Sunday, December 11, 2005

Professor blasts KU, sheriff's investigation

A significant development in the Mirecki saga (or is it soap opera?). My comments are bold and in square brackets.

Professor blasts KU, sheriff's investigation: Mirecki says he may sue university, The Lawrence Journal-World, Sophia Maines, December 10, 2005 ... Kansas University professor Paul Mirecki said he's hired an attorney and is ready to go to the mat with KU and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. "If I have to sue, I will," he said. Mirecki said he's angry because KU didn't back him after religious conservatives attacked him for his plan to teach a course dealing with intelligent design. [This is false. Mirecki wasn't attacked by conservatives "for his plan to teach a course dealing with intelligent design" but because he titled it, "Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies" (my emphasis) and said it was because "The KU faculty has had enough", i.e. it was to be a payback for the Kansas Board of Education's new science standards which permitted evolution to be criticized:

Univ. of Kansas Takes Up Creation Debate, ABC News ...LAWRENCE, Kan. Nov 22, 2005 - Creationism and intelligent design are going to be studied at the University of Kansas, but not in the way advocated by opponents of the theory of evolution. A course being offered next semester by the university religious studies department is titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies." "The KU faculty has had enough," said Paul Mirecki, department chairman. "Creationism is mythology," Mirecki said. "Intelligent design is mythology. It's not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not."]

Mirecki became a political lightning rod after his new course was announced and his derisive comments on an Internet message board about conservative Christians and Catholics were later widely distributed. His planned spring course was canceled. Still, some legislators said they would call Mirecki and KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway on the carpet for a public hearing. [Then Mirecki was further attacked by conservatives for his description of them on an atheist email group as "fundies" and that the proposed course was intended by him to be "a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching" ID "under the category 'mythology'":

Critics: E-mail reveals intent, The Capital-Journal, November 24, 2005 ... Paul Mirecki, chairman of KU's Religious Studies Department, wrote in an e-mail that the course was his response to religious fundamentalists promoting the study of intelligent design and creationism in the state's public schools. "The fundies 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,' " the message said. The message was sent Saturday to a list-serve group for the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, a student organization for which Mirecki serves as faculty adviser. Mirecki addressed the message to "my fellow damned" and signed off with: "Doing my part to (tick) of(f) the religious right, Evil Dr. P."]
On Wednesday the university announced Mirecki had resigned as chairman of the religious studies department. But Friday, Mirecki told the Journal-World he was forced to step down. "The University penalized me and denied me my Constitutionally protected right to speak and express my mind," he wrote in a statement prepared for the newspaper. "I've become radioactive and the University's administrators won't support me." Mirecki said his career was ruined and that "speaking engagements that I had lined up now have been canceled." [This is from Mirecki's own press release. It was obvious that Mirecki had been asked to resign from his resignation letter which is on the Dean's letterhead, not that of Mirecki's department (see also below). Mirecki's career is indeed ruined, but because of his own doing. He had become an acute embarrassment to the University and his colleagues. Now that he has stated that he intends to sue his university, it is even more unlikely that any other university would employ him.]

On Friday, he displayed two black eyes and a bruise on his arm that he said came from a beating administered early Monday by two unknown men who had followed him in a pickup truck as he drove to breakfast. [It continues to be strange that Mirecki no longer claims that "he suffered a broken tooth", which he seems only to have mentioned in the student newspaper, The University Daily Kansan:

Controversial professor suffers attack, The University Daily Kansan, December 5, 2005 ... KU professor Paul Mirecki was hospitalized Monday morning after he was beaten in rural Douglas County, he said. Mirecki said two men beat him for about one minute with a metal object, striking him repeatedly on the head, shoulders and back. .... Mirecki said he spent between three and four hours at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where he received X-Rays and a CAT-scan. He said he suffered a broken tooth but didn’t specify other injuries he may have sustained.
And again, if Mirecki really was beaten by "two men ...for about one minute with a metal object, striking him repeatedly on the head, shoulders and back" then he would have a lot more than just "two black eyes and a bruise on his arm." The public front page of Mirecki's police report says that on a scale of 1 to 5, his type of injury was a 1, with an "m", presumably for "minor", added. ] He said his attackers mentioned the controversy. [It is also strange that Mirecki has not stated what exactly his "attackers" said.]

He said he was not pleased with the sheriff's investigation because he had been "treated more like a criminal than a victim." He said he was interviewed by officers several times, "once for five hours straight. They keep asking me the same things over and over. They seized my car; they entered my office and seized my computer. They said they need them for their investigation but it didn't make any sense to me." Lt. Kari Wempe, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, released a statement Friday night that said the sheriff's office had not seen a copy of Mirecki's prepared statement to the media. "Until we are provided with a document from Mr. Mirecki, we are not able to comment on it. Our agency continues to thoroughly investigate this crime against Mr. Mirecki," Wempe said. Mirecki said he has hired Lawrence attorney David Brown to represent him. [This is very significant. It seems that the police do regard Mirecki as "more like a criminal than a victim", i.e. that he made the whole thing up. Presumably that is a criminal offense?]

Hemenway said he had been told by other administrators that Mirecki stepped down from his chairman's post. He said KU has supported Mirecki. "Professor Mirecki still has a job at the University of Kansas," Hemenway said. "That would appear to be support for his rights to his tenured position and his rights to free speech ... The university deplores the fact that he was apparently attacked. We've said so." [Note the "apparently attacked"! I am not aware that the University has said publicly that it deplores the alleged attack on Mirecki. In fact the University's response to Mirecki's claim that he had been beaten on Monday, December 5, was to demand his resignation as Chairman the next day, Tuesday, December 6 (as Mirecki confirms below)!]

Hemenway also said he had been told that KU police called Mirecki to see how they might help him. But Mirecki said the university had done little to back him and that he was fired as department chairman because he had the "temerity to challenge the power of the religious right in Kansas and the university capitulated to demands of the conservative minority." He said he felt let down by the administration and colleagues who sought his resignation Tuesday. He said he had no choice but to sign the resignation letter, which was typed on stationery from the office of Barbara Romzek, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. [This also is from Mirecki's own press release. He is still deluding himself if he really thinks that his problems were because "he had the `temerity to challenge the power of the religious right in Kansas.'" It was because of Mirecki's "repugnant and vile" email comments, and then the last straw was his alleged beating that made Mirecki's position as Religious Studies Chairman untenable. And these email comments included grandiose plans for "much media attention", including "several regional newspapers" and pulling in "The university public relations office" and "Chancellor Hemenway":

Sent: Saturday, November 19, 2005 Subject: I.D. & Creationism class to be taught at KU this spring! ... The fundies 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". I expect it will draw much media attention. The university public relations office will have a press release on it in a few weeks, I also have contacts at several regional newspapers. Of course, I won’t actually be teaching I.D. and creationisms, but rather I’ll be teaching ABOUT I.D. and creationisms as modern mythologies, indicating that these ideas have no place in a public school science class, but can certainly be analyzed in humanities classes for their function in society. .... So far, six faculty have eagerly signed up to lecture. I can probably pull Chancellor Hemenway into this also, especially in the light of his public comments supporting evolution. Doing my part to p*ss of the religious right, Evil Dr. P.
I imagine that Chancellor Hemenway was not amused at seeing his office and the University described on a student email list by Mirecki as mere pawns in his game. Nor do I imagine that Mirecki's colleagues in the Religious Studies Department were amused at seeing Mirecki describing them as "agnostics or atheists, or they just don't care" (even though that might be true!):
The Descent of the Straw Man, 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."]
Mirecki said he lived under threat of another attack. "If the University doesn't support me, I could be in more physical danger because the University is not standing up to the religious extremists," he said. He said the number of threatening letters and e-mails has increased since the chancellor called Mirecki's online comments "repugnant and vile" in a public statement. [Mirecki's thinking here may be a clue to his motive for faking his `hate-crime'. If he was the victim of a `hate-crime', then to his warped way of thinking, the University would keep him on as Chairman, to show that it was "standing up to the religious extremists." But if Mirecki really was worried about being in physical danger, then he would be safer in being demoted from the higher profile Chairman's position. BTW, the University is "standing up to the religious extremists", namely Mirecki and his anti-theistic ilk!]

He said he also had received more than 2,500 e-mails and letters from academics around the world supporting him. [No doubt Mirecki did receive a lot of messages of support from his fellow anti-theists. But the difference is that they are not that stupid as to brag about their bigotry and plans to embroil their university (up to and including its Chancellor) in an atheistic jihad, on a students' email list!] "The University has a duty, as a protector of intellectual honesty and debate, to support its teaching staff when controversial issues are raised," Mirecki said. "Now those on the right are emboldened and feel they can take this a step higher. "At this point, I just want this to be over." [Actually, by demoting an anti-theistic bigot like Mirecki from the position of Chairman of Religious Studies the University of Kansas is carrying out its "duty, as a protector of intellectual honesty and debate"!

What next? I now expect that Mirecki will be charged by the police for making a false report, i.e. a hoax hate-crime.]

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

"One question may possibly have dwelt in the reader's mind during the perusal of these observations, namely, Why should not the Deity have given to the animal the faculty of vision at once? Why this circuitous perception; the ministry of so many means? an element provided for the purpose; reflected from opaque substances, refracted through transparent ones; and both according to precise laws: then, a complex organ, an intricate and artificial apparatus, in order, by the operation of this element, and in conformity with the restrictions of these laws, to produce an image upon a membrane communicating with the brains Wherefore all this? Why make the difficulty in order only to surmount it? If to perceive objects by some other mode than that of touch, or objects which lay out of the reach of that sense, were the thing purposed, could not a simple volition of the Creator have communicated the capacity? Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent? Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the refuge of imperfection. To have recourse to expedients, implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power. This question belongs to the other senses, as well as to sight; to the general functions of animal life, as nutrition, secretion, respiration; to the economy of vegetables; and indeed to almost all the operations of nature. The question therefore is of very wide extent; and, amongst other answers which may be given to it, beside reasons of which probably we are ignorant, one answer is this. It is only by the display of contrivance, that the existence, the agency, the wisdom of the Deity, could be testified to his rational creatures. This is the scale by Which we ascend to all the knowledge of our Creator which we possess, so far as it depends upon the phenomena, or the works of nature. Take away this, and you take await from us every subject of observation, and ground of reasoning; I mean as our rational faculties are formed at present. Whatever is done, God could have done, without the intervention of instruments or means: but it is in the construction of instruments, in the choice and adaptation of means, that a creative intelligence is seen. It is this which constitutes the order and beauty of the universe. God, therefore, has been pleased to prescribe limits to his own power, and to work his ends within those limits." (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.28-29. Emphasis original)

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