The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

The Just Plain Weirdness of Kansas

An “article in the AP summarizes the underlying references in this little thought piece”:;_ylt=AkmHDJC49ZEp.ORSchKdfP1vzwcF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA–. Here’s the short of it:

* religious studies professor Paul Mirecki, at the University of Kansas, organizes a course entitled “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies”, scientists and educators silently cheer that intelligent design is finally going to be taught *in its proper place*.

* Mirecki opens his mouth in an electronic communication to Christian student groups on campus, and scientists and educators draw breath sharply as they realize they all stepped back too quickly… (who let this guy out in front?)

* U of K cancels the class

* Mirecki is allegedly beaten by two men early in the morning on Monday, allegedly in response to his proposed class and his comments (funny, I don’t recall anybody physically beating Einstein when he proved the ether hypothesis was irrelevant, or Werner Heisenberg being beaten when he ushered in the era of quantum mechanics)

* Mirecki resigns today as chair of the U of K religious studies department

I have only two words: friggin’ weird.

Reflecting on this more, it’s important to understand that when a person, be they a scientist or a religious studies professor, crosses the ethical line from educator or researcher to opinionated activist, they are no longer acting in their capacity as either an educator or researcher. In that sense, we cannot let them speak for us. It’s one thing to put ideas like intelligent design in their proper social and religious context, and make it clear they are not science. It’s another thing entirely to write an electronic communication to religious groups and make claims about rubbing anything in their faces. That’s pretty unethical, and Mr. Mirecki should be ashamed. In a sense, he ruined a great opportunity to educate by shooting off his mouth.

On the other hand, if his allegations are true we see yet another example of why this false controversy over evolution is manufactured by people who feel their comfortable world view is threatened. The intelligent design movement is yet again revealed not as a scientific movement, but as a religious and social movement acting to overthrow science and restore a comfortable world view. For instance, Jerry Falwell *never* made criticisms on TV when the muon g-2 measurement came out in apparent contrast to Standard Model predictions, saying that God would smite those physicists who conducted an experiment whose result clearly runs contrary to His holy Standard Model. No physicist ever got a beating on the side of a country road for proposing a big bang hypothesis over the static universe hypothesis.

So this episode teaches two lessons: be careful who you put out in the front of your movement, and you know it’s not science when the fight goes from your head to your fists.