Commentary - Caroline Crocker: Intellectual freedom must include conservative professors, scientists
By Caroline Crocker
Examiner.com, June 30, 2008
WASHINGTON - Academic freedom. Intellectual diversity. Who would deny that these are essential in education of students in a country built on freedom? After all, permission to consider more than one option is part of what has given America her competitive edge in the international marketplace of ideas.
Our embracing of divergent peoples and viewpoints marks us as unique and we are rightly proud of being broad-minded, a “melting pot,” welcoming people of different nationalities, cultures and races. This has enabled us to be world leaders in innovative ideas, in marked contrast to what is produced by totalitarian regimes where citizens are only allowed to think one way.
Alarmingly, the current denial of academic freedom rights for those who are judged politically incorrect has put this in jeopardy. The freedom to teach, and learn about, both sides of many issues is noticeably lacking on most college campuses.
A study published in Forum (2005) by Lichter, Rothman, and Nevitte reported that 72 percent of university faculty are liberal (87 percent in elite universities). That this is reflected in the teaching is easily seen in the prolific displays of left-wing propaganda displayed on campuses. The University of Colorado at Boulder has such a preponderance of liberal faculty (96 percent) that, according to a Wall Street Journal article (5/13/08), Chancellor G.P. Peterson intends to support intellectual diversity by establishing an endowed chair for a professor of conservative thought and policy.
There were vociferous faculty objections. Ironically, Mr. Peterson responded to these by the welcome assurance that the new professor would not have to be an actual conservative, just someone who can teach that viewpoint.
The movie, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” has convincingly documented the persecution of scientists who suggest the products of intelligence can be detected by application of certain aspects of information theory (detection of specified complexity) and that these products may be found in biological systems.
Shankar Vedantam of The Washington Post wrote, “…these (Intelligent Design) advocates now believe that they are being punished by the dogma and authority of science.” This was simply because some scientists cannot, in good conscience, on purely scientific grounds, swear an oath of allegiance to Darwinism. The halls of university biology departments, where statements about the absolute veracity of evolution can be found on many faculty office doors, strongly suggest that this loyalty is mandatory.
Recently, the Louisiana state Senate and House passed legislation that would allow teaching of the scientific evidence on both sides of controversial issues such as cloning, global warming, and evolution. The bill specifically excluded the teaching of religion.
Nonetheless, there were strident objections from those who would censor science, including astounding claims that evolution of species is unquestioned by all scientists. The presence of four highly qualified scientists who had just finished testifying to their scientific questions about the sufficiency of Darwinian evolution to provide an explanation for as much as was previously thought was ignored. Those in favor of the bill agree that science, and our educational system, should not be too narrow-minded to consider more than one option; this is the way for our society to advance.
The actions of Chancellor Peterson and Louisiana government are the beginnings of a much-needed cultural transformation in America, where the people demand that true intellectual diversity and freedom of speech be for everyone, not just the politically correct. The ostracism of those who have conservative values, who differ from the ideological viewpoints propounded by their colleges, or who consider scientific data that may not support consensus views, must end.
We need to ensure the intellectually honest consideration of innovative scientific theories, thereby ensuring our continued stature as a society that prizes freedom for its citizens and is a leader in the global marketplace of ideas.