A creationist writes in: Eric Hedin resurfaces

March 4, 2021 • 10:15 am

This morning I got the following email, occasioned, I suppose, by the appearance of a new book by Eric Hedin published by the ID creationist outfit The Discovery Institute. The DI is promoting it heavily, as it’s not selling very well; and I haven’t mentioned it, although one of its main topics is the alliance between me and the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) in trying to get Hedin to stop teaching intelligent design in a public-university (Ball State) science class. We succeeded, helped by the reporting of Seth Slabaugh at the Muncie (Indiana) Star Press, who pulled no punches about Hedin.

I won’t recount in detail the story of our interactions with Hedin and Ball State, but they took place in 2013. After the FFRF wrote a letter to Ball State warning them about teaching religion in a science class (after all, it was before that, in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, that a federal judge declared that Intelligent Design was “not science”), they deep-sixed Hedin’s course, which was full of religiously-based readings. At no time did any of us call for Hedin to be fired. What we wanted was simply the cessation of teaching a religiously-based idea in a public university classroom. That is not freedom of speech, but a violation of the First Amendment as well as the abnegation of every professor’s duty to teach the subject as it is understood by experts.

Hedin got tenure at Ball State, and I did not oppose that, either. He seemed to be a competent professor in his area (physics and astronomy), and I don’t believe in trying to ruin people’s careers just because they teach one misguided course. Nevertheless, Hedin eventually left Ball State and wound up at a school more attuned to his religiosity: the evangelical Christian Biola University (an abbreviation for its former name: “Bible Institute of Los Angeles.” There he isn’t forced to teach the Satanic topic of evolution. And his new book, which I haven’t read, and won’t, is apparently One Long Kvetch about how he was bullied and canceled by me and the FFRF. It was that incident that nabbed me the Discovery Institute’s 2014 “Censor of the Year” award—one of the proudest achievements of my life.

I asked the author of the email, William Wegert, if I could post it here and include his name, and, to his credit, he said yes, as “It’s part of free inquiry and rationale [sic] dialogue.” Only after I answered him did I look him up and found out why he’s interested in l’affaire Hedin.

Wegert’s email was copied to me and was actually sent to the Provost and President of Ball State University, where Hedin no longer teaches.

Dear President Mearns and Provost Bracken,

I wish to thank Ball State University!  I recently learned of the university’s cancellation of Dr. Eric Hedin’s “Boundaries of Science” course following the intervention of Dr. Jerry Coyne.

After reviewing the information available on the web and from Dr. Hedin’s own words, his popular honors class was an exercise in critical thinking in which students were invited to read the works of materialists as well as those believing that specified complexity might have an intelligent cause.  For any right thinking person, this is what institutions of higher education should be doing, giving students opportunities to consider scientific evidence that lends support to both positions, as well as everything in between.  Apparently, Dr. Coyne and Ball State think otherwise. They must have been fearful of something, but I would not have expected them to share those fears openly.

For what reason?  The First Amendment?   Anyone with a high school understanding of American history knows that such an issue has absolutely nothing to do with our Founders’ concerns in that Amendment.

So looking for another rationale for cancelling the class, let us say the class lacked a scientific basis, at least in the minds of Ball State administrators.  If that is the case, I suggest that those decision-makers have some research to do to get caught up on a plethora of research projects, peer-reviewed articles, and major books coming out of the Intelligent Design movement.  They are quite behind the times, something not becoming to publish-or-perish faculty, wouldn’t you agree?  You see, week-by-week, article-by-article, research project-by-research project, evidence mounts that Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism have both been hung in the balance and found wanting as a tenable explanation of the complexity of life, starting with the genetic code.

The reason I thank you is that I have a popular presentation I make to students and parents around the US and overseas entitled the “Six Surprising Benefits of Attending a Faith-Based University.”  Ball State’s actions in cancelling this course has allowed me to add a seventh benefit!  At faith-based institutions, where I have nearly 40 years of experience, by the way, we provide students with both sides of these kinds of arguments and let them evaluate the evidence for themselves.  There is no fear of where the evidence might lead.  Students are going to be stepping out into the wide world soon enough and will come to their own conclusions anyways.  Why not challenge them in the area of sound critical thinking during the college years?   Dr. Coyne and Ball State give every evidence of being afraid of where that evidence may lead.

So, thanks to your actions, I get to add yet another benefit for attending a faith-based institution.  This kind of fear does not exist at such schools.  Free inquiry is invited and there is no fear of what the students might be exposed to.  Faith-based colleges and universities take seriously the mission of preparing students to think for themselves based on the facts, including results of scientific studies..

Welcome to the Cancel Culture, Gentlemen.  And thank you for enhancing my presentation and giving me a nice Ball State University/University of Chicago case study to present to eager listeners.

William E. Wegert
Monroe, VA

Well, I said my piece above about why professors should not teach intelligent-design as if it were science. For one thing, it’s illegal at state schools. But it also is a lie. It’s as if a European history professor denied the Holocaust in her classroom. I have no objections to creationists speaking at Universities in public lectures, and when one spoke here a few years back, I didn’t try to stop it. But it’s a different matter to teach it in a biology classroom as if it were accepted science.

Wegert’s antepenultimate paragraph about working at a faith-based institution, piqued my interest about who Wegert is. And it didn’t take long to find this on LinkedIn (click on screenshot):

He works at Jerry Falwell’s evangelical Christian Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where evolution IS NOT EVEN TAUGHT! Instead, they teach “Creation Studies“, and not in a way that promotes students’ independent thinking. And it teaches the most ridiculous form of creationism, YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISM, which is a triple lie since it distorts geology and chemistry as well as biology.

Here’s the “purpose” of its teaching of Creation Studies:

Purpose

The purpose of the Center for Creation Studies is to promote the development of a consistent biblical view of origins in our students. The Center seeks to equip students to contend for their faith in the creation account in Genesis using science, reason, and the Scriptures. The minor in Creation Studies provides a flexible program with broad training in various disciplines that relate to origins as well as the Bible. Students in both science or non-science majors will benefit from an in-depth study of creation and evolution.

Really, objective, Mr. Wegert, right? Really an exercise in critical thinking for the poor Liberty University students, right? Nope; it’s lying propaganda to turn biology students into parrots of Genesis 1 and 2.

After I found this out, I wrote back to Wegert saying this:

You failed to mention that you are at Liberty University. Do they teach Darwinian evolution there?
What I see is “Creation studies”.
I suspect you don’t teach Darwinian evolution and “let the students make up their own minds”, do you?
Although Wegert replied within minutes when I asked permission to publish his letter, so far I haven’t gotten an answer to this one.

I invite readers to respond to Mr. Wegert. After all, he’s seeking discourse! Just remember to be polite.

28 thoughts on “A creationist writes in: Eric Hedin resurfaces

  1. “The purpose of the Center for Creation Studies is to promote the development of a consistent biblical view of origins in our students.”

    This statement, from their own “Purpose” for the course, negates everything Wegert says above re “preparing students to think for themselves”.

    Their aim and purpose is to brainwash their students with biblical b.s.

    1. I wonder which if the two different creation accounts in Genesis (Chapter 1 passim versus 2:4 through 2:25) is marked as wrong by Liberty University? After all, they can’t both be correct.
      I bet their course on explaining the internal contradictions within the Bible is an absolute humdinger of argumentation. Or … is that a topic which their students are (sorry) not at liberty to investigate?

    2. My guess, not knowing the guy, is that he was stuck between two options that forced him to compartmentalize his views, and that he also needs to keep a job. To be clear, I believe in evolution, of course, however my point is that the center right is being forced further to the right because of intolerant views. If we want to support academic’s ability to fully express their views, we can’t pick and choose which ones. My guess is that determinists are also high on the chopping block because inherent in the belief is that people are born with different abilities, and that is not “PC.” Supporting free speech means putting up with views that you sometimes abhor or completely disagree with.

  2. 3 connections/ followers on Linked-In? Is that some sort of record low? I was up in the dozens within a day of signing up.
    I suspect there is something in the Bible which forbids (or heavily restricts use of Linked in – but I can’t recall chapter and verse for it.

    1. If memory serves, Mr. & Mrs. Falwell, Jr., had at least that many “connections,” so to speak.

      1. They were the couple with the “pool boy” right? These goddamn charlatans…it’s a great job if you have the immorality to get it.

  3. Jesus said: “When he (Satan) lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44c). Funny how many evangelicals have morphed into following “Satan” as opposed to Jesus.

  4. Some years ago we had a student transferred to our department from Liberty University. They petitioned to get credit for some of their Biology classes at LU. We looked at the relevant syllabi, and after much discussion we did grant credit for some of them (Zoology, Physiology, etc.), although they were a bit odd with quotes from scripture. But we rejected the Evolution class. There were far too many red flags in that one!

  5. There was an episode of “House” (if you’re familiar with that TV show), where Dr. House made the astute observation that: “If you could reason with religious people, there wouldn’t be any religious people.”

    Such is the case with people who actually believe it is a VIRTUE to cling to a belief despite the absurdity of that belief in the face of the available evidence (and consistent with Tertullian’s purported declaration that “I believe because it is absurd.”)

  6. What are they teaching over there at Liberty U. How Jerry jr. and the wife use to do what they do best? The place is pure sicko and a long time promoter of Trump as well. Who would be stupid enough to still have anything to do with this pathetic place.

  7. “At faith-based institutions, where I have nearly 40 years of experience, by the way, we provide students with both sides of these kinds of arguments and let them evaluate the evidence for themselves. There is no fear of where the evidence might lead.”

    I think William Dembsky has experienced the opposite at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He got in some real trouble about his ideas about the Flood.

    1. Dr. Dr. Billy-D got fired. He even recanted, Galileo-style, and got fired, anyway.

      As for Liberty U, students and faculty must sign a declaration of faith in a literal 6-day creation. So much for following the evidence.

  8. Oh, snap! (re: PCC(E)’s final email). I will very much look forward to his response. Having been raised with YE non-science, I’m pretty salty about this topic. They just lie to students. When I finally took a real science class I had a ‘holy sh*t!, we do know all this stuff!’ moment that I won’t ever forget.

    1. He’s answered and claimed that they do teach both sides at Liberty U. I asked for syllabi and reading lists to substantiate that. I also doubt it given that their mission is explicitly to inculcate students with young-earth creationism. I also asked if HE was a young-earth creationist (I think Liberty U employees have to sign an oath that they believe in the literal truth of the Bible.)

      1. I am ready to believe that they teach “both” sides: creationism as seen by creationists and evolution as seen by creationists. I am more skeptical that they teach the third side: evolution as seen by scientists.

        I hope that W. Wegert will send you the syllabi.

  9. People who claim to be scientists, but are really preachers, need to be asked if there is any piece of evidence or information which would cause them to change, or adjust, their conclusion.

    Real science not only allows, but encourages the incorporation of new information. All conclusions are provisional. Revision, and even outright rejection, of previous conclusions are fine.

    Not so with religion. Religion starts with its’ conclusion and works back from there. Any information which does no comport with the conclusion is rejected.

    The scientific method does not exist for them.

    L

    1. I can recall when, years ago, I first decided to educate myself as to what arguments and evidence creationists were relying on in their efforts to refute the occurrence of evolution. I remember being absolutely astonished that virtually all of them were quite candid in their admission that, because of their religious beliefs, they had simply made the a priori decision that evolution wasn’t true. For example, prominent creationist Kurt Wise, who holds a Ph.D. in Paleontology from Harvard states in his autobiography that: “I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.” Similarly, Todd C. Wood, the director of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan University has admitted that: “There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it . . . ,” but “[i]t is my own faith choice to reject evolution, because I believe the Bible reveals true information about the history of the earth that is fundamentally incompatible with evolution.” In the same vein, Georgia Purdom, the Science Director of the Creation Museum (who holds a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Ohio State University) has declared that: “I couldn’t believe it [evolution] because it did not fit with the God I know . . . .” Lastly, Karl Giberson, a professor at Stonehill College with a PhD in physics (where he presently serves as Scholar-in-Residence in science and religion) has said that: “As a believer in God, I am convinced in advance that the world is not an accident and that, in some mysterious way, our existence is an ‘expected’ result. No data would dispel it. Thus, I do not look at natural history as a source of data to determine whether or not the world has purpose. Rather, my approach is to anticipate that the facts of natural history will be compatible with the purpose and meaning I have encountered elsewhere. And my understanding of science does nothing to dissuade me from this conviction.”

      To your point Linda Calhoun, what these “scientists” are doing is NOT science; they are simply attempting to validate their own confirmation bias.

      1. A very complete summary of where “influencers” on that side stand in the debate. From this alone we can conclude that there is absolutely no point in debating them. At least not so to entertain the vanity that any kind of fact, evidence, and reasoning will “turn” them.

  10. … yet another benefit for attending a faith-based institution. This kind of fear does not exist at such schools. Free inquiry is invited and there is no fear of what the students might be exposed to.

    O RLY?

    Does Liberty U offer a classroom course on the case against a historical Jesus — you know, for the sake of fostering free inquiry?

    Perhaps the sweating Dean of International Student Programs and popular presenter could vouchsafe us a copy of the course syllabus?

  11. I do find it amusing and inevitable that they try to invoke ‘Cancel Culture’ as a motivation for why they can’t sneak the creationist camel into the public education tent.

  12. Mr. Wegert, do you know if, in any of the words attributed to Jesus, he said that he believed in the literal words of Genesis?

  13. You see, week-by-week, article-by-article, research project-by-research project, evidence mounts that Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism have both been hung in the balance and found wanting as a tenable explanation of the complexity of life, starting with the genetic code.

    Oh not this again. Every generation of creationist says the evidence against evolution is growing overwhelming and that it will be overturned any day now. There’s even a web page that has collected a bunch of quotes of creationists saying that, and it goes all the way back to the 19th century. (I couldn’t find it, else I’d provide the link.)

    Out of all of these articles and projects, have they found a pre-cambrian rabbit? Something equivalent? Has ID been useful for experiment design and discovering heretofore unknown relations between organisms? Novel biological mechanisms of variation and change that are not evolutionary?

    These are the things scientists care about. Not Behe’s trade books.

  14. Too late to edit the copy and paste error. And I forgot the comment length rule again. :-/

  15. I made a mess of my first comment, but I think there is a “not too long comment” edit rule in place now – forgot again. Restoring the first version and shorten it:

    You see, week-by-week, article-by-article, research project-by-research project, evidence mounts that Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism have both been hung in the balance and found wanting as a tenable explanation of the complexity of life, starting with the genetic code.

    That is a really interesting [not!] claim considering that biology has found everything *but* evolution wanting.

    And in fact you don’t have to study biology very long to understand that evolution is its basic process. Further, I claim that anyone can visit NCBI free genomic site, avail themselves of the tutorial, pick a protein to test evolution with and do so – make a phylogenetic tree – within a few hours. With practice, you can see with your own eyes that evolution works in about half an hour.

    Genetic code evolution has been tested by showing its error robustness:

    We thus conclude not only that the natural genetic code is extremely efficient at minimizing the effects of errors, but also that its structure reflects biases in these errors, as might be expected were the code the product of selection.

    [ https://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~stevel/565/literature/The%20genetic%20code%20is%20one%20in%20a%20million.pdf ]

    In fact, I think Wegert missed a beat, creationists are supposed to claim that cells couldn’t evolve from geology in the first place. But that is what we find:

    The 355 phylogenies identify clostridia and methanogens, whose modern lifestyles resemble that of LUCA, as basal among their respective domains. LUCA inhabited a geochemically active environment rich in H2, CO2 and iron. The data support the theory of an autotrophic origin of life involving the Wood–Ljungdahl pathway in a hydrothermal setting.

    [ https://www.nature.com/articles/nmicrobiol2016116 ]

    As Geoffrey Lehmann put it in “Where Did We Come From? An Astonishing Hypothesis” [Quilette, 2018]:

    In Martin’s recent study to determine LUCA’s probable genetic composition, although he found it may have had a “flabbergasting” 355 genes, his team did not find the genes involved in making amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. He says LUCA may have depended on amino acids produced spontaneously at vents and abiotic reactions to make many of the chemicals it needed. It may have only been able to replicate itself in the sheltered workshop of one of these vents. For this reason Martin has described LUCA as “half-living”.

    But eventually fully-alive cells floated free from a vent.

    This has been tested again, a publication this week that show that tRNAs likely evolved by thermal hot/cold cycling replication under such conditions precisely to snag amino acids from vents [“Origin of life – The Chicken-And-The-Egg Problem”, Astrobiology].

  16. How can there be “free inquiry” if he teaches only the Christian version of creation? What about all the other religions’ versions?

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