Friday, November 25, 2005

Academic freedom

Two things I touched on but didn't explicitly say about the mini-kerfuffle over the KU course on IDC.

First, IDolators are the ones wanting to keep IDC from being taught. I think it's fine that it's being taught in an appropriate context.

Second, IDolators are the ones advocating a limitation on academic freedom. And yes, threatening to cut funding if a professor teaches a course you find politically unpalatable is a violation of academic freedom.

Funny how fast the concern for academic freedom disappears from DI announcements.

When the University of Idaho clarified language regarding the teaching of non-science in science classes, the Discovery Institute lashed out, saying:

"Censorship and thought-control are apparently alive and well at the University of Idaho," added Dr. John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. "This is an assault on academic freedom, and a barefaced violation of the Constitution's guarantee of free speech."
When conservatives are threatening to cut funding to KU in retaliation for teaching IDC in a way they don't like:

[it] should cause some Kansas legislators to question the extent to which Kansas taxpayers should be funding state sponsored faith bashing

If Dr. Mirecki can't teach IDC in whatever way he sees fit, universities turn into halls of indoctrination. Suddenly, courses in Christian thought can't teach that some Christians see God as triune while others see him as unitarian, while others don't like that whole gender thing at all. We live in a trinitarian society, and someone might be offended by teaching about unitarian Christians.

Jack Chick is a loon
And we all know that the Eastern Orthodox churches got it wrong, and that the Catholics are actually an Egyptian cult, not even Christians.

And don't even start on the Jews.

Or the Buddhists.

Forget the Mormons.

Also the Masons.

The Jehovah's Witnesses aren't just annoying, they're un-Christian!

While we're making a list of bad things: Muslims, Dungeons and Dragons and Halloween.

And if psychologists teach that suicide can be prevented by therapy and anti-depressants, you just tell them about prayer. Same goes for drug addiction. Also murder.

It's easy to make fun of Jack Chick, and I take nothing that he says seriously. The point is, if course content is based on a popularity contest rather than the judgment of professionals, there's nothing to prevent professors from being obliged to call the Catholic Church a "great whore," or denying that German Nazis caused the Holocaust because it was actually an Inquisition promoted by the Jesuits.

I don't mean to be hyperbolic, but slippery slope arguments like this are also known as "the thin edge of the wedge," and we've all seen how the IDolators love those simple machines. Academic freedom protects everyone's right to pursue their research where it leads them. When we start censoring such speech, we hurt everyone.