Yesterday our friend Hugh Hewitt challenged us to comment on the story of a Texas Tech professor who refuses to write recommendations on behalf of biology students who decline to profess a belief in Darwinian evolution. I happened to hear Hugh discussing this issue with Eugene Volokh on Hugh’s radio show Thursday evening.
Professor Volokh seemed to assume that someone who doesn’t believe in evolution is a harmless crank, who should not on that account be barred from pursuing a career in, say, medicine. My own view is different. I think that Darwin’s theory of macroevolution is plainly wrong, on strictly scientific grounds. So to bar a student from progressing in his career because he refuses to sign on to what is, in my view, a rather obvious fraud, which cannot withstand the mildest scrutiny, is really an outrage. It is no different from the practice in Soviet Russia of promoting only biologists who believed (or pretended to believe) in the theories of Lamarck, who argued that acquired traits could be inherited. But Darwinism is the official religion of the biological (and more generally, the scientific) establishment, and as such is rigorously enforced.
One could argue (as Volokh did, if I remember the conversation correctly) that, apart from the merits of the issue, a professor is under no duty to write a recommendation for a student, and therefore should be able, legally and morally, to refrain from recommending any student on any non-discriminatory basis. But discrimination against Christians, observant Jews and conservatives is much more prevalent in our society than race or sex discrimination (putting aside, of course, affirmative action). The reality is that in the academic world, and to a lesser degree in the business world, being a liberal and subscribing to the liberal creed on subjects like abortion and affirmative action are qualities that, while not necessary, are certainly desirable for promotion. (It is the social and cultural issues that are key; tax policy is optional.)
As to the Texas Tech professor, I doubt that he is very atypical. Karl Popper argued long ago that Darwin’s theory of evolution was never a matter of science; it was always about faith. As the empirical foundations of Darwinism have crumbled under attack by a new generation of biologists, especially microbiologists, its advocates have become increasingly shrill and sectarian. This particular professor’s mistake was to announce publicly that he refused to write recommendations for some of his students. If he had kept quiet and simply written qualified, reserved recommendations for his skeptical students, while saving his enthusiastic endorsements for the true believers, there would have been no controversy. And his practice would, I suspect, have mirrored that of most of his peers.
The great fault line in our society is not economic. It is cultural, and specifically, religious. What motivates liberals to launch their increasingly wild and intemperate assaults on conservatives is, in most cases, their fear and hatred of the “religious right.” (This is, I think, what principally motivates the Bush-haters, whose venom is so puzzling to those of us who see the President as–whether one agrees with his policies or not–an obviously good man.) It is an article of faith (and I mean the word “faith” very literally) that religious people are dumb, irrational, retrograde, and doomed to extinction.
Unfortunately for the left, religious people in this country, as in Latin America, Africa and Asia–everywhere but western Europe–aren’t going away. And to a degree that frustrates and confounds the left, they frequently aren’t stupid. To take just one example of many, I read an article a couple of years ago in the Harvard Law School alumni magazine about a young woman who had just achieved the highest grade average in the history of the law school–higher than Frankfurter, higher than Brandeis, higher than any of countless titans of the legal profession. She was a devout Mormon from Salt Lake City, who, when she was not studying law or (if my memory is correct) performing piano concerts, taught Sunday school to LDS children in Boston. I am afraid, however, that her achievement was possible only because law students’ examinations are identified only by number, not by name. If her professors had known whose tests they were grading, I doubt very much that she could have done so well.
This is more than enough for now on a large subject. Deacon and Trunk, feel free to weigh in. And I would be curious to know whether the Rocket Prof thinks I am too hard on academia.
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