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updated: 7/31/2013 5:40 PM

Ball State president: Intelligent design not science

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Associated Press

Creation science and intelligent design are religion and not appropriate content for science courses at a public university such as Ball State University because it violates academic integrity, the school's president said in a letter Wednesday to faculty and staff.

"Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory. Therefore, intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses," Jo Ann Gora wrote.

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She wrote that more than 80 national and state scientific societies have said that intelligent design and creation science do not qualify as science. Such ideas can be taught in humanities or social science courses, she said, but must be discussed in comparison to other views and philosophical perspectives, each other, with no endorsement of one perspective over another.

"Our commitment to academic freedom is unflinching. However, it cannot be used as a shield to teach theories that have been rejected by the discipline under which a science course is taught. Our commitment to the best standards of each discipline being taught on this campus is equally unwavering," she wrote. "As I have said, this is an issue of academic integrity, not academic freedom."

The letter was criticized by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based, proponent of intelligent design. Senior fellow John West called Gora's letter outrageous, saying academic freedom is designed to protect minority and dissenting views.

"If all it means -- which seems to be the argument that she is making -- is that you have the freedom to teach what the majority of people think in a discipline then that is a sham. It really is Orwellian," he said. "It's no news that there is evidence of intelligent design is a minority viewpoint in the sciences."

The letter from Gora was in response to the state-supported college in Muncie, 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis, coming under scrutiny for hiring a science professor who wrote a book on the intelligent design and another professor being accused of teaching creationism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation had filed a complaint in March claiming a class taught by Eric Hedin called "Boundaries of Science" violated separation of church and state by promoting religious belief at the public university. The syllabus says the course explores arguments for "hidden wisdom within this reality."

Ball State drew more attention in early July when it hired Guillermo Gonzalez, who gained notoriety in 2004 when his book about intelligent design, "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery," was published. He was later denied tenure at Iowa State University.

Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel says he's pleased by Gora's letter, saying it addressed the organization's concerns.

"The only outstanding question is, how will the concerns that President Gora espoused in her letter translate into the curriculum in Hedin's class?" he said. "But she raised all the right concerns."

The university announced in June it had appointed a review panel to investigate the allegations. Provost Terry King has received the panel's report, reviewed it with Hedin, and is working with the professor to make sure that course content is aligned with the curriculum and best standards of the discipline, university spokeswoman Joan Todd said Wednesday.

Gonzalez declined to comment by email, saying it would be unwise to comment on a letter from the university president when he doesn't have tenure. He recommended seeking comment from West. Hedin did not respond to a telephone messages left at his office Wednesday by The Associated Press or an email requests for comment.

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