Monday, October 30, 2006

Academic Brown Shirts

Phillip E. Johnson authored an essay entitled 'Ya Gotta Believe!.' It originally appeared in Touchstone: A journal of Mere Christianity and was republished at Access Research Network. Two paragraphs from the essay are quoted below and my comments follow. The entire essay can be read at the linked site.

"Biology professor Michael Dini of Texas Tech University made himself a media celebrity by publishing on his web page his criteria for recommending students to medical school. Dini requires that a student seeking a recommendation be earning an A in his class and be well known by him. So far so good, but he also demands that the student affirm “truthfully and forthrightly” a scientific answer to the question, “How do you think the human species originated?” Dini’s words appear to mean that a student seeking a recommendation must not only demonstrate an understanding of evolution but also affirm a personal belief that the human species originated purely by natural causes and not by divine creation."

Michael Dini not only wants students to deny any beliefs they hold about creation being of divine origin, he requires that they embrace his own religious views in exchange for a recommendation. If a student were to provide a truthful and forthright scientific answer, he would respond by indicating that science is unable to document life's origin by purely natural causes. Speculation abounds but speculation is not a scientific answer to how the human species originated. An honest response however, is not consistent with naturalism. A belief in naturalism should not be confused with natural explanations based on solid empirical evidence. It is a belief in the former that students are required to embrace- or else.

"I have wondered why no journalist perceived that the dispute, however offbeat, raised a significant issue of principle that ought to have appealed to liberals. That educators should require only knowledge and not belief is an important tenet of Enlightenment rationalism, often invoked in liberal circles to distinguish secular from religious education, to the disadvantage of the latter. It is commonplace in law schools to say that compulsory affirmation of belief is a defining feature of totalitarian regimes, because coerced endorsement is more intrusive than prohibition of dissent. That is why religious dissenters may not be compelled to salute the flag, even in wartime."

Good point Phillip Johnson. The fact that Dini did what he did to the applause of academics and jounalists alike is a chilling reminder of how tenuous our freedoms are.

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