Carson-Newman College - Teaching Creation Might Bring High School Accreditation Issues - in their own words

In response to the book Already Compromised by Ken Ham and Greg Hall, this writer has posted a series of blog posts about one of those 200 colleges and universities whose administrators were surveyed about what they believe personally about the Bible and biblical authority and on the worldview from which they believe students in their college classrooms are being taught.  The college that has been described in these blog posts is Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, TN, a college supported financially by the tithes and offerings of Tennessee Baptists.  The information contained in these blog posts has been based on the spoken and written words of faculty members of the college, as documented in official college publications available in the archives of the college library.

 

The first blog posted by this writer provided evidence, based on the published essay of a Religion department faculty member, that Carson-Newman College had become "already compromised" theologically as early as the 1970s and 1980s.  The second blog post confirmed this compromised status of the college with the tragically clear confession, by the Dean of Humanities, that any claim that the Bible is truth from God and means what it says about itself "reflects a position that is not that of the college as a whole or the Religion Department of the college."  Instead, such claims about the Bible were described as "bellicose Biblicism."

 

Moving to the issue of creation versus evolution, the third blog post cited the 1996 hiring of a highly qualified faculty member to teach students in the Education department of the college who planned to become high school science teachers.  It soon became clear that this new faculty member was a dedicated Christian who believed that Christian students at the college should be taught to respond to the challenges of Darwinism by engaging the secular culture with an authentic Biblical worldview and with the history of creation as found in the book of Genesis.  These views on the teaching of creation were unacceptable at Carson-Newman, and tenure was denied to this faculty member.  The fourth blog post described the negative reaction of members of the Biology faculty of the college to the presence of this faculty colleague, this "creation scientist" who was popular not only with his students but also in the surrounding communities.  The publication of a paper written by two Biology faculty members in opposition to the teaching of the conflict between creation and evolution in the classroom, and in not-so-subtile support of tenure denial, was also cited.

 

This fifth blog post will provide further evidence of the strong opposition of members of the Biology faculty at Carson-Newman College to the teaching of Biblical creation.  This opposition to Biblical creation has occurred not only inside the science classrooms of their own college, but also beyond the walls of their classroom.  We will show that the Biology faculty is not only opposed to the academic freedom to criticize Darwinism and teach the creation story of Genesis in other settings on their own campus, but they wish to extend their denial of this freedom to the science classrooms of local high schools.

 

In 2002, well-known creationist speaker Jobe Martin was invited to Carson-Newman, and he spoke on creation and evolution.  Biology professor Mary V. Ball apparently recognized that this event could be an embarrassment to her department.  Lacking the courtesy to wait until the speaker's presentation was over to provide her students who attended the lecture with her own personal reaction to this event, Mary Ball arrived at the presentation early and presented her own handout to the students - not just to biology students but to all students who attended the lecture.  Her handout - titled "It's not Creation vs. Evolution" - declared the theory of evolution to be a fact.  Mary Ball's handout to the students included these words:  "Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time.  This is an observable phenomena (a fact).  Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors.  The evidence for historical evolution - genetic, fossil, and anatomical, etc. - is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact."  Many folks might consider that Mary Ball's action to place her own handout containing these words into the hands of everyone attending this event was a divisive action.

 

The December 1, 2006 issue of Carson-Newman's school newspaper, The Orange and Blue, contained an article written by biology professor Mary V. Ball under the title Does Disagreement Have to be Divisive?  This article certainly provides insights into her thinking and her unwillingness to respond candidly to questions regarding the worldview from which she teaches her students.  She wrote:  "Personally, I consider myself to be both Pro Life and Pro Choice, by my own definition of those terms!  In terms of the evolution issue, I consider myself to be both a Creationist and an Evolutionist (an Evolutionary Creationist), according to my definitions.  And yes, I also consider myself to be both a Fundamentalist and a Moderate!!"  Remember, Mary V. Ball was a co-author of the paper published in the Fall 2001 volume of Carson-Newman Studies that concluded that "Creation and evolution can happily coexist."  It just depends on her own definition of those terms!

 

Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy (The King's Academy) in Seymour, TN is a private Christian boarding and day school for grades K-12 affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and supported by the tithes and offerings of Tennessee Baptists.  According to a former high school science teacher at the Academy, Mary V. Ball was a member of the visiting committee from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that was performing a 10-year accreditation review a number of years ago.  After observing a high school physics class, Mary Ball requested a conversation with the teacher of that class.  Instead of asking questions about the teaching of physics at the Academy or about that day's physics lesson, Mary Ball questioned the teacher regarding whether the subject of creation was being taught at the Academy.  The teacher stated that if the subject were to come up in a physics class, the students would be told what many scientists say about the theory of evolution, but they would also be told what the Bible says about creation and also about the scientific evidence that supports the Biblical account of creation.

 

Mary Ball's response to the Academy teacher's answer to her question concerning creation was this remarkable statement:  "No biology faculty member at Carson-Newman would teach creation."  The teacher asked her to repeat that statement, and she did so, adding that Carson-Newman would not teach creation because mainstream science teaches evolution, and the teaching of creation might bring accreditation problems.  So here we had an accreditation review committee member from the Carson-Newman biology faculty suggesting that including both Biblical creation and evolution in the Academy's high school classroom might bring accreditation problems.  The Academy physics teacher subsequently contacted Stephen Karr, head of the Carson-Newman biology faculty, and discovered that Karr supported Mary Ball's implied position and veiled threat that the teaching of Biblical creation in high school classes could result in accreditation problems for this Christian Academy.

 

We have only scratched the surface in our description of the open embrace of evolutionary doctrine by the Carson-Newman biology faculty and their dedication to the teaching of evolution as an undisputed fact, not only to students in their own classrooms, but also to students at the high school level.  In future blog posts, we will be able to document their attempt to assist and encourage high school teachers to teach a now-discredited popular argument for shared common ancestry as a natural process of macroevolution for humans, chimpanzees, orangutans, and crab-eating macaques.  Further, we will be able to comment on attempts by the college administration and the college trustees to defend the naturalism worldview promoted and taught by the Carson-Newman faculty.

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