The dark side of ‘evolutionary politics’
University prof pressured to resign
21 March 2003
On the day after she gave a harmless talk about ‘Critical Thinking on Evolution,’ a chemistry professor at a state university was asked to resign her administrative position. It’s a sad story of personal attacks, dirty politics, anti-creationist discrimination, apparent hypocrisy and backpedaling.
A harmless presentation
Dr Nancy Bryson, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry, seems fully qualified for her position at the Mississippi University for Women (MUW), USA. She has never received any negative feedback as an administrator, she says. However, all that changed after she raised questions about evolution during her presentation at a school honors forum, 20 February 2003. Titled ‘Critical Thinking on Evolution,’ her presentation covered some of the most popular arguments against evolution, such as the lack of ‘transitional’ fossils and the profound lack of evidence for chemical evolution.
‘The talk itself was not blatantly Christian/Biblical,’ Dr Bryson says. So why did it cause such offense? ‘Well, I believe it was speaking the truth,’ she comments. ‘Hearing the truth about origins causes the materialist mind to go into a rage.’
And a rage it was.
After her talk, a life science professor sharply criticized her in a prepared statement, and then he posted a harsh e-mail on a school server. His rude comments were, says Dr Bryson, ‘derogatory and possibly libelous.’ The following day, her supervisor, Dr Vagn Hansen, vice president for academic affairs, apparently received complaints about her talk, from this professor and others.
That afternoon, Dr Hansen went into Dr Bryson’s office to speak to her. In her words:
‘Hansen comes to my office Friday afternoon, badgering me to resign and hypocritically asserting that a voluntary resignation would be so much better for me—but refusing to state any reasons. … Unsuccessful, Hansen sent me a letter of non-renewal (as division head) the following Monday.’
As word got out about this underhanded politics, students and others from around the state began to complain. Under pressure, Dr Hansen refused to admit any relationship between Dr Bryson’s anti-evolution talk and the decision not to renew her administrative contract (her teaching position was never threatened). He assured one e-mail inquirer,
‘Dr. Bryson's personal opinions and her presentation played no part in the decision concerning her continuation as division head. MUW values freedom of thought and expression. Dr. Bryson's rights will be defended, as will the rights of others. This university is a place where debate about issues can take place freely.’
The school maintained that Dr Bryson’s talk and her letter about non-renewal were coincidental, but because of the bad timing, the school decided to let her stay in her position. At the same time, the school’s president, Claudia Limbert, reasserted ‘MUW's absolute commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech.’1
Throughout her ordeal, Dr Bryson says the students at MUW have been very supportive. She hopes that her trials will ‘help open the door for a small but growing number of college professors who don’t buy evolution as fact but are afraid for their academic careers.’
The freedom to question evolution is dear to Dr Bryson’s heart. She says that, as an undergraduate at MUW, ‘I was taught a lot of misinformation about the “fact” of evolution. By mid-adulthood, I had pretty well convinced myself that there was no God to report to. Thankfully the Lord came and got me when I was in my mid-40s.’
Brown, J., Reinstated college prof grateful for support of Christians,
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