Friday, March 03, 2006

New items that may reignite the Paul Mirecki controversy

Three new items that may reignite the Paul Mirecki controversy. My comments are bold and in square brackets.

Resolution touts academic freedom: Mirecki furor speeds legislative proposal, The Lawrence Journal-World, Scott Rothschild, March 1, 2006 Topeka - A Kansas University professor’s disparaging remarks about Catholics and fundamentalist Christians have helped prop up a measure in the Legislature that supporters say will guarantee academic freedom. But critics of the resolution say it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and will stifle the freedom it ostensibly protects. They say government should butt out. "It’s important that these issues be considered on the campus, not in the government, and not have government dictating what fair and balanced is," said Mark Smith, director of governmental relations for the American Association of University Professors. The dispute is over what backers call the Academic Bill of Rights. Opponents point out that the resolution sprang from people and groups often critical of public education, and in particular those who have criticized KU for a recent incident involving religious studies professor Paul Mirecki. Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, a supporter of House Concurrent Resolution 5035, said Mirecki’s comments were part of the impetus pushing the measure forward. "The Paul Mirecki deal showed in detail what many of us have said for many years: Students are afraid to speak out because professors say, ‘It’s my way or the highway,’" Landwehr said. In November, Mirecki said he planned to teach a course on creationism and intelligent design at KU. But in a message posted on an online discussion board, he said the class would be a "nice slap" in the "big fat face" of fundamentalists. In the ensuing furor over his remarks, the course was canceled and Mirecki stepped down as chairman of the department of religious studies. ... The measure before Kansas lawmakers states faculty members should not use their courses or positions "for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination." It also says faculty should expose students to viewpoints other than their own and that curricula, reading lists and the selection of speakers should promote intellectual pluralism. If adopted, the resolution would strongly recommend that every college and university in the state comply with its requirements. "Any professor worth their salt would enjoy having a good debate and discussions with their students," Landwehr said. The American Association of University Professors has been the main source of opposition to the measure. "The concern is that these resolutions substitute a political criteria of balance - be it Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal - for academic criteria," said Smith, the group’s spokesman. .... In answering criticism about heavy-handed faculty, Smith said if professors violate professional standards of neutrality and nonindoctrination, it should be handled by the university. "We are not in favor of professors indoctrinating students, but it’s important that the faculty deliver interpretations of their discipline," he said. The resolution is the brainchild of author and commentator David Horowitz, an outspoken critic of what he says are liberal biases on campuses. The measure’s sponsor in Kansas is Rep. Becky Hutchins, R-Holton, who said it was taken from "model legislation" provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which espouses "free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty." No hearing has been scheduled on the resolution, but it sits in the House Appropriations Committee, of which Landwehr is vice chair. Landwehr said she had been asking the Kansas Board of Regents, which supervises higher education, to respond to the resolution, but it hadn’t yet. Kip Peterson, a spokesman for the regents, said the resolution was being analyzed by faculty representatives at regents universities. "We are awaiting their response," he said. But Keith Yehle, director of government relations at KU, said, "Since the resolution impacts all the regents universities, we will leave that up to the board of regents." He added that KU already guarantees freedom of inquiry and speech. ... [To paraphrase Newton, "For every action there is an equal (if not greater) and opposite reaction! The Mirecki case exposed the rampant anti-religious (and especially anti-Christian) bias at the University of Kansas and presumably most (if not all) USA universities (remember that Mirecki claimed that the vast majority of phone calls and emails he received were supportive and presumably these were mostly from his fellow academics). If Mirecki had not been so stupid as to brag about his anti-Christian motives on a Yahoo atheist email list, he would have taught the course and the University of Kansas would not have lifted a finger to protect any victims of his anti-religous bigotry. It will be poetic justice if he turns out to be the cause of a new era of genuine neutrality towards religion at the University of Kansas and other universities.]

Magazine to feature article on Mirecki, The Lawrence Journal-World, February 21, 2006 Kansas University Professor Paul Mirecki continues to make headlines months after he first proposed teaching a religious studies course on intelligent design. Mirecki’s story will be the topic of an article in the March issue of "The Scientist," a 70,000 circulation magazine focused on life sciences. Staff writer Ishani Ganguli said she wanted to bring the story to readers of the magazine who may not be aware of it. Mirecki caused a firestorm late last year after he proposed teaching a course on intelligent design, and it was revealed he made disparaging remarks about Catholics and religious fundamentalists on a student message board. Mirecki later canceled the course and reported being attacked on a roadside by men who he said connected him to the controversy. He also stepped down as chair of the religious studies department. ... [It will indeed be interesting to see what line The Scientist will take on the Mirecki controversy. It is hard to believe it would be supportive of Mirecki.]

Atheist Alliance International ... the only democratic national atheist organization in the United States ... "We're not in Kansas anymore" AAI Heads to the Heartland For the first ever joint convention with the Secular Student Alliance! April 14-16, 2006 in beautiful Kansas City, Missouri Speakers to date are: ... * Dr. Paul Mirecki, Professor and past Departmental Chair of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, the first to propose teaching ID as mythology, and author of Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World. [It will also be interesting to see what further fallout (if any) there will be to what Mirecki says at this atheist convention. That he is speaking at all, shows that his claim to be in fear of "more physical danger ... [from] religious extremists" was false and his report to police of having been beaten with an iron bar at the hands of creationist/IDists was just another hate-crime hoax. Also, the fact that he is a militant atheist and yet remains a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, might strike some as incongruous (to say the least)! It certainly won't help the University of Kansas and the AAUP in their forthcoming battle with the Kansas legislature over the Academic Bill of Rights. Watch this space!]

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

No comments: