Professor Attacked for Teaching Students to Think and Ask Questions

Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, is “looking into claims that a course centered around the subjects of creationism and intelligent design constitutes a violation of the separation of church and state.” The busy-body atheists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent “a letter of complaint regarding physics and astronomy professor Eric Hedin.”

What was Hedin’s offense? He had students read books and journal articles by Ph.D.-level scientists who offer arguments for intelligent design over blind evolutionary theories. The course, “Inquiries in Physical Sciences,” is an elective. This means that students aren’t required to take it.

Imagine . . . a professor of science challenging his students to think and question. Is this not how science advances?

How the worm has turned. How many times have evolutionists and atheists attacked the church over persecution of scientists by the religious establishment because they taught an alternative scientific theory? Some history might put things into better perspective of what has been muddied by the scientific establishment.

The views of Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473–1543) led to the upheaval of the cosmological and astronomical theoretical worlds with the publication of his On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres in 1543. Elements of a stationary earth and geocentric (earth-centered) solar system, advocated by Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), advanced and refined by the Egyptian Mathematician/Astronomer Ptolemy (A.D. 100–170), and mostly unquestioned for nearly 1900 years, was being reassessed by a number of scientists before Copernicus but without the required mathematical and/or empirical evidence that would overrule in a convincing way what people could see with their eyes and experience with their senses each day.1

Many modern-day secular scientists, historians, and textbook writers contend that the church opposed scientific speculations like those of Copernicus because they contradicted the Bible in some way. The true story of sixteenth-century belief systems regarding science is far more complex and thoughtful than most moderns would have us believe.

Medieval science as practiced by Christians went astray when “the Bible was . . . read through ‘Greek’ spectacles.”2 Certainly the Greeks were right in many of their observations and experiments, but the West’s almost religious attachment to Greek cosmology was what most impeded scientific advancement.

The Greeks, specifically Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), argued for an earth-centered (geocentric) positioning of the universe and most scientists of the day followed Aristotle. Aristotelian cosmology seemed like a rational choice. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the wrong choice.

Galileo’s struggle to get a hearing for his scientific views is often depicted as a war between religion and science, with the Christian religion being the chief antagonist.

Like the flat earth myth invented in the 19th century by Washington Irving, the facts surrounding the Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) affair are often obscured by an incomplete telling of the story. Giorgio de Santillana, author of The Crime of Galileo, “argues that the Galileo affair was not a confrontation between ‘the scientist’ and a religious credo at all. Ironically ‘the major part of the Church intellectuals were on the side of Galileo,’ de Santillana notes, ‘while the clearest opposition to him came from secular ideas’ (i.e., from the academic philosophers).”3

Galileo’s “sin” was that he attacked “Aristotelian philosophy — and all the metaphysical, spiritual, and social consequences” the church “associated with it.”4 Like today’s evolutionary establishment today, the scientific establishment was most threatened by Galileo’s theories.

Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” or “first cause” was a principle of existence, not a personal being. It was Thomas Aquinas (1224–1274) who hoped to teach Aristotle to “speak like a Christian,”5 to harmonize Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity. By the time of Galileo, the views of Aristotle had become the doctrines of the church. So then, it was pagan Greece that led the church astray, not a supposed flawed biblical cosmology.

It’s not that Aristotle was wrong on everything he taught about the universe. When he stuck with observations, he was mostly correct. By observing lunar eclipses and the earth’s round shadow that appeared on the face of the moon, he concluded that the earth must be round and not box-like or like a four-cornered plate. He also “reasoned that Earth must be round because the sails of a ship come into view before the hull. If the Earth were flat, the entire ship would appear at once.”6 It’s when he tried to develop a cosmological system based on philosophy that he got himself and the entire western world into scientific trouble.7

It was this model of the universe that Copernicus and Galileo disrupted. In terms of observation and experimentation rather than philosophy, Galileo leveled the first of many blows against the system. Aristotle’s theories were believed without ever being tested. A similar thing can be said for today’s evolutionary model, and that’s the way many evolutionists want to keep it.

Consider this short video by David Berlinski:

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  1. Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 135–140. []
  2. R. Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), xiii. []
  3. Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 38. []
  4. Pearcey and Thaxton, The Soul of Science, 39. []
  5. Quoted in Mark A. Knoll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 45. []
  6. Kenneth C. Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Universe: Everything You Need to Know About the Cosmos but Never Learned (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 14. []
  7. For a discussion of Aristotle’s cosmology, see Colin A. Ronan, Science: Its History and Development among the World’s Cultures (New York: Facts on File Publications, 1982), 103–105 and Angus Armitage, Copernicus: The Founder of Modern Astronomy (New York: Dorset Press, 1990), 27–28. []