Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Letter to Editor attacks Zimmerman

As we know, the Northwestern likes to quickly print letters attacking UW employees and bury the positive ones. Here is the daily Christianist dose, in the form of an attack on Michael and his national campaign to remind people that science and religion are not antagonists.

The writer attacks our Dean for using university resources to spread his "Darwinian religion of humanism."

How dare a biologist try to convince others that the information that he has researched and tested is actually true!?! and on university time, at that!

Oshkosh Northwestern - Letters: Oshkosh West generates excitement, enthusiasm


Anonymous said...

We are taught early on NOT to sign letters to the editor with our university title since we are not speaking on behalf of the university or representing all our peers with our comments. Setting up a university web site to promote an event ties the university to that event, and it connects all other university employees to that event. Should he have done that? Was the web site and the activity sanctioned by any administrator? On what basis was it approved? If Zimmerman can set up a web site for this religious observance, what stops anyone else from doing the same? I think the letter asks some reasonable questions. I hope the chancellor has a policy ready to answer them.

Janine said...

In some ways I think the letter writer has a point. On one hand you don't want RA's holding private religious meetings in their rooms because of the pressure others may feel. However, having Zimmerman using University resources, time, and a website to promote a religious affair is OK.


Lammers said...

The problem is that folks are viewing Zimmerman as fostering a particular partisan viewpoint. He is not. He is pointing out common ground uniting what some construe to be divergent views. He is attempting to be a peacemaker, to demonstrate there is no need for acrimony on this point. He is attempting to EDUCATE and that is what we are all paid to do by the state. I see no reason that this should be considered any different from other sorts of "civic engagement" in which we are encouraged to participate.

Lake Winneblogo said...

The Christianist anti-evolution people can not accept that science and its study is not the same as their heartfelt, unfounded beliefs.

Thus, any attempt to try to explain the scientific method, especially when it comes to the investigation of evolution, falls upon deaf ears.

Both commenters (before Tom) jump to the conclusion that if you try to explain evolution and how it fits in the modern world, you are propagating "religion." It is the same premise as the letter writer.

Once again, why shouldn't a biologist be able to explain his science to the world at large?

How is that in anyway similar to trying to force your unsubstantiated belief system down the throat of uncomfortable freshmen?

Anonymous said...

There's no reason why the biologist can't explain his beliefs.

The question, all along, has been should the state-salaried biologist use state resources to promote a religious observance, even if that religious observance in some ways supports a secular cause?

That seems to me to be a very legitimate question.

Lammers said...

If that were indeed the case, it might be a good question. But as stated by "anonymous" (will no one around here stand up for what they believe?), it is an *interpretation*, one I think is not supported by facts.

Words like "belief" and "cause" give this post a heavy emotional content. The fact is that many people have presented the faith basis of religion and the rational basis of science as diametrically opposed and antithetical. It is presented as an either-or, them vs. us dichotomy. "Those who aren't with us are against us." This is NOT a productive view for our society, and it is not an honest representation of attitudes in our society. Any educated person has a moral obligation to dispel this misreprtesentation.

All Zimmerman has done is to point out that many many people disagree with this highly polarized and simplistic view. He has pointed out that many faithful do not feel a need to deny a rational explanation for observed phenomena in order to live their religious faith. He has done this in every venue open to him.

I feel this is an entirely appropriate use of state resources by a state employee for the good of the state and its people. It is his duty to educate, and that is what he is doing -- NOT about the scientific details of evolutionary theory or the tenets of the Christian faith, but about the FACT that 10,000 members of the clergy REJECT the view that faith and rationality are enemies. More power to him. We need more people in this world who look for common ground and understanding instead of embracing them vs. us, a we're-good-you're-bad mentality.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that it is hard for people in academia to get out of their narrow worldviews.

FACT A: There are differences of opinion in the religious community about evolution.

FACT B: In this country we all have the right, if not the obligation, to share our views and attempt to shape opinion on all issues, including religious ones.

FACT C: The U.S. Constitution says that goverment should stay out of such disputes when they pertain to religion.

FACT D: UW-O has entered into a religious debate and taken sides and is devoting taxpayer funded resources to supporting one side of a debate that, while not wholly religious, is clearly partly so.

FACT E: There is a difference between soliciting opinion from clergy members about an issue and taking the activist approach of organizing an event using their church facilities.

FACT F: There is a difference between what private citizens do on their own time and what public employees do using state resources.

A question: What part of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" don't you get?

Lammers said...

Fact A is what Zimmerman was attempting to demonstrate.

I'm not sure I accept C as a fact. The Constitution prohibits the state from establishing a state religion or supporting a religious establishment. Zimmerman has not done that. He has not supported one religious establishment over another. He has become engaged in a public debate that involves religion. That is our duty as state-paid educators. He has done so, not in a partisan fashion, but in a unifying way. I still see no problem.