But then what did you really expect? Honestly?
I began to entertain “politically incorrect views” while I was studying for my PhD. Basically, I did not see how evolution by random mutation and natural selection could lead to the kind of intricate nanotechnology that I was seeing inside a cell. Aspects of evolutionary theory conflicted with what I knew of science. I’ve heard people say that eventually we will figure out how mistakes in copying lead to increased information, but that belief takes more faith than I have. I think that it might make more sense to just evaluate the scientific evidence and follow where it leads rather than try to fit the new evidence about the copious amounts of information found in cells into a theory that was suggested over 150 years ago when cells were thought to be simple blobs of protoplasm.
When I began to teach, I noticed that the assigned textbooks were written in a way so as to encourage students to memorize, rather than critically assess, some of the information. I did not think this practice would lead to their success in future biology classes nor in their chosen careers in science. Therefore, in keeping with Yale recommendations on teaching controversial subjects, my habit was to teach students “not to argue from authority and to link their claims and assertions to appropriate evidence whenever possible.”
For example, when teaching about the function of steroids in cellular communication, I had the students go beyond the text and encouraged them to speculate on the possible side effects of hydrocortisone. In the same way, in the single cell biology lecture where I presented the information the textbook provided on evolution and the origin of life, I suggested that the students critically assess the claims made. I asked questions like, “Is microevolution is a legitimate ‘proof’ of macroevolution?” or “How much does the synthesis of a racemic mixture of individual amino acids in a closed system add to a discussion of the origin of life?” I encouraged them to think about what they were being taught, making it clear that disagreeing with the professor was okay—provided they backed their opinions up with science. The students enjoyed this method of teaching and clamored to get into my classes. Their letters can be found in my book Free to Think: Why Scientific Integrity Matters.
My first inkling of trouble was the day that my supervisor called me into his office and told me that I was going to be disciplined for allegedly “teaching creationism.”