Evolution at Wheaton

I am currently reading the book Believers: A Journey into Evangelical America by Jeffery Sheler, published in 2006. There is a chapter about Wheaton College in Illinois, which is generally considered one of the best, if not the best, evangelical college in the nation. Sheler recounts part of a conversation he had with Dorothy Chappell, dean of natural and social sciences.

“Our students are recognized as among the best,” she said. “That must say something about our program. We don’t teach Christian science here. We teach science, period. It’s the same science as the University of Illinois teaches, or the University of Chicago.”

Sounds good, but things soon start getting weird.

Skipping ahead a bit we find this:

“We do believe that God created the universe, and that Adam and Eve were the first humans,” Chappell said. “But we are agnostic as to how God did it.” In practical terms, that means the school doesn’t push what Chappell called “young earth creationism”–a view drawn from a literal interpretation of Genesis that asserts that God created the universe in six twenty-four hour days just a few thousand years ago.

Sheler now cites the familiar Gallup polling data that shows widespread public support for YEC. Then comes this:

At the same time, she said, Wheaton’s acceptance of evolutionary theory is limited to changes within a species rather than the widely held view that humans evolved from apes. “There is no assent given here to the vew that Adam and Eve descended from hominids.”

So what happens when the two sources of data — revealed truth and natural truth — seem to be in conflict?

“It means we haven’t interpreted the data correctly,” Chappell said, “Either we’ve missed something in our science or we are failing to understand the scriptures correctly. We’re not afraid here of exploring truth. That’s what scientific research is all about. That’s what life is about.

If Wheaton is teaching that evolution only occurs within a species, or that there was a time when there were exactly two human beings on the planet and that they appeared without the benefit of an evolutionary history, then they are manifestly not teaching the same science as the University of Illinois or the University of Chicago. What Chappell describes here is old-earth creationism, and it is tantamount to rejecting evolution.

Assuming that this description of Wheaton’s approach to evolutionary biology is still valid, then I find it interesting that the foremost evangelical college in the country has not made its peace with evolution. I suspect that Chappell, and the other Wheaton faculty who give no assent to the idea that Adam and Eve descended from earlier hominids, are well-familiar with the various schemes of theistic evolution people have devised. They just do not find them credible.

Comments

  1. #1 KKBundy
    February 8, 2010

    I love the part where says “We don’t teach Christian science here. We teach science, period. It’s the same science as the University of Illinois teaches, or the University of Chicago.”
    Well it obviously isn’t. I not sure this is even old earth creation. It seems to me yet another branch of that terrible danger to civilization, Young Earth Creationism. The real danger lies with the fact that these people are 100% positive they are representing real science.

    I cover this in much more depth in my blog at
    http://blessedatheist.com/2010/01/29/young-earth-creationism-a-rant/

  2. #2 Valhar2000
    February 8, 2010

    Wheaton College in Illinois, which is generally considered one of the best, if not the best, evangelical college in the nation.

    The answer is right there in the description: that’s why the science they teach is crap. It could hardly be made any clearer.

  3. #3 SLC
    February 8, 2010

    In the NPR series on evolution from several years ago, as I recall, the last segment included a piece on Wheaton College which seemed to indicate that, indeed, the approach to teaching evolutionary biology was the same as at secular universities. It would be interesting to know what biology textbooks are used in the courses and what the attitude of the professors that actually teach the courses is.

  4. #4 NewEnglandBob
    February 8, 2010

    They claim to not be afraid of the truth but they don’t actually look for it. I propose a motto for them: Wheaton College – where we tuck our heads far up our butts.

  5. #5 escapee
    February 8, 2010

    I went to another college with a “pretty good biology program, for an evangelical school” for my bio B.S. (pun only partially intended). This one was Houghton College, in Western NY. Same basic philosophy as Wheaton, in theory. But in reality the subject of evolution is barely even discussed. They just avoid it. Because there is no clear official policy, and the profs are all terrified of getting ratted out for saying the “E” word by some fundamentalist brat who’s uncle is on the board (and with all the legacies running around in buildings with their family name carved on them, that’s quite likely). If you manage to corner them, it turns out they basically believe in mainstream evolution, but they keep their mouths shut to keep their jobs.

    It’s a bizarre combination of cognitive dissonance and denial that allows these professors to keep teaching this stuff, because they do know better. They all got their graduate degrees at mainstream universities. They’re not dumb, just willing to sell out. This may also explain the rather high faculty turnover rate in the biology programs at many Christian colleges, and the reason they focus mostly on pre med programs, and not ecology or other “evolutiony” fields. Although, to be fair, their pre med program has a freakishly high acceptance rate.

    Oddly, I ended up in grad school studying Ecology and Evolutionary biology. Lets just say I had some catching up to do. Now, having kept in touch with fellow alumni through facebook etc… It turns out we were basically all “undercover atheists” the whole time we were there. I’d say at least half the students there are their due to parental pressure, and don’t buy any of it.

  6. #6 a lurker
    February 8, 2010

    “In the NPR series on evolution from several years ago”

    You mean PBS.

  7. #7 SLC
    February 8, 2010

    Re a lurker

    Absolutely correct. It was PBS. Mea culpa.

  8. #8 Collin Brendemuehl
    February 8, 2010

    SLC,
    As I understand the school, they draw a line between genetics and naturalism. That’s all. You get the same lab work without the presupposition. I also have a friend who taught physics (professor, PhD in the field) there for many years, recently retired. From our conversations the school has high standards. Even you and Jason would be pleased. Except for the lack of naturalism, that is.

  9. #9 escapee
    February 8, 2010

    Collin
    True, they are tough, highly selective schools, with high standards. I’m sure there were highly selective alchemy schools, with high standards, back in the middle ages. But as any evangelical will tell you, you can’t build a house on sand. Teaching genetics without an evolutionary foundation is absurd.

    Drawing a magical line around humans, despite the evidence, is a denial of evolution. period.

    Whatever they say, naturalism and “supernaturalism” are not reconcileable. They’ve decided the conclusion, and they just bend science around it, or cut of the corners to make it fit, and that’s not science.

  10. #10 SLC
    February 8, 2010

    Re Collin Brendemuehl

    Of course, it should be stated that subjects such as physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc. are rather less controversial relative to religious views (other then those young earth creationists like our old pal Mr. JonS of course) then evolutionary biology is. Thus, the General Theory of Relativity does not cause the same level of heartburn in religious fundamentalists as the notion that humans evolved from apelike ancestors.

    Just as a matter of information, my PhD thesis adviser in elementary particle physics was an old earth creationist who rejected the theory of evolution on religious grounds. However, his fundamentalist religious views had no affect on his physics research, other then having a tendency to cause him to take a conservative approach to new ideas in the field.

  11. #11 escapee
    February 8, 2010

    SLC
    Those subjects were not always controversy free. we just see them nowadays as so self evident that we can’t imagine how they ever were controversial. Conventional wisdom used to teach that there were only four elements, and that the earth was the center of the universe. People were excommunicated or killed for saying otherwise.

  12. #12 DrA
    February 8, 2010

    I was a grad student colleague of Chappell, and she’s a great person, but even then her irrational duality of thinking was manifest although studying botany minimized the opportunity for conflicting, contradictory ideas. According to surveys I’ve conducted, 3 out of every 10 elementary education majors are strict creationists, and 8 out of every 10 are sympathetic to the “fairness” teach the controversy ploy. And we wonder why science literacy in this country is so poor.

  13. #13 MartyM
    February 8, 2010

    I have an Aunt who works in Administration at Wheaton. She sent me a sent me an email about some organization trying to ban evangelism from television. I replied (once I got permission through their email filters) by stating you should think critically and ask for details about this kind of junk and included a link to the snope’s urban legend page on that claim. Surprise, this stuff circulates among Wheaton.

  14. #14 Michael Kremer
    February 8, 2010

    Link to a summary of the PBS show: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/about/show07.html. I recall that it showed intellectual tensions among the Wheaton faculty and students over the issue. Certainly the issue was being discussed and not in a simple closed-minded way.

    Link to Wheaton College biology course descriptions: http://www.wheaton.edu/Biology/courses.html

    Two courses mention evolution:

    BIOL 243. Processes of Life: Ecology and Evolution.
    This course introduces the conceptual and theoretical foundations of ecology, animal behavior, and evolution. Students will be introduced to population and ecosystem processes as well as longer term processes of change, including evolution. Evaluation of theories of species dynamics will be viewed in a Christian perspective. Three lectures, three hours laboratory. Offered every Fall beginning in 2010.

    BIOL 303. Contemporary Issues in Biology.
    Contemporary issues in genetics, evolution, and ecology. May be applied toward the general education nature requirement but not toward the Biology major. Prerequisite: One general education science laboratory course. S 2010. (2)

    I don’t know what “viewed in a Christian perspective” will mean.

    Similar phrasing in the Anthropology course descriptions: http://www.wheaton.edu/Registrar/catalog/soc_anthro.htm#_Anthropology_Courses_(ANTH)

    See ANTH 216. Introduction to Anthropology. A general overview of the field of anthropology, including an examination of the principal assumptions, methods, and results of cultural anthropology which give an understanding of other cultures. Human origins, along with other aspects of modern anthropology, are also addressed from a Christian perspective. Diversity course.

    and

    ANTH 355. Human Origins. This course surveys the biological and cultural evidence for fossil humans and seeks to understand that evidence within a Christian framework that is true to the integrity of the data, philosophy of science, biblical hermeneutics, and theology.

    Link to an interesting article about Wheaton by a Wheaton alum, philosophy prof at Cornell, whose father taught at Wheaton for 25 years: http://www.somareview.com/whitherwheaton.cfm

    Link to the interesting backstory about the publication of the above article: http://whitherwheaton.org/ (“read the story behind the story”.)

    Google “chignell wheaton” and you’ll find lots of discussion of this piece.

  15. #15 stvs
    February 8, 2010

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. … Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1:7] —Augustine of Hippo, De genesi ad litteram libri duodecim (The Literal Meaning of Genesis) (415), from J. H. Taylor, transl., Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

  16. #16 Steven Rossi
    February 8, 2010

    I’m a Wheaton student currently, and although I really have no clue what the science departments teaches, my exposure to science at Wheaton has been fairly surprising to me. That is, I expected them to avoid the issues of evolution and an old earth entirely; to me they seem fairly genuine about looking at these sides to the story.

    Anyway that’s not why I am commenting, because, like I said, I really don’t know all that much about Wheaton’s science program from personal experience (as in, I took Biology 101 at a community college over the summer). Everything I know is from what I hear other people say. I don’t want to put words in their mouths.

    I’m just commenting in response to stvs’s comment (#14). I’m curious about this quote, as I noticed that it’s from Augustine of Hippo, one of the most influential Christians of all time. I can’t imagine Augustine talking here about anything other than the importance for Christians to be informed and not ignorant, which, coincidentally is generally Wheaton’s stance on controversial issues (and non-controversial ones, too, I suppose). I’d love for someone (perhaps the original commenter) to discuss this quote a bit more.

  17. #17 Greg Myers
    February 8, 2010

    Steven, Augustine’s point was that we should not ignore what we’ve learned about the world, because we think the bible teaches something different. This is just what Chappell is doing however – pretending to teach science, when she is actually teaching creationism. It is a problem, because many evangelicals simply do not share Augustine’s stance (preferring a selectively literal interpretation of Genesis to the clear evidence), and many more, who claim to take his approach, are actually substituting apologetics for science, and arguing as if the science is not clear as regards evolution.

    All life shares a common ancestor. We evolved, over billions of years, from the same ancestors that all plants and animals came from. This is not what Genesis teaches, whether you take Genesis in some literal sense, or if you read it as poetry. I doubt that Augustine would have embraced this rather surprising outcome of scientific research, however.

  18. #18 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 9, 2010

    Steven -

    Thank you for the comment. It’ good to have the perspective of someone who is actually at Wheaton.

  19. #19 SLC
    February 9, 2010

    Re Steven Rossi

    Mr. Rossi might find the aforementioned PBS program that described the approach to teaching evolutionary biology at Wheaton College of interest. I don’t know if it is available on one of the file sharing sites, like Rapidshare but it is available on bit torrent.

  20. #20 stvs
    February 9, 2010

    I’m a Wheaton student … I can’t imagine Augustine talking here about anything other than the importance for Christians to be informed and not ignorant … I’d love for someone (perhaps the original commenter) to discuss this quote a bit more.

    Steven,

    Augustine is saying much more than that Christians should be informed: he says “it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics” because, by exposing the evidently untrue implications of the literal interpretation of scripture (such as creationism), it exposes Christianity itself to scorn and rejection by non-Christians.

    By arguing for a non-literal interpretation of Genesis, Augustine believed that scripture and scientific knowledge are compatible.

    Wheaton College, as evidenced by their nonsensical stance on the fact of evolution, obviously disagrees with Augustine and does not believe that scientific knowledge and scripture are compatible.

    As an atheist, I agree with Wheaton College—if Wheaton is to fulfill its mission of educating Bible-believing Christians, it must keep its students ignorant of the fact of evolution. Wheaton’s position on evolution is logically consistent with this mission, though it is also cowardly and intellectually indefensible.

    As an atheist, I also side with Augustine’s position on the allegorical power of Genesis and scripture. Many of the Bible’s authors showed full awareness of the struggle with faith in God and the principal threat to this faith: knowledge. The consequences of Adam eating the apple are a timeless story, whether you are an evangelical Christian and believe that these consequences are the death and eternal torture of Adam’s descendants, or you are an atheist and view Adam and the apple as a tale of knowledge separating man from the very fable that tells this story.

  21. #21 Michael Kremer
    February 9, 2010

    I wrote up a comment with a lot of links to relevant things on the web. It was held for review by the moderator (Jason?) probably because of all the links.

    A summary of the PBS show mentioned above is easy to find on the web (there’s a PBS summary, and then there’s one at the DI). You can also find Wheaton course descriptions in bio and anthro. Last but not least, Google “chignell wheaton” for some very interesting discussion. (Andrew Chignell is a philosophy prof at Cornell whose father taught at Wheaton and who is an alum of Wheaton. He has concerns about the direction the college is going. He wrote an invited article for publication in Books and Culture: A Christian Review, the piece was pulled at the last minute, and he then published it online. Interesting reading. Google “Chignell backstory” as well.)

  22. #22 stvs
    February 9, 2010

    P.S. Thanks to the internets and open courseware, there is simply no reason for anyone on earth to remain ignorant of the facts.

    Here is a real, up-to-the-minute (as of 2004) introductory biology class taught by the inimitable Eric Lander and others: MIT 7.012 Introduction to Biology.

    Even if Wheaton were teaching actual science, which it clearly does not, it would be tough to match the quality, timeliness, and relevance of MIT’s 7.012. This is a class everyone should take, not just current undergraduates, because if you haven’t had a biology class in the last decade or so, you don’t know biology.

    Of course, nothing in the class makes sense except in the light of evolution, but that’s not the main theme of this introductory course.

  23. #23 Reginald Selkirk
    February 9, 2010

    How can Wheaton continue to tout itself as a Christian organization when it refuses to take a stand for geocentricity?

  24. #24 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 9, 2010

    Michael -

    Sorry about that. Your comment has now been posted. You will find it at number 14.

  25. #25 stvs
    February 9, 2010

    Link doesn’t work. Here it is: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/about/show07.html, covering Weaton’s affirmation of faith: “Professors must sign a statement of faith, affirming their literal belief in human descent from Adam and Eve.”

    This is bunk.

    Wheaton deserves the scornful laughter that Augustine feared when he warned Christians not to make “utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements” about “the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world.”

    lol, wheaton.

  26. #26 Michael Fugate
    February 9, 2010

    Here is the relevant section from Andrew Chignell’s article. He is a Wheaton alumnus.

    “One of his (President Duane Litfin) first moves was to declare that Wheaton’s longstanding “Statement of Faith” allowed too much interpretive wiggle-room on the question of Adam and Eve. Scientists were thus required to specify whether they (1) “reject the idea that Adam and Eve were created from pre-existing human-like creatures, or hominids”; (2) are neutral or “unsure” on the hominid theory; (3) affirm that “God gave a human spirit to a pair of pre-existing human-like creatures, or hominids”; or (4) deny the historicity of Adam and Eve and think of Genesis as a wholly “theological document.” Options (3) and (4) were deemed inconsistent with ongoing employment. Those who affirmed (2) were given one year to change their view to (1), or else they too would be asked to seek employment elsewhere.

    The reaction to this first manifestation of the magisterial approach was so explosive that a trustee finally intervened and pointed out that even some members of the Board did not fall into camp (1). Ultimately Litfin agreed to allow people to remain in camp (2) indefinitely.”

  27. #27 Steven Rossi
    February 9, 2010

    First of all, I found the PBS documentary on Google Video. See here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8868710003807845640

    I’m currently about halfway through, and it seems pretty interesting and frankly pretty accurate about Wheaton’s position on evolution.

    I’d argue that the large majority of Wheaton students are fairly open to consider evolution as valid. To be fair, almost all of these students have grown up hearing that evolution is evil, so this is a pretty big deal for them (/us).

    Further, I’d argue that the professors are equally open to considering it as valid. In fact, one of my professors said in class something to the effect of, “To believe in young earth creationism, you would basically have to ignore the facts of science.” As you can imagine, this is a fairly significant statement at an evangelical institution.

    There certainly seems to be a big brother-type feeling on campus particularly among the professors, as though it’s taboo to discuss the validity of evolution. It’s hard to catch this sense outside of quick and witty comments like, “Don’t tell anyone I said this, but…” with a wink and a nudge, but it’s definitely apparent.

    In the video, around the 34 minute mark, a professor asks the question, “How many of you have found yourselves to be more confused now at Wheaton than when you came?” Interestingly, almost all of them raised their hands. I’d have raised my hand, too, if I was in the room. Entering Wheaton my position on evolution was totally built on what I had been taught, that is, evolution = evil. I was uncomfortable with that statement, and I probably wouldn’t have said it if you had asked me, but under pressure that’s probably what it would have come down to. Now, however, I’m pretty embarrassed to have even considered that bothering to think that there might be another side to the story. At this point, I’m fairly sure that I have no idea how we got here, but I’m interested in learning the most accurate position rather than the easiest position. And I’m pretty sure most students would agree with me.

    In summary, students at Wheaton are probably much more open to evolution that you’d think. In fact, if a poll was done, I think the number of people who believe totally in evolution would be surprisingly high. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that sort of poll would be done, and I think that’s an interesting point that I think Chignell’s article might be better suited to address.

    Lastly, you’ve got to realize that I’m just one student with one perspective (and with only 6 credits of science to my name). In discussing this sort of thing on other blogs, I’ve found that other students/alumni of Wheaton have felt totally differently about Wheaton’s position (both the position of the students and the administration). That video’s pretty good, and I think that Dr. Greenberg’s facial expression at around 30:41 in response to a student’s thought on Wheaton and science is pretty telling. Also, I like Wheaton a lot, so I may be biased, for what it’s worth.

    Phew, that was longer than I expected it to be. ;-) Sorry for not responding to the comments on Augustine. I may get to that later…I just wanted to discuss the documentary first.

  28. #28 stvs
    February 9, 2010

    my position on evolution was totally built on what I had been taught, that is, evolution = evil … I’m pretty embarrassed to have even considered that bothering to think that there might be another side to the story.

    Don’t ever be embarrassed about where you came from. This is one of many things about which we have no choice. Thanks for your comments in the midst of a “big brother” climate.

  29. #29 eric
    February 9, 2010

    Steven, good follow-on comments. Its a shame that evolution has to be stealth-taught, with a nudge and a wink. While that may be better than nothing, your comments are not a defense of the institution policy so much as a defense of professors who are acting subtly against that policy in order to deliver what they think is a good education.

  30. #30 Michael L McCann
    February 9, 2010

    I am both amused and saddened that college students in 2010 must endure this confusion. Maybe in 1800, OK. Even Darwin himself was a believer at first, and enrolled in divinity school. The data we have today on DNA origins, geology, space and other science was totally unknown in Darwin’s day. But today, in 2010, for any thinking modern and educated human, there is no excuse for still believing in the literal truth of primitive man’s religions. I hope the students of Wheaton can continue to learn both hard science, and to separate their emotional sentiments from rational thinking. There is nothing wrong about admiring Jesus teachings, as I do, and still being truthful about man’s origins.

  31. #31 stvs
    February 9, 2010

    When you get round to it, here are St. Augustine’s words in context, with an important and highly relevant part not included above:

    … we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

    We need look no further than the awful example of Wheaton college. Any so-called dean or professor of science who —as a condition of their employment as a Christian “teacher”!—must speak untruthfully about one the most well established and important central tenants in science can and should be rejected and scorned as unlearned.

    St. Augustine is dead right here.

    Wheaton’s administration and faculty are without doubt talking pure bunkum about evolution. Why should anyone expect that these people hold less foolish beliefs “in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”

  32. #32 Steven Rossi
    February 9, 2010

    Oh, one last thing. I don’t want to discount the decisions and perspectives of the administration as ignorant, stubborn, or closedminded. The issue is by no means clear-cut, as a more accepting stance on evolution would almost certainly lead to a large falling out from many of Wheaton’s supporters (both financially and more generally). Potentially, that could result in a closed discussion in the opposite direction (i.e. strong supporters of creation would take off), and that’s a whole different problem that Wheaton doesn’t want. I just want to be supportive of the institution in saying that they’re not exactly in an easy place, and they’re doing a good job, regardless of some of the difficulties that their decisions bring for the students and faculty.

  33. #33 Rob Evans -Toronto-Canada
    February 9, 2010

    I have a science background (B.Sc., M.Sc.) which means that I do not believe something told to me on “faith alone”. It scares me when people come to my door and quote some obscure sentence in the Bible as to why their kids can not have blood transfusions. The Bible needs to be updated for today’s world. Evolution is a fact. It is so egotistical to show God as a white man with a beard. If you really thought about how large the Universe is you would laugh at how narrow-minded you are. What does a Ph.D in Mathematics know about evolution? If you believe, as you are told,that the world is 6000 years old, Eve was created from a rib of Adam then I ask you to open your mind and I feel sorry for you.

  34. #34 Josh Rosenau
    February 9, 2010

    No discussion of Wheaton is complete (IMHO) without some mention of Mark Noll’s “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” a scathing indictment of the evangelical approach to the life of the mind. Money quote: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is no evangelical mind.”

    Noll wrote the book as a Wheaton professor, and while he now teaches at Notre Dame, I don’t think he left due to any institutional censorship, and indeed he holds out Wheaton as one of the few bright(ish) spots in the evangelical intellectual landscape. Given that context alone, I’d be skeptical of any claim that Wheaton’s science professors are restricted from teaching evolution. Note also that the university did attempt such restrictions in the early ’90s, and the faculty beat the proposal back.

  35. #35 hsbioch
    February 9, 2010

    As a former high school biology teacher (current administrator), I love the discussion of institutional censorship of scientific learning-teaching-research. It might suprise some of you that MANY of the PUBLIC schools have the same issue between its adminsitration and its teachers….for years I had to be “careful” about how I approached the topic of EVOLUTION. I “had” to state, on more than one occasion, that you do not have to BELIEVE in EVOLUTION, but you have to learn the facts because Univerisities/ACT/etc require it for success. What a JOKE, but I had to do so…had local religious leaders on the school board and even if it was not OFFICIAL school board policy….it was made clear that it was UNDERSTOOD school board policy. I was okay with this at the time because I was NEW to the profession…and I was okay with this later on because I felt that I was “converting” some of the evolution=evil students. Call me niave if you must, and I realize I am not on par with the professors of Wheaton, but please realize that it also happens in PUBLIC or SECULAR institutions as well…..and this HAS TO BE ADDRESSED.

  36. #36 Michael Fugate
    February 10, 2010

    Josh,
    Did you read Andrew Chignell’s article?

  37. #37 Dave Carlson
    February 11, 2010

    I actually attended Wheaton as an undergrad for a couple of years in the early 2000′s, and while I can’t speak for biology department, the anthropology professors definitely subscribed to evolutionary theory–up to and including the evolution of humans from preexisting species.

  38. #38 yum install Jesus
    February 11, 2010

    EVOLUTIONISTS ARE UP IN ARMS ABOUT ONE COLLEGE THAT OCCASIONALLY TREATS THEIR FETID FAITH WITH SOME KIND OF SKEPTICISM. THE EVOLUTION RELIGION REIGNS UNCHALLENGED AT ALMOST EVERY UNIVERSITY IN THE WORLD, YET THE FOLLOWERS OF SATAN AND HIS PROPHET DARWIN ARE WETTING THEIR PANTS OVER ONE LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE THAT HAS THE AUDACITY TO TEACH THAT SOMETHING OTHER THAN RANDOM EXPLOSIONS MADE EVERYTHING COME TO BE!

    THE BANKRUPTCY OF THE EVOLUTION RELIGION IS OBVIOUS TO ANYBODY WHO THINKS. IF EVOLUTIONISM WAS TRUE, THE PLANE CRASH ON THE FATEFUL DAY IN SEPTEMBER WOULD HAVE BUILT A BETTER WORLD TRADE CENTER, AND NOT DESTROYED THE OLD ONE. I DON’T FOLLOW OSAMA BIN LADEN BUT EVEN HE UNDERSTANDS WHAT A LOAD OF NONSENSE DARWINISM IS!

  39. #39 SLC
    February 11, 2010

    Re numbnuts @#38

    The cap key on Mr. numbnuts’ computer seems to be stuck. I suspect that his web site, which claims to advocate a geocentric universe, appears to be a Poe as it is hard to believe that anyone could be this stupid, but, then again, considering the stupidity of Mr. Jon S and Mr. Hopey Changey, maybe it’s for real.

  40. #40 Ron Martin
    February 12, 2010

    If Wheaton instructors are teaching evolution instead of old-earth creationism, which subsumes all of demonstrated, state-of-the-art science (although not anticipated science and speculation about future directions of research) this is unfortuante, an abandonment of the mission of evangelical higher education. By losing assertions that new species arose through mutations of the DNA of genes rather than by miracles of creation, biology loses nothing of value. By loseing macroevolution we lose only metaphysical naturalism.

  41. #41 stvs
    February 12, 2010

    @ yum install jesus

    [root@centos ~]# yum install jesus
    Loaded plugins: fastestmirror
    Loading mirror speeds from cached hostfile
    * addons: centos.omnispring.com
    * base: centos-distro.cavecreek.net
    * extras: centos.mbni.med.umich.edu
    * updates: http://ftp.ussg.iu.edu
    Setting up Install Process
    No package jesus available.
    Nothing to do

  42. #42 clamboy
    February 12, 2010

    public class yumInstallJesus implements IgnorantGoob

    Hmm, better check the API for IgnorantGoob, what methods does that require? Let’s see…

    Right, there’s the falseAnalogy method; the weIsBeingPersecooted method; the yellAtEveryone method; the laLaLaLaCantHearYou method; the evilutionReligion methed; hmmm, several more.

    Well, each one requires pretty much the same syntax, so this should be easy:

    if (statement .equals myFaith)
    System.out.Println “Hallelujah!”
    else System.out.Println “BLEAAUUGGHGHSATANSSTANSATAN!!!!!”

    (And please to be forgiving my inept java, ‘k? I’m just having fun.)

  43. #43 Stephen Early
    February 12, 2010

    I attended Wheaton 1980-1984 and can vouch that the Biology Department did not dispute Evolution, at least to Freshman (I dropped Biology as a major my first year). Being a Creationist of some sort at the time (fluctuating between old and young earth), I found their approach disturbing. I even wrote a rambling “from the heart” letter to the Dept. Head decrying evolution as “impossible” which resulted in a meeting with him. Can’t remember what was said. I think he sympathized with my concern, but that’s about it. Nothing he might have said in support of evolution would have convinced me at the time. Judging from Dr. Chappell’s quotes, it seems to me that they try their best to keep their Evangelical beliefs regarding scriptural inerrancy separate from science without compromising either. How this translates to upper level courses I don’t know. I do have relatives who graduated from Wheaton with Science degrees who remain evangelical but who, as far as I know, do not dispute Evolution.
    The Anthropology Dept. of the time, based on an anecdote, did seem more willing to deal directly with the topic of Human Evolution. A former fundamentalist Christian friend of mine claimed to have “lost their faith” pretty much as a result of having to write a paper providing a Christian justification for the existence of “Australopithecus” (or something like that). I was a bit shocked at the time, but now respect the Dept. for attempting to “make students think” which is good for a college to do, regardless of their overarching worldview. Anyway, interesting article. Thanks. BTW, I am also ever thankful for Talkorigins.org for their carefully reasoned articles which gradually shifted me into accepting Darwinian Evolution in full while still remaining a Christian (Eastern Orthodox)(Christians need to be concerned about whether Christ’s resurrection was historical or not. Genesis, while very important theologically, is not a historical/scientific textbook)

  44. #44 Katharine
    February 13, 2010

    This Chappell woman sounds pretty mentally disturbed if she thinks she’s teaching the same stuff taught at universities.

  45. #45 Neal
    February 16, 2010

    Years of studying evolution and I have never found a good explanation for how it actually happened. Sure there are lots of stories. Our mind is good at filling in blanks. Science requires more than thought experiments. Natural selection, HGT, and mutation are inadequate in their explanations. The origin of life and of the animals is much more complex than evolutionists imagine. They have done science and mankind a great disservice. The storm is coming.

  46. #46 Modusoperandi
    February 16, 2010

    Neal “Natural selection, HGT, and mutation are inadequate in their explanations.”
    But a deital finger snap is what, exactly?

    “The origin of life and of the animals is much more complex than evolutionists imagine.”
    It probably is. That’s why they’re still looking. We do know at this point, and have since at least the 1800s, when people like Lyell noticed that things must be older than a literal reading of, say, the first 31 lines of Genesis indicated. Genesis turned out to be too simple; an obsolete model of the universe. Almost as though people wrote it, extrapolating from what little they knew. Naw, that’s just crazy. God told Moses about it and Moses wrote it down. That’s the only logical solution.

    “They have done science and mankind a great disservice.”
    Considering that your position is not only wrong (and not getting any less wrong), it’s anti-finding-what-right-is, you and yours are the ones doing the disservice.
    If God is, and God did (and does), then He this is how He does it.

  47. #47 Neal
    February 19, 2010

    The disservice of evolutionists is their entrenched thinking that is not honest with the public about all of the weaknesses and failures of the theory. They are living in the Twilight zone and need to come back to reality. Evolutionary theory is not adequate to explain the origin of life nor its concept of common descent. The theory is so fluid that any finding can be retrofitted into the theory with a good story. Someone needs to step back and question its basic assumptions. If the dog can’t hunt, don’t call it a hunting dog.

  48. #48 eric
    February 19, 2010

    Neal: Someone needs to step back and question its basic assumptions.

    Great! When can we expect your research paper? We’ve been waiting 15+ years for Behe’s.

    Wait, don’t tell me, I know the creationist response to this one. You expect us to test your hypotheses for you, and if we don’t do your work for you, that’s a sign that we’re biased, right?

  49. #49 Aquaria
    March 3, 2010

    Evolutionary theory is not meant to describe origins of earth. You’re confusing abiogenesis with evolution. How the earth started has no bearing on the fact that evolution has happened and is happening.

    You fail Evolution 101.

  50. #50 Julie
    October 17, 2010

    At the end of my anthropology class this past summer, our professor showed us some of the PBS evolution series. It was completely mind-boggling to learn that you could be an anthropology major and still not “believe” in evolution at Wheaton. But I guess that’s the whole point of Bible colleges–only some education is okay.

  51. #51 Jeff Greenberg
    December 13, 2010

    I was just looking up references for an article in preparation when I found this blog thing. It is amazing and of course pretty sad to see all the input from individuals with much more opinion than knowledge. Kind of reminds me of the state of political discourse in the USA today.
    My name appears in one post as a Wheaton science professor (in Geology)who appeared on the PBS Evolution episode and as one interviewed for Andrew Chignell’s article, “Whither Wheaton?”
    Please allow me to set a couple of things straight and hopefully rebuke some of the quack comments made in earlier posts.
    #1 Wheaton College teaches REAL science, not YEC or anti-evolutionary nonsense. We do believe that The Creator God is responsible for all that exists and that He used the principles/laws He invented to make it all happen. We are not convinced that any neo-Darwinian mechanism for evolution (random mutations in the sense of no intention or purpose in the results) can be scientifically demonstrated as adequate to explain the intricacies of life now and throughout its approx 3.7 billion-year history.
    #2 We as a Christian community do believe in the uniqueness of humankind among all creatures and that we have a mandated responsibility to our Creator to serve His Creation as stewards.
    #3 Wheaton faculty are not coerced into narrow interpretations of origins (Earth’s, Universe, Life, etc.) by administration or Trustees. I find in many ways that we are freer and less dogmatic about uncertainties than faculty at non-religious institutions. I taught at the Univ. of Wisconsin for nine years before Wheaton.
    #4 As a personal observation, I think it is very poor theology to distort well-established scientific principles that do not SEEM to fit desired interpretations. The opposite is equally true (and those like Dawkins, et al should know better), that a naturalistic-scientific worldview in no way eliminates the existence of the spiritual-”supernatural”. That is, small minds can exclude the possibility of God if they wish, but this does not make it so. Science is a human enterprise and as all real scientists recognize, is therefore fallible.

  52. #52 386sx
    December 13, 2010

    We are not convinced that any neo-Darwinian mechanism for evolution (random mutations in the sense of no intention or purpose in the results) can be scientifically demonstrated as adequate to explain the intricacies of life now and throughout its approx 3.7 billion-year history.

    That’s a lot of fancy words for saying you didn’t come from no dang monkeys.

    That is, small minds can exclude the possibility of God if they wish, but this does not make it so. Science is a human enterprise and as all real scientists recognize, is therefore fallible.

    What small minds? We don’t have no dang monkey minds. We’re specially important minds. That’s a lot fancy words for calling people a poopy-head.

  53. #53 386sx
    December 13, 2010

    That is, small minds can exclude the possibility of God if they wish, but this does not make it so.

    Thank you for the brilliant mischaracterization of science and for your brilliant child-like tautology too. We’ve seen it countless times. “Nya nya that doesn’t make it so, nya.” It’s born out of frustration that you have no evidence, and everything is invisible and never speaks up.

    Also thank you for insulting god’s specially created creatures, Mr. Christian hypocrite college professor dude.

  54. #54 386sx
    December 13, 2010

    Also thank you for insulting god’s specially created creatures, Mr. Christian hypocrite college professor dude.

    Never mind I forgot the Bible is full of hatred and disgust of people who don’t toe whatever unbelievable line the authors happen to be spouting at the moment. You actually might be on solid theological grounds on that one.

  55. #55 david
    December 13, 2010

    @ Wheaton guy

    Actually Wheaton guy I could give a crap that you are a professor of anything or that you taught anywhere for even one day. Pomposity is no argument and goes against you. So you teach “real” science you say. There was a guy on here pointing out the ‘true Scotsman’ fallacy, which is a type of lie, and you just made it. All you are saying is that when you reach the unknown you put God right there, simple enough, and the same that has been done for thousands of years by all religions. But then you drag in all types of vicious nonsense and violent behaviors, and call them Christian.

    You are some type of nincompoop (note the ad hominem well) and probably have no understanding of your violence. You as a stupid professor are giving people something to read, well it’s turnabout now, I’m assigning you to read Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’ I won’t know if you are a sniveling coward that won’t read or understand, but you will know, which is worse.

  56. #56 tresmal
    December 13, 2010

    We are not convinced that any neo-Darwinian mechanism for evolution (random mutations in the sense of no intention or purpose in the results) can be scientifically demonstrated as adequate to explain the intricacies of life now and throughout its approx 3.7 billion-year history.

    Shouldn’t a science professor know better than to resort to logical fallacies (e.g. strawman)?

  57. #57 386sx
    December 13, 2010

    Shouldn’t a science professor know better than to resort to logical fallacies (e.g. strawman)?

    Obviously he is a creationist throwing around scienceytifical buzzwords and thinking up fancy ways of making long sentences to say short things. (Assuming he isn’t a troll.) We don’t even know what he means by “neo-Darwinian”. Could be anything. Who knows.

  58. #58 Jordan Snyder
    December 21, 2010

    I just stumbled upon this, and am waiting for the episode to buffer.
    I am currently a Biology Major at Wheaton, though I have only taken two introductory level courses. In these courses I saw that it was not talked about a lot. I suspected that it would be, but was wrong. That said, it did come up a few times and many students often debated the professor in class about evolution. The professor pulled no punches in terms of destroying a student’s argument for YEC.
    That said, I have not progressed far into the curriculum, but I am definitely open.

  59. #59 originalbloog
    June 11, 2011

    Thanks That said, it did come up a few times and many students often debated the professor in class about evolution. The professor pulled no punches in terms of destroying a student’s argument for YEC.
    That said, I have not progressed far into the curriculum, but I am definitely open.

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