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Archive for Saturday, December 10, 2005

Embattled KU professor has long history with religion

December 10, 2005

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His background is utterly incongruous with his bruised arm and two blackened eyes.

Kansas University professor Paul Mirecki's disparaging comments about conservative Christians and Catholics put him in a political hot seat, propelled him into national headlines and made him the victim of a reported roadside beating.

But as a boy, his parents wanted him to be a Roman Catholic priest. And as a young adult, he studied at a Protestant seminary and considered the ministry.

Ultimately, he chose academia and has dedicated his life to the study of religions.

"I just felt that that life wasn't for me," Mirecki said. "I wanted to be a professor."

Among his most significant academic work was the discovery and deciphering of an ancient manuscript containing a lost gospel, a document that sheds new light on the origins of early Christianity.

Now, the 55-year-old KU associate professor of religious studies says he has been pushed from his post as department chairman, a job he held more than three years, and he is emotionally and physically battered.

The beating, he said, occurred Monday morning - a bitter consequence of the firestorm that began weeks ago when he announced he would teach a course on intelligent design as mythology, not the science its proponents claim it to be.

Paul Mirecki's life has revolved around religion - starting with his parents wanting him to become a Roman Catholic priest and his eventual career as a theology professor and researcher.

Paul Mirecki's life has revolved around religion - starting with his parents wanting him to become a Roman Catholic priest and his eventual career as a theology professor and researcher.

"I just want to get back to teaching and research," Mirecki said. "That's what I am, and that's what I do."

Ancient religions

Mirecki, a KU faculty member since 1989, said he planned to teach a course on creationism and intelligent design as he had taught other courses, using the same approach he gives ancient religions.

But his plan backfired when a message he wrote on an online discussion board was forwarded across the state by conservative activist John Altevogt.

Mirecki wrote the class would be "a nice slap" in the "big fat face" of fundamentalists.

A second series of messages that he had written over several years on KU's Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics online discussion board were revealed, painting a picture that some said showed Mirecki to be a hateful, anti-religious man.

In those message he disparaged the late Pope John Paul II and Catholics in general.

But Mirecki said those who believe that he is anti-religious don't know him.

"I'm not anti-religious," he said. "I'm just not a person whose personal life is determined by traditional religious ideas."

The e-mails, he said, were part of a private conversation meant only for the student groups' members.

"My e-mails have nothing to do with what I do in class," he said. "I wasn't teaching anybody anything in those e-mails. That's not the way I teach."

Early life

Raised Roman Catholic in a Polish community in Chicago, Mirecki said his parents wanted him to be a priest. He took to music instead.

In the late 1960s, he attended Roosevelt University in Chicago. He studied musical composition and played classical guitar and piano. But he dropped out early to work.

He returned to school in 1973, pursuing religious studies at what is now called North Central University in Minneapolis.

The move from music to religion was easy, he said.

"The transition is not that difficult," he said. "It's all art to a large degree. I'm interested in a lot of things. Music and history and religion and philosophy and art have always been of interest to me."

Then he headed for the East Coast. Unlike other students at Massachusetts' Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Mirecki wasn't fixed on becoming a minister when he enrolled. And following his work there, he enrolled in a doctoral program at Harvard in 1980.

"It was incredibly phenomenal," he said of his years at Harvard. "The only limitations I experienced were my own."

Helmut Koester, a professor at Harvard Divinity School who supervised Mirecki's dissertation, recalled Mirecki as a good student, though he said he has had little contact with Mirecki since his former student left Harvard.

"I think he's a good scholar," Koester said. "He was a good student and a good assistant."

Mirecki focused more intensely on language study, partly of necessity. In one class, he was required to read a long article in Italian. When he told the professor he didn't speak the language, the response, he recalled, was: "That's your problem. Not mine."

Today, Mirecki said he can read French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Middle Egyptian and Coptic, the ancient Egyptian language using Greek letters. He's a bit rusty, he said, in Latin.

After stints at the University of Michigan and Albion College, Mirecki joined the KU faculty in 1989.

Teaching

In 1999, Stephen Floor, a one-time high school drop-out, enrolled in two summer courses at KU. Floor, the son of a university professor, had no enthusiasm for high school studies. But dead-end jobs made him realize he needed a college education.

One of his first classes was Mirecki's "Understanding the Bible." Floor said he was struck by Mirecki's knowledge. For the first time, he heard the words he had been waiting to hear.

"It showed me the power of really critically analyzing something," Floor said. He now is pursuing a doctoral degree in biophysics at the University of California-San Francisco.

Terry Jacobsen, a Lawrence businessman and conservative Christian, also is a former student. Jacobsen took the same class about 10 years ago, he said. He has a different view of Mirecki's teaching.

"The title of the class should have been 'Discrediting the Bible,' not "Understanding the Bible,'" Jacobsen said. "The whole premise of the course was the Bible was just a story and it's not true, it's not literal."

In the first days of class, Jacobsen said there were about a dozen students who openly argued with Mirecki about things the professor said. But by the end of the course, few spoke up because of intimidation, he said.

Mirecki "would make snide comments that were veiled in humor so other people would laugh at them," he said.

But Floor said Mirecki's course had the potential to offend a religious person only because Mirecki took a purely academic approach to religion.

"You were only offended by it if you internalized the academic interpretations of religion," he said.

Floor said Mirecki showed the evolution of the Bible as it was translated by people over the years. For Floor, the class showed him the Bible is much more dynamic and less stagnant than he had thought.

"I don't think that the reaction is determined by the course," he said. "I think the reaction is determined by the person."

About Mirecki's personality, Floor said: "He has a sarcastic demeanor. If you're sensitive to that, then you can be offended by people who are sarcastic."

Mirecki said he believed students who took his courses knew the academic approach to religion would be different from what was encountered in a Sunday school class.

"They know it's not going to be church," he said. "Some of them want it to be church, and I can't help them."

Mirecki said he was sensitive to students' beliefs.

"I wouldn't be in my 20th year of teaching if I wasn't," he said.

Tim Miller, a religious studies professor at KU, said that for those raised or converted to a particular religious tradition, the application of modern critical analysis to religion could be startling or offensive.

"We have all had complaints that we're out debunking and undermining and generally opposing religion," he said. "I think it comes from a basic misunderstanding of what we're doing."

Miller referred to the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court rulings on religion in schools. The court said teaching about religion in public schools is acceptable, but teaching in a devotional way is not.

"That's what we go by," Miller said. "That remains the basic framework today."

The scholar

In 1991, amid the vast holdings of Berlin's Egyptian Museums, Mirecki uncovered fragments of an ancient Egyptian manuscript containing a lost gospel.

The museum had purchased the manuscript years before, and the scraps languished in storage for decades before Mirecki discovered it. Mirecki edited the manuscript with Charles Hedrick, professor of religious studies at Missouri State University who also had been studying it.

Identifying the manuscript's significance was not easy. Mirecki compared it to taking 20 pages from a modern book, running them through a shredder, throwing half away and then trying to decipher the text from the remaining scraps.

"Most of these manuscripts are in terrible condition," Mirecki said.

The lost gospel, called the Gospel of Savior, contains conversations between Jesus and his disciples. It's estimated to have been written sometime in the second half of the second century, Mirecki said.

"It was a pretty big deal," Miller said of Mirecki's accomplishment. "He got international publicity out of it and published a book. It was considered quite a coup."

The document provides more information about the origins of Christianity.

"This text seems to have been written early enough to have had access to the oral period and a whole bunch of sayings that circulated in the church, but too late to give you any firsthand information about Jesus," Hedrick said.

Mirecki also identified an ancient Egyptian scroll that was housed in the private collection of a student's father in Johnson County. The student told Mirecki his father had the scroll but wasn't sure it was authentic.

"I was shocked at what he had," Mirecki said. "I immediately recognized it as something authentic."

The scroll was donated to the university and is now housed in a museum.

It is a sort of guide to the afterlife that would have been placed in a tomb with a mummified person. It dates back to the origins of the belief in resurrection.

"I just find it to be a challenge to find these things that no one has studied and bring them to light and make them available to the scholarly world," Mirecki said.

Hedrick said that as a coptologist, one who studies ancient Christian Egypt, Mirecki has an excellent reputation.

"I even wrote him a letter of recommendation once," he said.

He was shocked to hear about the recent controversy.

"I found it very difficult to believe that he would say those things - albeit on a blog," he said. "He's been the perfect gentleman."

The attack

Mirecki said he believes police will find the men who reportedly battered him. And he disregards claims by some of his critics that he fabricated the attack.

"Of course they're going to say that," he said. "I think something will happen. Something will turn up."

If he weren't a professor, Mirecki said he'd be a research librarian. He owns thousands of books and holds many interests. He listens to John Coltrane and Mozart.

"I would be just as happy if I was studying the history of modern art or the history of classical music," he said. "I'm interested in too many things. I think life's really something."

Comments

RayanaSandy 9 years ago

Love the article. Thank you for showing the world the real Mirecki :)

pepper_bar 9 years ago

how can he call himself "Evil Dr. P" on that message board and then not think people will attach his professorial reputation to the hateful things he said?

bankboy119 9 years ago

It doesn't matter the "real" Mirecki. His public display shows the real Mirecki. He can't act that way and then say that what he does privately has no effect on the way that he acts in public.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

First, it was a "private" message board. Second, the name was a joke-- probably based on how the religious right percieves anyone who doesn't share their beliefs.

If the religious right doesn't like the "hate," perhaps they should quit bitchin so much a take a good long look in the mirror.

MadAnthony 9 years ago

If the battery turns out to be fabricated then I sure hope some academic gives those ancient documents that seem to just show up along life's path a much more critical look-see.

jcameron 9 years ago

Professor Mirecki seems to be an incredibly talented man. All creative people have passionate and occasionally aggressive streaks which cause the odd indiscretion to occur. This only shows his humanity - another God-given talent. It seems ridiculous that this has impacted on his career; tell him to apologise perhaps, but resign, ridiculous! It is a travesty of his talent that he has to deal with fearful people in trucks and police stations. Whoever hires him will be very lucky indeed and from where I am, as a scientist AND a christian in the UK, Kansas is the loser.

tir 9 years ago

I'm glad to see an article telling more about Professor Mirecki's background and his career as a teacher and researcher. I think people need to hear about those things, too, not just about the recent controversy he has been involved in. It's too easy to judge someone you don't know on the basis of one incident that was plastered all over the media, and completely discount the rest of the person's life up to that point. Well done, LJW.

MadAnthony 9 years ago

jc: "This only shows his humanity - another God-given talent."

My dear JC: This affirmation would move me much more if written by the Evil Dr. P. Getting born again may be his only way out of this terribly, potentially career-ending predicament if Coach is correct. (see the more active articles.)

Doc Mirecki, regardless of your preconceived notions, YHWH is there and He is not Silent. He hears us in our most vulnerable moments and gives grace to those who humble themselves enought to ask for it. Seek and you shall find. Enter thru the only door open. You know the passages.

Enough preaching from this Crazy Tony!

laughingatallofu 9 years ago

MadAnthony,

What's the matter? The current mud slinging isn't satisfying enough for you? Now you have to attack his research.

Mirecki's research is peer-reviewed. If you don't know what that means, go look it up. Your little snide accusation is based upon ---what? Your ignorance? Maybe you are the "academic" that should verify his research. But you won't be--- you're too busy with your Travis Tritt rockabilly-thon. Ignorance is bliss, MA.

raine 9 years ago

There's been many a politician, as well as other men and women of note who have destroyed their lives due to a few misspoken or written words.. It's a sad thing.

MadAnthony 9 years ago

I have reread my post to ensure that it was so clear that even a member of academia's exalted ivory tower could understand it.

My statement was clearly qualified. IF the beating was contrived, THEN review Mirecki's academic work as to the hidden documents he claimed to have found and translated.

The supposition is simple. A man who would lie to the police to save his arse from termination would lie to his peers to rise to the top in his profession.

You seemingly disagree. You rather opine that a man who spent his Saturday listening to Travis Tritt could never be trusted to stand in judgment over an academician, even one who would lie to the police to save his arse.

MARGARET MEADE was fooled, and then kept the foolishness going for decades, about life in Samoa:

GET IT? SHE ROSE TO THE VERY TOP OF THE HEAP IN CULTURAL ANTHRO BY LIEING HER ASS OFF!!! AND HER PEERS LOVED IT!

CONSIDER PILTDOWN MAN AND HIS "GODLY" MEN:

THAT 40 YEAR RUSE WAS PLANTED BY NO OTHER THAN THE WORLD CLASS THEOLOGIAN TEILHARD DE CHARDIN.

GET IT? A "GOD IS THE COSMOS" THEOLOGIAN SO SELF RIGHTEOUS HE WAS WILLING TO LIE HIS ASS OFF TO BUILD A THEORY AGAINST CREATIONISM AND TO AGGRANDIZE HIMSELF.

OR HOW ABOUT THE MENCHU CONTROVERY????

"The story of Rigoberta Menchu, .. has now been exposed as a political fabrication, a tissue of lies, and one of the greatest intellectual and academic hoaxes of the Twentieth Century."

WANT SOMETHING MORE HIGHBROW PROFESSOR? WELL THEN LET US DISCUSS THE ANCIENT WORLD OF OSSIA:

AFTER HUNDREDS OF YEARS, Today, Macpherson's status as a forger is not disputed;

GET IT? EVEN BETTER THAN A HARVARD MAN, AND HE LIED HIS ASS OFF TO GET AHEAD IN ACADEMICS!

SO JUST HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO FOOL THE EXALTED, ALL KNOWING, MAGISTERIUM BUILDING PEER REVIEW PROCESS???? WHY LET'S ASK DR. SOKAL!

SO DROP THE SELF RIGHTEOUS BULL CRAP PROFESSOR! As I said, if Professor Mirecki could fake a beating and engage in blood libel, blaming it on his ideological revivals in a bid to forward his own selfish agenda, then his academic work should be looked at once again, for persons lacking intergrity, such as those above, can full even persons as bright as YOU.
The "theologian" de Chardin did it. PLANTED THE EVIDENCE HIMSELF, MOST NOW SAY. The aristocrat Macpherson did it. MADE UP THE TEXTS HIMSELF. The idelogue Elisabeth Burgos-Debray did it. FOOLED MANY WHO WANTED TO BELIEVE HER TALE, AS DID THE MORE-THAN-KU-CHAIR MS. MEAD! Alan Sokol showed us it really is not that difficult to do. AS SOME WOULD SAY, YOU NEED ONLY THE WILL TO LIE.

I STAND BY MY EARLIER POST. IF AND ONLY IF DR. MIRECKI FAKED THE STORY OF BEING BEAT BY THEOCENTRIC "REDNECKS" THEN HE HAS WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A DE CHARDIN, A DEBRAY, A MARGIE MEAD OR A MACPHERSON.

MadAnthony 9 years ago

Laughingatallofu:

Darn 3000 word limit kept me from getting it all said above. What follows is some of what I was forced to cut out. Including sites if you want to peer review my google searches.

Professor Smugrecki, I presume.

I have read and re-read my post to ensure that it was so clear that even a member of academia's exalted ivory tower could understand it :.. despite it having been written by one of the great unwashed. It is that clear.

I hate to be a disappointment, but was the Tritt reference was merely a literary device. Truth be told I have only one of his albums in my quite extensive library of music, which spans pretty much every genre save hh and rap. Now, please stay with me as I turn down the Dvorak, warm up my brie, pour another glass of Beaujolais and belch loudly at your feeble and lame defense of "peer review."

WHY JUST CONSIDER the following well known, peer reviewed and passed for decades hoaxes!

www.frontpagemag.com

www.clarku.edu/~piltdown

Piltdown Man fooled the scientific community for some forty years before the hoax was finally discovered. Kate Bartlett explores the curious case of the bogus ancestor, and tries to unmask the perpetrator of the cunning deceit.

www.bbc.co.uk/history/archaeology

Published in 1982, I, Rigoberta Menchu was actually written by a French leftist, Elisabeth Burgos-Debray, wife of the Marxist, Regis Debray, that are (falsely) chronicled in I, Rigoberta Menchu.

Following Macpherson's death, the Highland Society of Scotland launched an inquiry into the Ossian controversy to try, once and for all, to determine the truth. The committee of inquiry had numerous concerns about the Ossian epics; however, its report stopped short of condemning Macpherson as a forger. For the next several decades various opponents and supporters of Macpherson squared off and it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that the Ossian poems were proved definitively to be the creation of Macpherson. Today, Macpherson's status as a forger is not disputed; however, his writing and the Ossian poems in particular are viewed as important, legitimate poetry of the period.

SO JUST HOW DIFFICUL T IS IT TO FOOL THE EXALTED, ALL KNOWING, MAGISTERIUM BUILDING PEER REVIEW PROCESS???? WHY LET'S ASK DR. SOKAL! www.physics.nyu.edu Late in 1994 he submitted a sham article to the cultural studies journal Social Text, in which he reviewed some current topics in physics and mathematics, and with tongue in cheek drew various cultural, philosophical and political morals that he felt would appeal to fashionable academic commentators on science who question the claims of science to objectivity. The editors of Social Text did not detect that Sokal's article was a hoax, and they published it in the journal's Spring/Summer 1996 issue.1

NOW BACK TO MY TRITE TRITT. AND YOU, SIR, CAN KISS MY GRITS.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

It's interesting that in the absence of any real evidence against Mirecky, he is being portrayed as somehow guilty of every (perceived) transgression of anyone that his detractors care to dredge up.

bige1030 9 years ago

Well, of course, silly. That's how we treat liberals in the State of Kansas!

MadAnthony 9 years ago

Sorry my posts were difficult to follow. Should have just cut it in half. Bottomline: Even scholars can fabricate. I know that those of you who deny that the Ground of all Being is both infinite and personal are lost in a cold universe about to suffer heat death (or has it already, being infinte and all?) and so look to cult leaders like Prof Mirecki to salve the holes in your tortured souls. And that the very thought of such cult leaders lying is next to impossible to consider. And I realize that such a thought gives you so much pain that you want to strike out at me. Just don't shoot me, I am only telling you the trust you do not want to hear. Mad messenger boy here. And maybe i am completely wrong about Prof Mirecki in this instance. I am not wrong about this: Any of us can fabricate, given the right stimulus. So of us more readily than others.

LarryFarma 9 years ago

From post of just_another_bozo_on_this_bus, December 11, 2005 at 7:26 p.m.

It's interesting that in the absence of any real evidence against Mirecki, he is being portrayed as somehow guilty of every (perceived) transgression of anyone that his detractors care to dredge up

What we do know is that he is making a scapegoat out of the university. The university in no way bears any responsibility for his problems, yet he is threatening to sue the university, and has gone so far as to hire an attorney.

Mirecki said, "the University has a duty, as a protector of intellectual honesty and debate, to support its teaching staff when controversial issues are raised." Mirecki's choice of a course title that labeled intelligent design and creationism as "mythologies" showed that he does not really believe in "intellectual honesty and debate." What a hypocrite. And before Mirecki's derogatory email was exposed, the university provost made a silly attempt to defend the word "mythologies" in the course title.

Mirecki just made America Online's list of "national news" for at least the 3rd time.

jcameron 9 years ago

I can quite understand why Mirecki is getting a lawyer involved. Hopefully your justice system in the US , which has a fairly good reputation here in the UK, will bring out the relevant facts and the evidence. A breath of fresh air to compete with innuendo, threats and fearful persecution.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

Sorry, Larry, he doesn't need to defend the use of the term, mythology. That's exactly what ID/creationism are in the context of religious studies, so it's entirely appropriate. Because of their inability (or refusal) to understand precise definitions, and their extreme sensitivity whenever their (willful?) ignorance is pointed out to them, he rightly predicted that those who are trying to define ID/creationism as science would take the course title as a "slap in the face."

LarryFarma 9 years ago

From post of just_another_bozo_on_this_bus , December 12, 2005 at 9:38 a.m. Sorry, Larry, he doesn't need to defend the use of the term, mythology. That's exactly what ID/creationism are in the context of religious studies, so it's entirely appropriate.

If Mirecki's purpose in offering the course was to discredit ID as "science," then why did he choose a course title that so blatantly implied that the course was going to be biased? That was really stupid.

Mr_Christopher 9 years ago

ID is not science. Close your eyes and click your heels together and chant "Id is science" all you want but the fact remains the same - ID is recycled creationism.

ID is a political movement inspired by religionists who want to overthrow science and inject creationism into the public classroom.

They lie and distort and use every Karl Rove tactic in the book to advance their dishonest, religious agenda.

Read the DI's Wedge Strategy, larry. Get a clue, or borrow one.

Google "wedge strategy", larry.

The Discovery (Dishonesty) Institute's governing goals are:

"1) To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.

2) To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

That is from the Discovery (Dishonesty) Institute's own literature. That doesn't sound like a scientific think tank that wants to advance the knowledge of biology now does it, larry farma?

The want to redefine science and replace current scientific understanding with theism, and the Kansas Board of educartion is too happy to oblige them.

LarryFarma 9 years ago

From post of Mr_Christopher, December 12, 2005 at 1:05 p.m. The Discovery (Dishonesty) Institute's governing goals are: "1) To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. 2) To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." That is from the Discovery (Dishonesty) Institute's own literature. That doesn't sound like a scientific think tank that wants to advance the knowledge of biology now does it, larry farma?

I don't give a damn what the Discovery Institute's "goals" are --- I only care what my goals are.

Apparently, just going through the motions of appearing to be open-minded was too much for Mirecki.

I wonder how open-minded the university administration would be about course titles if a professor offered a course titled, "Evolution Theory and Other Mythologies."

Herding_Cats 9 years ago

Well, "Evolution Theory and Other Mythologies" would be silly.

But a class that covered the basics of the theory, discussed the aspects of the theory that has mounds of evidence to support it, discussed aspects of the theory that "seem" to make sense yet are difficult to reproduce, and where future research could lead would be very interesting to me.

BOE 9 years ago

"I wonder how open-minded the university administration would be about course titles if a professor offered a course titled, 'Evolution Theory and Other Mythologies.' "


About as open-minded as one on "Relativity and Gravitational theory and other Mythologies", I 'spect.

LarryFarma 9 years ago

Posted by observer , December 12, 2005 at 2:06 p.m. Larry, you simply don't understand the meaning of mythology, along with the other ID fanatics.

I thoroughly understand the meaning of "mythology." But you do not understand the meaning of "objectivity."

LarryFarma 9 years ago

posted by jcameron , December 12, 2005 at 9:28 a.m. I can quite understand why Mirecki is getting a lawyer involved. Hopefully your justice system in the US , which has a fairly good reputation here in the UK, will bring out the relevant facts and the evidence. A breath of fresh air to compete with innuendo, threats and fearful persecution.

Mirecki wants to sue the university and the cops. How do they bear any responsibility for what has happened to him? Please be specific.

wonderhorse 9 years ago

larry

I believe in giving everyone the benefit of doubt, so I believe you were born ignorant, as opposed to being wilfully ignorant. EVERYTHING that Dr. Mirecki wrote was read, examined, and criticized by his peer group. They are very harsh. Whatever he said on a listserv, is research should not be questioned.

urthlvr 9 years ago

Perhaps an understanding of the academic definition of "myth" and "mythology" would be benificial.

From dictionary.com, the first definition of myth is: 1. A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society: the myth of Eros and Psyche; a creation myth. 2. Such stories considered as a group: the realm of myth.

and for mythology: 1. 1. A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes. 2. A body of myths associated with an event, individual, or institution: "A new mythology, essential to the... American funeral rite, has grown up" (Jessica Mitford). 2. The field of scholarship dealing with the systematic collection and study of myths.

The original course title was perfectly acceptable using these definitions. Unfortunatly, most people use the third definition which is: A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology.

It is all about studying religion in an academic setting, not as a guide to personal devotion.

JustinBeck 9 years ago

Hi all,

I'm looking for some help on a short documentary I'm producing about the debate over intelligent design. It will be aired on a nationally-syndicated, weekly radio newsmagazine called "Making Contact". (More about the show here: www.radioproject.org)

For my story I'd like to open up our toll-free phone line and allow you all to add your two cents. Your comments, if I choose to include them, will be heard on more than 190 public/community/college radio stations in the U.S. and Canada (for a full list, please visit the web link above). The tentative air date for this piece is early January.

Here's how you can participate:

Our toll-free number is 1-800-529-5736. The deadline is Friday, December 16 at 5:00 p.m. PST to call and give your answers to the following prompts. (This is NOT a live call-in radio show.)

  1. Briefly introduce yourself. If you wish, use only your first name. Tell us where you live and what you do for a living. Briefly explain your own relationship to this story, if any.
  2. Give a definition of intelligent design ("Intelligent design is:"). Explain why you support or reject the idea itself. Then, say why you support or oppose the teaching of intelligent design in Kansas schools.
  3. Give a definition of evolution. Explain why you support or reject the idea. Say why you support or oppose the teaching of evolution in Kansas schools.
  4. What is your take on the Mirecki story? What was your reaction to his proposed course? Do you feel he stepped over a line by making comments about "fundies" and how his course would be a "nice slap in their big fat faces," and why? What was your reaction to learning that Prof. Mirecki was beaten? How do you feel about his decision to resign as chair of the department?
  5. What, if anything, do you think the Mirecki story says about your community and about the larger, national debate over intelligent design? Do you see the beating as an isolated incident, or as part of an overall culture war? Or something else?
  6. Imagine a fictional United States of America 40 years from now, after all states' boards of education have adopted pro-intelligent design curricula, and an entire generation has been raised on such teachings. What kind of country would it be?

Please try to answer each question in 30 seconds or less. At the end of your message, please say your full name and leave a phone number or e-mail address, so that I can reach you if needed. Your contact information will NOT be made public.

Again, the deadline for your answers is this Friday, December 16 at 5:00 p.m. PST. The number to call is 1-800-529-5736. Early submissions will be greatly appreciated!

If you have any questions or concerns before participating in this project, call me at my office at 510-251-1332 ext. 103, on my cell at 510-332-3719 or write to justin at radioproject dot org.

So, let the fun begin!

Justin Beck Associate Producer, "Making Contact"

LarryFarma 9 years ago

From post of BOE , December 12, 2005 at 1:53 p.m.

***"I wonder how open-minded the university administration would be about course titles if a professor offered a course titled, 'Evolution Theory and Other Mythologies.'"

About as open-minded as one on "Relativity and Gravitational theory and other Mythologies", I 'spect.***

Why not allow such course titles? We're talking about "academic freedom" here, aren't we? Who has the right to decide where the limits of academic freedom are? If Mirecki has unlimited freedom to choose whatever course titles he wants, why shouldn't other professors have the same freedom? If Mirecki can make a "nice slap in the big fat face of the fundies," why can't other professors do the same to the atheists who support evolution theory?

When courses start labeling things as "mythologies," then we start getting into debates about whether the limits of academic freedom have been crossed. For example, some people might consider the course title "The Holocaust and Other Mythologies" to be unreasonable and even offensive, but strong arguments can be made in favor of such a title. I happen to believe that a "systematic" Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews. A recent book titled "IBM and the Holocaust" by Edwin Black claims that the Nazis identified all the Jews of Europe by using IBM Hollerith card-reading and card-sorting machines to cross-link data stored on billions of IBM Hollerith cards, but those primitive machines obviously had no such data-processing capability. Once we start using course titles that label things as "mythologies," then we have debates about whether such a course title crosses the limit of academic freedom. But if we use only neutral course titles, then there need be no such debates. And a neutral course title also serves the purpose of promoting objectivity and open-mindedness at a university. And you missed my point that if Mirecki wanted to discredit intelligent design as science, then he should have chosen a course title that would have given the appearance of objectivity.

Terry Jacobsen 9 years ago

I'm not arguing Prof M's politics or religion. The facts surrounding his attack are just hard to make sense of. Perhaps that is why the Douglas Co. Sheriff questioned him for 5+ hours, or do you suppose that the Sheriff's department is part of some wide spread right wing religious conspiracy?

LarryFarma 9 years ago

Posted by urthlvr, December 12, 2005 at 3:53 p.m. * Perhaps an understanding of the academic definition of "myth" and "mythology" would be benificial. From dictionary.com, the first definition of myth is: 1. A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people --- **

For starters, the modern intelligent design movement is hardly "traditional" or "ancient," but is less than 20 years old, though the concept of intelligent design goes back further than that. Also, intelligent design can be -- and in fact is supposed to be -- presented without reference to supernatural beings.

**The original course title was perfectly acceptable using these definitions. Unfortunatly, most people use the third definition which is: A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology.**

I disagree that the course title was acceptable under these definitions. And the third definition was obviously one of the intended meanings of the word "mythologies" in the course title. The university provost also made a pathetically inadequate attempt to excuse the course title's use of the word --

---"It is unfortunate that the course title's reference to 'mythologies' has been misconstrued. The terms 'myth' and 'mythology' are common in the academic study of religion and not an affront. A myth refers to the common use of stories or rituals to symbolize in a meaningful manner the core beliefs of a religion; it does not refer to any religion as a whole." ---

The solution is simple -- if the words "myth" or "mythology" are left out of the course title entirely, they cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

While you are at it, maybe you could also give us the definitions of "objectivity" and "open-mindedness."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

I think a definition of "denial" would be more applicable to your posts, Larry.

devobrun 9 years ago

Observer, If you and I reject ID and creationism, cannot we also question evolution statements such as: "Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered." I copied this from an oft-quoted website supporting evolution.

You see, evolution scientists can also make statements that are untestable, and thus, not science.

If humans evolved from ape-like ancestors, and this is a scientific statement, I want the test. Not the evidence, for crying-out-loud. Show me that it can be done, in the field, in the lab, through whatever means. Ya can't can ya? That old nemisis time just can't be controlled by humans in any way. Can't go back in time, can't go forward in time. We just don't know do we?

So carefully weasel modified versions of definitions of words like "fact", "test", "evolution". Massage the information until it fits the model. Whenever a fecundity in biology comes along, claim it for evolution as well. Genetic evolution and genetic engineering are philosphically different. One can engineer the gene all day long without needing Darwin.

MadAnthony 9 years ago

Seems like a lot of talking past one another to me. I believe in both ID and evolution. The latter is process, the former is guidance. Probability theory would seem to suggest that the latter without the former could not arrive at the complexity we see around us, and the software which we use and so robustly display on the LWJ posts (ie our personalities) certainly points toward a Personality that begat such personality. I agree that process is much easier to teach than guidance, for process can be taught without reference to ultimate reality. But if the evidence opens the door to a discussion of guidance, should it be shunned in the service of political correctness? Must we ban cellular biology and probabily theory if they support guidance? Must we censor Darwin's passages discussing guidance? Must Divine Providence be relegated to the status of Grimm's Fairy Tales? Only to satisfy the demands of dogma. Aethestic dogma. Aesthestic presuppositions.

LarryFarma 9 years ago

From post by observer, December 12, 2005 at 6:53 p.m.

*Most people understand objectivity and open-mindedness, but ID people don't. After all most of those who do think for themselves don't have a problem with myths and mythology. Why do the ID people?***

If the university offered a course with the title "Evolution Theory and Other Mythologies," evolutionists would have a problem with the word "mythologies." A BIG problem.

Two lectures in a series at the Center for the Understanding of Origins at Kansas State University (not to be confused with the University of Kansas, also called Kansas University, in Lawrence) had the provocative titles, "Evolution: is it a Logical Fallacy?" and "Darwinism and Atheism: a Marriage made in Heaven?" But at least these titles are in the form of questions rather than as assertions of fact, and these lectures were just two in a series of four. Interestingly, the former of these two lectures was given by a professor from a department of ecology and evolution. See http://www.phys.ksu.edu/origins/announcements.htm

Unfortunately, however, the Center for the Understanding of Origins is itself biased against intelligent design -- see http://www.phys.ksu.edu/origins/FAQfactsaboutcenter.pdf . But at least the Center has shown a willingness to present lectures with open-minded titles.

I am surprised that those at KU who were interested in this topic seemed to be unaware of this program at KSU. The Center even offers a graduate certificate program in the study of origins. See http://www.phys.ksu.edu/origins/

MadAnthony 9 years ago

Religion is a word much like mythology. Intelligent Design is either true (Providence exists and guides the process to some extent) or false (no Providence and thus no guidance). You aetheists really should consider letting go of your narrow and cramped box called religion. Let's just talk true or false, and use our obserations of what is here in front of us to build our case. fair enough.....or too close to us running the table for you to handle?

LarryFarma 9 years ago

From post by observer , December 12, 2005 at 8:49 p.m.

You have a problem with a simple word, mythology.*

And you have a big problem with a simple word, objectivity.

* That is what ID and creationalism is. Read the definition. The course fit right into that area. However the ID nuts who insisted it wasn't religion pitched a fit and screamed it insulted their religion when it was called something else.*

The biggest reason for the "fit" was not the course title that labeled ID a "mythology," but was Mirecki's email which said that the course title would be a "nice slap in the big fat face of the fundies."

wonderhorse 9 years ago

Mad

How do you know that all of the critics of ID are atheists? Some of the critics claim to be christians.

MadAnthony 9 years ago

Christians all affirm the objective existance of a Creator who sustains His creation. Those that claim the title but are unwilling to so affirm (I once met one) are caught up in false consciousness. This core teaching is, in effect, the foundation upon which ID is erected. Purpose in Nature.

wonderhorse 9 years ago

So ID is in fact creationism? And christian creationism at that? Or is it Mayan creationism?

MadAnthony 9 years ago

Nothing like a discussion of presuppositions to send the aetheists to another site. It is no fun looking into the cold and dark abyss.

Get this....if matter is all there is, and the second law of thermodynamics is right, then all matter will run out of energy and find rest at absolute zero over time.

Over how much time? Well, a fininte amount of time. Now, if this matter was never created and is thus itself eternal, then the eternity that has now passed was more than time enough for this absolute zero to be upon us. We are now at absolute zero, no movement, no life.

If we are not (and I submit that we are not), then not enough time has passed from..... some kind of creation event. The creation of matter, from nothing. Sound familar? It all makes so much sense if you just turn off the distractions and noise and think deep thoughts, which is why most aetheists refuse to do much of that.

Good night all.

PoeticHeteroSapien 9 years ago

Gosh, MadAnthony! You're the first person to ever consider physics and biology in light of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

This changes everything!

I've gotta go tell the other 400 scientists in my building that we have a lot of re-writing to do.

Seriously, man, when you Christians break out the 2nd LoT argument, do you honestly think you're TELLING us something? Or do you just not stop and think,

"Gee, maybe they've considered the 2nd Law, and I'm just not grasping something about what science actually says about the universe and its origins,"

before you start to "surprise" me with talk of the laws of thermodynamics. Seems to me, we covered them in my freshman year during basic chemistry AND my junior year during advanced physics... but maybe that's just those of us who have science degrees, and you didn't realize EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE SCIENTIFIC WORLD KNOWS THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS before you spoke?

It's the only possible explanation, short of insanity or willful dishonesty.

Please... clue me in, I'm dying to know which it is.

wonderhorse 9 years ago

PHS

Please take the high road. It is born ignorance, not intentional ignorance.

LarryFarma 9 years ago

Posted by wonderhorse , on December 12, 2005 at 10:47 p.m. **So ID is in fact creationism? And christian creationism at that? Or is it Mayan creationism?**

To some people, ID is partly religious. To others, it is strictly science (or pseudoscience). Generally, it is the ID-bashers who insist on defining ID as being at least partly religious because then they can try to use the constitutional principle of church-state separation to attack it. Merely describing ID as pseudoscientific is not enough for the ID-bashers, because there is no constitutional separation of pseudoscience and state.

Though ID has been getting all the hoopla, there are other scientific (or pseudoscientific, if you prefer) criticisms of evolution theory that have little or nothing to do with "design," intelligent or otherwise. Some of these other criticisms of evolution theory concern (1) the propagation of favorable mutations, (2) the mathematical probability of evolution, and (3) co-evolution of two co-dependent organisms, e.g., bees and flowering plants (though this co-dependence -- called "mutualism" -- could be a sort of irreducible complexity involving two organisms).

wonderhorse 9 years ago

Larry

The criticism of any published scientific theory is extreme and vicious. Mirecki has already, and still, gone through these examantions.

I don't understand what you mean by "favorable mutations". I'm one, you're one. Somehow, we share DNA with monkeys, and a certain pre-hominid in Africa (we call her "Lucy". Sorry, she's your mother.)

"Mathematical Probability". Anything is probable, mathematically.

I don't understand co-evolution.

LarryFarma 9 years ago

From post by wonderhorse, December 13, 2005 at 12:35 a.m. **Larry The criticism of any published scientific theory is extreme and vicious. Mirecki has already, and still, gone through these examantions.**

        Mirecki is a professor of religious studies.    I doubt that he has ever written a published peer-reviewed scientific paper about evolution.

**I don't understand what you mean by "favorable mutations".**

Favorable (or beneficial) mutations are supposed to be the driving force behind evolution. Favorable mutations produce changes in an organism that are favored by natural selection. Most mutations that have been observed are unfavorable. In organisms that use sexual reproduction, the mechanisms of the propagation of favorable mutations though many generations need to be studied.

*"Mathematical Probability". Anything is probable, mathematically.*

No, some things are improbable. For example, in a laboratory comparison that shows two DNA samples to be indistinguishable, there is maybe one chance in several billion that the two samples came from two different people.

*I don't understand co-evolution.*

Welcome to the club --- I think that scientists do not understand it either, or at least it seems that they cannot adequately explain it. Co-evolution (sometimes spelled "coevolution") is defined as the mutual evolutionary influence between two kinds of organisms which become totally dependent on each other for survival. The Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia's article about co-evolution goes so far as to say, "few perfectly isolated examples of evolution can be identified --- essentially all evolution is co-evolution." A good example of co-dependence is the pollination of flowers by insects and birds. Sometimes a co-dependent organism has several features that are each closely coordinated with features of the other organism. Co-evolution is often much more of a problem than the kind of evolution which is mere adaptation to the fixed physical features of the environment (e.g., water, land, air, and climate), because sometimes neither of the two co-dependent organisms would initially possess the feature that the other organism must adapt to. A mutation that produces a co-dependent feature in one of the two organisms would provide no evolutionary advantage -- and may even be detrimental to the organism -- when the corresponding feature in the other organism is absent. Thus, co-dependent features could sometimes be considered to be a kind of "irreducible complexity" involving two organisms, i.e., sometimes two corresponding features must be present in both organisms to be functional, and sometimes it is necessary for two or more pairs of corresponding features to be present in both organisms.

devobrun 9 years ago

Wonderhorse, PHS, observer,

Arguing science with religious people is fun isn't it? You know that you won't be arguing the epistemology of evolutionary sceince. You know that the religion folks will likely get some point of science wrong (like thermo). Shootin' fish in a barrel.

Ah, but you must avoid the test . You support evolution statements regarding human evolution from ape-like ancestors. But you can't test it, so you ignore the refutation phase of science by emphasizing evidence. You support your argument by citing eminent scientists as well. You attack the ID guys. You offer a multitude of excuses, because you just can't come up with the refutation phase of science. Not in the same way as physics does.

Could it be that as long as you have creation/ID, you can avoid the ineffable possibility that evolutionary biology is lousy science?

devobrun 9 years ago

Evos,

I just happened across a web site that illustrates my objection to modern biological science. http://www.livescience.com/

I just love articles that include evolutionary statements as support for their "science". For example: read the article on how ambiguity messes with the brain.

If what they say is false, then it supports the notion that biological science is happy crap. If what they say is true, then this explains the emotional response I get from biologists when I question the authority of evolution dogma. The fuzzy thinking in biology comes up with yet another paradox.

devobrun 9 years ago

Actually, observer, I think the argument is about whether the state should emphasize evolution or not. The ID is one alternative that some people on the board support.

But the main argument really is about the veracity of evolution. The alternative offerings are lame. However, the reason that they exist at all is because evolutionary biology is so lame.

I haven't had a single parent come to me questioning my teaching of physics. Is this because I'm so good? Nah, it's because the material is taught with labs to show the conservation of energy,momentum, ohm's law, etc.

What I teach I do. Much of what I teach is what I did as an engineer for 25 years. Evo can't say the same.

Thus, evo is open for criticism by just about anybody. You guys started it by elevating an hypothesis to a "fact". The attack by crea/ID folks is actually a bonus for you. Bio teachers will continue to teach evo in spite of the BOE. Fighting with the religious folks makes you look like heros or martyrs, depending on whether you win or lose a battle in the BOE. Either way evo gets taught in H.S. and either way you avoid the fight with scientists who might want some testing to support evo statements that are untestable.

So this evo/ID thing is perfect for the Dr. Krishtaltnas of the world who conduct science by sales pitch. This way he can cry crocadile tears about the religious folks and counter with museum propaganda. All the while it just gives him an excuse to expose everybody to the wonderful world of biology.

One of Dr. Ks arguments is that the general public is ignorant of science. How would he know, all I see from him is happy crap supporting his mythology.

MadAnthony 9 years ago

Friends and countrymen,

Remember the teacher in high school, and/or professor in college, who, when confronted with a question that they did know how to answer, responded by attacking the one asking the question?

Well, if not, see a fine example a few posts above, where a self-described poet takes me to the woodshed for arguing a law of physics in the face of a teaching (all is material) that breaks down on that wheel.

The homosapien poet lashed out at me,

"Gosh, MadAnthony! You're the first person to ever consider physics and biology in light of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

This changes everything!

I've gotta go tell the other 400 scientists in my building that we have a lot of re-writing to do. "

BUT THIS SMART POET NEVER TRIED TO REFUTE THE ALLEGEDLY SIMPLISTIC TRUTH THAT I LAID OUT. THE TRUTH SOMETIMES IS SIMPLE. LIBERALS IGNORE THE TRUTH, SIMPLE OR COMPLEX. A FINE EXAMPLE IS FOUND 10 POSTS ABOVE.

Could it be he was ridiculing me simply because he had nothing else to offer. Could it be that he cannot answer the question posed, finds it quite uncomfortable, and so instead bitch slaps me to shut me up?

Anyone want to help the Poet refute my allegedly simple and simply wrong argument?

MadAnthony 9 years ago

NO TAKERS!!!

I guess all I get is bitch slapped and made fun of for daring to question the religion of evolution.

PoetHomoSapien has fled the field of battle, possibly after soiling his armor.

MadAnthony 9 years ago

AND THE ATHEISTS AND MACRO EVOLUTIONISTS HAVE STILL REFUSED TO REFUTE THE ALLEGEDLY SIMPLE-TO-SHOOT-DOWN ARGUMENT BASED UPON PHYSICS. WANTA KNOW ANOTHER DIRTY SECRET? THEY ALSO BELEIVE IN THE SPONTANEOUS GENERATION OF LIFE, AGAINST ALL SCIENCE AND COMMON SENSE. GOT TO GET A PHD TO BE ABLE TO DOWN THAT KOOL-AID WITHOUT A CHASER.

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