Staff is damaging U. of Vermont's reputation
In 1985 author Richard Moll coined the term "Public Ivies" in his book The Public Ivies: America's Flagship Undergraduate Colleges. At that time, Moll identified eight universities as public institutions that "provide an Ivy League collegiate experience at a public school price." The eight universities Moll named were the College of William and Mary, Miami University of Ohio, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Texas, the University of Vermont, and the University of Virginia
Who knew? However, it now appears that UVM's hard-earned reputation is being damaged by the Ben Stein scandal. A Feb. 6 editorial in the Burlington Free Press said,
Fogel's Stein flip-flop embarrassing for UVM
The University of Vermont took a hit coming and going in the flap over Ben Stein as this year's commencement speaker, inviting, then withdrawing the invitation over his views questioning evolution. The invitation shows a stunning degree of tone deafness on the part of UVM President Dan Fogel to the social and political currents on his own campus. The decision to withdraw the invitation opens the university to charges that the university is less than open to controversial views
The Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin wrote in the US News & World Report,
Unfortunately, the bluffs and authoritarian tactics of Darwinists create a climate of intolerance that leads to discrimination against academics and educators who dissent from neo-Darwinism.
The latest example took place last week when economist, comedian, and Darwin skeptic Ben Stein withdrew from offering the spring commencement address at the University of Vermont because, as the Chronicle of Higher Education put it, "his invitation drew complaints about his views on biological evolution."
The main instigator of complaints against Stein was University of Minnesota Morris biologist P.Z. Myers, who in 2005 demanded "the public firing and humiliation of some teachers" who support ID or doubt Darwinism. This time, Myers incited his blog's followers against Stein, proclaiming that "it's a real slap in the face for the university to drag in this disgrace who has been a figurehead for a movement that is trying to replace science with superstition."
The truth about Stein's withdrawal has leaked out in media interviews where UVM's President Dan Fogel made it clear that ID proponents deserve second-class treatment. Parroting Myers's rhetoric, Fogel was quoted saying, "It's an issue about the appropriateness of awarding an honorary degree to someone whose views in many ways ignore or affront the fundamental values of scientific inquiry."
Fogel's statement is simply a pretext for discriminating against scholars who hold a minority scientific viewpoint. The reality is that Fogel has demonstrated plain old intolerance for academics that support ID.
Like many persecutors, Fogel appears blind to his own prejudices. He thus added, "This is not, to my mind, an issue about academic freedom." But Fogel's actions refute his own words: The very fact that he won't give an honorary degree to a scholar because of that scholar's support for ID demonstrates the lack of academic freedom for ID proponents in the academy.
Instead of just graciously accepting Ben Stein's withdrawal, Pres. Fogel made matters much worse by publicly stating reasons why Stein does not deserve an honorary degree.
Later, a UVM biology professor, Nick Gotelli, said in an op ed,
Naturally, the biology department and many others would never invite Stein to speak on our campus. However, one of the best ways to refute intellectually bankrupt ideas is to expose them to the light of day. There is nothing I could say to my biology classes that would discredit Stein's ideas more than his own words on evolution, science, Nazis and the Holocaust. For this reason, universities and campuses throughout the United States occasionally invite "controversial" speakers, and we at UVM fully support this kind of free speech.
But inviting a campus lecturer is different from choosing a commencement speaker and awarding an honorary degree. The real issue is not political correctness, but scholarship. I will leave it to my colleagues in the economics department to weigh in on Stein's scholastic achievements as an economist. As far as the sciences go, I am unaware of a single publication by Stein that has appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. In the sciences,
The Discovery Institute's David Klinghoffer responded to the preceding op-ed by sending Potelli an email proposing an ID debate at UVM and proposed ID experts David Berlinski and Stephen Meyer as alternatives or additions to Stein. Potelli sent Klinghoffer a nasty refusal. The copies of their emails are here on Sleazy PZ Myers' blog. Klinghoffer said,
Ben Stein may not be the best person to single-handedly represent the ID side. As you're aware, he's known mainly as an entertainer. A more appropriate alternative or addition might be our senior fellows David Berlinski or Stephen Meyer, respectively a mathematician and a philosopher of science.
So Klinghoffer called Potelli's bluff by offering him the opportunity to discredit not just Stein but real ID experts Berlinski and/or Meyer, and Potelli chickened out. Klinghoffer's discussion of the incident is here.
Labels: Intelligent design (new #1)