Dr. Caroline Crocker is featured in the upcoming intelligent design (ID) movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed as one of the victims of academia's bull headed penchant for teaching legitimate science. She first came to our attention when she “mentioned” intelligent design in an introductory biology course at George Mason University (probably 104 Introductory Biology II) in early 2005. Being only a Term Assistant Professor, her contract with GMU was allowed to expire without renewal. The world's most prestigious science journal, Nature, picked up on her plight:
"I lost my job at George Mason University for teaching the problems with evolution," said Crocker, a charge that the university denies. "Lots of scientists question evolution, but they would lose their jobs if they spoke out." (ref)In reality, Dr. Crocker didn't lose her job at GMU...she gave it up. Under her tutelage, college students expecting an education in science were instead provided with a dose of the decidedly unscientific claims of intelligent design. Who can blame GMU for wanting to stick by their principles and doing their job to the best of their abilities?
Our approach to science education is centered around the sharing and cultivation of critical thinking, curiosity, skills, and commitment to the advancement of knowledge. Our faculty members use novel pedagogical approaches to challenge and prepare students to become independent and creative members of the scientific community and society.(ref)We can parse this quasi-mission statement with Crocker and ID in mind:
- ID does not promote critical thinking. Instead, they would have you push the "I Believe" button and accept, without any semblance of proof, that life is a top-down design.
- ID does not make you curious. It is enough that you are in awe at the complexity of life, that you remain amazed at the designer's handiwork...but no need to push the boundaries any farther.
- ID has no commitment to the advancement of knowledge. Additional discoveries serve only to push the designer deeper into the recesses of irrelevance and so are counter to their central mission of keeping the designer in the forefront.
- ID does not provide any useful skills other than development of one's imagination...i.e. other than the one currently being practiced by Dr. Crocker.
"There really is not a lot of evidence for evolution," Crocker said. Besides, she added, she saw her role as trying to balance the "ad nauseum" pro-evolution accounts that students had long been force-fed. (ref)Her statement on the lack of evidence for evolution flies in the face of a century's worth of accumulated knowledge, fossilized specimens, and genetic data, underscoring how her ideological convictions have made her either ignorant or blind. And ad nauseum pro-evolution accounts? Is she getting bored with basic science? How is this any different than U2 refusing to play any of their hit songs at concerts? Or the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company giving up on Shakespeare? The "ad nauseum" comes from the professor's point of view, not the students'. Should the physics professor be allowed to balance the "ad nauseum" accounts of General Relativity with Modified Newtonian Dynamics? Maybe...in an altogether different course, but not one on GR. There is no room for comic book physics or imaginary biology lessons in these classes, especially with hefty tuitions on the line. Evidently, Crocker needed a vacation to overcome her boredom.
Religion in the Classroom
By many accounts, Dr. Crocker (aka Doc Croc by former students) was a smart, tough teacher who required you to know your stuff. She gave hard exams in a complex subject, so she wasn't a professor to be taken lightly. Nevertheless, the early warning signs were there. In 2003, before all the media brouhaha began, one student relates
What a laundry list: overly tough exams based on the most minute factoids from lecture, argues in favor of Intelligent Design(!!), invites students to Bible study. Run, do not walk, to the registrar and drop this class! (ref)...and later in 2004...
Her notes and lectures have almost nothing to do with her tests. She is a fairly new teacher and acts like she has something to prove. I would steer clear of her. (ref)...and finally in 2006...
Does she even still teach at GMU? Granted, she should have left God out of evolution but she is (was) a great professor. Great info presentation, did a study group EVERY week and on weekends before tests, gave extra credit. A lot of material but those who say she didn't teach well were lazy and didn't do their part. (ref)So, don't believe Crocker when she says her case stems from her simply "mentioning" intelligent design. This has been going on for longer than we were led to believe.
Was GMU too Harsh?
The question of academic freedom is central to her case, but there are limits to what any university will allow, especially when you don't have tenure. Dr. Crocker didn't win her case with the grievance committee. Edward Sisson, her lawyer with experience in ID cases, apparently dropped her and she ended up teaching intro biology courses at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) (which she had been doing before being hired at GMU).
But should GMU just have let her go? Why not just a slap on the wrist and tell her to just stick with the science? She certainly has the credentials for the job. The truth is that we don't know exactly what GMU's reasons were because they never say. We only have Dr. Crocker's version. However, when Expelled is released, there's bound to be more media attention placed on the university so they should get their ducks in a row toot-sweet.
Clearly, GMU took the correct course of action, especially since Crocker is now showing her true colors and is sailing unabashedly under the ID banner. Crocker's leanings since leaving legitimate science behind has purely been on the side of intelligent design. Being married to an assistant rector of a church is only one indicator, but becoming active in the ID community and being recently named as the first executive director of IDEA (Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center) shows that she has abandoned all sense of objectivity as far as the theory of evolution goes. One can easily imagine that her presentation of the "problems with evolution" at GMU was her first foray into proselytizing in the classroom...testing the grounds, if you will. Undoubtedly, things would only get worse if she stayed on.
So yeah, GMU made the right call.
Caroline Crocker's ironically named website, IntellectualHonesty.info (tip to Dr. Crocker - tell Dad you love him, but you've got to go with a professional website designer), gives the costs for her services. A standard talk will set you back $1000, while a talk customized for your audience goes for $1500. Or, you can get all the Caroline you can stand in four talks for only $5000. Here's what's on the menu when Caroline caters:
- Science Censored - the true story of what happened to one biology professor who dared to challenge students to have an open mind about Darwinism
- Evolution, Creation, or ID? - an introductory talk, primarily for those who are not scientists, to introduce them to the debate and the reasons for it
- What is Intelligent Design? - the fundamental ideas behind ID and the scientific evidences supporting this theory are described and assessed
- Evolution: A Fact of Life? - the principle tenets of Darwinian evolution and the experiments supporting them are explained and evaluated
- Is Intelligent Design Science? - the philosophical assumptions behind the claim that ID is not science are summarized and their validity considered
- Argumentum ad Baculum - a shocking talk giving real life examples of what happens to students and scientists who openly question Darwinism
- Alpha Evangelism - Dr. Crocker is an experienced and popular Alpha speaker
- Various Biblical Topics - Dr. Crocker is well-versed in the Bible and has taught Sunday School as well as spoken at church retreats
Cheap and Easy
Clearly, Crocker thinks of herself as a persecuted scientist and is capitalizing on this portrayal. She can't command $1000 to speak on phosphodiesterase inhibitors or glucocorticosteroids, but a little creative writing about a winsome academic struggling against the torturous bonds of science, rising like a phoenix from the cold, dark ocean of facts and evidence is apparently much more lucrative.
Did someone say "breathtaking inanity"? So much for a hard-earned Ph.D.
But suppose you can't afford the $1000 per lecture, or maybe you would really like some one-on-one time with Dr. Crocker. Impossible? Maybe...but maybe not. Turns out, Dr. Crocker isn't just Dr. Crocker - she's also I. Caroline Crocker and Irene Caroline Evenbly Crocker and sometimes I.C.E. Crocker. Under Caroline Evenbly, she offers a tutoring service where you can become clearly educated. For only $75 an hour, you can get direct tutoring from her. Or, for only $50 an hour, you can get her associate, James, whose M.A. in theology is bound to come in handy.
So why pay $1000 when you can have her for $75? And if she lays off the biology and gives you only ID, well...then there really is only one answer to all the evolution questions, isn't there?
See? Cheap and easy.
The Intelligent Design Controversy in Higher Education, a Coral Ridge Ministries video
Heck Yeah - Caroline Crocker Should Have Been Fired, Pharyngula blogpost
Why ID Should Not be Taught in Science Clase, Neurologica blogpost
Are There No Intelligent Creationists?, Pharyngula blogpost
Ode to Caroline Crocker, Tiny Frog blogpost with examples of Dr. Crocker's presentation
Do ID Proponents Get Persecuted in the Academy? by Caroline Crocker
Caroline Crocker's New Website, and Where the Real Action Is, Uncommon Descent blogpost