Eric Hedin: State University Professor Teaches Creationism, Calls It Science


A professor at Ball State University, Eric Hedin, has been accused of teaching creationism in his physics and astronomy classes. The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed an objection based on an anonymous complaint. A letter to the BSU president from the Foundation states, "BSU appears to have a class with a non-biologist undermining genuine science and scholarship of the Ball State biology department by teaching creationism, a religious belief ... masquerading as science."

University officials and fellow faculty defended Hedin for the most part, invoking the right of faculty to control their own curricula, and arguing the importance of exposing students to views different from their own. "Students are not expected to totally agree with these viewpoints, but they are expected to understand them," said Ruth Howes, a retired professor from the department. "I think that is probably what Professor Hedin is trying to do, and I would expect the university to back this effort thoroughly."

Hedin is doing more than just presenting an alternate viewpoint, though. His classes' reading lists for HONORS 296, Symposium in the Physical Sciences: The Boundaries of Science and Astronomy 151, also titled The Boundaries of Science, comprise almost entirely of intelligent design and old-earth creationism, with some C.S. Lewis thrown in for good measure. Hedin has his students reading books with titles like "There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind," "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design" and "The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Toward God."

The Honors 196 course is the science requirement for students in the Honors program, so certain students are required to take this thinly-veiled evolution class in lieu of actual science. Hedin's Rate My Professor ratings show that he is well liked and an "extremely nice guy," but some students were perturbed by his "extremely Christian bias ... Many of his views do not quite jive with those of mainstream science."

There are two issues here, the first of which is labeling. If a professor wants to teach a course on creationism, it is sneaky and academically irresponsible to call it physics or astronomy. Teach a class specifically on religious perspectives on science, or, as Hedin’s reading list seems to suggest would be more appropriate, "scientific" evidence that God exists.

The second issue is the credibility of the material. Even if Hedin called his class Creationism 101, claiming that what he was teaching was mainstream science is still academic dishonesty, especially if he never presented an alternate viewpoint. It's the same issue that we see with mainstream media's reporting on environmental issues, giving fringe viewpoints equal credence with the consensus of the majority of scientists. Just because another viewpoint exists doesn't mean they deserve a platform legitimized with the label of "science."