Ben Stein: This Is What Academic Intimidation Looks Like

Despite the ludicrous, over-hyped claims in the movie Expelled about the intimidation of creationist academics, it's pretty clear that when intimidation does occur, it's by creationists against scientists. Here's one example from Science After Sunclipse:

Gwen Pearson taught biology at the Permian Basin branch of the University of Texas, located in the city of Odessa. Her three years as an assistant professor ended with assaults on her integrity and her physical self:

This all became a great deal more serious when I began to get messages on my home answering machine threatening to assist me in reaching hell, where I would surely end up. I also received threatening mail messages: "The Bible tells us how to deal with nonbelievers: 'Bring those who would not have me to reign over them, and slay them before me.' May Christians have the strength to slaughter you and end your pitiful, blasphemous life!"

An envelope containing student evaluations from my evolution class was tampered with. A student wrote a letter to the president of the university claiming that I said in class that "anyone who believes in God gets an F." Despite the fact that she had never been in my class, and it was clearly untrue, a full investigation of the charge ensued.

There were other problems. Often I arrived in class to find "Dr. Feminazi" scrawled on the blackboard. An emotionally disturbed student assaulted me on campus. In town, Maurice Sendak's award-winning book Where the Wild Things Are was removed from school libraries, as it might "confuse children as to the true nature of Beelzebub." The California-based Institute for Creation Research (ICR) preached in the county stadium to 10,000 local people.

I finally resigned when I received an admonition from the dean in my yearly reappointment letter to "accommodate the more intellectually conservative students with a low threshold of offensibility" in my evolution course. Rather than compromise my academic freedom, I chose to leave what seemed to be a dangerous place.

In other words, she refused to accommodate mindless thugs. Prick the skin of the 'kind-hearted' fanatic, and you will always find the boot, the jack, and the fist.

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Chilling. Well, I hope not in it's practical consequences.

By Michael Schmidt (not verified) on 28 Apr 2008 #permalink

And how ironic is it that this happened at the "Permian Basin" branch of the University?

By Michael Schmidt (not verified) on 28 Apr 2008 #permalink

I applaud Gwen Pearson for refusing to frame Evolution in creationist terms.

The radical right and fundies have never been against discrimination, bullying, lynch mob tactics or terroristic threats, or violence. As long as they aren't on the receiving end.

They are so used to receiving preferential treatment that they tend to see equitable, even-handed, treatment as beneath their normal status. As actual discrimination. They get very offended at being treated the same as everyone else.

Offended and assuming they are being discriminated against , and assuming that God is on their side, which excuses any excess in their book, they feel justified in using terrorism to support their cause.

Portrait of things to come in post-Enlightenment America? (fill in the blank) help us all! Often it is hard to believe it is the 21st century. It is? Isn't it?

By a Maine exile (not verified) on 28 Apr 2008 #permalink

They are so used to receiving preferential treatment that they tend to see equitable, even-handed, treatment as beneath their normal status. As actual discrimination. They get very offended at being treated the same as everyone else