THE REVOLT FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM STRIKES AGAIN!
Back in 2009 educatetruth.com appeared online to fan a little breeze over a peculiarly fragrant petunia – theistic creation/evolution – being furtively nurtured in the Department of Biology hothouse at La Sierra University, an institution that, as a seedling, had been rooted upon Genesis 1.
Inasmuch as one of the principals (Dr. Pitman) was a scientist (medical), a hematopathologist, who had also intensely studied the evolution-creation conflict and concluded that the weight of evidence is for Creationism, I expected attention would center on the validity of creation, and also on whether deviation therefrom should be tolerated at a Bible-based institution. As it turned out the heaviest attention was not on heresy but Academic Freedom. Galileo was cited.
At mention of LSU and the Academic Freedom business I perked up my ears because I had graduated from said LSU (’48, then LSC, a College) with a major in biology, and am myself an old medical scientist (LLU school of medicine ‘53).
I noted that the posting protesters were not the scientists but science activists, and seemed to accept as a given that good science should operate totally without restrictions of any kind by anybody, ever. To hear them tell it, what EduTru was advocating was that the LSU scientists – most popular (if secretive), highly awarded, role models, – be shackled, chained, enslaved, gagged...by ecclesiastical authority yet. Evil had erupted all right. It was not what the professors had taught, but that they were to be gagged. The heroes of freedom are not, say, Moses who had the courage to stand against Pharaoh, and the Reformation guardians of Mosaic scripture who once stood against the same ecclesiastical authority that Galileo faced, but the new revolutionaries who have the chutzpah to reject it all. The gagged Galileo is the patron saint of academic scientists, the gag being the magic carpet upon which he ascended to sainthood, like the chariot wafted Elijah. The gag is to scientists as the Shroud of Turin is to relic-reverencing religionists – the symbol of their passion.
Scientists themselves know better, or should. Being one myself, an old professor to boot, I feel impelled to essay that odd notion. In curious ways, sometimes mercifully subtle and sometimes all too blatant, constraints are as familiar in the lab as a Bunsen burner or fire extinguisher. Science lives as much by rules as by data. It was through rules – self-imposed rules famously known as the Scientific Method – that science matured in the 18th and 19th centuries and could, and did, liberate itself from it’s very ancient rather repressive parent, philosophy, and whereby clean science is advanced and fake unregulated science is tossed.
Ideally, the magnificent structure known as the Scientific Method has several variably solid cornerstones laid down in logical sequence, each ruling and supporting the next. As I witnessed and absorbed it as a research fellow for a couple of years in a basic science research lab (physiology of nephrology) at Washington University, these are, 1, the premise, which is the startup “given” (realizing that nothing in this present world can be infinitely certain). Not a question, it is the firm ground, the foundation, from which the experimental activity is launched. 2, Generated by the premise, the hypothesis is an outright and deliberate question the particular experiment is set up to prove or disprove. 3, the data is what you see on the dials of expensive, hopefully accurately calibrated equipment, the most objective and solid part of the whole process. 4, the conclusion, the interpretation ideally drawn only from the data by the disinterested experimenter, the most subjective, ticklish part of the whole process.
Galileo was a loner, but nowadays no scientist is a lab unto himself. All are ensconced in some Science Department in some institute or university, itself funded by and thus beholden to multiple donors, foundations intrinsic and extrinsic, and loans governmental and local, besides the increasing number of regulatory government agencies that somehow have acquired jurisdiction over everything from the sexual orientation of grad students, janitors, and scientists, to aphids in the campus rose garden. Contentedly purring under that serried host of thumbs, layer upon layer of them, our scientist goes after government or private grant money, subject to approval of the application, the heart of which is the proposed “experimental protocol,” jargon for rules.
But there’s more, circling back to the beginning, to the “premise.” If the mother institution is ecclesiastical, the “premise” is more realistically termed dogma, of which the scientists are famously aware and compliant, either enthusiastically or reticently, or worse. If the institution is secular, the scientists usually aren’t even aware of the thumbs. What thumbs? We don’t feel any thumbs. Academics are smart people. That’s a given. So why is it that sometimes when the thumb comes down like pile driver and you’d expect the professors in agony to be struggling desperately to dislodge it, the victims are smiling and contorting themselves to reach up and pull it down harder. Oh please! Spank me harder! Feels so good!
So here we have LSU, tithe-funded and founded on the premise of God and Scripture which should be the most liberating thing in the cosmos, specifically Genesis 1 and teaching science accordingly, yet which now somehow is in violation of Academic Freedom, fomenting this revolt for Academic Freedom. Just down the road the University of California Riverside, tax-funded, operating under evolved science, and accordingly teaching Darwinism – Darwinism, once a theory and now the law, having evolved into the most implacable slave master (with the most well-endowed thumb) of Academic Freedom on the planet. What slave master? We don’t see any slave master! We see the Master Science!
How doth science suffer? -- let me count the ways.
Anyway, the storm abated. EduTru moved on to other matters, notably its overriding focus on the mounting scientific evidence for Creationism.
But now, 8 years after La Sierra University (LSU), the Academic Freedom storm has struck Adventist academia again. This is where we came in. But ground zero this time was not the Science Department but the School of Theology, the Seminary, the very heart of Adventist theology, at Andrews University.
Science vaulted into true Academic Freedom when it tore itself loose from philosophy, to which it for millennia was but a puppy on a leash, but now has regressed into Darwinism which is more like philosophy, or even religion, than Golden Age science. And the Reformation was Christianity’s historic liberation from the prevailing brand of imperious Christianity, which in the 3-4th centuries had become more Platonic philosophy (chair-born pure reasoning) than apostolic gospel. If Darwin now owns Evolution, Plato has always owned philosophy. If our Science Departments, in the name of higher science, are turning their allegiance to Darwin, our Religion Departments, in the name of higher enlightenment, seem to have taken to saluting old Plato.
Online coverage of the Seminary rumpus has been rightly assumed by spectrummagazine.org, as it is famously disposed towards Philosophy emergent and ancient. So I bow and defer to Spectrum, wincing at its hot breath. (LINK, LINK, LINK).
If the General Conference’s response to the LSU science rumble had been measured and way short of shackles, the GC’s response to the seminary revolt, as cordially reported by Spectrum, was vigorous, and the heavy equipment was rolled out, sirens blaring.
According to Spectrum, The IBMTE (International Board of Ministerial and Theological Education), A GC entity, as Spectrum took pains to point out, issued a 35-page sacerdotal bull requiring teachers of religion to sign a pledge – termed a “process of endorsement” -- to work within guidelines, including “the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists,” the “Code of Ethics for Seventh-day Adventist Educators, Academic and Theological Freedom and Accountability,” and established SDA Methods of Bible Study. Also, teachers would be required to submit copies of all of their publications for review.
This deluge of GC paper simply added fuel to the inferno. And, in my opinion, Spectrum’s backlash stoked the fire. “The Presidents of Adventist Colleges and Universities in North America,” Spectrum announced, “in an unprecedented act of solidarity, unanimously voted a statement saying they are ‘fundamentally unable to support the proposed IBMTE endorsement process.’” Spectrum adjudged the process “a stunning betrayal of Adventist Identity,” “Utterly Alien to the Soul of Adventism,” “corrupt and corrupting.” Not to mention Adventist Academic Freedom, and for good measure, Adventist culture, global culture, relevant mutant mores, throw in Galileo, multipurpose stuff routinely applied across the spectrum.
Backing off from fire brands coming at it from all sides, the GC apparently ordained the seminary itself to issue its own regulation, the wording of which, as I read it, was rather less incendiary, perhaps a little diffident. Bearing the title, to Spectrum oxymoronic, “Delimitation of Academic Freedom,” it proclaimed that the regulations had been generated within the Seminary itself, which “values and promotes academic freedom… our freedom,” but expects “firm support of and commitment to the beliefs and lifestyle of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” This the faculty was invited, not required, to sign. Spectrum shuddered, seeing even the seminary’s delicate invitation to reaffirmation as enslavement, morally (and sinfully, only sin isn’t an academic property), not to mention academically, unacceptable. And so forth.
To me these two Revolts for Adventist Academic Freedom seem but vegetarian imitations, provincial and nationally ignored, of the big-time universally reported eruptions from UC Berkeley to the Sorbonne to Oxford, using such modalities of higher learning as childishly worded protest signs, megaphones, bricks, screaming, and fire.
But all such Academic revolts are sequels of the world’s first Freedom Revolt at the Garden of Eden, the first institution of higher knowledge, with the first visiting professor challenging the established paradigm, alas, successfully. Rolling his eyes and uttering the first Socratic questions, he asked, “Did God tell you that? Do you not catch it? He wants freedom for Himself, not you. For you He wants rules, commandments! Suppression! Suppression of a better knowledge by which you shall be like gods! Seriously, the scientific evidence is all against everything He told you. And I can prove it -- on myself!” And he did. The megaphones and Molotov cocktails would come later.
Actually the revolt for freedom, any crazy kind, began untold eons before that, in heaven itself, with Satan the Father of all Revolts-for-Freedom using the same arguments he would use in the Garden of Eden, U.C. Berkeley, LSU, Andrews U., and Zuccotti Park.
Adventists have had a trademark doctrine, to wit, The Great Controversy, (I see it as the Great Cosmic Academic Revolt), to be terminated only with the termination of the provocateur in the lake of fire. Only then can God-created, God-defined, un-tweaked and un-mutated and un-spun freedom – the freedom to listen to God without our conversation being jammed and scrambled – only then can that pure and honest freedom happen again.
That’s the Freedom I yearn for.
Dr. Kime was born 1929 in Los Angeles, California.
Kime pursued dual careers in art (since childhood) and medicine (physician; specialties in internal medicine and pathology; clinical and academic). He studied the principles of art, chemistry of paint, and the works of master artists as assiduously as medicine. After retiring from pathology at Kettering Medical Center in 1994, Dr. Kime has concentrated on his art, producing portraits, seascapes and figural work mainly in oils, and urbanscapes predominantly in watercolor. Dr. Kime currently lives in Redlands, CA.