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Evicting God from the college classroom

University of Washington students walk between classes. Associated Press/Photo by Elaine Thompson

Evicting God from the college classroom

University of Washington professor David Barash offers a glimpse of secular university education in a recent New York Times opinion piece in which he explains how he evicts God from his science class. Each year, his undergraduate class in animal behavior gets “The Talk,” a tone-setting lecture about “evolution and religion, and how they get along. More to the point, how they don’t.”

“He’s either ignoring or willfully ignorant of the huge problem that exists in evolutionary theory,” said Stephen Meyer, director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Barash gives his talk because he says “it’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution.” But Meyer cites the growing number of leading evolutionary theorists critical of mainstream, orthodox neo-Darwinism as proof the theory is dead.

“Their critiques center around the lack of creative power associated with the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random mutation,” Meyer said. Barash and his New York Times article seem to be stuck in

the 1970s and completely unaware of what’s going on in the field and the problems evolutionary theorists encounter as old ideas fail to explain new discoveries, Meyer said.

Barash’s reason for “The Talk” is the conflict many of his students experience in reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. He attempts to relieve them of that conflict and disabuse them of their beliefs. By opening his class window to New York Times readers, Barash offers the same gesture to the “many Americans [who] don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a ‘theory,’ but the underpinning of all biological science.”

But Meyer sees Barash’s lecture as “tendentious,” putting forth a specific, philosophical point of view in his class that amounts to a form of tax-supported atheism and materialism, promulgated in the name of science.

With a volley of cheap shots at God, Barash claims God must vacate the classroom if his students are to become scientists. Meyer notes making inferences about how life came to be is a matter of historical science. That’s quite different from studying life in its present function, which is what biologists do.

Students leave home for university and in a short time they get the sense that somehow they didn’t get the memo, Meyer said. They encounter all these people with the same presuppositional bias, hostile to any form of religious belief, especially Christianity.

“It’s important [for parents] to prepare [their] kids for that mindset before they get there,” Meyer said.

Dick Peterson Dick is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD correspondent.

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