March 23, 2022 | Jerry Bergman

Censorship Strikes Again

“Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”
Nineteenth-century German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

A Google search of censorship produced over two billion responses. And a search for censorship of Darwin skeptics produced 674,000 results. On the entire first page among the results of my search was my book Censoring the Darwin Skeptics and numerous peer-reviewed articles I wrote on this topic plus many articles on the following pages.[1] In the past month, I have lectured to close to 500 persons. One common question raised in the Q&A sessions is, given the overwhelming evidence against Darwinian evolution, why do over half the population now accept this worldview?

My answer is simple: censorship. One of the worst forms of censorship is self-censorship. For instance, one of my colleagues recently completed his Ph.D. in herpetology, specifically focusing on snakes. About this time I was writing a paper on snake evolution and, since he had a Ph.D. in this area and I do not, I asked him to critique it. He said he did not want to waste his time because it was fact that snakes evolved from some tetrapod lizard. I mentioned that I did a careful survey of the peer-reviewed herpetology literature showing that, although it was believed that snakes evolved from some tetrapod lizard, there was no viable evidence for this belief and much evidence against it. As a colleague, I thought he may do this for me as a favor, and I would be honored to reciprocate. He was adamant; snakes evolved;  end of story. And he did not want to discuss it. As a whole we got along very well otherwise.

Some of the books authored and co-authored by Dr Jerry Bergman

Personal Experience with Censorship

I have been publishing letters to the editor of our local paper, The Bryan Times, for 36 years. Three weeks ago, I attempted to publish a letter on the evolution position by citing one of the most eminent evolutionists in the world, Steven Hawking. My limit was 400 words, so I had to condense it. The unpublished letter is as follows:

The Secular Creation Story

Most people are aware of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim belief that God, who exists outside of time, created the Earth and all life in it. The courts have consistently ruled that this worldview cannot be taught in government schools. Only the secular worldview can. The most eminent cosmologist of our century, Cambridge University Professor Stephen Hawking, wrote an excellent book titled Brief Answers to the Big Questions which I will quote from to explain the secular creation story. Hawking wrote random forces first produced simple organic molecules by which “somehow, some . . .  atoms came to be arranged in the form of molecules of DNA . . . . As DNA reproduced itself, there would have been random errors, many harmful, and . . . a few errors would have been favorable to the survival of the species — these would have been chosen by Darwinian natural selection.” Eventually, multi-cellular organisms which, after more millions years, by mistakes called mutations, evolved into fish that, after millions more years, evolved into mammals and, after a few hundred more million years, evolved into humans (pages 73-76). Thus, he concludes, humans and all life are the result of chance and billions of mistakes. Since Hawking concluded science has proven the origin of all life was by evolution, the last question left for religion was how the universe began. This question, Hawking assures us, has been answered by the Big Bang which ultimately produced the creation of everything from nothing. The first something that appeared from nothing was “smaller than a proton” (page 34). Then, from this smaller-than-a-proton object space, visible matter, stars, and planets somehow followed. Thus, the Big Bang explains the origin of space, matter, energy, and time, all of which appeared from nothing (pages 29-31). Hawking’s book, called stunningly brilliant, produced thousands of glowing reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.

No reason was given for my letter’s rejection even though they often publish irresponsible letters, especially against Republicans and Donald Trump. The editors may have realized the foolishness of the Darwinists’ position on origins, which was a goal of writing the letter. I was earlier able to publish a letter (3 June 2021) on censorship in The Bryan Times which follows:

Books, and books with chapters that I have authored, are now in 1,600 college or large city libraries in over 30 countries. The only exception is one book I authored, a 527-page tome that was number one in its category on Amazon when first released. Now in its second edition, this book, ironically about censorship, has now been censored. My last book, on C.S. Lewis, is in 282 WorldCat libraries, my censorship book is in zero libraries. I even donated a copy to the Defiance College library because I spent seven good years teaching there and met my wife of 36 years there. They never put my book in their collection. Censorship is a major problem today in academia. Called ‘cancel culture,’ I am happy to say I am not aware of any censorship by The Bryan Times.[2] They even regularly publish Ann Coulter’s columns. Ms. Coulter’s appearance at colleges has caused violent riots demanding she be censored. At one event, the home of the free speech movement, now the home of the growing censorship movement, a recent report noted, “More than a thousand young protesters linked arms and tried to physically block people from entering a speech by … Ann Coulter at the University of California, Berkeley campus…. Rows of students chanted, ‘Go home, Nazi!’” The most common charge is that Coulter, a white woman, Ivy League graduate, lawyer, and conservative, is a racist. Rumors of her affair with Black comedian, Jimmie Walker, aside, I’m sure this close friend of hers would not agree.

The solution to censorship over ideas that editors dislike is not less speech (censorship) but more speech. Write articles to refute speech you disagree with instead of ‘canceling’ it. Censorship reminds me of Nazi Germany systematically destroying an estimated 100 million books throughout Europe, burning and looting libraries of “un-German” publications. As wisely said by nineteenth-century German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine I quoted above, burning people includes disenfranchisement, such as banning people from social media and The Bryan Times. This event has happened to many, including our last president. In a few short years, we have indeed moved from burning books to ‘burning’ (censoring) people.

Another example was told in a New York Times article titled, “I Came to College Eager to Debate. I Found Self-Censorship Instead.”[3] The student author, Emma Camp, a senior at the University of Virginia, has written about free speech on campus for The University of Virginia student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, and has interned with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). She wrote:

I went to college to learn from my professors and peers. I welcomed an environment that champions intellectual diversity and rigorous disagreement. Instead, my college experience has been defined by strict ideological conformity. Students of all political persuasions hold back — in class discussions, in friendly conversations, on social media — from saying what we really think.

She added,

In the classroom, backlash for unpopular opinions is so commonplace that many students have stopped voicing them, sometimes fearing lower grades if they don’t censor themselves. According to a 2021 survey administered by College Pulse of over 37,000 students at 159 colleges, 80 percent of students self-censor at least some of the time. Forty-eight percent of undergraduate students described themselves as “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with expressing their views on a controversial topic in the classroom. At U. Va., 57 percent of those surveyed feel that way.[4]

Sociology professor Brad Wilcox, Camp wrote, said that he believes two factors have caused self-censorship. “First, students are afraid of being called out on social media by their peers. Second, the dominant messages students hear from faculty, administrators, and staff are progressive ones. So they feel an implicit pressure to conform to those messages in classroom and campus conversations and debates.”

Censorship can lead to violence. Camp added, “Viewpoint diversity is no longer considered a sacred, core value in higher education.” In 2018 Sarah Lawrence College Politics Professor Samuel Abrams,

after he wrote an Opinion essay for The Times criticizing what he viewed as a lack of ideological diversity among university administrators, his office door was vandalized. Student protesters demanded his tenure be reviewed. While their attempts were unsuccessful…In response to the incident, only 27 faculty members signed a statement supporting free expression — less than 10 percent of the college’s faculty.[5]

Clearly self-censorship threatens the college environment and supports the fact that college administrations in particular “enforce and create a culture of obedience and fear that has chilled speech.… Is it reasonable to ask college students — the 48 percent of us who feel uncomfortable sharing our views — to solve this problem independently?”[6]

Ms. Camp concluded with her own experience writing that she “protested a university policy about the size of signs allowed on dorm room doors by mounting a large sign of the First Amendment. It was removed by the university…. As a columnist for the university paper, I implored students to embrace free expression. In response, I lost friends and faced a Twitter pile-on. I have been brave. And yet, without support, the activism of a few students like me changes little.”[7]

Our universities must foster ideological diversity in academic environments. Colleges should develop strong policies that protect expression in the classroom. We cannot experience the full benefits of a university education without having our ideas challenged.[8] Not unexpectedly, the number of Darwin adherents has increased in the past decade no doubt partly due to censorship. A poll from the University of Michigan shows that human evolution is now accepted by a majority of Americans.[9] The study concluded that “The level of public acceptance of evolution in the United States is now solidly above the halfway mark, according to a new study based on a series of national public opinion surveys conducted over the last 35 years.”

In contrast, over  97% of the scientific community accepts evolution as the only explanation for biological diversity.[10] What would one expect in view of the fact that the other side has been censored with the blessing of the courts for the past several decades? The U of M poll concluded: “the study consistently identified aspects of education —  civic science literacy, taking college courses in science and having a college degree — as the strongest factors leading to the acceptance of evolution.” They expect the number of persons who accept human evolution to increase.

References

[1] http://debdavis.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/89906585/classroom%20conflict%20-%20challenge%20-%20bergman.pdf

[2] Rejection of the latest letter has since proved me wrong on this claim.

[3] Camp, E., “I Came to College Eager to Debate. I Found Self-Censorship Instead.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/07/opinion/campus-speech-cancel-culture.html, 7 March 2022.

[4] Camp, 2022.

[5] Camp, 2022.

[6] Camp, 2022.

[7] Camp, 2022.

[8] Camp, 2022.

[9] University of Michigan, Evolution now accepted by majority of Americans, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/08/210820111042.htm, 20 August 2021.

[10] Delgado, C., Finding the evolution in medicine,  NIH Record (National Institutes of Health) 58(15), 28 July 2006.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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