Academic Suppression: It's the New Academic Freedom

Alan's monthly letter for March 2008

Dear Friend,

It’s hard to believe a state legislature passed a law forbidding the teaching of evolution. It’s true! In fact, a public high school teacher was found guilty in a U.S. court for teaching Darwin’s theory. But this happened 83 years ago in the famous Scopes Trial.

Convicted teacher, John Scopes, told the court that if he was not allowed to teach evolution, it would be a “violation of [his] ideal of academic freedom.” Things have obviously changed. Indeed, the opposite is true today – it’s virtually a crime to teach anything but evolution to explain man’s origin.

And the academic freedom Scopes hoped for? Well, it exists in our universities today, with a “minor” caveat. You have the freedom to teach what you want so long as you teach what you’re told. You don’t have the freedom to teach anything that suggests that the universe, the earth, or any living thing is the result of an intelligent agent at work.

That’s right. Secular scientists believe intelligent beings are responsible for creating complex things like airplanes and the information in encyclopedias, but intelligence is not responsible for even more complicated things like solar systems, tigers, or the vast amount of design information in DNA.

But can suppressing science amount to academic freedom? The scientific establishment thinks so. I disagree. It’s like the “freedom” inmates enjoy at a prison. They’re “free” to exercise, talk, and build friendships. Of course, if inmates do any of that outside the walls of prison while still incarcerated, they’re penalized.

And penalization is exactly what happens to scholars and scientists who think outside the scientific establishment’s box – who dare to perform scientific research that suggests that intelligence has anything to do with the formation of complex design code (like in DNA), complex machines (like every living thing), or complex planetary systems (like ours).

That’s why I hope you’ll see the new film documentary Expelled ( being released in theaters in April. It features Ben Stein (“Bueller?…Bueller?…Bueller?”), who narrates and interviews prestigious scholars, scientists, and journalists who have been threatened, denied tenure, or fired by the scientific establishment for advocating (to any degree) intelligent design.

The film has a very modest goal, one I believe most Americans, Christian or not, can get behind. It’s wrong to suppress scientific research and limit academic freedom simply because one doesn’t approve of certain scientific conclusions.

Despite its reasonableness, this film will require a lot of support to be successful at the box office. It doesn’t have any cool CGI effects or cars transforming into robots, but rather wrestles with and engages important ideas in a fun and refreshing way. That’s why I hope you’ll not only go see it, but also tell those you know about it.

The film’s goal is one I embrace in my work. However, I add the important ingredient of ambassadorship. As stewards of truth and representatives of Christ, we need to not only provide informed responses, but embody a winsome character that commends our message.

I’m thankful for your partnership that enables me to train believers to do this very thing. It’s your gifts that make this training possible. And they have leveraged impact. You empower me, I train thousands, and they impact thousands more. Our goal at Stand to Reason involves training the next generation of Christians to incisively and graciously defend classical Christianity. Our partnership is fulfilling that very purpose.

For His Kingdom,

Alan Shlemon

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Alan Shlemon