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Published: Saturday, 5/2/2009

Ohio scholar reports bias against 'Darwin doubters'

BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Jerry Bergman, who holds nine degrees, tells an audience at
WLMB-TV that voicing doubts about evolution can derail an
academic career. Jerry Bergman, who holds nine degrees, tells an audience at WLMB-TV that voicing doubts about evolution can derail an academic career.
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Jerry Bergman is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken, and balding college professor, author, and member of Mensa - a group of people whose IQs are in the top 2 percent of the population.

He also is a man on a mission, going about his task with the same tenacity as a pit bull in attack mode.

For the last 30 years, Mr. Bergman, 62, has interviewed hundreds of people in academia and documented cases in which he contends that careers were derailed because of doubts about evolution.

The results of his interviews and research are compiled in his latest book, Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth about Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters, published last fall by Leafcutter Press.

The students, professors, and scientists suffered not because they were advocating the teaching of biblical Creationism or Intelligent Design, he said, but for questioning or debating aspects of Charles Darwin's famous theory.

It's an issue Mr. Bergman takes personally.

"In 1979, I was let go by Bowling Green State University openly due to my increasing disillusion with Darwinism," he said in a lecture Monday night at WLMB-TV, Channel 40, Toledo's Christian television station. The two-hour program was filmed before a studio audience of 60 and will be broadcast at a later date, according to Jamey Schmitz, WLMB's president and CEO.

Mr. Bergman has nine academic degrees, including a doctorate in education from Wayne State University, and currently teaches at Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio, and the University of Toledo's Health Science campus.

In 35 years as an educator, Mr. Bergman has taught college-level courses in biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, pathology, anthropology, geology, and statistics, among other subjects, and has published more than 800 academic papers.

He also made a gradual transition from atheism to Christianity after studying the Bible and comparing its explanation for human existence to that offered by scientific rationale - including evolution and neo-Darwinism, he said.

When Mr. Bergman was denied tenure after seven years on staff at BGSU, he challenged the decision through the university's own system and then in civil court alleging religious discrimination.

His appeals were rejected and Mr. Bergman said filing suit was the biggest mistake of his life. University and court officials did not take his claims seriously and put shockingly little effort into reviewing or understanding his arguments, he said.

The lawsuit turned out to be "the kiss of death" in academic circles, Mr. Bergman said, not only shattering his promising career but also ruining his marriage, which soon ended in divorce.

Publicity over the lawsuit, however, led other academics to contact him with similar stories, he said. He has since compiled a list of 3,000 cases alleging discrimination due to religious beliefs, and personally has interviewed more than 300 people in such situations.

That topic was brought to the mainstream's attention last year when actor, comedian, and attorney Ben Stein released the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

But Mr. Bergman looks at the issue in more depth and detail than Mr. Stein.

While Slaughter of the Dissidents explores 17 cases of alleged religious discrimination, it is just the first book in a five-volume series Mr. Bergman has planned. The second book is almost done and the third volume is 80 percent completed. Each book, true to form for academia, has about 1,000 footnotes.

When he tells people that doubting Darwinism can lead to discrimination in universities, Mr. Bergman said he gets two responses, neither sympathetic to his cause: "First, it's not happening. Second, yes it's happening and it should be happening."

"It's unlikely today that an out-of-the-closet Darwin doubter will survive in academia," he said.

And there's much at stake because a PhD requires a huge investment in time and money, averaging nine years of school and $300,000 and $500,000 in costs, he said.

Rather than risk losing everything over one's personal beliefs, Mr. Bergman said he advises people to "stay in the closet until things change" and to seek change through legislation.

In a question-and-answer session after his talk, he said one way to help bring about change is to propose a state constitutional amendment that would allow educators to raise questions about evolution. He predicted it would be overwhelmingly approved because free speech and scholarly debate in academia are being stifled by just a handful of "Darwinian fundamentalists."

- David Yonke



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