The Mistreatment of Darwin Doubters 

A Review of the book, Slaughter of the Dissidents, by Jerry Bergman

Review by Wayne Spencer

The book from Dr. Jerry Bergman, "Slaughter of the Dissidents" is an excellent resource regarding discrimination of people that question Darwinism in science and education.  Not only does the book delve into case details to show clearly that there was discrimination, but it also gives great insight into the mindset motivating such discrimination.  As the first to be released of a three volume set, "Slaughter of the Dissidents" is a thorough treatment of the issue of the unfair treatment of individuals who doubt or speak out against evolution.  The release of the movie, "Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed" has led to many evolutionists questioning the claim that there is discrimination occurring in cases of people losing jobs or degrees because of taking an anti-evolution point of view.  Such evolutionists deny that there is unfair treatment in such cases and claim instead that there were legitimate reasons for what happened in these cases.  But there are many examples of highly regarded individuals who had impeccable qualifications and yet were not treated fairly but rather were denied their rights over their beliefs and over questioning evolution.  The unfair discriminatory nature of these cases is clear because of the significant detail provided in Slaughter of the Dissidents.  There are also other examples in the book that provide only limited details in order to protect the identity and the career of the individual involved.  This book series is needed to present a thorough well-documented argument for discrimination and increase general awareness of the problem.  

Slaughter of the Dissidents includes some significant contributors in addition to Jerry Bergman.  Introductions were written by both the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and Dr. John Eidsmoe.  Eidsmoe's Introduction gives a strong endorsement of the book from someone with very extensive legal qualifications.  Eidsmoe also commented on what happened to Jerry Bergman, in his tenure denial case.  Jerry Bergman writes the Preface.  Kevin Wirth wrote the first chapter in the book, titled, "A Context for Discrimination Against Darwin Skeptics."  Wirth is associated with the Access Research Network and has written extensively on the Dover, Pennsylvania School Board case.  In my judgement Bergman's Preface and Wirth's chapter alone are worth the price of the book.  Both of these sections are very insightful on the nature of the discrimination and the disrespect of those who question evolutionary ideas.  They list many different means used to discriminate against skeptics of Darwinism.  Wirth addresses the common misconception that creationist organizations and Intelligent Design advocates have worked with the deliberate goal of getting their religious views taught in public schools.  Wirth rightly points out that the Answers in Genesis organization has never actively sought to get creation taught in public schools.  This is actually the perspective taken by most creation and Intelligent Design (I.D.) organizations.  I would like to see the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) mentioned as well since ICR has maintained a similar position for many years.  However the ICR position on this is not addressed in the book.   

The book uses the term "Darwin Doubters" as a generic term to refer to both biblical scientific creationists and people of the Intelligent Design movement.  Yet, it most certainly does not confuse the two groups.  It actually is very clear on the differences between biblical creationists and those of the I.D. persuasion.  Discrimination does affect both groups in similar ways and the book gives example individuals representing both groups.  The many case examples detailed in the book include cases of well known individuals mentioned by name, as well as some individuals whose are not revealed.  The cases include graduate students being denied degrees, students receiving grades lower than they deserved, students being denied admission to graduate programs,  teachers not being allowed to teach the problems of evolution, and professors or teachers being dismissed from their jobs.  Even though I have been aware of these type of situations over the years, I have been surprised at the harsh and brazen nature of some of the mistreatment.  

How far will it go?
There are so many cases where well qualified people have been mistreated, often with very difficult negative consequences for their careers and livelihoods.  In a few cases there has even been arson, or death threats, or other violence perpetrated either against "Darwin Doubters" or against people who aided them in some way.  There are also individual evolutionists who have set out on a campaign to convince others that even people who obtain degrees, who later are found to be creationists, should have their degrees retracted by the universities after the fact!  Some of the extreme reactions and mistreatment of creationists and I.D. advocates should really be considered hate crimes.  But in our society these cases are not usually thought of as hate crimes.  It seems courts do not uphold the freedom of students, scientists, teachers, professors, and others to doubt Darwinism and remain in a scientific career.  Some have remained in their scientific careers, thankfully.  The book also makes the point that schools and universities tend to allow evolution to be taught only from an atheistic point of view.  Persons who believe in a Creator and also accept the mechanism of evolution are often treated the same as a young-age creationist who believes the Bible.  When discrimination occurs and the victim seeks legal recourse, the courts rarely rule in favor of Darwin Doubters.

It is clear that many in the scientific community feel that college students should not be allowed to complete degrees or have a scientific career if they do not believe in Darwinistic evolution.  The issue is not whether they are able to understand evolution and demonstrate competence in their discipline.  Bergman shows clearly that in a number of cases the issue came down to what the student believed, not their knowledge of their field.  Bergman gives a few examples of college students that earned high grades and received much support from their major professor while believing in evolution but later after their point of view on evolution changed or they became a Christian, the professor who had supported them turned against them.  These cases demonstrate that the issue is a conflict of beliefs and fundamental values and also how institutions enforce beliefs, and not matters of the technical competence of the individual in question.  The entire problem demonstrates a need for changes in the academic world to prevent unfair treatment in graduate admissions as well as teaching positions and tenure decisions.  Freedom of speech is important to Americans, but universities are effectively enforcing certain beliefs (Darwinism and naturalism) as part of scientific training.  Consideration of , or even mention of, alternative ideas opposing the accepted evolutionary thinking in practical terms can lead to a loss of legal rights to pursue the career of one's own choice.  When this discrimination takes place the priorities of freedom of speech and religious expression are totally set aside, and the scientific community often believes that setting these freedoms aside is justified in science.  

Though many examples of discrimination in the book involve science teachers, a very interesting case is that of Ray Webster, a junior-high public school social studies teacher in Illinois.  This case is particularly interesting to me because it involved a social studies teacher wanting to discuss information critical of evolution in a social studies class.  A number of evolutionist scientists and educators have said that creationism should be discussed in social studies courses, rather than in science courses. This has even been the official position of the California State Board of Education, for example.  However, for a teacher to actually attempt this is risky, in spite of it being endorsed by the California Board of Education.  In the Webster case, not only did a public school district not allow presentation of information critical of Darwinism in a non-science class, but a U.S. District Court in Northern Illinois ruled Ray Webster could not teach the information in a social studies class.  This case illustrates not only the unreasonable actions of the school district but that the US District court actually acted inconsistent with a United States Supreme Court's opinion and inconsistent with other cases that defended the freedoms of teachers supporting evolution.  There is clear viewpoint discrimination in education and the Webster case demonstrates this starkly.  Note that what happened to Ray Webster does not happen to all teachers in all public schools in all communities.  I think the book could be clearer that there are exceptions in some schools to this discrimination problem.  

On the other hand, the schools that do not suppress criticism of evolution could become sites of a legal battle at any time.  In the Ray Webster case, after Webster had taught social studies for years, one day a particular student claimed that he violated the separation of church and state.  The student contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  School district leaders are often very intimidated by organizations such as the ACLU because a legal battle against the ACLU can cost a school district a great deal of money, and such battles against the ACLU are often lost in court.  The involvement of the ACLU is brought out especially well in Slaughter of the Dissidents by the case of Roger DeHart, a high school science teacher in Washington state.  He went from being a very well-regarded teacher to being severely restricted in what he could teach and eventually was pressured out of his job by dishonest means.  The ACLU has often turned the will of a school district against the popular opinion of citizens in the community regarding teaching origins and other issues of religious expression.

In public schools and on many college campuses, it is not acceptable to present both sides in a balanced way, avoiding trying to persuade students of any particular religious view.  The reason it is not acceptable is that only a naturalistic atheistic view of origins is allowed.  Thus an evolutionist teacher would be able to present information about both evolution and creationism if they put creationism in a negative light and attempted to persuade students of atheistic evolution.   But a teacher believing creation or I.D. would not be allowed to do the same in a neutral manner that does not take sides regarding origins or particular religious views.  Multiple examples of this are provided in the book.

Returning to the Ray Webster case, in 1987 Webster had taught in a junior high school in New Lenox, Illinois, near Chicago.  After his student went to the ACLU the district Superintendent sent Webster a letter saying he was only allowed to teach information in favor of evolution and he could not teach about both sides.  It seems that Webster was attempting to teach in a very careful balanced way that acknowledged most scientists believed evolution and did not pressure students toward any particular religious ideas.  But the Superintendent told him he could not cover both sides on origins.  He could not teach even a theistic evolution perspective (only a non-theistic evolutionary view was acceptable), and was told not to bring up Christian viewpoints on any social issues!

The following list is from Kevin Wirth's chapter in Slaughter of the Dissidents (Chapter 1).  I have paraphrased to explain each issue and put them into a fairly brief list.  Wirth provides significant detail on all these points.  This summarizes the various dimensions of the environment in science and education that leads to unfair mistreatment of individuals questioning evolutionary concepts.

Factors determining the climate of discrimination in academia and beyond 

  1. General intolerance of religious views in academia
  2. The establishment clause of the constitution is used to justify the loss of freedom to challenge Darwinism.  This is not appropriate because it misunderstands the intent of the Darwin Doubters and neglects their rights to freedom of speech and expression.
  3. Critics (of Darwin Doubters) claim that any dissent is religious, even if dissent from the prevailing views is based on scientific arguments.
  4. Darwinists claim or imply that religious people are not qualified to teach or practice science.
  5. There is a prevailing view that any mention of or allusion to religious ideas amounts to promoting a certain religion, therefore it is neutral only to not allow mention of religion.  This is the myth of religious neutrality.  Far from being neutral, this actually results in enforced atheism.
  6. The tenure review process is broken.  Tenure review and approval in academia today facilitates discrimination without accountability.  A tenure candidate is often rejected in practical terms based on his religious beliefs, in spite of excellent academic qualifications.
  7. The courts have often allowed organizations hostile to religious faith to set the agenda and define what is orthodox science.  The courts have also allowed antireligious entities to define what constitutes religious practice in the context of court cases.  This ignores the legitimate legal rights of the Darwin Doubters.  Related to this, in academia and in the courts, there is a failure to recognize that an idea presented in a classroom setting can come from a religious source and still not have the effect of promoting religion.
  8. Critics of Darwin Doubters have tended to lump all of those questioning evolution into one category.  But, creationists have different views on origins than those of the Intelligent Design persuasion.
  9. Most people base their understanding of evolution on an extensively promoted reputation of the evidence and speculative interpretations of it, not on an actual knowledge of the evidence.  
  10. Evolution is a concept that "coasts on its own reputation" so that inappropriate extrapolations from limited evidence are often allowed or glossed over.  
  11. Students are often singled out and are victims of inappropriate discriminatory comments by professors or teachers who write letters of recommendation for them or make notes on their transcripts regarding their possible religious views.
  12. Scientific journals consistently practice viewpoint discrimination and censorship by not allowing publication of worthy scholarly papers by qualified authors who question Darwinism.  Often the rejection of the paper is justified with a statement to the effect that "the paper did not meet scientific standards."  In actuality, other papers that do not meet reasonable standards are sometimes published when they support evolution.  It is the negative implications for Darwinism that is the real reason for the rejection of the paper, not how the paper is written or the nature of the evidence.  
  13. The scientific community, the courts, and the media are hypocritical in that they engage in a campaign to convince the public there is no conflict between science and religion while at the same time, harsh measures are taken to eliminate Darwin Doubters from science and academia.  Kevin Wirth describes these harsh measures as "extremely predatory."  
  14. Critics of Darwin Doubters charge that leading creationists and I.D. advocates are trying to force the teaching of their religious views in public science classrooms.  Creationists and I.D. advocates have differing views on how origins concepts should be taught, but neither group want to force public science classes to teach creation or intelligent design or any particular religious views.  I would add my own comment (not in Bergman's book) that it is primarily public school parents and certain doubters of Darwinism in state and local governments who have pushed to force by law changes in how science is taught.
  15. Critics of Darwin Doubters tend to present a case as if the Darwin Doubters completely reject everything about evolution.  This is not accurate at all.  Even Biblical creationists allow for some biological change.  Darwin Doubters vary on what mechanisms they accept and what they do not accept of evolutionary theory.  
  16. Many Darwinists are extremely unwilling to question accepted evolutionary ideas, regardless of where the evidence comes from or the credentials of the person questioning Darwinism.
  17. Scientists, professors, and science teachers not only must demonstrate competence in their field, they must believe accepted ideas regarding origins and worldview, or there are often adverse consequences for their career.  Demonstrating competence in their field is not enough if they question accepted ideas about Darwinism or if what they verbalize could be taken to allow for theism.  
  18. Darwinists are often guilty of "confirmation bias."  This is where the researcher unwittingly comes to biased conclusions or inappropriately selects the data so as to arrive at a desired result that supports Darwinism.  The lack of willingness to consider non-evolutionary ideas makes scientists see what they want to see and only come to conclusions other Darwinists will accept.  

There are many case studies in Slaughter of the Dissidents that deserve mention but are not discussed in this brief review. Professors, tenure-track college instructors, college students, research scientists, and secondary teachers are all represented.  These individuals deserve to be commended for the excellent work they have done and for how they have stood up under unfair treatment.  I suspect that many in the general public would not approve of how they were treated if they really understood what happened.  

The Slaughter of the Dissidents book is a very enlightening expose' of the discrimination taking place in America against individuals questioning evolution.  It details cases where good educators and scientists have been treated very harshly and unfairly.  Americans need to be more aware of this problem.  It should not be illegal to question a concept such as evolution in science education, yet this seems to be the current state of affairs in the United States based on the information in this book.  Slaughter of the Dissidents is a harsh sounding title yet it is appropriate because of the harsh treatment many good people have received just because they have questioned evolution concepts or allowed students to question evolution.  This is the first in a three volume set of books that documents clearly what happens to individuals in science and other fields who have stood for honesty and integrity in education regarding evolution, often with great cost to their careers.     

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