While it’s routine to hear of ID proponents being persecuted–and there are many more stories than the high profile cases mentioned here on UD–sometimes we may forget that the same may happen to Darwinists. I was reading Darwiniana today and this article by MSNBC caught my eye:
Just ask biologist Richard Colling. A professor at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois and a lifelong member of the evangelical Church of the Nazarene, Colling wrote a 2004 book called “Random Designer” because—as he said in a letter to students and colleagues this year—”I want you to know the truth that God is bigger, far more profound and vastly more creative than you may have known.” Moreover, he said, God “cares enough about creation to harness even the forces of [Darwinian] randomness.”
Anger over his work had been building for two years. When classes resumed in late August, things finally came to a head. Colling is prohibited from teaching the general biology class, a version of which he had taught since 1991, and college president John Bowling has banned professors from assigning his book. At least one local Nazarene church called for Colling to be fired and threatened to withhold financial support from the college.
This seems to me a case of viewpoint discrimination and while many of us would obviously disagree with Colling’s stance as a theistic evolutionist from an intellectual perspective it’s even more obvious that we shouldn’t stand for such persecution no matter whose “side” they are on.
Here is what Colling had to say himself:
There is so much more to this story, but it is not a happy story – at least not yet. Nevertheless to date, I am trying to stay positive and continue to communicate a message of peace and harmony between science and faith/biology and the Bible. This was, and continues to be my heart. But alas, what I have learned is that many fundamentalist Christians do not consider theistic evolution Christians as brothers, but rather as enemies. The real and discouraging message emanating from our university at this time appears to be that a small minority, representing a fundamentalist creationist cohort from the midwestern region are upset that the president allows a biology professor (Colling) to teach evolution (even though there are only 2 lectures for the entire semester directly addressing the topic of evolution) – apparently because he has written a book that acknowledges evolution could be considered as a part of God’s creative plan. They seem convinced that evolution is false teaching and contrary to scripture.
However, the truth is that our denomination and university statements are fully accepting of verifiable scientific discoveries – including evolution. (It really is, (for the most part) an outstanding open-minded Christian denomination!) I teach all my biology courses with accuracy and integrity, and then encourage those students who come from the more conservative homes to keep an open mind. I try to help them explore ways in which these remarkable evolutionary mechanisms might actually be considered compatible (or at least not inconsistent with) with belief in God. This approach to teaching is shared by the other biology and geology faculty here as well. However, I am the only one who has published a highly visible book. Therefore, I have become the lightning rod, and according to the president, this is impacting his church relationships.
I love my students and they love me. These students (the next generation) want and deserve the real stuff. After 26 years of service, devotedly caring for my students and their intellectual and spiritual development, it is most discouraging that a few uninformed and scientifically challenged religious leaders at our school are able to hold such sway. There are precious principles at stake in this situation: principles of truth and integrity, education and scholarship, Christian values, and most of all personal and institutional fidelity to the university mission statement.
The truth is that there is no such thing as Christian Biology. Biology simply is what it is. If the fossil record describing evolution contained any gaps in the historical scientific narrative, more recent data derived from the digital DNA code of the human genome now removes any trace of doubt: Human beings are connected with all other life on the planet. Human chromosome #2 is a clear fusion product of two ape chromosomes; gene sequence and organization comparisons demonstrate connectedness; the shared locations of pseudogenes, endogenous retroviral insertion sequences, transposons, and genetic inversions within the chromosomes and between species (including humans and apes) all convey the same compelling scientific story: We are evolutionary creations! Continued denial of evolution is no longer a viable option for an informed Christian community if there is a desire to be credible voices in the culture.
So what is the most distinctive characteristic that defines a genuine Christian? Jesus said it himself, and in a way, it seems so simple: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength –and your neighbor as yourself.” Thus the legalism of Christian fundamentalism, and the continued emphasis on the non-essentials of religious faith actually erode the primary and most crucial messages of the Christian faith – love, forgiveness, relationship and tolerance. Ironically, yet sadly, these people have been around for a long time: In Jesus’ day, they were called Pharisees, and Jesus called them “Blind Guides”.(Matt. 23:24) My friends, I think that science has so much to teach us about our world and how we should best live in peace and harmony in its increasingly crowded confines. We should wholeheartedly embrace that knowledge and its enormous potential. But I also believe that the Christian faith (and many others as well!) hold immense value for humanity – touching us in ways that elude the knowledge and understanding derived solely from science. Therefore, it seems to me that anyone who turns their back on either of these domains of life automatically misses half of the richness that life has to offer. Will honest good people labor side by side as brothers together to give both domains a chance to work their synergistic magic? I look forward to the day.
The interesting thing is Behe could be said to have much in common with Colling except they are in disagreement over the mechanism for “evolution” (universal or partial common descent).
B.A., 1976, Olivet Nazarene University Ph.D., 1980, University of Kansas
Richard Colling graduated from Olivet in 1976 with a double major in chemistry and zoology. In his Ph.D. program in microbiology and immunology at the University of Kansas, he studied infections like strep throat, contributing to the understanding of how these types of bacterial infections trigger autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. This research earned him several honors, including the Cora Downs Award for excellence in graduate research and the prestigious Kansas university research dissertation fellowship.
He then accepted a post-doctoral fellowship in molecular oncology at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, Texas, where he studied unique protein markers found on human and animal cancer cells. These studies pave the way for more effective targeting of cancer cells with fewer side effects. As a consultant, he has developed sensitive analytical tests for Bayer Laboratories and also for identifying genetically engineered crops for Pioneer HiBred Biotechnology. He has also served as a consultant for Rhone-Polenc Rohrer Pharmaceuticals purifying human hemophilia factor to treat humans with hemophilia.
At Olivet, Dr. Colling teaches microbiology, immunology, molecular biology and a general biology course for non-majors. He served as the department chairman for 23 years until relinquishing the position to devote more attention to students and research. He was recognized as faculty member of the year in 2000.
He has also written a book, “Random Designer,” which establishes a permanent place for God in the intellectual discussions regarding science and faith. He is a frequent speaker at pastor conferences, colloquia and educational settings where he speaks to the realities and limitations of science as well as the supreme value of faith. He and his wife Sally served as leaders for an ONU student work and witness trip to the jungle of Guyana, South America in 2004.
Dr. Colling and his wife have four grown sons, and several grandchildren. He enjoys racquetball and the challenge and solitude of golf. He enjoys long walks and talks with Sally along the Kankakee River trails, talking about their children, ONU students, life, love and the goodness of God.
Although I should note that Colling apparently does not know exactly what Intelligent Design is, for he also wrote:
I noted some references to the Intelligent design movement. When the dover trial was ongoing, I wrote an OP Ed for the York Dispatch in which I tried to communicate the idea that a “God of the Gaps” or “Creationism through the Back Door” ploy in Dover would be counterproductive to the cause of Christian faith – making it appear that all Christians support these dead-end ideas.
Whether this is a misunderstanding based upon only having knowledge of a caricature of our position or a willful misrepresentation I don’t know. After all, if you only bother to read the writings of other Darwinists there is going to be much distortion. Of course, some Darwinists refer to any position outside of strict Darwinism as “creationism” even though that particular distortion has been covered ad nauseum. Colling has visited Panda’s Thumb so perhaps he may visit here so we discuss this with him.