Updated: May 21, 2013 9:05PM
MUNCIE (AP) — Ball State University is investigating an atheist organization’s complaint that one of the professors at the Indiana college is teaching religion rather than science.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a formal objection to Eric Hedin’s teaching with university officials. Hedin teaches an honors class called “Boundaries of Science,” which the foundation maintains teaches creationism rather than science. The foundation’s website say the group is dedicated to “nontheism” and separation of church and state. It is a member of a larger organization called Atheist Alliance International.
“BSU appears to offer a class that preaches religion yet gives students honors science credit,” foundation attorney Andrew Seidel said in a letter to Ball State President Jo Ann Gora. “BSU appears to have a class with a non-biologist undermining genuine science and scholarship of the Ball State biology department by teaching creationism, a religious belief ... masquerading as science.”
Hedin is listed as a member on the Ball State website as a member of the department physics and astronomy, not biology. The faculty directory says he teaches classes in nanoscience and cosmology.
Hedin, the foundation, and a university spokesman did not return phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday morning.
“Faculty own the curriculum. In large part, it’s a faculty matter,” Provost Terry King told The Star Press. “But we have to ensure that our teaching is appropriate. All I have so far is a complaint from an outside person. We have not had any internal complaints. But we do take this very seriously and will look into it.”
The course is an elective, not a required class, King said.
Retired professor Ruth Howes, who formerly taught the Boundaries of Science class, said it’s important to help students understand viewpoints that are different from their own.
“Students are not expected to totally agree with these viewpoints, but they are expected to understand them. I think that is probably what professor Hedin is trying to do, and I would expect the university to back this effort thoroughly,” Howes said.
But Seidel said the course does not appear to be an honest investigation into the intersection of science and religion.
“We don’t have a problem with the class per se, but with the way it’s being taught,” Seidel said. “A class on the intersection of religion and science would be exciting, but that’s not what’s being taught.”
He said some students who have taken the class have posted on Rate My Professor that he “constantly talks religion” and “does not believe in evolution.”
Seidel would not identify the person who complained to the group, noting that a former Rhode Island high student who filed a lawsuit over religious prayer received hate mail and death threats.