In a commentary written in the June 2014 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr. Peter Conn states: if a Christian college makes its faculty sign a statement of faith indicating that the professors believe in the historicity of Scripture, then that would be grounds for the school losing its academic accreditation in “respectable” society. The author also states,
Let me be clear. I have no particular objection to like-minded adherents of one or another religion banding together, calling their association a college, and charging students for the privilege of having their religious beliefs affirmed. However, I have a profound objection to legitimizing such an association through accreditation, and thereby conceding that the integrity of scholarship and teaching is merely negotiable. I also object to the expenditure of taxpayer dollars in support of religious ideology, in particular when that ideology has set itself in opposition to the findings of modern science.
The retrograde battle that religious fundamentalists are waging against science has become a melancholy fact of our contemporary cultural life. Legislators around the country conspire to find academic room for the oxymoronic charade called “creation science.”
Let me be clear. Mr. Conn’s bifurcation of accredited universities into those that are good for a “respectable society” and those that are not is nonsense. In particular, he is seriously confused about the origins and nature of modern science itself which developed and grew in the cradle of Christianity. Regardless of whether one is for or against what he calls “creation science”, or evolutionism, reductionism, materialism or whatever else, the focus of accreditation has and should be on science. Indeed, the interpretation of scientific evidence is not neutral, but depends on the scientist’s presuppositions. Here is where the difference lies between the Christian perspective and other perspectives.
Indeed, Mr. Conn’s critique itself is not based on science. He has simply smuggled in his philosophy along with an arbitrary moral standard to embark on an apparent crusade against Christians who simply disagree with him. Mr. Conn does not like and objects to certain interpretations of scientific evidence. This has nothing to do with the credibility of the science or the competence of the scientist who has a different point of view than Mr. Conn.
Unfortunately, Mr. Conn’s commentary simply poisons the well of an already disjointed academy. For the academy to move forward we must accept the fact that equally competent scientists will differ in their interpretations of scientific evidence. (Even scientists who adhere to Darwinian evolutionism as a metanarrative disagree with each other.)
Erecting such a hostile, artificial boundary via accreditation as he suggests is unnecessary and counterproductive. It is very easy for any academician to fall into this type of thinking when they become frustrated with the point of view of others with whom they disagree.
But the need now within the Academy is to build bridges of communication, collaboration, and mutual respect.