Ham on Nye: The Debate Continues

He-said-he-said.  Who are we to believe? Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and creationist leader Ken Ham have published reflections on their recent debate.  Nye explains his triumphHam says, not so fast.  To this reader, Ham seems to be on the defensive.

As ILYBYGTH readers recall, the debate itself occurred a couple of months ago.  Bill Nye traveled to Ham’s Creation Museum to tackle the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in the modern scientific era?”  The debate rollicked over some familiar territory and included some surprises.  Ham focused on his idiosyncratic definition of science, split into authentic “observational” science and illegitimate “historical” science.  Nye piled on the traditional skeptical puzzlers: How could a tree be more than 6,000 years old on a young earth?  Why are there no fossils out of order?  How could an Ark survive?

In the pages of the Skeptical Inquirer, Nye recently offered his reflections on the debate.  He explains his strategy to pile on example after example of young-earth-confounding science.  He explains his decision to spend his first precious ninety seconds on a mild joke about bow ties.  He profusely thanks his advisers, such as the experienced creation/evolution debaters at the National Center for Science Education.  Nye’s tone is profoundly celebratory.  In short, he explains how and why he triumphed.

Perhaps not surprising, Ken Ham took exception to Nye’s comments.  Never one to back away from a challenge, Ham recently published a rejoinder to Nye’s memoir.  To me, Ham’s article seems strangely defensive.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m no follower of Mr. Ham.  But I have defended him against vicious verbal assaults from skeptics.  I have also taken The Science Guy to task for his woeful misunderstanding of the culture of creationism.  But in this case, Ham’s only defense seems to be to niggle around the edges of Nye’s memories.

Ham objects, for example, to Nye’s memory of how the debate came about.  The way Nye tells it, Ham persistently challenged Nye to a debate until Nye agreed.  The way Ken Ham remembers it, however, the whole thing came about at the suggestion of an Associated Press reporter.

Ham also objected to Nye’s repeated suggestion that Ham has a “congregation,” and that all of these museums appeal to “Ham’s followers.”  Such language, Ham protests, seems to be an effort to marginalize Ham’s Answers In Genesis ministry as a fringe cult.  Fair enough.  I would be surprised if Bill Nye knew much about the history of parachurch organizations in American (and Australian) evangelical Protestantism.  For evangelical Protestants, there is often a clear distinction between church and broader organizations that also help the cause.  Missionary groups, Bible leagues, youth organizations, and similar parachurch organizations are a familiar part of the evangelical experience.  Nye really does seem to miss this distinction entirely.  But does it matter?  Does it really hurt Ham’s cause if outsiders think of his work as a “congregation” instead of a “ministry?”  It seems the distinction only matters to members themselves.

Perhaps strangest of all, Ham claims to catch Nye in an embarrassing distortion of the truth.  Nye insists that he had never been inside the Creation Museum before the debate.  One time when he was in the area, Nye explained, he drove around the parking lot, but the museum itself was closed.  Nye says he saw the “infamous” statue of a dinosaur with early humans outside the museum.  But Ham seems to prove that Nye distorted this memory.  Ham produces a photo that apparently shows Bill Nye outside the Creation Museum in 2011.  Ham even notes a 2011 Facebook post that seems to confirm the date and duration (122 seconds!) of Nye’s visit.  The museum, Ham claims, was indeed open at the time.  Plus, there is no statue outside the museum that depicts humans cavorting with dinosaurs.  How could Nye have seen a statue that doesn’t exist?

Nye's 122 Seconds Outside the Creation Museum

Nye’s 122 Seconds Outside the Creation Museum

These sorts of nitpicks put Nye in an awkward position.  Why would Nye embellish his memories of his 2011 visit to the Creation Museum’s parking lot?

In the end, though, they don’t seem to make a difference.  Throughout this post-debate commentary, Ken Ham takes a decidedly defensive tone.  He pokes holes in Nye’s memories, but he doesn’t really challenge Nye’s central conclusion that the debate was a triumph for mainstream science.

 

Schools and Science: Good News for Creationists

Whose science gets taught in America’s public schools?  A new study of Oklahoma high-school students finds that students emerge from their Biology classes with a creationist-friendly understanding of evolution.  This study suggests once again that we can’t just ask HOW MUCH science education young people receive.  We must also ask about WHOSE DEFINITION of science is taught.

Looks like more evidence that science in public schools might be far friendlier to dissenting visions of science than we might think.  Communities that include large numbers of creationists may take solace from the implication: Science in schools might mean very different things to different people.

The findings were published recently in the pages of Evolution: Education and Outreach.  Researchers Tony B. Yates and Edmund A. Marek surveyed students at thirty-two Oklahoma high schools.  They administered tests before and after the students took a course in Biology.  Taken as a whole, the students expressed 4812 misconceptions before they took the class.  Afterward, they had 5072.

Yates and Marek pulled those misconceptions from a list of twenty-three common ones, including the following:

According to the second law of thermodynamics, complex life forms cannot evolve from simpler life forms.

And

Evolution cannot be considered a reliable explanation because evolution is only a theory.

Though the students had more misconceptions about evolution after their classes, Yates and Marek claimed, they also came out more confident in their knowledge of evolution.

What’s going on here?  Yates and Marek blamed the teachers.  As they concluded,

teachers may serve as sources of biological evolution-related misconceptions or, at the very least, propagators of existing misconceptions.

Of course, for creationists, this must be a cause for celebration.  What Marek and Yates call “misconceptions,” creationists might call “critical thinking” about evolutionary “dogma.”  In spite of conservative worries that public schools have become godless institutions, hostile to religious belief, this study provides more evidence that teachers represent the beliefs of their local communities.  As political scientists Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer argued in their book Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms, teachers most often teach the values of their communities.  In the case of creationism and evolution, we see more evidence here that teachers do not challenge the religious beliefs of their students.  The science on tap in these Biology classes seems accommodating to skepticism about mainstream evolutionary thinking.

 

 

What If Stories, Part IV: War and Creationism in Europe

How did World War I change creationism in Europe?  Check out part four of the National Center for Science Education’s series.

If you’ve been following the series, you’ve read what historians Ron Numbers, Taner Edis, and Adam Shapiro had to say.  How did World War I change the history of creationism in the USA?  In Turkey?  In textbooks?

In today’s post, Abraham C. Flipse of VU University Amsterdam puts in his two cents.  Flipse attracted attention a couple years ago with his history of creationism in the Netherlands.

Obviously, the devastation of the war was much closer to home in the Netherlands.  How would creationism’s history have been different in this “stronghold of creationism” if the war had never happened?

Read Dr. Flipse’s post to find out!

What If Stories, Part III: Schools, Scopes, and the War

What if World War I had never happened?  How would the history of creation/evolution controversies have changed?  That’s the question the folks at the National Center for Science Education blog are asking these days.  In today’s third post of the series, historian Adam Shapiro makes his case for a vastly different story without the Great War to stir the pot in 1914-1918.

Shapiro’s the right person to ask.  His recent book Trying Biology offered a smart new argument about the importance of textbook publishing in the history of creationism in the United States.

So how does Shapiro think World War I changed things in the world of American creationism?  You’ll have to read his NCSE blog post to find out.

What If Stories, Part Deux: War, Islam, and the Ottoman Empire

How would creationism have looked different if World War I had never happened?  That’s the question the National Center for Science Education is asking these days.

In the second post of the series, Taner Edis of Truman State University asks how creationism would have evolved differently in the Islamic world.  How did the cataclysm of the war change Muslim’s attitudes about evolution?  How did the war-time collapse of the Ottoman Empire change the course of creationism in the Islamic world?  Take a look at Professor Edis’ post to find out.

Ken Ham Is My Guidance Counselor

Why does Ken Ham care where you go to college? Where you send your kids?   Because “college” is more than just a collection of classes and academics. For religious conservatives as for everybody else, “college” represents a formative experience. The ideas one will encounter, the personal connections one will make, and the changes in one’s outlook and worldview all make the college years some of the most transformative in our lives.

In recent years, Ham, America’s (and Australia’s) leading voice for young-earth creationism, has established himself as the arbiter of creationist orthodoxy in college attendance. And his word carries weight in the world of evangelical higher education.

Recently, for instance, Ham warned readers at Answers In Genesis about the dangers of attending Calvin College. Students at that storied Christian school, Ham explained, were “being influenced . . . to undermine the authority of Scripture in many ways.” When faculty engage in evolutionary research and teaching that might turn away from Ham’s strict attitudes about knowledge and creation, Ham warns, students will too often abandon their creationist faith.

As a precaution, Ham offers readers a list of schools that adhere to the young-earth creationism taught by Ham’s Answers In Genesis ministry. To be safe, Ham warns, parents and students ought to stick with schools that have proven their fidelity to these ideas.

Ham’s anxiety over the crumbling orthodoxy in Christian higher education is nothing new. As I argue in my 1920s book, many of today’s evangelical schools had their origins in the founding decade of American fundamentalism. Back in the 1920s, religious schools often faced a choice between fundamentalist orthodoxy and modernist adaptation. Most chose modernism. The University of Chicago, for example, founded as a Baptist beacon of learning, became the leading voice for theological modernism, employing such folks as Shailer Mathews and Shirley Jackson Case. In contrast, a few Christian schools, most famously Wheaton College, sided with the fundamentalist movement.

Leading fundamentalists in the 1920s also founded a spate of new schools to embody their theological and cultural conservatism. Perhaps most prominently, evangelist Bob Jones Sr. opened Bob Jones College (now Bob Jones University) in 1926. The goal of this school was to form the fundamentalist character of young people while educating them in the best traditions of arts and sciences. In order to reassure parents that the school would never slide toward theological modernism or cultural liberalism, Jones and his allies established a rock-ribbed charter. This charter hoped to guarantee the continuing orthodoxy of the school. The charter’s second paragraph outlined that orthodoxy:

The general nature and object of the corporation shall be to conduct an institution of learning for the general education of youth in the essentials of culture and in the arts and sciences, giving special emphasis to the Christian religion and the ethics revealed in the Holy Scriptures, combating all atheistic, agnostic, pagan and so-called scientific adulterations of the Gospel, unqualifiedly affirming and teaching the inspiration of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the Cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save me from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.

Perhaps most notably, the next line specified that this charter “shall never be amended, modified, altered, or changed as to the provisions hereinbefore set forth.” Also remarkable, according to a 1960 reminiscence by Bob Jones Sr., at its founding BJU decreed that every graduating senior would pledge to monitor the school’s continuing fundamentalism. “Should the policy and conduct of the University ever, in my lifetime, deviate, in the slightest particular, from the letter or spirit of this Creed,” seniors would promise,

I hereby pledge myself to exert all my influence to affect a change in conditions; failing which, I will resort to such legal measures as the courts may offer to the end that the institution may be kept true to the University Creed and the original intentions of the founder.

Most evangelical colleges established similar creeds and many promised never to amend them. Not many others, to my knowledge, required such strict supervision by their alumni.

These days, Ken Ham has taken over the role of orthodoxy’s gadfly. In addition to his warnings about waverings from his definition of creationism at Calvin College, Ham has warned that other evangelical schools might be threatening the faith of their students. And Ham’s warnings carry weight.

In one recent episode at Bryan College, for example, Ham’s public worries about faculty orthodoxy led the school’s leadership to instigate a new sort of creationist orthodoxy pledge for faculty. From now on, faculty must publicly avow their belief in a real, historic Adam and Eve. As I argued at the time, the fallout from Bryan College’s policy shift might lead to a shake-up of faculty. More directly relevant, the furor at Bryan seems to testify to Ham’s influence. Worried that creationist parents might not send their students and their tuition dollars, Bryan’s leaders acted to shore up their image as a home of young-earth creationist orthodoxy.

Also intriguing, I must ask again if the drive to protect their reputations as safe theological and cultural havens has led some conservative evangelical schools to cover up incidents of sexual assault. Of course, these are very serious allegations, and I do not ask these questions lightly. I am certainly not accusing Ken Ham or the leadership of these schools of condoning sexual assault. But the drive to present a public face as a uniquely safe environment for fundamentalist students certainly puts undue pressure on college leaders. It is not unfair to wonder if such pressure might lead schools to downplay any cases that might threaten those reputations.

Outside the world of conservative evangelical Protestantism, colleges spend an inordinate amount of time and treasure to attract students. Flashy dorm rooms, high-visibility sports programs, celebrity faculty, and lavish campus lifestyles all hope to convince families to send their kids and their money to certain schools. The pressure on recruiters is intense.

There is a similar pressure on evangelical colleges. Influential voices such as that of Ken Ham are able to exert outsized influence by warning creationist families toward or away from certain schools. Without Ham’s imprimatur, conservative schools may lose the loyalty of students and families.

 

What If Stories: Creationism and World War I

Much Less than 6,000 Years Ago

Much Less than 6,000 Years Ago

What if World War I had never happened? As the centenary of the start of that cataclysmic war nears, the National Center for Science Education has asked a group of eminent historians (as well as yours truly) to speculate how things might be different.

The first post in the NCSE series was penned by the Dean of Creationism History, Ronald L. Numbers.* Numbers, the author of the definitive history The Creationists, argues this morning that World War I was central to the shape of the creation/evolution struggles that emerged in the 1920s. As Ron notes, this sort of “counterfactual” game is tricky for historians. There are so many factors at play, such a varied interplay of contingencies and possibilities, that academic historians tend to shy away from guessing what might have happened. Nevertheless, Ron makes a strong case that the 1920s would have looked very different—in terms of creationism—had there been no big war. But does Professor Numbers think there would still have been a creation/evolution battle in the 1920s without a war? You’ll have to read his full post to find out.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the posts in this series. My own humble offering will come at the end of the series, I’m told.

* Full disclosure: Ron was my PhD mentor at the University of Wisconsin and is still a personal hero and friend of mine.

 

Montana Tech Faculty: Conservatism YES, Creationism NO

H/T: LMW

Can a science-oriented public museum welcome creationists as commencement speakers? No way, says a faculty group at Montana Tech.

According to an article by Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed, the controversy at Montana Tech revolves around the coming commencement address by Greg and Susan Gianforte. No matter which way we slice it, this discussion raises crucial questions about the values of diversity, the politics of creationism, and the nature of science.

According to the university’s Chancellor, Don Blackketter, the Gianfortes are the perfect choice. After all, Montana Tech is a science-oriented subunit of the University of Montana. Ms. Gianforte has engineering degrees from fancy schools including Cornell and Berkeley and the couple together has a long record of success in software entrepreneurship. As Blackketter gushed on the school’s website,

Greg and Susan are a great example of passionate individuals and entrepreneurs who have had much success and have given back in so many ways. Their messages will resonate well with our students who will be leaving Montana Tech to make their mark out in the world. We are honored they will be a part of our event.

If you ask some of the faculty, however, you’ll likely get a different story. In addition to supporting conservative causes such as the Milton Friedman Foundation and the Association of Classical Christian Schools, the Gianfortes have donated to the creationist Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum. The museum endorses a vigorously creationist vision of the origins of the earth and of humanity.

According to journalist Scott Jaschik, faculty protesters insist they do not have a beef with the conservative politics of the Gianfortes. But the faculty faction DOES object to the Gianfortes’ support for creationism. Pat Munday, department chair for technical communication and a professor of science and technology studies, told Jaschik that a “publicly funded, science-based institution” like MT could not seem to condone such anti-scientific beliefs. More provocatively, Henry Gonshak of the English Department told Jaschik that the Gianfortes could not cut the mustard. Though they promised not to discuss their political activism, Gonshak was not convinced. “If Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden promised not to mention their own political and religious beliefs,” Gonshak asked, “would we pick them as commencement speakers?”

Though I find Gonshak’s comparison excessive and counterproductive, I agree with him that inviting creationist-supporters to speak at a public science school’s commencement raises some difficult questions. First of all, are the Gianfortes automatically “anti-science” for their support of a creationist museum? Chancellor Blackketter doesn’t think so. He told Jaschik the Gianfortes were “great supporters of science and . . . science and math have been part of their successful business ventures.” As we’ve argued time and time again, the notion among some mainstream scientists that creationists are incapable of learning or using “real” science just doesn’t hold water. The Gianfortes seem like an example of successful creationist engineers.

Second, does it suppress the university’s mission of intellectual diversity to ban commencement speakers of any kind? What if the university wanted to ban prominent science pundit Jerry Coyne due to Coyne’s in-your-face atheism and unapologetic dismissal of religious beliefs? Wouldn’t that seem outrageous? How can we ban one sort of speaker and not another?

Third, should we think about this as a political question? That is, must we who want more evolution taught in our nation’s public schools fight against any event that lends scientific credibility to evolution deniers? If so, the faculty’s move at Montana Tech seems appropriate. Hosting the Gianfortes as commencement speakers at a public science university sends a message. If science does not include creationism, the Gianfortes should not be invited to speak.

Fourth, does it matter that the Gianfortes are charged with supporting a creationist institution, rather than promoting creationism directly? It seems an illegitimate McCarthyite tactic to dig through the record of public figures to denounce them by association. Do we know if the Gianfortes themselves are creationists? I’ve given money to the Catholic Church, for example. But I would not consider it fair to label my politics as anti-contraception because of that. People should be judged on their own merits, not smeared by tenuous affiliations.

The ultimate question, I suppose, is this: Would you sign a faculty petition to oust the Gianfortes as commencement speakers?

 

California: No Rock Concerts, No Evolution, and No Spiders

Science pundit Jerry Coyne has discovered something rotten in the state of California.  To graduate from California high schools, students must pass the state high-school graduation exam.  That exam, Coyne discovered, is not allowed to ask students any questions about evolution.  Or “rock concerts.”  Or spiders.  Really.

As Coyne points out, students must pass the test at some point in order to graduate from high school.  The rules of the test are clear: to level the playing field, any intimation of controversial ideas must be kept out of this minimum-competency exam.  As a result, the California Department of Education has published a list of topics that should be avoided:

  • Violence (including guns, other weapons, and graphic animal violence)
  • Dying, death, disease, hunger, famine
  • War
  • Natural disasters with loss of life
  • Drugs (including prescription drugs), alcohol, tobacco, smoking
  • Junk food
  • Abuse, poverty, running away
  • Divorce
  • Socio-economic advantages (e.g., video games, swimming pools, computers in the home, expensive vacations)
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Complex discussions of sports
  • Slavery
  • Evolution, prehistoric times, age of solar system, dinosaurs
  • Rap music, rock concerts
  • Extrasensory perception, witchcraft
  • Halloween, religious holidays
  • Anything disrespectful, demeaning, moralistic, chauvinistic
  • Children coping with adult situations or decisions; young people challenging or questioning authority
  • Mention of individuals who may be associated with drug use or with advertising of substances such as cigarettes or alcohol
  • Losing a job, home, or pets
  • Rats, roaches, lice, spiders
  • Dieting, other concerns with self-image
  • Political issues
  • Any topic that is likely to upset students and affect their performance on the rest of the test

As Coyne protests,

[Evolution] is science, and those are important things for children to know!

We could imagine making this point even more boldly.  Students should be REQUIRED, we might say, to be able to handle potentially controversial or upsetting issues.  Not only should California high-school students be allowed to field questions about evolution, they should be expected to!  And questions about fundamental issues such as slavery and religion.  And spiders.  Indeed, how could the Great State of California consider someone adequately educated if he or she could not handle the merest whiff of controversy?

We might say all that, but it would miss the point.

Students in California schools already have to know plenty of evolution.  The state’s standards these days have oodles of evolution in them.  [Though as Ron Numbers argues, the history of California’s science standards has played a key role in promoting the “minority-rights” argument of creationists since the late 1960s.] This minimum-competency graduation test is not meant to test whether or not students have adequate skills or knowledge.  Rather, it is meant to test whether they have minimum proficiency in reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.

The goal—if I understand it correctly—of these anti-controversy rules is not to protect students from rock music, evolution, or spiders.  Rather, the goal of these rules is to ensure that the minimum-competency exam does not favor some groups of students over others.  The anti-controversy rule is intended to minimize the amount of differential treatment certain student groups might get.

For example, it is not difficult to imagine students from certain religious groups having a sincere disadvantage if asked a question that assumes much cultural knowledge about rock music.  If a student had been told her whole life that rock music was from the devil, she would likely know less about it, and have a different attitude about it, than would students who listened to rock music at home with their parents.  The same is obviously true about evolution.  A creationist student who had been exposed to evolutionary science, but who rejected those ideas, would have a harder time passing an exam if those evolutionary ideas played a central role.

Though it might be more satisfying to use this bizarre list as an opportunity to kvetch, to complain that schools these days don’t make kids walk ten miles barefoot uphill both ways, this California policy seems like a sensible attempt to treat all students equally, as much as possible.

What Would Bryan Do?

H/t KT

Would William Jennings Bryan support the recent move by the president of Bryan College?  That’s the question Bryan’s great-grandchildren are asking these days.

As we’ve reported, Bryan College’s leadership has imposed a new, stricter faculty policy.  From now on, faculty must believe that Adam and Eve were real, historical persons and the real, genetic origins of all subsequent humanity.  As science pundit Jerry Coyne has pointed out, that puts evangelical scientists in a pickle, since genetic evidence indicates that the smallest possible pool of original humans had to be at least 2,250 people.  Bryan College is home to science-curriculum innovators Brian Eisenback and Ken Turner, who hope to show evangelical students that evolution does not necessarily disprove their Biblical faith.

What would the original Bryan say about all this?  The college, after all, was founded as a memorial to Bryan’s last decade of work defending the centrality of Biblical wisdom in American life and politics.  As I argued in my 1920s book, though, Bryan himself held some beliefs about both the beginnings and the end of time that have made other conservative evangelical Protestants uncomfortable.  Bryan did not believe in a young earth, nor in a literal six-day creation.  Nor did Bryan think Jesus had to come back before the earth experienced its promised thousand-year reign of peace and justice.

Bryan Gets Grilled by Darrow at the Scopes Trial

Bryan Gets Grilled by Darrow at the Scopes Trial

Other historians, too, have noted Bryan’s complicated relationship with the fundamentalist movement in its first decade, the 1920s.  Lawrence Levine’s Defender of the Faith and, more recently, Michael Kazin’s A Godly Hero both get into the gritty details of Bryan’s anti-evolution crusade.

Historians might disagree, but we all will get nervous about trying to predict what Bryan would say about today’s dust-up at Bryan College.  Because Bryan’s ideology and theology remain necessarily part of his life between 1915 and 1925.  It is mostly meaningless to ask what he would say today, because the situation today is so wildly different from what it was back then.

For example, when Bryan led his anti-evolution movement in the 1920s, the scientific jury was still out on the mechanism of evolution.  Darwin’s explanation—modified descent through natural selection—had been roundly criticized and nearly dismissed by the mainstream scientific community.  So when Bryan led the charge against the teaching of evolution, he could claim with scientific legitimacy that natural selection was not established scientifically.  It was not until years after Bryan’s death that biologists and geneticists such as Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ernst Mayr, R.A. Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane, Sewall Wright, and others solved the problem of genetic “swamping” that seemed to make Darwin’s idea of natural selection a non-starter.

I’ve spent my time with Bryan’s papers at the Library of Congress.  I like Bryan.  He was a successful politician, but I don’t hold that against him.  I believe he was also sincere and devoted to justice.  I came to believe that Bryan was profoundly shocked and surprised when he could not produce his dream team of scientific experts at the Scopes Trial to put evolutionary scientists in their place.

Of course, Bryan died just a few days after the trial.  I can’t help but wonder how he might have “evolved” in his thinking if he had lived.  Would his experience at the Scopes Trial have caused him to re-think his confidence that evolutionary science would soon be disproven?  And, more intriguing, how would Bryan have responded if he had lived for an even longer stretch?  An Old-Testament sort of lifespan?

Would Bryan have embraced the “new evangelicalism” of Carl Henry and Billy Graham?  Would he have worked to make sure Biblical religion remained in conversation with mainstream American culture and politics?

I can’t help but think that he would.  I agree with Bryan’s great-grandson Kent Owen, who told reporter Kevin Hardy, “My view of Bryan is that things weren’t set in stone. . . .  He was pragmatic.”

What does this mean for today’s leadership at Bryan College?  On one hand, they are continuing the legacy of their school.  Bryan College was never bound too tightly to the thinking of the original William Jennings Bryan.  From its outset, Bryan College took a firmer, more “fundamentalist” position than Bryan himself ever did.  But on the other hand, the insistence of today’s leadership that Bryan College faculty sign on to a specific understanding of the historicity of Adam & Eve does not sound like something the Great Commoner would have supported.  As long as the principle of respect and reverence for the Bible was maintained, the original Bryan thought, people of good will could disagree on the details.

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