The Discovery Institutes Appeal for a Legislative Resolution on Academic Freedom

Here is a piece from DI on students academic freedom in secular universities. But looking deeper, it is just another thinly disguised wedge document trying to insert ID into secular science education.

DI wants supporters to write to there state representative to get a Student Academic Freedom in Science Resolution enacted by State governments. Here is the resolution:


  1. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student at any public institution of higher education in the State of _____ , should be penalized in any way because he or she may subscribe to a particular position on scientific topics which may be controversial (such as biological evolution, climate change, or abiogenesis).

Look familiar?

I think I agree with this. If a student can do my problem sets and ace my exams, they should get the corresponding grade. What they privately think is irrelevant.


I am sure everyone agrees with this, or at least they should. Is there any evidence that students are not evaluated in this way already? I know of many students that do not affirm evolution. No one asks loyalty based questions about what we believe in our heart.

@pnelson and @Agauger do you know of any cases where this resolution has been violated?

@art, we discussed this a bit last week. Wouldn’t we treat a YEC fairly, based on their knowledge of science, whether or not they personally affirmed it?

My concern is that this resolution suggests something else is happening in academic science. It sounds quite a bit like a “when will you stop beating your wife?” sort of question. I stand to be corrected, but I do not see evidence that judging students based on their personal beliefs, rather than than their performance in tests and assignments, is allowed.


Unfortunately, I do know of cases.

These are the ones we can talk about. There are also stories of professors being persecuted. (I know that some here vigorously dispute Sternberg’s story. That’s too bad, because it’s true. Likewise for Guillermo Gonzalez.) People can go read for themselves.

These two up above are at the website, the same website where the petition is. I know of others not posted. One of them involved a postdoc at the UW and does not have to do with evolution. At the department seminar, no less, the audience was told by the guest speaker than he would fire any Christians he found in his lab. Her supervisor then said to his lab that he would do the same.


I’m confused by this story. In 2004, a sociologist PhD student that was granted his PhD, after making a statement that confused his thesis committee.

This one is more serious. In 2005, a PhD student in science education had just submitted an anti-evolution education plan in Ohio, and landed into the news. Several professors at the university protested, and he was not allowed to defend and get his PhD.

That is egregious. What year did this happen?

These seem to be highly atypical situations, for many reasons.

  1. They were in the lead up to Dover/Kansas.
  2. The case that involved not getting the PhD (very sad), he was also engaging in political activism against mainstream science as a science education PhD.

I should also point out that PhD students are never evaluated on merely their understanding of course materials. They also have to defend a thesis. So if this intended to apply to PhD students, is this mean to alter how PhD’s are granted?

I’m just not sure these stories are common place in, say, the last 10 years. Nor do I think that most professors would advocate mistreating students in this way.

Further the anti-evolution education plan was illegal and unconstitutional. Really should check your plan out with a first year law student before putting in a PhD thesis.

I agree with this. Seems like one more underhanded attempt by the DI to insinuate there are serious scientific controversies over things like evolution or climate change when the only “controversies” are purely political ones they’re trying to generate themselves. I wonder if the DI also supports teaching the science controversy for a flat Earth, Geocentrism, and The Stork Brings The Babies. :slightly_smiling_face:


@Timothy_Horton [quote=“Timothy_Horton, post:7, topic:2876”]
I wonder if the DI also supports teaching the science controversy for a flat Earth, Geocentrism, and The Stork Brings The Babies.

Nice one. No, no and no.

I think you have mischaracterized this.

Why not? Those three topics have the same amount of scientific controversy as biological evolution and climate change do.

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I haven’t asked that question. I can’t share any details because the person involved does not want to.

In what way could it possibly be altered?

Here are some examples of acceptable and unacceptable questions." The thesis committee says, “How do you account for the pattern we see in the fossil record?” Or “Explain what is meant by neutral theory?”
These are fine.

How about “Do you believe mutation, drift and selection can account for the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life?” The question is problematic. Belief is not necessary. Knowledge is. If the question was “How would you explain the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life?” then the student is free to answer according to accepted ideas or hypotheses. It’s not unusual to have a thesis committee ask such questions just to see how a student thinks. The one obvious no no is to ask “Do you believe…”


:slightly_smiling_face: Glad to hear it.

Do you have any independent confirmation of those stories besides the heavily spun propaganda from the DI? Let’s face it, the DI isn’t exactly known for its honesty in reporting things about science.

You use some loaded words there that imply you won’t accept evidence to the contrary.

The first two persons I have not personally met, but I have heard their stories from people involved first hand. The other stories on the web page I have met and heard from personally. The third story I heard from the post-doc first hand. This person had no affiliation with Discovery Institute.

Now you are free to discount me.

And @Timothy_Horton, why don’t you want to specify? Or was that a label applied to you?

I’d just like some independent confirmation from a non-DI affiliated source. The DI is infamous for its anti-science rhetorical BS so deep one needs hip waders. I’d prefer to hear the other side of the story but looks like that is not available.

FFRF lawyers are well aware of these cases and the so-called student academic freedom bill proposals on the State level. As I said before they are thinly disguised attempt to create another wedge between secular science education and Evangelistic Christian power. It is not going to get much traction because of the Dover precedent. In the past election, state legislatures are much more progressive and are not in the mood for another Dover, this time disguised as Climate change debate and students academic freedom.


Not really. That’s just normal conversational talk.

The candidate could respond with what the theory says, and not use “I believe” as part of his response.

We really don’t need to micro-manage every sentence used in the to and fro discussion that takes place in a dissertation defense.


I believe the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed created a lot of skepticism about this issue (whether the skepticism is entirely justified is another question.) About a year after the film was released, I view it online and checked out some of the opinion-discrimination cases that were featured in the documentary. I was not impressed with the evidence. The Expelled film was a very slanted and poorly constructed examination of these issues. The project didn’t seem to try very hard to get and really listen to points of view contrary to their own. I strongly questioned many of the discrimination cases Ben Stein discussed.

With that in mind, I don’t doubt the Dr. Gauger has found much better examples of view-discrimination in the classroom and dissertation-defense contexts. I’m just saying that I can understand why many people are open-minded yet skeptical concerning the need for a legislative resolution.

In any case, is legislation the best solution? I don’t know. Not all bad behavior is easily addressed by new laws. Yet, perhaps that is the only solution we have. (?))


Granted. But some sorts of questions should be off limits. We have legislated against other sorts of discrimination: sex, race, orientation for example. Political view, religion also I think (I hope!).

An anecdote. When I was applying to graduate school at a prestigious genetics department the interviewer actually asked me if I planned to marry! Even in the 1980s that question was illegal. But if I answered no I was not going to be accepted. If I protested I would be turned down. I said I don’t know, which was true.

Another personal story. A graduate student in the early 1990s presented a “research study” that said Christians were stupid. This was in the early 1990s at Harvard. Fortunately she was corrected, but it says something about the climate that she thought she could do that. This was pre-ID, so she couldn’t use anything by Barbara Forrest.

As for viewpoint discrimination concerning ID, how many scientists posting anti-ID posts, claiming evidence against DI, have actually read an ID book or two? How many have read material about DI’s accounts of discrimination from a website that is not itself anti-ID propaganda? It’s not easy to find because of the noise out there. Kitzmiller is not bias free, for example. NCSE is not bias free. Same for Patrick’s group. And others.

Being biased doesn’t prove they are lying, but what they say should be taken with at least as much skepticism as is awarded Discovery Institute.