Tag Archives: Free Speech

Dan Barker debates Casey Luskin on academic freedom

Two ninjas face off at sundown
Two ninjas face off at sundown

The Michael Medved show is a national radio show broadcast out of Seattle, Washington. According to Talkers magazine, he has the fifth largest radio audience.

The MP3 file is available for download. (38 minutes)

The description is:

On this episode of ID the Future, the CSC’s Casey Luskin and atheist Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation debate academic freedom and free speech on the Medved Show. This debate was inspired by the ongoing case of Professor Eric Hedin, a physicist at Ball State University who is being threatened by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for favorably portraying intelligent design in the classroom.

Topics: (note that I am paraphrasing Dan Barker for the sake of humor, and he will probably sue me, since that is his entire contribution to the search for truth in this debate)

  • Michael Medved: untenured Ball State University professor Eric Hedin is under fire for teaching both sides of intelligent design in a college course
  • Dan Barker: this complaint against professor Hedin came to our attention from Jerry Coyne not from students of Professor Hedin
  • Dan Barker: professors are not allowed to question the presuppositions atheism, materialism, naturalism in the physics classroom
  • Dan Barker: this is a science course and you cannot question the religion of naturalism in class or else it’s teaching religion
  • Dan Barker: we need to use the power of the courts to stifle any dissent from of my religion (naturalism)
  • Dan Barker: the classroom of a university is not the proper place for students to inquire about both sides of scientific disputes
  • Dan Barker: even if students are paying their money and choosing this course of their own free will, they can’t be allowed to hear both sides
  • Casey Luskin: this course is not a science course, it is open to non-science students
  • Casey Luskin: the course evaluations from students of all majors is overwhelmingly positive
  • Casey Luskin: the course features people on both sides
  • Casey Luskin: the course features brilliant scholars like Lennox and Penrose, both from Oxford University
  • Casey Luskin: the course features opponents of intelligent design like Francis Collins and Karl Gilberson
  • Casey Luskin: the course features non-Christians like Lee Spetner, Paul Davies, Roger Penrose and Gerald Schroeder
  • Dan Barker: (taking over the host) you cannot study scientists like Francis Collins who mapped the human genome, that is “creationism”
  • Michael Medved: academic freedom allows professors to put a slant on what they are teaching
  • Dan Barker: if the professor’s slant is against my religion of naturalism, then I have to put them in jail and inquisition them
  • Dan Barker: you cannot teach science like the Big Bang and fine-tuning  as if it is science because it contradicts naturalism
  • Casey Luskin: Even radical atheist PZ Myers says that professors have the right to academic freedom
  • Dan Barker: I’ll burn that creationist at the stake, too! And smash his filthy microscopes and telescopes!
  • Michael Medved: Casey, would you use state power to fire a professor who disagreed with you because you were offended?
  • Casey Luskin: no, I had to take tons of courses from professors who had a slant against my views and I learned a lot from different views
  • Dan Barker: you will address me as the Holy Father, please! Every professor who disagrees with my religion must burn!
  • Casey Luskin: Barker has no idea what is going on in the class, he never attended it
  • Casey Luskin: The atheists students who took his class gave him high ratings and said he graded fairly
  • Dan Barker: I don’t have to look through the telescope to know the Earth is flat – Hedin is a traitor! Off with his head!
  • Dan Barker: Creationist PZ Myers is wrong, and I’ll burn him at the stake for creationist heresy against my Holy Church!
  • Dan Barker: Oxford professors like John Lennox are creationists because his Big Bang religion is grounded on experimental data like the cosmic background radiation, the hydrogen/helium abundances and the redshifting of light from distant galaxies
  • Dan Barker: I have a degree in Religion and I write hymns, which makes me smarter than John Lennox since he is a “creationist”
  • Dan Barker: I haven’t published any scientific research myself, but I have written some atheist praise hymns, so I am qualified to burn the heretics!
  • Michael Medved: The course is taught by someone with a PhD in Physics, and the syllabus says that it investigates science and religion
  • Michael Medved: Why is it wrong to investigate the science that questions philosophical assumptions like naturalism and materialism?
  • Casey Luskin: The syllabus features amazing readings from all the latest science relevant to that question from both sides
  • Michael Medved: What will Ball State U do to the professor?
  • Casey Luskin: So far no action from Ball State U, but people need to sign the petition to protect the professor
  • Michael Medved: Isn’t academic freedom being applied inconsistently here?
  • Casey Luskin: Yes and science is supposed to move forward by disagreement and debate
  • Casey Luskin: How confident can intelligent design censors really be if their contribution to the debate is coercion and intimidation?
  • Michael Luskin: Is Dan Barker right to say that Oxford professor John Lennox is a “creationist”?
  • Casey Luskin: Creationism starts with the Bible, but intelligent design starts with scientific data

And there is a period of questions from the callers. This episode features a debate, so it is not to be missed.

Now Dan Barker sounded pretty confident in that debate, so you might be surprised by his academic background:

Dan became a teenage evangelist at age 15. At 16 he was choir librarian for faith-healer Kathryn Kuhlman’s Los Angeles appearances. He received a degree in Religion from Azusa Pacific University and was ordained to the ministry by the Standard Community Church, California, in 1975.

[…]Dan preached for 19 years. He maintained an ongoing touring musical ministry, including eight years of full-time, cross-country evangelism. An accomplished pianist, record producer, arranger and songwriter, he worked with Christian music companies such as Manna Music and Word Music. For a few years, Dan wrote and produced the annual “Mini Musicale” for Gospel Light Publications’ Vacation Bible School curriculum.

I’m not sure if Dan Barker has the right background for disputing whether intelligent design belongs in a classroom or not. Remember, the bulk of his life was spent writing and singing feel-good, happy-clappy songs. In his debates with Christians, it’s quite clear that he is totally unequipped to assess scientific evidence from the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, or habitability. It’s just not his thing, and I don’t think that musicians have what it takes to understand those arguments enough to feel comfortable using the courts to suppress people with actual PhDs in science.

You can read more about my opinion about how Dan Barker arrived at his atheism through a mistaken view of the Christian life.

I subscribe to the ID the Future podcast, and I really recommend that you do as well!

Supreme Court rules for free speech and against big government

“Freedom of Speech” by Norman Rockwell

This happy Friday story is from The Daily Signal.

Excerpt:

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court struck down a town’s sign ordinance as an unconstitutional, content-based regulation of speech. This ruling for free speech means the government can’t pick and choose what speech deserves more protection based on the content of the speech.

Like most other towns in America, Gilbert, Ariz., regulates when, where and how signs may be displayed around town. Temporary non-commercial signs are classified by their content, and each category has its own set of regulations.

Real estate signs, for example, may be up to 80 square feet, and political signs may be up to 32 square feet; political signs may be displayed for four and a half months before an election, including in the public right of way; and homeowners’ association event signs may be displayed for 30 days.

The Good News Community Church, which holds services at different facilities such as local schools because it doesn’t have a permanent church, uses signs to invite people to services. Because the signs include directional information (i.e., an arrow pointing to the location of the service), they may not be bigger than 6 square feet and can go up only 12 hours before their Sunday services start, meaning the signs are posted late on Saturday night when they are hard to see in the dark.

The church challenged the town’s sign code in 2007 as an impermissible content-based restriction on speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district court in Arizona upheld the sign code, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, finding that there was no evidence that the town adopted its sign code for a discriminatory purpose.

Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Good News Community Church, concluding that these sign restrictions are content-based regulation because they define the categories of temporary, political and ideological signs on the basis of their messages and subject each category to different restrictions. As Justice Clarence Thomas points out,

If a sign informs its reader of the time and place a book club will discuss John Locke’s ‘Two Treatises of Government,’ that sign will be treated differently from a sign expressing the view that one should vote for one of Locke’s followers in an upcoming election, and both signs will be treated differently from a sign expressing an ideological view rooted in Locke’s theory of government.

The court found that these restrictions are subject to, and do not survive, strict scrutiny because the town did not demonstrate that the differentiation furthers a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly drawn. Assuming the town has a compelling interest in preserving its aesthetic appeal and traffic safety, the code’s distinctions are highly underinclusive.

Thus, the town cannot claim that placing strict limits on temporary directional signs is necessary to beautify the town when other types of signs create the same problem, and it did not show that temporary directions signs pose a greater threat to public safety than ideological or political signs.

Here’s the first amendment to the Constitution, which allows freedom of speech and free exercise of religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Thank God that I live in a country where those words still have meaning, although you would never know it if you walked onto a university campus. Seems like free speech doesn’t apply there, because people on the secular left are so easily offended by different opinions than their own.

A friend from Ireland reports on their referendum on same-sex marriage

Ireland 2015 Same-Sex Marriage Referendum
Ireland 2015 Same-Sex Marriage Referendum

I got an e-mail from a friend in Ireland about the referendum they just had where the pro-marriage side lost by a margin of 62-38.

He writes:

Hope you don’t mind the link suggestions but I’ve listed some interesting articles from the marriage referendum in Ireland. I’m from the North part of Ireland so I couldn’t vote but some of the vitriol and hatred from the so-called “tolerant” left was absolutely vile. From “all the no voters should be murdered” to “why don’t all you no voters jump into a well”, it was fairly clear to see just what the true colours were.

The slogans all around the country were “marriage equality for all”. By hijacking the term “equality”, this effectively suggested that any naysayers are just vile, intolerant bigots. It wouldn’t be like the secular left to shut down discussion now would it?

[…]What I think you may be interested in is the sheer scale of the bullying that went on here. “Vote No” posters were ripped down, eggs were thrown at no campaigners and a young child was even hurt at a demonstration. Virtually all discussion was closed and no debate was allowed with respect to the politicians. All parties were enforcing the whip and any dissenters would no doubt be expelled from the party. Then you have to throw in the huge corporations that have offices in Ireland like Google, Microsoft and Twitter. They all have policies which promote diversity and inclusion so how would any no-voters who happen to be employees of these companies feel when their employer takes a political stance?

He understands the problem with the redefinition of marriage so that it is based on “love” rather than a lifelong commitment centered around producing and raising children:

What frustrates me about this slogan is that they absolutely were not about “marriage equality for all”. They still place limits on marriage such as close relatives, young children or indeed other topologies of relationship such as polyamory.

It seems to be that marriage in Ireland from this point forward is just some genderless institution for the purposes of validating love. Perhaps the government will introduce some means-testing to ensure that the love of those involved really is valid!

Yes, that’s the problem with love, it comes and goes. And that’s why male-male and female-female relationships are so short lived. If marriage is about feelings of love and self-fulfillment, rather than the needs of the children you make to have a mom and a dad who love them and care about them, then it does not last. Period. (Aside: and that’s why you never marry a woman who rejects responsibilities, expectations, and obligations for fun and thrills!)

Here are his three links:

  1. Ireland’s ‘tolerant’ elite now demonise anyone who opposes gay marriage
  2. Ireland’s gay marriage vote was never an equal contest
  3. Asking questions about funding for referendum campaign

I had already read the first two, but not the third. I really recommend reading the first one, so you can reflect on where your money is going when you choose to patronize big corporations, and when you vote for parties on the secular left, as many Christians do.

Just briefly from the first:

The president, Michael D Higgins, and the prime minister, Enda Kenny, back gay marriage. So does virtually every politician. Indeed, the main parties are enforcing the party whip on gay marriage, meaning any Senator or TD who votes against it is likely to be expelled from his or her party. According to the Irish Independent, even politicians who harbour ‘reservations about this major legislative change’ are not speaking out, ‘for fear of disobeying the party whip’.

[…]The public sector also backs gay marriage. It’s apparently being strongarmed to do so. According to one dissenting politician — the only one — ‘agencies who receive state funding are being pressured [by officials] into supporting a Yes vote’.

Silicon Valley is fully behind Yes: Twitter, Google and eBay have all come out for gay marriage. Twitter’s Irish boss says a Yes victory will enhance ‘Ireland’s international reputation’ — another way of saying that if you vote No, you are damaging your own country. Even the police are saying Yes: the Garda Representative Association caused a stir by calling on its members to support gay marriage, leading some to wonder if it’s right for coppers to stick their truncheons into politics.

So, the armed wing, political wing and chattering wing of the Irish elite is behind Yes.

The second article mentions that U.S.-based gay activist groups bankrolled the Yes side effort:

I suppose it is possible that the vote would have been quite as conclusive – roughly 60:40 – if the debate had not been both staggeringly one-sided and the Yes campaign had not been bankrolled so overwhelmingly by US pressure groups. Certainly the youth vote would have gone that way anyway.

[…]But one of its in-house dissidents – the impression of balance is desirable – is Breda O’Brien, a Catholic commentator, who rather put the cat among the pigeons with a piece on 9 May on the funding for the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) and other lobby groups by a US organisation called Atlantic Philanthropies. The striking thing about the donations was not just their size – $4.7 million to Glen in 2005-11, nearly $475,000 to Marriage Equality; some $11.5 million to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, 2001-213 – but that they refer to years before the referendum debate got under way. I can’t wait to see the actual figures for the campaign itself. By comparison the No campaign got by, I gather, on a shoestring budget of about 200,000 euros.

So when friends of mine found that when they entered a shopping centre in Limerick by one entrance on Thursday and left from the other, they were bombarded with leaflets from the Yes campaign, there was a reason for it besides spontaneous enthusiasm. One side could afford a PR campaign; the other couldn’t, though the papers heroically made the most of the tiny-by-comparison sums that US Christians put the way of the No campaign. The motives of Google for entering the fray are probably similar to those that made it take sides on the issue in the US; the referendum was on Friday, and you couldn’t open their bloody homepage without being told it was in favour of marriage equality.

The third article he mentioned talks about how well gay activist organizations were funded. While Christians are giving away billions to feed the hungry and help the poor, our freedom to speak and practice our religion was being removed by groups with very different priorities.

My friend writes, in a second e-mail:

If I was a blogger here I’d be asking three things this morning…
  1. If marriage is now a genderless institution focused only on adult love, is the government going to propose a new institution that is solely focused on children?
  2. If marriage is now purely about a validation of love then wouldn’t it be wise of the government to consider investigating the depth and sincerity of this love before before handing out marriage licences? They surely wouldn’t want to validate a relationship where the two parties weren’t really in love. Some sort of means-test perhaps? /irony
  3. Given the slogans aiming for marriage equality for all, at which point does the government plan to remove the current limits that restrict marriage to two persons?

My question would be this: when will Christians realize that they are under attack and start redirecting funds to pro-marriage groups rather than anti-poverty groups and big government? That money could have been used to fight back in Ireland, but instead Christians just seem to have their heads in the sand on how the world really works.

And finally, I want to add one more article to his list, about a baker in Northern Ireland who was fined for refusing to bake a cake that celebrated same-sex marriage.

Frank Turek and Michael Shermer defend their debate to gay activists

Michael Shermer debates Frank Turek: atheism and morality
Michael Shermer debates Frank Turek: atheism and morality

Remember how I blogged on the debate between Frank Turek and Michael Shermer a few days ago?

Well, apparently, a group of gay activists did not like the debate, and they complained – presumably in order to punish the debate organizers and shut down future debates.

Turek and Shermer have responded to their challenge, though, in this letter to the editor. And Shermer will even be on Turek’s radio show at 10 AM Eastern to discuss their joint response.

The show can be heard here on the Cross Examined web site.

CrossExamined Radio Program and Podcast

Listen to CrossExamined with Frank Turek on American Family Radio network

Saturday, 10-11 am Eastern on AFR network streaming audio and FM radio

Tune in to our weekly call-in radio program hosted by Frank Turek on American Family Radio network. Join Frank as he discusses challenging topics, takes calls from listeners, and interviews dynamic Christian apologists. Sponsored by CrossExamined.org, this apologetics program is both informative and entertaining!

If you miss the show, the podcast archive is here.

And here’s part of the joint letter:

It’s not often that an atheist and a Christian, who have just had a debate on campus, can be brought into agreement by a group in the audience. But the Graduate Queer Alliance (GQA) at Stony Brook University has managed to do that. Their letter to the editor on April 30 was so full of false assertions and totalitarian demands that we, Dr. Michael Shermer (an atheist) and Dr. Frank Turek (a Christian), felt compelled to write this letter together in response.

The central assertion of the GQA is that anyone who expresses a negative opinion of same sex marriage or homosexual behavior is guilty of “hate speech” and should be barred from speaking at Stony Brook University. The GQA says this while also claiming to believe “that a university should provide an open forum for controversial ideas to be discussed and debated.” We both wonder how the GQA can hold these two contradictory opinions at the same time. After all, they say they are for the debate of controversial issues, but apparently only if both debaters hold the same position and that position agrees with the GQA. Some debate!

How is disagreement over controversial moral and political issues “hate speech?” If it is then GQA’s position is “hate speech” because it disagrees with people who believe marriage should be defined in other ways. Calling people names or characterizing their arguments as “hate speech” is not good public discourse designed to discover the truth; it is bullying—the very thing GQA should be against.

If you remember my post, the clip I played had some back and forth on gay rights in it. I guess the GQA didn’t like hearing any ideas contrary to their own.

More:

The true motives of the GQA are revealed by what is not in the letter: the arguments made by Dr. Shermer in support of same sex marriage, arguments he made with great passion that elicited equal passion—on both sides of the issue—from the audience. If those in the GQA are so interested in advancing their position through sound reason and science—which was Dr. Shermer’s point—why would they not highlight the arguments offered in support of it? Instead, the GQA seems to think they have a right not to hear an opposing opinion lest they be challenged!

It’s a shame that those in GQA appear so uninterested in evidence.

Well, read the whole thing.

I think the letter from the gay activists and the response are particularly interesting, especially given what Dr. George Yancey said in his essay on educational dogma, which I talked about yesterday.

This:

For the dogmatic, ideas that violate the notions defended by education dogma are deemed “dangerous” and too much for the tender ears of our students. So in additional to shouting down speakers there have been calls for “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” so that individuals do not have to listen to dangerous ideas. The true danger of these ideas is their threat to certain dogmatic beliefs of our students. These students are unwilling to consider the possibly that they are wrong, or perhaps not as right as they might believe. .

And:

For all practical purposes the students saw the speaker as a heretic. The use of the term heretic can bring up images of torturing, imprisoning and killing of those who disagree. This is not occurring. However, it is reasonable to ask whether the seemingly restraint of the students from such drastic actions is due to their moral compass or to the fact that they do not have the social power to engage in such actions. Education dogma has led to attempting to kick offending businesses off campus, attempts to fire professors, and the official “shunning” of students who hold the “wrong ideas.” Those with education dogma do punish those who violate their beliefs to the highest extent possible given their current level of institutional powers.

Dr. Yancey was talking about a different group of college leftists, but I think that’s exactly what’s going on here, too. For now, it’s shouting down and writing letters and getting people fired (which actually happened to Turek, before). But will they stop there?

Must you agree with a person who threatens to kill himself if you don’t?

The latest from Life Site News about Stanford’s University’s attempt to suppress a pro-natural-marriage group’s campus event.

Excerpt:

At a recent GSC meeting, SAS co-president Judy Romea reminded student leaders that not only is the SAS not “anti-gay,” it stood “in solidarity” with homosexual groups against the controversial Westboro Baptist Church when it held a protest on campus.

But that wasn’t enough for campus gay activist groups, who turned out en masse for the same GSC meeting to demand that funding for the event be pulled.

“Their viewpoint kills people,” Jeffrey Cohen, vice president of GradQ, a homosexual advocacy group for graduate students, told the GSC.  “There’s a lot of research published in top psychology journals that have looked at university environments, both positive and negative. An event such as this would be a negative event, [and] in schools that have negative events there is a statistically significant increase in suicide.”  He said the last time a pro-marriage speaker visited the campus, someone told him “they wanted to kill themselves.”

Cohen said he was especially “bothered by the idea that their conference is trying to create better ways to deliver [the pro-marriage] message. … The idea that they are learning how to deliver their message scares [me].”  Cohen suggested SAS cancel its conference and instead hold a joint event with GradQ in which gay activists would have a chance to promote their message too.

Ben Holston, chair of the undergraduate senate, also threw his weight behind the gay groups. “This is an event that hurts the Stanford community,” Holston said. “To express a belief that, for some reason this event is not discriminatory, is completely off-base. This event as it stands, given the speakers, and given that they have said the event is supposed to ‘promote one-man one-woman [marriage],’ which promotes stripping away rights of people in this room, is unacceptable on Stanford’s campus.”  He urged the GSC to withdraw its funding for the conference.

Now I’m chaste, and a virgin, so I was just imagining what it would be like for me at Yale during Sex Week, when my student fees (hypothetically) would be used to bring in sex addicts to instruct college students that my view is sick and twisted and that binge drinking and premarital promiscuity is morally praiseworthy. Does anyone here seriously think that I would threaten to commit suicide unless people who disagreed with my chastity and virginity stopped disagreeing with me? No. A sex addict’s disapproval of my chastity and virginity doesn’t make me want to commit suicide, because I am not insane. I’m also not engaged in immoral behavior by being chaste and remaining a virgin. Criticism of me for being moral doesn’t bother me – that’s your problem if you disagree with morality.

If you tell me that what I’m doing is wrong, I’ve got piles of papers in peer-reviewed journals showing me that for my plans – life-long married love and influential Christian children raised by a stay-at-home mom – chastity is the best plan. But it doesn’t bother me if you disagree with me, and I’m not going to attack your place of work with guns, vandalize your church, or force you to lose your job – because I’m not a gay activist. I don’t care that you disagree with me, because I believe that there is a right to free speech and no right to force you to celebrate and fund my sexual orientation.

That gay activist sounded insane, but I don’t think that most gay people agree with him.

Look:

Ben, a graduate student in neuroscience, told the GSC that even though he is homosexual, he believes the SAS should be able to access the same student funding as any other group.

“What bothers [me] the most is that in the name of tolerance, we are silencing and taking away support from a view that we don’t agree with,” Ben said. “These views are out there, we should listen to them. I totally disagree with these people, but we need to hear what they have to say.  We need to hear SAS.”

Now there is a gay person I can tolerate – because he tolerates me.