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|Sat, Mar. 19 2011 04:12 PM EDT

Texas Bill Would Protect College Professors Who Question Evolution

By Katherine T. Phan|Christian Post Reporter

A new Texas bill would make it illegal for colleges to fire or refuse jobs to professors based on their research on intelligent design or other theories on the origin of life that question evolution.

The measure from Republican state Rep. Bill Zedler would prohibit public institutions of higher education from discriminating against or penalizing faculty members or students, in regard to employment or academic support, based on their "conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms."

The bill, HB 2454, was received by the Higher Education Committee earlier this week.

Researchers who study intelligent design deserve the same academic freedom as those who support evolution, said a spokesman for Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank based in Seattle, Wash.

"Without academic freedom to follow the evidence where it leads, science cannot progress," Casey Luskin, program officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute, told The Christian Post.

Luskin said there is a "widespread pattern of discrimination" against intelligent design proponents, pointing to several cases in Texas.

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In 2007, Baylor University shut down an evolutionary informatics lab by professor Robert Marks after administrators learned he was doing pro-ID research. The lab was forced to move from the university server to a third-party server. The incident was documented in Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."

Another incident at Baylor a few years ago involved the Michael Polanyi Center, considered to be the first intelligent design think tank at a major research university. Headed by leading ID-theorist William Dembski, a senior fellow of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, the center was also shut down due to intolerance of the pro-ID viewpoint.

The cases of discrimination aren't just limited to college teachers, according to Luskin. Students could be counted as committing academic suicide for not subscribing to a neo-Darwinian evolution viewpoint.

Michael Dini, a biology professor at Texas Tech University, states on his website that he does not write letters of recommendation for students applying to medical or graduate school if they did not accept neo-Darwinian evolution.

Dini explains the reason for this criteria: “The central, unifying principle of biology is the theory of evolution, which includes both micro- and macroevolution, and which extends to ALL species."

"Someone who ignores the most important theory in biology cannot expect to properly practice in a field that is now so heavily based on biology," he writes.

The professor adds that the criteria for a letter of recommendation are not meant to discriminate against anyone's personal beliefs but are to "help insure that a student who wishes my recommendation uses scientific thinking to answer scientific questions."

Luskin disagreed with Dini's policy.

"His policy is patently discriminatory because it refuses to treat students on an equal basis if they scientifically disagree with Darwinian macroevolution," stated Luskin.

The intelligent design proponent said scientists fight antibiotic resistance by observing that there are limits to Darwinian evolution.

"We use drug cocktails to combat antibiotic or antiviral drug resistance because there are limits to the amount of evolution that can take place in a bacteria or virus," he said.

"One can be a good physician and disagree with Darwinian macroevolution."

HB 2454 requires a two-thirds vote to pass in the House.

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