Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recognition for Excellence in Science -- Good or Bad for OBU?

Earlier this month, a U.S. Navy officer was on campus to invite OBU students apply for the Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program.  The program recently designated OBU's physics and math majors as the only "tier one" undergraduate majors in Oklahoma and North Texas.  What a fine honor!

Or is it?

Not so long ago, it wouldn't have surprised me if certain administrators in Thurmond Hall were upset or embarrassed that a secular government institution like the U.S. Navy recognized OBU for excellence in science.  After all, most fundamentalists approach science with suspicion at best -- and usually with fear and loathing.  They like science when it offers solutions to problems or prolongs and enriches their lives.  But they are constantly having to figure out how to convince themselves and others that science poses no threat to cherished religious ideas like young earth creationism or the literal historicity of the miracle stories recorded in Scripture.

Fortunately, the administrators cited in the article affirmed the value of rigorous academic preparation in science and mathematics at OBU.  The Reverend Dr. Stan Norman, OBU provost, said:
"We are pleased the Navy has designated these academic programs as their one majors for the NuPOC Program.  The success achieved by our physics and mathematics graduates is evidence of the high level of academic excellence provided by our faculty in the Hurley College of Science and Mathematics . . . The recognition of these programs by the Navy is further validation of that academic quality."
Let's hope this attitude prevails throughout the university.  Especially in the College of Theology and Ministry, it will be important for students to realize that excellence in science does not threaten excellence in theology, philosophy, biblical studies, and ministry.  And, as news of OBU's continued excellence in science education spreads, it will be important to protect the Hurley College faculty from colleagues and BGCO pastors and laypeople who would prefer to replace them with fundamentalists.

There's a lot of credit to go around.  The students should be commended for their hard work in some of the most rigorous majors on campus.  Our thanks to the president and provost for their commitment to legitimate science education and for resisting what must be rather intense pressure from friends and colleagues in post-Takeover Baptist higher education to water it down.  Not lost in all this are the contributions of an administrator closer to the students and faculty -- a well-loved former chief academic officer who now serves as dean of science and math.  Finally, our deepest thanks to Hurley College faculty, old and new.  They are the best in the business!

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