|Author: Jerry Bergman, Ph.D.
Subject: Credibility of Creationists
Thousands of creationists with graduate degrees in science work in academia today, and not all of them have difficulties with their colleagues or administrators. In most instances, though, those out of the closet will likely experience problems, especially if they are open about their beliefs and teach in a secular college. Numerous studies have shown (see Bergman, 1984, 2004) that one of the major reasons, if not the major reason, for denial of tenure is holding beliefs and values that are different from one’s academic peers. Humans typically react more negatively to differences in religious beliefs and values than probably any other human difference, including differences in race and sex (and much of the conflict that produces racism and sexism is actually a result of belief differences).
Many of humankind’s most severe conflicts have been between groups that differ in basic beliefs. The history of religious persecution, the inquisition, and the burning of religious heretics, amply illustrate this. Most human conflicts, including the purges that wiped out millions in China, Russia, and, more recently, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iraq were primarily the result of belief differences. If beliefs, such as religion, held by a minority significantly differs from the majority belief, the majority group has historically repeatedly tried to suppress, or even wipe out, the minority group. Although we often react to specific behavior patterns, unfortunately, it is difficult to separate the differences between actions and beliefs because actions are most often the product of beliefs. Persecution due to actions is essentially persecution that results from belief and value differences.
With too few exceptions, the majority group has historically persecuted its minority groups—and when a minority group becomes a majority group, it, in turn, often persecutes other minority groups. The Puritans left England in the early 1600s because of religious persecution. They then set up their own state and, free from persecution by the dominant group in England, proceeded to persecute their own religious minorities, most notably the followers of Ann Hutchison and Roger Williams. Both of these persons fled from the majority group and set up their own isolated mini-colonies and again proceeded to persecute the minority members within their own little religious groups.
This is ironic because a major distinguishing feature of Christianity, as repeatedly stressed in the New Testament, is tolerance and love for those who disagree with you—including the command to “love your enemies,” and “pray for those persecuting you” (Matt 5:43). The very word Christian in the public mind means treating others with tolerance and concern—especially those who disagree with your point of view. Christian teachings stress “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Christianity further stresses that one is to forgive his neighbor “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matt 18:22). I have tried to do this since I became a Christian, although I have at times failed. Of course, the state has the right to punish those who violate its laws, but this is a different subject. My faith ultimately is what has sustained me and allowed me to get though my ordeals as detailed in this account.
Unfortunately, evidence of the above Christian qualities in secular society is often lacking. The masses of Americans have become nominal Christians, and this is especially true in secular universities. Actually, it seems that many secular schools are bent on overturning many, if not most, of the basic principles of Christianity. Drinking, use of drugs, promiscuity, common use of obscene language, involvement in sexual deviations and (at one time) smoking are not only sometimes condoned, but also are at times openly encouraged, at least indirectly, not just by the social/peer environment, but including professors and the instructional materials commonly used in college classes. The results of university training include questioning of the basic tenets of most religions, and encouraging atheism, or, at least, agnosticism. With this background, let me relate my experiences that will illustrate the above generalizations.
Although, not unlike other young boys, I had fleeting moments of wanting to be an actor, I had known since I was very young that I wanted to become a university professor. Consequently, from about 6th grade on, I began to prepare for this goal. Always a voracious reader, in fourth grade the teacher put a chart on the wall to record the number of books we had read. After a book was read and a report completed, a star was placed next to the reader’s name. As I read about two book a week or more, I proudly watched the number of stars by my name grow much faster than the rest of the class. By the end of the year, I had read more books than most of my class combined.
When I was in fifth grade, I inherited a paper route from my older brother. My first major purchase, aside from a camera, was a fifteen-volume set of encyclopedias that I eventually read almost from cover to cover. In sixth grade I began reading everything I could find on astronomy and space travel, partially because, at that time, society was in the midst of the exciting new space program. I even gave a presentation before the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and lectured to other classes on space travel. This experience caused me to want to become a teacher.
I continued to read everything I could until I began college; then I was forced to read primarily the books and papers required for my course work. I began teaching school with only two years of college (the shortage of teachers then allowed me to become temporarily certified) and later earned both elementary and secondary certification. After four years of college, I had graduated with quadruple majors, namely biology, psychology, sociology, and education (although my declared major was secondary education). I had to put myself through school (I had to work as many as three part time jobs, and in my third year of college, a full time job). I have worked full time and went to school full or part time until I completed the nine degrees I now have earned.
A year after completing my certification requirements, I completed a master’s and, several years later, my first doctorate. Some of my early graduate work was a waste of time, partially because my reading habits were such that I already had learned most of the ideas presented in my courses. I also felt all too many of my courses were boring and presented primarily mundane and basic information. Only a few of my instructors effectively could stimulate me (this changed once I moved into the life science and medical fields in graduate school). The notable exceptions proved to me that it is possible effectively to teach by the lecture method.
I graduated with a 3.71 GPA for my master’s and a 4.0 for both my first and second doctorates (excluding courses that I took in-between my degrees for enrichment). I passed my oral qualifying exams with “flying colors” and, aside from the approval of the initial dissertation and some help in formulating my research design, I completed my Ph.D. dissertation almost totally on my own with little help from my adviser. The first time my committee had seen my dissertation was when it was completed. A short time later they completed reading my dissertation, and I passed my orals, again, with flying colors. My dissertation was accepted without any major changes required by my Ph.D. dissertation committee. After completing all of the requirements for my doctorate except my dissertation, I obtained a professorship in the educational measurement and psychology field at a large state university, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio. Previous to this, I had worked for three years teaching at a community college. I also worked full time for several years doing research for a circuit court.
When I began teaching at BGSU, I had already completed several dozen articles and was working on several book length manuscripts. Although these were not published until several years later (partially due to my propensity to rewrite articles, making sure that I referred to all the relevant references available and covered every angle), I, nonetheless, had been active from my undergraduate days endeavoring to improve and develop my writing skills. I was aware of the “publish or perish” requirement and, partially for this reason, was on the staff of the college newspaper, and involved myself in a number of activities to facilitate my goal of becoming a university professor. In addition, when I began teaching at BGSU, I started working on my second doctorate.
In my first year at the university the subject of abortion came up at a faculty social gathering. After I naively expressed my views, my colleagues asked why I was opposed to abortion. One colleague in particular asked “Is it because of your religion?” When I admitted that this was part of the reason, there was some “mumbling” and I discovered later that, at this time, I was labeled a “fundamentalist.” I learned later that at this point several colleagues openly stated that they were determined to get rid of me. My religion was brought up from that point on by my colleagues. Also, from then on, each year the faculty evaluation committee voted to terminate my employment—but each year the administration refused.
Although the administration was able to overrule a negative faculty vote, unfortunately, I was to find out later, a faculty tenure vote is much more important (or at least became so after my case). The “official” reasons given in writing were such things as “personal appearance” or other factors that were totally irrelevant to my mission at the university. I thus knew that I would have difficulty achieving tenure. This response was partly because, while I was at the university, a number of friends and colleagues lost their faculty positions for various reasons. None of them were able to find employment for some time, although one woman gained tenure after filing a lawsuit. These experiences were unnerving because, I feared, if I were unsuccessful in achieving tenure I, likewise, would have a very difficult time obtaining new employment (which turned out to be true).
One good friend of mine, a Ph.D. graduate of Stanford University, was on welfare for several years before he finally found a low-paying position for the bureau of unemployment as a clerk. These experiences were, to me, not only disillusioning but frightening. I had put a large amount of money and work into school and I did not want it to go to waste. As I always had tremendous drive, I was determined not to lose my university position. In addition, I was hesitant to move because of the high cost, the difficulty of selling a house then, the attachment I had to the region, and living near to both my, and my wife’s, family. Fearful that I would not get tenure, although extremely close to my family (and I was extremely attached to my children and very much in love with my wife) I put my job first.
My response, partly conditioned from being a student, was to work harder. If one is not doing well in a course, the natural and normal response is to study harder, read more, and to spend more time, work, and effort in the course (and this usually pays off in school). I applied the same tactics at the university—and worked harder and harder. And work I did—around sixteen hours a day, six days a week, for almost six years straight. I authored or co-authored over a hundred and fifty articles, many in good journals, and fifteen books, book chapters, or monographs, most of which have now been published. Because the average college professor in his or her lifetime produces about five journal articles, (considering the number of years I had been actively publishing) I was thus approximately six thousand times more productive than average.
In addition, I had authored or co-authored over several hundred professional papers, and presented eighteen papers at professional meetings: all of this in the short space of about six years. By comparison, as far as I am aware, my entire department of twenty-four members during their entire career at the university had published a grand total of only half of what I had published during my short career. I also formed, and was the first president of, the BGSU friends of the Library. We took in more than enough money to offset my salary. I was promoted months before I was fired and was in the top faculty group for merit pay. I was also a paid consultant for a Nobel laureate. In addition, during my last years, my student ratings were in the 80th and 90th percentile and I collected hundreds of favorable student comments.
The intense pressure from the university, plus spending an exorbitant amount of time correcting papers, working with students, writing and doing research, not unexpectedly resulted in conflicts between my wife and me. I was keenly aware of my responsibility to support my family, and realized that I must maintain employment to do so. Consequently, I felt that work activities had to be a higher priority than family until I was tenured. I often, though, bemoaned the pressure I was under forcing me to work constantly when I preferred to spend more leisure time each week with my wife and two children.
As noted, my response to the negative vote from my peers (which I received each year after they discovered my religious orientation) was to work harder. I was assured that, with a good record, the university would be forced to follow their ownwritten guidelines and grant me tenure. This, I found, was not true. The faculty charter clearly stated that “tenure is to be awarded solely on the basis of teaching, service and research.” Our charter also specifically states that other criteria may not be utilized in denying or granting tenure. I was to find out, though, that in reality the faculty charter was not worth the paper it was written on. As one colleague stated, even though the university is bound by law to adhere to it, it is not uncommon for universities to do pretty much what they want regardless of what the law says (or what is moral or ethical). Universities act as if they are largely a world unto themselves, and that the law is for others, not them.
It turned out that those who taught the same courses I do voted almost unanimously in my favor, but, as I expected, I did not get the two-thirds vote necessary from my department (actually, I received a two-thirds negative vote) but my Department Chair voted for my tenure, as did the College Faculty Evaluation Committee, the Dean, and the Council of Deans.
The Provost, Dr. Michael Ferrari, though, evidently due to the influence of certain faculty in my department (and also because of the political fact that it is better to please 25 people rather than one) de facto turned me down for tenure, ostensibly because I did not receive a required two-thirds faculty vote. He then retroactively changed the college tenure procedure. The new policy was, if a person did not get two-thirds favorable faculty vote, tenure was to be considered denied, and, as such, was not to be sent to the higher level, as occurred in my case. Thus, the reason for denying tenure was solely because I officially did not receive a positive two-thirds of the faculty vote. I appealed this ruling, and lost the appeal. In obtaining support for my appeal the following comment, voluntarily submitted on my behalf, stated that I was
one of the most prolific writers I’ve ever met in all my professional career. . .everyone of his articles is well-written and shows much research and thought. . . I have never met a person with a more varied background of interests or a man whose mind is so extremely brilliant and fertile. I have every reason to believe that he will be a great success and will make many many fine contributions to this University. . .Personally, I am very much concerned about the loss of such a colleague; his abilities are valuable assets to the University.
All of this, though, meant little. I was under constant pressure for several years, and it was becoming apparent that it was all for naught. Then, I arrived home from the university early one evening to discover that my family was gone. Later that evening I received a phone call from my wife telling me that she had left the state, and took our two children with her. It turned out that the continual pressure from the university, especially when it appeared that I would not achieve tenure, alienated my wife to the extent that, on her own, she decided to leave. This was the first indication I had that my marriage was in serious trouble. She had complained about the exorbitant time I was spending on university related affairs (teaching night classes, serving on committees, developing and implementing fund-raising programs, etc.) but I was not aware of the gravity of her concern.
My concern over achieving tenure obviously caused me to be somewhat oblivious to my family’s needs, which she interpreted as not caring (when actually it was a response to my concern about the family’s material needs). I can understand that she was fed up with the constant pressure from the university, my constantly pressuring her to type papers, reports, manuscripts, tests, etc. Ironically, the university required us to publish, but did not furnish adequate support to help us do what we were “required” to do, thus putting off family life, recreation, and other things families usually feel are important. My continually “only a little while longer and we can settle down into a less hectic routine” became less and less believable as time went on. Nine full-time years of college, while, at the same time working close to 16 hours a day, six days a week, and my wife working several hours every day with me, was too much for her.
I honestly can state that my marriage and my family was the best things that ever happened to me. I loved my wife greatly in spite of all that happened. Loosing her and my children (I did not see them for years) was, by far, the worst experience of my life. I frantically fought the divorce, but found that our society does not have in place the support structures needed to keep marriages together—lawyers make money from divorces, not reconciliations. Judges, with overloaded dockets, favor divorces, not prolonged litigation, and I found few marriage counselors had the skills to help much and, likewise, the psychologists we contacted were impotent in aiding a couple. Thus, all of my efforts were fruitless.
I also lost rights to see my children as I could not pay child support—and even was given a jail term. I did not see my children for several years (I found the film Kramer vs. Kramer to be very accurate). Shortly after we were divorced, she married a tradesman. Several years later my ex-wife’s husband turned out to be an alcoholic, a drug user, and an abusive man. My ex-wife ended up in a home for battered women in Pontiac Michigan. My son was physically and mentally abused, abuse that still effects him 20 years later. My daughter suffered only verbal abuse.
The pressure of the divorce, losing my house, children, wife, job, savings, insurance, retirement, etc. not unexpectedly damaged my health. In addition, numerous times in my last year at Bowling Green I had severe migraines and felt like I was in a dream state as the world spun around me. I then had to follow the wall in order to walk—I could not walk on my own. I experienced the aura (both the spots and flashes of light), the pain on one side, the throbbing forehead, but most of all the endless pain. I ended up with stomach ulcers from taking pain relievers (aspirin) and was ill for months with severe vertigo, nausea, vomiting and loss of motor control.
To this day I have vivid recollections of the dream state I experienced then, at times even while teaching classes. I have no idea even how I was able to teach in that state, and I am amazed that no student complained during this time. Surely I appeared to be stoned, on drugs, and totally out of control. At this time I was hospitalized five times, several times because of severe hemorrhaging. A study of persons denied tenure found that many experienced the same health problems that I did, including “insomnia, ulcers, anxiety, panic attacks, violent headaches, ‘overwhelming tiredness,’ post-traumatic stress disorder, and other stress-related symptoms” (Dyer, 2004, p. 71)
After I lost my tenure battle, I looked for full time employment for almost six years without success. Once tenure is denied, the possibility of finding academic work is difficult. I had high blood pressure, depression and severe migraine headaches for most of these six years. Without a job and insurance, hospitals will take only emergency patients; so I avoided going. Once when I was bleeding severely (the doctor said high blood pressure breaks blood vessels in the nose as a safe guard), I used a waste bucket to catch the blood to prevent it from flowing onto the floor. I said to myself “as soon as I can no longer see the bottom, I’m going to ask a neighbor to take me to the hospital.” The hospital knew I was uninsured, and the doctor refused to stop the bleeding, allowing me to lie in bed and bleed for about 20 minutes. They were going to take me to a “charity” hospital, until finally a nurse said I was going to die if the bleeding was not stopped soon, so she packed my nose.
I once had a mild heart attack and went to a hospital. They said they could not keep me over night and put me on the street at 11:45 p.m.! One doctor even said I had a cold in my back. A major problem was depression which lasted for about seven years. Towards the end I went on Sinequan® (doxepin)—a psychotropic antidepressant with anxiolytic properties—which made me very “spaced out’ and disconnected until I adjusted to the drug (which took over a week). Much later I went on Prozac®, which helped more than any therapy that I tried.
My debts then—mostly medical but also child support (not paid for 7 years) and student loans—ended up almost a quarter million dollars. Most of these debts were never paid back. After I lost my home (fortunately, my mother took over the payments, so it was in her name), the heat control was not maintained properly. As a result, a pipe in the upstairs bedroom (in between an inside wall, which surprised me) broke due to the water freezing. The water poured out for about a week and caused almost 100,000 dollars damage, and destroyed many of my books (some of which were very rare). Since I no longer owned the house, the insurance was not obligated to pay for my loss.
My opposers knew about all this, and most showed no concern whatsoever. In spite of all these difficulties, many of my supposed “colleagues” clearly conveyed to me that they could care less—all they wanted was to get me out of the university due to the fear that I “may have” discussed my religion with students (a false charge for which they knew there was no evidence) . I can state honestly that never in my life have I experienced such gross intolerance, hatred, and cruelty as I did from the supposed well-educated faculty of my department (all of whom had Ph.D.’s). I did not “fit in,” and they were not going to tolerate me (or my ideas on religion). It was hard for me then (and now) to understand the cruelty and hatefulness of people toward creationists.
When I came to the state university, I put both professors and universities on a pedestal. After my experience, they both not only toppled from their pedestals, but also fell into the gutter. I can state honestly that, even though I have worked for the government, the prison system with criminals, and in mental hospitals, that I never have dealt with such inhumane, unfeeling, cold, calculating, callous individuals who have such a disregard for other humans as some of my university colleagues.
Fortunately there were many exceptions (several of my colleagues repeatedly came to my defense and did what was in their power to help me), and I’ve met many genuinely warm human beings at the university. Other professors, though, caused me to conclude that sending our young people to these institutions for an education is frightening. When one considers the types of persons teaching at many of our institutions of “higher learning,” it is not difficult to understand the reason for some of the serious problems in our world.
The Details of My Case
I repeatedly requested the reasons why I had incurred the displeasure of my peers. The only answer I got (and this in writing) was that I “marched to the beat of a different drummer” (which, as a Christian, was true). My Department Chair and others openly stated that I clearly achieved well above the qualifications for tenure, but that the faculty members simply did not like me, and, for them, that was a good enough reason to deny tenure.
When pressed for a reason, after some searching, they came up with what I felt were trivial, totally irrelevant, actually somewhat inane “reasons.” A major issue was, they claimed, I was trying to improve my “prestige” by claiming I was a member of what they felt was a more “prestigious” department at the University. They concluded this from the fact that a couple of my over 100 publication I had then stated I was a member of this more “prestigious” department (which is understandable considering I teach courses that also are taught in the other department).
Nonetheless, without checking to see why these publications listed the department incorrectly, they maliciously accused me of “misrepresentation”. In addition, occasionally when books were sent to me from publishers, they would be sent to “Professor Bergman” instead of “Assistant Professor Bergman” (which was my rank when I was denied tenure). Publishers routinely do this, and, if a person writing a letter is not sure of a person’s rank, they often address the person as “professor.” In my case, I was accused of “misrepresenting” myself—claiming I was a full professor when I, in fact, was not.
It is difficult to imagine an intelligent faculty member of a biology department, for example, claiming that he is a member of a mathematics department, or an assistant professor telling people he was a full professor. Doing this would be more indicative of emotional instability (or psychological pathology) than “misrepresentation.” All of the misrepresentation charges were false (and easily could be proved false, if I was given an opportunity, which I never was) but yet these false charges were paraded before the faculty behind closed doors at formal meetings as if they were true. I not only never was given a chance to respond to these charges, but did not even know that they existed until sometime later. The faculty meetings for discussing my case were “secret,” and I was not privy to the information except second-hand. Thus, all kinds of false information was brought up; and the person discussed in secret had no means of responding to false information. This procedure (and many others) again, reflect the gross lack of justice prevalent in universities.
Partly because of enrollments and budget cuts, the department was not able immediately to replace me. Thus, the faculty was, in essence, willing to increase their own workloads in order to get rid of me! Exactly why the hostility against me existed is, of course, complex. Individual department members may have had different reasons for disliking me. From talking to a number of my peers, I learned that the hostility basically emanated from four or five people who were rabid “secular humanists” and had expressed to me, as well as others, clearly negative feelings about what they assumed was my religious orientation.
My involvement in creationism was clearly the major reason for the antagonism, but possibly not all of it. They labeled me a “fundamentalist”—and once I was given that label, they attributed to me a whole series of attitudes and beliefs, including “rightist politics,” which may or may not be typical of “fundamentalists,” many of which I may (or may not) have accepted. They were not concerned about my opinion—but simply determined that I was in a certain belief camp.
The creation-evolution controversy came up repeatedly and this was clearly the reason for most of the opposition. I was amazed, though, at their almost total inability to respond appropriately to creationists’ arguments. Most of my peers simply accepted Darwinism as a fact without examining the issue (and they knew very little about it), although I did find that a few members of the science department were as a whole less antagonistic to creation than members of other departments, such as philosophy and psychology. Some of the biology faculty were more fully aware of the shortcomings of evolution, and thus readily could agree with my arguments.
Other reasons that contributed to my situation include when discussing the creation-evolution issue, most of my peers easily became frustrated and, instead of rationally trying to find reasons why I was wrong (and why they were right), they reacted to this frustration by becoming hostile towards me. Unfortunately, one could not carry on a rational conversation on this issue with some of my colleagues—they became emotional and started using foul language, becoming unreasonable, irrational, and condemnatory so that communication was difficult. I had expected the behavior of college professors to be totally the opposite of this, but, after discussing this matter with many people, I realized that education alone does not produce humanity in people. Educated persons are just better at giving “intellectual” reasons for their prejudices. In addition, I felt that many of my colleagues were more like the stereotypical high school teachers than what I expected college professors to be like. Although many clear exceptions existed, many fit the picture I am drawing here.
Another shortcoming in universities is the almost fanatical preoccupation with evaluating programs, students, people, and everything else—and all of this evaluation results in little, if any, change. Until the computer revolution, teachers were teaching and doing pretty much the same thing they’ve done for the past century. Although it is easy to separate the best teachers from the worst, most of us fall somewhere in between, and here is where evaluation decisions are extremely difficult. I was also astounded at the ignorance expressed by some of my colleagues. I have heard many statements that are frightening—both from the fact that they would be enunciated by a Ph.D., and the fact that they likely regularly utter these misconceptions in the classroom.
University professors can spend hours discussing picayune things that have little significance for the university or life. At staff meetings, we invariably got into long, heated arguments about such things as course titles (such as whether a new course should be titled Basic Limnology or Introduction to Limnology). Actually, the specific title is often irrelevant (but not always because funding may depend on the use of certain terms); nonetheless, faculty members often debated for hours about such inconsequential matters!
Although many faculty members do spend a great deal of time with their students, in research, personal study, etc. many others teach their eight hours or so worth of classes a week, and are never seen or heard from for most of the rest of the week. In my department, the majority of faculty have not published an article in a decade or more—are often (their students tell me) not in their offices during their posted office hours, and, not uncommonly, cancel their classes because they are busy on personal business. Many faculty members have not read a book in their field in years—and it is evident from discussing this with them that many (but clearly not all) do not know what is currently going on in their field! Some of the statements faculty members make are frightening—and show a tremendous amount of ignorance even in their fields!
The behavior of many of my “colleagues” reminds me very much like the behavior of children in my neighborhood when I was growing up. Periodically we used to brag about who had “killed the most Indians”, or whose father made the most money. We typically threw out numbers we didn’t comprehend (“My dad makes a billion dollars a year”), each one of us wanting to appear the “greatest” in the eyes of our friends. Unfortunately, many persons are involved in these same ego games as adults. This behavior is especially prominent at universities. Each professor wants to publish in the “better” journals or prove that he is a “greater scholar” than his or her peers. Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s achievements, it seemed that many professors were extremely anxious to shoot down everyone else to glorify their own accomplishments, however small they may be.
Foremost, my BGSU experience has caused me to question the wisdom, integrity, honesty, and the “answers” of the academic and scientific world. Professors often draw conclusions based upon selected data and armchair speculation (which is sometimes based on little accurate insight) and a little knowledge (as well as a frame of reference that relies upon gross assumptions about humans and reality). In addition, there is a strong tendency for professors, as for anyone else, to write from their own knowledge vantage point—and few of us have the time, energy or resources to research thoroughly most of the areas about which we often discussed. Many statements that professors make have as much validity as those made by virtually anyone else, expert or not.
It is my belief that, as a whole, the level of knowledge of a Ph.D. compared with a non-Ph.D., in most areas is not greatly different. While one with a Ph.D. in math may know math much better than most people, nevertheless, his general overall knowledge outside of his specialty probably is not much above the average person. Even in specialized fields, compared to one who is interested in, and studies for some time in that field, there probably is not a great deal of difference. I have friends who are very interested in evolution, and read at least one or two books every month on this topic, and they probably have superior knowledge about the issues, as compared to most biology professors.
Some evidence exists that those who earn Ph.D. degrees do so in order to make up for their perceived inferiority in order to lend validity to their ideas (this is common among members of certain religious groups). In other words, people who know they can do well in the world go out and do well, those who are insecure earn degrees as a means of bolstering their self-image or increasing their status to outsiders. Truly bright individuals often do not need these pieces of paper—they know they are capable, and end up successful without going through the formality of obtaining a doctor’s degree.
I tend to cultivate friendships with bright, well-read persons who are highly motivated to do research, read, study, and enjoy intellectual conversation. Admittedly, most of the people who fit this profile are not professors—nor do they have Ph.D.’s. Among my most stimulating friends are people who have a high school education (and some of them have published in the so called “top” journals in “their” field!). True, one picks up certain knowledge and experiences while going through a doctorate program—nonetheless, most people likewise learn much about the world on their own. Most of us mature with age (although some mature much faster than others), and those in doctoral programs do not necessarily mature faster than those who are simply aware, bright, well read, citizens. Those with Ph.D.’s, though, tend to think much more of themselves than is warranted by the empirical evidence.
The amount of work required to earn a Ph.D. sometimes involves reading as few as a dozen or so books beyond a masters degree—and some of my friends with only a high school education read that many books in a month! It is my contention from my experience that the requirements for a Ph.D. are far too low. I would double the number of course hours currently required. In addition, I would develop a number of both subjective and objective examinations to be administered periodically during the student’s career. More extensive involvement in research is needed—much more than the required for a Ph.D. dissertation, preferably several major research projects. Another concern is dissertations are often of little significance, thus many publishers will not touch a manuscript if they know it is a Ph.D. Dissertation).
In addition, I find it incredible that a student in many fields can do a Ph.D. Dissertation that has fewer than 100 pages. Even a dissertation on such a limited subject as the nictitating membrane should be well over 100 pages (as was a recent one on this topic). It is true that the number of pages is not the sole criteria—nonetheless, I seriously suspect that a 40-page dissertation on The History of the Theory of Evolution from Aristotle to Darwin is likely to be rather superficial. In addition, mastery of one (preferably two) foreign languages should be required. I’m not only stressing requiring more book work (certainly the student should be well read) but also that the university should provide a large number of experiences to enable students to become actively engaged and fluent in their field—and, of course, fluency is not always developed best from book work. Anderson and Murray concluded that, in general, professors are now ill-prepared for classroom presentations, ignorant of the new literature in their field, and intellectually lethargic (1971).
Another solution to this problem, aside from requiring a much higher level of academic scholarship before a Ph.D. is awarded, is professional certification that expires at the end of five years. To be recertified to teach at the college level, for example, one must continue to take courses or show clear indications that he or she is “keeping up in his or her field.” After reading scores of articles and books on professors, I found most of them agreed with my assessment. Anderson and others supported this writer’s assessment that many college professors are far below where they should be regarding subject knowledge and intellectual understanding, and display a frighteningly high level of naiveté.
Support from Others
While going through what was clearly the most difficult period in my life, I sought out the traditional support systems of our society. In spite of the fact that most psychological studies show that both divorce and loss of job are extremely traumatic incidents (divorce is second only to death of spouse and, in many cases, can be more severe than death of spouse), I found society’s support systems totally inadequate—actually, frighteningly deficient. I consulted a total of four psychologists and psychiatrists—and all of them aggravated my problems and were, in my opinion, incapable of helping me. Several of the therapists I went to were rude, incompetent, resorted to name-calling (such as using the term “stupid fundies”), were totally unable to assess my situation (and were unable to evaluate the relative influence of the various events and persons) and, essentially, had little or nothing constructive to say to help me in my situation. I typically went away from these sessions feeling angry or depressed—or both. I can agree with the review of Martin Gross’s book on psychology testing that stated:
Martin Gross, the best-selling author of The Doctors and The Brain Watchers, shows the failure of psychotherapy and the harmful influences it has had on our society. Citing numerous research studies and opinions of scores of critical psychiatrists and psychologists, Gross convincingly argues that psychoanalysis is ineffective and scientifically invalid while showing how psychology has become our new religion, with psychiatrists and psychologists our new seers.
In my efforts to achieve justice, I contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They considered my case at a board meeting and a member told me that they concluded that a creationist “has no business teaching in a state university—they can teach in their own schools.” When asked why, my informant stated that he may try to indoctrinate students in the direction of creationism. Ironically, it is often seen as fully appropriate for atheistic or agnostic professors to indoctrinate students in the direction of atheism! Students at BGSU claim that their professors in certain classes spend a good portion of class time criticizing, ridiculing, and belittling Christianity—in short, trying to tear their faith down. Even though no one had directly accused me of openly proselytizing to students in class (a charge that is totally untrue anyway) nonetheless, they expressed the attitude that I could have proselytized students, and thus it is within the university’s right to fire someone so suspected!
Many professors consider religious belief unsophisticated, naïve, and prescientific. The dominant view among leading academics is that humans are a product of evolution, as are all theistic religions. Religions are created by us and, since the natural world and everything in it can be explained without a creator, a creator is only a curiosity that dates back to a prescientific and more superstitious time. Anderson and Murray (1971, p. 19) stated “the large majority of academics [professors] experienced conventional religious upbringing. . .future professors continue to decline in overall religiosity instead of taking up roles in church and synagogue beside non academics.” They conclude, “the major depressant on religious activity among professors seems to be. . . lack of colleague support” (p. 19). It could be added that the academic environment is essentially irreligious, and social pressure makes many religious beliefs “unacceptable.”
I also contacted the American Association of University Professors who likewise felt that “creationists” were “narrow-minded” and thus should not be teaching in universities—and, therefore, they refused to support my case. I also contacted the state Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) who agreed to take the case, but later admitted privately that OCRC discriminated against cases of religious discrimination—sexual and racial discrimination were put first and the grounds to prove this type of discrimination were easier than religious discrimination. In the case of racial and sexual discrimination, all that usually had to be proven was differential treatment, i.e., if three males are given tenure and a female with identical or better qualifications is rejected for tenure, this is prima faciae evidence of discrimination. With cases of religious discrimination, though, usually the individuals must openly state that they fired so-and-so because of religious reasons—a statement that very few people are likely to make in open court.
In short, one’s chances of winning a case through OCRC on religious discrimination are slim to none. I also learned that they did not rule “probable cause” for the claimant in over 90% of their cases! These state agencies, in spite of spending a great deal of time and money, are largely impotent. I, therefore, was forced to find an attorney on my own. I contacted over two dozen attorneys, and, after explaining my situation, all refused to take my case; several openly stated that they would not defend a creationist. It is ironic that attorneys will defend robbers, rapists, muggers, and others—but yet refuse to defend Evangelical Christians. I finally located several Christian attorneys who said they could take the case—but felt it was useless and the best advice was not to incur a tremendous financial loss, but simply find another job (if possible). This turned out to be very good advice.
Thus, Christians are forced to face open discrimination and, in essence, secular employers (and especially universities), who have carte Blanche permission grossly to violate their employees civil rights. After communicating with Christian attorneys, I learned that cases of firing on religious ground were common, and there is little one can do about it in academia. After the newspapers carried my story, I received a dozen calls from individuals who also had experienced open discrimination. It is incredible in this land of supposed freedom that there is actually a tremendous amount of open persecution against Evangelical Christians!
Because I had belonged to the teacher’s union, the NEA agreed to take the case. Thus, a case was filed in federal court on the religious discrimination grounds. This, unfortunately, hit the newspapers, lowering even more my chances of finding a job elsewhere. Unemployed with the prospect of having to wait two to three years before the case will go to court; I faced the possibility of losing regardless of the merits of the case. On welfare, I was able to draw $117 a month—hardly enough to pay for my approximately $50,000 debts still left at that time from obtaining my education, my divorce, and other debts. It seems there is an extremely high price one must pay in order to be a Christian, and even much higher price one often pays to be a creationist.
My experience has taught me that I should never have come out of the closet (of course, I was too naïve to know this three decades ago), and that it is my responsibility to bring this situation to the attention of others. This will give creationists of all types the knowledge that they need so they will know that they should either stay in the closet, or risk the serious problems if they want to survive in secular society today. Another solution for those creationists going into education is to seek employment at a Christian college or school. Ideally, the system will change so that those who doubt Darwin will be allowed to have their rightful place at the table of discourse in modern society.
Anderson, Charles and John Murray. 1971. The Professors. Schenkmen Publishing Company.
Bergman, Jerry. 1984. The Criterion; Religious Discrimination in America. Richfield, MN: Onesimus Publishing Co.
______. 2004. The Modern War Against God and Those Who Believe in Him. Manuscript in preparation.
Dyer, Susan. 2004. Tenure Denied. Washington, D.C.: AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund.
Gross, Martin. 1962. The Brain Watchers. New York: Random House.