A University of Kansas religion professor apologized for an e-mail that referred to religious conservatives as "fundies" and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face."You're damn right he's sorry it became public. But so what. Unless there is evidence that his course was taught - in the classroom - with bias and "venom" who the hell cares what his private views or in his extracurricular capacity as an advisor to a student organization? I'll tell you who shouldn't care, the Kansas House Approps Committee.
In a written apology Monday, Paul Mirecki, chairman of the university's Religious Studies Department, said he would teach the planned class "as a serious academic subject and in an manner that respects all points of view."
The department faculty approved the course Monday but changed its title. The course, originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies," will instead be called "Intelligent Design and Creationism."
The class was added to next spring's curriculum after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in its standards for science teaching. The vote was seen as a big win for proponents of intelligent design, who argue that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.
Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism — a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation — camouflaged in scientific language.
Mirecki's e-mail was sent Nov. 19 to members of the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, a student organization for which he serves as faculty adviser.
"The fundies (fundamentalists) want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category mythology."
Mirecki addressed the message to "my fellow damned" and signed off with: "Doing my part to (tick) off the religious right, Evil Dr. P."
During the weekend, Chancellor Robert Hemenway began a review of Mirecki's e-mail, which resulted in Mirecki's apology, issued Monday night. He called it "an ill-advised e-mail I sent to a small group of students and friends."
The university on Monday defended the teaching of a class on such a timely subject, but some legislators said withholding funding from the school remained a possibility.
Rep. Brenda Landwehr, vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, called the e-mail "venomous," adding, "He's not sorry he wrote it. He's sorry it became public."
Many professors at my alma mater hold policy and political views that are 180 degrees from mine. But they kept it out of the classroom. Their publications and extracurricular involvements sure clued me in fast enough, but so long as they kept it out of the classroom, then fine. I was free to examine and either accept or reject their views in the wider marketplace of ideas.
So this poor schlub professor got caught in a conversation that sets him at odds with some - maybe many, shiver - in Kansas. He's teaching a mythological concept clothed in pseudo-science in a religious studies class that I'm guessing isn't compulsory for any student. How humiliating to made to apologize for a private communication.