Some of you will remember that I previously posted on Dr. Richard Colling, a professor at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois, who defended evolution as God's process, contrary to the strict literal interpretation of Genesis preferred by the Church of the Nazarene, the denomination in control of ONU. Colling is a man of faith who also clearly recognizes that the real world tells a story that may ultimately be closer to God's truth than that portrayed in primitive biblical texts. In a 2004 article, Colling describes his perspective:
Colling is one of a small number of conservative Christian scholars who are trying to convince biblical literalists that Darwin's theory of evolution is no more the work of the devil than is physicist Isaac Newton's theory of gravity....
Usually, the defense of evolution comes from scientists. But Colling has another motivation.
"People should not feel they have to deny reality in order to experience their faith," he says.
Since that time, however, the forces of darkness and ignorance influencing the administration at ONU have decided that Richard Colling should not be allowed to teach science when it contradicts stubbornly held myth. Colling's personal struggle to bring peace between science and religion has come to a head, and now Professor Colling faces a situation more reminiscent of conditions in Iran than America. A pre-release Newsweek on Colling and other scientists of faith shows how these courageous individuals are being persecuted for their ideas, much in the same fashion as Galileo was persecuted for his. Because of his attempts to reconcile faith with the facts of science, ONU, under pressure from some "irate parents, pastors, and others" has brought the inquisition to Professor Colling:
Colling is prohibited from teaching the general biology class, a version of which he had taught since 1991, and college president John Bowling has banned professors from assigning his book. At least one local Nazarene church called for Colling to be fired and threatened to withhold financial support from the college...
...Yet with the new term, Bowling banned "Random Designer" [Colling's book] from all courses; it had been used in at least one history class, an advanced biology course and the general biology course.
The science blogosphere has picked up on Colling's current plight. Although Richard Colling is a lifelong member of the Church of the Nazarene, a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University and believes in a God that is "...bigger, far more profound and vastly more creative than you may have known", the reaction from Church of the Nazarene despots would lead you to believe he is another Christopher Hitchens. As PZ notes at Pharyngula:
He must have done something truly horrible! Why, he sounds like some kind of godless atheist who is trying to pry his students away from the loving embrace of the church.
At EvolutionBlog, Jason comments:
You would think that even at a Christian university a person's religious views are not really relevant to what gets taught in science class. And I wouldn't have thought that theistic evolution was such an outre position among Christians that Colling would come in for this kind of flak for writing a book about it.
Panda's Thumb comments on the expected (and so far, attained) Discovery Institute hypocrisy over "teaching the controversy":
ID proponents are quick to argue ‘viewpoint discrimination’ whenever their attempts to introduce their scientifically vacuous ideas fail....
So when can we expect a cry of outrage from the Discovery Institute, demanding that Colling will be allowed to teach his usual classes?
Has Hell frozen over? Oh the irony…
Yes, where is Casey Luskin? Anika Smith? Michael Egnor? Denyse O'Leary?
Henry Neufeld, however, cuts right through to the main issue in a post entitled "Where Teaching the Controversy is Prohibited". The "Teach the Controversy" argument is nothing but pure propoganda - there is no expectation on the part of its advocates that any sort of "controversy" be taught. It is only the first step in getting control of the curriculum and weeding out evolutionary science altogether. As Neufeld argues:
I have suggested many times before that before one believes what IDC (intelligent design creationism) advocates say about their goals, one should look at the way they handle the matter where they are in control....
This action shows some of the destructive potential of ignorance, but it also removes any fig-leaf of respectability from the “teach the controversy” argument. The advocates of creationism generally do not want the controversy taught. They want to win. If they were to win a court case allowing their materials into the public school classrooms, their next move would be to prevent critical examination of those ideas, and then to prevent the teaching of evolutionary theory itself....
I believe that the Olivet example is what theistic evolutionists such as myself can expect from the ID movement. They want to shut us out. They certainly don’t want to “teach the controversy” about ID, a controversy that is very much alive amongst Christians.
You see, “teaching the controversy” is good when you want to wedge your way into the public schools, or force your way into universities. It’s not so good when someone wants to fairly examine the controversy inside a Christian school. They want a “heads we win, tails you lose” situation.
Other good discussions of Colling's situation can be found at Metacatholic and Higgaion. And while I'm sure other bloggers have also commented, we all can do no better than to let Richard Colling speak for himself. I have been privileged to have exchanged emails with Richard Colling over the past few days and he has written eloquently on his perspective, his plight and his desire to do nothing more than to teach students that they do not have to fear science in order to maintain personal faith. With Professor Colling's permission, I post the entire message I received this morning:
This article tells only the tip of the iceberg, but will give you a flavor...
Here is the actual truth. All I have ever wanted to do is to communicate and then cultivate a message of peace and harmony between Science and Faith. Unfortunately, what I have learned over the past two years is that some profoundly scientifically naive fundamentalist Christians only want war - apparently intent on destroying and discrediting anyone who does not conform to the fundamentalist creationist mindset.
I truly feel that I can empathize with Galileo of 1633 when the Catholic church placed restrictions on him. I suppose it was inevitable that it would someday come to this: The battle fought against the scientifically naive religious authority and won by Galileo (albeit it took 400 years for vindication) was in the physical sciences. (The earth is NOT the center of the universe.) In contrast, regarding the emancipation of evolution (biological sciences) from the self-appointed religious authorities has not yet occurred in the United States. Perhaps it is time.
I believe that it is a matter of when, not if, the evolutionary paradigm WILL be integrated into the evangelical Christian theology. If not, the Christian faith will be relegated to cultural obsolescence. With the genetic data derived from the human genome project and other sources, the evolutionary connectedness of life on earth can no longer be denied. Therefore to build the foundation of the Christian faith on opposition to evolution is not only silly, it is suicide for the long-term viability and credibility of the faith.
It has been a rude and very unsettling experience. While promoting a message of peace, and after 26 years of faithful devotion to Christian higher education and investment in the lives of thousands of our college men and women, it is difficult to describe the depths of my disappointment that a few profoundly scientifically ignorant individuals have been allowed to create such discord and damage to to me and the university in the public's eye - by convincing a university president to acquiesce to their demands. (even though the president privately continues to say that he has identified nothing in my teaching or writing that is scientifically or theologically deficient.) The truth is this: My students love me, I love them, and we are all getting along fine. The outside critics notwithstanding...
I have been told in essence in a letter from the president of the university that although it may seem unfair, the truth and facts will not matter here. Perception is what is guiding his actions. I am still numbed by these words coming from a university president when discussing the teaching of biology in a university setting. Therefore, it seems that the only tools allowed for this discussion and commitment to truth and principle are political tools. Sad. I have always held that it is truth and education that sets us free, not uninformed political perceptions.
I am under no illusion that certain members of the board of trustees who have been uniformly hostile toward my teaching and writing may now attempt to manufacture something to use to retaliate against me. Oh well. I stand on truth and principle.
I include here for you a written statement I provided to the local newspaper. The article should come out today. Feel free to disseminate any of this commentary and information.
All I have ever wanted in my 26 years of writing and teaching is to communicate a message of peace and harmony between science and faith. I believe I have faithfully fulfilled this work in a manner that models the stated ideals of an Olivet Nazarene University faculty member. Therefore, I am very disappointed by these unwarranted and unnecessary actions which seem to suggest otherwise.
I believe these measures, made in response to off-campus scientifically uninformed critics of evolution, cannot help but cast a negative, and up until this time, an undeserved reflection on Olivet's reputation as a bona fide institution of higher education. As a proud ONU alumnus (Class of 1976) and veteran faculty member of 26 years who devoted my entire professional career to upholding the Olivet mission of "Education with a Christian Purpose", this seems like a medieval blow to the university's dedicated professional faculty and the institution's educational standing in the greater academic community.
In a culture and society increasingly driven by advances in science and technology, it is a sad day in the life of a Christian university when new understanding and insights into God's creation revealed by biology and genetics are viewed as a threat to faith. Students deserve better. Those who continue set biology at odds with the Bible do a terrible disservice to both.
Let the whole world know. It is time for truth and transparency.
Not much else to say. Professor Colling is another of those rare men of honor and integrity who might just bring someone like me back to the fold. I will tell you one thing: I no longer believe creationism is merely misguided...in many manifestations (such as this) I think it is actually evil. I can no longer give creationism or its proponents any quarter....