When professors go outside their subject areas, the results are usually not pretty. Take the case of philosophy professor Barbara Forrest, called on to challenge the scientific theory of intelligent design in fora academic and legal.
“Seventy thousand Australian scientists signed a letter saying that intelligent design is not a science,” Dr. Forrest told an audience at a conference held at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “In no time at all, 7,700 American scientists signed a similar letter.” Dr. Forrest teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.
Speaking of the more well-known and widely taught theory of the origin of species, Dr. Forrest said, “There is no division in the scientific camp over evolution theory.” Not only do the Australians outnumber Americans by a factor of 10 in the letter-writing drives that Dr. Forrest cites but the large numbers she points to represent academies whose presidents signed the petition but not necessarily the academy members themselves.
“Intelligent Design appeals to the supernatural,” Dr. Forrest told the audience at AEI. It should be noted that Dr. Forrest was awarded the Friend of Darwin prize by the National Center for Science Education, on whose board she sits.
To be sure, Dr. Forrest is a formidable woman, in or out of class. “Rather than encourage class participation, she simply tells you your answer is wrong (when given aloud),” one of her students wrote in an anonymous review on ratemyprofessor.com. “The only way to pass the course is to shut up and tell her whatever she wants to hear.” Still, even her detractors admitted, “She knows her philosophy.”
With her pedigreed philosophical background, Dr. Forrest testified as an expert in the court case in Dover, Pa. over whether teachers can bring up or answer questions about evolution that intelligent design theorists pose. In the Dover case, parents are suing the school board over the policy of the latter to allow the questioning of evolution in ninth-grade science classes. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) are aligned with the parents.
“One of the plaintiffs admitted that she had no children in the ninth grade,” Richard Thompson, an attorney involved in the case, said at the AEI seminar. “She said she was contacted by the ACLU and asked to be a plaintiff.”
At the AEI symposium, a questioner from AUSCS asked Thompson, the chief counsel and founder of the Thomas More Center, “Why did you defame Dr. Forrest in the Dover hearing?” “I did not defame her,” Thompson said. “I just pointed out that she belongs to the New Orleans Secular Humanist Society and has been a member of the ACLU since 1971.”
“She’s on their board.” When you file an insurance claim on damage that resulted from a storm, flood or hurricane, you put down “act of God” as the cause. When they filled out their forms, one wonders who the New Orleans Secular Humanists blamed Katrina on.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.