Henry Neufeld reminds us in a trackback to an early ‘Untold Sequel’ that featured Nancey Murphy, how Dr Richard Colling was treated at Olivet Nazarene University for writing a book titled ‘Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with the Creator”.
Dr Colling’s story was featured in Inside Higher Ed
The article reminds us how
[But] the groups arguing for freedom of expression of evolution deniers have not been heard agitating for the rights of Richard Colling. He’s a professor at Olivet Nazarene University, in Illinois, who has been barred from teaching general biology or having his book taught at the university that is his alma mater and the place where he has taught for 27 years. A biologist who is very much a person of faith, these punishments followed anger by some religious supporters of the college over the publication of his book in which he argues that it is possible to believe in God and still accept evolution.
“I thought I was doing the church a service,” Colling said in an interview. He believes that religious colleges that frame science and faith as incompatible will lose some of their best minds, and that his work has been devoted to helping faithful students maintain their religious devotion while learning science as science should be taught.
This perhaps explains why Colling’s situation has not attracted much attention since he believes that teaching science as being incompatible with faith is an irresponsible way to teach either.
While Colling has not been fired, he has been prevented from teaching classes:
“You can’t check your intellect at the door of the church,” he said. Colling has tenure and he hasn’t been fired or had his pay cut — which university officials have told the American Association of University Professors means that Olivet Nazarene can’t be accused of violating his academic freedom.
Until Colling wrote his book, his career at Olivet Nazarene was succcesful.
Colling’s career at Olivet Nazarene was successful until the publication in 2004 of Random Designer, his attempt to offer a philosophy in which religious people can study evolution with scientific seriousness, and scientists can embrace faith. The central idea, in short, is that one can believe that God created the universe, and in so doing created the systems that would evolve into everything that exists today. Colling acknowledges that it is not possible to believe literally in the Bible’s creation of the world in six days but argues that this need not diminish the moral force of the Bible or belief in God.
As a scientist, Colling accepts the fact and theory of evolution as the best explanation and explains in his book how one can reconcile science and faith without harming either.
As a biologist, Colling said that he thinks there is simply no argument that rebuts evolution, and that the evidence is overwhelming. But in writing his book, he said that he didn’t think of himself as remotely heretical. In fact, he said that one of the things he admires about the Church of the Nazarene is that — provided one believes in God — the faith embraces science.
Being ‘banned’ from teaching comes at a significant emotional cost to Colling.
Colling said that the bans on what he can teach have hurt him deeply because he feels that he was trying to help his church and its students. He stressed that he has never told students what they must believe, but that he teaches “what the science says,” which is that evolution is real. “I have an obligation. If we say we value the principles of academic freedom and we say that all verifiable science is fine, this is verifiable science that should be taught.”
Rather than denying the fact of evolution and how the theory of evolution is the best explanation of facts, causing much harm to science and faith, Colling’s approach has to reconcile faith with what science is teaching us.
Some students in the past have been troubled by evolution, Colling said, because they fear that if they study science, they must leave their faith behind. “My challenge has been to be a real human being to them and to assure them that the biology does not need to threaten their faith.”