Ball State University Professor Awaiting Decision for Teaching Intelligent Design

An Indiana physics professor who has been accused of pushing a religious agenda in his coursework is awaiting a decision from Ball State University officials.

Eric Hedin, assistant professor at BSU's Physics and Astronomy Department, garnered controversy over teaching a course known as "The Boundaries of Science," which included works advocating and critiquing intelligent design.

While Ball State agreed to investigate Hedin back in mid-May, they have yet to reach a decision as to whether or not he should have been allowed to teach a course that included literature about intelligent design.

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Dr. John G. West, vice president of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, told The Christian Post that the investigation of Hedin was a matter of academic freedom.

"Prof. Hedin is an outstanding professor who has published many peer-reviewed technical articles in his field," said West.  "Contrary to published reports, there is absolutely no evidence that he teaches or even believes in 'creationism,' the idea that the earth was created just a few thousand years ago in 6 literal 24-hour days."

West also told CP that he hoped Ball State would decide to "be fair and courageous and stand up for Professor Hedin's rights."

"State University needs to allow Prof. Hedin the same freedom it gives every other faculty member on its campus. Unfortunately, we've seen universities and other institutions intimidated in the past on this issue," said West.

'Clearly Slanted'

The saga surrounding Hedin began with a blog posting in late April on the site "Why Evolution is True" authored by Jerry A. Coyne, professor of ecology at the University of Chicago.

Titled "'Science' course at Ball State University sneaks in religion," Coyne took issue with Hedin's "Boundaries of Science" course, calling it "clearly slanted to show that scientific phenomena do indeed provide evidence for God."

"It's my firm opinion that teaching this course at a state university not only violates the First Amendment, but cheats the students by subjecting them to religious proselytizing when they're trying to learn science," wrote Coyne.

"It's religion taught as science in a public university, and it's not only wrong but illegal. I have tried approaching the University administration, and have been rebuffed. This will now go to the lawyers."

Last month, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to BSU President Jo Ann M. Gora regarding Hedin and his controversial course.

The letter, written by FFRF staff attorney Andrew L. Seidel and cosigned by four academic leaders at BSU, was posted on Coyne's blog.

"…it is our information and understanding that this class has been used to proselytize students and advance Christianity by using gaps in scientific knowledge – the 'boundaries of science' – in an attempt to prove religious belief correct," wrote Seidel.

"We request that Ball State thoroughly investigates all Hedin's classes and…if your investigation bears out these allegations, to remove Hedin from the class at issue."

According to Inside Higher Ed, BSU President Gora released a statement the day after receiving the FFRF letter and agreed to look into the complaint against Hedin.

"We take academic rigor and academic integrity very seriously. Having just received these concerns, it is impossible to comment on them at this point," said Gora.

"We will explore in depth the issues and concerns raised and take the appropriate actions through our established processes and procedures."

'An Outrageous Claim'

Dr. John West of the Discovery Institute called the allegation that Hedin was pushing a course with only creationist Christian literature "an outrageous claim."

"Some of the authors are supporters of intelligent design in biology. Others are staunch critics of intelligent design and defenders of Darwinian evolution," said West to CP.

"Questions about the evidence for design in the universe and the boundaries of science are perfectly legitimate topics for a university seminar."

In support of Hedin, the Discovery Institute started an "Academic Freedom Petition," which they plan to deliver to BSU officials.

"We, the undersigned, urge the administration of Ball State University to support Prof. Eric Hedin's academic freedom to discuss intelligent design and related issues in the classroom," reads the petition in part.

According to his profile page at BSU's website, Hedin's research interests include Nanoscience, Information Theory, Teleology, and Cosmology.

Eric Hedin, assistant professor with the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ball State University, declined to give comment to The Christian Post.  And Ball State University of Muncie, Indiana did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.

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