Suppose you were a science teacher, at any level. Suppose you tried to teach the scientific consensus, but that you went out of your way to engage the concerns of creationists and propose means by which the believer's commitment to a literal reading of Genesis could be preserved, judgement suspended, with no intent to challenge religious authority. You even write a book that describes your attempts to reconcile the facts of biology with your faith, a book that attempts to create "a safe harbor where one can explore the wonders of creation revealed by science while still holding fast to faith."

Would that make you a 'raging moderate', or a milquetoast? Perhaps. But, in a strange sort of way, it makes you even more of a target! Consider the case of Richard Colling. As Newsweek reports, Colling, a professor of biology at Olivet Nazarene University, has been the object of a not-terribly Christ-like campaign of persecution stemming from conservative elements within the Church of the Nazarene. Sad! The NCSE summarizes the situation in this bulletin, but stops short of saying the obvious: those of us who care about science education, believers and non-believers alike, should make it our business to Support Richard Colling.

With that in mind, here is a template for a letter to ONU's President, John Bowling, protesting the state of affairs. Feel free to cut-and-paste this into an email, and then send it to the ONU President at the address given below. It should go without saying that any message sent to a university head should be calm, courteous but firm. We are not compelled to, nor should we allow ourselves to bash ONU or its leadership in order to show our support for Dr. Colling, who has himself written this plea to those who share his concerns.

"To: John Bowling, President, Olivet Nazarene University

Dear Sir:

As a science educator, I wish to protest in the strongest terms the university's decision to relieve Richard Colling of classroom duties and to ban the use of Dr. Collings' works in other courses offered by the university. This decision sends a chilling message: that academic freedom and the spirit of inquiry which is the soul of the scientific enterprise are not welcome at Olivet Nazarene University, to the point where sincere attempts by a believing Christian to engage the real world are deemed too 'controversial.'

I urge you, therefore, to reconsider the university's course of action. It may have provided leadership with a sense of having done something to defuse controversy, a form of short-term 'damage control.' In the long run, however, censuring legitimate scientific inquiry and punishing those who uphold the standards of the scientific community will significantly damage ONU's academic reputation.

Sincerely, (your signature)"

John Bowling's E-mail: jbowling@olivet.edu

(You can also, if inclined, reach Dr. Bowling by phone at 1-815-939-5221. Be nice.)

You can send Dr. Colling a message of personal support at: rcolling@olivet.edu

Stand up for science education! Support Richard Colling!



Not much time for blogging the last few days, I'm afraid. The incident with the fistfight in my classroom I've previously posted about. But my plate is full for other reasons. First of all, my school's football team is undefeated (4-0) and tonight's 'Friday Night Lights' for us. Yet somehow I need to make time for....

...The first in the series of local SDA-sponsored satellite presentations of "Out of Thin Air", the latest attempt by Adventists to shore up their historical commitment to a literal 6-day creation by sniping at 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea'. Of course, I'm going to attend, hopefully with a real geologist rather than the disciples of George Macready Price.

Plus, I'm hurrying to send off promotional materials for the first edition of Central Valley Cafe Scientifique, which premieres on October 1st. Gotta get them out the door (or into folk's email folders) today!

Finally, last but definitely not least, as I type this there are: 7 teams still in the hunt for the playoffs in the NL, all 4 playoff spots in doubt, and only 3 games left in the schedule---an absolutely unprecedented thriller of a finish in the Senior Circuit, a weekend of possibly historic proportions for this Padres fan.

So forgive me, Vox supporters, if I punt today and tonight on any more rejoinders in my exchange with Vox. I'll follow through eventually, promise!



Probably the most energetic and scholarly commenter on my blog of late is Starwind, who I first encountered at Vox's site. Unlike most of Vox's clones, Starwind has done his homework where Genesis is concerned, both in terms of science and in terms of the original Hebrew text. Starwind appears to be a 'progressive creationist' in the Hugh Ross mode, who wants to affirm the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture in a way that is consistent with scientific findings.

I'm sympathetic, actually. I participate in a chapter of Hugh Ross's organization Reasons To Believe in the Fresno area, and it gives me a good opportunity to interact with sincere, thoughtful people who hold similar sentiments, some of whom are (like Starwind) sufficiently well-educated that it would be something of an injustice to describe them as laymen.

Anyway, Starwind asks a question that I think a lot of theologians as well as scientists would find intriguing, which is the matter of discerning Yahweh's intent with respect to Genesis 1 and the prescientific peoples that produced this tradition. Starwind writes:

Assume (hypothetically) that God did cause creation in a sequence of events begining from nothing but God Himself, ending in the universe/solarsystem/homosapiens as science observes and theorizes it today. Assume further that you are God revealing to Moses what you did. How would you explain it? What level of detail would you include? What words would you use? What would you emphasize, what would skip over? Whom would be your readership? When (if ever) would you expect them to understand and what is your purpose in their understanding? What would you want Moses, the Israelites, and mankind to conclude from what you'd created and revealed?

Now then, what specifically do you tell Moses to write down?

And now as Scott Hatfield, given the incomplete understanding of science as to the state of cosmology and evolution, if your university "comparative religions" professor assigned you to write a correlation of science to the various religious creation accounts, what table would you draw?

The 'table' Starwind refers to is his attempt at a detailed correspondence between Genesis 1 and scientific chronologies, in the manner of Gerald Schroeder or Hugh Ross. I invite general discussion of Starwind's question.



I had an incident today, and there's a possibility that it may affect my blog. During my 7th period class, two young 'ladies' began brawling in the front of my class, and in the process knocked over my podium, broke a stapler (one threw it as the other) and (tripping all over the power cords) unseated the video card in my computer. I'm trying to run it now, but it's looking creaky. I may need a new monitor, or a new video card, or both.

As a precaution (who knows what else might have happened during the melee) I'll bring in a portable hard drive to back up my main drive on my school computer later this week. In the event that there is a failure, I'll be able to get the blog up and running with an older Windows XP computer that I've kept around for such an eventuality, but I might be out of action for 2-3 days.

Otherwise, don't worry. And yes, for the record, those girls will not be back in my class again, ever. I feel sorry for them, especially (ironically) the girl who provoked the conflict, but that's the way it's going to have to be. It's a shame that, in order to effect that, I'll probably have to threaten high dungeon and bring in the union, etc. but I can't have anyone who does anything like that in a science classroom. Thank God that this didn't happen during a lab with glass or flame. In my world, it's safety first, social engineering a distant second.



In my previous post, I waxed at length about why I felt that Vox's impression of how the scientific community actually operates missed the boat. A lot of his sympathetic readership felt my post missed the boat, and felt it was largely bloviated excuse-making. To those folk, I would say this: if you think the distinctions I raised in that post are irrelevant, I invite you to explain why you feel that way here. Of, if you don't understand why scientists might feel those distinctions matter, then you need to try harder, frankly. I'm just saying.

Now, on to the exchange. I don't see any purpose in belaboring Vox's admission that he misread the Lejeune example that we've been discussing. It is a mark of his intellectual integrity that he would acknowledge his momentary misstep, and that he would take steps to get up to speed. Many of my critics referenced in the above paragraph could learn from his example.

I also want to say that Vox is one-hundred percent dead-on right when he notes: ".... that if scientists wish to be understood by anyone but other scientists, they have simply got to stop saying the equivalent of "I predicted the results would be A, the results were X, so therefore my prediction was correct", ESPECIALLY when trying to explain things to those who can't possibly be expected to know the jargon."

Well, right on. Science, and particularly biology, has become more complex by orders of magnitude since the genetic code was determined. The requisite level of technical expertise now needed to parse even general review articles in the literature is often beyond the ability of non-specialists to absorb without serious research. The truth is, scientists increasingly struggle to communicate with each other, much less the general public.

It might interest Vox and his readership to know that real scientists are aware of the problem. Scientists like Ken Miller, whose presentation on this topic featured heavily in a previous post, has gone on the record with this blunt assessment:

Speaking on what specifically the scientific community could do to fight this, Miller said it must change its attitude, particularly paying attention to public issues such as that in Cobb County and helping to educate the general public. "Frankly, we suck at popularizing science," he said.

That, in a nutshell, is why I think it is important for science educators to engage the public in non-traditional fora such as this. That is why people like me should seek out well-spoken folk outside of the scientific community, including (gasp!) those with religious convictions, and engage them on the science. I'm going to continue to do that, because I think for those of you who are on the fence, there is much to be gained by considering the views of others.

In my next post, I'll discuss the question Vox raises as to the number of genomic predictions and the nature of those predictions, which in the main are eliminative. The failure of scientists to communicate the fact that much of science is eliminative in character can be shown in that only a very small percentage of high school science students can evaluate a hypothesis, so we will discuss that, as well.



Well, as anyone who's been following this blog knows, a lot of it has to do with supporting science education, and (which dovetails nicely) criticizing the attempts of those, such as creationists, who seek to undermine good science. One could easily get the impression that I'm one of them there Godless 'evilutionists'. But I'm not. Like a lot of people, I'm a theist who accepts the powerful evidence in support of 'Darwin's dangerous idea.'

That's not to say, however, that I regard science as just another way of "proving" my beliefs. I think it's dishonest to pretend that science can rue definitively on such questions one way or the other, and it's almost as cheesy to blithely intone that science and religion agree, or that there are no points of conflict. Yet this is the sort of mantra that we hear a lot from either side of the divide between science and religion, and it seems to be the way that the majority of folk in this country desperately want the issue to be couched. They like their science, and they love their faith, and they want to keep both---and the idea that there might be some irresolvable impasse bothers them. Better, many of them think, to hush that up.

And so, I have great admiration for anyone, scientist or otherwise, who in a spirit of inquiry openly entertains honest doubt about faith, Gods, religion, etc. Some of those folk might be interested in reading about items of faith, and some won't. I don't want to bore or alienate my fellows who fit in the last category, but one of my motives for starting this blog was to explore where this tension between faith and reason might lead me! With that in mind, I'm proposing a new category: "Behind The Curtain."

Those of you who are interested will soon learn to look for posts with the prefix BTC. Those who can do very well without faith-head talk can learn to avoid same. I hope those skeptics who do choose to read it, however, will feel free to comment and keep my feet to the fire.