This may come as a shock to my readers. In this post, I’m going to agree with the Discovery Institute and disagree with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I somehow missed the controversy going on at Ball State University over a pro-ID course being taught, hearing about it only from a Worldnutdaily article.
It all started a couple months ago when the FFRF sent a letter to the president of Ball State urging her to remove a course called The Boundaries of Science, taught by physics professor Eric Hedin. To be sure, it looks like a bad course. The syllabus is full of material from ID advocates and creationists. But bad is not the same thing as unconstitutional. The course is an elective and is being taught at the university level. This is different from teaching ID in a high school for many reasons, the most obvious of which is that no one has to attend this college or take that course.
PZ said all of this back in April:
No, sorry, not right — academic freedom is the issue here, and professors have to have the right to teach unpopular, controversial issues, even from an ignorant perspective. The first amendment does not apply; this is not a course students are required to take, and it’s at a university, which students are not required to attend. It’s completely different from a public primary or secondary school. A bad course is an ethical problem, not a legal one. It’s also an issue that the university has to handle internally.
I don’t think there’s a strong case on the other side either. If the university did step in and eliminate the course, I don’t think Hedin would have a legal case against the university. He likely does not have tenure, so the school does have more control here than they otherwise would. But as PZ said, this is not a legal issue it’s an internal one for the school.