Friday, December 02, 2005

Evolution and extinction 

The water apparently got too hot for Prof. Mirecki at U. Kansas, the religious studies scholar who when we last visited had proposed to teach a course on intelligent design. We now learn that he has pulled the plug on the course. The good professor heated up his own water by posting about the course on a Yahoo group where he refers to fundamentalists as "fundies". The AP story you may read about this makes that sound bad, but it leaves out the rest of the email, to wit:
The fundies want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category �mythology.�
The fuller context of the email can be found here.

Are we to be surprised that faculty teach with the purpose of "slapping" people "in their big fat face"? No, certainly not. A few weeks ago NAS President Steve Balch gave testimony to a committee of Pennsylvania legislators on the political nature of what public universities do. He makes a very well-researched and well-argued point, that the nature of what happens at universities is to be critical of anything that is traditional, and to "celebrate" diversity -- not just tolerate, but to embrace in an uncritical way. The full testimony is longish but worth reading, and here's just a paragraph of questions that drives the point home:
Why, when looking at traditional cultural values and established institutional arrangements, is the attitude "critical", and, when looking at other cultures and lifestyles, is the attitude "celebratory"? Shouldn�t it be critical � not necessarily in the sense of adversarial, but in the sense of analytical � all the way round? And does not this strange dichotomy, critical on the one hand, celebratory on the other, suggest a political project within the university devoted to social change of a particular character, a project, that as I think I�ve shown, is now deeply and institutionally engrained? And if there is such a political project, what does it have to do with liberal education as properly conceived? And by what warrant do the public universities of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania pursue it?
The same applies to Mirecki: What does his political project of keeping ID creationism out of K-12 education "have to do with liberal education as properly conceived?" The emails simply bear out that his mission is indeed political, and that at the same time he wants to slap fundies in the face he also wants tax dollars confiscated from citizens to pursue his political ends.

In a previous time, Prof. Mirecki would not only be asked to withdraw the course but also asked to reflect on his unethical conduct. But no longer: he will be celebrated.