Saturday, August 02, 2008

Academic Freedom

Hypocrisy at University of Minnesota; Self-Exposed, a Discovery Blog entry, illustrates what has gone wrong with academic freedom. When appropriately applied academic freedom can secure the right to pursue a line of academic inquiry without concern that popular passions might short circuit the effort. One would not want to see a professor of biology or physics dissuaded from looking into a scientific matter because of political pressure for example.

The linked blog entry contains this comment from the Catholic League:

The Chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMN) released a statement today regarding the intentional desecration of the Eucharist by Professor Paul Z. Myers. “I believe that behaviors that discriminate against or harass individuals or groups on the basis of their religious beliefs are reprehensible,” said Jacqueline Johnson. Importantly, she added that the school’s Code of Conduct prohibits such behavior. However, she also stressed that academic freedom allows faculty members “to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint….” Nowhere did she say Myers would be disciplined.

PZ Myers' action was not about academic freedom. What he did with the Eucharist had nothing to do with freedom to pursue an academic issue within biology- his field.. His action was meant to portray his hostility towards Catholicism. Catholic League president Bill Donohue's analysis nails it.


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