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Professor Punsihed for Views on Evolution:

Inside Higher Education notes the interesting case of Richard Colling, a biology professor stripped of certain teaching assignments because his views about evolution did not comport with those embraced by the university at which he worked.

He's a professor at Olivet Nazarene University, in Illinois, who has been barred from teaching general biology or having his book taught at the university that is his alma mater and the place where he has taught for 27 years. A biologist who is very much a person of faith, these punishments followed anger by some religious supporters of the college over the publication of his book in which he argues that it is possible to believe in God and still accept evolution.

"I thought I was doing the church a service," Colling said in an interview. He believes that religious colleges that frame science and faith as incompatible will lose some of their best minds, and that his work has been devoted to helping faithful students maintain their religious devotion while learning science as science should be taught. . . .

Colling's career at Olivet Nazarene was successful until the publication in 2004 of Random Designer, his attempt to offer a philosophy in which religious people can study evolution with scientific seriousness, and scientists can embrace faith. The central idea, in short, is that one can believe that God created the universe, and in so doing created the systems that would evolve into everything that exists today. Colling acknowledges that it is not possible to believe literally in the Bible's creation of the world in six days but argues that this need not diminish the moral force of the Bible or belief in God.

FantasiaWHT:
That's pretty much exactly what I've believed as long as I can remember. One can believe that the world is controlled by rules and that something actually created those rules.
12.10.2007 6:13pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Same here. This doesn't seem objectionable in any way. Do we know the university's problem with his book? Is it just general discomfort with religion or what?
12.10.2007 6:25pm
FoolsMate:
They call a reduced teaching load without loss of pay punishment? I guess the worst part would be the public humiliation. Other than that, its sounds like the dream of most science and engineering professors I know, who prefer to focus on their research activities. The true measure of an academic, after all, is the body of work they leave behind.
12.10.2007 6:29pm
KevinQ (mail) (www):
Daniel Chapman,
It's a Nazarene university, which is an evangelical Christian group. I suspect that their discomfort is with his lack of religiosity.

K
12.10.2007 6:37pm
Friedrich (mail):
Yes, if you read the linked article, it's quite clear: the Professor Colling is banned from teaching and his book may not be used because it is seen to be at odds with the university's religious views. See, for example, university president Bowling's statement from the article:


The Christian faith and some understandings of evolution are not necessarily incompatible. However, I want to be very clear in saying that not every articulation of evolution will do; not at all. That is to say, evolution must be understood in certain ways to be compatible with Christian faith. The Christian affirmation of God as Creator affirms God as initially creating, but also continually sustaining, actively interacting, and purposefully directing creation to its culmination. All things come from Him, exist in Him, and move to Him. Evolution, if it is to be held by a Christian, must be considered as a methodology of divine creation within that broader Biblical context.
12.10.2007 6:58pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
"The Christian affirmation of God as Creator affirms God as initially creating, but also continually sustaining, actively interacting, and purposefully directing creation to its culmination."
That perspectice is fundamentally (no pun intended) inconsistent with evolutionary theory. Evolution never "culminates"; it simply continues as mutations arise and circumstances change. Evolution did not stop when humans arrived on the scene and will continue long after we have gone -- unless, perhaps, we take every other living creature on earth with us when we go.
12.10.2007 7:04pm
Barry P. (mail):
I won't hold my breath waiting for the FIRE clowns to get worked up over this.
12.10.2007 7:08pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Thanks, Kevin.
12.10.2007 7:41pm
U.Va. 3L:
Tangentially related--

There's now more information out on the Nathaniel Chapman case. (He's the creationist who was fired from Woods Hole and is now suing; Prof. Adler recently blogged about him.) You can find it here.
12.10.2007 7:49pm
JohnAnnArbor:

I won't hold my breath waiting for the FIRE clowns to get worked up over this.


Is Olivet Nazarene a state university?
12.10.2007 7:50pm
U.Va. 3L:
Nathaniel Abraham, not Nathaniel Chapman. I've been outlining for too long.
12.10.2007 7:50pm
U.Va. 3L:
JohnAnnArbor: the public/private distinction hasn't stopped FIRE from acting before. Their press release page talks about FIRE efforts at, among others, Occidental College, Hamline University, Brown University, and Tufts University.
12.10.2007 7:55pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
FIRE doesn't limit itself to state universities... but it does stick to issues regarding STUDENT speech, doesn't it? Have they ever come out to defend a professor against the administration before?
12.10.2007 7:55pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
FIRE doesn't limit itself to state universities... but it does stick to issues regarding STUDENT speech, doesn't it? Have they ever come out to defend a professor against the administration before?
Yes.

But FIRE's position on private universities is very simple: they (except in California) are not legally required to apply first amendment standards, and so FIRE will not hold them to first amendment standards. What FIRE will hold them to is whatever standards they themselves espouse. In other words, if a private university wants to have even a highly restrictive speech code, that's fine -- but if a private university tries to punish people in a manner inconsistent with its speech code, that's a problem.
12.10.2007 8:15pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
Hmm? Per Bowling's statement, the views of the Nazarene Church apparently do not admit the interpretation that a(presumably omniscient) God could simply design a universe in which biological evolution would occur as an inevitable result of the design, and then "set it to running", so that He could then turn his attention to other stuff (like the pesky moral issues troubling those human beings who would be coming along as an inevitable, and forseeable-by-him result of the original design).

Instead, they insist, God has to keep tinkering and adjusting the machinery?
12.10.2007 8:44pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
Hmm? Per Bowling's statement, the views of the Nazarene Church apparently do not admit the interpretation that a(presumably omniscient) God could simply design a universe in which biological evolution would occur as an inevitable result of the design, and then "set it to running", so that He could then turn his attention to other stuff (like the pesky moral issues troubling those human beings who would be coming along as an inevitable, and forseeable-by-him result of the original design).

Instead, they insist, God has to keep tinkering and adjusting the machinery?
12.10.2007 8:44pm
Hoosier:

Barry P.: I didn't know that FIRE has clowns now. But if academic hypocrites are as scared of clown as I am, this might be a really good move on FIRE's part.
12.10.2007 9:00pm
Anderson (mail):
The Nazarene school is entitled to require compliance with whatever goofball pseudo-science it likes.

Given the popularity of goofball pseudo-biology, the publicity of this incident may be a net plus to 'em.

I hope Prof. Colling finds gainful employment at another college, Christian or secular, where adherence to fundamental tenets of biology is not a cause for disciplining biology professors.
12.10.2007 10:07pm
loki13 (mail):
Since the comment thread seems to have gotten, ummm... beclowned, let me add this:

1. The administration of the college is a bunch of idiotic clowns, and their biology department is probably a joke.

2. That said, they are as within their rights to promote their (incorrect) views through employment as WHOI.

(I am glossing over some issues here, but the basic distinction remains- as a private entity, they should be allowed to have propagate their views, and have their employees not contradict them)
12.10.2007 10:11pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
One can believe that the world is controlled by rules and that something actually created those rules.

Yes, it seems a rather remarkable feat of imagination to suppose that those rules just happened randomly. What is it that some folk are so fond of saying about 'Creation'? Ah, yes, a "just so story".

Evolution, if it is to be held by a Christian, must be considered as a methodology of divine creation within that broader Biblical context.

Of course, God is entirely contained and constrained by what the Bible says. I wonder if the good President is familiar with asiety (which surely is NOT a notion within a Biblical context).
12.10.2007 10:31pm
TokyoTom (mail):
Jon, there's also an interesting case in Texas, as I noted on the Woods Hole thread (and raised by William Saletan), where the Texas science curriculum director was forced out because she seemed insufficiently impartial by mass-forwarding an e-mail about an upcoming presentation by a critic of intelligent design.

http://volokh.com/posts/1197041977.shtml#299647
12.10.2007 11:31pm
Randy R. (mail):
juris: "Yes, it seems a rather remarkable feat of imagination to suppose that those rules just happened randomly"

When you actually know something about evolution and natural selection, then you earn the right to offer reasoned criticisms. Until, we will welcome you to the clowns.
12.11.2007 9:21am
Hoosier:
Randy R.: 'Until, we will welcome you to the clowns.'

(Again with the damned clowns.)
12.11.2007 10:23am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It would appear that Olivet and WHOI both require a certain respect for their respective religions.
12.11.2007 10:42am
Colin (mail):
How do you define "religion," Richard?
12.11.2007 10:58am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Colin. In this case, whatever the institution requires its employees to believe, irrespective of its effect on their work product.
12.11.2007 11:49am
Hoosier:
Colin--

I was hoping to find you here.

On the previous science/religion thread, you questioned the significance of my epistemological objection, and asked if there really were prominent cases of what one might call scientific absolutism.

I wanted to ask if you'd accept my proposition that Richard Dawkins--and those who have promoted and praised "The God Delusion" --are examples of my point. And whether this counts as significant.

He is not the only person I had in mind. Nor is the debate he unleashed even the most interesting issue, in my opinion. But he is the fellow I had most prominently in mind when I stoked the debate.

On a related note, the juris/Randy debate illustrates in a nutshell my point about the non-scientific community and its perceptions of science. What is likely/unlikely/impossible when it comes to the Big Questions is not an empirical question. It is completely dependent upon what one takes to be the way the Universe functions.

Hume was /logically/ correct that miracles are so unlikely as to be considered impossible for practical purposes. But that is a matter of /deduction/ from the premise that there is no personal God intervening in the lives of humans. But if he had started from a different premise, logic wouod have compelled a different conclusion.

The problem for empiricism is that it cannot inductively build up an answer to metaphysical questions. And it only allows deduction from known premises, like all other theories of knowledge that rely on logic.

So juris is logically correct. And Randy R. is logically correct. But they have different ontologies, and so talk past each other. And since I have no method whatsoever of resolving the ontological problem, I just keep posing the question.
12.11.2007 11:57am
Colin (mail):
I wanted to ask if you'd accept my proposition that Richard Dawkins--and those who have promoted and praised "The God Delusion" --are examples of my point. And whether this counts as significant.

It's certainly possible, but you'd need to show me how he's negatively impacted science. Has progress been retarded in some way? I'll suggest that possibly he has by attaching science in general, and biology in particular, to an irrelevant cultural and philosophical debate in the minds of the public, but I don't know if this is a material or significant effect. You could persuade me by showing an actual, real-world impact, but I realize that's a ridiculous request. More realistically, you could propose a mechanism connecting Dawkins and his work to some retardation of scientific endeavors. I think that's what I don't see, and why I'm dubious as to the practical impact of your concerns over rhetorical epistemology.

So juris is logically correct. And Randy R. is logically correct. But they have different ontologies, and so talk past each other. And since I have no method whatsoever of resolving the ontological problem, I just keep posing the question.

I follow your point. Personally, I resolve this dilemma with hard-nosed pragmatism—I have never been pointed to any harm to cabining "science" to empirical, naturalistic material causes and effects. It is trivially simple to identify the harm of opening "science" to supernaturalism. While I can see why some would want to pry open metaphysical gaps in our fundamental assumptions, my default position is that they bear the same burden as any other challenger to a scientific paradigm. They must demonstrate that their methodology and assumptions are superior, even if (as you pointed out in an earlier thread with regards to Newton) they can't always explain why.
12.11.2007 12:47pm
Colin (mail):
Colin. In this case, whatever the institution requires its employees to believe, irrespective of its effect on their work product.

Unfortunately, Richard, dogmatic scripts often deviate from the real world. You've run into that problem here. In your haste to make the scripted "evolution is a religion" point, you've gone off the deep end.

Abraham wasn't required to believe anything at all. See, i.e., the Boston Globe article. See also the University of Rhode Island's position regarding creationists -- as far as most scientists are concerned, as long as you can do the work, you don't have to believe in it.

Abraham was required to interpret research results in light of modern biology. He didn't have to believe in the research he was doing, he just had to do the research. He reportedly told his employers that he wouldn't, on religious grounds. WHOI fired him because they believe their research program should incorporate, rather than ignore, the last two hundred years of empirical science.

Nor does your "religion" quip make any sense if WHOI had fired him purely for his private beliefs. The Federalist Society won't fund Marxists, but that doesn't make the empirical study of free markets a "religion."
12.11.2007 1:01pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
The Divine Clockmaker concept is not at all novel. I understand that this was how many of the Founding Fathers understood their Deism.

A related way to resolve things was, I understand, used by those involved in the 3 degree background radiation ("proof" of the Big Bang), along the lines of "Genesis is parable, this phenomenon proves there was a moment when the universe came into being, that's good enough for me."

Evolution never "culminates"; it simply continues as mutations arise and circumstances change.

There are those who believe "God does not play dice with the world". (I don't believe in chaos or stochastic analysis, except as a computationally feasible approximation. Certainly once you get outside the quantum level (and maybe before) if you have enough information about every single particle (omniscence means you can solve the 3-body problem) you can predict how they will all interact, and what all their positions and velocities will be, indefinitely. I don't have Free Will, it was predestined (determinable) that not only would I act, interact, and react as I have, but that I would think, and think I am thinking, and think I have Free Will.)

Colling acknowledges that it is not possible to believe literally in the Bible's creation of the world in six days

As I said in the WHOI thread, it most certainly is. It's not teribly useful scientifically, any more believing the world was created, complete with navels and false memories, seconds ago or at any other arbitrary point in the past.

In the WHOI thread, Hoosier and Oren mentioned Aquinas and Descartes dealing with the Prime Deceiver. (As near as I can tell, Descartes [and I never studied philosophy formally, but I wanted to see how he was assuming the "I" in "I think therefore I am" -- I only buy "Something is thinking therefore something is"] said that it would be pointless for the Prime Deceiver to weave this deception.) But the author of Job hand-waved over this even further back, for instance at 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
12.11.2007 1:46pm
Hoosier:
Colin: "I can see why some would want to pry open metaphysical gaps in our fundamental assumptions"

Yeah. It's a hobby.



David Chesler: Huh?
12.11.2007 5:22pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
The world would be a duller place without Southern Christians, wouldn't it?

Happier, but duller.
12.12.2007 12:45am
exfizz:
Harry:

"Olivet Nazarene University [near Chicago] is a private, Christian, liberal arts University--a service of the Church of the Nazarene, theologically grounded in the Wesleyan tradition." [source1,source2]

IIRC, Wesleyans are not conventional Christians -- e.g. they reject the Trinity -- but they are not weirdos or dumb fundies: of the top 20 universities in the US, only two (Duke and Emory) are affiliated with a Protestant religious institution, and they are both are affiliated with the Methodist Church. [source] The Wesleyans are an offshoot of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in many ways (e.g. women's rights, slavery) the Wesleyan Methodists were more liberal and "modern" (and Northern) than the Methodist Episcopal mothership. [source]
12.12.2007 1:05am
exfizz:
IHE: "[Colling] believes that religious colleges that frame science and faith as incompatible will lose some of their best minds"

Whew. I realize this may contradict the rebuttal I just posted about not their being dumb fundies, but guys, come on, isn't it a little late to worry about that? Haven't secular institutions just stripped the field utterly bare? In other words,

IM IN UR SKOOLZ STAELNG UR BEST MINDZ! KBYE, DRWN.


David Chesler: "Certainly once you get outside the quantum level (and maybe before) if you have enough information about every single particle ... you can predict how they will all interact, and what all their positions and velocities will be, indefinitely."

U TINK ZO, HUH? GOOD LCUK W DAT! LOL, MXWL.
12.12.2007 1:36am
Randy R. (mail):
Juris was equating evolution with Creationism, by inferring that both are mere 'stories'. Evolution is not just a story -- it is backed up by strong scientific evidence and has shown us predictable results over and over again.

My point was that Juris seems to think that it is just a story, like any other, which is wrong. He is mischaracterizing evolution. It's fine to criticize something that you understand, but to criticize something that you don't, or have mischaracterized through your own ignorance, is helpful to no one. And therefore it's best to just sit down.
12.12.2007 7:13pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Hume was /logically/ correct that miracles are so unlikely as to be considered impossible for practical purposes.


Of course Hume is correct on this. If miracles were not impossible for practical purposes, they wouldn't be miracles. Being impossible for practical purposes is, practically speaking, the definition of a miracle! The simply possible, while possibly awe inspiring, is not a miracle.
12.12.2007 7:37pm
Hoosier:
lucia--"If miracles were not impossible for practical purposes"

I'm not sure what that means. But it would be hard to find a devout Christian who thinks miracles are "impossible for practical purposes," or purposes of any other type. Which is the point. Hume was not a devout Christian, and reasoned from that position. Benedict XVI has a different worldview.
12.12.2007 10:14pm
Milhouse (www):

The Divine Clockmaker concept is not at all novel. I understand that this was how many of the Founding Fathers understood their Deism.

Does Paine count as a "founding father"? What other founding fathers were deists? Certainly not Washington, Jefferson, or Madison. They were not Christians by the usual definition of that term, but they believed in an active Providence, Who directly intervenes in history to guide it as He wishes, Who responds to prayer, Who rewards good and punishes wrongdoing, and Who hates false oaths.
12.13.2007 6:33pm