Sunday, December 04, 2005

Kansas Prof. Apologizes for E-Mail, etc

News excerpts, all about the Mirecki email fiasco, with my comments bold and in square brackets:

Kansas Prof. Apologizes for E-Mail: U. of Kansas Professor Apologizes for E-Mail Making Fun of Advocates for Intelligent Design, ABC News/AP ... LAWRENCE, Kan. Nov 29, 2005 - A University of Kansas religion professor apologized for an e-mail that referred to religious conservatives as "fundies" and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face." In a written apology Monday, Paul Mirecki, chairman of the university's Religious Studies Department, said he would teach the planned class "as a serious academic subject and in an [sic] manner that respects all points of view." [As I said, I would rather this course did go ahead (but now it will not-see below), since I would have liked to have seen Mirecki justify, "as a serious academic subject and in an manner that respects all points of view", that both Christian creationism and ID were mythologies. But even if the course had gone ahead, it would have lacked credibility, given the public knowledge of Mirecki's anti-Christian emails.]The department faculty approved the course Monday but changed its title. The course, originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies," will instead be called "Intelligent Design and Creationism." [I have no problem with "creationism" being taught in a "Religious Studies Department" since it is based on the Bible. But as for "Intelligent Design", since it claims to be science, based only on the evidence of nature, not the Bible, to teach it in a "Religious Studies Department" is already prejudging it as not science, but religion. BTW, this course title "Intelligent Design and Creationism" (my emphasis) shows that they are two separate subjects, i.e. not "Intelligent Design Creationism"!] The class was added to next spring's curriculum after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in its standards for science teaching. The vote was seen as a big win for proponents of intelligent design, who argue that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power. [Again it is false to claim that "intelligent design... argue[s] that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power." ID's claim is that there is empirically detectable evidence of design in nature.] Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation camouflaged in scientific language. [Again, this is patently false-ID says nothing about "the Bible", let alone it's "story of creation."] Mirecki's e-mail was sent Nov. 19 to members of the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, a student organization for which he serves as faculty adviser. [This so-called "Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics" (my emphasis), is still selling its T-shirt with "MYTHICAL CREATURES", and under it a list starting with "Frankenstein's Monster" and ending with "GOD"!] "The fundies (fundamentalists) want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category mythology." [This obviously was a payback for the KBoE standards decision.] Mirecki addressed the message to "my fellow damned" and signed off with: "Doing my part to (tick) off the religious right, Evil Dr. P." [With an attitude like this, Mirecki is not fit to be a Professor (let alone the Chairman) of a university "Religious Studies Department", and I would not be surprised if he is demoted or even dismissed. He certainly has lost all credibility as an objective scholar and now is an embarrassment to the University of Kansas.] During the weekend, Chancellor Robert Hemenway began a review of Mirecki's e-mail, which resulted in Mirecki's apology, issued Monday night. [Sounds like Mirecki was forced to apologise by Chancellor Hemenway!] He called it "an ill-advised e-mail I sent to a small group of students and friends." [But "ill-advised" by who? Mirecki is the Chairman of the university's "Religious Studies Department" and the members of his forum seem to have been mostly his students. No one advised him to post his email-it was his own deliberate action and shows what he really thinks! The wording is so that Mirecki can continue to avoid admitting that what he wrote (and thought) was wrong.] The university on Monday defended the teaching of a class on such a timely subject, but some legislators said withholding funding from the school remained a possibility. [There is nothing wrong with "the teaching of a class on such a timely subject" but it should be done "as a serious academic subject and in a... manner that respects all points of view." Quite clearly, by his email, Mirecki has forfeited any credibility he may have had to meet those criteria.] Rep. Brenda Landwehr, vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, called the e-mail "venomous," adding, "He's not sorry he wrote it. He's sorry it became public." ... [Well put! Nowhere has Mirecki retracted what he said, so presumably he still believes it. It will be interesting to see if the Kansas House of Representatives Appropriations Committee decides to review the funding of Mirecki's department, which would involve calling Mirecki before it to explain his attitude.]

University cancels class on creationist `myths': Professor apologizes after sending e-mail criticizing fundamentalists, MSNBC, Dec. 1, 2005 TOPEKA, Kan. - A University of Kansas course devoted to debunking creationism and intelligent design has been canceled after the professor who planned to teach it caused a furor by sending an e-mail mocking Christian fundamentalists. [This news media outlet realized that the course was "devoted to debunking creationism and intelligent design" and not "as a serious academic subject and in a... manner that respects all points of view"! Therefore, even without Mirecki's email, the course should not have proceeded under his jurisdiction.] Twenty-five students had enrolled in the course, originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and Other Religious Mythologies," which had been scheduled for the spring. [Again, I would have liked to have seen Mirecki justify his claim that both "Intelligent Design" and Christian "Creationism" are "Religious Mythologies." That would necessitate him demonstrating that "Intelligent Design" is "Religious" (when it is based on the evidence of nature, not on the Bible or any other religious text), and that Christianity is false (when in fact it is true)!]Professor Paul Mirecki, chairman of religious studies, canceled the class Wednesday, the university said. Mirecki recently sent an e-mail to members of a student organization in which he referred to religious conservatives as "fundies" and said a course depicting intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face." He later apologized, and did so again Thursday in a statement issued by the university. "I made a mistake in not leading by example, in this student organization e-mail forum, the importance of discussing differing viewpoints in a civil and respectful manner," he said. [Again, the "mistake" that Mirecki is admitting to is not what he thought or said, but just his posting it on a "student organization e-mail forum". What was a Professor even doing on a "student organization e-mail forum". Let alone a Chairman of a "Religious Studies Department" on an "e-mail forum" of a "Society of ... Atheists and Agnostics"?] Chancellor Robert Hemenway said Mirecki's comments were "repugnant and vile." "It misrepresents everything the university is to stand for," Hemenway said. [This is very strongly worded by Chancellor Hemenway. So how can Mirecki now continue as the Chairman of KU's Religious Studies Department when his "comments were" not only "repugnant and vile", but also "misrepresents everything the university is to stand for" (my emphasis)? It is BTW interesting that the Chancellor wrote, "is to stand for" rather than "stands for". This sounds like elements within the university do in fact stand for Mirecki's position, but Hemenway wants to change that?]The class was added to the curriculum after the Kansas Board of Education decided recently to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for public school students. State Sen. Kay O'Connor, a Mirecki critic, said the university did the right thing. "I'm glad they decided to listen to the public. The public response was so negative because of what seemed to be so hateful coming from the KU professor," said O'Connor, a Republican. "I am critical of his hatefulness toward Christians."... [This hits the nail on the head. Mirecki's email was "hateful ... toward Christians". So how can he now have any credibility as Chairman of a university "Religious Studies Department"?]

KU pulls intelligent design course: State legislators still want hearings on alleged anti-religious bias at university level, The Kansas City Star, Dec. 02, 2005, David Klepper and Laura Bauer ... LAWRENCE - The University of Kansas withdrew its course on intelligent design Thursday, but it failed to satisfy critics who say e-mails from the class professor show him to be anti-religious. [See above. How can Mirecki credibly continue as KU's "Chair and Associate Professor, Religious Studies Department" when he is anti-religious?] The course was pulled from the spring semester at the request of Paul Mirecki, head of the university's Religious Studies Department, who proposed the course and was to teach it. Mirecki came under fire last week after e-mails he sent to an Internet discussion site for student atheists were publicized. Thursday's decision to pull the class came after more e-mails surfaced this week. [Sounds like after the first email Chancellor Hemenway only asked for an apology from Mirecki and the deletion of "Religious Mythologies" from the course title. But then after the other emails from the KUsoma Yahoo group surfaced, Hemenway demanded that Mirecki cancel the course altogether.] In the latest e-mails, Mirecki repeatedly criticized fundamentalist Christians and Jews and mocked Catholicism. He urged students to aggressively take on proselytizers. He also made references to attending students' parties and often referred to himself as "Evil Dr. P." [This will help members of the public see that the Darwinists' carefully crafted "Inherit the Wind" stereotype is almost the exact opposite. Remember that Mirecki is a Professor and Chairman of a major university's "Religious Studies Department", attacking both "Christians and Jews"! It is going to be interesting to see how significant the fallout from this will be over time - if Mirecki is not demoted or dismissed.] KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway on Thursday condemned Mirecki's e-mails as "repugnant and vile." He said Mirecki "insulted both our students and the university's public, and he misrepresented beliefs of KU's faculty and staff." [That's pretty strong. I don't know what the situation is regarding his tenure, but I would not be surprised if Mirecki is demoted as Chairman or even as a Professor, if not dismissed altogether.] The university's decision to pull the class pleased conservative leaders who criticized it and then reacted with outrage at Mirecki's e-mails. But some lawmakers said the incident has caused them to question the biases of other professors. Some vow to hold hearings on the matter next year. [Kansas "lawmakers" have good reason "to question the biases of other professors" since Mirecki claimed to have "received more than 250 e-mail messages and phone calls since news of the course broke earlier this week" and that "The vast majority were supportive". Presumably many, if not most, were from "other professors"?] In one of the new e-mails, Mirecki wrote: "I don't think most Catholics really know what they are supposed to believe, they just go home and use condoms and some of them beat their wives and husbands." Mike Scherschligt of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at KU said that when he initially heard about the e-mails making fun of Pope John Paul II and Catholicism, "I felt sadness." "What he said is wrong," Scherschligt said. ... In a written apology released by the university, Mirecki acknowledged that the e-mails had created a toxic learning environment. "Students with a serious interest in this important subject matter would not be well served by the learning environment my e-mails and the public distribution of them have created," Mirecki wrote. " It was not my intent when I wrote the e-mails, but I understand now that these words have offended many on this campus and beyond, and for that I take full responsibility." [This sounds like a good apology, except that Mirecki is only apologizing for the effect of his words, not for the words being wrong.] Mirecki, who has a doctorate of theology degree from Harvard University, has taught at KU since 1989. He specializes in ancient Mediterranean cultures, languages and religions, and has uncovered and researched lost writings from early Christianity. [They were not "lost writings from early Christianity" but Gnosticwritings (who saw "orthodox Jews and Christians as being duped by the evil creator of the material universe"):

Researchers say Coptic fragments reveal lost gospel, The Nando Times, 12 March 1997 ... KANSAS CITY ... In a rare finding that could shed light on the origins of Christianity, an American professor said Tuesday that he and a colleague have identified fragments of a "lost gospel" that contains conversations between Jesus Christ and his disciples. Paul Mirecki, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas, said he is confident the text is an authentic early account of the teachings of Christ. If true, this would mark the first time since 1945 that a so-called lost gospel has been identified. Mirecki said that apart from the New Testament's four Gospels, scholars recognize approximately six other lost gospels that detail Christ's teachings. The gospel of Thomas, discovered in Egypt in 1945, was the last such text to be identified, Mirecki said. .... It was probably the work of a Christian [sic] minority group called Gnostics .... "It's a non-orthodox text ... Salvation comes to these people through knowledge rather than faith," Mirecki said. "They see orthodox Jews and Christians as being duped by the evil creator of the material universe. They had a very different mythology ... "]
Administrators stood by the course Thursday and Mirecki's past scholarship but sharply condemned the e-mails. The faculty senate adopted a resolution at Thursday's meeting in support of academic freedoms and the responsibility that comes with them. "We want to remind the public, it's not a part of university's mission to avoid conflict, to refrain from addressing controversial issues in an academic setting," said Joseph Heppert, chemistry professor and chairman of the faculty senate executive committee. "Our concern is that it be done in an academic and appropriate, respectful manner. Making fun of individuals is not part of the way we as a faculty want to conduct ourselves." [That's good, but if ID is to be "address[ed] ... in an academic and appropriate, respectful manner" then it should not be caricatured as merely "creationism" and its leading proponents should be invited to present their side of the issue.] The course, initially titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and Other Religious Mythologies," sparked criticism as soon as it was announced last week. Already, 25 students had signed up for the course. Administrators were quick to say the decision to pull the course was prompted by Mirecki's comments and had nothing to do with pressure to cancel the course. "That was the turning point for everybody here," KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said of the latest e-mails. [Then why was the course name first changed, deleting "Religious Mythologies" before it was cancelled altogether?] Administrators said the course would be taught in future semesters, though it was uncertain when or who would teach it. [That's the dilemma. To teach ID fairly "in an academic and appropriate, respectful manner" would require either anti-IDists presenting ID's evidence and arguments accurately or, better still, inviting leading IDists to present them in person. But either would be unacceptable to most anti-IDists.] The university's action wasn't enough for conservative lawmakers, who said they want to know whether professors teaching other courses are letting their biases get in the way. "This may show a bigger problem than just Professor Mirecki," said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican. "It may show we're not providing fair and balanced opportunities to our students." [Presumably Landwehr and other conservative members of the legislature know that Mirecki is just the tip of an unfair and unbalanced iceberg at the University of Kansas?] Landwehr has called for hearings when the Legislature resumes next month. She said she wants to know whether professors are exhibiting any intolerance, whether it's religious, political or any other kind. Landwehr also questioned whether Mirecki should be allowed to teach religious studies courses. "It's hard to teach religion if you don't believe in it," she said. [This is a good point. Why should the Chair of Religious Studies be an atheist, who thinks Gnostic writings are on a par (if not superior to) the New Testament? At the very least, there should be representation of conservative evangelical Christianity in Mirecki's Department, since that presumably is the majority religious viewpoint in Kansas.] Sen. Kay O'Connor, an Olathe Republican, said public universities should not condone anti-Christian talk by professors. "We're not in the taxpayer-funded hatred business," she said. "Why should taxpayers give him an opportunity to profess his hatred for Christians?" [This is another good point. Why should the ~80% who are theists, provide their taxes to the ~10% of atheists, so they can teach the latter's private anti-religious philosophy?] The Rev. Thad Holcombe of the Ecumenical Christian Ministries at KU said Thursday that the religious studies department is full of qualified, intellectual professors. "I think some will raise questions over the department, but the department is not one faculty member," Holcombe said. "You can't evaluate and judge a department based on one member." [They might be "qualified, intellectual professors" but the question was, do they "condone anti-Christian talk" (i.e. are they opposed to historic, orthodox, Christianity)? Mirecki himself has answered that:
The Descent of the Straw Man, Denis Boyles, National Review, November 30, 2005 ... Religious conservatives say they hope both Mirecki and Hemenway will retreat to doing what they were hired to do and leave political theater to the drama department. But the religious-studies department may not be the healthiest environment for any kind of retreat: "The majority of my colleagues here in the dept[ment] are agnostics or atheists, or they just don't care," Mirecki wrote in explaining, correctly, that it wasn’t the job of the department to make converts. "If any of [the other professors] are theists, it hasn’t been obvious to me in the 15 years I've been here."]
Andrew Stangl, a KU student who leads the atheist group, said Mirecki is a target because he was critical of fundamentalist Christians and intelligent design. He said his group is made up of open-minded and tolerant students. "Any reasonable person can see right through this," he said. "Since Dr. Mirecki is critical of some aspects of religion, then they say he must be anti-religious. That's really not the case." [Stangl is right in one point at least, that "Any reasonable person can see right through this"!] John Altevogt, a conservative writer from Johnson County, discovered and publicized Mirecki's e-mails. The debate has never been entirely civil as the state Board of Education considered and adopted last month new science standards that call for criticism of evolution in public schools. Steve Case is a KU science education professor who worked on the state science standards and stood up for evolution when they were changed by the board. He said Mirecki's comments, while protected by free speech, didn't do any favors to those opposed to the acceptance of intelligent design as a scientific theory. Case, who said he engaged in "a lot of tongue-biting" during the board debate, said Mirecki's comments were not all that different from some made by the other side. "That was his (Mirecki's) big mistake," Case said. "He dropped to their level. We moved out of education and into politics some time ago." ... [Case is at least right about "Mirecki's comments ...didn't do any favors to those opposed to the acceptance of intelligent design as a scientific theory"!]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

"Though it is now no longer probable, that the individual watch which our observer-had found, was made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth not this alteration in any wise affect the inference, that an artificer had been originally employed and concerned in the production. The argument from design remains as it was. Marks of design and contrivance are no more accounted for now, than they were before. In the same thing, we may ask for the cause of different properties. We may ask for the cause of the colour of a body, of its hardness, of its heat; and these causes may be all different. We are now asking for the cause of that subserviency to an use, that relation to an end, which we have embarked in the watch before us. No answer is given to this question by telling us that a preceding watch produced it. There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement, without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose; without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and executing their office in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an ends relation of instruments to an use, imply the presence of intelligence and mind. No one, therefore, can rationally believe, that the insensible, inanimate watch from which the watch before us issued, was the proper cause of the mechanism we so much admire in it; could be truly said to have constructed- the instrument, disposed its parts, assigned their office, deter mined their order, action, and mutual dependency, combined their several motions into one result, and that also a result connected with the utilities of other beings. All these properties, therefore, are as much unaccounted for, as they were before." (Paley W., "Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature," [1802], St. Thomas Press: Houston TX, 1972, reprint, pp.8-9. Evidence original)


Stephen E. Jones said...



>Even the concept of Intelligent Design, which claims that the design in nature is scientific proof of a designer, is Creation Science in disguise.

Thanks for your comment above, but I disagree with it.

"Creation Science" (as commonly understood) is based on the Bible. That is why it tries to present scientific evidence for an Earth only ~10,000 years old, and also that the fossil record was laid down by a worldwide Noah's Flood (not that the Bible requires either of those two interpretations).

You won't find *anything* like that in ID. ID is based *only* on the evidence for design in nature, not the Bible. Some IDists are not even theists (e.g. David Berlinski). Also some IDists accept universal common ancestry (e.g. Mike Behe and myself). There are *no* advocates for "Creation Science" (as commonly understood)who are not theists or who accept universal common ancestry.

To be sure, one can believe in both "Creation Science" and "Intelligent Design" but they are two different beliefs. Not all who believe in "Creation Science" also believe in "Intelligent Design", and not all who believe in "Intelligent Design" also believe in "Creation Science".

However, if after this you *still* maintain that "Intelligent Design ... is Creation Science in disguise", then we must agree to differ.


Stephen E. Jones

Stephen E. Jones said...


You have misquoted me!!
I said that Evolutionists (not me) claim that ID is Creation Science in disguise.

I did not misquote you. You said, "I have come to the realization that the Evolutionists are right about one thing. ... Even the concept of Intelligent Design, which claims that the design in nature is scientific proof of a designer, is Creation Science in disguise."

Not knowing you, and going only by your words, I took it that that is what you believe. If you actually believe that the evolutionists are wrong in their claim that "Intelligent Design ... is Creation Science in disguise" then your comment did not say it.

Stephen E. Jones