don’t understand this distinction sometimes dismiss ideas saying “it’s just a theory” (this is very commonly used to suggest that evolution is just speculation, for example). But, when scientists speak of the theory of gravity or the theory of evolution, they don’t mean that these are random untested ideas that someone came up with after too many beers.

    The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), the world’s largest scientific society, has this explanation of what scientists mean when they use the word “theory”:
    A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world.”




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  • Alan4discussion,

    The model “Chemical Intelligence” is to analyze the random process of chemicals that become organic molecules that, over time, become ordered systems: a peptide, protein, etc. It is billions of years away from modeling the function of a brain. However, I’m abstracting the model, like Emmy Noether who abstracted algebra, to be built so that it is not limited to just organic compounds, because I anticipate that some non-organic chemical systems may be necessary in the background, as well as physical conditions, in the earliest stages of proto-life. Also, it leaves open the possibilities of discovering intelligent life in the future, somewhere in space, based upon new systems that may not be based upon organic structures. What is intelligence? The coined title (Chemical Intelligence) is my meager attempt to be clever, to disrupt the Creationists new strategy.

    Some of the bacteria colonies I’ve studied in lab really amazed me with many unexpected moments. My brain would say, “what, how did that happen, somehow their communicating, but how, why?” Then I read a story about slime molds, slimming away their day.



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  • Jeremy #5
    May 16, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    [I always wished that my science course lectures, and texts, parsed the encyclopedic information apart from the hard science and put it into a new class,

    Science cannot be properly taught if the key discoveries in “hard sciences” are separated from the people and scientific methods which produced and confirmed that information.

    one that would be, most likely, more useful and accessible to those students who are not interested in the hard sciences, but who want to know the human/people side of the story of science,

    Students who are “not interested in the hard sciences” or scientific methodology, are never going to be scientists!
    They may become third-rate historians who can copy texts from other people, and list names of famous scientists, but without scientific methodology, they will not be competent at archaeological investigations, dating artefacts, documents, etc. and will fail to understand the significance or interconnectedness of scientific or historical discoveries.

    The universe runs on the “hard science of physics”.
    It is only the human understanding of it, which is soft, squishy, incomplete, and ambiguous, in some subject areas.



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  • Jeremy #7
    May 16, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    The model “Chemical Intelligence” is to analyze the random process of chemicals that become organic molecules that, over time, become ordered systems: a peptide, protein, etc.

    I think you are talking about abiogenesis and the formation of proto-cells. Jack Szostak and other geneticists have made good progress on this recently.
    Google:-

    The Origin of Life – Abiogenesis – Dr. Jack Szostak – YouTube

    Jack Szostak (Harvard/HHMI) Part 1: The Origin of Cellular Life

    New Szostak protocell is closest approximation to origin of life

    Szostak Lab: Home

    It is billions of years away from modeling the function of a brain.

    It did take a couple of billion years or so, for complex life to develop from single cells on Earth.

    Also, it leaves open the possibilities of discovering intelligent life in the future, somewhere in space, based upon new systems that may not be based upon organic structures. What is intelligence?

    I think that AI and computer scientists, are working on non-organic intelligence.

    The coined title (Chemical Intelligence) is my meager attempt to be clever, to disrupt the Creationists new strategy.

    It has been my experience, that creationists’ strategies are almost as diverse and conflicting with each other as creationists themselves. Their only consistent strategy is to gratuitously dispute anything which debunks their personal preconceptions – usually by way of laughable ignorance and personal incredulity.

    Some of the bacteria colonies I’ve studied really amazed me with many unexpected moments. My brain would say, “what, how did that happen, somehow their communicating, but how, why?” Then I read a story about slime molds, slimming away their day.

    There have been some very interesting experiments with slime moulds, which suggest that self organising alogrithm based exploration and feed-back can be analogous to human planning.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100121141051.htm
    Slime design mimics Tokyo’s rail system: Efficient methods of a slime mold could inform human engineers



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  • 13
    Pinball1970 says:

    @alan4discussion @jeremy
    Great exchange! Precisely why I come on here.

    Abiogenesis is something I am always interested in, I have to make notes when I am reading one of Nick lanes books!

    The chemistry and mathematics of fractals and designoid patterns in living and non living systems for me is also an important discussion point with IDers.

    Exactly what happened to give rise to those first replicators and protocells is unclear, but many of the beautiful shapes and patterns in nature can be perfectly explained by mathematics, shape and charge.

    No finger of god required.



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