Monday, December 19, 2005

What's good for the goose....

Well, I didn't get to finish up my thoughts on the reality denying viewpoints that I mentioned in my post the other day and something new has caught my attention so I'm going to have to put closing that out for a bit. Instead you get to read some more about Mirecki.

For those who aren't familiar with the situation Paul Mirecki was chair of the religious studies department at the University of Kansas. He wrote an e-mail that expressed his opinions about intelligent design and his desire to teach a class that would expose ID for the poorly masked religious doctrine that he believed it to be. This e-mail was released publicly and due to the inflammatory wording he used and constant name-calling throughout the text he attracted quite a bit of negative attention. In all fairness to Mirecki, I agree with him that ID is not science and is essentially creationism in a new dress. That being said, you cannot resort to the sort of mocking and blatant disrespect that he engaged in without expecting some consequences.

Here's what's happened to Mirecki so far. After a meeting with his faculty he drafted and signed a letter resigning his position as chair of the religious studies department. He requested that the class he mentioned in his e-mail be cancelled. He reported being assaulted by two men early one morning. He has since gotten an attorney, claimed he was forced to resign and threatened to sue the university for failing to support him. He has also expressed displeasure with the way the local authorities are investigating the attack.

I'm going to go through this one point at a time. Mirecki wrote, and signed a resignation letter. He now claims that he was forced to do so. The problem I have with this is that everyone involved in the discussion agrees that they thought it would be better if he resigned but that the choice was, in the end, his alone. In fact, his fellow professors have stated that Mirecki admitted that his resignation would be the way to go. Now he wants to cry foul? KU has multiple avenues for a professor, let alone a dept chair, to pursue if they feel they are being unduly pressured to step down. Mirecki availed himself of none of those options. Is that proof that he wasn't forced to resign? No, but it is suggestive, and coupled with the many accounts where Mirecki was the one to make the final decision about his resignation I think this point is settled. Mirecki resigned voluntarily.

What about the class he had scheduled? Why was that cancelled? It was cancelled because Mirecki and KU both decided it was a good idea. For different reasons I'm sure but both parties agreed on this. In fact, KU has stated in no uncertain terms that they like the idea of the class and feel it should be taught in the future. Given the attitudes at KU right now regarding the class it just makes sense to put it off for at least a semester.

Now we get to the assault. Mirecki's story has small changes here and there, but that's to be expected with the situation and multiple retellings. Early iterations of the story had Mirecki taking a pre-dawn drive to "clear his mind." Later versions he was on his way to breakfast. The general area of the attack is south of 31st street in Lawrence and that is an almost rural area. Few, if any, streetlights and sparse housing. Mirecki stated that a pickup truck was tailgating him. He pulled over to let them pass. When the truck stopped and the men in the truck got out Mirecki did the same. That's when they proceeded to beat him. I have a few problems with his story, but nothing insurmountable. His first story of a drive to "clear his mind" makes sense given the area of the attack as it's a very peaceful area to drive through in the early AM. If he was going to breakfast, as he later claimed though, I'd wonder what he's doing that far south as there's really nothing out there. My main problem with his story though is the timeframe. The attack is listed as early in the morning when it was still dark. If that's the case then how did the guys in the truck know it was Mirecki in front of them? Mirecki's report doesn't sound like a chance encounter but if it wasn't then how did they find Mirecki? Follow him from his home? Why? If you've made the decision to assault and intimidate someone then it would make more sense to do it in their home away from a chance car driving by. Those questions aside, I see no real reason to doubt Mirecki's story at this point. Could he have made it up? Of course. It's also just as likely that some pinheads beat him down too. We'll have to wait and see.

My problem with Mirecki now is his response to the situation. Threatening to sue after voluntarily resigning isn't appropriate. Threatening to sue because KU "denied me my Constitutionally protected right to speak and express my mind" is laughable. If they were going to deny you your right to speech then you never would have been able to write the e-mail that started all this hoopla. If the University disagrees with the position you put forth they are under NO obligation to support you. You're a big boy now stand up for yourself.

The thing that most annoys me right now about Mirecki is his response to the police. He's loudly complained about the sheriff's investigation claiming that being questioned for several hours about his story is being "treated more like a criminal than a victim." I'm not sure what Mirecki expected the cops to do, but last I checked, going over the story to make sure nothing was overlooked is just good procedure. Mirecki also claims that the sheriff's seizing his car and computer made no sense to him. I'm going to assume that Mirecki had a possible concussion cuz I can think of three or four explanations for either just off the top of my head. Mirecki's complaining is, in the end, going to do more damage to him and his reputation than the beating ever did. Shut up and let the cops do their job. You are not a cop, you are a professor of religious studies so you do NOT know what the cops need to do. I don't care how many episodes of CSI or Law & Order you've watched.

To sum up: Mirecki mouths off; resigns as dept. chair; cancels class; gets beat down; complains to any and all who will listen. In the end, Mirecki has hurt himself far more than any of the 'fundies' he was ranting against in his e-mail.

One more interesting point in all of this. There is no call to understand the cultural mores of the guys who beat Mirecki down. If they were muslim and this had been a riot, honor-killing, violent rape(see Sweden), or murder of a film director we'd have heard hundreds of talking heads going off about how it wasn't the muslims fault. That Mirecki should have been more sensitive to their culture. Double standards anyone?


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