U of Chicago prof defends comparison between Holocaust denial and teaching creationism

In a series of emails to Campus Reform last week, University of Chicago Prof. Jerry Coyne clarified and defended remarks he made comparing teaching creationism to Holocaust denial.

Professor Jerry Coyne defended his statement comparing the teaching creationism to denying the Holocaust.

“I said that academic freedom is NOT a license to teach what you want,” Coyne wrote in an email. “Would people who want the ‘free license’ stand favor teaching Holocaust denial on European History, or homeopathy in a medical school [SIC].”

His defense came in response to Campus Reform’s coverage of remarks he made to a Muncie, Ind., newspaper, The Star Press, in which he appeared to make a direct comparison between Holocaust denial and teaching creationism.

“It’s not that it’s not science,” Coyne said referring to creationism. “It’s science that’s been discredited. It’s like saying the Holocaust didn’t happen.”

When initially contacted by Campus Reform, Coyne declined comment saying he feared inaccurate portrayal of his side of the story.

“I do not think that you will do an objective job of writing this article,” Coyne said. “I can guarantee that you’ve already decided to... impugn my opinions about his unconscionable mix of science and religion. So I will not talk to you.”

Campus Reform’s mission, according to the website, is to present each story with “accuracy, objectivity, and public accountability.”

Coyne followed up that email with a second email in which he called Campus Reform’s story “distorted” and objected to reporter Macaela Bennett’s decision to request a comment from his employer, the University of Chicago (UC).

“Contacting my University is absolutely beyond belief,” he wrote. “You should be ashamed of yourself. What you ‘do your best’ at is ideology, not reporting. Your behavior comports exactly with what I’d expect for a reporter from Campus Reform.”

Despite a request from Campus Reform, UC administrators declined to comment on Coyne’s remark.

Coyne ended both emails by demanding his comments remain off the record.

“Do not contact me any more--I mean it!” he wrote at the end of the second email. “And none of what I’ve written here or previously is for quotation or attribution.”

Without a specific arrangement in place, Campus Reform’s considers all correspondences between sources and reporters to be on the record.