Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wheaton College vs. The Wiggly Hominids

There's an interesting write up on Wheaton College over at the Society of Mutual AutopsyWhen I was a kid I lived in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, in a house that was painted by Jim Belushi (and his house painting company) before he became "famous".  My back yard fence was the border between Glen Ellyn and neighboring WheatonYears later, whenever I described where I lived to a Chicagoland native, they all said something along the lines of, "Can't buy liquor there because of the fundie school."  Which is funny, because I had to bike over to Wheaton to score my drug of choice at the time (candy, and lot's of it) at the nearby pharmacy.

After 17 years the current president of Wheaton College, Duane Litfin, is on the way out.  By the sounds of it, he was a heck of an administrator (grew the endowment, added two doctoral degrees, kept tuition low, added to the physical footprint of the college etc.) and liberalized the college in many ways.  

During his tenure, the student body has moved towards a more apolitical stance (to the point of discouraging voting), but with a strong emphasis on social and environmental justice.  But oddly enough, it seems the trustees of Wheaton hired Litfin as a doctrinaire reactionary:

One of his first moves was to declare that Wheaton’s longstanding “Statement of Faith” allowed too much interpretive wiggle-room on the question of Adam and Eve. Scientists were thus required to specify whether they (1) “reject the idea that Adam and Eve were created from pre-existing human-like creatures, or hominids”; (2) are neutral or “unsure” on the hominid theory; (3) affirm that “God gave a human spirit to a pair of pre-existing human-like creatures, or hominids”; or (4) deny the historicity of Adam and Eve and think of Genesis as a wholly “theological document.” Options (3) and (4) were deemed inconsistent with ongoing employment. Those who affirmed (2) were given one year to change their view to (1), or else they too would be asked to seek employment elsewhere.
Wow.  You'll fire tenured faculty because they don't believe in a literal translation of chapters 2 & 3 of Genesis?  Even if they believe that God was somehow involved in the process?  That's going to cull the cream of the Academy, I'm sure.  Too bad he didn't throw himself into the middle of the Young Earth Genesis literalists, who think a day is a day is a day, versus the Day-Age Creationists, who think the word "day" in Genesis is representative of longer time periods.  That could have been fun.

Anyway, he's on the way out.  It will be interesting to see what type of president they choose to replace him.

 h/t The Edge of the American West

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