Thus saith, at least, 25 professors on the faculty of the University of Iowa, who penned a short letter of protest to the campus news, IowaNow, for daring to allow a fellow faculty member to publish any doubt whatsoever upon “the fact that life on Earth has evolved” (my emphasis).
Indeed, this university’s band of thought police has decreed that no debate of this topic is allowed anymore: “we no longer debate the central principles of evolutionary theory. . . .”
Thus are expressed the crowning achievements and priceless jewels of liberal scientific progress: academic freedom, and, above all, tolerance.
Yes, Lady Tolerance hath held aloft her holy flame of enlightenment, then touched it to the stakes of all rival views. In the blazes which ensued, many blasphemers have received their just desserts, and begun their descent into the ninth circle of academic hell—the circle of traitors to their lords and benefactors.
The scorched victim in this case is chemistry professor Ned Bowden, who committed blasphemy, brazenly defying the orthodoxy of the high priests of Universitydom by suggesting science and religion can, like, all just get along.
Now, personally I dissent from and reject Bowden’s generic theistic evolution, and I have no interest in defending him on that score. But I appreciate his open mind which, as his article shows, will allow him to have a discussion with even a young-earth creationist at least without ridicule and dismissal up front. And while I think his piece was probably attempting to win over some young Christians to be more accepting of his own rationalistic views, he made two errors of judgment which threw red flags before the university’s self-appointed grand inquisition.
First, he anticipated their authoritative denunciations of ridicule which would follow. He writes, “In our era of punditry, it seems that only the loudest, most extreme, and most intransigent voices are heard. It’s not enough simply to have an opinion; you must shout down anyone expressing a different view to demonstrate the ‘right-ness’ of your own.”
It was this “shouting down” by the defenders of scientific orthodox which Bowden anticipated, and got. In retrospect, it makes the shouters look quite foolish. For there is nothing much more embarrassing for allegedly dispassionate scientists than having it predicted up front that you will respond in foolishness with the predictability of Pavlov’s dogs, only to salivate on cue when someone like Bowden rings the bell.
But an even more powerful stimuli was the menu Bowden served. He not only suggested that creation and evolution could somehow harmonize, he dared to proclaim, “There are, of course, holes in the theory of evolution that are big enough to drive a semi-truck through.” And that drove the police dogs beyond salivating into open, rabid frothing at the mouth.
Thus followed the effort to respond with collective denunciation, to declare all debate of this topic off limits, and to denounce all detractors as hopeless heretics who defy the clearly revealed “facts” of neoDarwinianism.
It all reminds me of the wonderful article Robert A. Nisbet wrote on “Inquisitions” in his collection of essays entitled Prejudices some thirty years ago. To begin with, for a secularist, Nisbet was about as impeccable a scholar as there has ever been, and yet generally honest, helpful, conservative, and truly productive enough that he does not deserve the condemnation of being called a “sociologist,” though that was his field. His essay busts the university mythology which the enlightenment produced concerning the alleged ecclesiastical persecution of Galileo. With a brief review of the historical facts, Nisbet lines us out:
The first censorship of Galileo was his own, the result of fear not of ecclesiastical but of scientific-scholarly opinion. In a letter to Kepler in 1597 Galileo confessed his own belief in the Copernican view of the planets, including the earth, moving around the sun, but declared his fear of ridicule from Aristotelian scholars in the universities were he to make his belief public.
When Galileo finally got the courage, some fourteen years later, “the response was overwhelming laudatory and encouraging” in general, and neither Pope nor church seemed to have any problem. But,
[P]rotests began after his triumphal visit to Rome, and they were not in the first instance ecclesiastical at all. They came from jealous and apprehensive university professors, the majority Aristotelian and fearful of the effect of Galileo’s loud and boastful teachings.
It turns out, “Galileo’s chief enemy was no churchman at all but a fellow-scientist, deeply jealous of Galileo and convinced Galileo had stolen from one of his own scientific works.”
The entrenched, self-interested professors used what leverage and influence they could muster, which at the time was considerable, to bring enough pressure to bear eventually upon the Pope and other ecclesiastical officials that the Inquisition was sent after Galileo.
In short, while Christians and the church always get the bad rap, it has been the self-convinced, know-it-all-already, “overwhelming majority of scientists . . . across the world,” university professors who lead the inquisitions and attacks on dissenters.
Today, such thought police and enlightenment orthodoxy have decreed that dissenters of Darwin shall be racked, pilloried, flogged, flayed, branded on the forehead, and have their tongues removed for their blasphemy. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Darwin.” “Thou shalt make no image or likeness of Darwin beyond that presented in the textbooks.” “Thou shalt not bear Darwin’s name in vain.”
That it comes in the name of scientific progress, enlightenment, and tolerance, is all the more devious. But every religion has its hypocrites.
In the end, we should remember Nisbet’s conclusion:
Rivalry, jealousy, and vindictiveness from other scientists and philosophers were Galileo’s lot, and they are not infrequently the lot of unorthodox minds in modern times. Anyone who believes that inquisitions went out with the triumph of secularism over religion has not paid attention to the record of foundations, federal research agencies, professional societies, and academic institutions and departments. . . . Ideas, theories, paradigms, and values become as ensconced in the scientific as in the theological fraternity. And the vital areas of financial support, professional recognition, and academic appointment, these idols count heavily. Macromutationists in biology, catastrophists in geology, and cognitive theorists in psychology are among those who have known inquisitions in science. It was twentieth century science, not theology, that sought to prevent by every possible means the publication in the 1950s of Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision. The church did not go that far with Galileo.
The takeaway here for those who value a biblical worldview, and who plan to send their children into the gauntlet of public universities, is that you had better have children well prepared to the point of intellectual inoculation before they go. As you can see here, the best they will get is an overly rational theistic evolution that does not mind beginning with premises like, “If we throw out our modern definition of a day as a 24-hour period. . . .” Yet even this is a persecuted minority. The vast majority of university professors are openly, rabidly hostile even to this.
They have no scruples at devouring one of their own. Their allegiance is to their god who must not be debated or questioned in any way. And they are salivating at the chance to teach your children.
 (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 1982), 190–196, for the following quotations.