The Rise and Fall of Baylor University’s

Michael Polanyi Center

William A. Dembski

 

 

The following documents detail the rise and fall the Baylor's Michael Polanyi Center (MPC). The documents are of mixed quality, with plenty of chaff but also some gems (e.g., a letter by Antony Flew indicating his willingness to defend the center’s academic freedom). Some material presented here was not made public during the height of the controversy surrounding the center, including the original planning document for the MPC presented to the Baylor administration at their request (edited slightly for clarity, but this is essentially what the administration signed off on) as well as a crucial memo and summary from May 2000 that indicates the troubles facing the MPC well before its dismantling in October of that year. There is a lot to wade through. The documents are arranged in chronological order, not in order of importance. The final entry, five years later than the others, is an interview from the fall of 2005 and provides some additional backstory to the center’s demise.

 

 


 

[Planning Document for the Michael Polanyi Center]

 

 

PROPOSAL FOR INTEGRATING SCIENCE AND FAITH

AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

 

William A. Dembski

 

March 1999

 

 

Naturalism currently dominates science, both in the secular and in the Christian academy. According to naturalism, science is best practiced without reference to anything "non-natural." Granted, science's proper object of study is nature. Naturalism, however, assumes an impoverished view of nature that artificially limits nature to brute material processes subject to no intelligent guidance or control. The problem with naturalism is not that it limits science to the study of nature, but with its hidden assumptions about the nature of nature. Is nature a seamless causal web controlled solely by undirected natural processes--what Jacques Monod called "chance and necessity"? Or do intelligent causes also play a fundamental and ineliminable role within nature? Naturalism answers Yes to the first question, No to the second.

 

So long as naturalism dominates science, there is no possibility of integrating science and faith. Christian theology has traditionally subscribed to two books of revelation: the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. By testifying to the God who is their common author, both books were seen as mutually supporting each other. Within naturalism, however, that mutual support is lost. A physical world of undirected natural processes is incapable of reflecting the divine wisdom. Within such a conception of nature, faith and science go their separate ways. Thus, many scientists who are Christians but tacitly accept naturalism end up living dual lives, one a private life of personal faith, the other a scientific life indistinguishable from that of their atheistic colleagues.

 

The key to integrating science and faith is an enriched conception of nature that leaves room for intelligent causes. What has come to be known as "intelligent design" is all about enriching our conception of nature. Intelligent design holds that intelligent causes rather than undirected natural causes best explain the complex, information-rich structures of nature. The physical world contains events, objects, and structures that exhaust the explanatory resources of undirected natural causes, and that can be adequately explained only by recourse to a designing intelligence. This is not an argument from ignorance. Precisely because of what is known about natural processes and their limitations, science is now in a position to demonstrate design in nature rigorously. At the same time, intelligent design resists speculating about the nature, moral character, or purposes of this designing intelligence. In particular, intelligent design presupposes neither a creator nor miracles. Intelligent design is not creationism.

 

Intelligent design formalizes and makes precise something humans do all the time. All of us are all the time engaged in a form of rational activity which, without being tendentious, can be described as "inferring design." Inferring design is a perfectly common and well-accepted human activity. People find it important to identify events caused through the purposeful, premeditated action of an intelligent agent, and to distinguish such events from events due to natural causes. Intelligent design unpacks the logic of this everyday activity and applies it within the special sciences. There is no magic, no vitalism, no appeal to occult forces here. Inferring design is common, rational, and objectifiable. It is therefore ideally suited for integrating science and faith within the academy.

 

------

 

To effectively integrate science and faith at Baylor University, I propose two programs: A research institute at Baylor known as the Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design (MPC) and a professional society administered through the Michael Polanyi Center known as the International Society for Intelligent Design (ISID) [After the MPC was dissolved in October 2000, this society was formed independently of Baylor and named the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design: www.iscid.org. --WmAD, 5.3.05]. I envision the Michael Polanyi Center as a counterpart to the Santa Fe Institute (www.santafe.edu). The Michael Polanyi Center would work in close association with the Institute for Faith and Learning, and initially share office space, staff, and resources. The two would, however, be separate entities because intelligent design can be developed as a scientific theory in its own right and because the scientific community is primarily interested in doing science rather than in integrating science and faith.

 

The Michael Polanyi Center would be named after Michael Polanyi. Polanyi was a physical chemist who turned to philosophy to correct the distortions of the materialist reductionism that infected science in the twentieth century. He was one of the first thinkers to effectively challenge logical positivism. In the 1960s he wrote about life's irreducible structure and the problem of trying to give a purely naturalistic account of biology. Polanyi was horrified at the denigration of the creative spirit that followed even in democratic societies from the tendency to see science as a purely naturalistic enterprise that filtered out the personal element. He turned from chemistry to philosophy to show that science as he knew it was inseparable from faith, inspiration, and freedom. Polanyi will serve as a marvelous symbol for the integration of faith and science.

 

The Michael Polanyi Center will focus on "complexity, information, and design." Complexity, information, and design are precisely those aspects of science that naturalism tries to undercut and that are congenial to theism. I am, for instance, to attend a workshop at the Santa Fe Institute this October (1999) organized by the Templeton Foundation and Paul Davies titled "Complexity, Information, and Design: An Appraisal." Topics to be discussed at that workshop include "creativity in nature," "emergence versus reduction," "the arrow of time," and "design in physical systems." The Michael Polanyi Center will thus focus on precisely those places where science and faith are in meaningful conversation.

 

The Michael Polanyi Center will initially be a visiting institute. Thus, besides support staff, the center will initially have no permanent researchers who are not also Baylor faculty. This will keep the MPC properly connected to the university community as well as keep a steady stream of exciting visitors coming through its doors. Visitors will be invited for talks, discussions, symposia, and conferences. Fellowships for extended periods of research at the MPC will have to await separate funding.

 

To build trust with the university community, the MPC will focus especially on facilitating dialogue between proponents of naturalism and intelligent design. The MPC will provide a non-threatening setting where proponents of diverse views can candidly discuss their differences. Emphasizing dialogue will be especially important in the early stages of the MPC to build trust with the university community. We need at all costs to avoid the impression that the MPC is a tool for proselytizing the Baylor community into some particular point of view. The MPC will stress open and frank discussion, giving all academically rigorous points of view a place at the table. [Looking back, this paragraph is incredibly naďve. The naturalists were out to kill the MPC as soon as they saw what it was trying to accomplish. –WmAD, 5.3.05]

 

I would like, for instance, to see a discussion in which Daniel Dennett and Kenneth Miller (a Brown University biologist) take the naturalistic side, Michael Behe and Paul Nelson take the design side, and they all discuss the problem of accounting for the irreducible complexity of biochemical systems. The discussion could take place over an entire day, with 45 minute talks by each of the participants in the morning and then rebuttals in the afternoon, with the entire discussion interlaced by Q&A from the university community (hopefully well-represented by the biology department).

 

The Michael Polanyi Center would also house the International Society for Intelligent Design (ISID). The ISID would be a professional society for design theorists. Intelligent design as an intellectual movement is rapidly gaining credibility and momentum. Even so, the movement lacks coherence and its advocates have no recognized forum for convening. The ISID would provide that forum. I envision this organization as a web-driven entity with an annual meeting. The MPC would administer its website and organize its annual conference. Baylor housing the ISID would be equivalent to the University of Delaware housing the American Philosophical Association.

 

The MPC and the ISID will enhance each other. The ISID will provide a pool of individuals that will benefit both Baylor and the MPC. From the ISID will come (1) teachers who attend MPC teacher workshops; (2) high school and college students who attend MPC summer workshops; and (3) potential undergraduate and graduate students for Baylor degree programs. The ISID will enable the MPC to keep its hand on the pulse of the intelligent design movement. At the same time, the ISID will benefit by being at the center of the intelligent design movement since the MPC should quickly become the premier place for intelligent design research.

 

What follows is a five-year plan for the MPC and ISID. I believe all these projections are feasible:

 

Year 1, 1999-2000:

The Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design (MPC) as well as, International Society for Intelligent Design (ISID) are both founded and begin operation fall 1999 at Baylor University. I direct both programs and have the title Visiting Associate Research Professor in the Conceptual Foundations of Science at the university. During this year I am a professor at large, though my natural affinity will be with the philosophy department. The MPC shares support staff with the Institute for Faith and Learning. The main expense for the MPC and ISID is hiring a webmaster to oversee a state of the art website. I have no teaching duties in the fall, but offer a weekly three-hour philosophy seminar in the spring on "Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology." I get no salary, but any expenses I incur for MPC/ISID are covered. Also, any salary I would reasonably be paid will get used at my discretion for inviting visitors to campus for talks, discussions, symposia, and conferences. Rob Koons was able to put on a conference with over a hundred participants for around $6,000 in February 1997 ("Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise"). I would like to see a steady stream of campus visitors throughout the fall and spring, and a small conference represented by naturalists and design theorists in the spring. [Instead, we had a full-blown international conference titled The Nature of Nature; see below. –WmAD, 5.3.05] The emphasis during this first year will be on building trust with the Baylor community.

 

Year 2, 2000-2001:

A director of program development is hired to raise money for the MPC (ideally we would be able to hire such a person even the first year). The ISID, since it is web-driven, pays for itself, especially since its overhead costs are covered by the MPC. The MPC, however, needs to develop into a full-fledged research institute, with post-doctoral fellows, visiting fellows, and permanent fellows. Special room needs to be left for visiting fellows drawn from Baylor faculty--this will build goodwill with the campus community. I continue this year to be a professor at large living in Dallas and commuting once or twice a week to Baylor. Visitors continue to stream through the MPC. Also, December of 2000 the ISID holds the first of its annual conferences at Baylor. Organizing this conference and publishing the conference proceedings will take much of my time this year. The emphasis during this year will be showcasing the MPC as an example of science-faith integration. Especially with an ISID international conference on intelligent design, Baylor should get plenty of media coverage. [Comment: I began a five and a half year contract on salary with Baylor in February 2000, thus speeding up the timetable. This was possible through a $100,000 Templeton grant that I was awarded in the fall of 1999. My family and I moved to the Waco area summer 2000. –WmAD, 5.3.05]

 

Year 3, 2001-2002:

I move to Waco from Dallas and become Associate Research Professor in the Conceptual Foundations of Science, with joint appointments in mathematics and philosophy, though my primary affiliation is in the philosophy department. I divide my time between teaching in the philosophy department and overseeing the MPC. The MPC hires its first permanent fellow, who becomes associate director of ISID and assumes the primary responsibility of running the ISID (perhaps Charles Thaxton, a physical chemist, who would be terrific to have on campus for doing faith-science integration; cf. his book with Nancy Pearcey, The Soul of Science). The MPC continues to have a steady stream of visitors, but also is able to fund several postdoctoral fellows as well as several Baylor faculty for release time from teaching. Finally, Baylor is able to hire a major design theorist (ideally Michael Behe) as a Distinguished Research Professor. In addition to holding an appointment in one of the science departments, this professor will also be a permanent fellow of the MPC.

 

Years 4 and 5, 2002-2004:

The MPC starts building a full research and conference center, with offices for fellows, seminar rooms, library, state of the art computers and communications, etc. The MPC's fellowship program is now in full-swing. Baylor science faculty are persuaded that the MPC is an exciting addition to the university even if they still don't fully accept its conclusions. Baylor hires several additional University/Distinguished Professors who are scientists and not afraid to be associated with the MPC. ISID continues to gain membership. ISID members attend summer workshops organized by the MPC. The MPC achieves international acclaim as a model of how to do faith-science integration. [Well, that was the dream. Not much left of it at Baylor. –WmAD, 5.3.05]

 


 

The Michael Polanyi Center

 

[From the original MPC website--set up December 1999;
 removed November 2000 when the center was closed.]

 

The Michael Polanyi Center derives its name from the physical chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi (1891-1976). Polanyi was a world-class physical chemist who turned to philosophy at the height of his scientific career because he was dismayed at the abuses and restrictions that materialist philosophy, especially in its Marxist guise, was inflicting on scientific research. The influential approach to the philosophy of science he articulated in response to this crisis was thoroughly non-reductive in character. He illustrated how philosophical, religious, psychological, sociological, and scientific concerns interact to affect each other's development, arguing that each perspective is essential and that none can be reduced to any other. Polanyi extended this multi-leveled analysis into his discussion of complexity in nature, arguing, for example, that the sort of complexity exhibited in biology could never be reduced to the laws of physics and chemistry. The information content of a biological whole exceeds that of the sum of its parts. His concern for the unhealthy effects of philosophical naturalism in science, his recognition that reductionism as a universal strategy in the sciences must fail, and his emphasis on the need for multiple levels in the understanding of any phenomenon, make Michael Polanyi the ideal representative for the center that bears his name.

 

The Michael Polanyi Center (MPC) seeks to develop a scientifically responsible design-theoretic alternative to the non-telic approaches that currently dominate complex systems theory, thereby promoting awareness of the ways naturalism and reductionism constrain both theory and methodology in contemporary science. This goal is pursued through both research and education. The scientific research of the MPC focuses on the development and outworking of models in the physical, biological, and social sciences that recognize the irreducible character of various classes of information-theoretic structures. This research challenges the dominance of naturalism as the philosophical matrix for scientific practice, and raises important questions in the conceptual foundations of science. As a consequence, the MPC is concerned to study how science, philosophy, and religion interact and influence each other, and the effects this has on the culture at large. Knowledge of this research is disseminated to the academic community through the publication of books and articles in technical journals, as well as through the organization of a variety of academic meetings and seminars. Areas of special interest include the history and philosophy of science, information and complexity theory as a framework for scientific research, and the interactions among science, religion, and culture. The significance of the MPC's research and educational efforts are communicated more broadly through articles and books aimed at a popular audience, and through workshops for lay audiences and pre-college students.

 


 

The Nature of Nature

[announced January 2000]

 

An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Role of Naturalism in Science

 

Dates: April 12-15, 2000
Place: Baylor University

 

OVERVIEW: Is the universe self-contained or does it require something beyond itself to explain its existence and internal function? Philosophical naturalism takes the universe to be self-contained, and it is widely presupposed throughout science. Even so, the idea that nature points beyond itself has recently been reformulated with respect to a number of issues. Consciousness, the origin of life, the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics at modeling the physical world, and the fine-tuning of universal constants are just a few of the problems that critics have claimed are incapable of purely naturalistic explanation. Do such assertions constitute arguments from incredulity -- an unwarranted appeal to ignorance? If not, is the explanation of such phenomena beyond the pale of science? Is it, perhaps, possible to offer cogent philosophical and even scientific arguments that nature does point beyond itself? The aim of this conference is to examine such questions.

 


 

Presidential perspective

 

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. speaks on Christian higher education and the university's place in it.

http://www3.baylor.edu/Lariat/Archives/2000/20000420/art-front01.html

 

March 27, 2000

 

Lariat Commentary: Baylor has long been the focus of criticism for its insistence on maintaining a strong Christian element in an academic environment. Most recently, controversy surrounding the Michael Polanyi Center, intended to study creationism or intelligent design theory, has left the administration stinging from charges that they are pursuing pseudo-science, based more on religious convictions than scientific reality. President Robert B. Sloan Jr. has met his critics head-on, continuing to push his vision for a blending of faith and learning. The following is a transcript of a March 27 interview with Sloan about this vision and his response to critics. It has been edited for space. As a private, Christian institution, does Baylor have a unique role in higher education? What is that role?

 

In the 20th century we have seen a decline in religiously oriented, church-related institutions of higher learning and I think, therefore, that Baylor has both an opportunity and responsibility to attempt to understand the implication for higher education of the Christian confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.

 

I think the Christian faith is a great historical, theological, moral, spiritual and intellectual tradition. It is complex and varied, but it is not anything you want to make it. There are core convictions and there is something that can be called Christian conviction. Baylor is an institution that grew up out of Christian conviction, particularly Baptist Christian conviction. While the world has changed enormously in the last 155 years in terms of industry, technology, world wars, nations, politics and teaching, and Baylor must stay attuned to all of those, nonetheless there is a Christian tradition and we must seek to provide the finest possible educational experience for our students within the world view, intellectual framework and nurturing environment of Christian faith.

 

You spoke both of a Christian tradition and a Baptist tradition. Is Baylor replacing its Baptist identification with a Christian identification?

 

We are not replacing our Baptist identification with a Christian identification. Being a Baptist is a subset of being a Christian. If you're not Christian you can't be a Baptist. Unfortunately I think there are some people who extract Baptist principles from the historic Christian faith or extract Baptist politics from the epic of the historic Christian faith. That of course is a social and spiritual tragedy, but that is not the way it should be.

 

First of all, to be a Baptist means to be a Christian. That doesn't mean that every student has to be a Baptist, or every professor or every staff member. Obviously not. But I do think it means we retain a vital connection to the particular voice and nuances of the Christian faith which Baptists have historically brought to the conversation.

 

I think it's important for us to maintain a critical mass of Baptist students and faculty and staff, but I think in fact it would be a mistake if everyone here were Baptist because I think we need the enriching experience of other faith traditions to keep Baylor vital and thoughtful. Generic Christianity is more easily described in the abstract, but I'm not sure it really exists. Every confession of faith occurs within a sociological and social context, and therefore every confession that Jesus Christ is Lord is going to be made within the framework of some sort of intellectual and ecclesiastical tradition.

 

I think it's important for Baylor to maintain its Baptist connectivity, but at the same time it's not either/or. It's very important for Baptists to understand they're located within the larger framework of the church. The Christian faith is larger than Baptists. The church is larger than the Baptist voice, but the Baptist voice is still important.

 

You've been accused of being too conservative and too liberal, too fundamentalist and too reformist. How do you see yourself?

 

I see myself as a Christian deeply committed to higher education and the importance of the Christian intellectual tradition as a force that shapes minds and shapes life. I see absolutely no contradiction between intellectual rigor and academic excellence on the one hand and a sincere, unapologetic Christian commitment on the other. I think higher education in America needs a distinctive Christian voice. There are Christian schools, I'm not saying we're the last one, but I think we are--on the Protestant side of Christiandom--we are the only major, comprehensive university that comes to mind that still pursues vigorously an agenda that seeks to integrate faith and learning. For the sake of diversity in American higher education, our voice is important.

 

What exactly do you mean when you talk about the integration of faith and learning?

 

It's a shorthand phrase. It can mean a lot of different things. First, when I say faith I am talking about a Christian faith, although I do think it is important for Christians to understand and appreciate the Jewish faith because the Jewish faith is the mother of the Christian faith.

 

I have an assumption that truth is one. I believe in the unity of truth. Not that we fully know the truth, of course not, but I believe while we have not yet in any measure filled in the gaps and never will, I believe in the unity of truth. So that whether one enters this great field of truth as a physicist or a theologian, a musician or an athlete, if you think about life, ultimately the great truths of the empirical world and the great truths of the philosophical world cohere and are consistent with one another. If the Christian faith is true, then the truths of the Christian faith are consistent with what can be learned about the world from any other vantage point.

 

When we talk about the integration of faith and learning we are simply saying that if, from that artificial discipline of Chemistry, (for example) we look into this great multidimensional thing called truth, and the artificial discipline of Theology does the same, I think ultimately, even though they may come at this great thing called the truth at different angles and from far apart, that in their deepest structures, if we knew all that we could know, we would say, "Ah, they really do cohere. They fit."

 

This integration between faith and learning, some critics have referred to it as dangerous in a university setting because it replaces objectivity in an unbiased pursuit of the truth with subjectivity in approaching truth from a pre-designated viewpoint.

 

Well, it's very naďve for anyone to say that he or she has an objective point of view. I challenge the assumption from the word go. Anyone who claims objectivity has assumed the stability of the environment and the stability of his or her senses. He or she has assumed something about an order to things. He or she has made assumptions about reasonableness and the nature of reality. He or she has made assumptions about the orderliness of reality and how when things are objectively observed this can be written up and replicated by others. There are many assumptions that are at work there, and so it's philosophically very naďve for anyone to say that if you've got a perspective, therefore your work is somehow tainted. Everyone has a perspective.

 

I think there is nothing more dangerous, frankly, than someone who would try to assume that he or she has no assumptions, that he or she has achieved objectivity because that's when, under the guise of objectivity, great harm is done. People under the guise of objectivity as well as under the guise of ideological perspective have done great harm in the world. We all have a perspective. Part of being human is this ability to reflect and to ask ourselves questions, to have this self-reflective capacity. So it's not do I have assumptions, but can I reflect upon these assumptions and can I seek to see that these assumptions do not blind me to all of reality and to what all is going on.

 


 

Barbara Forrest's Letter to Simon Blackburn

 

From: Barbara Forrest

To: Simon Blackburn [invited speaker to Nature of Nature conference]

Date: March 2000

 

This letter concerns the conference, "The Nature of Nature," hosted by the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor University, which you will be attending in April. The title of this conference and the list of participants conceal the fact that the Polanyi Center is the most recent offspring of the creationist movement, the agenda of which is the destruction of evolutionary theory as the central principle of biology.

 

Even though I think that the participation--witting or unwitting--of reputable scholars in the Baylor conference plays into the hands of Dembski, Gordon, and the CRSC in that it lends them an undeserved academic legitimacy, I am not trying to dissuade you from going because I have no right to do that. You are already committed. I do, however, believe you have a right to know the nature of the atmosphere into which you are walking.

 

The director of the MPC is William Dembski, and the associate director is Bruce Gordon. Although they insist on calling their brand of creationism "intelligent design theory," its true nature is evident to anyone who has followed the development of creationism. For a thorough examination of creationism, including intelligent design, I refer you to Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism (MIT Press, 1999), an excellent book by a fellow philosopher, Prof. Robert Pennock of The College of New Jersey. Prof. Pennock critiques the work of Dembski, as well as the intelligent design movement as a whole.

 

Both Dembski and Gordon are members of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, the creationist arm of the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank in Seattle. It is significant that the CRSC recently received $1.5 million from wealthy businessman Howard Ahmanson. See Walter Olson's article at http://www.reason.com/9901/co.wo.darkbedfellows.html. For over twenty years, Ahmanson has served on the board of Chalcedon, Inc., an extremist Christian organization run by R.J. Rushdoony. See Jerry Sloan's article, "The Man Behind Knight" at http://www.frontiersweb.com/sfv18iss21/Pages/feat_1.html. You can view the CRSC site from the Discovery Institute page at http://www.discovery.org. The page has an announcement about the Baylor conference and other activities in which Dembski is participating. You will find links to CRSC articles, including Dembski's.

 

The establishment of the Polanyi Center at Baylor has aroused the anger of Baylor science faculty since it was accomplished with no prior knowledge or input from them. However, the faculty's anger stems primarily from their recognition that this organization and its founders, Dembski and Gordon, are creationists with a religious/political agenda, and they fear that the prominence and influence of such creationists at Baylor will severely damage the good reputation the faculty has worked so hard to build there. In fact, the faculty senate at Baylor scheduled this matter at the top of its agenda for its March 2 meeting with Baylor University President Robert Sloan. The first two questions on the agenda, addressed directly to Sloan, were these:

 

1. By creating the Polanyi Center has Baylor not institutionalized the propagation of a position, Intelligent Design Creationism, which is contrary to the prevailing assumptions of the majority of the world's scientists, specifically the scientific commitment to methodological naturalism? Arguing for a controversial position is one thing, but institutionalizing it is another. Moreover, that those associated with the center are described by their own colleagues outside of Baylor as part of a "new generation of creationists" constituting a "coalition to bring down evolution" is creating serious problems for the reputation of Baylor's science and pre-medical programs? It is the belief of some of us that the center was established by the administration without an awareness of these implications, and it is the hope of others of us that you will step in and preserve the integrity of the university and its science programs. Please comment?

 

2. Since the establishment of an institution such as the Polanyi Center has far-reaching implications for areas of the university such as the biology and psychology departments, shouldn't faculty members from those departments be consulted when such an institution is being considered?

 

Some history leading up to the Baylor conference:

 

In 1996, Phillip Johnson, a law professor at Berkeley who has taken it upon himself to cleanse American education and culture of "naturalistic evolution," initiated a conference at Biola University called the "Mere Creation" Conference. Johnson recruited Dembski and a host of others to help him do this. Dembski was one of the most active organizers of this conference. You can find a 1996 article about the conference at http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/11-30-96/national_2.asp. You can also view the web site for the Mere Creation conference at http://www.origins.org/mc/menus/index.html. Please follow the links to the off-site web pages as well. The nature of intelligent design as "mere creationism" is unmistakable.

 

If you go to Dembski's "virtual office" at "Leadership University," sponsored by the Christian Leadership Ministries, you can see Dembski's list of the most important creationist books in the movement, "The Intelligent Design Movement: A Brief Catalog of Resources," at http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/menus/reso.html. Among them is Of Pandas and People, which creationists around the country have tried to get local school boards to adopt in public school science classes and which Dembski has defended as a legitimate science text. You can read the National Center for Science Education's analysis of Pandas at http://www.natcenscied.org/mianal.htm#pandas. I have also attached a critique of this book by Dr. Gary Bennett of Idaho, who recently spoke to Idaho legislators, urging them not to adopt this anti-evolution text. You can also see at http://www.aclu.org/news/n100298a.html an ACLU press release regarding the use of this book by Roger DeHart, a public school teacher in Burlington, WA, where a full-fledged fight against creationism has developed and is ongoing at this moment. According to the Burlington-Edison Committee for Science Education, several CRSC members have become involved in the controversy there on the pro-creationist side. Dembski recently traveled to the University of Washington to promote his latest book. While there, he conducted a book-signing to help Skagit Parents for Scientific Proof in Education, a parents group working on DeHart's behalf. See http://www.skagitvalleyherald.com/daily/00/february/08/a3creation.html.

 

Reflecting its agenda of getting intelligent design creationism into American schools, the CRSC recently added to its web site intelligent design lesson plans for teachers. Until sometime near the end of February, they could be viewed at http://www.discovery.org/crsc/scied/evol.index.html.Now, however, the CRSC has restricted public access to them and they are in a "Secured Administration Area" requiring a name and password. I have found nothing else on the CRSC site which requires this. The reason is obvious: restricted access prevents the lesson plans, which are unconstitutional, from being scrutinized and evaluated, and it allows the CRSC to know who is getting them. You can, however, see the CRSC document, written by Gonzaga law professor and CRSC member David DeWolf, outlining the legal aspects of trying to get ID into public schools, at http://www.discovery.org/crsc/articles/TeachingTheOriginsControve.html. The ID creationists are looking for loopholes in Edwards v. Aguillard, a 1987 Supreme Court ruling on a case which originated in my state of Louisiana and which outlawed creationism in public schools.

 

The agenda of the intelligent design movement is spelled out in a CRSC document which surfaced last year and is commonly referred to as the "wedge document" because of its enunciation of the creationists' "wedge strategy," the brainchild of Phillip Johnson, who has spoken openly about this strategy. This document outlines the intelligent design movement agenda from 1999-2003. My analysis of CRSC's planned activities as stated in the document shows that they are systematically enacting every part of their agenda except the only one which would gain them the legitimacy they so crave: the production of scientific research using their "theistic science." As I stated earlier, Johnson, Dembski, and their associates have assumed the task of destroying "Darwinism," "evolutionary naturalism," "scientific materialism," "methodological naturalism," "philosophical naturalism," and other "isms" they use as synonyms for evolution. (You can see Dembski's articles on a creationist web site, "Access Research Network," at http://www.arn.org/dembski/wdhome.htm. One of them is "Teaching Intelligent Design as Religion or Science?") The wedge document is available at http://www.humanist.net/skeptical/wedge.html and also at http://www.infidels.org/org/aha/skeptical/wedge.html. You can also find an article on the wedge strategy written by Jim Still, manager of the Internet Infidels web site, at http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1999/wedge.html. Another article written on the wedge document at the time it surfaced is at http://www.freethought-web.org/ctrl/archive/thomas_wedge.html. This was done by Keith Lankford, past president of the Sagan Society at the University of Georgia.

 

The wedge document specifically includes as one of its goals the following: "[W]e will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings.... The attention, publicity, and influence of design theory should draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists, and we will be ready." So the plan of the ID proponents is to lure legitimate, respected scholars into conferences they organize. Not only have they managed to "wedge" themselves into the "significant academic setting" of Baylor, but the MPC web site shows that they have long-term plans there.

 

Very important with respect to the MPC and the Baylor conference is an article on intelligent design's move into the higher education mainstream (which is the purpose of the newly established Polanyi Center) at http://www.natcenscied.org/scot171.htm. This was written by Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Berkeley, CA. And at http://www.au.org/cs4995.htm is an article by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in which Johnson asserts that the wedge strategy "enables us to get a foothold in the academic world and the academic journals. You have to prepare minds to hear the truth. You can't do it all at once." This remark in itself explains the reason for the establishment of the MPC at Baylor and the naturalism conference you will be attending.

 

It is interesting to note the following information about the Baylor conference listings as they appear to date on the Polanyi Center web site at http://www.baylor.edu/~polanyi. Of the 31 confirmed participants, at least 10 appear to be part of Dembski's network of creationists. Of these 10, 7 are members of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Of the 11 plenary sessions, 8 have participants who are creationists (not always as presenters, but with some serving as moderators). The only plenary sessions without creationists participating in some way are the one hosted by Stuart Rosenbaum (a Baylor philosopher), the one in which Simon Conway Morris is listed as the sole speaker, and the last session, for which the moderator is still to be announced.

 

A similar conference was held in 1997 at the University of Texas-Austin, organized by Robert Koons, a philosophy professor and also a CRSC member. The title was, like that of the Baylor conference, academically innocuous: "Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise." See Koons' web site at http://www.dla.utexas.edu/depts/philosophy/faculty/koons/main.html/, which has a link to information about this conference. You can read Koons' assessment of the conference at http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9701/koons2.html. However, Koons' assertion of the high degree of consensus reached on the feasibility of and need for "theistic science" was not shared by all attendees. Legitimate scholars and students sent papers, only to find after they arrived that they had been lured into an event dominated by creationists and clearly organized as a platform for them.

 

I know several people who attended the UT conference in 1997. I have asked one of them, Wesley Elsberry, to attest to its nature. You may contact him at welsberr@inia.cls.org. Wesley is one of the most knowledgeable people in the country about the intelligent design movement and has extensively critiqued Dembski's work, as has philosopher Elliot Sober. You will find Wesley's writings, and a link to Sober's, at http://inia.cls.org/~welsberr/evobio/evc/ae/dembski_wa.html.

 

Cordially,

 

Barbara Forrest, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Department of History and Political Science

Southeastern Louisiana University

 


 

Baylor's Polanyi Center to Host Inaugural Naturalism Conference

April 06, 2000
by LoAna Lopez

Baylor University's Michael Polanyi Center -- part of the Institute for Faith and Learning -- will host its inaugural naturalism conference April 12-15 on the Baylor campus. The conference is titled "The Nature of Nature: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Role of Naturalism in Science."


Horace Freeland Judson, director of the Center for History of Recent Science and research professor of history at George Washington University, is the featured speaker for Friday night's banquet lecture. Judson, whose topic is "Speculations about Conceptual Blocks," is best known for his book The Eighth Day of Creation, a history of molecular biology and its makers from its origins to the early 1970s.


Other scheduled speakers include: Steven Weinberg, the Josey Regental Chair of Science at the University of Texas at Austin, and winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics and the 1991 National Medal of Science; and Christian de Duve, founder and director of the Christian de Duve Institute of Cellular Pathology, whose discovery of lysosomes and peroxisomes earned him the 1974 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. He also is a professor emeritus at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and Rockefeller University in New York.


Among the topics to be discussed are: "Neurogenesis and Being a Person," Howard M. Ducharme, department chair of philosophy at the University of Akron; "Thomistic Natural Law as Darwinian Natural Right," Larry Arnhart, professor of political science at Northern Illinois University; and "The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism," Robert C. Koons, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.


The Nature of Nature conference registration fee is $105 for the general public and $65 for non-Baylor students. For those who wish to attend the conference on either Thursday, Friday or Saturday, the cost is $35 for the general public and $20 for non-Baylor students. Wednesday evening's session is $20 for the general public and $10 for non-Baylor students. With the exception of the banquet lecture Friday evening, Baylor students, faculty and staff may attend the conference without charge.


The Michael Polanyi Center was established in 1999 as an interdisciplinary research and educational initiative focused on advancing the understanding of science. Its purpose is to support and pursue research in the history and conceptual foundations of the natural and social sciences; study the impact of contemporary science on the humanities and the arts; be an active participant in the growing dialogue between science and religion; and pursue the mathematical development and empirical application of design-theoretic concepts in the natural sciences.


Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) was a world-class physical chemist who turned to philosophy at the height of his scientific career because he was dismayed at the abuses and restrictions that materialist philosophy was inflicting on scientific research. He illustrated how philosophical, religious, psychological, sociological and scientific concerns interact to affect each other's development. Polanyi also realized the need for significant dialogue between science and religion.


For more information about the conference, contact the Institute for Faith and Learning at 710-4805, or visit the Michael Polanyi Center website at http://www.baylor.edu/~polanyi/ .

 

--30--

 


 

BU science-religion center draws critics

 

Polanyi Center's views may hurt department reputations, some fear

 

by Blair Martin
The Baylor Lariat
April 6, 2000
http://www3.baylor.edu/Lariat/Archives/2000/20000406/art-front01.html

 

Baylor's Michael Polanyi Center, a new center devoted to the study of science and religion, is hosting a conference, "The Nature of Nature," Wednesday at various campus buildings. Because of the center's controversial views, faculty will be watching closely.

 

"The purpose of the conference is for the scientists, philosophers, historians and theists to get together and talk about the complexity in nature in relation to scientific and philosophical religious concerns," said Dr. Bruce Gordon, associate director of the Michael Polanyi Center.

 

The Polanyi center sees itself as creating a dialogue connecting religion with the sciences.

 

"We see science and religion as complementary ways of looking at the earth because they have mutual relevance to each other," Gordon said. "I think they contribute to a more completely adequate understanding of the world and in order for us to derive to that state, we must take into account the relationship of science and religion and find harmony in between."

 

However, many professors in Baylor's arts and science departments are alarmed that the center's rhetoric will generate negative publicity that could harm the reputations of their departments.

 

"I am concerned as a science professor because something involving the sciences occurred without us [faculty] knowing about it," said Dr. Joe Yelderman, a geology professor.

 

Yelderman said he was not aware the center existed until after looking on Baylor's Web site and finding that the Polanyi Center stated that it was involved in the natural sciences.

 

"As a professor, I am concerned that people will make us guilty by association and assume that we are associated with or linked to this organization that is very well established as a pseudo-science rather than science," Yelderman said.

 

Dr. Charles Weaver, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, agrees that the new center may jeopardize the integrity of Baylor science degrees.

 

"Historically, Baylor has been successful in attracting potential pre-med students and accomplished faculty," Weaver said. "But, if I'm a potential physician, I am not going to a school that has questions about scientific integrity."

 

In response, Gordon attributes much of the debate as a misunderstanding of the intended purpose of the center.

 

"I think the science faculty has been concerned that we might be infringing on their area of expertise," Gordon said. "What we are doing is merely asking the question of whether there are empirical means in nature. The significance of that, of course, is not a scientific question; it needs to be evaluated from the perspective of philosophy and theology."

 

Gordon said he thinks the conference will serve as evidence of the center's good faith and the legitimate nature of its research. He invited faculty to attend a session they find interesting.

 

Though Yelderman and Weaver agree that the conference will be a good test for the Polanyi center, they do not plan to attend because of time constraints and the belief that the conference's approach to science is unproductive.

 

"One of the many problems that many of us scientists have is that it is very time-consuming to discuss our views," Yelderman said. "That is not the productive end of science. I would rather experience science, through my students or in my own research, than just talk about it."

 

Weaver said he will not attend because his colleagues' input is not encouraged.

 

"We are asked to observe, but our input has never been asked for," he said.

 

The Michael Polanyi Center, established in October 1999, consists of two people, director William Dembski, mathematician and philosopher, and associate-director Gordon, philosopher of physics.

 

The concept for creating such a center was sparked after Dr. Michael Beatty, director of the Institute of Faith and Learning and philosophy professor, and Dr. Donald Schmeltekopf, provost and vice-president of academic affairs, read the articles of director William Dembski.

 

They approached Dembski with the idea of creating a research center that would be a component of the Institute of Faith and Learning.

 

Named after Michael Polanyi, a physical chemist who studied the interaction of science, philosophy and religion in the 1930s, the center is affiliated with Baylor's Institute of Faith and Learning. It was established as a research initiative, focused on advancing the understanding of science, and exploring the interaction between science and religion.

 

Speakers from many disciplines, such as philosophy, theology and biology, plan to attend the event, including two Nobel Laureates, theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg of University of Texas in Austin and biochemist Christian de Duve of the Universite Catholique de Louvian in Belgium.

 

Guest speakers will discuss topics such as the origins of life and consciousness, the fine-tuning of physical constants, the effectiveness of mathematics at modeling the physical world and the role of naturalism in the history of science.

 

A pre-conference lecture will begin 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Cashion Academic Center.

 

Opening remarks will begin the conference at 7p.m. in Cashion.

 


 

Professors debate legitimacy of Polanyi

 

Outgoing prof says Sloan is discouraging comment on issue

 

by Blair Martin
The Baylor Lariat
April 12, 2000
http://www3.baylor.edu/Lariat/Archives/2000/20000412/art-front01.html

 

When the Michael Polanyi Center was quietly established on the Baylor campus last fall, few people knew of its existence or how much controversy it would foster.

 

A debate over the reputation of Baylor as a university has erupted among the teachers and administrators, concerning the establishment of the center as a campus institute.

 

That debate intensified Tuesday, when an outgoing Baylor professor said President Robert Sloan is intimidating faculty into not commenting on the controversy.

 

"Faculty are not speaking out because Sloan can make their lives miserable," Dr. Lewis Barker, psychology and neuroscience professor, said. "They don't speak out for fear of their salaries and of being singled out by administration.

 

"I know you can't get many faculty responses, but the ones you have represent the majority of the faculty. The others are just too scared to speak out and want to hold on to their jobs."

 

The Polanyi Center -- which studies creationism or the intelligent design of nature, depending on the point of view taken-- is drawing criticism and support as it opens its Nature of Nature conference today.

 

The Michael Polanyi Center consists of two people: director William Dembski and associate director Bruce Gordon.

 

A committee has been established to evaluate the center's influence on Baylor's reputation.

 

At an arts and science faculty meeting in March, Dean Wallace Daniel told faculty members that he had heard "many strong concerns" relating to the center and that he, Dr. Donald Schmeltekopf, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Keith Hartberg, biology chairman, would work to put the committee together. Schmeltekopf was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, despite several messages left for him this week.

 

Barker said there has been "unanimous consent that the Polanyi Center is detrimental to Baylor's science department."

 

Barker, who has taught at Baylor since 1972, is leaving Baylor to take a position as chairman of the psychology department at Auburn University. Barker is concerned with the center's promotion of creationism as a legitimate science and how it could potentially taint the integrity of students' degrees from Baylor.

 

Barker said President Sloan refuses to listen to the science departments' concerns.

 

"My best guess is that as long as President Sloan wants the Polanyi Center here, it will stay here," Barker said. "And it will continue to do what it wants, no matter what concerns the faculty have.

 

"The major concern of faculty is not that the Polanyi Center can do anything, but that Baylor's entire realm of science can be brought under suspicion."

 

Sloan is returning from out of town today and could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Messages were left at Sloan's office and at his home.

 

Dr. Joe Yelderman, a geology professor, agrees that the Polanyi Center could generate negative publicity that could harm the reputation of his department.

 

"As a professor, I am concerned that people will make us guilty by association and assume that we are associated or linked to these organizations that have been established as psuedo-science," Yelderman said.

 

Barker's colleague in psychology and neuroscience, Dr. Charles Weaver, associate professor, also worries about Baylor's reputation.

 

"Those of us who work really hard at trying to keep our reputations as uncompromised as scientists, find this frustrating to deal with," Weaver said.

 

According to Barker, the major concern of the faculty is the attempt by the Polanyi Center to use science to prove religion.

 

He told the Waco Tribune Herald in a Monday article, "I really don't want someone to say, as Dembski does, that he can prove the existence of God using statistical formulas. The problem with that is that if you disprove his argument, you prove there's no God."

 

Dr. Michael Beatty, director of the Institute of Faith and Learning and philosophy professor, disagrees with Barker. He believes that the Polanyi Center will enhance the academic quality of Baylor's science degrees and serve as an aid to the sciences.

 

"The purpose of the center is to help foster reflection and conversation between religion and the historical and philosophical nature of science," Beatty said. "The science department should know that there is no real danger, because it is not a religious center, nor a science center."

 

Gordon regards the debate between the departments as a "misunderstanding."

 

"I think the worries that have been expressed about the Polanyi Center are a misunderstanding as to what we are actually trying to do," Gordon said. "We are not creationists, we are merely asking whether there are empirical means in nature."

 

Gordon said the center studies the intelligent design of nature through various techniques in mathematics, such as probability, complexity, and information theories, the center can develop a method to detect signs and see if they can be applied to other structures, such as cosmological or biological forms.

 

Dr. Charles Garner, chemistry associate professor, agrees that there is a misunderstanding.

 

"The Polanyi Center's not talking about explaining God, it is simply talking about explaining its observations," Garner said. "Maybe science professors should be a little more careful in finding out what the center stands for."

 

However, Barker said he understands fully the nature of the Polanyi Center.

 

"How many times do I have to listen to Gordon and others tell us how much we do not understand?" Barker asked. "I understand perfectly and am not in the minority. How is that we [science faculty] can be all wrong and he [Gordon] be right?"

 

At the heart of the debate is the true definition of science. Critics of the center believe that science should be able to pass the test of peer review and should follow established criteria on whether to accept or reject findings, regardless of the outcome.

 

Scientists must accept the possibility their research will not produce expected results. Critics said they don't believe the center is capable of accepting alternative explanations.

 

"One of the cornerstones of academic life is peer review, you have people who will engage in debates on a level playing field and whether we are right or wrong, the consensus of one's peers plays a great role," Weaver said. "This, in my opinion, is out of that context."

 

Yelderman is waiting for the center to produce scientific works.

 

"There may be science involved, but I have not seen any at this stage," Yelderman said. "Just because someone uses mathematics or statistics, does not necessarily mean that it is science."

 

Garner disagrees with his colleagues and respects what the Polanyi Center is trying to accomplish.

 

"I think the center is a good thing," Garner said. "They are seeking out to answer some important and much need questions and are going about it very professionally."

 

Garner thinks that the Polanyi Center will enhance Baylor's science department.

 

"Science could never explain God, therefore God and science are always excluded from each other," Garner said. "They [Polanyi Center's researchers] are not talking about explaining God, they are talking about explaining their observations."

 

According to Garner, the center is approaching the study of evolution from a perspective that counters that of most scientists. He said the center studies theistic evolution, which "uses the facts of evolution but also involves God in the crucial points along the way." The alternative, according to Garner, would be atheistic evolution that has "no dominance by God, it is strictly the properties of chemistry and physics that can account for all these things."

 

Baylor faculty are not the only ones troubled by administration's decision.

 

Dr. Sahotra Sarkar, director of the history and philosophy of science program at the University of Texas in Austin, agrees that Baylor's faculty have a legitimate concern.

 

"I, for one, am extremely distressed by the decision of the center not to involve scientists at Baylor in its activities," Sarkar wrote in an email. "It almost seems that the center's staff have a fear of genuine science."

 

Sarkar is a plenary lecturer at the Nature of Nature conference. However, Sarkar will not pocket her speaking fees.

 

"In order to emphasize even further our distance from the pseudo-creationist agenda of the Polanyi Center, some of us-including me-are donating all or part of our honoraria to organizations that will promote the study of evolution in our schools," Sarkar said. "We are committed to a rational and scientific understanding of the world and our role in it."

 

Another concern of the Baylor arts and science faculty are the alternative science links, such as the Creationism Connection and Discovery Institute, that now appear on or connect to the Polanyi web site.

 

"We now show up in a cohort of people that Baylor has worked very hard at disassociating themselves with," Weaver said. "So, my concern is partly how quickly word is going to get out and how compromised it will make us look?"

 

Weaver considers the links "damning publicity" and is fearful such implications could scare off potential faculty and promising medical students.

 

Beatty understands their concern.

 

"I understand the science faculty's point of view regarding the web sites," Beatty said. "It is understandable how the center's interest is presented, or in this case, misrepresented."

 

Beatty said it was "regrettable that the net could be used to misrepresent your work" but explains that "when you are on the net, you are vulnerable to a lot of outside links and are unable to control who links to you or how your work is perceived."

 

Gordon agrees with Beatty that such links are unfortunate.

 

In an interview with the Waco Tribune Herald, Gordon said, "We have no control over who decides to link to our site. We do not endorse a connection to those sites at all. They didn't ask our permission. It would be better if they removed it, but we can't spend our time policing the Internet."

 


 

THE NATURE OF NATURE:

An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Role of Naturalism in Science

April 12-15, 2000

 

Is the universe self-contained or does it require something beyond itself to explain its existence and internal function? Philosophical naturalism takes the universe to be self-contained, and it is widely presupposed throughout science. Even so, the idea that nature points beyond itself has recently been reformulated with respect to a number of issues. Consciousness, the origin of life, the unexpected effectiveness of mathematics at modeling the physical world, and the fine-tuning of universal constants are just a few of the problems that critics have claimed are incapable of purely naturalistic explanation. Do such assertions constitute arguments from incredulity - an unwarranted appeal to ignorance? If not, is the explanation of such phenomena beyond the pale of science? Is it, perhaps, possible to offer cogent philosophical and even scientific arguments that nature does point beyond itself? The aim of this conference is to examine such questions.

 

 

SCHEDULE

 

The building location key for the campus map, which will help you locate each of the sessions, is indicated in parentheses opposite each session on the schedule below. You will find a map of the campus in your conference packet. A brief description of each of the talks is given along with a short biography of each of the plenary and concurrent session speakers.

 

Bill Daniel Student Center (BDSC)                                                                 

Cashion Academic Center (Cashion)                                                                                             

Fountain Mall                                                                     

Miller Chapel

Memorial Residence Hall

 

Conference Registration and Campus Information Table -- Cashion 5th Floor

 

Book Display -- Cashion 5th Floor

 

 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12

 

3:30, Pre-Conference Lecture:

 

The Herbert H. Reynolds Lecture in the History and Philosophy of Science

Fifth Floor, Cashion Academic Center

 

"Cloned Sheep, Headless Frogs, Human Futures: Meanings for the New Biology"

 

Everett Mendelsohn, Professor and Chair

Department of the History of Science

Harvard University

 

5:30-6:45, Buffet Dinner -- Fountain Mall

 

7:00-7:15, Welcome and Opening Remarks -- Cashion 510

 

Robert Sloan, President, Baylor University

William Dembski, Director, Michael Polanyi Center

 

7:15-9:45, Plenary Session: The Nature of Nature, Cashion 510

               

Moderator: Alvin Plantinga, University of Notre Dame

"The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism"

--Robert Koons, Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin

"Must Naturalists Be Realists?"

--Michael Williams, Philosophy, Northwestern University

"Are There Any Sound Arguments for Supernaturalism?

--Michael Tooley, Philosophy, University of Colorado, Boulder

 

 

THURSDAY, APRIL 13

 

8:00-10:00, Plenary Session: Are Evolution and Naturalism     Compatible? -- Cashion 510

 

Moderator: Bruce Gordon, Baylor University

"An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism"

--Alvin Plantinga, Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

"Naturalism Undefeated"

--William Talbott, Philosophy, University of Washington, Seattle

 

10:00-10:30, BREAK

 

10:30 -12:30,Plenary Session: Naturalism and the History of Science -- Cashion 510

 

Moderator: Stuart Rosenbaum, Baylor University

"Naturalistic Explanation and 19th Century Biology"

--Everett Mendelsohn, History of Science, Harvard University

"Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs"

--Ronald Numbers, History of Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Naturalism and Natural Theology"

--Ernan McMullin, Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame

 

12:30-1:30, LUNCH -- MRH

 

1:30-3:30, CONCURRENT SESSIONS

 

Session 1, DEBATE: Is There Direction and Purpose in Evolution?

 

"The Contingent Nature of Evolution"

--Michael Shermer, Well-Known Author, Editor of Skeptic Magazine

"The Direction of Evolution"

--Robert Wright, Well-Known Science Writer

 

Session 2, Miller Chapel

 

"Naturalism and the Nature of Philosophy"

--David Yandell, Philosophy, Loyola University, Chicago

"How Can God Do Anything?"

--Evan Fales, Philosophy, University of Iowa

 

Session 3, Cashion 101

 

"Application of Mathematics, Naturalism, and Underdetermination"

--Otavio Bueno, Philosophy, California State University, Fresno

"Can Naturalism in Psychology Tolerate the Objectivity of Norms?"

--Terry Winant, Philosophy, California State University, Fresno

"Naturalism and the Problem of Consciousness"

--Todd Moody, Philosophy, St. Joseph's University

 

Session 4, Cashion 102

 

"Scientific Analysis of Paracelsus' Late Conceptualization of Remedy Underlines Pantheistic Naturalism"

--Béatrice Anner, Pharmacology, Geneva University Medical School, Switzerland

"The Social Construction of Naturalism in 19th Century Debates about the Cambrian Explosion"

--Michael Keas, History of Science, Oklahoma Baptist University

"A Conceptual Bridge Between Intelligent Design and Darwinian Evolution"

--Robert DeHaan, Developmental Psychology, University of Chicago (Retired)

 

Session 5, Cashion 105

 

"Solar Ultraviolet Radiation is Finely Tuned to Enhance the Survival of Many Forms of Life"

--Forrest Mims III, Solar and Atmospheric Physics, Sun Photometer Atmospheric Network

"Information, Entropy and the Origin of Life"

--Walter Bradley, Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University

"Does Quantum Theory Pose a Problem for Naturalistic Metaphysics?"

--Bruce Gordon, Philosophy of Science, Baylor University

"Natural Theology: Cosmic Coincidences, Carbon, and Conundrums"

--Allen Utke, Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh (Emeritus)

 

Session 6, Cashion 107

 

"The Nature of Nature: A Perspective from Traditional Christianity"

--Rudolf Brun, Biology, Texas Christian University

"Naturalism in New Testament Studies"

--Jay Richards, Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute

"An Evidentiary Challenge to Naturalism: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of the Effects of Remote Intercessory Prayer on Coronary Care Unit Patients"

--William Harris, Medicine, University of Missouri, Kansas City

"The Impotence of the Gap Argument"

--John Mark Reynolds, Philosophy, Biola University

 

Session 7

 

"Is Natural Selection a Biological Designer?"

--Paul Nelson, Philosophy of Biology, Senior Research Fellow, Discovery Institute

"Junk DNA: A Case History in the Interpretation and Reinterpretation of Data"

--Timothy Standish, Biology, Andrews University

 

3:30-4:00, BREAK

 

4:00-6:00, Plenary Session: Does Science Support Naturalism?

 

Moderator: Robert Koons, University of Texas, Austin

"Naturalism as a Non-Issue"

--Steven Weinberg, Theoretical Physics, University of Texas, Austin

"Science and Theism: Conflict or Coherence?"

-- Henry F. Schaeffer III, Quantum Chemistry, University of Georgia, Athens

 

6:00-7:30, DINNER -- Fountain Mall

 

 

FRIDAY, APRIL 14

 

8:00-9:00, Plenary Session: Biological Complexity I   -- Cashion 510

 

"What's Inevitable in Evolution?"

-- Simon Conway Morris, Paleontology, University of Cambridge

               

9:00-9:30, BREAK

 

9:30-12:30, Plenary Session: Biological Complexity II -- Cashion 510

 

Moderator: Simon Conway Morris, University of Cambridge

"What Counts as Evidence of Darwinism vs. Intelligent Design?"

--Michael Behe, Biochemistry, Lehigh University

"Mysteries of Life: Is There 'Something Else'?"

--Christian de Duve, Cytology and Biochemistry, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium

"On the Evolvability of Gene (and Other) Regulatory Systems"

--Mark Ptashne, Molecular Biochemistry, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

 

12:30-1:30, LUNCH -- MRH

 

1:30-3:30, Plenary Session: The Origin of Biological Information -- Cashion 510

 

Moderator: Horace Freeland Judson, George Washington University

"DNA and the Origin of Life: Information, Specification and Explanation"

--Stephen Meyer, Philosophy of Science, Director, Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture

"On the Emergence of Semiotic Information in Macromolecular Systems"

--Sahotra Sarkar, Philosophy of Biology, University of Texas, Austin

 

3:30-4:00, BREAK

 

4:00-6:0, Plenary Session: Cosmology -- Cashion 510

 

Moderator: Robin Collins, Messiah College

"How Well Can We Understand Cosmology with the Principles of Physics?"

--Alan Guth, Theoretical Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Cosmic Evolution as the Manifestation of Divine Activity"

--Howard Van Till, Astronomy and Physics, Calvin College

"Naturalism and the Origin of the Universe"

--William Lane Craig, Philosophy, Biola University

 

6:30 - 9:30, Conference Banquet and Banquet Lecture -- Fountain Mall

 

Remarks by Donald Schmeltekopf, Provost, Baylor University

"Speculations about Conceptual Blocks"

--Prof. Horace Freeland Judson, Director, Center for History of Recent Science, George Washington University

 

 

SATURDAY, APRIL 15

 

8:00-10:00, Plenary Session: Naturalism and Ethics -- Barfield Room, 2nd Floor BDSC

 

Moderator: J. Budziszewski, University of Texas, Austin

"Naturalism's Incapacity to Capture the Good Will"

--Dallas Willard, Philosophy, University of Southern California

"Thomistic Natural Law as Darwinian Natural Right"

--Larry Arnhart, Political Science, Northern Illinois University

 

10:00-10:30, BREAK

 

10:30-12:30, Plenary Session: Naturalism and the Barfield Room, 2nd Floor BDSC

 

Effectiveness of Mathematics         

 

Moderator: William Dembski, Baylor University

"Effectiveness Without Design: A Naturalist Philosophy of Mathematics"

--Edward Zalta, Senior Research Scholar, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University

"The Unreasonable Uncooperativeness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences "

--Mark Wilson, Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

 

12:30-1:30, LUNCH -- MRH

 

1:30-3:30, CONCURRENT SESSIONS

 

Session 1

 

"Evolutionary Naturalism and the Reduction of Ethical Demand"

--John Hare, Philosophy, Calvin College

"The Limits of Reductive Materialism: Dualistic Theory in Recent Scientific Accounts of Human Altruism"

--Jeffrey Schloss, Biology, Westmont College

 

Session 2

 

"Can Evolutionary Algorithms Generate Specified Complexity?"

--William Dembski, Probability and Complexity Theory, Baylor University

"Can an Inflationary Many-Universes Hypothesis Explain the Fine-Tuning?"

--Robin Collins, Philosophy of Science, Messiah College

 

Session 3, Houston Room, BDSC

 

"Naturalism and Material Objects"

--Michael Rea, Philosophy, University of Deleware

"Teleology, Free Will, and Materialism"

--Stewart Goetz, Philosophy, Ursinus College

 

Session 4, Lipscomb Room, BDSC

 

"Science and Naturalism: Life Without Design, Purpose, and Meaning"

--Steven Schafersman, Geology, University of Texas, Permian Basin

"The Design Inference: Methodological Naturalism to the Rescue"

--Robert O'Connor, Philosophy, Wheaton College

"Agency, Explanation, and Evolution"

--Stephen Griffith, Philosophy, Lycoming College

"Can Natural Law Lead Science Beyond Naturalism?"

--Karl Stephan, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Massachussetts, Amherst

 

Session 5, Claypool Room, BDSC

 

"Complex Idea Systems in Biological Organisms and a Conjecture as to their Origins"

--Arne Wyller, Astrophysics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Retired)

"Can a Conscious Universe Obviate Philosophical Naturalism and Vanguard Physical Teleology?

--Richard Amoroso, Philosophy of Mind, Noetic Advanced Studies Institute

"Finding God in Prozac, or Finding Prozac in God: Preserving a Christian View of the Person Amidst a Biopsychological Revolution"

--Michael Boivin, Psychology, Indiana Wesleyan University

 

Session 6, Cowden Room, BDSC

 

"The Place of Teleology in Nature"

-- James Barham, History of Science, Independent Scholar

"A Problem of Evil for Naturalism"

--R. Douglas Geivett

 

3:30-4:00, BREAK

 

4:30-6:30, Plenary Session: Neuroscience and Consciousness -- Cashion 510

 

Moderator: David Berlinski, Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris, France

 

"Current Research Into Consciousness"

--John Searle, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, University of California, Berkeley

"Theism and Nonreductive Physicalism: Why Christians Should Appreciate John Searle's

Account of the Mind"

--Nancey Murphy, Theology and Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Neurogenesis and Being a Person"

--Howard Ducharme, Philosophy, University of Akron, Ohio

 

6:30-9:00, Dinner for plenary and concurrent speakers at the Northwood Inn

 

END OF CONFERENCE

 

 

BIOSKETCHES OF PLENARY SPEAKERS
AND A SHORT DESCRIPTION OF EACH TALK:

 

_____

Larry Arnhart: "Thomistic Natural Law as Darwinian Natural Right"

 

This paper defends a Darwinian ethical naturalism as part of the natural law tradition of Thomas Aquinas.

 

Larry Arnhart is Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University. His B.A. is from the University of Dallas, and his Ph.D. is from the University of Chicago. He teaches courses in political philosophy, American political thought, and the philosophy of science. He is the author of three books: Aristotle on Political Reasoning: A Commentary on the "Rhetoric" (1981), Political Questions: Political Philosophy from Plato to Rawls (1987), and Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature (1998). He is currently writing a book on the biology of natural law from Thomas Aquinas to E. O. Wilson.

 

_____

Michael Behe: "What Counts as Evidence of Darwinism vs. Intelligent Design?"

 

Several counterexamples proffered by scientific critics of a theory of intelligent design in biochemistry will themselves be critiqued, and the question of the falsifiability of intelligent design and Darwinism will be explored.

 

Michael J. Behe was awarded the Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1978 by the University of Pennsylvania. From 1978-1982 he did postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health. In 1985 he moved to Lehigh University where he is currently Professor of Biochemistry. In his career he has authored 40 technical papers and one book, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, which argues that living system at the molecular level are best explained as being the result of deliberate intelligent design. The book has been reviewed by the New York Times, Nature, Philosophy of Science, Christianity Today, and over 80 other publications. Behe and his wife reside near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with their eight children.

 

_____ 

William Lane Craig: "Naturalism and the Origin of the Universe"

 

The paper explores in the light of modern cosmology the Leibnizian question of why the universe exists rather than nothing.

 

William Lane Craig earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Birmingham, England, before taking a doctorate in theology from the Ludwig Maximiliens Universität-München, Germany, at which latter institution he was for two years a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. Having spent seven years at the Higher Institute of Philosophy of the Katholike Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, he is currently a Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology. He has authored over a dozen books, including The Kalam Cosmological Argument, Divine Forknowledge and Human Freedom, and Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, as well as nearly a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology, including The Journal of Philosophy, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science. He currently lives in Atlanta with his wife Jan and their two children Charity and John.

 

_____

Simon Conway Morris: "What's inevitable in evolution?"

 

This talk will address problems of constraints versus runaway "experimentation" in evolution, with special emphasis on convergence.

 

Simon Conway Morris was born 1951, and brought up in London, England. 1969-1972 BSc University of Bristol; 1972-1979 Cambridge, PhD student and then post-doc (Research Fellow at St John's College) working on the Burgess Shale. From 1979-1983 he was at the Open University, and from 1983-present in the Earth Sciences at Cambridge, where he is now Full Professor and Fellow of St. John's College. Conway Morris was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990. He has been the recipient of various prizes, most recently the Lyell Medal of Geological Society of London. His principal research interests are the Cambrian "explosion" and early evolution of animals. He has widening interests in evolution and its implications for theology (and vice versa). He recently gave the Tarner Lectures, sponsored by Trinity College, Cambridge, on these issues. He has an immense admiration for G.K. Chesterton.

 

_____

Christian de Duve: "Mysteries of Life : Is there 'something else'?"

 

In this talk I argue that there is at present no valid scientific reason for rejecting purely naturalistic explanations of the nature, origin, and evolution of life.

 

Born in England in 1917 and educated in Belgium, Christian de Duve holds MD, M.Sc. and PhD. degrees from the Catholic University of Louvain. He has been professor of biochemistry at the medical faculty of that university between 1947 and 1985 and has, since 1962, been simultaneously associated with the Rockefeller University in New York as professor of biochemical cytology (until 1974) and as Andrew W.

Mellon professor from 1974 until 1988. He is also Founder-Administrator of the Christian de Duve Institute of Cellular Pathology (ICP), founded in Brussels in 1974. Christian de Duve's work has been mainly in the area of cell biology. His discovery of lysosomes and peroxisomes has earned him the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, jointly with Albert Claude and George Palade. He is a member, among other organizations, of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the Royal Society.

 

_____

Howard Ducharme: "Neurogenesis and Being a Person"

 

This paper argues that recent discoveries of neurogenesis - the generation of new neurons in the adult brain - call for reconsideration of a Cartesian argument on the metaphysical nature of persons.

 

Howard M. Ducharme is Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Akron. He has written and lectured extensively on the metaphysical implications of contemporary science and the nature of persons, as well as a wide range of bioethical issues. Ducharme received his D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. He did a graduate degree in Philosphy of Religion and an undergraduate degree in Chemistry, Biology, and Philosophy. Professor Ducharme is also an Editorial Consultant to the Journal of the History of Philosophy, The Journal of Clinical Ethics, and Neurology (Journal of the American Academy of Neurology). He is Director of "2001--The Human Genome Odyssey Conference: The Science, Business, Law and Ethics of Engineering Human Life," April 5-7, 2001. Related publications: "Personal Identity in Samuel Clarke", Journal of the History of Philosophy 24 (July 1986): 359-383; "The Vatican's Dilemma: On the Morality of IVF and the Incarnation," Bioethics (January 1991):57-66; "Thrift-Euthanasia, In Theory and in Practice: A Critique of Non-Heart-Beating Organ Harvesting,"Law and Medicine, ed. by Andrew Lewis and Michael Freeman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

 

_____

Alan Guth: "How Well Can We Understand Cosmology with the Principles of Physics?

 

In this talk I argue that while many properties of the universe remain obscure, much progress has been made in the scientific understanding of cosmology.

 

Alan J. Guth is the Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Trained in particle theory at MIT, Guth held postdoctoral positions at Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) before returning to MIT as a faculty member in 1980. His work in cosmology began at Cornell, when Henry Tye persuaded him to study the production of magnetic monopoles in the early universe. Using standard assumptions, they found that far too many would be produced. Continuing this work at SLAC, Guth discovered that the magnetic monopole glut could be avoided by a new proposal which he called the inflationary universe. Guth is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Guth continues to work on the cosmological consequences of particle theory, and is the author numerous articles in technical journals and of The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origin (Addison-Wesley/Perseus Books, 1997).

 

_____

Horace Freeland Judson: "Speculations about Conceptual Blocks"

 

In this talk I discuss several anecdotes from the history of science that illustrate how preconceptions or expectations have created conceptual blocks to scientific discovery, and further speculate about this phenomenon.

 

Horace Freeland Judson is Director of the Center for History of Recent Science, and Research Professor of History, at The George Washington University. He calls himself a writer by trade, an academic by accident. In a checkered career, he has been editor, advertising copywriter, book reviewer, theatre and art critic, foreign correspondent (seven years for Time as Arts & Sciences Correspondent in London and Paris), social historian, and author of a number of books. He is best known for The Eighth Day of Creation, a history of molecular biology and its makers from its origins to the early nineteen-seventies. An expanded edition of the book appeared in November of 1996. Other books he has written are The Techniques of Reading; Heroin Addiction in England; and The Search for Solutions. His academic accidents have included nine years as Henry R. Luce Professor at Johns Hopkins University and four years as Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University. He has been a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.Prize in 1987. He is completing a book with the working title Truth's Trumpet Cracked, about fraud and other misconduct in science, and another, Our Thumbprints in Our Clay, about the technology of the gene.

 

_____

Robert Koons: "The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism"

 

I argue in this paper that naturalism (taken as the conjunction of an ontological thesis about what exists and a metaphysical thesis about the nature of intentional representation) is logically inconsistent with scientific realism, given a widely accepted thesis about the practice of theory choice in physics (namely, the preference for a kind of simplicity).

 

Robert C. Koons is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating from Michigan State University, he attended Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship, receiving First Class Honours in 1981. He received a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1987 from UCLA under Tyler Burge. His first book, Paradoxes of Belief and Strategic Rationality, a study of Liar-like paradoxes in the social sciences, received the Gustave Arlt Prize in Humanities in 1992. His forthcoming book, Realism Regained: An Exact Theory of Causation, Teleology, and the Mind, will be published this summer by Oxford University Press.

 

_____

Ernan McMullin: "Naturalism and Natural Theology"

 

In this talk I discuss how one might relate the natural theologies of earlier centuries to the methodological naturalism of contemporary science.

 

Rev. Ernan McMullin (Ph.D., Louvain) is John Cardinal O'Hara Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. His areas of specialization are the philosophy of science, history of the philosophy of science, and science and religion. Books he has written or edited are: (editor) The Concept of Matter 1963; (editor) Galileo, Man of Science (1967); Newton on Matter and Activity (1978); (editor) Evolution and Creation (1985); (editor) Construction and Constraint: The Shaping of Scientific Rationality (1988); (edited with James Cushing) Philosophical Consequences of Quantum Theory (1989); (editor) The Social Dimensions of Science (1992); The Inference That Makes Science (1992). Some of his recent articles are:"Indifference Principle and Anthropic Principle in Cosmology," Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science (1993); "Enlarging the Known World," in Physics and Our View of the World (1994); "Galileo on Science and Scripture," in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo (1998); "Cosmic Purpose and the Contingency of Human Evolution," Theology Today (1998); "Materialist Categories," Science and Education (1999); "Biology and the Theology of Human Nature," in Controlling our Destinies (1999).

 

_____

Everett Mendelsohn: "Naturalistic Explanation and 19th Century Biology"

 

This talk examines several key 19th Century texts in which a conscious choice is made to limit the forms of explanation to the natural and to actively exclude other types of explanation of biological phenomena.

 

Everett Mendelsohn is Professor and Chair of the History of Science at Harvard University, where he has been on the faculty since 1960. He has worked extensively on the history of the life sciences as well as on aspects of the social and sociological history of science and the relations of science and modern societies. He is the founder and former editor of the Journal of the History of Biology and serves(d) on the editorial boards of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Social Science and Medicine, Social Epistemology, Social Studies of Science, and Fundamenta Scientiae, among others. He is past president of the International Council for Science Policy Studies and has been deeply involved in the relations between science and modern war as a founder of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Committee on Science, Arms Control, and National Security, and the American Academy of Arts and Science's Committee on International Security Studies. He was a founder and first president of the Cambridge based Institute for Peace and International Security. He was awarded the Gregor Mendel Medal of the reorganized Czechoslovak Academy of Science in 1991. During 1994 he held the Olof Palme Professorship in Sweden. Among recent publications are the jointly edited volumes, The Practices of Human Genetics (1999); Biology as Society, Society as Biology: Metaphors (1994); Technology, Pessimism and Postmodernism (1993); Science, Technology, and the Military (1988), and numerous articles for academic journals.

 

_____

Stephen Meyer

 

"DNA and the Origin of Life: Information, Specification and Explanation."

 

DNA exhibits a specified complexity of information content, the origin of which cannot be explained adequately by undirected evolutionary mechanisms.

 

Stephen Meyer is a professor of philosophy at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. He holds a B.S. in physics and geology from Whitworth College, and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. He specializes in the philosophy of biology, particularly origin of life studies, the structure of evolutionary arguments, and the methodological character of the historical sciences. He has published a variety of technical articles in journals and collections, as well as popular ones in the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. Meyer is a fellow of the Pascal Center, and is the Director of the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.

 

_____

Nancey Murphy

 

"Theism and Nonreductive Physicalism: Why Christians Should Appreciate John Searle's Account of the Mind"

 

This paper begins by articulating theological, biblical, scientific and philosophical grounds for rejecting mind-body dualism, and then argues that a non-reductive physicalism similar to John Searle's account of the mind can meet the challenges facing it, and actually is more consistent with the theism of the Semitic religions than the dualism that has long been a part of them.

 

Nancey Murphy is Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. She holds a B.A. in philosophy and psychology from Creighton University, a Ph.D. in philosophy of science from U.C. Berkeley, and a Th.D. from the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley. Her research interests focus on the role of modern and postmodern philosophy in shaping Christian theology, and on relations between theology and science. Her first book, Theology in an Age of Scientific Reasoning, won the American Academy of Religion award for excellence and a Templeton Prize for books in science and theology. She has authored five other books dealing with topics in science, religion and ethics, and co-edited six volumes, two of which deal with the implications of the neurosciences for theology and the understanding of human nature. Murphy is also an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

 

_____

Ronald Numbers: "Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs."

 

This paper discusses the history of methodological naturalism and the role Christians played in promoting it.

 

Ronald L. Numbers is Hilldale and William Coleman Professor of the History of Science and Medicine and chair of the Department of the History of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has taught for over a quarter-century. He has written or edited more than two dozen books, including, most recently, The Creationists (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), Darwinism Comes to America (Harvard University Press, 1998), and Disseminating Darwinism: The Role of Place, Race, Religion, and Gender (Cambridge University Press, 1999), coedited with John Stenhouse. For five years (1989-1993) he edited Isis, the flagship journal of the history of science. He is writing a history of science in America (for Cambridge University Press), editing a series of monographs on the history of medicine, science, and religion for the Johns Hopkins University Press, and coediting, with David Lindberg, the eight-volume Cambridge History of Science. He is the immediate past president of the American Society of Church History and the current president of the History of Science Society. A former Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the International Academy of the History of Science.

 

_____

Alvin Plantinga: "An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism".

 

In my paper I argue that the conjunction of naturalism with current evolutionary theory is self-defeating; the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable, given naturalism (N) and the proposition that our faculties have arisen by way of the mechanisms suggested by current evolutionary theory (E), is low or inscrutable; either gives one who accepts N&E a defeater for the proposition that his cognitive faculties are

reliable, but then also a defeater for anything else he believes, including N&E itself.

 

Alvin Plantinga (Ph.D., Yale), is John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Center for Philosophy of Religion. Prior to that he taught at Calvin College for 19 years, and has been a visiting professor at a number of places including Harvard, Arizona, Oxford, and UCLA. He specializes in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. He is the author of numerous journal articles and several books, including: God and Other Minds (1967); The Nature of Necessity (1974); God, Freedom & Evil (1974); Does God Have a Nature? (1980); Warrant: the Current Debate (1993); Warrant and Proper Function (1993); and Warranted Christian Belief (2000).

 

_____

Mark Ptashne

 

"On the Evolvability of Gene (and Other) Regulatory Systems"

 

Complicated gene regulatory systems are constructed by reiterative uses of simple (and rather crude) molecular interactions - they are thus highly "evolvable."

 

Mark Ptashne holds the Ludwig Chair of Molecular Biology at the Sloan-Kettering Institute, and is the Principal Investigator of the Gene Regulation Laboratory at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Sciences, and the New York Academy of Sciences. He is the author of over 160 articles in scientific journals and collections, and a book entitled A Genetic Switch, Phage Lambda and Higher Organisms. His work in molecular biochemistry has been honored with a variety of awards, including the Massry Prize, the Lasker Award and le Prix Charles-Leopold Mayer of the French Academy of Sciences (with Walter Gilbert). He was educated at Reed College and Harvard University, and taught at Harvard, where he was the Herschel Smith Professor of Molecular Biology before moving to the Sloan-Kettering Institute in 1997.

 

_____

Sahotra Sarkar: "On the Emergence of Semiotic Information in Macromolecular Systems."

 

This paper analyzes the ongoing controversy about the role of informational thinking in molecular biology and constructs some speculative scenarios for the origin of informational systems from underlying macromolecular reactions during the early evolution of semi-living systems.

 

Sahotra Sarkar is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director, Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Texas at Austin. He is also a Research Associate of the Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal. Sarkar was born 22 October 1961, in Calcutta, India. He attended Columbia University (1977 -82, BA 1981), and the University of Chicago (1981 -89, PhD 1989). He taught at McGill University (1994-1998). Senior Fellow, Sidney Edelstein Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1993); Fellow, Dibner Institue at MIT (1993 -94): Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (1996-97); Resident Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (1997 -98). He is the author of Genetics and Reductionism (CUP, 1998), and the editor of several books: Founders of Evolutionary Genetics (Kluwer, 1992), The Philosophy and History of Molecular Biology: New Perspectives (Kluwer, 1996), and Science and Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: Basic Works of Logical Empiricism (6 volumes, Garland, 1996).

 

_____

Henry F. Schaefer III:        "Science and Theism: Conflict or Coherence?"

 

                This talk examines the history and current status of the "warfare metaphor" for the relationship between science and theology, and argues that this is not how the relationship should be conceived, illustrating the point by considering the views of a variety of distinguished scientists, both historical and contemporary.

 

Henry F. Schaefer III was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1944. He received his B.S. in chemical physics from M.I.T. in 1966, and Ph.D. degree in the same from Stanford University in 1969. For 18 years (1969-1987) he served as a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. During the 1979-1980 academic year he was also Wilfred T. Doherty Professor of Chemistry and inaugural Director of the Institute for Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin. Since 1987 Dr. Schaefer has been Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. His other academic appointments include Professeur d'Echange at the University of Paris (1977), Gastprofessur at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochshule (ETH), Zurich (1994, 1995, 1997), and David P. Craig Visiting Professor at the Australian National University (1999). He is the author of more than 800 scientific publications, the majority appearing in the Journal of Chemical Physics or the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He is the recipient of five honorary degrees. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the London-based journal Molecular Physics and President of the World Association of Theoretically Oriented Chemists. His major awards include the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry (1979), the American Chemical Society Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award (1983), the Schrodinger Medal (1990), and the Centenary Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (London, 1992). His research involves the use of state-of-the-art computational hardware and theoretical methods to solve important problems in molecular quantum mechanics.

 

_____

John Searle:          "Current Research into Consciousness".

 

In this talk I will discuss how we can have an account of consciousness as a natural biological process that occurs in the brain in the way that, for example, digestion is a natural biological process that occurs in the stomach.

 

John R. Searle is the Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University of California at Berkeley. Born in Denver, educated at University of Wisconsin and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, John Searle began teaching at Oxford in 1956, moving to Berkeley in 1959. He has written ten books and more than 100 articles. His works have been translated into 20 languages.

 

_____

William Talbott: "Naturalism Undefeated"

 

In this paper I argue that Plantinga's argument against naturalism is unsuccessful.

 

William J. Talbott is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Washington. He received his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Princeton and his doctorate from Harvard. He has published articles in epistemology, moral and political philosophy, and rational choice theory. He is currently working on a book in epistemology, to be titled Learning from Experience, and a book in political philosophy, to be titled Why Human Rights Should be Universal.

 

_____

Michael Tooley:  "Are there any Sound Arguments for Supernaturalism?"

 

In this talk I shall take a brief, critical look at some central arguments for supernaturalism, and I shall argue that all of them are unsatisfactory.

 

Michael Tooley is a graduate of the University of Toronto (B.A., 1964) and Princeton University (Ph.D., 1968). He has been a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami and at the University of Western

Australia, and a senior research fellow at the Australian National University, and he is presently a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of three books - Abortion and Infanticide (1983), Causation: A Realist Approach (1987), and Time, Tense, and Causation (1997), as well as the editor of a number of collections on causation and analytical metaphysics. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, and has been a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and President of the Australasian Association of Philosophy.

 

_____

Howard Van Till: "Cosmic Evolution as the Manifestation of Divine Creativity"

 

In my paper I argue that, contrary to popular rhetoric, evolutionary cosmologies do not eliminate the need for a Creator but instead they entail exceptionally high expectations regarding both the creativity and the generosity exercised by a Creator.

 

Howard J. Van Till is Professor (emeritus) of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After graduating from Calvin College in 1960, he earned his Ph.D. in physics from Michigan State University in 1965. Dr. Van Till's research experience includes both solid state physics and millimeter-wave astronomy. During the past two decades he has devoted a considerable portion of his writing and speaking efforts to topics regarding the relationship of science and theology. Having concluded that the usual creation/evolution debate is the product of serious misunderstandings, Van Till's goal is to encourage a non-adversarial and mutually informative engagement of Christian theology and the natural sciences. He is the author of several books, book chapters, and essays on this theme and has spoken at numerous universities and colleges.

 

_____

Steven Weinberg: "Naturalism as a Non-Issue."

 

In my talk I argue that naturalism is not a doctrine, but at most an attitude, one that is -- in every sense -- natural.

 

Steven Weinberg holds the Josey Regental Chair of Science at the University of Texas at Austin, and is a member of its Physics and Astronomy Departments. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences He is the author of Gravitation and Cosmology, The First Three Minutes, The Discovery of Subatomic Particles, Dreams of a Final Theory, and The Quantum Theory of Fields, and has been an occasional contributor to The New York Review of Books and other periodicals. His work in physics has been honored with numerous prizes, including in 1979 the Nobel Prize in Physics and in 1991 the National Medal of Science. Educated at Cornell, Copenhagen, and Princeton, he also holds honorary doctoral degrees a from dozen American and foreign universities. He taught at Columbia, Berkeley, M.I.T., and Harvard before coming to Texas in 1982.

 

_____

Dallas Willard: "Naturalism's Incapacity to Capture the Good Will"

 

In this paper I will argue that intention is the fundamental locus of moral value and, following Kant, that the only unconditional good in the domain of moral values is a good will - something for which no consistent form of naturalism can give an account, or even comprehend. The paper will begin with a discussion of how naturalism and the ethical aspect of human life are to be understood, since these are topics of much present confusion.

 

Dallas Willard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, where he has been since 1965. He also taught at the University of Wisconsin Madison (1964-65), and has had visiting appointments at UCLA (1969) and University of Colorado (1984). He is the author of Logic and the Objectivity of Knowledge (1984), and The Divine Conspiracy (1998), among other books. He is currently working on a new book, to be entitled The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge: An Essay on Ethical Thought in the 20th Century.

 

_____

Michael Williams

 

"Must Naturalists be Realists?"

 

It is argued in this paper that philosophical naturalists do not have to be realists, and in fact they should not be realists. A deflationary approach to metaphysical and truth-related issues provides a superior point of view.

 

Michael Williams is presently the Charles and Emma Morrison Professor of Humanities at Northwestern University, but will be joining the Philosophy Department of Johns Hopkins University in the fall of 2000. He was educated at Oxford and Princeton, where he received his Ph.D. in 1973, and prior to Northwestern, taught at Yale and the University of Maryland. His areas of specialization are the theory of knowledge, skepticism, philosophy of language, and the history of modern philosophy. He is the author of numerous journal articles and three books, Groundless Belief: An Essay on the Possibility of Epistemology (1977, reissued with a new afterword in 1999), Unnatural Doubts: Epistemological Realism and the Basis of Scepticism (1994), and Problems of Knowledge (forthcoming from Oxford later this year). He is currently working on a new book entitled Curious Researches: Reflections on Scepticism, Ancient and Modern.

 

_____

Mark Wilson: "The Unreasonable Uncooperativeness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences"

 

A number of writers (Eugene Wigner; Mark Steiner) suggest that the surprising applicabilty of mathematics to physics poses a "philosophical problem." In this talk I will survey what might possibly be intended in such a claim.

 

Mark Wilson (Ph.D, Harvard, 1976) is professor of philosophy and a fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Before coming to Pittsburgh, he taught at the University of California-San Diego, the University of Illinois-Chicago and Ohio State. His main research investigates the manner in which physical and mathematical concerns often become entangled with issues characteristic of metaphysics and philosophy of language; he is currently writing a book on the subject. He is also interested in the historical dimensions of this interchange; in this vein, he has written on Descartes, Frege, Duhem and

Wittgenstein. He has also published a number of recordings of traditional folk musicians.

 

_____

Edward Zalta: "Effectiveness Without Design: A Naturalist Philosophy of Mathematics"

 

If we (i) axiomatize the abstract objects that serve as the subject matter of possible mathematical theories, and (ii) argue that the axioms which do this are justified by the fact that they ground the possibility of scientific theories, we can (a) reconcile a platonist philosophy of mathematics with philosophical naturalism, and (b) begin to offer a naturalist explanation of the effectiveness of mathematics in the sciences.

 

Edward N. Zalta is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. His research specialties include Metaphysics and Epistemology, Philosophy of Language and Intensional Logic, and the Philosophy of Mathematics. Zalta has published two books: Abstract Objects: An Introduction to Axiomatic Metaphysics, D. Reidel, 1983; and Intensional Logic and the Metaphysics of Intentionality, MIT, 1988) and articles in the Journal of Philosophy, the Journal of Philosophical Logic, Nous, and elsewhere. Zalta has taught courses at Stanford University, Rice University, the University of Salzburg, and the University of Auckland, and has presented talks in various universities in North America, Europe and Australasia. He also designed and serves as the Principal Editor of the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Further information and a list of publications can be obtained from <http://mally.stanford.edu/zalta.html>.

 

 

LIST OF CONCURRENT SPEAKERS

Richard Amoroso, Béatrice Anner, James Barham, Michael Boivin,Walter Bradley, Rudolf Brun, Otavio Bueno, Robin Collins, Robert DeHaan, William Dembski, Evan Fales, R. Douglas Geivett, Stewart Goetz, Bruce Gordon, Stephen Griffith, John Hare, William Harris, Michael Keas, Forrest Mims III, Todd Moody, Paul Nelson, Robert O'Connor, Michael Rea, John Mark Reynolds, Jay Richards, Steven Schafersman, Jeffrey Schloss, Michael Shermer, Timothy Standish, Karl Stephan, Allen Utke, Terry Winant, Robert Wright, Arne Wyller, David Yandell.

 

ABOUT THE MICHAEL POLANYI CENTER: The Michael Polanyi Center (MPC) is a cross-disciplinary research and educational initiative focused on advancing the understanding of science. It has a fourfold purpose: (1) to support and pursue research in the history and conceptual foundations of the natural and social sciences; (2) to study the impact of contemporary science on the humanities and the arts; (3) to be an active participant in the growing dialogue between science and religion; and (4) to pursue the mathematical development and empirical application of design-theoretic concepts in the natural sciences.

 


 

Opposing views still hang over Polanyi

 

Professors continue to clash in wake of recent conference

 

by Blair Martin
The Baylor Lariat
April 18, 2000
http://www.baylor.edu/~Lariat/Archives/2000/20000418/art-front01.html

 

Critics and supporters alike attended the Nature of Nature conference sponsored by the Michael Polanyi Center last week.

 

Nancy Pearcey, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, who attended the conference, explained the Intelligent Design Theory the Polanyi Center is studying.

 

The Discovery Institute, where Polanyi director William Dembski is a senior fellow, studies the theory they call intelligent design.

 

"The basic question that these scientists are trying to solve is, 'Is there anything beyond nature?'" Pearcey said.

 

Pearcey offers the example of a watch to illustrate her point.

 

"You pick up a watch in a field and ask where it did this come from? Is this a product of natural causes or is it made by a human being?" Pearcey said.

 

"As you look at it, you see the type of structure in the watch and see that that kind of structure can only come from human manufacture. You conclude that this watch was designed by people. So, the design argument is to go out in nature and to find things that have the same structure as the things that are made by intelligent beings."

 

According to Pearcey, bringing up the intelligent design theory at Baylor could only enhance the university.

 

"It will enhance it for a variety of reasons," Pearcey said. "One is, it's good to have debate. These guys are coming up with a genuine scientific argument, and it can't help but be stimulating."

 

Dr. William Craig, professor at Talbot School of Theology in California, said he thought the conference was very well-balanced and gave an interesting diversity of perspective.

 

"I think it's great that Baylor is doing this. For these ideas to be brought to the surface like this is the only way learning can be advanced. This kind of discussion is tremendously healthy and Baylor University should be proud," Craig said.

 

Dr. Walter Bradley, science professor at Texas A&M University, said the conference was a good opportunity to express an alternative view to science.

 

"It is always good to have another view," Bradley said. "Instead of wrestling with the nuts and bolts of science, you have the opportunity to meet and interact with people who have other thoughts and different views."

 

However, Dr. Sahotra Sarkar, associate professor of philosophy at University of Texas, remains skeptical of the Polanyi Center and the conference it sponsored.

 

"I haven't read all the sessions yet, but all the design theorists' arguments that I've heard are all old arguments that nobody writes about anyway," Sarkar said. "Clearly there has not been a single case where either side has convinced the other of anything at all."

 

Last week, Sarkar, who attended as a speaker, said he and others were not accepting the honorarium given to them by the Polanyi Center.

 

Instead, they will donate the money to other organizations that will promote the study of evolution in their schools.

 

Sarkar's colleague, Dr. Ed Zalta, a professor at Stanford, said he was going to split his honorarium between the American's Association of the Advancement of Science and the National Center for Science Education.

 

"I can't in good conscience accept the honorarium that they are going to pay me from either the center or the Discovery Institute," Zalta said.

 

Sarkar also questioned Baylor's affiliation with such a center.

 

"If you got some real scientists involved it might be a useful role. But so far, it doesn't," Sarkar said.

 

Sarkar also doubts that a center such as the Polanyi Center could be established at his university.

 

"There's a chance it could happen," Sarkar said. "And if it did, it would be the laughing stock of campus."

 

Zalta also doubts that such a center would exist at Stanford.

 

"I don't think it would have been established at Stanford." Zalta said. "I don't think the administration could have established an academic type of institution without consulting the faculty."

 

Despite the critics, Pearcey said she thinks the controversy surrounding Baylor and the Polanyi Center can only help by shedding light on a subject that needs attention.

 

"Everyone wants to get in on this controversy." Pearcey said. "So, it's good pedagogically. Students are more interested in it. They learn to think critically and to weigh data. They ask questions like 'Where's the data? Where's the facts? Do we have the evidence to support the conclusion? And this is all great stuff. This is the kind of thing education should be about," she said.

 

"As long as you keep it to the scientific data so that it's valid science, I think it will enhance the education."

 


 

Baylor University

Faculty Senate Newsletter

April, 2000

___________________________________________________________________

The 1999-00 Faculty Senate officers and membership: Chair: Robert Baird (Arts and Sciences) / Chair-elect: Jay Losey (Arts and Sciences) / Secretary: Charles Weaver (Arts and Sciences) / Publicity: Buddy Gilchrest (Education) / Arts and Sciences: Linda Adams, Robert "Bob" Baird, Rosalie Beck, Anne-Marie Bowery, William Jensen, Phillip Johnson, David Longfellow, Jay Losey, Dan McGee, Richard Riley, Sara Stone, Joan Supplee, Charles Weaver, Ray Wilson, Joe Yelderman, David Young / Business: Gary Carini, Joe Cox, Charles Davis, Mark Dunn, Karen Johnson, Jane Williams / Education: Fred Curtis, Buddy Gilchrest, Deborah Johnston / Engineering and Computer Science: Don Farris / Law: Marianne Auld / Libraries: William Hair / Music: Jane Abbott-Kirk, Christopher Buddo / Nursing: Sandra Genrich / Truett Seminary: David Garland.

Comments from Robert Baird, Senate Chair:

The Polanyi Center

Although I would like to conclude my final piece for the Senate Newsletter on a high note, I feel responsible as chair of the Senate for addressing the creation of the Polanyi Center -- one of the most divisive issues to have arisen on the Baylor campus during my thirty-two years on the faculty.

For the last Presidential Forum, the Senate received more questions about the Polanyi Center than on any other topic. As chair of the Senate, I continue daily to receive expressions of concern about the creation of the Center, especially from my colleagues in the sciences, but by no means solely from them.

The fundamental question the creation of the Center raises concerns the mutual trust and confidence between administration and faculty, which is the defining characteristic of a collegial relationship. The Polanyi Center's Internet home page includes immediately under the title of the center the phrase "advancing the understanding of science." This seems to be the basic purpose of the Center. The directors of the Center claim to be doing science; that is, they argue for introducing intelligent design into science as an explanatory category. Yet the Center was created without consultation with colleagues in the sciences. Another major purpose of the center is to examine the connections between science and religion, yet again it was created without consultation with colleagues in the Department of Religion.

Often the question has arisen in my mind, "How would my colleagues and I feel and respond if a Center committed to 'advancing the understanding of philosophy' were created without consulting those of us in the philosophy department?" How would members of any department feel and respond if a Center were created to further the understanding of that department's discipline without consulting the faculty of that department about the purpose of the center and its proposed directors?

The creation of the Michael Polanyi Center creates particular problems for the Philosophy Department because the director and the associate director of the Center have degrees in philosophy. The philosophy department was not consulted about the formation of the Center. Additionally, the creation of the Polanyi Center fails to take into account the role of the recently inaugurated Herbert H. Reynolds Lectureship in the History and Philosophy of Science. The result of a gift to the department by Chancellor and Mrs. Herbert Reynolds, the Lectureship will eventually evolve into a Chair in the History and Philosophy of Science and beyond that into an Institute. Importantly, this program is directed not simply by the Philosophy Department but by a committee representing the departments of Biology, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Geology, History, Physics, and Psychology/Neuroscience. No conversations with representatives of this committee took place concerning the creation of the Polanyi Center.

Let me reemphasize that the crucial issue in this whole matter is the collegial relationship between the administration and the faculty. Such a relationship could be affirmed by dissolving the Polanyi Center and starting over. If it is desirable for Baylor to have a center to explore the connections between science and other disciplines, a committee of Baylor faculty from across the disciplines could be formed. That committee could make recommendations about both the nature of such a center and its directors. The administration has responded to some of these concerns by agreeing to form a committee to evaluate the work of the director and associate director of the Polanyi Center, but this does not get at the basic issue of initiating a Center without faculty consultation.

As I look back over my years at Baylor, one of the most satisfying dimensions of my career has been the collegial relationship that I have witnessed between faculty and administration. Personally, I recall with gratitude my collegial relationships with Presidents McCall and Reynolds. When I became chair of the Senate, one of my first acts was to make an appointment with President Sloan. He graciously gave me almost two hours out of his busy schedule. It was an open, honest, collegial conversation. As indicated above, the administration has been quite responsive to faculty concerns this year in working with the Senate to develop new grievance, dismissal, and promotion policies. My hope is that this collegiality will continually be a dimension of our life together at Baylor. Would not the dissolution of the Polanyi Center and a fresh start with broad faculty input concerning such a proposed enterprise make a significant contribution to such collegiality? Might it not also generate an important discussion between the administration and faculty concerning procedures for the establishment of new centers and institutes at Baylor? Such conversations are the heart of mutual respect and confidence.

 


 

FACULTY SENATE MEETING

April 18, 2000

Cashion 303

MINUTES

Present: Abbott-Kirk, Adams, Auld, Baird, Beck, Bowery, Buddo, Carini, Curtis, Davis, Farris, Garland, Gilchrest, M. Sanford (for Genrich), Hair, Jensen, K. Johnson, P. Johnson, Johnston, Longfellow, Losey, McGee, Riley, Stone, Supplee, Weaver, Williams, Wilson, Yelderman, Young

Absent: Cox, Dunn

Also present: D. Myers (Committee on Committees), M. Essary (Tenure Committee)

I. Call to Order & Announcements...

II. Consideration of Agenda...

III. Consideration of March Minutes...

IV. New Business...

V. Old Business...

VI. Committee/Liaison Reports...

VII. Additional Business

McGee introduced the following resolution:

Be it resolved that the Baylor University Faculty Senate expresses it enthusiastic support of its Chair, Dr. Robert Baird, and the sentiments that he stated regarding the establishment of the Polanyi Center as published in the April, 2000 issue of the Faculty Senate Newsletter. The Senate requests that the Baylor Administration respond affirmatively to Dr. Baird's request that the Polanyi be dissolved, as a positive sign of the Administration's respect for the Baylor faculty and their judgments regarding academic programs.

The motion was seconded by Beck, and passed by an overwhelming majority (27 votes in favor, 2 against, 1 abstention).


 

Committee to review Center

 

Faculty Senate chair suggests dissolving Polanyi

 

by Blair Martin
The Baylor Lariat
April 19, 2000
http://www.baylor.edu/~Lariat/Archives/2000/20000419/art-front01.html

 

In a newsletter to the faculty, Dr. Robert Baird, chairman of the Faculty Senate, suggests that the dissolving of the Michael Polanyi Center could enhance the administration and faculty relationship.

 

Baird referred to the creation of the center as "one of the most divisive issues to have risen on Baylor campus during my 32 years on faculty."

 

Baird said the lack of faculty involvement is at the root of the debate.

 

"The crucial issue in this whole matter is the collegial relationship between the administration and the faculty," Baird wrote in the April issue of the Faculty Senate newsletter.

 

In an attempt to improve the relationship, a peer review committee, mainly composed of scholars from other universities, is in the works.

 

"This will be a standard academic review process," said Dr. Donald Schmeltekopf, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "This will help us assure as much objectivity as possible."

 

The administration hopes to use the committee to better communicate its intentions and address faculty concerns, an administration spokesman said.

 

But Baird's basic question remains unanswered.

 

"This does not get at the basic issue of initiating a Center without faculty consent," Baird wrote.

 

Baird also wrote that although the Center's purpose is to observe the connections between science and religion, Baylor's religion, philosophy and science departments were not consulted about its creation.

 

"The directors of the Center claim to be doing science; that is, they argue for introducing intelligent design into science as an explanatory category," Baird wrote. "Yet the Center was created without consultation with colleagues in the sciences."

 

According to Baird's newsletter, since directors Dr. William Dembski and Dr. Bruce Gordon both have degrees in philosophy, the philosophy department would be the obvious place for peer review.

 

"How would my colleagues and I feel and respond if a Center committed to 'advancing the understanding of philosophy' were created without consulting those of us in the philosophy department?" Baird asked.

 

Baird also mentioned that the Polanyi Center had failed to consider the role of the Herbert H. Reynolds Lectureship of History and Philosophy of Science.

 

Initiated in 1994-1995, Dr. Herbert H. Reynolds' last year as Baylor president, the lectureship was designed to evolve ultimately into an institution.

 

"This all came into play the year before I retired as president," Reynolds said. "The Board of Regents started the Herbert H. and Joy C. Reynolds Endowment Fund for University Excellence. From the initial $2 million, one-fourth went to the Herbert H. Reynolds Lectureship fund in hope to promote a better understanding of science."

 

Dr. Herbert H. Reynolds explained the original intent of his lectureship.

 

"This Lectureship has already been established," Reynolds said. "As the fund grows over time, the positions will change. The lectureship will become a professorship to be held by a full-time faculty member and then in another three or four years, it will be established into an institute."

 

Reynolds said that his lectureship would involve representatives from six of the science departments in order to ensure balanced, yet eclectic research and study.

 


 

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Baylor U. Faculty Senate Seeks Closure of Center Created to Study Religion and Science
By BETH McMURTRIE

An institute created at Baylor University to explore the relationship between science and religion has instead inflamed the campus. On Tuesday, the Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to ask the administration to dissolve the center, which was established without the knowledge of most faculty members, "to show respect for the Baylor faculty" and its "judgment regarding academic programs."

Since it was quietly established last fall as a part of the university's Institute for Faith and Learning, the Michael Polanyi Center has attracted a growing number of critics among Baylor's faculty. In addition to their irritation over lack of input -- some faculty members said they only found out about it when they stumbled across the center's Web site -- opponents argue that it is run by creationists attempting to promote their views with psuedo science.

"I have never seen faculty as upset over any issue, and I've been here 12 years now," said Charles A. Weaver, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. "It's just sheer outrage."

Provost Donald D. Schmeltekopf said Tuesday that the administration's decision to hire two men from outside Baylor who are critical of established evolutionary theory to organize the center was not an attempt to shut out Baylor's faculty. Rather, he said, the administration saw a gap that needed to be filled: the academic exploration of the relationship between religion and science.

"We have done this sort of thing before, and other universities have done this kind of thing," he said. "It's very difficult to do anything in those gaps unless you take an initiative."

William A. Dembski, the center's director, is a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, which rejects Darwinism and other aspects of evolutionary science. He is an advocate of intelligent design theory, which holds that that the origin and development of life are so complex that they must be the work of some kind of active intelligence. It also holds that this intelligence can be empirically proved or disproved using mathematical tools.

Both he and Mr. Bruce L. Gordon, the center's associate director, are critical of naturalism, which Mr. Dembski described in one article as "the view that nature is self-sufficient and thus without need of God or any guiding intelligence."

Though Mr. Schmeltekopf noted that neither man was hired as a faculty member, Mr. Dembski was given the title of associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning. Mr. Gordon is listed as an assistant research professor at the institute.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Gordon said that intelligent design is not the same as creationism because it does not attempt to describe the kind of intelligence that might be behind evolution.

Others at Baylor are not so sure. Several faculty members have dismissed the theory as bogus science. In an interview, Lewis M. Barker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, tagged it "stealth creationism."

Mr. Barker said he and others see the hand of President Robert B. Sloan Jr. behind the establishment of the center. Mr. Sloan has had a controversial tenure at Baylor, a Baptist university, in part because of his conservative religious beliefs and his stated desire to develop the university's academic strength in tandem with its Christian identity. (See an article from The Chronicle, July 23, 1999.)

"This is as much an affront to the religion faculty as it is science faculty," Mr. Barker said.

Mr. Sloan did not return a telephone call to his office Tuesday, but Mr. Schmeltekopf said that nobody was trying to force a particular religious viewpoint on the campus. Mr. Dembski's basic viewpoint, he said, is that "what has occurred within the cosmos cannot be reduced to natural processes. It seems to me that's an interesting academic issue for places like Baylor to address."

Mr. Gordon said that research using intelligent design theory was just one aspect of the center's work. It also plans to examine how scientists' religious and philosophical views affect their work and to study the impact of modern science on literature and art.

"It's certainly not an ideal situation," he said of the uproar. "We've been trying to build bridges with the faculty but with the controversy of late, it's been difficult."

The Faculty Senate's vote was prompted by a recent article in the senate's newsletter by its chairman, Robert M. Baird. He wrote that administration's failure to consult Baylor's religion, science, or philosophy departments in the development of the Polanyi center "raises concerns" about "the mutual trust and confidence between administration and faculty." Mr. Baird suggested that only by dissolving the center and starting over could that trust be restored.

Daniel B. McGee, a religion professor and former senate chairman, said he voted in favor of the resolution to send a message to Baylor administrators. Because it was created by administrative fiat, he said, the Polanyi center "lives under a cloud of suspicion and separation between that program and the larger faculty."

Mr. Sloan has agreed to create a peer-review committee to examine the center's creation and purpose, and Mr. Schmeltekopf said Baylor intends to proceed with that.

"I think it's a very dangerous thing to unilaterally dissolve academic programs like this," he said of the Faculty Senate's recommendation, which came on a vote of 26 to 2. "There's a lot of emotional pressure within the campus to do this sort of thing, but we put a process in place and we agreed to it."

Even that decision, though, has raised faculty ire because the administration wants the committee to consist mainly of faculty members from other institutions to ensure impartiality.

Several faculty members say they're simply waiting to see who is appointed to the committee. Said Mr. Weaver: "How Baylor responds is going to say an awful lot about what this institution is going to become."

 


 

President Sloan Addresses Polanyi Center Issue

 

by President Robert B. Sloan, Jr.
April 20, 2000
http://pr.baylor.edu/feat.fcgi?2000.04.20.polanyi

 

The establishment of the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor University has generated a great deal of campus discussion these past few weeks and also attracted statewide media coverage. In light of the attention this Center and its work have received and the Baylor Faculty Senate's April 18 resolution calling on the administration to dissolve the Polanyi Center, I feel it is important for me to respond.

 

It has been suggested by some that the focus of this controversy should be on the procedures by which the Center was established and that the administration's failure to consult with the faculty in the creation of the Polanyi Center is the heart of the matter. Certainly those issues are important, but I do not believe they are the heart of the matter for two reasons: One, there was indeed some consultation with faculty. I do not recall or know all the details and all the individuals involved in the conversations, but I do know that some faculty both in the humanities and in the sciences conversed with Drs. William Dembski and Bruce Gordon, director and associate director of the Center, before it was established and later were aware of the creation of the Polanyi Center and its program charge. Unfortunately, it is now being commonly said, and repeated in the newspapers as if unqualified fact, that the Center was established without faculty consultation. The fact is, and I have readily admitted as much at the recent open forum sponsored by the Faculty Senate and elsewhere, that, in retrospect, there are some things the administration could have done to manage this process more effectively. There were some conversations with faculty and there could no doubt have been more. One can always do a better job of processing issues, but hindsight is 20/20.

 

The second reason I do not believe procedural issues are at the heart of this matter is that throughout higher education, and here at Baylor as well, there is a legitimate place for administrative initiative in academic matters. Certainly, there are different patterns and formats for both administrative and faculty involvement. Much depends upon the nature of the issue and/or the tradition of involvement in question. Obviously, for example, there is great involvement on the part of the faculty in the hiring process. On the other hand, there is also a lengthy tradition at Baylor with respect to the creation of various institutes and centers whereby there is a wide spectrum of involvement and/or initiative between faculty and administration.

 

Administrative initiative is certainly one (though not the only) means whereby institutes and centers and other academic enterprises can be begun. The Center for Jewish and American Studies, established about the same time as the Polanyi Center, is an example. Creation of that Center involved significant administrative initiative and leadership, though not without some conversation with faculty and others. There was no objection in that regard, I note, though it was potentially very controversial. Though how the Polanyi Center was established is an important matter, I do not agree that it is "the heart of the matter." In my experience, people often object to "the way things were done" as a rhetorical substitute for what was done. I think the more substantive issue here is the philosophical/ideological objection of some to the work of the Center itself. Again, I do not dismiss the other issues. They are important. But I do not think they are the heart of the matter.

 

If that were the case, there would have been objections to the initiation of any number of other institutes, centers, and/or academic programs at the University. Such has simply not been the case. The real objection here is to the substance of the issues raised by the Polanyi Center. Indeed, in the end, a final decision about the Polanyi Center must also be dependent upon the academic and intellectual substance of the Centers work. By dissolving the Center, as the Faculty Senate has proposed, we would in effect be imposing a form of censorship on the work of the Center. I believe there are matters of intellectual and academic integrity at stake here. Drs. Dembski and Gordon, both highly capable scholars with the credentials to support their qualifications to study the subjects that the Center was established to pursue, should be allowed to do their work. If their conclusions do not stand up to peer review, then so be it. But to quash their research and to mute their point of view because of political pressure and without sound intellectual cause is antithetical to everything for which a true university ought to stand. We should not be afraid to ask questions, even if they are politically incorrect. Indeed, I am proud of Baylor's willingness to ask questions which some are apparently afraid to entertain.

 

Provost Don Schmeltekopf, Dean Wallace Daniel and I met with a number of individuals several weeks ago to deal with the concerns expressed in regard to the Centers presence at Baylor. Such concerns are precisely the reason for our initiating a process whereby the work of the Polanyi Center can be evaluated. Our concern over these issues is also reflected in my extensive and, I believe, very transparent answers to the faculty questions delivered both in writing and in person at the March 2 Presidential Forum sponsored by the Faculty Senate. On that occasion, and on others, I reiterated my own deep and abiding support for the work of the sciences at Baylor. No one at Baylor has ever been asked to quit teaching evolution. No one will be. That is not the way ideas are generated, corrected, flourish or even die. The various evolutionary paradigms have a respectable intellectual history as working models that continue to promote discovery and to produce research and new research hypotheses. These paradigms have also from time to time been subjected to critique, some valuable, some not, and have themselves undergone revision. So it is with intellectual work. Ideas should rise and fall, or be revised, on their own merit.

 

My administration and I have worked tirelessly to provide the much-needed facilities, equipment, and programming that the sciences need for the 21st century. Further, I have made it abundantly clear where I stand on the question of "creation science." I think it is not good theology, and I would be embarrassed for what I understand to be creation science to be taught at Baylor University.

 

Nonetheless, I obviously do believe in the Creator God and that this is His creation, accomplished, mysteriously, through the agency of Jesus Christ. Those are historic Christian beliefs. Whether or not there are patterns of design, information, and purpose in this universe that can be detected by scientific processes, I do not know. I do think, however, that it is an interesting question. Indeed many people regard it as an issue of significant intellectual import. Surely it is fair game in a place like Baylor to ask such questions. It is simply too easy to dismiss as "creation science" every attempt to relate belief in the Creator God to the human processes of understanding the created order.

 

There are other constituencies both internal and external to the University who have been very complimentary of the Center's recent conference, "The Nature of Nature," and very positive about the courage Baylor has shown in tackling such a significant set of academic issues. Nonetheless, I return once again to my point: that these matters will not be decided on emotional grounds. Nor will the way the Center was established be determinative for whether or not the Polanyi Center should be dissolved. Nor, indeed, will the unfortunate behavior of some count for any arguments that it should stay. We are a university. These are matters of serious intellectual value and debate. The process that we agreed to several weeks ago is the process we will follow. There will be an evaluation committee/panel established of largely external membership to consider the academic and intellectual legitimacy, from both scientific and extra-scientific grounds, of the work of the Center.

 

Baylor has received much attention because of the Polanyi Center and the recent conference. We have received attention of both a negative and positive character. The last thing we can do now is allow these matters to be decided upon political grounds. I call upon all faculty to let the peer review committee do its work and make its recommendations. I am committed to treating the committee's recommendations with the utmost seriousness. Let us all proceed in a collegial manner worthy of the quality of discussion characteristic of a civil and intellectually rich university environment -- the kind we all so deeply treasure here at Baylor.

 


 

Sloan nixes decision to dissolve Polanyi

 

President says a committee will review center first

 

by John Drake
The Baylor Lariat
April 20, 2000
http://www.baylor.edu/~Lariat/Archives/2000/20000420/art-front03.html

 

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. rejected a faculty senate resolution to dissolve the Polanyi Center in Wednesday's State of the University address.

 

"We will not dissolve the Polanyi Center without going through the process that has been set forth." Sloan told the audience of primarily faculty members gathered in Barfield Drawing Room for the annual address. "We have utterly no intention of doing so."

 

Dr. Robert Baird, chairman of the philosophy department and acting chair of the faculty senate, said he accepted the president's position.

 

"While he and I differ with regard to the best method of proceeding here, he is the one in the position to make the decision."

 

Faculty members said they were not surprised by the president's announcement.

 

"I didn't anticipate them reversing themselves and adopting the senate's recommendation," said Dr. David Longfellow, associate professor of history. "What the senate wanted was for the administration to back up and start over."

 

Instead, the president indicated he will go forward with allowing a committee, composed primarily of scholars from other universities, to review the work of the Polanyi Center.

 

"I think that for the administration to choose a committee to evaluate an institute that the administration itself created neglects the need for an open and extended discussion within the Baylor community itself," Longfellow said.

 

Dr. Jay Losey, associate professor of English and chair-elect of the faculty senate, said its main concern was the lack of consultation with faculty in creating the institute.

 

"We are puzzled by the fact that this center was created, and up and running, and no one knew anything about it," he said.

 

If the center involved academic pursuits, Losey said, then faculty should have been consulted.

 

"Although it's a non-academic center, it suggests academic standing," he said. "The ordinary process of selecting a committee was not followed in this case."

 

He said no one from Baylor's religion, science or philosophy departments was consulted in creating the center.

 

Sloan told the audience that he recognizes the process involved in creating the center could have been better.

 

"In retrospect, it [the process] was not as good as it should have been, but not as bad as characterized by some."

 

After his address, Sloan said that in many cases "a center is an interdisciplinary project just to see if you have a question that needs study."

 

Sloan said he does not believe the conflict stems from the process involved in creating the center, but instead is rooted in a conflict with the substantive issues the center is dealing with.

 

Part of the center's purpose is to reconcile religion and science into a single Truth.

 

"The sciences are rightly disturbed because the very basis of modern science involves verification," Losey said. "There can be no verification of results in the intelligent design approach. If you dismiss or belittle evolution as a process, then you call into question the whole endeavor of modern science."

 

Both Sloan and Losey said the controversy will not lead to increased division between the faculty and administration, but for very different reasons.

 

"We're pretty much as divided as we can be," Losey said. "Although we're embroiled in this controversy, it's my deep belief that the administration knows the importance of communication and will do everything in its power not to let something like this happen again."

 

But Sloan said he is not worried about a division between the faculty and administration.

 

"There has been more conversation with faculty members than [one] would think," he said. "In the long run, it will promote more discussion."

 


 

BU faculty Senate supports dismantling Polanyi Center

 

April 22, 2000

By MARK ENGLAND Waco Tribune-Herald staff writer

The Faculty Senate at Baylor University Tuesday approved a resolution
supporting chairman Bob Baird's call for the dismantling of the Michael
Polanyi Center, a think tank created by the administration last year to
build a bridge between religion and science.

Baylor's creation of the Polanyi Center without consulting faculty in either
the science or religion departments outraged many faculty members.

"The Senate requests that the Baylor administration respond affirmatively to
Dr. Baird's request that the Polanyi Center be dissolved as a positive sign
of the administration's respect for the Baylor faculty and their
judgmentregarding academic programs," the resolution concluded.

In a senate newsletter released over the weekend, Baird, a philosophy
professor, urged Baylor's administration make the move to preserve the
school's collegial atmosphere.

However, Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said Monday that the administration
will appoint a peer-review committee, made up largely of people outside the
university, to study the Polanyi Center's effectiveness and its
"appropriateness" for a university like Baylor.

Religion professor Dan McGee said faculty senators believe that approach
could harm the administration's relationship with faculty.

"Establishing a peer-review committee doesn't deal with the initial problem
of the administration establishing a center that involves the sciences and
not involving any Baylor scientists in that decision," said McGee, a faculty
senator as well as a past chairman of the Faculty Senate.

A faculty senator, who asked not to be identified, called the Polanyi Center
controversy "painful."

"Many faculty members have seen Baylor as a collegial place where the
faculty was a valued entity," the faculty senator said. "I don't think
faculty members feel particularly valued in respect to this decision. For
many, it was a slap in the face."

Science faculty at Baylor have also criticized the staff of the Polanyi
Center, director William Dembski and associate director Bruce Gordon,
accusing them of promoting creationism. They deny that charge.

Dembski, though, has written extensively about intelligent design, the
argument that some natural phenomena are so complex that their existence is
evidence of an intelligent creator. A mathematician, Dembski employs
statistics to try to prove his argument that the existence of such phenomena
can't be attributed to random chance.

Some Baylor faculty argue the center could damage Baylor's scholastic
reputation, harming students' chances to get into medical and graduate
schools.

However, such criticism has recently taken a backseat to procedural issues
involving the center's creation.

"Creating the center without any input from Baylor faculty is the heart
ofthe problem," Baird said.

A faculty senator said learning of the Polanyi Center after the fact upset
many faculty members.

"The faculty is tremendously concerned that something of this scope could be
conceptualized, the money allocated for it and two people hired to run it
and an enormous number of faculty didn't even know it existed," said Sara
Stone, a journalism professor. "A lot of people didn't find out about it
until the publicity went out for its recent conference."

Last weekend, the Polanyi Center helped sponsor a conference on naturalism
featuring two Nobel Prize winning professors, which amounted to its
coming-out party.

Baird said he hopes Baylor's administration will meet with faculty to
discuss how future centers and institutes will be formed.

"My hope is that all the talk and controversy generated will cause all of us
to renew our commitment to the pursuit of communication with each other when
it comes to new ventures at Baylor University," Baird said.


 

Defending Faith and Learning

 

Baylor University's Polanyi Center comes under fire from the university's faculty.

 

By John Wilson
Christianity Today
April 24, 2000
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/117/12.0.html

When The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last week that the faculty senate of Baylor University voted 26-2 to recommend that the administration dissolve the recently established Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design, many readers must have assumed that the new hotspot in the Darwin Wars was Waco, Texas. Move over, Kansas. After all, despite much huffing and puffing about procedural matters--the center was established by administrative fiat, under the auspices of the university's Institute for Faith and Learning, rather than through traditional faculty channels--it is clear that opposition to the center has a great deal to do with the ongoing debate over the "intelligent design" movement, which one Baylor faculty member describes as "stealth creationism." But the controversy at Baylor is more complicated than simply a battle between defenders of the Darwinian establishment and champions of intelligent design, and those complications have much to tell us about the challenges facing Christians who are committed to excellence in scholarship--and who are convinced that their faith and their scholarship do not belong in separate compartments, sealed off from each other.

The Baylor story begins with Robert B. Sloan, Jr., who has been president of the university since 1995. Sloan, a New Testament scholar with a doctorate in theology from the University of Basel, has sought to increase Baylor's academic excellence while re-emphasizing the university's Christian tradition. As a result of his unapologetic statement that prospective Baylor faculty members should be "individuals who sincerely espouse and seek to express their academic and professional identities through the particularity of the Christian faith--i.e., commitment to the universal lordship of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ," Sloan has been pilloried by faculty critics at Baylor as a "fundamentalist" (see The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 23, 1999).

Here, as at many historically Protestant and Catholic colleges and universities today, we see the convolutions of faculty who dismiss, as somehow outrageous, the very raison d'etre of the institutions they serve. To do justice to this phenomenon would require the savage satiric genius of Jonathan Swift. But this fifth column is not the only threat to genuine integration of faith and learning at Christian institutions. The fundamentalist bogeyman is all too real, as countless faculty members and administrators at Christian colleges could attest, to their sorrow. Indeed, not long before Sloan became president, Baylor's science faculty came under fire from fundamentalist Baptists for teaching evolution.

Which brings us back to the Polanyi Center. William Dembski, the center's director--and a familiar figure to readers of Books & Culture--is one of the leading voices of the intelligent design movement. But Dembski and Bruce Gordon, the center's associate director, while they disagree strongly with the naturalistic assumptions that are at the foundation of mainstream Darwinism, do not want to shut down debate by quoting from Genesis (as many fundamentalist critics of evolution do), nor do they engage in the flimsy pseudo-scholarship that characterizes so-called creation science. Rather, they want to promote high-level debate on issues of "complexity, information, and design" in the universe, just as the center's full name promises.

To that end, just before the faculty senate vote reported in the Chronicle, the Polanyi Center hosted a conference on naturalism that brought together leading Christian thinkers with robust defenders of naturalism. The conference, which featured an extraordinary lineup of influential scientists, philosophers, and scholars from other fields, should serve as a model for first-rate Christian engagement with scholarship, showing that, contra Richard Rorty, religion is not a conversation-stopper in the national conversation.

A day after the Chronicle reported the faculty vote, President Sloan gave a "State of the University" address in which he reaffirmed the university's commitment to the center and noted that its work would be evaluated by a panel largely consisting of outside experts. That is good news. We need more centers like this, and more administrators with the vision and courage to make them a reality.

John Wilson is Editor of Books & Culture: A Christian Review.

 


 

Discovery Institute Holds D.C. Briefing


May 8, 2000

http://www.usnewswire.com:80/topnews/Current_Releases/0508-102.html

Discovery Institute to Hold Policy Briefing May 10 U.S. Newswire 8 May 9:20

Discovery Institute to Hold Congressional Policy Briefing May 10 in Washington To: National Desk, Science Reporter Contact: Rob Crowther of the Discovery Institute, 206-292-0401, ext. 107; Web site: http://www.discovery.org

WASHINGTON, May 8 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Discovery Institute will bring top scientists and scholars to Washington D.C. to brief Congressional Representatives and Senators and their staffs on the scientific evidence of intelligent design and its implications for public policy and education, Wednesday, May 10, in the U.S. Capitol Building and the Rayburn Office Building.

Congressional co-hosts include: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI), Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-TX).

While much of the scientific evidence for design in nature is only now coming to light publicly, its significance for politics and public life is profound.

"Public policy is downstream from culture," explained Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute, the think tank sponsoring the science briefing. "It expresses people's fundamental beliefs or worldview. The worldview of the American Founders included a high sense of human dignity...the belief that the world is the design of a benevolent Intelligence. As the Declaration of Independence puts it, we 'are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.'"

But the rise of modern science encouraged a materialistic view of life and undercut the classic understanding of human dignity, implying that humanity is the product not of design, but of blind chance and natural laws -- a cosmic accident.

"The materialistic view of human nature has had enormous negative implications for our public life," added Chapman. "It influences politics, law, morality, and threatens the American republic from both sides of the political spectrum."

Yet recent developments in science are turning up startling new evidence of purpose and intelligent design in the world. Today a new generation of scientists and scholars, called "design theorists," is following this evidence, many of them associated with the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC). "Design theory" promises to reinvigorate the defense of human dignity and of the democratic political systems necessary to preserve that dignity.

Design theory will be the topic of a private luncheon, hosted by Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, May 10, from noon-1:30 P.M., in the U.S. Capitol Building, HC7. Immediately following the luncheon, scientists and scholars will address the evidence for design at a special policy briefing 2-5 p.m. in room 2237 of the Rayburn Office Building. There will be a closing reception from 5-7 p.m. Media are invited to attend the briefing and reception.

Speakers at the briefing will address questions such as: What is the new scientific case for design? How has the Darwinian and materialistic worldview influenced public policy in education, family policy, welfare, and criminal justice? How could scientific evidence for design help resolve the long dispute over the teaching of origins in public schools, often described as the "battle between creation and evolution?"

Leading scientists and scholars in the growing "intelligent design" movement will speak at the briefing, and will be available for interviews at the private luncheon and the closing reception. They include: Prof. Phillip Johnson, Jefferson E. Peyser Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley, Author of Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds; Discovery Senior Fellow Dr. Michael Behe, Professor of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, Author of Darwin's Black Box; Discovery Senior Fellow Dr. William Dembski, Associate Research Professor and Director of the Michael Polanyi Center, Baylor University, and author of The Design Inference and Intelligent Design; Discovery Fellow Nancy Pearcey, author of How Now Shall We Live? (with Chuck Colson) and of The Soul of Science (with Charles Thaxton); and Dr. Stephen Meyer, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Whitworth College, Director of Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture and author of the forthcoming book DNA by Design.

For more information or to schedule interviews contact Rob Crowther at: 206-292-0401, ext. 107, or at robcr@discovery.org, or browse Discovery Institute's website at http://www.discovery.org/.


Discovery Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan, public policy think tank headquartered in Seattle and dealing with national and international affairs. For more information browse Discovery's website at http://www.discovery.org.

-0- /U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/ 05/08 09:20

 


 

****MEMO****

 

To: Robert Sloan, Donald Schmeltekopf, Michael Beaty, and Bruce Gordon

From: William Dembski

Re: My Role at Baylor Henceforth

Date: May 10, 2000

 

Dear Colleagues:

I'm sorry to have to include Robert and Donald in this memo, but I've reached a decision, and given all the pressures we are facing, it's best that I inform all of you of it as soon as possible.

Since things became unsettled at Baylor regarding the Polanyi Center earlier this year, I have found my range of motion increasingly limited. I am a research scholar, yes, but I am also a public intellectual. I have research that I do, but there are also implications of that research, and I need to be able to speak freely both about my work and its implications.

It appears, however, that increasingly my academic freedom has been curtailed at Baylor. Most recently I was asked not to speak at a congressional briefing in Washington, DC. It seemed to me then and it still seems to me now a perfectly reasonable meeting for me to be involved with and present my work on intelligent design. The focus of the briefing was to be on recent scientific developments in intelligent design and their implications for wordview formation and education.

As a faculty member at an educational institution I do have a stake in public education and specifically in the role of intelligent design within public education. I do not support equal-time laws nor do I support legislation that would enforce the teaching of intelligent design (nor for that matter do any of the presenters at the Washington briefing). Nor do I want the teaching of evolution in any way curtailed. I do have views, however, on the role of intelligent design within public education, and my academic freedom includes the right to express those views in the public square.

My name has now been associated with this congressional briefing for several weeks and widely circulated within Washington, DC. This Monday the Discovery Institute issued a national press release that retained my name despite my withdrawing from the program on Saturday. I'm convinced this was an innocent mix-up given my last minute cancellation, but I'm now finding myself being asked to explain why I was on the program and why I subsequently chose not to attend. What's more, I'm being encouraged to say that I discovered only too late that Discovery was politicizing intelligent design and that I, as director of the MPC, could properly have nothing to do with such a program since the MPC is strictly a research center [see letter written for William Dembski just after this memo].

This way of spinning what happened is false, and I will not sign on to it. In fact, I will not concede that Discovery is "politicizing" intelligent design in any shape or fashion. There are legitimate issues of public interest connected with intelligent design, and the briefing is addressing them. No policy is being proposed. Congress is not being asked to sign onto something that will curtail anyone's freedom. There is one and only one reason I did not go to Washington, and that's as a courtesy to you because of the pressures you are experiencing.

Looking back now I think it was a mistake not to go. Our enemies are as incensed as ever, and we now have fewer potential allies because, by not going to Washington, I was unable to network with the very people who could actually help the Michael Polanyi Center. I see a dismal pattern emerging: Placating people who will never support us, and in the process either alienating or missing opportunities with people and groups who might benefit us.

Tonight I re-read my contract. I was hired to make a go of the Polanyi Center. Instead I have found my hands increasingly tied. The atmosphere at Baylor continues to be highly charged and prejudicial. I've had no opportunity to speak and defend myself before accusers. And my academic freedom has been infringed in ways that will not withstand public scrutiny. I've described to colleagues outside Baylor the sorts of concessions I've been asked to make on behalf of the MPC, and the overwhelming reaction has been shock, disbelief, and outrage -- they simply could not imagine academics at other institutions putting up with the strictures that have been imposed on me.

My decision, then, is this. I have the same right to academic freedom as any other academic, and I will make full use of it. I will not do things to needlessly exascerbate the difficulties of the administration with the faculty and board of regents. But I regard placating enemies at the expense of winning allies as a losing strategy, and I will henceforth have no part in it. I have a 5 and 1/2 year contract to make a go of the Polanyi Center. I will attempt to do that. I will henceforth pass up no opportunities to win powerful supporters, like members of Congress. As a research scholar and public intellectual on the faculty at Baylor, I will expect the same freedom from strictures that my Ivy league counterparts enjoy.

This, then, is my decision. Whether Baylor can live with it is another matter. I realize it places in jeopardy my own position and the MPC. That is a risk, however, I'm willing to take.

Sincerely, Bill Dembski


LETTER DRAFTED BY BAYLOR ADMINISTRATION 5/9/00 FOR WILLIAM DEMBSKI TO SIGN TO ALLAY BAYLOR FACULTY CONCERNS ABOUT HIS INVOLVEMENT WITH THE WASHINGTON BRIEFING [I refused to sign this. –WmAD, 5.3.05]

 

Response from Bill Dembski to faculty concerns about his involvement with the congressional briefings on ID Theory (for internal distribution to critics):

 

The briefings were initiated by a few members of Congress who had become aware of ID theory through discussions in the public press and wanted to know more about it. I was invited to be a part of the briefings solely for the purpose of informing these congressmen about my academic research, nothing more. When the Discovery Institute learned that a briefing was being requested and it was desired that a variety of ID theorists be involved, they entered the picture to coordinate the presentations. While this was going on, I was occupied with a variety of projects that required my full attention, and from April 23-30 was actually out of the country. When I returned, I began to think again about the Washington meeting, because it was coming up soon, and I took a closer look at what would be involved. I had some concerns, because it looked to me like it was no longer going to be strictly an academic briefing on ID research, and I asked Mike Beaty and Bruce Gordon for their advice. They advised against my involvement, and when I discovered on Saturday that public school education issues were going to be discussed, that clinched the matter: I immediately sent notification to Discovery that I would not be participating. Such political issues are no part of what the Polanyi Center is about, and my presence at such a gathering would give the wrong impression. The MPC is a research center and must distance itself from politicization of design theory in any way, shape or form. While work on design is one component among its research concerns, this work is strictly academic. Unfortunately, though I left a message at the Discovery Institute on Saturday that I would not be participating in the briefings, the press release (which came out early Monday morning (EST) and has raised questions at Baylor) had been arranged by Discovery at the end of the preceding week. By the time Discovery personnel returned to the office on Monday morning and learned of my withdrawal from the proceedings, the notice had already hit the wires and th about it. I regret that this happened, but there's nothing I can do at this point but apologize that the list of participants in the briefings were made public before I was able to dissociate myself from the event.

 


 

SUMMARY OF CONTROVERSY OVER MICHAEL POLANYI CENTER

By William Dembski

May 23rd, 2000

In early February 1999 I received an unsolicited phone call from Michael
Beaty, then an associate professor of philosophy at Baylor University and
head of its Institute for Faith and Learning (he is now full professor in
the philosophy department). He called to inquire whether I might be
interested in a faculty position at Baylor. We began to explore this
possibility and I came down in March 1999 for interviews with Michael Beaty
and the provost Donald Schmeltekopf. I explained that I was a senior fellow
of the Discovery Institute and that with this position came a full salary
allowing me to devote full-time to my research. Thus I was not interested in
an ordinary faculty appointment; nonetheless, I would be interested in
directing a research center devoted to questions of complexity, information,
design, the conceptual foundations of science, and the relation between
science, religion, and culture generally. Given that Michael Beaty is
director of Baylor's Institute for Faith and Learning and given that he had
for some time wanted to have a component of this institute that dealt with
science and religion, he as well as the provost were interested in my idea
for a center. They asked me to compose a planning document for such a
center, which I did mid-March 1999.

The center I proposed was to be called the Michael Polanyi Center, named
after the Hungarian physical chemist who turned to philosophy later in life
because he saw science being subverted by materialist ideology. The center
would initially be part of Baylor's Institute for Faith and Learning. It
would focus on questions of complexity, information, design, the conceptual
foundations of science, and the relation between science, religion, and
culture. It would eventually become a free standing degree-granting
department offering graduate degrees in the history and philosophy of
science as well as in complex systems. It would sponsor conferences,
symposia, and speakers on campus. It would run a colloquium to engage Baylor
faculty. It would offer summer workshops for high school students and inner
city children on the relation between science and religion along the lines
of Eugene Rivers's work in Boston. Finally, it would initiate and then host
an international scholarly society concerned with complexity, information,
and design (tentatively called the International Society for Intelligent
Design).

The president of Baylor, Robert Sloan, its provost, Donald Schmeltekopf, and
the Institute for Faith and Learning's director, Michael Beaty, all received
my planning document for the Michael Polanyi Center with enthusiasm. I came
to campus in early April to give a talk about my own work in intelligent
design and to have lunch with about a dozen faculty members at the faculty
club. At this time I gave Donald Schmeltekopf and Michael Beaty copies of my
book _The Design Inference_ and to Beaty also a copy of my edited collection
_Mere Creation: Science, Faith and Intelligent Design_. I wanted to be
certain that they knew my work and the controversy connected with it in the
scientific community.

Because of various commitments requiring me to stay in Dallas for two years
(among them my wife being a doctoral student at the University of Dallas),
it seemed that the best way to expedite the formation of the Michael Polanyi
Center was by hiring an associate director. Until my arrival at Baylor two
years down the road, I would therefore be the director from afar and though
officially on the faculty of Baylor I would receive no pay (my pay check
would instead be coming from the Discovery Institute). It was agreed to hire
my friend and colleague Bruce Gordon, a recent graduate from Northwestern
University specializing in philosophy of physics. Bruce was interviewed in
early June 1999, offered the position of associate director of the Michael
Polanyi Center as well as an assistant research professorship in the
Institute for Faith and Learning. Gordon arrived in Waco in mid-August 1999
to assume his responsibilities. That fall he was to teach a logic sequence
in the philosophy department, run a colloquium for Baylor faculty interested
in science and religion, and help get the ball rolling for the Michael
Polanyi Center.

For reasons that are still unclear to me, the Michael Polanyi Center was not
officially launched at Baylor until October 1999. It was announced quietly
and its first activity was a faculty colloquium devoted to Lee Smolin's book
_Life of the Cosmos_. Between ten and twenty faculty attended the colloquium
on average. There seemed to be good-will and rapport between Bruce Gordon
and me on the one hand and the Baylor faculty who attended the colloquium on
the other. As our goals and interests at the Michael Polanyi Center became
apparent, they were greeted with respect even if also with skepticism. By
comparison with the spring that would follow, the fall of 1999 was a
peaceful time at the Michael Polanyi Center. Even some of our most outspoken
antagonists in the spring were kindly disposed toward us in the fall. That
fall we also set up a website (www.baylor.edu/~polanyi) and began organizing
a conference on naturalism, which took place at Baylor April 12-15, 2000.

One other thing happened fall of 1999: I was awarded a Templeton Book Prize
worth $100,000, which freed me up from my responsibilities in Dallas and
would allow me to move to Waco as soon as possible. I explored whether
instead of fall 2001, as was initially planned, I might assume my
responsibilities as director in-residence of the Michael Polanyi Center at
Baylor immediately, with the Templeton Prize front-loading my Baylor salary
for the first 17 months, and then Baylor committing an additional four years
for me to head up and make a go of the Polanyi Center. A contract was
drafted and signed December 1999, the signatures including mine and the
provost Donald Schmeltekopf. The contract specified that I should direct the
Michael Polanyi Center and "develop a research program and related
activities in the conceptual foundations of science and the interface of
religion and science." My appointment was set "for the period of February 1,
2000 through May 31, 2005." Before the contract was drafted I gave the
president, the provost, and Michael Beaty a copy of my latest book
_Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology_ so that they
would have no doubt about what my intellectual program was.

Controversy over the Michael Polanyi Center erupted early in the spring
semester of 2000. My first indication that something was amiss came January
17, 2000 when I received a contentious email from a Baylor biologist asking
whether I had considered the negative impact that the Michael Polanyi Center
would have on the "hard sciences" at Baylor. Such attacks became
commonplace. I found that my training in mathematics at the University of
Chicago, my postdoctoral fellowships in mathematics, physics, and computer
science at MIT, University of Chicago, and Princeton University respectively
were ignored. Opponents at Baylor characterized me as a fundamentalist and
creationist. Some of this was filtered to me through Michael Beaty and Bruce
Gordon. Some of this came out in newspaper articles and postings on Internet
newsgroups.

The colloquium continued spring of 2000 with the focus this term being on
Stephen Jay Gould's _Rocks of Ages_, a book discussing the relation between
science and religion. Although Baylor religion faculty continued to attend
the colloquium, science faculty quickly dropped out. Science faculty had
several meetings with Michael Beaty, the provost, and the president, urging
them to dissolve the Michael Polanyi Center. The pressure to dissolve the
center became intense. Even after Bruce Gordon and I had secured two Nobel
laureates for the then upcoming naturalism conference (April 12-15, 2000),
we were almost uniformly dismissed as charlatans by the science faculty. It
became clear that no matter what the outcome of the naturalism conference,
it would be used against us (if it succeeded, it simply would show how
devious we were at pursuing our agenda; if it failed, the it showed us as
incompetents -- in either case it would be in the best interest of Baylor to
cashier us). It's worth point out here that in all the meetings that the
Baylor administration had with critics of the Polanyi Center and of me
personally, I was never once given the opportunity to be present, face my
accusers, or offer a defense (this was true even at the meeting of the board
of regents on May 4th, 2000 -- see below).

Despite all this controversy, I put up my house for sale early February 2000
and put a down payment on a house in the Waco area around the same time. I
remained fully intent on carrying out my duties as director of the Michael
Polanyi Center and commuting as required down to Waco until my house was
sold and the move could be completed. Moreover, the administration showed
every sign of backing the Michael Polanyi Center, and that despite
significant pressure.

Nonetheless, the pressure was also having an effect on the administration,
which resulted increasingly in restrictions being placed on me, both in what
I could do through the Michael Polanyi Center and on my academic freedom.
Because of faculty pressure, the administration repeatedly asked us (Bruce
Gordon and me) to make changes to our website, thus altering the very focus
of the Polanyi Center. In my initial planning document I had conceived of
the Michael Polanyi Center as a counterpart to the Santa Fe Institute, doing
first and foremost scientific research. The Polanyi Center was to have as
its principal focus complexity, information, and design, and then leverage
these to examine the conceptual foundations of science and the connection
between science, religion, and culture. These were now all put on a par.
Even so, the center would still be doing scientific research. Next, however,
we were barred from even claiming that we were doing scientific research. In
place of the motto "for the understanding and advancement of science" we
were told by the administration to replace it because the science faculty
were claiming that we were "not doing science." So we substituted "advancing
the understanding of science." After making all the changes we were asked to
make, it was finally put to the administration to remove the Polanyi website
entirely from Baylor's server. Thankfully the administration refused to bow
to pressure on this point.

The greater academic community was also putting pressure on Baylor.
Repeatedly I was informed of faculty outside Baylor importuning Baylor
faculty about the Polanyi Center with the hope of hastening its demise.
Efforts to sabotage the Polanyi Center did not stop here. A professor at
Southeastern Louisiana University, Barbara Forrest, circulated an email

aimed at naturalism conference plenary speakers informing them that the

Polanyi Center was a creationist front and thereby attempting to create

a domino effect among speakers causing them to drop out of the conference
(fortunately only one speaker did so).

The naturalism conference was an outstanding success (and that despite the
boycott by many Baylor faculty). We had two Nobel Laureates (Stephen
Weinberg and Christian de Duve), several members from the National Academy
of Sciences (e.g., Mark Ptashne and Alan Guth), world class scientists and
scholars (e.g., Simon Conway Morris, John Searle, and Alvin Plantinga). More
than just the quality of speakers, there was great rapport among thinkers
who held to widely differing perspectives. Christian de Duve tied it all
together at the final conference dinner when he toasted the conference for
its good spirit and stimulating exchanges -- what Michael Polanyi referred
to in his writings as "conviviality."

Unfortunately, the conference afterglow was short-lived. Right after the
conference, the faculty senate at Baylor voted 26-2 to dissolve the Polanyi
Center, citing lack of faculty consultation as the reason for its
dissolution. President Robert Sloan rejected this argument, claiming that
not procedure but rather substantive disagreements with the center's
research program were the reason for the vote. To his credit, Sloan hung
tough and refused to dissolve the center at the faculty senate's behest.

Nonetheless, the administration did institute an evaluation committee to
address the faculty's concerns about accountability of the Polanyi Center
and extent to which it was meeting its stated goals. Frankly, this seemed to
me premature. The Polanyi Center had just been formed. Evaluation committees
are usually formed only after an entity has had a chance to prove itself.
More worrisome about the evaluation committee, however, was the lack of
consultation with me, the director of the center, about the committee, nor
any specified standards by which the evaluation committee would judge the
Polanyi Center. I repeatedly asked the administration to clarify:

(1) Why was the MPC evaluation committee formed without my consultation?

(2) Who is on the committee and who selected the committee?

(3) What is the timetable for evaluations?

(4) What standards will the committee employ for evaluation?

(5) Other than my written work, what recourse do I have for
 persuading the committee about the legitimacy of my work?

Thusfar I know only four names on the committee. I'm told there will be a
dozen or so people on it. I have submitted eight of my articles to the
committee for review and I am told that the committee is to be given copies
of my books. If the committee decides this summer that the Michael Polanyi
Center is not worth keeping, will it be gone in short order? I do not know.

All this pressure on the administration translated to increasing pressures
on me personally and my vision for the Michael Polanyi Center. For instance,
I had an article on my Baylor homepage (www.baylor.edu/~William_Dembski) on
"Teaching Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula." This
article gave a nice summary of intelligent design and argued that it is a
scientific theory fully worth being taught in the public school science
curriculum. It did not advocate any coercive measures for injecting
intelligent design into the public schools. It's aim was simply to open up
the discussion. Nonetheless, I was pressed by the administration to remove
this article from my website. The rationale given was that the Michael
Polanyi Center was a research center and the director should not be seen as
associated with anything that might in the least be construed as political.
I acceded, but thought the administration's rationale misconceived.

More worrisome were the increasing restrictions on the Polanyi Center
itself. I was hired by Baylor in part to raise money for the center. The
naturalism conference ended up costing about $80,000. I managed to procure
$16,000 from the Discovery Institute and then put the Discovery Institute in
touch with the Templeton Foundation, which ended up giving us about $20,000
matched against conference registration fees. This still left a considerable
shortfall. I then contacted Touchstone Magazine, for which I had
guest-edited a special issue, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, and
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville for funds. While I was
negotiating with the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
(SBTS) for a contribution of $10,000, I was informed by the administration
that Baylor could not take any contribution from that seminary. I was
puzzled as to why not -- both Baylor and SBTS are Southern Baptist
institutions. Well yes, but the Southern Baptists divide down moderate and
conservative lines, with moderates preponderant at Baylor and conservatives
preponderant at SBTS, and to accept money from SBTS would set the moderates
at Baylor against the Michael Polanyi Center.

Next I had actually procured $4,000 from the Foundation for Thought and
Ethics (FTE), a publisher of books on intelligent design as well as
textbooks for high school students. When the administration found out that
FTE had an intelligent design supplemental high school biology text that had
been involved in legal disputes, they refused to take money from FTE as
well. I argued that it was not FTE that was responsible for the legal
disputes, but rather the ACLU and similar groups that were intimidating
teachers and school boards that attempted to teach intelligent design using
FTE's materials. This argument carried no weight with the administration,
for whom the slightest whiff of political controversy was enough to nix an
ally.

Finally, I had also procured $5,000 from Touchstone Magazine. This the
administration accepted until they came across the special issue on
intelligent design that I had guest edited for Touchstone and in particular
a controversial article by Phillip Johnson. Having accepted the money, the
administration decided rather than return the money to Touchstone to forbid
Touchstone from displaying the problematic special issue at the naturalism
conference. Touchstone threatened to make this act of censorship public
knowledge, whereupon the administration backed down.

I found a dismal pattern emerging here: Placating critics and alienating
friends. It was an embarrassment to me personally to have to return money or
place restrictions on those giving it. It certainly damaged my credibility
and effectiveness as a fund-raiser, and more generally as director of the
Michael Polanyi Center. I felt increasingly as one whose hands were being
tied.

The faculty senate vote of 27-2 to dissolve the Michael Polanyi Center was
startling but not the cause of undue concern. Indeed, the Baylor
administration appears not legally bound to accede to faculty demands and
seems regularly to exercise this prerogative. Nonetheless, it is legally
bound by the decisions of the board of regents. On May 4, 2000 the
president, the provost, and Michael Beaty (I was not asked to be present)
met with the academic subcommittee of the board of regents. The focus of the
discussion was the Michael Polanyi Center. A motion was made that would have
reconstituted the evaluation committee in a way that would have been sure to
sink the the MPC. Fortunately, this motion did not even come to a vote. My
own sense, though, is that this meeting left the administration sobered and
shaken, as the next set of events would prove.

In November of 1999 Brad Clanton, committee counsel for the House Judiciary
Committee (specifically with the Constitution subcommittee), wanted from me
an executive summary for an upcoming Congressional hearing on intelligent
design. Colleagues of mine in the intelligent design community, me included,
were worried that a hearing would politicize intelligent design. Since our
concern is that intelligent design be received on its merits and not through
political force, we preferred a **briefing** rather than a hearing and to
have it sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans (Congressional co-hosts
included even two Democrats from Texas: Charlie Stenholm and Sheila
Jackson-Lee). This briefing was scheduled for May 10th and I was to speak at
a session with Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer devoted strictly to
intelligent design as a scientific theory.

Back in early January of 2000 (January 6, 2000), before things erupted at
Baylor, and while it still looked as though the Congressional meeting was
going to be a hearing rather than a briefing, I informed the provost Donald
Schmeltekopf of the possibility of the hearing and my invitation to it. He
wrote back: "I appreciate your giving us a heads up on this, and I
appreciate the fact that you are sensitive to how a research project could
be soured by politics." After raising several questions, each of which were
answered satisfactorily, he concluded: "If the responses to my two questions
are satisfactory, I don't see a problem with you testifying. In fact, it
could well be a useful opportunity. But I would like to hear from Mike and
Bruce. Perhaps there are some issues I haven't thought of."

Michael Beaty was less sanguine about my congressional involvement. In an
email dated January 6, 2000 he wrote: "Why would some member of congress in
this election year be interested in putting forward a resolution on the
constitutionality of teaching intelligent design in the public schools
unless it is for political gain?" Mike's suspicions were also voiced by my
colleagues in the intelligent design movement. As long as this was to be a
hearing, with a vote by Congress on some resolution, there was the danger of
politicizing intelligent design.

The matter was therefore dropped for a few weeks and then reopened and
reframed as a bipartisan academic conference/briefing of congressional
members. Not until February 21st was a date set for such a briefing. Because
my preparations for the naturalism conference were at this point in full
swing and because the Congressional meeting was to be a briefing rather than
a hearing, I put the matter in cold storage. What's more, I thought this
would be a low-key event, with minimal media involvement. Perhaps I should
have known better. At any rate, I marked the Congressional briefing on my
calendar and didn't think much about it. Shortly before the event, however,
it became clear that there would be a lot of media attention focused on this
event. That same week the board of regents met with the administration (May
4th). I had been out of town the prior week (April 23rd to 30th), so my
awareness of the congressional meeting becoming a media event and my
awareness of the administration having to meet with the board of regents
(the meeting being called on short notice) happened simultaneously. In
particular, I was not trying to blindside the administration.

On Friday, May 5, 2000 I informed the administration of my planned trip to
Washington to brief members of Congress about intelligent design and of the
expected media presence. Michael Beaty, the administration's representative,
immediately expressed his dismay at my attending the briefing and urged me
to bow out. Although the initiative to hold the congressional briefing came
from members of Congress, Discovery Institute, at which I continue to be a
senior fellow, was organizing the meeting. On Saturday, May 6th, I wrote to
the Discovery Institute as follows:

 The problem I face in relation to the upcoming
 congressional briefing is this. Michael Beaty,
 head of the Institute for Faith and Learning,
 the provost Donald Schmeltekopf, and the
 president Robert Sloan have gone to the mat for
 me and the MPC, assuring faculty and the board
 of regents that the Michael Polanyi Center and
 Bill Dembski in particular are devoted to
 developing ID as a scientific research program.
 My understanding with the congressional briefing
 is that it was to be a small meeting of
 congressman and aids. From Jay Richard's most
 recent post it's now clear that it will be a
 major media event. Given all the pressures my
 colleagues at Baylor are facing, I therefore
 had to let them know of the media involvement.

 Baylor has formally asked me not to attend the
 upcoming congressional briefing. Since I am now
 officially an employee of theirs and since I want
 to make a go of the MPC, I see no other option
 but to agree to their request.

 Sincerely,
 Bill Dembski

Despite this letter, my own view is that it was a mistake not to attend this
meeting, or if not a mistake, then certainly a lost opportunity because of
pressure on the administration. I saw attending this meeting as entirely
within my job description of making the Michael Polanyi Center a scientific
research center. Part of my job description is fund-raising. An integral
part of fund-raising is networking with important, powerful, and wealthy
people. Where better than to start than Congress? What's more, even though
intelligent design is still widely regarded as "fringe," it has a growing
following and it might just be able to get a piece of NSF funding
(alternative medicine now has a yearly budget within the NIH). I declined to
attend the Washington briefing on prudential grounds, not on principled
grounds.

My email telling the Discovery Institute to cancel my appearance went out on
Saturday, May 6, 2000. Despite that, on Monday, May 8th, the Discovery
Institute issued a national press release listing me as one of the speakers
at the congressional briefing. I'm convinced this was an innocent mix-up
given my last minute cancellation. Nonetheless, immediately the
administration asked me to issue a disclaimer, explaining why I was on the
program and why I subsequently chose not to attend. Specifically, I was
urged to say that I discovered only too late that the Discovery Institute
was politicizing intelligent design and that I, as director of the MPC,
could properly have nothing to do with such a program since the MPC is
strictly a research center.

This way of spinning what happened is false, and I would not sign on to it.
In fact, I do not concede that Discovery is "politicizing" intelligent
design in any shape or fashion (and that despite the notorious "Wedge"
document that's all over the Internet). There are legitimate issues of
public interest connected with intelligent design, and the briefing was to
address them. No policy was being proposed. Congress was not being asked to
sign onto something that would curtail anyone's freedom. There was one and
only one reason I did not go to Washington, and that was to relieve pressure
on the Baylor administration. As it was, even without the national press
release, my name was all over Washington, connecting me to the briefing. Not
going to Washington lost the MPC potential allies. On the other hand, it
certainly failed to win us any allies among Baylor faculty and board of
regents, though it may have allayed some fears momentarily.

The Washington briefing occurred on May 10th, 2000. That day I issued a memo
to the president, provost, Michael Beaty, and Bruce Gordon, making clear
that the way the administration applied pressure to me to forego briefing
Congress, and then further applied pressure for me to issue a disclaimer
about why I didn't brief Congress violated my academic freedom and that I
would allow no such abridgement of my academic freedom in the future. This
produced a swift response from the administration prompting a meeting with
Michael Beaty on Thursday, May 11th, in which the Baylor administration was
prepared to make a settlement with me and have me leave Baylor. I was given
to understand that:

(1) The president had expended as much "political
 capital" as he could on the MPC, and that further
 turmoil with the MPC could bring down not only
 the MPC but also the administration.

(2) Even though no other member of the Baylor faculty
 would be barred from speaking to Congress, I would.
 If I were to stay at Baylor, I would be subject
 to unique contraints in terms of what I could and
 could not say or do.

(3) That my academic freedom would be limited until
 I managed to attain tenure in some department
 at Baylor.

I found this last item remarkable. My five and a half year contract with
Baylor came not only without tenure but also without the promise of tenure.
I had always regarded this as an asset: I would have the freedom to do what
I needed to make a go of the MPC, and if things didn't work out, Baylor
could get rid of me at the end of that period. I did forego tenure for
precisely the reasons that were now being given to me for needing tenure.

The administration was prepared to settle right then and there. I decided to
forego a decision for the moment. I understood the administration to be
giving me the following ultimatum: (A) Submit to administration demands to
curb my academic freedom. It was clear that they were willing to take me
back on this condition. (B) Agree to a settlement and leave. (C) Get fired.
With regard to option (A), I asked the administration repeatedly "On the
matter of restrictions to my academic freedom, can you specify what I will
and will not be able to do if I remain at Baylor? I realize you can't cover
every eventuality, but if you could at least give me general guidelines,
that would be helpful." I was never given any specifics. The closest thing
to an answer was "as conditions at Baylor allow."

On Saturday, May 20th, 2000 I gave the administration my decision:

 I've decided to abide by my memo of May 10th. In
 other words, I will accept nothing less than the
 full academic freedom accorded to other Baylor
 faculty and which Baylor is expected to accord to
 its faculty as part of the broader academic community.
 This decision is firm.

 The question is where we go from here. As I see it,
 there are the following possibilities:

 (1) Baylor grants me the academic freedom that
 is legally and contractually my right.

 (2) Baylor offers me an acceptable settlement,
 upon which my employment is terminated.

 Baylor and I cannot agree upon a settlement,
 in which case

 (3) Baylor grudgingly retains me.

 (4) Baylor fires me.

 Given my decision and given our discussion on
 Thursday, May 11th, 2000, my understanding is that
 (2) and (4) are the only live possibilities that
 the administration is considering. Please let me know
 if this is correct and what the next step is.

 Sincerely,
 Bill Dembski

In response to this memo, I received an email from Mike Beaty on May 22,
2000 giving still a fifth option: "Baylor removes you as director of MPC and
retains you in the capacity of Associate Research Professor in the
Conceptual Foundations of Science." If I had wanted a straight research
position, I need never have come to Baylor in the first place since I
already had a straight research position with the Discovery Institute. Beaty
also wrote: "Don Schmeltekopf [the provost] is out of the country and will
not be back in the office until Friday, June 2. This will give you time to
consider all the options." This last statement I found puzzling. I had made
my decision to maintain my academic freedom. The ball was now in the
administration's court whether to fire me or settle or come up with some
other resolution.

This is where things stand at present. It's evident that the MPC and I
myself are caught in a political cross-fire and that the opposition I am
experiencing has less to do with me and my ideas than with an internecine
struggle at Baylor between the administration and faculty. Baylor
University's administration is about to force me from my position here
because of my public role in intelligent design. I've been given to
understand I have really only two live options: either a settlement or a
straight sacking (I've repeatedly raised the question whether not settling
will entail firing, and the closest thing I've been told is "We don't want
to do that" -- not "We would never do that" or "We will abide by your
contract"). I interpret my present crisis as follows: Because of my writings
on ID, I am now not only a research scholar but also a public spokesman. The
Baylor administration feels deeply threatened by my role as a public
spokesman for intelligent design. The board of regents is now scrutinizing
the Polanyi Center and the controversy is being characterized as the most
divisive at Baylor in the last 30 years. The administration worries that the
board of regents will bring them down. If it's a question of the
administration going down or me, the choice is clear.

 


 

INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT A SCIENCE

(House of Representatives - June 14, 2000)

 
[Page: H4480]  GPO's PDF

 

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Souder) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. SOUDER. Mr. Speaker, on June 1, I received a letter that was written by seven members of the biology department and one professor of psychology from Baylor University in response to my co-hosting a recent conference on intelligent design, the theory that an intelligent agency can be detected in nature, sponsored by the Discovery Institute.

The professors denounced intelligent design as pseudo science and advocated what is bluntly called the materialistic approach to science.

Mr. Speaker, I am appalled that any university seeking to discover truth, yet alone a university that is a Baptist Christian school, could make the kinds of statements that are contained in this letter. Is there position on teaching about materialistic science so weak that it cannot withstand scrutiny and debate?

Intelligent design theory is upheld by the same kind of data and analysis as any other theory to determine whether an event is caused by natural or intelligent causes; just as a detective relies on evidence to decide whether a death was natural or murder, and an insurance company relies on evidence to decide whether a fire is an accident or arson. A scientist looking at, say, the structure of a DNA molecule goes through exactly the same reasoning to decide whether the DNA code is the result of natural causes or an intelligent agent.

Today, qualified scientists are reaching the conclusion that design theory makes better sense of the data. Influential new books are coming out by scientists like molecular biologist Behe, Darwin's Black Box, the Free Press, and mathematician William Dembski, the Design Interference, Cambridge University Press, which point out the problems with Darwinian evolution and highlight evidence for intelligent design in the university.

The tone of the letter I received seems to suggest that my congressional colleagues and I were unsuspecting honorary co-hosts in a conference on intelligent design. That is not the case. My good friend, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Canady), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution has considered holding a congressional hearing on the bias and viewpoint discrimination in science and science education. Ideological bias has no place in science and many of us in Congress do not want the government to be party to it.

The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Canady) approached several people, including the Discovery Institute, about plans for such a hearing. The people at Discovery suggested that instead we allow them merely to put on a modest informational briefing on intelligent design. That is exactly what happened, and we regarded the result as very valuable.

Nevertheless, many of us continue to be concerned about the unreasoning viewpoint discrimination in science. This letter dismisses those who do not share the philosophy of science favored by the authors as frauds. It is ironic, however, that the authors do not ever actually get around to answering the substantive arguments put forward by people at the Discovery Institute. The authors support a philosophy of science they call materialistic science. The key phrase in the letter is that we cannot consider God's role in the natural phenomenon we observe. Yet this assumption is merely asserted without any argument.

How can the authors of this letter be so confident that God plays no role in the observable world? Once we acknowledge that God exists, as these professors presumably do since they teach as a Christian university, there is no logical way to rule out the possibility that God may actually do something within the universe He created.

In addition, the philosophy of science the authors talk about is just that, a philosophy. It is not itself science, even according to the definition of science put forward by the authors themselves. They state, for example, that all observations must be explained through empirical observations. I am not sure what that means but I do know this: This statement itself is not verifiable by observation or by methods of scientific inquiry. It is rather a philosophical statement.

If they prefer it to the alternative that they suppose it advanced by the Discovery Institute folks, then the preference itself cannot be based on science. It is a difference of philosophy, but they are biologists not philosophers. They have no special authority in philosophy, even the philosophy of science.

Even more egregiously, they say that God cannot be proved or disproved. Now there is a philosophical statement for you. Of course many philosophers agree with it, but there are philosophers of stature who disagree with it, too. Why should the philosophical viewpoint of a group of biologists enjoy privileged status?

And then there was Darwinism. This letter treats Darwinism as a straightforwardly scientific position despite the criticism advanced by many responsible, informed people that Darwinism itself rests not on demonstrable facts but rather on controversial philosophical premises. In other words, serious people make a case against Darwinism, precisely the case that Baylor's biologists themselves are trying to make against intelligent design.

Yet the Baylor biologists simply ignore these criticisms. One senses here not a defense of science but rather an effort to protect, by political means, a privileged philosophical viewpoint against a serious challenge.

In digging into this matter further, it turns out that an international conference related to this topic, the Nature of Nature, was held recently at Baylor University. It was hosted by the Polanyi Center at Baylor and sponsored by the Discovery Institute and the John Templeton Foundation. A number of world-class scientists participated in the event, and contrary to the assertions made in this letter, advocates of intelligent design, as well as materialism, presented their ideas publicly. The authors of this letter have been part of an intense effort to close down that center, which was founded in part to explore these issues.

I would like to insert the rest of this statement in the Record, as well as the letter from the professors at Baylor University.

 

Baylor University,
June 1, 2000.

[Page: H4481]  GPO's PDF
 

Dear Congressman Souder, We became aware of a meeting on May 10, 2000 that you and other legislators attended with members of the Discovery Institute from their website. According to the website, the main topics of the meeting involved the scientific case for design, the influence of the Darwinian and materialistic worldview on public policy, and how intelligent design will affect education. As citizens concerned with science education, we wish to give you the perspective of mainstream scientists and science teachers.

[Page: H4482]  GPO's PDF

INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT SCIENCE

It is an old philosophical argument that has been dressed up as science. We and other mainstream scientists refer to it as intelligent design creationism. Some have referred to it as `creeping creationism' due to the methods used by its proponents to sneak creation science into the classroom. The hypothesis of intelligent design is that living creatures are too complex to have arisen by random chance alone. However, we have yet to see any scientific, empirical data to support this hypothesis. Some of the proponents use statistics to show the improbability that living creatures have arisen by random chance, but this does not say that living things could not have arisen through such means. The members of the Discovery Institute stress that the idea of design is entirely empirical. If this is true, then their data should be presented to the scientific community. If mainstream scientists deem the data as evidence for design, then your office will be flooded with messages from professional scientists asking for more funding for design research. However, as the supporters of intelligent design have never openly presented their data, we have to conclude that either there is none or that it does not provide evidence for design.

THE PROPONENTS OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN DO NOT OPERATE AS LEGITIMATE SCIENTISTS

In science, all research must go through some sort of peer review. A scientist requests funds from various agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), which requires the scientists to give a detailed explanation of the research to be conducted. After conducting the research, the scientist then publishes or presents his/her findings in peer reviewed, scientific journals or at meetings sponsored by scientific organizations. In this way, other scientists can critically study the research, how it was conducted, and if its conclusions are correct. Proponents of intelligent design do none of this. Their funding comes from think tanks such as the Discovery Institute which have their own agenda. They do not publish in scientific journals nor present their ideas at meetings sponsored by scientific organizations. Rather, they publish books for the general public which go through no sort of review process except by editors at publishing companies who are often concerned more with the financial gains and less of the scientific merit of the book.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN DOES NOT BELONG IN THE SCIENCE CLASSROOM.

Because intelligent design has no scientific, empirical data to support it, we see no reason why it should be allowed into the science classroom. The proponents of intelligent design would say that they should have equal time in the classroom as a competing theory against Darwinism. However, in science, a theory isn't given equal time, it earns equal time. Ideas should be allowed into the science classroom only when they have amassed so much empirical evidence as to gain the support of the scientific community. Intelligent design has not risen to this level.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN COULD HAVE A SERIOUS NEGATIVE IMPACT ON SCIENCE EDUCATION AND RESEARCH.

Much of the proposed research from intelligent design deals mainly with understanding the personality and limits of the designer. Within the intelligent design paradigm, a possible answer to any scientific question is `That's how the designer wanted it'. This does not answer anything at all. How are science teachers to inspire curiosity into the natural world when the answer to every question is `That's just how it is', Also, we fear that future school board administrators would cut funds for science education because the role of science will have shifted from an exploration of the natural world to an exploration into the mind of a supposed designer. This could also have a negative impact on scientific research. Future Congresses with the need to balance budgets may cut funding to the National Science Foundation, Center for Disease Control, or National Institute for Health for the same reason as the school board administrator.

THE MEMBERS OF THE DISCOVERY CENTER ARE MISREPRESENTING MATERIALISTIC SCIENCE.

The current philosophy of science states that all observations must be explained through empirical observations. Materialistic science does not say that there is no God. Rather, it says that God, due to His supernatural and divine nature, cannot be proved or disproved, thus we cannot consider His role in the natural phenomena we observe. Therefore, the existence of God is not a question within the realm of science. Many scientists have a strong belief in a divine God and do not see any conflict between this belief and their work as scientists.

MATERIALISTIC SCIENCE HAS GREATLY INCREASED THE AMERICAN PEOPLE'S QUALITY OF LIFE.

Considering that materialistic science has been the predominant paradigm of science for about 150 years, let us look at life in America before and after the 1850's. First, all races were certainly not considered as equals. Women were considered inferior to men in every way. Also, the number of cause of death in women was giving birth. The infant mortality rate was equal to any Third World nation today. People died of diseases such as polio, small pox, and influenza. Mentally ill people wee locked up in institutions that resembled the horrors of the Inquisitions. The average life expectancy for people born in the 1850's was in the early sixties. Since the advent of materialistic science we have shown that all the races are much more alike than they are different. Medical health for women has improved to the point that couples rarely worry if the woman and/or child will die during birth. Also, women have become more empowered than any other time in human history. Diseases such as polio and small pox have essentially been wiped out in America. Also, due to improved sanitation and health regulations, typhoid, cholera, and malaria, are unheard of in America today. Mental illness is seen as a treatable, if not curable, disease. Children born in the 1990's could expect to live to be ninety years old.

THE PROPONENTS OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN ARE MAKING AN EMOTIONAL APPEAL AND NOT A SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT.

The proponents of intelligent design are trying to use meetings such as the one that you attended to make an emotional plea to the general public about the ills that face our society. They would have us believe that all of our problems in society can be blamed on Darwinism. As a U.S. Legislator, we are certain you are aware of the many problems, great and small, facing America. As any concerned citizen, we watch the news and wonder why is there violence in the schools, why does racism and intolerance persist, and why can't the greatest nation in the world feed and house all of its people? The answer to these questions is neither Darwinian evolution nor materialistic science. Rather materialistic science could be the cure for many of society's problems.

We thank you in advance for considering the above information and for seeking more complete information regarding this important issue affecting the congressional debate regarding science education programs in this country.

 

Sincerely,

Cliff Hamrick, Biology Department, Baylor University.

Robert Baldridge, Professor of Biology, Baylor University.

Richard Duhrkopf, Associate Professor of Biology, Baylor University.

Lewis Barker, Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Baylor University.

Wendy Sera, Assistant Professor of Biology, Baylor University.

Darrell Vodopich, Associate Professor of Biology, Baylor University.

Sharon Conry, Biology Department, Baylor University.

Cathleen Early, Biology Department, Baylor University.

 

[TIME: 2310]

 

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Pease). Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Holt) is recognized for 5 minutes.

 

(Mr. HOLT addressed the House. His remarks will appear hereafter in the Extensions of Remarks.)

 


 

MPC Peer-Review Committee

June 23, 2000

 

From: owner-BaylorNewsFlash-L@baylor.edu
[mailto:owner-BaylorNewsFlash-L@baylor.edu]On Behalf Of Larry Brumley
Sent: Friday, June 23, 2000 3:51 PM
To: Baylor NewsFlash
Subject: Polanyi Committee

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald D. Schmeltekopf
announces the appointment of the Michael Polanyi Center Peer Review
Committee.

Dr. William F. Cooper, professor of philosophy and former dean of the
College of Arts and Sciences, is serving as chair of the committee. Other
members include Dr. Cutberto Garza, professor of nutritional science at
Cornell University; Dr. John A. Moore, professor emeritus of biology at the
University of California at Riverside; Dr. Judith Dilts, chair of the
Biology Department at William Jewell College; Dr. Scott K. Davis, vice president
for research at GenomicFX in Austin and former assistant professor of
animal science at Texas A&M University; Dr. Ernan McMullin, The John
Cardinal O'Hara Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame;
Dr. Ronald Numbers, chair and professor in history of medicine at the
University of Wisconsin; Dr. Elaine Lambert, clinical associate professor of
medicine in rheumatology at Stanford University; and Dr. William Abraham,
Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Southern Methodist
University's Perkins School of Theology. Drs. Garza, Davis and Lambert are
Baylor graduates. Three other individuals were invited to serve on the committee
but declined because of other commitments.

The committee is charged with assessing the purposes and activities of
the Polanyi Center, assessing the effectiveness and appropriateness of the
Center's work, and providing recommendations about the Center's future. It
will convene on campus August 14-15.


 

INTELLIGENT DESIGN:

 

Baylor professors concerned that research center is front for promoting creationism in classrooms

 

By RON NISSIMOV
Houston Chronicle

 

June 2, 2000

 

WACO -- The e-mail that Baylor University biology professor Richard Duhrkopf received on Jan. 17 asked imploringly, "Is it true?"

 

Duhrkopf, who has taught at Baylor for 16 years, was startled. A colleague in Illinois wanted to know if Baylor had established a center to investigate whether life on Earth was created through "intelligent design," a theory Duhrkopf and most other scientists associate with creationism.

 

It couldn't possibly be true, Duhrkopf thought to himself. Aside from boasting that it is "the world's largest Baptist university," Baylor has maintained a strong reputation in its biology prograin by consistently defending the right of its faculty to teach evolution, he thought.

 

"Absolutely not" Duhrkopf responded to the email. "We would never do anything that dumb."

 

That is how, Duhrkopf says, he became the first faculty member to learn that Baylor had indeed set up the Michael Polanyi Center to investigate intelligent design. The center opened in October, a few months before Duhrkopf received the email that led him to check into the matter. Much of the initial funding is being funneled through a conservative think tank that hopes to see intelligent design taught in the public schools.

 

Although a growing number of scholars nationwide are conducting intelligent design research and many universities have held conferences addressing the topic, Baylor, a private college founded in 1845 with a Baptist mission, is the first to devote a research center to the issue.

 

The quiet methods used by Baylor to set up the center, and the type of work being done there, have ignited a confrontation between the faculty and administration that has reached even Congress. The dispute could be telling of what course Baylor plans to chart for its near future, and may be a litmus test of how the intelligent design movement will be received at major academic institutions.

 

Opponents contend Baylor is being used to try to legitimize the teaching of so-called "creeping creationism" in public schools, as well as being made a pawn in a relatively new plan to infiltrate higher education with these ideas.

 

The intelligent design movement, born in the 1980s but having intellectual roots from antiquity, argues that some life forms and organic molecules are too complex to have been formed simply through known natural laws, such as chance mutation and natural selection. Proponents of the movement claim they can use probability models to calculate if natural phenomena are a result of chance or a purposeful, intelligent design.

 

Many intelligent design researchers, including those at the Polanyi Center, personally believe that God is the creator, but they say their "empirical" methods do not necessarily reveal the "agent" behind the design. Polanyi, who died in 1976, was an eminent European chemist and philosopher who challenged the notion that all knowledge could be reduced to the laws of inanimate nature.

 

Although Duhrkopf and many other Baylor faculty members say they are not worried that the Polanyi Center will influence the university's commitment to teaching evolution, they are concerned it will stain the school's reputation.

 

"Our big fear is that people off campus will believe the science faculty is embracing these ideas," Duhrkopf said in a recent interview. "We want to get the word out that we (in the biology department) are unanimously opposed to this. People in intelligent design do not understand what science is. They believe fully formed life occurs spontaneously. That's creationism."

 

In April, the Baylor faculty senate, representing a cross-section of the university, voted 27--2 to recommend dismantling the center and starting the project from scratch with faculty input. The senate did not vote on the propriety of intelligent design research, but demanded that the administration always elicit faculty input before creating academic centers.

 

The administration has refused the request.

 

Baylor President Robert Sloan, who has been accused by some faculty members of emphasizing religion over academics since he took over in 1995, said he has been surprised by the negative faculty reaction to the Polanyi Center.

 

Sloan, the first Baptist minister since the early 1960s to serve as Baylor's president, said neither he nor the researchers at the center believe in a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation story. But he said there are legitimate concerns about evolution's ability to explain the formation of all life, and that these issues should be explored in a university setting.

 

"It's rather ironic that people in the scientific community, whose rights had to be protected in the face of ideological pressure, now appear to be suppressing others," Sloan said. "People have always asked questions about the relationship of religious views and the natural phenomena we see in the world. I think it just borders on McCarthyism to call that creation science.

 

As a show of good faith, Sloan said, the university has established a nine-member committee of scholars primarily from outside Baylor to examine whether the Polanyi Center can contribute to constructive dialogue. He said the administration will consider the committee's recommendations, expected in August, with "utmost seriousness," but it does not have to abide by them.

 

Donald Schmeltekopf, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Baylor who worked closely with Sloan to set up the Polanyi Center, said the administration "was concerned about the fact there would be opposition" when the idea for the center was conceived in the spring of 1999.

 

"What we tried to do was avoid that by laying low, staying out of the line of fire as much as possible," Schmeltekopf said. "If something is controversial, it's best not to make it a big deal. If you try to throw it in their faces from the get-go, you're asking for trouble."

 

Sloan said Baylor has the right to create academic centers in any way it deems fit, and it's not unusual to do so with little faculty input. He said a potentially controversial Jewish-American studies center was recently started at the school without much faculty input, but there has been no uproar over that. He said this shows the faculty is not necessarily concerned with the way the Polanyi Center was created, but the nature of its research.

 

"I think its important for Baylor to be involved in questions of the relationship between religion and science," Sloan said. "Our mission statement and our historical identity as a Christian institution of higher learning almost by definition calls for this kind of involvement."

 

He said alumni, students and parents have "overwhelmingly" supported the goals of the Polanyi Center, but he would still back the center even without such support.

 

Some of the science faculty, such as organic chemistry professor Charles Garner, back the center.

 

"Baylor is in serious danger of becoming too secular," said Garner, a self-described literal creationist who gives a "sermon" to his students to not blindly accept evolution. "Baylor's always worrying about becoming too religious and looked down upon."

 

Duhrkopf, a devout Methodist, and other critics of intelligent design say they agree that universities should explore the nature of science and religion. But they believe proponents in this debate don't want to engage in honest dialogue.

 

They point out that although intelligent design theorists claim to be using scientific methods, they never publish findings in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals. "They're making a sales pitch; they're not dialoguing", said Wesley Elsberry, a Texas A&M doctoral student who runs a Web site out of his San Diego, Calif., home critiquing the intelligent design movement. "They're saying, 'We want you to call what we're doing science.' They want the imprimatur of science."

 

Critics also say they are suspicious of the intelligent design movement because it seems to be embracing fundamentalist groups who want to dilute the teaching of evolution in schools.

 

"Intelligent design people don't want to alienate the biblical literalists," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit group in El Cerrito, Calif., that promotes the teaching of evolution. "They want everybody to link arms against evolutionists and, as good Christians, work among ourselves later."

 

Many intelligent design researchers have been funded by the Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture, part of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute conservative think tank. They say they rely on such private funding because the National Science Foundation and most universities refuse to sponsor the work

 

William Dembski, the director of the Polanyi Center, is currently a senior fellow at the Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture, while Bruce Gordon, assistant director of the Polanyi Center, is a fellow at the Seattle organization.

 

Dembski has received yearly fellowships from the Seattle group of $40,000 to $50,000, and his salary at the Polanyi Center is being paid by a $75,000 grant from the John Templeton Fund, distributed through the Discovery Institute.

 

Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said the university will pay for Dembski's salary after the grant expires next year, and that it is paying Gordon's salary. Sloan said Dembski and Gordon must answer to Baylor and not the Discovery Institute, adding that he believes the Seattle organization is a credible group more concerned with research than a political agenda.

 

Jay Richards, program director for the Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture, said the Discovery Institute is simply distributing the grant for Dembski's salary and it has no intention of directing his work at the Polanyi Center. He said the nonprofit institute hopes intelligent design will be taught along with evolution.

 

The Discovery Institute invited Dembski to testify in Washington, D.C., at a May 10 hearing held by the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution. The hearing examined whether teaching solely evolution in public schools amounted to "viewpoint discrimination."

 

Schmeltekopf said Baylor told Dembski in February that he should not speak at the hearing to avoid the appearance that the Polanyi Center was promoting curriculum reform. However, the school was surprised to find out in eariy May that he still intended to speak at the hearing.

 

Schmeltekopf said there was "a little shoving back and forth," but Baylor prevailed and Dembski did not attend.

 

Dembski declined to comment. His lawyer, John Gilmore of St. Paul, Minn., said, "Professor Dembski cannot comment on matters contained in this story due to sensitive negotiations currently ongoing between Baylor University and himself."

 

Gordon and Richards said Dembski felt Baylor infringed on his academic freedom by not allowing him to speak at the hearing.

 

School spokesman Brumley, citing a personnel matter, offered a brief written response: "Issues have arisen regarding the mission of the center and the role of Dr. Dembski as director. Baylor hopes to resolve those issues in a manner satisfactory to Baylor and Dr. Dembski."

 

Critics of intelligent design say the movement coalesced after a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a requirement that public schools give "equal time" for the teaching of evolution and creation science. Because the high court said it was impermissible to advance the view that a supernatural being created man, creationists were forced to develop a new approach that pretended to be a science and minimized the role of God, critics say.

 

"Creationism is evolving," wrote Robert Pennock in his 1999 book Tower of Babel, The Evidence Against the New Creationism, to sarcastically describe what he claims to be the changing face of the creationist movement.

 

Pennock a philosophy professor at The College of New Jersey, wrote that intelligent design researchers are often regarded as the "upper tier" of creationists because, "unlike their counterparts, they carry advanced degrees from major institutions, often hold positions in higher education and are typically more knowledgeable, more articulate and far more savvy."

 

For example, the widely recognized leader of the intelligent design movement, Phillip Johnson, is a University of California at Berkeley law professor who in 1991 wrote the book Darwin on Trial and has since published other books on the topic.

 

In what many perceive to be the manifesto for the intelligent design movement, Johnson has written that the "wedge strategy," which is also espoused by the Discovery Institute, is the key to breaking the stranglehold evolution has over the educational establishment.

 

Johnson writes that the goal is to drive a "wedge" between evolution and intelligent design camps by having discussions at "respectable academic gatherings." In the same article, Johnson wrote that Dembski is one of the "key wedge figures."

 

"The controversy at Baylor is the expected result of being the target of the Discovery Institute's 'wedge' strategy,'" said Pennock about the Polanyi Center.

 

Gordon said the center will not promote any political agenda.

 

Yet some Baylor faculty members see the creation of the Polanyi Center as further evidence that Sloan intends to take the school rightward on the political spectrum.

 

Sloan, who allowed the school to sponsor its first dance but also threatened to expel women wanting to pose for Playboy shortly after he was named president, has denied charges that he has forced job applicants to go to great lengths to prove their devoutness.

 

Still, he acknowledged that since the school changed its charter in 1990 to avoid the possibility of fundamentalists altering he curriculum, Baylor has has been "very intentional and deliberate about our religious identity, to indicate we are not turning away from our heritage."

 


 

Deciding fate of Polanyi Center
Panel to discuss future of think tank on religion, science


By  JASON EMBRY | Waco Tribune Herald

 

Tribune-Herald staff writer
Published September 8, 2000

 

A panel of scholars will discuss the future of Baylor University’s Michael Polanyi Center today in Waco.

 

Baylor administrators created the think tank to forge a relationship between religion and science. The center put together an April conference on naturalism, or the belief that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural laws.

 

But some Baylor faculty charged the center’s agenda was to bring creationism into classrooms. The school’s Faculty Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution asking the adminis- tration to dissolve the center and consult the faculty when considering a new one.

 

Administrators called for the review committee that meets today and Saturday at Baylor. Philosophy professor and former arts and sciences dean William Cooper chairs the committee, which is made up of 10 scholars from outside Baylor.

 

Their fields include science, statistics and theology, and some are Baylor graduates. Members were chosen by administrators and faculty at Baylor, said school spokesman Larry Brumley.

 

“They’re going to be assessing the effectiveness and the appropriateness of the center’s work, and out of that will come, presumably, recommendations about the center’s future,” Brumley said.

 

William Dembski is director of the center and Bruce Gordon is associate director. Dembski said he’s been asked to be available to speak to the committee if needed.

 

“My hope is that the committee will have some good recommendations for us in terms of interacting on the Baylor campus and making the Polanyi Center part of the campus community,” Dembski said.

 

Worries of the faculty

 

Richard Duhrkopf, a Baylor biology professor and a critic of the center during the spring, said he has spoken to Cooper about the upcoming meeting. Duhrkopf, who said Dembski has “an agenda to introduce non-science into the classroom,” has sent committee members articles and materials from Web sites that look at the center director’s work.

 

“We’re confident to just let the committee meet and come to their own conclusions,” he said.

 

Jay Losey, a Baylor English professor and chair of the Faculty Senate, said the spring resolution was about more than whether the center should be shut down.

 

“We just think it makes more sense to involve faculty when faculty interests and the academic integrity of the university are in the foreground,” he said.

 

Intelligent design

 

Dembski, a mathematician, has written extensively about intelligent design. He said the theory suggests that features in the natural world point to an intelligent agent, but not necessarily a creator.

 

“People are very worried that intelligent design is a coercive program to get creation science and biblical literalism taught in schools,” he said. “We’re not about that at all.”

 

The committee has been reading up on intelligent design, including work that has come out of the Polanyi Center. John Moore, a professor emeritus of biology at the University of California at Riverside and a committee member, said he was given a 10-inch pile of material to read before coming to Waco.

 

“I haven’t read the whole pile, but I have read an awful lot of it,” said Moore, who has been studying related issues for almost 30 years.

 

He said Dembski’s work is well-written. But he also called it slanted, and said it could be convincing to someone not paying close attention.

 

“He comes to some interesting conclusions,” Moore said. “You have to regard it not as science, but as politics.”

 

William Abraham, a theologian from Southern Methodist University and member of the committee, said he did not want to comment on the Polanyi Center before meeting with other members.

 

But he said he brings a unique perspective because he was educated in Europe, where religion and higher education mix more regularly than in the United States. He said sharp differences in opinion serve colleges well.

 

“The danger is, will the believer be able to make their case in the American academy?,” he said. “It’s less of a problem in the private universities, but in the sense that they take their cues from the public ones, it’s problematic.”

 


 

Baylor University

Faculty Senate Newsletter

October, 2000

 

The 2000-01 Faculty Senate officers and membership: Chair: Jay Losey (Arts and Sciences); Chair-elect: David Longfellow (Arts and Sciences); Secretary: Charles Weaver (Arts and Sciences); Publicity: Buddy Gilchrest (Education)

 

Comments from Jay Losey, Senate Chair:

Communication and Collegiality Issues

 

I'd like to begin my remarks by expressing my thanks to Bob Baird, last year's chair. As chair-elect, I learned a great deal from Bob and marveled at his leadership. I'd also like to express my thanks to all the senators serving this year. As representatives of the faculty, they assume a vital responsibility.

 

No doubt the first and most important concern early this academic year involves the Polanyi Center and the work of the external review committee. During the summer, Larry Brumley, on behalf of the Provost Don Schmeltekopf, announced most of the committee's members: Dr. William F. Cooper, professor of philosophy and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is serving as chair of the committee. Other members include Dr. John A. Moore, professor emeritus of biology at the University of California at Riverside; Dr. Judith Dilts, chair of the Biology Department at William Jewell College; Dr. Scott K. Davis, vice president for research at GenomicFX in Austin and former assistant professor of animal science at Texas A&M University; Dr. Ernan McMullin, The John Cardinal O'Hara Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame; Dr. Ronald Numbers, chair and professor in history of medicine at the University of Wisconsin; Dr. Elaine Lambert, clinical associate professor of medicine in rheumatology at Stanford University; and Dr. William Abraham, Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology. Recently, Dr. Lori Toombs who teaches mathematics at the University of South Carolina and Dr. William Klink who teaches physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa were added to the committee. Several members of the committee are Baylor graduates. The committee met in early September and is currently drafting a report on the viability of the Polanyi Center. After the committee issues its report, the Faculty Senate may want to respond as seems appropriate. I anticipate the report's being widely distributed sometime in mid-to-late October.

 


 

The External Review Committe Report
Baylor University

 

October 16, 2000
http://pr.baylor.edu/pdf/001017polanyi.pdf

 

The External Review Committee was convened to review the status of the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor University, which was established a year ago with the primary aim of advancing the understanding of the sciences. In the early summer, members of the Committee received copies of books and articles relevant to the work of the Center. On September 8 and 9, 2000, the Committee met to discuss what they had read, to hear from persons who addressed matters about which the Committee was concerned, and to formulate a response to the charge the Committee had been given. The vigorous discussions about the issues contained in the charge reflected the variety in the backgrounds and perspectives of the Committee members. The outcome of these discussions was a thorough and even-handed review of the concerns before the Committee.

 

It is important from the outset to emphasize that the sciences at Baylor University are the inheritors of a long and distinguished tradition. For many years, undergraduate instruction in the sciences at Baylor has been conducted in an exciting and effective manner. The graduate and research programs are solid and well respected throughout the scientific community. Not only have students and faculty been active in the mainstream of scientific disciplines, but they have also pursued initiatives in new areas and directions. Baylor's heritage, in this regard, is clearly one of which it can be proud.

 

The relationship of the sciences to other academic fields is a further responsibility that Baylor seeks to address. Relationships between the sciences and the humanities, as well as issues relating to the environment and public policy, are matters of real concern to the Baylor community. The Committee strongly endorses, therefore, the aim of enhancing the public understanding of science, particularly as this is expressed through serious work in the history and philosophy of science. This particular responsibility is one that has already been recognized by the institution of the Herbert H. Reynolds Lectureship in the History and Philosophy of Science. Efforts in this area could well receive an appropriate and timely emphasis on the part of the university.

 

Given the universitys tradition, there is a natural interest also in the relationship of science and religion. Research in this area ought to be strongly encouraged, at the same time recognizing that this goal is best served by promoting a variety of perspectives. The university should continue to foster a broad range of scholarship in this domain and in this way contribute to the active dialogue between science and religion now in progress. The Institute for Faith and Learning would seem to be an appropriate administrative structure for furthering this end.

 

Within the broad range of issues that bear on the relationship between the sciences and religion, those raised by recent work on the criteria appropriate to claims of intelligent design could well find a place. As research members in the Institute for Faith and Learning, Drs. William Dembski and Bruce Gordon would be enabled to pursue their interests in these areas. It is important to carry out this work in ways that encourage dialogue with faculty in a variety of fields.

 

An advisory committee composed of members of the Baylor faculty would be of strategic importance in clarifying policies and practices for the science and religion component of the Institute for Faith and Learning. In addition, this committee could serve as an effective sounding board for such programs undertaken by the Institute. It could also provide helpful communication with those academic fields from which its members would come.

 

Given Baylor's tradition, issues related to the interaction of science and religion need to be dealt with openly and freely, and these should be of continuing interest within the program of the Institute for Faith and Learning. Given the present circumstances, these discussions might best be carried out under the broad umbrella of the Institute through adequate administrative structures.

 

It is quite appropriate to associate the name of Michael Polanyi with discussions relating to science and religion. However, Polanyi explicitly indicated that he did not think that an agency such as that implied by claims of intelligent design need be invoked when dealing with the growth in complexity of the living world over aeons past (Personal Knowledge, p. 395). Given this, and given also the debates that have surrounded the Michael Polanyi Center from its origins, it would seem best that whatever research is carried out at Baylor on the design inference should not bear the Polanyi name. The more inclusive mandate of the Institute for Faith and Learning would allow it to accommodate research of this sort while pointing to a broader range of interests as well.

 

The recommendations of the Committee can thus be expressed as follows:

 

(1) It is important for a university in the Christian tradition to take an active interest in issues involving the complex and changing relationships between science and religion. This mission can best be fostered by the Universitys Institute for Faith and Learning where it seems to be naturally at home. In pursuing this mission, room should be made for a variety of approaches and topics. It would clearly be too restrictive on the part of the Institute to focus attention in this area on a single theme only, such as the design inference.

 

(2) Nevertheless, the Committee wishes to make it clear that it considers research on the logical structure of mathematical arguments for intelligent design to have a legitimate claim to a place in current discussions of the relations of religion and the sciences. Although this work, involving as it does technical issues in the theory of probability, is relatively recent in origin and has thus only just begun to receive response in professional journals (see, for example, the essay by Elliot Sober in Philosophy of Science, 66, 1999, pp. 472-488), the Institute should be free, if it chooses, to include in its coverage this line of work, when carried out professionally.

 

(3) An advisory committee to the Institute for Faith and Learning, composed of Baylor faculty members, should be appointed to assist in planning and reviewing the science and religion component of the Institute.

 

(4) For the reasons stated above, the Committee believes that the linking of the name of Michael Polanyi to programs relating to intelligent design is, on the whole, inappropriate. Further, the Polanyi name has come by now in the Baylor context to take on associations that lead to unnecessary confusion.

 

In conclusion, fostering dialogue regarding the history and philosophy of science and especially the relationship between science and religion is important, even if sometimes controversial. Willingness to encourage such dialogue is a measure of the commitment of an institution to the flourishing of academic freedom.

 

William F. Cooper, Chair
External Review Committee
October 16, 2000

 


 

Baylor Releases Polanyi Center Committee Report

 

by Larry Brumley
Baylor University Press Release
Oct. 17, 2000
http://pr.baylor.edu/feat.fcgi?2000.10.17.polanyi

 

Baylor University President Robert B. Sloan Jr. today released the report of the Michael Polanyi Center peer review committee, which was appointed last spring to assess the purposes and activities of the controversial center.

 

The eight-member committee, composed of academics from throughout the country and chaired by Dr. William F. Cooper, professor of philosophy and former dean of the Baylor College of Arts and Sciences, concluded that the Polanyi Center's mission of fostering dialogue regarding the history and philosophy of science and especially the relationship between science and religion is important, even if sometimes controversial. The report further stated that "the committee wishes to make it clear that it considers research on the logical structure of mathematical arguments for intelligent design to have a legitimate claim to a place in current discussions of the relations of religion and the sciences." Polanyi Center Director William Dembski's research and writings in the area of intelligent design have been the most controversial aspects of the Center's work, even though its academic mission is much broader. Specifically, the committee recommended that the University establish an advisory committee, to be composed of Baylor faculty members from disciplines related to the Center's work, to assist in planning and reviewing its activities. The report also said that the linking of the name of Michael Polanyi to programs related to intelligent design is, on the whole, inappropriate, given the late scientist's views as expressed in his book Personal Knowledge.

 

The committee recommended that the University discontinue the use of the name while continuing the Center's work within the Institute for Faith and Learning. The Polanyi Center has resided administratively within Baylor's three-year-old Institute for Faith and Learning since it was established in 1999.

 

"I want to express my deep appreciation to Dr. Cooper and the other members of the review committee for their diligence and dedication in carrying out their charge," Sloan said. "They invested many hours in reviewing and evaluating the work of the Polanyi Center and have delivered a well-written and thoughtful report. I accept all of the committee's recommendations and have asked Provost Donald Schmeltekopf to implement them fully and specifically as soon as possible. "I am pleased that the central mission of the Center has been affirmed and that the committee has underscored the fact that support of academic freedom includes protecting controversial ideas," Sloan said. "We certainly could have and should have handled more effectively the program's implementation, but we will correct some of those early mistakes by acting on the committee's recommendations, specifically to appoint a faculty advisory committee and to discontinue the use of the Michael Polanyi name."

 

Schmeltekopf said work will begin immediately on appointing the advisory committee. "I will be consulting with Dr. Wallace Daniel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and others on the appointment of an advisory committee that includes faculty members from disciplines that relate to the history and philosophy of science as well as those disciplines that touch on the relationship between science and religion. Its role will be to clarify policies and practices and serve as a sounding board for these programs in the Institute for Faith and Learning. I also anticipate that the committee will play an important role in encouraging better communication between the Institute and various academic departments on campus."

 


 

William Dembski Press Release

 

Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000 18:03:54 -0400

Sender: Metanews <metanews@META-LIST.ORG>

From: "William A. Dembski (by way of William Grassie)"

Subject: Polanyi Center Press Release

 

The Michael Polanyi Center Peer Review Committee has now released its official report (http://pr.baylor.edu/pdf/001017polanyi.pdf) and the Baylor University administration has responded to the report (http://pr.baylor.edu/feat.fcgi?2000.10.17.polanyi). As director of the Center, I wish to offer the following comment:

 

The report marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry. This is a great day for academic freedom. I'm deeply grateful to President Sloan and Baylor University for making this possible, as well as to the peer review committee for its unqualified affirmation of my own work on intelligent design. The scope of the Center will be expanded to embrace a broader set of conceptual issues at the intersection of science and religion, and the Center will therefore receive a new name to reflect this expanded vision. My work on intelligent design will continue unabated. Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression.

 

-30-


 

"Intelligent design" center at Baylor gains support from review committee

 

by Ron Nissimov
The Houston Chronicle
October 18, 2000

 

A controversial center at Baylor University researching the idea that life was created through "intelligent design" instead of evolution should be allowed to continue its work, an external review committee said Tuesday. The committee recommended that a faculty advisory committee be appointed to try to improve the academic center's relationship with the rest of the university. It also recommended that the Michael Polanyi Center change its name because Polanyi -- a European chemist and philosopher who died in 1976 - espoused views different from the theories being researched at the center. Although Polanyi challenged the notion that all knowledge could be reduced to the laws of nature, the committee said he did not necessarily believe in the existence of an external force such as intelligent design. The intelligent design movement, which was born in the 1980s and grew in strength in the early 1990s, argues that some life forms and organic molecules are too complex to have been formed through known natural laws, such as chance mutation and natural selection. Proponents say they can use probability models to calculate whether natural phenomena are the result of chance or of a purposeful, intelligent design. Many scientists at Baylor and other universities say intelligent design is akin to explaining little-understood phenomena by invoking spiritual forces. They say it is not a science because there is no way to verify the existence of an intelligent design agent through observation and because no intelligent-design research has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

 

The nine-member external review committee, which was convened by the university in the spring and met Sept. 8-9, did not address two of the more controversial aspects of the Polanyi Center. Those are the secretive methods used by Baylor President Robert Sloan to establish the center in 1999 and whether it is being used to promote the teaching of creationism in public schools. Although a growing number of scholars nationwide are conducting intelligent-design research and many universities have held conferences on the topic, Baylor -- a private college founded in 1845 with a Baptist mission - is the only university in the country to devote a research center to the issue.

 

Sloan, who has been accused by some faculty members of emphasizing religion over academics since he took over in 1995, said the university will comply with the recommendations. "I am pleased that the central mission of the center has been affirmed, and that the committee has underscored the fact that support of academic freedom includes protecting controversial ideas," Sloan said in a news release. "We certainly could have, and should have, handled more effectively the program's implementation, but we will correct some of those early mistakes by acting on the committee's recommendations."

 

The review committee said: "Given the university's tradition, there is a natural interest also in the relationship of science and religion. Research in this area ought to strongly be encouraged, at the same time recognizing that this goal is best served by promoting a variety of perspectives." Faculty members who have been publicly critical of the Polanyi Center could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

 

Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said the faculty generally had a positive reaction to the recommendations Tuesday. Molleen Matsumara, network projects director for the Center for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of evolution, said it would be wrong to interpret the committee's findings as a validation of intelligent design's claims to scientific legitimacy. Matsumara said the committee explicitly said it would be valid for Baylor, as a religious institution, to investigate the "mathematical arguments for intelligent design," but she stressed that mathematics is not science. The external review committee was chaired by Baylor philosophy professor William Cooper, former dean of the school's college of arts and sciences. Other committee members were from universities around the nation. The committee's expenses were paid by Baylor.

 

Cooper said he had a fruitful meeting Tuesday with members of the faculty senate. "They were mindful of the recommendations, and they thought the recommendations provided a very good foundation to begin to address some of their concerns," he said. Cooper said the committee did not address the methods used to form the center, because that issue was "past history." The faculty senate, which represents a cross-section of the university, voted 27-2 in April to recommend dismantling the center and starting the project from scratch with faculty input. The senate did not vote on the propriety of intelligent-design research but demanded that the administration seek faculty input before creating academic centers. Cooper also said the committee did not investigate the center's connections with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank that promotes the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

 

Many intelligent-design researchers have been funded by the institute's Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture. They say they rely on such private funding because the National Science Foundation and most universities won't sponsor the work. William Dembski, director of the Polanyi Center, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's center, and Bruce Gordon, assistant director of the Polanyi Center, is a fellow at the Seattle organization. Dembski has received fellowships of $40,000 to $50,000 from the Seattle institute, and his salary at the Polanyi Center is paid from a $75,000 grant from the John Templeton Fund, which the institute distributes. Brumley said the university will pick up Dembski's salary after the grant expires next year. Sloan has said Dembski and Gordon answer to Baylor and not the Discovery Institute. Dembski could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Gordon said he believes intelligent design should be taught in public schools only once it gains widespread scientific credibility.

 


 

Polanyi committee suggests compromise

 

by Blair Martin
The Baylor Lariat
October 18, 2000
http://www3.baylor.edu/Lariat/Archives/2000/20001018/art-front04.html

 

A report issued by the peer review committee appointed to evaluate the credibility and legitimacy of the Michael Polanyi Center was finally released Tuesday morning, stating that despite controversy, it found the Center's research legitimate.

 

The committee, composed of eight respected scholars from all over the country and led by Dr. William F. Cooper, recommended that the university should "foster a broad range of scholarship" to address the relationship between science and religion.

 

Controversy erupted shortly after the center was created in 1999 as a result of a perceived "creationist" undertone of its mission and the lack of communication between Baylor science faculty and the administration.

 

Chairman of the Faculty Senate, Dr. Jay Losey, said he thought the committee's review of the center was concise while remaining sensitive to all of the concerns raised.

 

"I am very pleased with the content," he said. "I thought they were very diplomatic and offered great ways to address some of the major concerns."

 

Although the committee deemed the research valid, they expressed several recommendations to mend the bridge of communication between faculty and the center's administration.

 

First, the committee concluded that the center's mission is best supported under the structure of the Institute of Faith and Learning, "where it seems naturally at home."

 

Therefore, Dr. William Dembski and Dr. Bruce Gordon, who had been the sole researchers for the Center, will remain on campus to continue their research under the supervision of Dr. Michael Beaty, the director of the Faith and Learning Institute.

 

Second, the committee believes the center should not only continue to pursue the intelligent design theory but should expand its focus to include broader areas of its mandate as well.

 

Third, an advisory committee, composed of Baylor faculty members, should be created to assist in planning and reviewing the science and religion component of the center.

 

Finally, the committee recommended that the center no longer bear the name Michael Polanyi.

 

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said the name change was due to the controversy surrounding the center and its mission.

 

"The discontinuance of the name, I believe, is for a couple of reasons," Sloan said. "First, I think that name now has gathered a lot of political baggage, and its important for the institute to get a fresh, new start."

 

He also said that there was inconsistency between the late scientist's views and the original intent of the center.

 

The transition and formation of an advisory committee should take a couple of weeks, Sloan said.

 

Although Sloan insisted that the committee's recommendations will be carried out completely and as soon as possible, the question of administrative structure within the center still remains unresolved.

 

Whether the center will re-emerge under a new name or just be another research project within the Institute of Faith and Learning is unclear.

 

"We are going to ask the advisory committee to consider that," Sloan said. "If they think its appropriate that we still have a structure like the center, then one of the things they can suggest is a new name."

 


 

Changes in store for Polanyi Center
BU institution losing name, retooling focus


By  JASON EMBRY | Waco Tribune Herald

 

Tribune-Herald staff writer
Published October 18, 2000

 

The controversial Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor University will lose its name and work with a faculty advisory committee to refocus its mission, school President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said Tuesday.

 

The changes were recommended by a panel of eight scholars who reviewed the center, which aims to study the intersection of religion and science. Over the past year, it has faced heavy criticism from many Baylor faculty members who charge that the center promotes creationism.

 

Part of the center’s work focuses on intelligent design, a theory that suggests that features in the natural world point to an intelligent agent. The committee said the study of intelligent design has a place under the task of looking at the relationship be- tween science and religion.

 

“I am pleased that the central mission of the center has been affirmed and that the committee has underscored the fact that support of academic freedom includes protecting controversial ideas,” Sloan said.

 

Director William Dembski, who has written extensively on intelligent design, and associate director Bruce Gordon make up the center. Dembski hailed the recommendation as a triumph for academic freedom.

 

“Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression,” he said.

 

Controversy over the center flared in April when Baylor played hosted to a conference on naturalism, which is the belief that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural laws. The school’s faculty senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution asking the administration to dissolve the center and consult the faculty when considering a new one.

 

Fresh viewpoints

 

The advisory panel, made up almost entirely of scholars from outside Baylor, recommended the center stop using Polanyi’s name and work within Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning. The 3-year-old institute focuses on the connection between religion and scholarship.

 

Polanyi was a Hungarian chemist who studied the interaction of science, philosophy and religion. According to the committee’s report, Polanyi did not believe an agent such as the one implied by intelligent design theory was needed to explain the growth of the living world.

 

“The more inclusive mandate of the Institute for Faith and Learning would allow it to accommodate research of this sort while pointing to a broader range of interests as well,” the report says.

 

Sloan said the study of intelligent design has always been one of several missions of the center. He said the center’s purpose is also to study the history and philosophy of science, as well as the relationship between science and religion.

 

“What the committee in effect said was don’t overlook the broader program mandates and don’t just exclusively focus on one of those mandates, but keep the broader work of the original center in mind,” Sloan said.

 

Baylor provost Donald Schmeltekopf will appoint a committee of Baylor faculty to clarify the center’s policies and activities and serve as a sounding board for its programs. He said the committee will include faculty members from disciplines that relate to the center’s purposes.

 

Sloan said the committee will be asked to recommend if a new center with a new name should be established, or if the work should be carried out within the Institute of Faith and Learning.

 

“The key thing is that the work itself continues,” he said. “It’s very important that there be serious research and a collegial environment in which that research can take place.”

 

Welcomed changes

 

Jay Losey, a Baylor English professor and chair of the faculty senate, said he welcomes the recommendations and is pleased Sloan has accepted them. He said the name change is important because the Polanyi moniker has become associated with intelligent design instead of the larger religion-science connection.

 

Losey said Dembski could ease faculty members’ concerns by publishing his work in scholarly journals that face the scrutiny of peer reviews before they are printed. He said much of Dembski’s work has been in the popular press.

 

“Baylor faculty will accept Dembski and Gordon as colleagues, provided that they do what all of their other colleagues at Baylor University are doing,” Losey said. “That is disseminating their best thinking in peer-review journals and presses that have readers reviewing manuscripts submitted for publication.”

 

Dembski said he’s interested in expanding who publishes his work, but he does not think it’s accurate to say he has kept mainly to the popular press.

 

“I don’t think I really need to defend my academic record,” he said.

 

Dembski said he will be glad to work with the faculty committee. He said he believes he has many allies at Baylor, as well as “friendly critics.”

 

“The problem has been the most vocal people at Baylor have the been the opponents,” he said.

 

The committee that made the recommendations to Sloan was chaired by William Cooper, a Baylor philosophy professor and former dean of arts and sciences. The scholars — whose fields include science, math and theology — met at Baylor for two days in September.

 


 

Report on the Baylor University Controversy

 

The Discovery Institute
October 19, 2000

 

A report issued by the peer review committee appointed to evaluate the credibility and legitimacy of the Michael Polanyi Center was finally released Tuesday morning, stating that despite controversy, it found the Center's research legitimate. The committee, composed of eight respected scholars from all over the country and led by Dr. William F. Cooper, recommended that the university should "foster a broad range of scholarship" to address the relationship between science and religion.

 

Controversy erupted shortly after the center was created in 1999 as a result of a perceived "creationist" undertone of its mission and the lack of communication between Baylor science faculty and the administration.

 

Chairman of the Faculty Senate, Dr. Jay Losey, said he thought the committee's review of the center was concise while remaining sensitive to all of the concerns raised. "I am very pleased with the content," he said. "I thought they were very diplomatic and offered great ways to address some of the major concerns."

 

Although the committee deemed the research valid, they expressed several recommendations to mend the bridge of communication between faculty and the center's administration.

 

First, the committee concluded that the center's mission is best supported under the structure of the Institute of Faith and Learning, "where it seems naturally at home." Therefore, Dr. William Dembski and Dr. Bruce Gordon, who had been the sole researchers for the Center, will remain on campus to continue their research under the supervision of Dr. Michael Beaty, the director of the Faith and Learning Institute.

 

Second, the committee believes the center should not only continue to pursue the intelligent design theory but should expand its focus to include broader areas of its mandate as well.

 

Third, an advisory committee, composed of Baylor faculty members, should be created to assist in planning and reviewing the science and religion component of the center.

 

Finally, the committee recommended that the center no longer bear the name Michael Polanyi.

 

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said the name change was due to the controversy surrounding the center and its mission. "The discontinuance of the name, I believe, is for a couple of reasons," Sloan said. "First, I think that name now has gathered a lot of political baggage, and its important for the institute to get a fresh, new start."

 

He also said that there was inconsistency between the late scientist's views and the original intent of the center.

 

The transition and formation of an advisory committee should take a couple of weeks, Sloan said.

 

Although Sloan insisted that the committee's recommendations will be carried out completely and as soon as possible, the question of administrative structure within the center still remains unresolved. Whether the center will re-emerge under a new name or just be another research project within the Institute of Faith and Learning is unclear.

 

"We are going to ask the advisory committee to consider that," Sloan said. "If they think its appropriate that we still have a structure like the center, then one of the things they can suggest is a new name."

 


 

Polanyi official's e-mail concerns some faculty

 

Center director issues statement vowing research to 'continue unabated'

 

by Blair Martin
The Baylor Lariat
October 19, 2000
http://www3.baylor.edu/Lariat/Archives/2000/20001019/art-front03.html

 

Some faculty members expressed "deep, genuine concern" after receiving an e-mail from the director of the Michael Polanyi Center a day after a report affirmed the center's legitimacy and credibility, according to the chairman of the Faculty Senate.

 

A report was released Tuesday by a committee appointed to review the operation of the center. The committee was comprised of eight scholars from across the country and led by Dr. William F. Cooper.

 

In response to that report, Dr. William Dembski issued the following statement:

 

"The report marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry. This is a great day for academic freedom. I'm deeply grateful to President Sloan and Baylor University for making this possible, as well as to the peer review committee for its unqualified affirmation of my own work on intelligent design. The scope of the Center will be expanded to embrace a broader set of conceptual issues at the intersection of science and religion, and the Center will therefore receive a new name to reflect this expanded vision. My work on intelligent design will continue unabated. Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression."

 

Chairman of the Faculty Senate, Dr. Jay Losey, said that "anyone can look at the review and also at Dembski's e-mail and make a personal judgment for themselves."

 

"However, I will say there is deep, genuine concern on the part of Baylor faculty regarding some of the statements made in the e-mail," Losey said. "Deep, genuine concern."

 

Attempts to reach Dembski at his office Wednesday were unsuccessful.

 


 

Dembski Relieved of Duties as Polanyi Center Director

 

by Larry Brumley
Baylor University Press Release
October 19, 2000
http://pr.baylor.edu/feat.fcgi?2000.10.19.polanyi

 

William Dembski was relieved of his duties as director of Baylor University's Michael Polanyi Center today. He will remain associate professor in conceptual foundations of science within the university's Institute for Faith and Learning.

 

The action follows by two days the release of a peer review committee's report on the Polanyi Center that affirmed the academic work of the center while calling for the appointment of a faculty advisory committee and the dropping of the Polanyi name.

 

"The theme of the report emphasized the need for the individuals associated with the center to work in a collegial manner with other members of the Baylor faculty," said Dr. Michael Beaty, director of the Institute for Faith and Learning, which houses the center. "Dr. Dembski's actions after the release of the report compromised his ability to serve as director."

 

Dr. Bruce Gordon, associate director of the center, has been appointed interim director of the program. Gordon holds a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of physics from Northwestern University, as well as degrees in mathematics, philosophy, theology and piano performance. He was recently a postdoctoral fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame, and is presently at work on a series of articles leading to a book on the metaphysical import of quantum statistics.

 


 

William Dembski Press Release

 

Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 18:58:08 -0400

Sender: Metanews <metanews@META-LIST.ORG>

From: "William A. Dembski (by way of William Grassie)"

Subject: [METANEWS] Dembski's Response to His Removal

 

October 19, 2000: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

STATEMENT BY WILLIAM DEMBSKI ON HIS REMOVAL AS DIRECTOR OF THE MICHAEL POLANYI CENTER AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

 

Baylor University President Robert Sloan has removed me as director of the Michael Polanyi Center despite his having personally solicited me to come to Baylor and establish the Center as a means of furthering work on intelligent design. Some Baylor faculty have exerted enormous pressure on Baylor to disassociate the university from me and my research. Earlier President Sloan had properly characterized these efforts as "intellectual McCarthyism."

 

Because I released a press statement (see below) applauding the results of the peer review committee that passed upon and approved the academic soundness of my work, I am now being labeled as not "collegial" and the statement is said to have fatally compromised my ability to serve as Director. My press release allowed me publicly to state my full support for the results of the peer review committee report. Having made that statement, I then expected to proceed full steam ahead to implement the committee's recommendations by expanding the scope of the center while still focusing my own research on intelligent design -- just as the peer review committee recommended and President Sloan agreed.

 

Instead, I was informed that my press release created a "firestorm" on campus. Shockingly, the administration formally asked me to retract my press release. I explained that the press release accurately conveyed how I perceived the outcome of the peer review committee and that for me to retract it would be tantamount to giving in to the censorship and vilification against me that had been a constant feature since I arrived on campus. I could not and would not betray all that I have worked for in my professional career.

 

In the utmost of bad faith, the administration claimed my refusal to retract my press release constituted a lack of collegiality on my part and charged that this compromised my ability to serve as director, thereby providing the fig leaf of justification for my removal. Intellectual McCarthyism has, for the moment, prevailed at Baylor. The announcement of my removal from the Polanyi Center directorship states that I am to be kept on in my capacity as an Associate Professor in Baylor's Institute for Faith and Learning. I look forward in that capacity to continuing to work on intelligent design and its implications.

 

------Previous Press Release of October 17, 2000------

 

The Michael Polanyi Center Peer Review Committee has now released its official report (http://pr.baylor.edu/pdf/001017polanyi.pdf) and the Baylor University administration has responded to the report (http://pr.baylor.edu/feat.fcgi?2000.10.17.polanyi). As director of the Center, I wish to offer the following comment:

 

The report marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry. This is a great day for academic freedom. I'm deeply grateful to President Sloan and Baylor University for making this possible, as well as to the peer review committee for its unqualified affirmation of my own work on intelligent design. The scope of the Center will be expanded to embrace a broader set of conceptual issues at the intersection of science and religion, and the Center will therefore receive a new name to reflect this expanded vision. My work on intelligent design will continue unabated. Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression.

 

-30-

 


 

Polanyi Center director replaced
Dembski’s e-mail proclaiming win over ‘dogmatic’ critics brings change at Baylor think tank


By  JASON EMBRY | Waco Tribune Herald

Tribune-Herald staff writer
Published October 20, 2000

 

The director of Baylor University’s Michael Polanyi Center was removed Thursday, a day after a controversial e-mail he wrote spread through the campus.

 

William Dembski was demoted from director to an associate professor with the center, which was created last year as a think tank focused on science and religion. Bruce Gordon, associate director and the only other member of the center, was appointed interim director.

 

Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said Tuesday he would follow external recommendations to eliminate the Polanyi name and continue its work under Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning. The institute focuses on the connection between religion and scholarship. Dembski on Tuesday claimed triumph in an e-mail that called some detractors “dogmatic” and their criticism of him “intolerant.”

 

News of the e-mail quickly spread on campus Wednesday, and Baylor released a written statement announcing Dembski’s demotion Thursday. School spokesman Larry Brumley said he and Sloan could not comment on Dembski beyond the statement, citing strict guidelines in personnel matters.

 

“The theme of the report emphasized the need for the individuals associated with the center to work in a collegial manner with other members of the Baylor faculty,” said Michael Beaty, Institute for Faith and Learning director, in the written statement. “Dr. Dembski’s actions after the release of the report compromised his ability to serve as director.”

 

Dembski, 40, has written extensively on intelligent design, which says that some aspects of nature are so rich and complex that they show evidence of a higher power that created them. But some professors have charged he promotes creationism. Earlier this year, the faculty senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on school administrators to scrap the center and consult faculty when considering a new one.

 

In a news release sent to the Tribune-Herald Tuesday, Dembski said Baylor remained strong “in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression.” He also sent the release to Metanews, an e-mail list server focused on science and religion.

 

Dembski said he wrote the e-mail, which he said went out to about 1,600 people, to address critics at Baylor who had been against him since his arrival on campus. He said Beaty asked him to retract the e-mail Wednesday, but he refused.

 

“I think it needed to be clear in my statements that there was tremendous opposition to this center, and it would not have been an accurate representation if there was not some reference,” he said.

 

Wrong message sent

 

In its report to Sloan, an eight-member panel made up mostly of scholars from outside Baylor suggested Dembski and Gordon continue their research “in ways that encourage dialogue with faculty in a variety of fields.” But Jay Losey, a Baylor English professor and chairman of the faculty senate, said many believed Dembski’s message did not represent what they hoped would be a new cooperative spirit.

 

“I think everyone is saddened when a colleague is demoted, but these things happen,” Losey said. “In this case, in my judgment, the colleague was intemperate in remarks that he made. There has to be accountability.”

 

Losey said he received Dembski’s message Wednesday from a member of Baylor’s science faculty who subscribes to Metanews. Losey forwarded the message to Sloan, provost Donald Schmeltekopf and the 32 other senators.

 

“When I read it, I knew that we had a problem that needed immediate attention, and that’s why I sent it on,” Losey said.

 

Dembski, who is working on two books this year and often works out of his home, said he came to Baylor Thursday to work on setting up a new office on campus. He said Beaty came to his office and told him of his removal, handing Dembski a demotion letter from Sloan.

 

“I was informed that my duties would be adjusted two or three weeks down the line,” Dembski said.

 

Standing by statements

 

He wrote a reaction to his demotion Thursday on Metanews. It said giving in to Baylor’s request that he retract the first e-mail “would be tantamount to giving in to the censorship and vilification against me that had been a constant feature since I arrived on campus.”

 

Dembski said he is not sure what his future will be at Baylor, where he has five years left on his contract.

 

The Polanyi Center was created with little fanfare last year to study the history and philosophy of science, the relationship between science and religion and intelligent design. Dembski and Gordon are its only researchers.

 

Controversy erupted earlier this year after the center hosted a conference on naturalism, which is the belief that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural laws. The senate passed its resolution, and Sloan called for an advisory panel of scholars to review the center’s work.

 

The panel met at Baylor for two days last month, and Sloan said Tuesday he accepted its recommendations. One recommendation called for an advisory panel of Baylor professors that would clarify the center’s policies and practices and serve as a sounding board for its programs.

 

Another recommendation called for the center to stop using the name of Polanyi, a Hungarian chemist who studied the interaction of science, philosophy and religion. According to the committee’s report, Polanyi did not believe an agent such as the one implied by intelligent design theory was needed to explain the growth of the living world.

 

Sloan said Tuesday he was glad to see the center’s work preserved. He said he hoped serious research in a collegial environment would follow.

 

 “I think everyone is saddened when a colleague is demoted, but these things happen. In this case, in my judgment, the colleague was intemperate in remarks that he made. There has to be accountability.” --Jay Losey, Baylor professor, head of faculty senate

 


 

HEADLINE: 'Intelligent design' leader demoted

 

October 20, 2000

The Houston Chronicle

Friday, Pg. A31

 

BYLINE: RON NISSIMOV

 

The director of a controversial center at Baylor University investigating whether life was created through "intelligent design" instead of evolution was demoted Thursday, apparently for calling his critics "intolerant" and gloating that his research had been vindicated two days ago. "Intellectual McCarthyism has, for the moment, prevailed at Baylor," William Dembski said in a news release about his demotion. Dembski was demoted as director of the Michael Polanyi Center but was allowed to stay at the university as an associate professor and to continue his research.

 

Dembski, 40, widely regarded as a leading figure in the intelligent design movement, posted e-mail on a science and religion Web site Wednesday saying that a report issued by an external committee Tuesday "marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry." He ended his e-mail by writing, "Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded that the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression."

 

Baylor English professor Jay Losey, chair of the faculty senate, said many faculty members who raised concerns about the center felt Dembski took a cheap shot at them. He said Dembski also falsely implied that an external review committee legitimized the claims of intelligent design. "It was an attack of the Baylor faculty. I don't know how else to read the final two sentences," Losey said about the e-mail.

 

 Losey said he felt the administration's response was appropriate but that it was a sad day for the Waco campus. Baylor philosophy professor Michael Beaty, director of the school's Institute for Faith and Learning, which oversees the Polanyi Center, said Dembski's e-mail violated the spirit of cooperation that the committee advocated Tuesday. "Dr. Dembski's actions after the release of the report compromised his ability to serve as director," Beaty said.

 

Dembski will be replaced temporarily by Bruce Gordon, the assistant director of the center. Gordon said he does not want the job permanently, and a search for a director will begin as soon as possible. Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said the university could not comment further because it is a personnel matter. Baylor, a private university with a Baptist mission founded in 1845, is the only university in the country to devote an academic center to intelligent design, which theorizes that organic molecules and life forms are too complex to have been created simply through evolution.

 

Proponents claim they can use probability models to prove life was created through the intervention of a purposeful, intelligent design. Although many intelligent design researchers believe God is responsible for creating life, they say their methods can only prove the existence of an intelligent design "agent." The movement was born in the 1980s and gained strength in the 1990s. Many scientists say intelligent design falsely portrays itself as a science but is simply a front for creationism because it tries to explain little-understood phenomena through spiritual causes. They say it is impossible to observe an agent of intelligent design, and therefore such research cannot be considered science. They point out that no credible, peer-reviewed scientific journals have ever published such research.

 

In order to quell a controversy that erupted earlier this year after the center opened, Baylor President Robert Sloan convened an external review committee in the spring to examine whether the center was performing legitimate academic research. The committee said Tuesday that the center should be allowed to continue to operate because intelligent design has a "legitimate claim to a place in the current discussions of the relations of religion and the sciences," but it stopped short of saying the theories are valid. The committee said a faculty advisory committee should be appointed to improve the center's relations with the university and that the center's name should be changed to dissociate it from previous controversy and because Michael Polanyi, a scientist who died in 1976, did not espouse the same views as the center.

 

Sloan, who has been criticized by some faculty members for placing too much emphasis on religion since he took over the post in 1995, agreed to carry out both recommendations. Dembski said Thursday that Sloan "personally solicited me to come to Baylor and establish the center." He said he was shocked that Sloan asked him Wednesday to retract his e-mail because officials said it caused a "firestorm" on campus. "In the utmost of bad faith, the administration claimed my refusal to retract my press release constituted a lack of collegiality on my part and charged that this compromised my ability to serve as director, thereby providing the fig leaf of justification for my removal," Dembski said. D

 

embski's attorney, John Gilmore of St. Paul, Minn., could not be reached for comment on whether Dembski plans to take legal action. Dembski has been called one of the leading figures in intelligent design by University of California, Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson, widely recognized as the father of the movement. Baylor officials have said Dembski, who holds doctorates in mathematics and philosophy, became interested in intelligent design after undergoing a "religious experience."

 


 

Unintelligent Designs

 

Baylor's dismissal of Polyani Center director Dembski was not a smart move.

 

By John Wilson
Christianity Today
October 23, 2000
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/143/11.0.html

 

Several months ago we reported on the efforts of faculty at Baylor University to shut down the recently founded Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design. The center, established by administrative fiat at the behest of Baylor President Robert B. Sloan, Jr., under the auspices of the university's Institute for Faith and Learning, came under fire in part because Sloan had avoided traditional faculty channels. But it was clear from the outset that the debate over the center was driven first and foremost by intense opposition to the Intelligent Design movement; the director of the center, who had been personally recruited for the position by Sloan himself, was William Dembski, the most outstanding scholar associated with the ID movement.

 

In response to faculty criticism, Sloan called for an external review committee to consider the work done under the umbrella of the Polanyi Center and to make recommendations as to whether and how the center should continue to function at Baylor. Last week, on October 17, the committee's report was released. While its tortured language reflected bitter conflict (about which more below), the report nonetheless affirmed the "mission" of the center, as Sloan himself noted in a Baylor press release the same day.

 

Dembski, as the director of the center, also commented on the report in a one-paragraph e-mail message following its release. "The report marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry. This is a great day for academic freedom," Dembski began. He concluded by observing that "Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression."

 

The following day, opponents of the center among the Baylor faculty, including Jay Losey, head of the faculty senate, reacted strongly to Dembski's e-mail. Baylor administrators pressured Dembski to retract the message, but he refused, and on October 19 he was removed as director of the center. "The theme of the report emphasized the need for individuals associated with the center to work together in a collegial manner," said Michael Beaty, director of the Institute of Faith and Learning, in an official statement announcing Dembski's dismissal. "Dr. Dembski's actions after the release of the report compromised his ability to serve as director." Dembski's contract with Baylor still has several years to run, and the terms of his position following the demotion have not yet been spelled out.

 

What are we to make of this? First, caution is in order in commenting from a distance on personnel decisions at any institution. One doesn't always have possession of all the relevant facts. Moreover, I come to this case with great respect not only for President Sloan but also for Michael Beaty. Still, from this vantage point, the decision to dismiss Dembski as director of the center appears to be a terrible blot on Baylor's record.

 

When I read that Dembski was being demoted for a lack of collegiality, I wished for a latter-day Jonathan Swift, whose satiric genius could do justice to this affair. Given the way that Dembski's opponents have repeatedly vilified him and his work, with charges of "stealth creationism" and the like, the man has shown the forbearance of a saint.

 

"Ah," you say, "but what a shame that he didn't maintain that forbearance just a bit longer. Then he could have continued his work at the center." I'm not so sure. Quoted in a Waco Tribune-Herald story, Dembski, explaining his refusal to retract the e-mail, said, "I think it needed to be clear in my statements that there was tremendous opposition to this center, and it would not have been an accurate representation if there was not some reference" to the conflict.

 

And in fact, as noted above, that conflict is very much apparent in the elephantine language of the external review committee, which sounds more like the language of courtiers than the product of a robust intellectual community. (Note for example the two paragraphs early on&emdash;a substantial portion of the entire report&emdash;given to lauding the great tradition of the science faculty at Baylor, rather as one might flatter a medieval monarch.) How bizarre that the question of the "legitimacy" of Dembski's work "on the logical structure of mathematical arguments for intelligent design" should have to be adjudicated by such a committee in the first place! (And note the condescension that follows; the italics are mine: "the Institute should be free, if it chooses, to include in its coverage this line of work, when carried out professionally.") Having been rigorously peer-reviewed for publication by Cambridge University Press, Dembski's work is obviously "legitimate"&emdash;that is, professionally up to snuff&emdash;by any reasonable standard.

 

That doesn't mean his arguments will ultimately be vindicated. On that, the jury is out and probably will be for some time. But that isn't and never has been the issue at Baylor. Within any academic field at any moment there are many rival arguments on the table, many of which are mutually contradictory. What opponents of the Polanyi Center have sought to claim is that such work is simply beyond the pale, that it doesn't meet the requirements of the relevant academic disciplines. Hence the opening sentence of Dembski's offending e-mail, which we'll quote again: "The report marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry."

 

Here is what it looks like, then. Dembski's opponents hoped that the external review committee would agree with the faculty senate's April 2000 resolution to disband the center. When that didn't occur, they contrived an excuse to get Dembski dismissed. Presumably the next step will be to ensure that the center goes in a different direction (and there is plenty of wiggle room for that in the committee's report).

 

What are they so afraid of?

 

John Wilson is Editor of Books & Culture and Editor-at-Large for Christianity Today.

 


 

Intelligent design controversy continues to fester at Baylor

 

By Art Toalston
Current Baptist Press News
October 24, 2000

 

WACO, Texas (BP)--When it comes to creation and evolution, science increasingly is a subject of debate at Baylor University.

 

A noted scientist who holds to "intelligent design" of the universe rather than Darwinian-style evolution was removed Oct. 19 from his post as director of a Baylor think tank after refusing to rescind a statement he had circulated on campus and the Metanews e-mail list focused on science and religion.

 

The prof, William Dembski, had stated:

 

"The report [a Baylor-commissioned study of the university's Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design headed by Dembski released Oct. 17] marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry. This is a great day for academic freedom. I'm deeply grateful to President Sloan and Baylor University for making this possible, as well as to the peer review committee for its unqualified affirmation of my own work on intelligent design. ... My work on intelligent design will continue unabated. Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression."

 

Dembski, whose publishers include Cambridge University Press, remains under contract at Baylor and now holds the post of an associate professor.

 

Opponents of Dembski's work at Baylor, which is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, have interpreted Dembski's references to "dogmatic opponents" and "intolerant assaults" as references to themselves and their opposition to Dembski's thinking on intelligent design.

 

Also putting the Waco, Texas, university in the spotlight has been a letter by eight Baylor science professors declaring, "Intelligent design is not a science," that made its way into the Congressional Record.

 

The eight professors were writing to Rep. Mark Souter, R.-Ind., complaining of a Capitol Hill conference on intelligent design May 10.

 

The Congressional Record entry, including Souter's comments and the professors' full letter, can be seen at a Southern Baptist Convention Internet site, www.Baptist2Baptist.net.

 

Intelligent design is "an old philosophical argument that has been dressed up as science" and has not undergone substantive peer review in the scientific community, the eight professors wrote.

 

While many scientists believe in God, the profs wrote, "Materialistic science does not say that there is no God. Rather, it says that God, due to His supernatural and divine nature, cannot be proved or disproved, thus we cannot consider His role in the natural phenomena we observe. Therefore, the existence of God is not a question within the realm of science."

 

Souter, in his remarks entered into the Congressional Record, stated, "I am appalled that any university seeking to discover truth, yet alone a university that is a Baptist Christian school, could make the kinds of statements that are contained in this letter. Is their position on teaching about materialistic science so weak that it cannot withstand scrutiny and debate?"

 

Souter noted, "Today, qualified scientists are reaching the conclusion that [intelligent] design theory makes better sense of the data" for such questions as "whether the DNA code is the result of natural causes or an intelligent agent."

 

The Congressional Record entry has received ongoing attention since its publication in mid-June.

 

The controversy over Dembski and the Polanyi Center was sparked by a 26-2 vote by Baylor's faculty senate on April 18 calling for dissolution of the center, which had been created at the initiative of Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr.

 

The faculty senate vote came just three days after the center sponsored a four-day conference on the role of naturalism in science featuring leading proponents of both Darwinian evolution and intelligent design theories. At issue during the conference was the question: Is the universe self-contained, as widely held throughout the scientific community, or does it require something beyond itself to explain its existence and internal function?

 

The controversy prompted Sloan to create an external review committee, chaired by a Baylor faculty member but otherwise composed of scholars from other academic institutions. The committee's report was issued Oct. 17 and affirmed by Sloan.

 

Among the committee's conclusions: "... research on the logical structure of mathematical arguments for intelligent design [has] a legitimate claim to a place in current discussions of the relations of religion and the sciences."

 

The field of pursuit is new, having "only just begun to receive response in professional journals," the external review committee said, yet Baylor "should be free, if it chooses, to include in its coverage this line of work, when carried out professionally."

 

Among the review committee's other recommendations were placing the center under Baylor's Institute for Faith and Learning and discontinuing use of the Polanyi name because the late Hungarian chemist for whom the Baylor center is named, while having built a reputation for studying the interaction of science, philosophy and religion, did not believe that an agent of intelligent design is needed to explain the growth of the living world.

 

The committee also suggested that an advisory committee of Baylor faculty be appointed "to assist in planning and reviewing the science and religion component" of the institute.

 

The external review committee's endorsement of study in intelligent design prompted Dembski's e-mail statement, which caused controversy on campus and led to his demotion.

 

Michael Beaty, director of the Institute of Faith and Learning, in an official statement announcing Dembski's dismissal, said, "The theme of the report emphasized the need for individuals associated with the center to work together in a collegial manner." Dembski's actions after the release of the report, Beaty said, "compromised his ability to serve as director."

 

Dembski, in response to the statement by Beaty, told the Waco Tribune-Herald, "I think it needed to be clear in my statements that there was tremendous opposition to this center, and it would not have been an accurate representation if there was not some reference [to the conflict]."

 

Dembski holds Ph.D. degrees in mathematics from the University of Chicago and in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has done post-doctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago and computer science at Princeton University. He earned a B.A. in psychology and M.S. in statistics also from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

 

Dembski's writings include a book titled, "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," published by Inter Varsity Press in November 1999, and 1998 Cambridge University Press book titled, "The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities."

 

Jay Losey, a Baylor English professor and faculty senate chairman, told the Waco newspaper, "I think everyone is saddened when a colleague is demoted, but these things happen. In this case, in my judgment, the colleague was intemperate in remarks that he made. There has to be accountability."

 

Losey told The Lariat, the Baylor student newspaper, that "there is deep, genuine concern on the part of Baylor faculty regarding some of the statements made in the e-mail. Deep, genuine concern."

 

Losey, to the Tribune-Herald, also said, "Baylor faculty will accept Dembski and [another center associate, Bruce] Gordon as colleagues, provided that they do what all of their other colleagues at Baylor University are doing," Losey said. "That is disseminating their best thinking in peer-review journals and presses that have readers reviewing manuscripts submitted for publication."

 

Sloan, in a statement in conjunction with the external study committee's report release Oct. 17, had said, "I am pleased that the central mission of the center has been affirmed and that the committee has underscored the fact that support of academic freedom includes protecting controversial ideas."

 


 

Polyani Center's future is unclear

 

Director's removal arises from e-mail

 

by Blair Martin
The Baylor Lariat
October 24, 2000
http://www3.baylor.edu/Lariat/Archives/2000/20001024/art-front02.html

 

In the wake of Dr. William Dembski's removal from his duties as director Thursday, the Michael Polanyi Center's future is even more unclear.

 

Dembski was released from his position Thursday after the release of a controversial e-mail he wrote that caused concern among some faculty members.

 

Faculty senate chairman, Dr. Jay Losey, said Dembski's e-mail conflicted with the theme emphasized in the external committee's report, which stated that he and the Center would work in a collegial manner with other members of the Baylor faculty.

 

"Any faculty member who posts intolerant remarks should be held accountable for those statements," he said.

 

Dr. Michael Beaty, director of the Institute of Faith and Learning, said he wouldn't comment on any particulars surrounding Dembski's reassignment except that Dembski's actions, after the release of the e-mail, compromised his ability to serve as director.

 

Beaty said Dembski will now serve as associate research professor in conceptual foundations of science within the university's Institute of Faith and Learning, where he will devote himself to the research of intelligent design and can serve the remainder of his five-year contract.

 

In Dembski's absence, Dr. Bruce Gordon, assistant-director of the Polanyi Center, was appointed as interim director to continue the center's daily functions and implement the recommendations of the external peer review committee's report, one of which is to establish an advisory committee to oversee the center.

 

Gordon said he and Beaty are in the midst of "generating a list of possible names for the advisory committee to be submitted to the provost and Dean Wallace Daniel."

 

"At the moment, everything is up in the air," he said. "But it is my hope that we [Beaty and Gordon] might reconstitute a new center."

 

Dr. Charles Weaver, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, said the advisory committee, which will be composed of faculty members, will serve an important function.

 

"This is what most faculty was concerned about prior to the report," he said. "By having the formation of this advisory committee, the Polanyi Center will be subject to peer review for their research and writings and will have to actually defend their views."

 

Weaver said that initially the center's two-man operation, Dembski and Gordon, were outside of any kind of accountability.

 

"With academic freedom comes accountability," he said. "Responsibility to one's own peers, students and professional colleagues across the nation."

 

Dembski's reassignment not only adds to the uncertainty of the center -- it is also another incident in the continuing evolution of the center's controversial existence on campus, which began a year ago.

 

TIME LINE

 

Oct. 1999 - The Michael Polanyi Center quietly establishes itself onto Baylor's campus. Primarily consisting of Drs. William Dembski and Bruce Gordon, few realized its existence or how much controversy it would foster.

 

April 12 to 15, 2000 - The Michael Polanyi Center hosts its first conference on campus, titled The Nature of Nature. With debate already surrounding the center's purpose, faculty members were encouraged to attend the various seminars led by acclaimed science and philosophy scholars from around the country.

 

April 18, 2000 - After much debate among faculty within science, philosophy and theology departments, the Faculty Senate calls for the administration to dissolve the Polanyi Center, stating that the center's study of intelligent design has "creationist" undertones and may ultimately jeopardize their department's degrees.

 

April 20, 2000 - Sloan publicly rejects the Senate's recommendation to dissolve the center, saying that faculty members were consulted before the center's establishment and that there was a legitimate place for the center on Baylor's campus.

 

Spring - Administration and faculty reach a compromise and an external peer review committee, consisting of eight academic scholars led by philosophy professor Dr. William F. Cooper, is established to investigate the legitimacy and validity of the Center's research.

 

Sept. 8 to 10, 2000 - The committee holds its final meeting on Baylor's campus, where they draft a report that will list their thoughts and recommendations of the Center's mission and affiliation with Baylor.

 

Oct. 17, 2000 - Committee's report is released citing four major recommendations. First, the Center's mission is best supported under the structure of the Institute for Faith and Learning. Second, the Center should not only continue to pursue the intelligent design theory but should also expand a broader focus to include broader areas of its mandate as well. Third, an advisory committee, composed of Baylor faculty members, should be created to assist in planning and reviewing the science and religion component of the Center, and finally, that the Center should no longer bear the name Michael Polanyi.

 

Oct. 19, 2000 - One day after he released a controversial e-mail, Dr. Dembski is released from his duties as director and reassigned to associate research professor in conceptual foundations of science.

 

Currently - Drs. Gordon and Beaty are generating names of potential members for the advisory committee.

 


 

Sloan fields faculty questions at forum

 

Salaries, Polanyi among concerns

 

By BLAIR MARTIN
The Baylor Lariat
October 26, 2000
http://www3.baylor.edu/Lariat/Archives/2000/20001026/art-front03.html

 

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. answered faculty questions at the President's Faculty Forum Meeting at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Kayser Auditorium in the Hankamer School of Business.

 

During the meeting, which was mediated by Faculty Senate Chairman Dr. Jay Losey, Sloan answered 14 of the given 28 questions, selected by the Faculty Senate, in front of attending faculty members.

 

After the president responded to a question, he asked faculty for any additional questions they had on the specific topic he was addressing.

 

Larry Brumley, spokesman for Baylor, said he thought the format of the forum was well organized and educational for him and his colleagues.

 

"I thought the meeting was very helpful and allowed ample opportunity for follow-up questions to be asked," Brumley said. "Because there is a fair amount of depth in all of the questions, the president does his homework and takes each one seriously."

 

The first question Sloan addressed concerned the external committee's report of the Michael Polanyi Center.

 

"There were two major issues I saw in regard to the report," Sloan said. "First, the committee saw that this intellectual project with a broader mandate is indeed a legitimate project, and second, that collegiality among the university is important."

 

Sloan said it was unfortunate that "further distractions occurred," referring to Dr. William Dembski's reassignment from director of the center, but that it is necessary for colleagues, especially in an academic setting, to be able to maintain constructive dialogue among their fellow academic colleagues.

 

"We ought to be able to discuss the philosophy and religion of science at a university, even if we don't always agree," he said. "It is important for us all to work together, and we can do so without being disagreeable with one another."

 

Another question posed to the president was whether he would be willing to announce the average raise for faculty each year as well as for executive personnel.

 

Sloan said he would not because "he didn't see anything positive to be gained to publishing these numbers."

 

However, Sloan provided a list of statistical evidence to faculty, which stated that Baylor salaries for assistant, associate and full-time professors were within average percentile among the salaries of other competitive schools.

 

When asked to comment on an article in Atlantic Monthly about evangelical schools, which claimed he wanted to make Baylor the "Notre Dame of the Baptist world," Sloan said he never "recalled ever using another school as a model or basis for Baylor" but felt that Baylor had the potential to be a "tier one" school and among the top 50 universities in the world.

 

He was also asked how he and the provost intend to strengthen Baylor's reputation beyond its status as a good undergraduate school or a "mediocre university with a good law school."

 

Sloan said that, although it is "important as a university to emphasize the value of scholarship, teaching is what Baylor prizes."

 

"What happens in the classroom is our bread and butter," he said, "but that doesn't mean that we can't improve on research and other areas of discovery."

 


 

Press Release by Michael Beaty

 

Michael Beaty
Director, The Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning
October 27, 2000

 

In light of remarks on the META list that indicate a significant misunderstanding of the recent events surrounding the Polanyi Center at Baylor University, most particularly the removal of Dr. Dembski as its director, I think it is important to clarify the significance of what has happened.

 

Dr. Dembski was not removed from the directorship for any academic failure. Baylor recognizes the value and legitimacy of his academic work, as did the External Review Committee. Baylor fully supports his academic freedom to pursue his research and hopes that he will continue to do so. Dr. Dembski was removed from his post as director on administrative grounds. In order to function in his administrative capacity, it was necessary that Dr. Dembski be able to work well with other Baylor faculty, first and foremost an advisory committee. It was the judgment of the administration that some of his recent actions severely compromised his ability to perform his central administrative duties. It was for this reason, and this reason alone, that he was removed from his directorial post.

 

There also has been a suggestion that the removal of Dr. Dembski as director is a sign that Baylor has succumbed to political pressure to squelch work on intelligent design. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having been freed from administrative tasks, Dr. Dembski will be able to devote himself exclusively to research, which arguably is the most valuable contribution he can make to design theory.

 

Finally, some have claimed that this sad episode suggests that Baylor is weakening its commitment to being a Christian university. Baylor University remains committed to encouraging a faithful intellect and an intellectually responsible faith.

 


 

Committee backs center at Baylor
Beth McMurtrie
10/27/2000
Chronicle of Higher Education
Page A14

A controversial center at Baylor University, where researchers have been
exploring the idea that the universe was created through intelligent design,
should continue its work, but under academic scrutiny, an independent review
committee concluded last week.

The committee was appointed earlier this year after faculty members
protested that the Michael Polanyi Center was created without their
knowledge and was promoting what some described as pseudo science.
Baylor's president, Robert B. Sloan, whose administration established the
center last year and hired its two scholars, William A. Dembski and Bruce L.
Gordon, defended their work but convened the committee to review the center,
which is housed in the university's Institute for Faith and Learning.
The committee agreed that the theory of intelligent design, which holds that
the origins and development of life are too complex to be explained by
evolution, is a topic worthy of exploration. But in order to "encourage
dialogue" with various academic fields, Baylor should set up a
faculty-advisory panel to help plan and review the science and religion
component of the institute.

The committee also recommended that Michael Polanyi's name be removed from
the center. Mr. Polanyi, a chemist and philosopher who died in 1976, did not
agree that a conscious force was needed to explain the evolution of life.
In a statement, Mr. Sloan said he was pleased that the committee
"underscored the fact that support of academic freedom includes protecting
controversial ideas." He noted that he "should have handled more effectively
the program's implementation," but said that the appointment of a faculty--
advisory committee and the removal of Mr. Polanyi's name from the center
should correct "those early mistakes."


Jay Losey, an associate professor of English and chairman of the Faculty
Senate, said "an overwhelming majority" of senators supported the
committee's report after it was discussed at their meeting last week.
Mr. Losey said the faculty-advisory panel would ensure that Mr. Dembski's
and Mr. Gordon's future research "meets traditional academic standards for
scholarship."

-BETH MCMURTRIE


 

The Lynching of Bill Dembski

 

Scientists say the jury is out -- so let the hanging begin.

 

by Fred Heeren
The American Spectator
November 2000
http://www.spectator.org/archives/0011TAS/heeren0011.htm

 

Mathematician William Dembski stands accused of bringing shame upon a major university. Not only that, say his colleagues, he has managed to disgrace the entire scientific enterprise.

 

Scientists from distant universities wrote letters to the editors of his university newspaper, and biologists spoke up through the surrounding city papers, telling the public why this man must be stopped. When Dembski organized an academic conference, one incensed professor from another state sent long e-mails to the scheduled speakers, seeking to discredit Dembski and convincing one famed philosopher to cancel.

 

The faculty senate of his own Baylor University voted 26 to 2 to recommend that his research center be dismantled. Eight members of Baylor's science departments wrote Congress about the dangers of Dembski's project, and several briefings on the issues were made before a bipartisan group of congressional members and staff.

 

So you're wondering: What kind of new and evil science is William Dembski practicing? Is he cloning half-humans without souls to create cheap labor? Several Baylor students interviewed for this article couldn't pinpoint the exact deed, but knew it was immoral because they heard that it had something to do with an evil use of the human genome project.

 

What does Bill Dembski think of all this? A mild-mannered mathematician more at home with probability theory than politics, he shakes his head in disbelief. "I've found that when people get to know me one-on-one, they think what I'm doing is legitimate, or at least worth pursuing. But when they start listening to the siren call of the Internet, things get out of control."

 

What Dembski has actually done hardly seems nefarious. As a scientist with twin Ph.D.'s in mathematics and philosophy, Dembski has set about developing mathematical methods for detecting intelligent design, should it be discernible, in nature. That's all. What's more, he has submitted his work to the scientific scrutiny of his peers. So why are all these professors so hysterical?

 

Disguised Creationism?

 

Since the 1980's, critics have charged that the intelligent designconcept is really just "a disguised form of creationism." According to Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education: "They're really saying God does it, but they're not as honest as the Biblical creationists. The intelligence is really spelled in three letters: G-O-D."

 

Not at all, says Dembski. Intelligent design points not to a creator, but to a designer -- a crucial distinction. "If you examine a piece of furniture," he explains, "you can identify that it is designed, but you can't identify who or what is responsible for the wood in the first place. Intelligent design just gets you to an intelligent cause that works with pre-existing materials, but not the source of those materials."

 

Neuroscientist Lewis Barker, who left Baylor in protest over the administration's "religious" policies, buys none of this: "I see it as a form of stealth creationism, a very old argument wrapped in new clothes." Later, however, he adds: "The whole notion of using mathematics, that's something new."

 

Also novel is the respect many "intelligent design" proponents have earned in the academic community. "They're real academics, not cranks," admits Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer, whose editorial board is overwhelmingly composed of intelligent design critics such as Stephen Jay Gould and Eugenie Scott herself. "They have real degrees and tenure," adds Shermer. Not only does William Dembski have doctorates in mathematics and philosophy, he has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, physics at the University of Chicago, and computer science at Princeton University. Even Lewis Barker says: "He seems to be a very bright guy."

 

Eugenie Scott argues that intelligent design proponents don't have a scholarly position because they never submit their work for peer review. But each time she brings up the kind of scholarly evaluation that's lacking -- the reviewed publications or academic conferences -- she stops short when she comes to the work of William Dembski.

 

Regarding conferences, Scott remembers Dembski's "The Nature of Nature" conference (April 12-15 at Baylor) and grudgingly admits: "They actually did invite some scientists there." In fact, the slate of speakers included two Nobel Prize-winning scientists and several members from the National Academy of Sciences. The list was weighted toward prominent biologists, physicists, and philosophers who were critical of intelligent design.

 

And when Scott ticks off a list of non-peer-reviewed design literature, she hesitates when she recalls that Dembski's book, The Design Inference, was written as part of a Cambridge University philosophy of science series. Published as Dembski's doctoral dissertation in philosophy, it became Cambridge's best-selling philosophical monograph in recent years. After surviving a review of 70 scholars, and then the standard dissertation defense at the University of Illinois, The Design Inference finally underwent corrections and refereed scrutiny for two years at Cambridge University Press.

 

The great irony is that just as Dembski is proposing to test his theory with the help of molecular biologists, the very scientists who are challenging intelligent design to pass scientific tests are using every means possible to ensure those tests never take place.

 

Birth of a Think Tank

 

The brief story of Dembski's Michael Polanyi Center starts with its home: Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist institution, located in Waco, Texas. For years, Baylor had a reputation among conservatives for going the way of many once-Christian colleges, neglecting its religious heritage and embracing the politically correct tenets of secular humanism instead.

 

All that began to change when Robert Sloan became president of Baylor University in 1995. Sloan, a New Testament scholar with a doctorate in theology from the University of Basel, proposed to return the school to its mission of integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment. To foster this goal, he oversaw the establishment of the university's Institute for Faith and Learning, which explores opportunities for profitable engagement between faith and academic pursuits like art, history, business -- even science.

 

Sloan resisted the urging of fundamentalists to "throw the evolutionists out" of the biology department, vowing never to bar anyone at Baylor from teaching evolution. He rejects the notion of a "creation science" (6-day creation a few thousand years ago). But he also believes that "the academic world has become far too compartmentalized."

 

"Baylor ought to be the kind of place where a student can ask a question and not just get the runaround," says Sloan. "He shouldn't have to go to the theology department and be told, 'Oh, that's a scientific question. Don't ask me that.' And then the student goes to the science department and they tell him, 'That's a religious question. Don't ask me that.'"

 

So far this doesn't sound too different from many other universities nationwide that have recently set up centers to revisit the relationship between science and religion. But matters took a fateful turn in the fall of 1998 when President Sloan read an article by William Dembski and was wowed by his work and credentials. Others in the administration were also impressed. Michael Beaty, director of the Institute for Faith and Learning, says that Dembski's work "fit right in with the institute. Bill was fruitfully dialoging with religion and science."

 

When Beaty sounded him out about his interest in joining the institute, he learned that Dembski was seeking to build a research center to test the theory of intelligent design. The administration received his ideas with enthusiasm. His research would pursue not only intelligent design, but a broad range of topics having to do with the foundations of the natural and social sciences. Thus was born the Michael Polanyi Center, which Dembski named for an eminent physical chemist who taught that biology is not reducible to chemistry and physics.

 

"This was an opportunity to reaffirm that Baylor is a university where controversial issues can be discussed," says Donald Schmeltekopf, Baylor's provost. "We decided to go ahead and give it a chance, believing the university would be a richer and more compelling place, knowing that there would be those who would have objections." His pleasant expression disappears, and he adds: "We didn't anticipate the amount of objection."

 

Controversy

 

After Dembski brought on board Bruce Gordon (Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of physics) as associate director of the Polanyi Center, the duo made a good first impression on the faculty they met. Gordon led a colloquium reading group, using two books about interactions between science and faith. Discussion with participating faculty was cordial.

 

"The controversy began after our Website debuted in mid-January," explains Gordon. "That's what drew more faculty attention to the center." While the Polanyi site itself was unexceptionable, other groups with evolutionist-bashing agendas began linking up their Websites to the center. Many on the biology faculty flashed back to old culture battles, when such groups had publicly questioned the professors' integrity.

 

Gordon is understanding, but explains that the realities of the Web are such that the Polanyi Center has no control over who connects to their site.

 

"We don't endorse a connection to those sites at all. They didn't ask our permission. But we can't spend our time policing the Internet."

 

Reaction built quickly. One professor who had previously been friendly at the reading group wrote Gordon an insulting letter. An e-mail frenzy began between faculty in all departments, calling special attention to the creationist Websites that claimed the Polanyi Center as one of their own.

 

News spread to other universities, and soon newspapers in Waco and Houston were filled with reactions from a handful of vocal Baylor professors who were appalled that such a monstrosity as the Polanyi Center should be found on their campus.

 

By this time, plans were well under way for a large Polanyi conference called "The Nature of Nature." Most Baylor biologists decided to boycott the event. Even so, the April conference drew 350 scholars from around the world whose views varied wildly on the conference's central question: "Is the universe self-contained or does it require something beyond itself to explain its existence and internal function?"

 

By all accounts, the conference itself was an outstanding success, drawing attention to Baylor as a place that could attract world-class scholars for dialogue on the big questions. In spite of one out-of-state professor's campaign to convince all speakers to cancel, the conference brought together such luminaries as Nobelist/physicist Steven Weinberg, Nobelist/biochemist Christian de Duve, big bang cosmologist Alan Guth, paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, and philosopher Alvin Plantinga.

 

But the conference only focused the Baylor faculty's anger more intensely on the Michael Polanyi Center. A few days after it ended, the faculty senate met and voted to recommend that the administration dissolve the center immediately. The faculty claimed that President Sloan had no right to set up such a center and choose its head without their involvement.

 

"It's rather ironic that people in the scientific community, whose rights had to be protected in the face of ideological pressure [from creationists], now appear to be suppressing others," says President Sloan. "People have always asked questions about the relationship of religious views and the natural phenomena we see in the world. I think it just borders on McCarthyism to call that 'creation science.'"

 

The day after the faculty senate vote, President Sloan addressed the faculty, telling them that he would not close down the Polanyi Center merely because they demanded it. The procedure he had used in setting up the center was no different from the one he and previous administrators had used to establish other centers.

 

Michael Beaty, director of the Institute for Faith and Learning, notes that they had used the same procedure for setting up the Center for American Jewish Studies, without criticism.

 

Recognizing that the faculty's real objections were not about procedure, Sloan repeated to the faculty an earlier announced plan to form an independent peer review committee to evaluate William Dembski's work and the work of the Polanyi Center. He said that he sympathized with the science faculty over their concern for their reputations, but that the bigger issue is academic freedom. He didn't like the idea of snuffing out a project without giving it a chance to have its work reviewed by peers.

 

Assuming the committee would impartially address the matter, Dembski welcomed the review. "Academic programs need to be held accountable," he said at the time. "I would go further than that and say that I value objective peer review. I always learn more from my critics than from the people who think I'm wonderful."

 

Initially, Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley insisted that the committee wouldn't be asked whether the center should be dissolved. "It's not a committee to look at whether we should reconsider having the Polanyi Center," Brumley said. "They're looking at how we can better communicate its purpose and address the concerns of faculty members."

 

When the committee membership was announced, however, Dembski was surprised to find antagonistic biologists in the majority. Worse, the committee did not include a single person capable of understanding the mathematical arguments made in Dembski's The Design Inference. (This was partially rectified when one statistician was later added to the team.) Neither were Dembski's prospects brightened when the committee chose as its head William Cooper, a philosophy professor who calls the Polanyi Center extremely "polarizing" and doubtlessly connected to the old-style "creationists."

 

Lingering anger in the biology department is perhaps an understandable reaction after years of ideological assault by creationism activists. But the personal outrage against the very idea of Dembski's work runs even deeper than that. The resentment becomes obvious to any outsider who dares to roam the halls of the Baylor biology department and ask professors for their take on the dispute.

 

What exactly is intelligent design (ID), and why do the very words incite such fury among some biologists?

 

What Is Intelligent Design?

 

ID depends upon a concept known as specified complexity.

 

Say you're out raking leaves in the backyard. If you were to find little piles of leaves, equally spaced apart in a long line, the arrangement would be an example of specificity, but it could be explained by what fell out of a rolling barrel. Each time the barrel made a revolution, another clump fell out, each spaced apart by about the same distance. The pattern is specified, but not complex.

 

When you come across thousands of piles of leaves in no particular pattern, that's complex, and it may take billions of overturned barrels to produce another pattern just like it. But it's not specified. No intelligent design is required to explain it.

 

But let's say you come across a thousand leaves arranged as letters spelling meaningful words, sentences, paragraphs, even a whole story--that's specified complexity. Specified complexity creates information and meaning, and that requires intelligent design.

 

Many scientific disciplines already use such logic to distinguish between phenomena produced by an intelligence from those that are not. The cryptologist, when breaking a code, looks for patterns that create meaning and are not due to chance. SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) does the same in its search for signals of intelligence from space (think Jodie Foster in Contact). Even Quincy's forensic science was all about trying to determine whether a death was due to an accident, natural causes, or the design of an intelligence.

 

William Dembski puts it this way: "Specified complexity powerfully extends the usual mathematical theory of information, known as Shannon information. Shannon's theory dealt only with complexity, which can be due to random processes as well as to intelligent design. The addition of specification to complexity, however, is like a vise that grabs only things due to intelligence. Indeed, all the empirical evidence confirms that the only known cause of specified complexity is intelligence."

 

Thus when Dembski observes this specified complexity in DNA messages and protein coding, he infers intelligent design. These patterns give real information in the form of meaningful instructions, precisely analogous to language with words, sentences, punctuation marks, and grammatical rules.

 

The old "scientific creationism" based itself upon two tenets: a supernatural agent created all things, and the Bible gives us an accurate account of what happened. In contrast, according to Dembski, intelligent design is built upon three very different tenets:

 

1. Specified complexity is well defined and empirically detectable.

 

2. Undirected natural causes are incapable of explaining specified complexity.

 

3. Intelligent causation best explains specified complexity.

 

The anti-ID school might argue that in the case of biological evolution, natural causes do eventually produce the specified complexity we see in living things. Natural selection culls through countless mutations over time, eventually producing specified complexity. As the need for survival helps organisms evolve, new information is created and they ratchet their way up into new forms.

 

The problem with this scenario, according to ID theorists, is that mutations do not produce new information. Natural selection has slim pickin's to choose from, even when it picks the fittest. Without an intelligence to produce new information, no amount of re-shuffling of genes will result in a new organism.

 

Biologist Peter Medawar called this principle the law of conservation of information. Michael Polanyi himself believed that natural selection and mutation, the two mechanisms of neo-Darwinism, are inadequate for the task of producing new anatomies or functions in evolving animals. The focus on information theory is one reason mathematicians have often been more skeptical of rigid Darwinist explanations than their colleagues in biology.

 

If the creation of new information is such a problem, you ask, then why isn't this common knowledge in our institutions of higher learning? And if intelligent design is such an obvious answer, why haven't we heard more about this before? For one thing, no one's ever gotten far enough along to test it before. But William Dembski is getting close.

 

Bruce Gordon says that design theory, as a scientific strategy, involves two goals: 1. to mathematically characterize designed structures (using stochastic processes theory, probability theory, complexity theory, etc.) to detect intelligent design, and 2. to go into nature and see whether the mathematical structures map onto the physical structures in a way indicative of design.

 

This, of course, is precisely what Dembski has been preparing to do with his research center. He is laying the groundwork to hire molecular biologists to do research on protein structure and protein folding to test ID. "What has to happen," says Dembski, "is that ID has to generate research that's more fruitful for biology than neo-Darwinism."

 

Can design actually be tested as part of science?

 

"Has ID really been tried?" repeats Eugenie Scott. "I think that's a legitimate question. I don't really think we have an answer yet."

 

"The jury is out on that," says William Cooper, chair of the committee evaluating the Polanyi Center. "The mathematical discussion has not progressed sufficiently."

 

Of course, if the committee pronounces final sentence on the Polanyi Center and ends all discussion now, we'll never know. The hanging will have occurred before the jury comes back.

 

Before Congress

 

On May 10, a month after Baylor's big Polanyi conference, a number of members of Congress attended a three hour briefing on intelligent design. William Dembski had been invited to join other ID scientists in the presentation, but the Baylor administration ordered him not to participate. President Sloan wanted to keep Baylor from all appearance of mixing academics with politics.

 

But some Baylor biologists became so concerned about how far the intelligent design message was spreading that eight of them drafted a long letter to Congressman Mark Souder, an Education Committee member, who had co-hosted the meeting. Their letter was intended to let the congressman know that he had been duped by the ID proponents, and that ID research is not legitimate science. Their attempt to embarrass the ID people was turned around on them when Congressman Souder responded with his own presentation to the House of Representatives, including the reading of their letter into the Congressional Record.

 

Using their letter as Exhibit A, he told the House that these scientists were practicing "viewpoint discrimination in science and science education," and that "ideological bias has no place in science."

 

Referring to the letter's frequent use of the phrase "materialistic science" as their noble cause, the congressman told his colleagues, "One senses here not a defense of science but rather an effort to protect, by political means, a privileged philosophical viewpoint against a serious challenge.... As [members of] the Congress, it might be wise for us to question whether the legitimate authority of science over scientific matters is being misused by persons who wish to identify science with a philosophy they prefer."

 

A preferred philosophy? Could it be that it took an outsider, a congressman from Indiana no less, to get an objective fix on the real source of the conflict?

 

Philosophizing Science

 

There is a method used in science today that goes beyond the scientific method. It's based on a philosophy called naturalism, defined by Funk & Wagnalls as "the doctrine that all phenomena are derived from natural causes and can be explained by scientific laws without reference to a plan or purpose." It's the "without plan or purpose" part that nixes intelligent design.

 

When this philosophy is applied to science, it's called methodological naturalism, and for many scientists today it is an unquestioned assumption.

 

Last spring biology Professor Richard Duhrkopf got his picture in the papers when he accused the Polanyi Center of trying to "change the philosophy of science." But is science supposed to have a particular philosophy attached to it? Many of us laymen have always thought that science was supposed to be about applying the scientific method to observations and measurements and gaining as much knowledge of the world as possible, not reaching foreordained conclusions.

 

Methodological naturalism proposes that scientists be provisional atheists in their work, no matter what contrary evidence they find. Intelligent design proponents are asking simply that science be purified of all philosophical biases. At least, no philosophical bias should be promoted as scientific. Scientists are welcome to hold to personal philosophies and even have them running in the background, as guiding principles, if they think that helps them do their work. But those personal philosophies should not be confused with science.

 

Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson stated the issue succinctly at the congressional briefing: Americans, he said, must choose between two definitions of science in our culture: 1. science is unbiased, empirical testing that follows the evidence wherever it leads, or 2. science is applied materialist philosophy which, like Marxism or Freudianism, is willing to impose its authority.

 

Being Methodologically Correct

 

"The twentieth century was the high point of methodological correctness," says President Sloan. "We all know that life is more than sociology or history or anthropology. Unfortunately, people have forgotten that the methodological brackets we apply are purely artificial, intended to be temporary."

 

ID keeps an open mind, and is entirely agnostic on the subject of religion. The intelligent design that Dembski hopes to detect could belong either to a Biblical God or to an earlier race of Martians who planted us here (like in the movie Mission to Mars).

 

The idea that life here was seeded from another place may seem pretty far out. But Francis Crick, winner of the Nobel Prize for his co-discovery of DNA's structure, is one of a number of scientists who have seriously promoted the "panspermia" hypothesis, the idea that life was sent here in the form of seeds from a faraway civilization. The reason for such an idea? Crick wrote that "the probability of life originating at random is so utterly minuscule as to make it absurd."

 

Writing with his colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe, Crick stated: "The theory that life was assembled by an intelligence...is so obvious that one wonders why it is not widely accepted as being self-evident. The reasons are psychological rather than scientific."

 

Asked about the Mission to Mars possibility, Michael Shermer replies, "That's a legitimate hypothesis. That's testable, that's explainable. But 'a miracle happened' -- that's different." In other words, design is detectable and testable--but only as long as you can be sure ahead of time that the designer isn't God.

 

This is less a philosophy than an intellectual straitjacket. By this reasoning, scientists whose findings point to natural causes may proceed unimpeded, while those whose evidence points to a supernatural cause must immediately close up shop and go home. One thing you have to say for Dembski's intelligent design theory: It makes the ultimate questions real, putting them into our own world. By blocking ID research, methodological naturalism becomes not only a method for doing science, but a method for keeping the deepest human concerns a safe distance from our personal lives.

 

On September 8 and 9, the peer review committee finally met and even brought in Dembski and Gordon for 45 minutes of grilling. One committee member chastised Dembski for questioning the adequacy of neo-Darwinism. Dembski, however, showed none of the hoped-for contrition. As this issue goes to press, the committee is getting set to announce its recommendation.

 

What will be the fate of Dembski, Gordon, and their Michael Polanyi Center? It's up to one man only -- President Robert Sloan. He can bow to faculty pressure and dissolve the present Polanyi Center, perhaps restaffing it with scholars more to the faculty's liking; or clip Dembski's wings by taking away his ability to raise money to run programs. Or he can stand behind the man he hired, make the case that science should be about facts, not McCarthyite lynch mobs -- and take the heat that will surely be generated by disgruntled faculty and their sympathetic media.

 

Either way, the ultimate victim or victor won't be Bill Dembski, it will be unbiased science and humanity's quest to discover the truth -- wherever that truth leads us.

 

Top 10 Accusations

 

Bill Dembski is guilty of: (a) Politically incorrect thought-crimes. (b) True crimes against science and religion. You decide. Here are the leading accusations--and how the Polanyi Center folks reply:

 

1. It's all a front for the creationists.

 

Lewis Barker: "These people are creationists. They define that as someone who takes a literal interpretation of Genesis."

 

Reply: ID is a research project to find out if design is detectable. Unlike creationism, it's not concerned with the identity of the designer. It proposes scientific tests that can be falsified, not presuppositions that must be believed. Bruce Gordon says, "The Polanyi Center has no interest at all in the Biblical literalist approach. I have considerable problems with it. It doesn't do justice to science nor to Biblical hermeneutics."

 

2. It's all politics.

 

Michael Shermer: "Their agenda is a re-introduction of Judeo-Christian thought into the public schools. They're carrying out a bottom-up strategy, by starting in the academy."

 

Reply: The Polanyi Center's purpose is research, not getting involved in politics or textbook wars. If ID proves correct, say its adherents, its research results should of course be included in textbooks. But no one at Polanyi is proposing that Genesis be taught in public schools.

 

3. ID is a science stopper.

 

Complaining Baylor faculty members, says one journalist, "see the intelligent design crowd as seeking to put a tourniquet on inquiry."

 

Reply: Dembski says that naturalism often stops inquiry, "such as in its expectation for the uselessness of vestigial organs and junk DNA, whereas intelligent design profitably continues looking for their function." The call for the dissolution of the Polanyi Center is a better example of "putting a tourniquet on inquiry." Even ID proponent Phillip Johnson, the Berkeley law professor most abhorred by ID critics, does not advocate the removal of Darwinism from the curriculum, but that schools should "teach the controversy."

 

4. ID doesn't want peer review or criticism.

 

Included in the Baylor biologists' letter to Congress was the claim: "The supporters of intelligent design have never openly presented their data."

 

Reply: Anyone looking at the list of scientists invited to the "Nature of Nature" conference should be cured of that notion. The majority were critics of ID.

 

5. All they say is that God did it. And where did He come from?

 

Saying that God did it, writes Darwinist Richard Dawkins, only leaves us with an unobservable cause that itself needs to be explained.

 

Reply: ID, says Dembski, studies the results, the design, not the agent that produced it. Dembski further points out that most new theoretical entities would forever remain off limits if their source had to be fully understood before they could be proposed. Example: Boltzmann's kinetic theory of heat, which invoked the motion of unobservable particles (now called atoms and molecules), which Boltzmann could not explain.

 

6. ID can't be quantified.

 

Lewis Barker: "There is absolutely no prediction Dembski can make. His arguments do not produce a new research agenda."

 

Reply: Lewis Barker should read Dembski's monograph, in which he lays out rigorous, mathematical tests to identify complex specified information and to show how CSI always implies intelligent design.

 

7. All ID can do is criticize evolution.

 

Eugenie Scott: "It is certainly fair to describe them as anti-evolutionists."

 

Reply: In fact, says Bruce Gordon, "intelligent design is compatible with evolution. Many biologists are theistic evolutionists. Design can be understood as built into the initial conditions, so that the subsequent development was continuous and not interrupted by any transcendent intervention. Yet the teleology could still be quantified through the methods of the mathematical techniques of design theory."

 

8. It's bad theology.

 

Eugenie Scott: "Theologians don't like it because it creates a mammoth 'God-of-the-gaps' problem."

 

Reply: If intelligent causes exist (as forensic science and SETI already assume), then it is wrong to assume that all gaps in present knowledge must eventually be filled by non-intelligent causes.

 

9. It's bad science, or not science at all.

 

Reply: Dembski points out that if you say ID is not science because it can't be observed, then we must also toss out theoretical entities like quarks, super-strings, and cold dark matter. If you say it's not science because the design is not repeatable, then out goes the big bang, the origin of life, and the origin of humans. If you say science must deal exclusively with what is governed by law, then out goes the special sciences that deal with intelligent agents, like forensics and SETI. ID advocates aren't asking to be cut any more slack than these.

 

10. ID invokes supernatural causes.

 

According to Eugenie Scott and biologist/philosopher Michael Ruse, science studies natural causes, and to introduce design is to invoke supernatural causes.

 

Reply: Dembski says that this contrast is wrong: "The proper contrast is between undirected natural causes on the one hand and intelligent causes on the other. Whether an intelligent cause is located within or outside nature is a separate question from whether an intelligent cause has acted within nature. Design has no prior commitment to supernaturalism."

 

Fred Heeren is a science journalist who writes about modern cosmology, paleontology, and biology. He lives in Wheeling, Illinois.

 


 

The Deed is Done

 

by Fred Heeren
The American Spectator
December 2000/January 2001
http://www.spectator.org/archives/0012TAS/heeren0012.htm

 

In our last issue we reported on the brouhaha at Baylor University over the Michael Polanyi Center and its director, noted mathematician William Dembski, who attempted research into the subject of intelligent design in nature. As we went to press, Bill Dembski was left with a noose around his neck, being hoisted upon a skittish horse by an angry mob of Baylor faculty, with Baylor's president Robert Sloan holding the reins and Dembski's erstwhile sidekick, Bruce Gordon, having drinks with other Baylor faculty in the saloon across the street.

 

For a brief moment, it looked as if Dembski might get a reprieve, but no such happy ending was in store for the besieged mathematician. With the faculty mob in full cry, President Sloan let loose the reins and gave the horse a stiff slap on the rump for good measure. Dembski was fired as director of the Michael Polanyi Center, and the Center itself looks to be effectively "redefined" out of any meaningful existence.

 

For those who just tuned in, here's the background: William Dembski, noted mathematician and leading thinker on applications of probability theory, was hired by President Sloan over a year ago to run the Michael Polanyi Center, a research institution set up by President Sloan himself to investigate the concept of intelligent design in nature.

 

Therein lay the rub: The intelligent design movement, of which Dembski is a prominent member, is based on the theory that life, which is made up of mutually dependent parts, can be better explained as the product of mindful planning than of chance. Dembski proposed to test that hypothesis using mathematical methods to investigate biological systems.

 

Baylor faculty, however were intent on preventing such research from taking place. Though few of the opposing faculty had the training or knowledge to even understand Dembski's mathematical methods, they were convinced that it was nothing more than stealth "creationism." (Dembski's book on intelligent design, The Design Inference was published by Cambridge University Press in 1998 after extensive peer review.)

 

By the time the Polanyi Center put on a conference last April, attended by many mathematicians and scientists, two Nobel Prize winners among them, critics at Baylor were up in arms. They not only boycotted the event, but they took to the press and the Internet to publicly excoriate Dembski. Colleagues at other universities even tried to sabotage the conference by "disinviting" all the scheduled speakers.

 

When the conference turned out to be a resounding success, Dembski's critics were aroused to greater fury. The faculty senate recommended that the university dissolve the center. At first, Robert Sloan refused, saying that the response had "border[ed] on McCarthyism." Seeking some means to placate them, however, Sloan convened an "independent committee" to evaluate Dembski's work and ideas.

 

Meanwhile, Sloan essentially put Dembski under a gag order. He had been pressured not to attend a meeting in Washington, when intelligent design advocates met some members of Congress and their staff; and he was restricted in what he could put on his website and in how he could reply to his critics, no matter how public or vocal they became. Freedom of speech at Baylor, it seems, only works one way.

 

In mid-October the committee released its report. While it could find no errors in Dembski's monographs or papers, and it affirmed the legitimacy of intelligent design research in general, it also attacked it as "too restrictive" and mandated that more "room should be made for a variety of approaches and topics." The Baylor faculty would decide by committee what Dembski could and could not research at his center. In fact, the report managed to avoid all mention of the center it was assigned to evaluate, as if attempting to erase it from history.

 

Dembski, who realized then that he was facing "death by a thousand cuts," chose finally to break his silence. Accentuating the positive, he released a statement noting the committee's acceptance of intelligent design research as "a legitimate form of academic inquiry." He promised that his work would continue unabated and declared that "Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded that the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and academic expression."

 

Apparently this was wishful thinking. The faculty, which had spent the last year publicly savaging Dembski, claimed that his statement was not collegial. Sloan, seemingly feeling that McCarthyism can be resisted only so long, acceded to their wishes and fired him from his director position.

 

Dembski himself is philosophic. He has four years remaining on his contract, and will continue on at Baylor with the title of associate research professor within the Institute for Faith and Learning, the home of his former center. He will find the means somehow to continue his research. It's the faculty and administration that has suffered the real black eye. President Sloan achieved peace for his time at the expense of academic freedom. Bruce Gordon, the Richard Hatch of this tale, survived, but all his efforts at "damage control" and "building bridges" have only served to help destroy Dembski's original vision for the research center. And what have the Baylor faculty accomplished? They have ensured that their university will be remembered as a place where the rule of the mob trumps free scientific inquiry. Congratulations.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Fred Heeren is a science journalist who writes about modern cosmology, paleontology, and biology. He lives in Wheeling, Illinois. "The Lynching of Bill Dembski" appeared in the November 2000 issue of The American Spectator. The follow-up article, titled "The Deed is Done," appeared in the December 2000 issue of The American Spectator.

 


 

Advisory Committee for Baylor Science and Religion Project

 

From: Donald Schmeltekopf [the Baylor Provost]
Re: Advisory Committee

I am pleased to report that the following faculty members have agreed to
serve on the advisory committee for the project on science, religion, and
related fields that is a part of the Institute for Faith and Learning:

 William F. Cooper, Committee Co-chair
 Professor of Philosophy

 Benjamin A. Pierce, Committee Co-chair
 Professor of Biology and Associate Dean for
 Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences

 David M. Arnold
 Professor and The Ralph and Jean Storm Professor
 of Mathematics

 William H. Brackney
 Professor and Chair of Religion

 Melissa A. Essary
 Professor of Law

 Barry G. Hankins
 Assistant Professor of History and Church-State
 Studies

 W. Keith Hartberg
 Professor and Chair of Biology

 Truell W. Hyde II
 Associate Professor of Physics and Director of
 Graduate Studies

 Kevin G. Pinney
 Associate Professor of Chemistry

 M. David Rudd
 Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and
 Director of Psy.D. Program

 Tina L. Thurston
 Assistant Professor of Anthropology

The first order of business for the advisory committee is to work with the
Institute for Faith and Learning in implementing the recommendations of the
external review committee of the Polanyi Center as submitted in its report
of October 16, 2000. (The use of the name "Polanyi Center" has been
discontinued.) On a long-term basis, the responsibility of the advisory
committee is to help in shaping the direction and programmatic activities of
the project on science and religion that is a component of the Institute for
Faith and Learning. The advisory committee will submit its periodic reports
and recommendations to the Director of the Institute for Faith and Learning
and to the Provost. The establishment of this advisory committee is
permanent and the members named above will serve staggered terms of up to
three years and may be reappointed.

Thank you for your support of this committee and its work.

Donald D. Schmeltekopf
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs


 

THE CRANACH INSTITUTE

SECOND PROTEST STATEMENT

AGAINST THE DEMOTION OF DR. DEMBSKI FROM HIS DIRECTORSHIP
OF THE ERSTWHILE MICHAEL POLANYI CENTER

[The Cranach Institute is a Lutheran research institute "devoted to continuing the Reformation tradition... and applying its insights today." For further information, visit our web site at: http://institutes.cuw.edu/cranach/]

 

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3:14-16).

 

Subsequent to the previous protest statement made by the Cranach Institute (attached) concerning the removal of Dr. William Dembski from his directorship of the Michael Polanyi Center, a response was posted by Michael Beaty (attached), Director of the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning, in which the Michael Polanyi Center was housed. The Cranach Institute Board of Directors had a plenary meeting on Friday, November 3rd during which the Board unanimously agreed that Dr. Beaty's explanation of the matter was unsatisfactory and that a second statement be made in response by the Cranach Institute.

 

In the Cranach Institute's earlier statement, we had said that Dr. Dembski did not seem to have been removed on legitimate academic grounds. Dr. Beaty's response to this shows a misunderstanding of what was claimed. His reply is that "Dr. Dembski was not removed from the directorship for any academic failure." We agree, and have never claimed that he was demoted for this reason. What we do claim, and will substantiate below, is that Dr. Dembski's academic freedom has been abridged, and that the real reason he was demoted was to placate hostile faculty who are more interested in conformity to secular canons of academic respectability than in robust and free academic dialogue between proponents of differing positions.

 

According to Dr. Beaty's letter, however, Dr. Dembski was removed on "administrative grounds" reiterating the earlier claim that his actions subsequent to his vindication by the independent peer review committee were lacking in collegiality and "severely compromised his ability to perform his central administrative duties." The fact is, however, that Dembski was removed for refusing to retract the email (attached) which he sent out after his vindication was announced. It is the judgment of the Cranach Institute that requiring Dr. Dembski to retract this email violated his academic freedom.

 

Furthermore, the Cranach Institute maintains that the claim that Dr. Dembski was demoted on administrative grounds for a want of collegiality is, quite literally, incredible. In our unanimous judgment, this claim is an attempt to cloak an unjust action in euphemistic and evasive language. Those who have followed Dr. Dembski's story have seen numerous occasions on which Baylor (and other) faculty have misrepresented Dr. Dembski's views as "fundamentalist" or "creationist" and on which they have attempted to use political power to close the Michael Polanyi center and remove Dr. Dembski from his position. Were a lack of collegiality grounds for demotion, the Baylor administration owes everyone an explanation of why not one of Dr. Dembski's detractors, no matter how vocal in expression of misinformed and mean-spirited views, has suffered similar penalties. Furthermore, it is rather obvious that if "collegiality" were a criterion for demotion, numerous (downward) changes in professional status would be required all across American Universities.

 

It would be nice if we could believe that this violation of Dr. Dembski's academic freedom was an isolated incident, but the Cranach Institute has obtained documentary evidence which shows that this is not the case. Here, just three documented examples will be listed.

 

(1)   Dr. Dembski was required to make changes to his web-site for the Michael Polanyi center, even though its contents were in no way in conflict with Baylor's mission. These changes involved dropping the claim that the Michael Polanyi Center was advancing science because Baylor science faculty denied Dr. Dembski's program of research was science; instead the website could include only the weaker claim that the Center advanced the understanding of science.

 

(2)   Earlier this year, Dr. Dembski was pressured not to attend a Congressional Briefing to inform members of Congress on Intelligent Design. It was claimed that this would "politicize" Intelligent Design and reduce its credibility as a purely scientific research program. Yet 8 Baylor science professors promoted "materialist science" in a letter to Congressman Souder without the scientific character of their work being questioned and without any demotion in status.See http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:H14JN0-828: for further details.

 

(3)   At the Nature of Nature conference, Baylor officials attempted to prevent the display of the Touchstone special issue on Intelligent Design. One of the Cranach Institute's Board members, Dr. Angus Menuge, was an eyewitness to this stunning denial of free speech in general and academic freedom in particular (none of the materials were anti-Christian or opposed in any way to the mission of Baylor University). Only when Touchstone officials threatened to make this act of censorship public knowledge did the Baylor administration relent.

 

It is clear from these examples that the real issue here is a violation of academic freedom designed to placate hostile faculty members who seem afraid to step outside the grounds of secular academic respectability. Should neo-Darwinist views face real difficulties, how will anyone ever learn this if to criticize these views is by definition not respectable? Not since academic Marxism has such extraordinary dismissive dogmatism taken hold of the minds of so many in the academy. Can we not all learn humility from the example of Newton? He never claimed gravitation was a fact, only that it was a hypothesis, despite ample supporting evidence. In a less tentative and less scientific mood, Kant then claimed that the entire Newtonian worldview was a synthetic a priori, revealing the necessary structure of all humanly possible experience. Yet Newtonian theory has turned out to have only a limited domain of validity and has been superseded by Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics. There is every reason to expect that neo-Darwinist theory will likewise be shown to have only limited validity and that more powerful theories that can better explain the available data will be developed. This may simply lead to a new theory of evolution, or it may lead to a theory, such as Intelligent Design, which tries to understand the nature and origin of complex specified information. The best way to find out is to use the model of open dialogue and severe criticism found in the community of physicists, not the model of dogmatic ideology and censorship that has infected the social sciences. If Baylor wishes to demonstrate its commitment to free scientific enquiry, it should reinstate Dr. Dembski as Director.

 

Members of the Board of Directors of the Cranach Institute,

Bruce Gee, Ilona Kuchta, Dr. Angus Menuge, Rev. Todd Peperkorn,
Rev. David Speers, George Strieter, Dr. Gene Edward Veith (chair).

 

=====

 

Response from Dr. Beaty, Director of the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning:

 

In light of remarks on the META list that indicate a significant misunderstanding of the recent events surrounding the Polanyi Center at Baylor University, most particularly the removal of Dr. Dembski as its director, I think it is important to clarify the significance of what has happened.

 

Dr. Dembski was not removed from the directorship for any academic failure. Baylor recognizes the value and legitimacy of his academic work, as did the External Review Committee. Baylor fully supports his academic freedom to pursue his research and hopes that he will continue to do so. Dr. Dembski was removed from his post as director on administrative grounds. In order to function in his administrative capacity, it was necessary that Dr. Dembski be able to work well with other Baylor faculty, first and foremost an advisory committee. It was the judgment of the administration that some of his recent actions severely compromised his ability to perform his central administrative duties. It was for this reason, and this reason alone, that he was removed from his directorial post.

 

There also has been a suggestion that the removal of Dr. Dembski as director is a sign that Baylor has succumbed to political pressure to squelch work on intelligent design. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having been freed from administrative tasks, Dr. Dembski will be able to devote himself exclusively to research, which arguably is the most valuable contribution he can make to design theory.

 

Finally, some have claimed that this sad episode suggests that Baylor is weakening its commitment to being a Christian university. Baylor University remains committed to encouraging a faithful intellect and an intellectually responsible faith.

 

Michael Beaty

Director, The Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning

 

=====

 

FIRST STATEMENT OF THE CRANACH INSTITUTE
PROTESTING THE REMOVAL OF WILLIAM DEMBSKI
AS DIRECTOR OF THE MICHAEL POLANYI CENTER
AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

 

The Cranach Institute wishes to express its dismay at the decision to remove William Dembski as Director of the Michael Polanyi Center (Metanews, 10/19/2000). Shortly before this announcement, we learned that the committee appointed to evaluate the status of the Center upheld the importance and legitimacy of Dr. Dembski's work, while calling on the Center to be redefined in its scope (http://pr.baylor.edu/pdf/001017polanyi.pdf). In his press release (Metanews 10/17/2000 and attached), Dr. Dembski clearly agreed to these terms, stating that "[t]he scope of the Center will be expanded to embrace a broader set of conceptual issues at the intersection of science and religion and the Center will therefore receive a new name to reflect this expanded vision." We appreciate that Dr. Dembski has not actually been fired as Associate Professor, but his removal as Center Director does not seem to have been made on legitimate academic grounds. It is quite true that Dr. Dembski goes on to say that the dogmatists who had wanted to close the center "have met their Waterloo." This may be "offensive" to some of Baylor's faculty but (a) it is unquestionably true-the center will live on, albeit with a new name and wider vision; (b) it is inappropriate for a school with a strong Christian tradition such as Baylor University to acquiesce to the demands of political correctness.

 

The compartmentalized approach to faith and academic work has become prevalent in American Universities, even Christian ones, and it would appear that what many oppose in Dr. Dembski's work (at Baylor and elsewhere) is his explicit and rigorous integration of the two. How popular would Leibniz or Newton be at such universities if they expressed all their views, including an overarching religious understanding of their scientific work?

 

There is nothing in what Dr. Dembski says in his press release that is not protected by normal academic freedom, and further, while he may be called to be "collegial" with other faculty, this can hardly be construed to mean that he should be "nice" to those who have misrepresented his work or who have engaged in caricature.

 

I would like to clarify the Cranach Institute's perspective on this matter. The Cranach Institute is a Lutheran research institute "devoted to continuing the Reformation tradition... and applying its insights today." Here is a relevant insight from the life of Martin Luther. When Rome called Luther to recant his teaching on justification, Luther asked Rome to agree to a neutral forum of academic debate in the great universities of Europe, so that the matter could be settled by reasoned argument and not force. Rome refused and paid a long-term price for doing so. Many universities are now in an analogous position to Rome during the Reformation. There is considerable entrenched power of secular humanism and an almost indistinguishable liberal Protestantism, both of which are calling for dissenting (and especially robust Christian) views to be squashed by force not debate. To its great credit, Baylor did not initially follow this path, and instead appointed an independent peer review committee. However, since the committee has upheld the academic integrity of Dr. Dembski's work, it would be a retreat from the "great universities of Europe" model to the dogmatism of Rome model if Baylor now relies on force to overrule the committee. Is Baylor content to count itself among those universities in which political power can stifle academic dissent? I hope and pray not, not only for the sake of the religious mission of Baylor, but also for its academic reputation as an institution which is not willing to be ideologically captive. It is worth noting that Concordia University Wisconsin, the home of the Cranach Institute, hosted the Design and its Critics conference (June 22-24, 2000), featuring both proponents and opponents of Intelligent Design. The conference was much like the excellent "Nature of Nature" conference held at Baylor during the Spring of this year. At both of these conferences, a much higher degree of academic civility was attained than is usual. At many conferences, such ideological dogmatism has taken hold that there is only debate about the details within a system of unquestioned first principles. At both the Nature of Nature and the Design and its Critics conferences, there was real dialogue between proponents of different first principles. Naturalism itself, the very foundation of the modern academy, was on the table for review. Nor was either conference a straw-man side show. The conferences recruited the very best defenders of naturalism and critics of intelligent design to meet their opposite numbers so that there was a real risk of each side being shown to have weaknesses. Surely these conferences, both of which Dr. Dembski helped to organize, are the academy at its very best, and anyone who has the knowledge and courage to facilitate them should be rewarded, not punished. Certainly they were vastly superior to the sycophantic gatherings of the like-minded that have made many conferences in the Humanities and Social Sciences venues for the self-perpetuation of unexamined prejudice. The very premise of the university is the pursuit of truth, not cultural power, and when power becomes the overriding objective, truth, and those who believe in it, are always the first victims. It is a sorry day when universities make sacrifices of those who epitomize what a university should be all about. For all of these reasons, the Cranach Institute urges Baylor University to reconsider its decision to remove William Dembski as Director of the Michael Polanyi Center.

Yours faithfully,

The Board of Directors of the Cranach Institute:
Bruce Gee, Ilona Kuchta, Dr. Angus Menuge, Rev. Todd Peperkorn,
George Strieter, Dr. Gene Edward Veith (chair).

Additional Signatories:
Prof. Gary H. Locklair, Rev. Michael Roberts, Don W. Korte, Jr., Pd.D.,
D.A.B.T, Chair Dept. Of Natural Sciences, Prof. Mary Korte.

 


 

Design Interference

 

William Dembski fired from Baylor's Intelligent Design center.

 

By Tony Carnes
Christianity Today
December 2, 2000
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/014/18.20.html

 

Baylor University in October terminated well-known Intelligent Design scientist William Dembski as head of the Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design. The center was placed in limbo, without a name or certain future at the university in Waco, Texas.

 

Dembski, who retains his Baylor professorship, says he was overwhelmed by politicking within Baylor. The Polanyi Center's critics were apprehensive, he says, partly because of Southern Baptist conflicts between creationists and evolutionists&emdash;one front in the ongoing struggle between moderates and conservatives for control of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 

Intelligent Design, favored by some conservatives, is a new approach to the creation-evolution debates that lays aside the question of who designed the universe to ask whether there is any evidence of design.

 

Dembski's own work, published by Cambridge University Press in The Design Inference, employs careful statistical testing of the natural world to see if it shows evidence of intelligent design. Like a code-breaker of secret messages, the Intelligent Design analyst asks whether the signals of the natural world are simply random or point to an intelligent creative force. Dembski, an Orthodox Christian, says Intelligent Design research is like looking for the difference between a jumble of clouds and skywriting that broadcasts a message.

 

Baylor, which describes itself as "the largest Baptist university in the world," has long been a source of complaint for Southern Baptist conservatives. For example, Judge Paul Pressler of Houston, Texas, decided to rally Southern Baptist conservatives after hearing students in his church youth group describe what they were being taught at Baylor.

 

Moderate Texas Southern Baptists recently redirected $5 million away from Southern Baptist seminaries and agencies and awarded additional funds to Texas schools, including Baylor.

 

Robert Sloan Jr., president of Baylor since 1995, has attempted to take Baylor in two directions at the same time: moving it into the top tier of national universities while also reconnecting the school to its Baptist heritage.

 

Sloan's method of sidestepping established means for academic appointments has been controversial. In the meantime, more than a dozen lawsuits are alleging wrongful termination and demotion during Sloan's presidency.

 

Critics say the creation of the Polanyi Center is an example of Sloan's acting without extensive faculty involvement; it has been a sore spot for the center's critics from the beginning.

 

Dembski walked into a tense situation and was subject to dismissive comments that he was a "stealth creationist." Michael Beaty, head of Baylor's Institute for Faith and Learning and Dembski's immediate boss, urged him to follow a turn-the-other-cheek strategy.

 

As the controversy escalated, Dembski became ever more embattled. In January, Polanyi Center critics questioned administrators about the scientific legitimacy of Intelligent Design and warned that Baylor's reputation would be severely hurt in the scientific world.

 

In April and May, critics asked members of Congressional education committees to withdraw an invitation for Intelligent Design scientists to give a briefing. The faculty senate voted 26&endash;2&endash;1 to ask that Baylor's president completely dissolve the Intelligent Design initiatives.

 

Dembski says that Baylor officials, alarmed at the escalating conflict, ordered him not to attend the Washington meeting and to write a letter disavowing it. When Dembski refused, university officials began considering his termination.

 

President Sloan appointed a committee to evaluate the Polanyi Center. The committee recommended stripping the center of its name, absorbing its functions into the Institute for Faith and Learning, and setting up a Baylor faculty advisory committee to guide the institute on its involvement with the Intelligent Design movement. The ad-hoc committee also clearly recognized Intelligent Design as a legitimate scientific discipline.

 

But Dembski mistakenly read the committee's report as a definitive victory, proclaiming "the triumph of Intelligent Design" in one e-mail message. He was terminated as director two days after his e-mail became public knowledge.

 

"The wedge of truth has a very sharp edge" and will prevail, said Intelligent Design master strategist Phillip Johnson, speaking at Pressler's church soon after Dembski's firing. But for now, he says, the Intelligent Design movement has suffered a huge setback.

 

Early on, scientists researching Intelligent Design recognized some powerful advocates for evolution would oppose such research. Some, worried about adverse publicity, received Intelligent Design research grants from the Discovery Institute without public disclosure. Says David Berlinski, a leading Intelligent Design scientist and author of the recently acclaimed Newton's Gift, "Those who have benefitted from the change from a fundamentally religious society to a fundamentally secular one are reluctant to relinquish their power."

 


 

INTELLIGENT DESIGN AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT BAYLOR

Rapid Response Report

Defending Historic Christianity in a Postmodern World

December 4, 2000

 

http://www.fni.com/cim/rapid/RRRSeven.htm

 

 

While the Intelligent Design movement had precedents, it really did not create much of a stir on the scientific scene until the blockbuster book: Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe, was reviewed by most of the major newspapers in the U.S. With some risk of oversimplification, Behe's thesis is that a simple living cell is not all that simple, in fact, it is irreducibly complex. He uses the analogy of a mousetrap: what components can you eliminate for it to still function? The answer is: nothing. With this irreducible complexity and what we now know about the DNA code, the natural inference is that the cell shows undeniable evidence of intelligent design. For a good overview of what's happening in the ID movement see "The evolution Wars," by Tom Bethell in The American Spectator Dec. 1999/Jan. 2000 (sorry, it's not on the web).

 

One spokesperson for the ID movement that has been leading this drive is Bill Dembski, a scholar with two doctorates, one in math and the other in philosophy. His recent book: The Design Inference was published by Cambridge University Press, and was peer-reviewed by 70 scholars. Because of his academic standing he was asked by the president of Baylor University to head up the Polanyi Center, a think tank set up to further explore Intelligent Design. Problem: it was set up without the vote or cooperation of Baylor's faculty. But aren't they broad-minded and open to hearing ideas being promulgated by a growing group of highly credentialed and mostly Christian scholars? Nope! In fact, they put up such a ruckus the backed-in-a-corner president removed Dembski as the head of the think tank and effectively closed its operation. The story of the opposition of Baylor's "open-minded" faculty is told in The American Spectator: "The Lynching of Bill Dembski," by Fred Heeren. You can find it here www.spectator.org/archives/0011TAS/heeren0011.htm

 

In the current issue of The American Spectator (Dec2000/Jan2001) there is a follow-up article by the same author. See: "The Deed is Done." www.spectator.org/archives/0012TAS/heeren0012.htm

 

In the same issue there are two other worthy articles, one by Tom Bethell, "No Time for Science, (not on the web) and the lead story by Jonathan Wells "The Survival of the Fakest." (not on the web) The latter article is a condensation of Wells' new book Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why much of what we teach about evolution is wrong? This book is already causing some teeth-grinding among evolutionists. Some of the teachings Wells documents as being erroneousare: The Miller-Urey experiment, Darwins's tree of life, homology in vertebrate limbs, Haeckel's embryos, archaeopteryx, peppered tree moths, Darwins's finches, four-winged fruit flies, fossil horses, and ape to man. Christianity Today also reports on the Baylor controversy at: www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/014/18.20.html

 

The magazine we referred to several times above: The American Spectator is the conservative publication Hillary Clinton was referring to when she proclaimed there was a "vast rightwing conspiracy." This publication was recently bought out by George Gilder, a futurist and economist of some note. He is also one of the founders of the Discovery Institute, a conservative think-tank located in Washington state. Their website is one you will definitely want to bookmark as they post articles of great importance for keeping up with cultural trends (www.discovery.org). Another important website to keep up with the intelligent design movement is Access Research Network (www.arn.org), and it is also my personal favorite site for Christianity and science issues. You must visit this site.

 


 

Chance and Divination: Dembski gambled and lost

 

by Lewis Barker
December 10, 2000
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/evolutionary-psychology/message/9011

 

An article on gambling in the Dec 11 issue of The New Yorker (The Story of Dice, by Ricky Jay, p. 91) contains the following: "Almost all early civilizations were interested in chance and divination, a formidable combination that paved the way for high-stakes gambling and philosophical rumination."

 

This observation may help us understand Bill Dembski, who a number of people think was "lynched" by Baylor University for espousing Intelligent Design (ID). Dembski's version of ID is, indeed, a formidable combination of "chance and divination."

 

No such lynching occurred; rather, Dembski gambled that his activities were the science he espoused them to be. He was subsequently subjected to peer review and was found wanting. A committee (comprised of faculty in the sciences and humanities) was appointed after a faculty senate vote of no confidence in the activities of the Polanyi Center of which Dembski was one of two members. Their report (http://pr.baylor.edu/pdf/001017polanyi.pdf) recommended that the center be renamed; pointed out the necessity that the research activities of the center by peer reviewed; that it broaden its focus on faith/science matters to more than questions of ID. Finally, the report urged the two members of the center to be collegial in their dealings with other faculty, as befitting their place in an academic community.

 

I call this peer review, because Dembski never understood the embarrassment he caused other academicians at Baylor University. To him, they were not peers to be convinced by his scholarship, but infidels opposing his Crusade for ID. He was, indeed, in a game of "high-stakes gambling and philosophical rumination." He never understood that in a university setting, his was not the only game in town.

 

Dembski's response to the report was a gloating broadside of VICTORY in his war against "naturalism" (aside: still can't figure that word out); his e-mail response became widely distributed (see http://listserv.omni-list.com/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind00&L=metanews&D=1&O=D&F=PP&S=&P=31540).

 

After reading Dembski's comments, the Baylor University administration concluded that Dembski had not even understood that he had been peer reviewed, and that his peer review had not been nearly as positive as he claimed; hence, given this lack of good judgment, they dismissed him as director of the Polanyi Center (since renamed). (see http://pr.baylor.edu/rel.fcgi?2000.10.19.05).

 

Although I have since left, at that time I was a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor. Several news/magazine articles repeated my description of Dembski's version of ID as "stealth creationism." Then as now many of my colleagues and I fail to see how it is possible to integrate science and religion, and for the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would want to do so. They are separate realms, separate methodologies, separate intellectual worlds. That's my gamble.

 

Lewis Barker
Professor and Chair of Psychology
Auburn University
barkele@auburn.edu 

 


 

In God's Country | Monkey Business

 

by Lauren Kern

 

In God's Country
Houston Press
December 14, 2000
http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2000-12-14/feature2.html/page1.html

 

Monkey Business
Dallas Observer
January 11, 2001
http://www.dallasobserver.com/issues/2001-01-11/feature2.html/page1.html

 

William Dembski thought Baylor University would be the perfect place to investigate a scientific alternative to Darwinism. He didn't know he'd be crucified for his cause.

 

In the beginning, there was a bang. A very big bang. Nothing exploded into something. Quarks and leptons collided violently in an intense fireball of plasma. As the plasma expanded and cooled, the collisions became less violent, and particles joined together to form protons and neutrons and electrons, then nuclei and atoms and molecules. Huge clouds of these particles coalesced into galaxies of stars and planets, still expanding, always expanding, away from the central point of the explosion.

 

On one particular planet, in a very ordinary galaxy, molecules somehow formed living cells. And these cells linked together to become organisms, some of which had certain genetic mutations that better enabled them to survive and replicate in the primordial atmosphere. Over the next, oh, billions of years, the fittest of these organisms evolved into plants and fish and amphibians and birds and dogs and cats and apes and humans--all thanks to the whims of chance and the laws of nature. If the pull of nuclei were slightly stronger, if the force of gravity were slightly weaker, if the speed of universal expansion were off just a hair, if the genetic mutations had been a little bit different, we wouldn't be here.

 

It's a fanciful story, but it's the best one that modern science has come up with so far to explain human existence. A small cadre of philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, however, have come to the conclusion that it's a little too fanciful, that perhaps there is a better explanation for the origin and diversity of life, that perhaps that explanation involves an intelligent designer, a.k.a. God.

 

It's not a new argument. Eighteenth-century British natural theologian William Paley gave the intelligent-design theory its most memorable metaphor: Happening upon a watch, one would notice that its various parts work together for a purpose, that the cogs and springs and gears produce motion, and that the motion is regulated to indicate time. We would infer from the watch that it was crafted by a watchmaker. Paley argued that living organisms are more complicated than watches "in a degree which exceeds all computation," and that we, too, must therefore be the products of some grand watchmaker, an intelligence.

 

Since the dawn of Darwinism, Paley's watchmaker analogy has been dismissed as a quaint notion of a much simpler scientific time. Darwin's theory of natural selection explained that the design we see in nature and in ourselves is merely an illusion: What appears to be design is not, in fact, the product of a designer, but the result of a long and undirected history of evolution in which organisms became better and better adapted to their environments. Darwinism forever separated science and religion. Religion was a matter of faith; science, a matter of natural causes, observable fact, empirical evidence. Sure, you could believe in God if you wanted to, but you certainly couldn't look for him to reveal himself in the natural world.

 

But intelligent-design theorists are bringing religion back into the laboratory, adding bite to Paley's old watchmaker argument, attempting to show--with mathematical theories and biological examples--that a designer can be empirically detected. This has mainstream scientists hopping mad and may lead to the most intense battle between science and religion since the Catholic Church put Galileo under house arrest for suggesting that the earth was not the center of the universe.

 

The first major skirmish has already taken place at Baylor University, where William Dembski, a leading proponent of intelligent design, was demoted from his position as director of a center set up to study the theory. The last fight may be on your local school board.

 

William Dembski wasn't always a religious man. The only child of a college biology professor (who, in fact, didn't question Darwin's theories) and an art dealer, he spent six days a week at an all-male Catholic preparatory school in Chicago. He went through the motions at school, but he didn't buy into Christianity. "Any sort of God who was behind it all, who we were accountable to, who really cared for us, with whom we could have any connection, that was just off my radar," Dembski says. That is, until he came upon his life's first rough spot.

 

Dembski was always a good student, especially in math. He finished high school a year early, completing a full course of calculus in just one summer. The 17-year-old tested into some advanced mathematics courses at the University of Chicago, but he struggled in them. He was doing fair, but he wasn't used to doing fair. He couldn't handle the disappointment.

 

Dembski was having trouble outside of class as well. His experiences as an only child who spent most of his time in the insular world of a boys' school had not prepared him for college life. His social skills, Dembski admits, were a bit lacking. He dropped out of school and went to work in his mother's art dealership business. He built crates and typed letters, but mostly he just floundered. "It was just not a very happy time in my life," he says, "and I guess when you're not very happy, you start looking."

 

He read the Scriptures, trying to understand the faith. And he read creationist literature, trying to understand the world around him. He had always had a sneaking suspicion that Darwinism was an inadequate theory, and although he could not believe the doctrine of literal creationists, their criticisms of evolution fueled his active young mind. He went back to school, studying statistics at the University of Illinois and adding that knowledge to his developing disbelief in Darwinism. It seemed to him statistically improbable that natural selection could produce the diversity of life all around him. Still, he hadn't come up with an alternative theory.

 

Then, in 1988, he had a eureka moment. At a conference on randomness at Ohio State University, a statistician concluded the event by saying, "We know what randomness isn't. We don't know what it is." It made sense to Dembski. If God is the creator of the universe, then there should be order in the world, not randomness. Darwinists were having so much trouble defining the randomness inherent in evolutionary theory because life was essentially not random. It was designed. And randomness could be understood only in terms of that design. "That insight really has propelled me all these years," Dembski says.

 

Armed with Christian faith, Dembski found that he could be happy in the world of academia. In fact, he's been there ever since his religious conversion. In all, he has earned a B.A. in psychology, an M.S. in statistics, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Illinois; a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago; and a master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has also done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton. But his relationship with academia would not always be pleasant. Dembski's theories were taking him further and further afield from mainstream science. His mathematics were leading him to the same place that his faith had. To his colleagues, this wasn't science; it was religion.

 

We distinguish between intelligent and natural causes every day--every time a detective investigates a possible homicide, every time an archaeologist picks out an arrowhead from a pile of rocks, every time radio astronomers at the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence listen for patterns in the noise coming from outer space. In these cases, modern science doesn't have a problem assuming that some intelligent being is responsible for the evidence--a human, even an alien. But if you try to distinguish between intelligent and natural causes in basic biological systems, things get a little messier. If you find intelligence in biology, then who or what was the intelligent designer? It's a question science doesn't want to pose, let alone answer.

 

But Dembski contends that if he can codify the process by which we recognize intelligence in other fields, he can justifiably apply that process to biology. If he can codify that process, he says, intelligent design is not a matter of religious belief but a matter of following the evidence wherever it leads. Such a codification is Dembski's contribution to the intelligent-design movement, and his claim to fame. It is an explanatory process that can be used for judging objects, events, and information. It begins by ruling out chance and natural law as explanations, and then infers design.

 

The first step in the process is what Dembski calls contingency. In other words, something that is designed must be compatible with natural law but not required by it. Something that is required by natural law leaves no room for the choices inherent in design. It is just following orders.

 

The second test is for complexity. Here, Dembski turns to the sci-fi movie Contact, based on a novel by Carl Sagan, for an example. In the movie, Jodie Foster and her radio astronomer friends at SETI receive a signal of 1,126 beats and pauses representing all the prime numbers from two to 101. They interpret the signal to be a sign of extraterrestrial intelligence. But if they had received a sequence of only the first three prime numbers, they would not have jumped to the same conclusion. Any random radio signal might happen to emit this sequence by pure chance. Mathematically speaking, this is a probability argument. The short sequence is simply not complex enough to be improbable as a result of chance.

 

But complexity by itself isn't enough. The final filter is for specification. Any particular sequence of 1,126 beats and pauses is highly unlikely. The sequence in Contact was special not just because it was complex, but because it contained an independent pattern: increasing prime numbers. Voila. If something is contingent, complex, and specified, according to Dembski, we can infer that it is the product of intelligence. Dembski calls it the specified-complexity criterion.

 

The next step for intelligent-design theorists is to apply the criterion to biological systems. They start small, with bacteria and their proteins, to keep the probability computations manageable. But the idea is that if they can prove that life's subsystems are designed, then they can prove that the whole system is designed.

 

The bacterium's flagellum may be intelligent design's favorite subsystem. A flagellum is a whip-like outboard motor, complete with an acid-powered rotary engine, O-rings, and a drive shaft. "The scientific community has come up short with any sort of plausible, detailed explanation of how you could have gotten something like this by purely natural causes," says Dembski, "and when you start applying the sort of methods that I've developed, it clearly indicates design."

 

A flagellum is compatible with natural law but not required by it; after all, there are bacteria without flagella. It is specified in the sense that its pattern of parts performs a specific function. And it is complex not just in the sense of its machinelike combination of parts, but also in the improbability of its arising by chance. In fact, Michael Behe, the biochemist who most famously made the case for design in the bacterial flagellum, contends that it would be virtually impossible for the motor to come about by mutation and natural selection.

 

Behe calls the flagellum an irreducibly complex system. In other words, its parts are so interrelated that if one part were taken away, the entire system wouldn't work. A mousetrap, for instance, is irreducibly complex. Take away the platform, the hammer, the spring, the catch, or the holding bar, and it is impossible to construct a working mousetrap. Similarly, if you take away any one of the 50 proteins required in the bacterial flagellum, the motor ceases to work. Behe's argument is that the flagellum is too complex to arise in one single mutation and then be acted upon by natural selection, and that the undirected nature of the Darwinian mechanism could not support a gradual accumulation of the necessary proteins. Just one of these proteins offers no survival and reproductive advantage. How could nature know to preserve it for future generations? How could nature know that the bacterium was in the process of building itself a motor?

 

Dembski is looking to apply his specified-complexity theory on an even more microscopic scale than the bacterial flagellum: that of DNA. The precise sequence of nucleotides in DNA conveys the information necessary to build proteins. The origin of this information has become the Holy Grail of origin-of-life biology. Mainstream science is looking for an algorithm or a natural law to account for it, but Dembski says that this DNA encoding is complex, specified information if ever there was any--and thus indicative of intelligent design. Natural causes cannot originate information, Dembski argues via his complicated mathematical proof, the Law of Conservation of Information. It's a somewhat circular argument: Natural laws and algorithms cannot create complex, specified information, because they cannot create anything that is not required by natural law. Chance can generate complex, unspecified information or simple, specified information, but not information that is both complex and specified.

 

It is for this law that Rob Koons, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas, calls Dembski the "Isaac Newton of information theory." It may be that intelligent design will revolutionize science just like Newtonian physics did. It may also be that this is just the perfect way to evangelize a generation of Americans who put their faith in science without entirely understanding it.

 

William Dembski met Baylor University President Robert Sloan in the summer of 1996, when he was teaching Sloan's daughter at a Christian-study summer camp not far from Waco. Sloan, who is the first Baptist minister to serve as Baylor's president in more than 30 years, had read some of Dembski's work. "He liked my stuff," Dembski recalls. "He made it clear that he wanted to get me on the faculty in some way."

 

Three years later the president offered Dembski not just a position at Baylor but a whole center dedicated to studying the relationship between science and religion and to furthering Dembski's work in intelligent design. It would be named after Michael Polanyi, a Hungarian chemist who questioned the idea that the world could be explained through natural laws alone. It was a big step for intelligent design, the first center of its kind at a major research university, a huge inroad into mainstream academia.

 

The Polanyi Center was established quietly in October 1999. Dembski and his like-minded colleague Bruce Gordon were hired outside the traditional academic channels of a search committee and departmental consultation. Dembski says that he did meet with some faculty, both before and after Baylor hired him. But the vast majority of them were unaware of the existence of the center until its Web site went online and scientists outside the university began sending incredulous e-mails to their colleagues at Baylor. What, they asked, was this? Had Baylor gone fundamentalist? Would they be teaching creation science instead of evolution in their biology classrooms? The Baylor scientists, already sensitive to their university's religious mission, were now the laughingstock of the scientific community, and they didn't like it.

 

"When you say Baylor now, people are going to go, 'Oh, yeah, they have that creationist center,'" says Charles Weaver, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor and one of the most outspoken critics of the Polanyi Center. "We fought that as a city for a long time: 'Waco. Oh, you guys are the crazy ones with Koresh.'" He worries that the Polanyi Center and Dembski's association with the intelligent-design movement will discourage promising premed students and respected faculty from coming to Baylor.

 

Baylor Provost Donald Schmeltekopf defends the university's actions by pointing out that there are more and more people in academia interested in questioning the naturalistic assumptions of the scientific establishment and that Dembski is one of the most visible among them. "We thought it would be an interesting thing for Baylor to get into the conversation and to be a participant," he says.

 

But Weaver says Baylor faculty members have been asking these questions about the relationship between science and religion for years in the school's interdisciplinary Institute for Faith and Learning. "The inference that some of us have drawn is that...we must have come up with answers that aren't those we were expected to come up with," says Weaver, who is a Presbyterian elder. "My faith background is one of asking lots of questions and living with a lot of doubts, and those may not be qualities that are valued at Baylor anymore. It may be that those of us with certainties are better adapted for the environment."

 

In any case, Schmeltekopf's conversation was about to turn into an argument, and a nasty one at that. In April, Dembski's Polanyi Center hosted a conference on naturalism sponsored by the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank where Dembski is a fellow, and the Templeton Foundation, whose moneys have gone a long way to bankroll the intelligent-design movement. The conference sought to answer a very unusual question: Is there anything beyond nature? An impressive collection of scientists from all over the world attended the conference, among them Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg. Of course, Weinberg titled his presentation "No," a straightforward answer to the conference's central question. And other speakers announced that they were going to give their honoraria to organizations that promote the study of evolution in schools.

 

Baylor faculty, by and large, boycotted the conference altogether. But that wasn't all. Just days after the naturalism conference, the faculty senate voted 27-2 to dismantle Dembski's center. If there was to be a center studying the intersection of science and religion at Baylor, they held, it should be rebuilt from the ground up--with faculty input. In an editorial published in the Houston Chronicle, President Sloan charged that this uproar over faculty input was a cover for the real issue: the substance of the work being done by the center. "In my experience," he wrote, "people often object to 'the way things were done' as a rhetorical substitute for what was done." Sloan refused to dissolve the Polanyi Center, citing issues of censorship and academic integrity.

 

He hit the nail on the head. A lack of input might have annoyed the faculty, but it was the center's promotion of intelligent design that made them angry. Dembski claims to be doing science, a science that hopes to question the very validity of naturalism and give Darwinism a backseat to design. And that is something that Baylor's mainstream scientists cannot abide. "You can always look at something and say, 'That's something that God did,'" says Weaver. "Well, what can I do to prove you wrong?...If I can't prove your theory incorrect, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's wrong, but it means it's not science."

 

Weaver says that intelligent design is little more than an ego trip. How do we know a biological system has been intelligently designed? Because it's designed the way we would have designed it, in a way that we can understand it. "That's a nice little egotistical thing, isn't it?" he says. "It's designed to make us feel more comfortable. We do best when we believe ourselves to be at the pinnacle of creation. And it doesn't have much to do with theology; it has much more to do with our insecurity as a species."

 

Intelligent design has been completely ignored in professional literature, Weaver says. No real scientists take it seriously. "Dembski's got a whole long list of places where he's written articles and published books, and none of them are peer-reviewed. They're not done in scientifically or philosophically respectable places," Weaver says. "We judge things in the academic world not by how many books are sold at Waldenbooks," but by what a scientist's peers think of his work. Dembski's peers in mainstream science have hardly even dignified him with a response. The famous Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who visited Baylor in the wake of the Polanyi Center controversy, dismissed intelligent design as nothing more than modern-day creationism.

 

But Charles Garner, an organic chemistry professor at Baylor who says he prays with students when they come to him with problems and criticizes evolutionary theory in class, argues that it would be virtually impossible to get intelligent-design articles peer-reviewed fairly by a pro-evolution scientific establishment. "Remember," he says, "you're going to be upsetting people's worldviews with this stuff."

 

Sloan wouldn't shut down the center, but he had no problem holding Dembski's work up to the light of peer review, especially if it would help smooth things over with the faculty. He assembled a group of nine biologists, philosophers, science historians, and theologians--primarily from other universities--to look into the legitimacy of the center and intelligent design. Dembski was furious. The Baylor administration knew his work; he was hired because of it. Now, they were going to risk his academic reputation with a very public review by scholars he wasn't even sure were qualified to assess his work. "The peer-review committee, from my perspective, was called for purely political motives, to assuage the angry faculty," he says, "but in doing that they put me in the frying pan."

 

Surprisingly, Dembski emerged relatively unscathed. The review committee recommended an advisory committee to oversee Baylor's science and religion program and removed the Polanyi name from the center (even though Dembski claims he cleared the use of the name with Polanyi's son). But ultimately the outside scholars concluded that "research on the logical structure of mathematical arguments for intelligent design...have a legitimate claim to a place in the current discussions of the relations of religion and science."

 

Dembski was ecstatic. He issued a press release that stated in part: "Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression."

 

Any progress that the review committee had made in soothing faculty concerns was undone in the space of two sentences. These were fighting words. "In academic arguments," says Weaver, "we don't seek utter destruction and defeat of our opponents. We don't talk about Waterloos."

 

The Baylor administration gave Dembski a chance to retract, or "contextualize," his comments, and when he refused, he was demoted. They cited a lack of "collegiality" that compromised his ability to serve as director of the center. The center that had no name now had no leader either. "We certainly didn't demote him because of positions he has taken," says Schmeltekopf. "That had nothing to do with it. We just had to move forward here."

 

It's true. Dembski was not demoted because of his positions. He was demoted because his positions had become a political hot potato. Initially Dembski thought that if an intelligent-design center could be successful anywhere, it would be at Baylor. Now, he thinks that if an intelligent-design center could be successful at Baylor, it could succeed anywhere. "I think what you've got at Baylor is...this whole history of the Southern Baptists with this moderate-fundamentalist controversy and split," Dembski says. "And Baylor is--I didn't fully realize this--the bastion for the moderates where anything that smacks of fundamentalism, creationism, just sends people through the roof.

 

"Baylor may be the bastion of Baptist moderates, but some of these moderates have accused President Sloan of leaning toward the fundamentalist end of the spectrum. It is certainly difficult to see how his administration could have been blind to the fact that intelligent design comes with a political agenda that is far from moderate. The very way in which it formulates its scientific questions seeks to tear apart the Darwinian underpinnings that influence our laws, our public policies, our economic systems, our psychological theories, our schools, our sense of who we are--in short, our entire worldview. If there is a designer, do we have obligations to that designer? What are they? Do we have an intrinsic sense of morality? Have we been designed to operate best within certain constraints? "Every scientific discipline is going to have to be rethought if Darwinism and naturalism are thrown seriously into question," says Dembski. "I think the implications are huge."

 

If the science is sound, then perhaps we should be willing to rework our worldviews. But Baylor certainly was not willing to lead the way. "One of the things we were very clear about from the beginning," says Schmeltekopf, "was that the work of Dembski and Gordon did not have underneath it a political agenda of some kind; that is, to get into textbook wars and creationist politics and that kind of thing."

 

To that end, Baylor administrators pressured Dembski not to attend a May bipartisan congressional briefing by the Discovery Institute's intelligent-design program, the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Dembski's colleagues presented the case for intelligent design and how it could help resolve the debate over the teaching of origins in public schools.

 

Dembski was surprised by Baylor's limitation of his "academic freedom." He had made no secret of his association with the Discovery Institute, which considers the "wedge strategy" one of its primary projects. The wedge strategy is a term coined by Phillip Johnson, godfather of intelligent design and author of the popular Darwin On Trial. The metaphor portrays mainstream science as a seemingly impenetrable log that can be cracked with the sharp edge of a wedge. The sharp edge of the Discovery Institute's wedge is designed to separate modern science's naturalistic bias from scientific fact. Once this crack has been made, Johnson can pound in the thicker parts of the wedge--including intelligent design, its cultural implications, and even the Bible--until eventually the log of mainstream science is split wide open. Johnson considers Dembski to be a key wedge figure.

 

Dembski also makes no bones about his personal position on textbooks. "My commitment is to see intelligent design flourish as a scientific research program," he says. "To do that, I need a new generation of scholars willing to consider this, because the older generation is largely hidebound. So I would like to see textbooks, certainly at the college level and even at the high-school level, which reframe introductory biology within a design paradigm." He doesn't, however, want to legislate these ideas. "I think they're powerful enough that once they get in circulation, they'll win on their own."

 

He might be right. Academia may not be embracing intelligent design, but the general public, it seems, is primed for it. Gallup polls over the last decade have shown that only about 10 percent of Americans believe in the scientists' definition of evolution via strictly chance mutation and natural selection. Nearly everyone else believes that God created life, either directly or by guiding the process of evolution. Last year in Kansas, the state school board voted 6-4 to no longer include evolution in statewide science tests. Intelligent design will likely prove to be a popular theory for the majority of Americans, especially because the theory can be applied to many faiths. Even though most intelligent-design researchers, like Dembski, come from a Christian background, the theory itself only detects a designer; it doesn't presume to know anything about that designer. Hence, Jews, Muslims, even agnostics, are signing on.

 

Sitting at the dining-room table in his ranch-style home just outside of Waco, William Dembski looks more like a scientist than a minister. He's thin and stern, with a long, narrow face that mumbles through complicated mathematical theory without taking a breath. Every so often, he loses his train of thought and apologizes, saying he is quite tired. One assumes the exhaustion is a product of the ordeal at Baylor, but then a screaming toddler, recently awakened from her nap, comes running into the room to attach herself to her father's leg. Hot on the toddler's heels is Dembski's wife, her belly swollen with twins that will be born any day. It is clear that the late nights are a result of concerns much closer to the heart.

 

Dembski spends most of his time at home with his family these days, even though he still has a five-year contract as an associate research professor at Baylor. He doesn't like going to the university's campus. He's much more comfortable here, surrounded by his stretch of land that came complete with a horse and a fishing pond. It's the perfect place to ponder life's great questions, at least when the toddler is asleep. And center or no center, there is still much work to do. "What if science itself is coming to the place where it says we got some things wrong and, in fact, things that we ended up dismissing in religion now have to be taken seriously?" he asks. What if "that intelligence in the world that your religious faith is talking about has an ally?" What if?

 


 

Commentary: It's Perilous to Ponder the Design of the Universe

 

By Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI Religion Correspondent

 

United Press International
December 21, 2000
GENERAL NEWS

 

 

Professor William A. Dembski, 40, does not show his face at Baylor University in Waco, Tex., all that often anymore.

 

"That's a very hostile environment over there," he told United Press International. "I go to the library and use the athletic facilities, but I work from home."

 

Baylor calls itself the world's largest Baptist university with 18,000 students. So why would this eminent scholar feel unwelcome in this Christian school? Why is he an exile within his own four walls?

 

Well, Dembski entertains the hypothesis that the universe is the product of mindful planning rather than a random set of circumstances. Though an evangelical Christian, this scholar with doctorates in mathematics and philosophy does not name the designer, at least not in his work.

Still, his ideas do not sit well with Baylor professors stuck in methodological naturalism. This stricture obliges scientists to be provisional atheists in their work, even if their research surfaces evidence to the contrary.

 

They denounced Dembski's theories as "stealth creationism," as though he had promoted the notion that God made this world in six days, exactly as the Bible says.

 

In e-mails and letters to the local media, Dembski's opponents accused him of endangering Baylor's scholarly reputation. At one point, the controversy became so frenzied that Robert Sloan, the university's president, spoke of "McCarthyism."

 

Sloan, a renowned New Testament scholar, reminded faculty members how much scientists had suffered in the past when pressured by fundamentalist creationists. "It's rather ironic that people in the scientific community now appear to be suppressing others."

 

Yet it took Dembski's antagonists a little over a year to have him fired from his position as Baylor's Center for Complexity, Information and Design. Now he is just an associate research professor.

 

Sloan had caved in, although he "still supports Dembki's work," according to Larry Brumley, Baylor's spokesman.

 

William Dembski is a leading proponent of a theory known as Intelligent Design. This is also the title he gave to one of his books that received much acclaim around from the world. It has already sold 20,000 copies, a staggering figure for a volume of this kind.

 

In his research, Dembski applies mathematics and statistics to detect purpose in the makeup of the natural world. As the magazine Christianity Today put it, he is "looking for the difference between a jumble of clouds and skywriting that broadcasts a message."

 

President Sloan himself had discovered him a little over a year ago. Sloan had set himself two goals: leading Baylor into the top tier of American universities while also guiding it back to its Baptist heritage.

 

As part of this endeavor, Sloan set up the Michael Polanyi Center and put Dembski in charge. The problem is that Baylor is caught up in the tension between the conservative Southern Baptist Convention and the more liberal Baptist General Convention in Texas to which this school owes allegiance.

 

"I stepped into internecine Baptist struggles," Dembski told UPI referring to the ironic kind of struggle where even men and women of faith purport a materialist way of thinking while at work. "Some of my greatest enemies are Christians," Dembski said.

 

So fierce was the opposition that in April most Baylor biologists boycotted a Polanyi Center conference attended by renowned mathematicians and other scientists from around the world, including two Nobel laureates. Scholars from other universities even tried to sabotage the conference. They sent bogus notes to all schedules speakers "disinviting" them, the American Spectator reported.

 

Although the conference was a resounding success, Baylor's faculty senate voted to ask President Sloan to end all Intelligent Design initiatives. Sloan then convened an "independent committee" to evaluate Dembski's work. It recommended absorbing the center's functions into the Institute for Faith and Learning but unambiguously recognized Intelligent Design as a legitimate scientific discipline.

 

Buoyed by this report, Dembski sent out an e-mail: "Dogmatic opponents of design have who demanded the center be shut down have met their Waterloo." Said Dembski, "I did not reckon with the faculty's lack of a sense of humor." Two days later, with Sloan's accord, Dembski was fired from his position as director of the center.

 

Baylor spokesman Brumley mused on Thursday that "a lot that some bridge-building has to be done within the faculty" for Dembski's work to go forward. Meanwhile, Dembski works in his house determined not to let his foes relish their success.

 

"I have offers from some Christian colleges," he said, "but to go there would mean handing a victory to my opponents here. My contract with Baylor runs for another four years."

 


 

William Dembski and the Intelligent Design Movement:

A Case Study in Academic Freedom1

 

Angus J. L. Menuge, Ph.D., DCA

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Director of the Cranach Institute

Concordia University Wisconsin

12800 N. Lake Shore Drive, Mequon, WI 53097.

 

 

1. Introduction—The Cost of being a Public Christian Intellectual.

 

Robust Christian expression has always been unpopular with authority.  Unbelievers like Pilate found it a dangerous obstruction to efficient administration.  But even believers don’t like it when the extent of their accommodation to the world is thrown up in sharp relief.  Jesus calls his disciples to be in the world but not of it (John 17: 14-19)2, and amongst his disciples are Christian academics.  However, many Christian scholars are tempted to compromise their faith in order to find approval from the gatekeepers of academic correctness.  They even deceive themselves into thinking that this is an act of humility which exemplifies their Christian walk.  In his classic book, The Christian Mind, Harry Blamires exposes the fallacy underlying this approach:

 

By analogy with that charity of the spirit which never asks or claims but always gives and gives again, we have manufactured a false “charity” of the mind, which never takes a stand, but continually yields ground.3

 

To give of ourselves indeed is a powerful Christian witness. But to give up our beliefs, in order to be accepted, undermines our witness, making us blend in with the world like a chameleon.

 

On the other hand, when Christian thinkers refuse to blend in, they often suffer consequences.  In extreme cases, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, the penalty is death.  More often, careers suffer: hires are not made; promotion is denied; contracts are terminated. Despite his unsurpassed brilliance in Sixteenth Century English Literature,  C. S. Lewis was never promoted to the rank of (full) Professor while he remained at Oxford University.  William Dembski, one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement, is another Christian intellectual who has eschewed the path of the chameleon.  Dembski has remained in the world, gaining impressive academic credentials in mathematics and philosophy, and fearlessly hosting conferences that have invited the very best critics of Intelligent Design to articulate their misgivings.4  Yet Dembski has also maintained a distinctively Christian perspective on the scientific and philosophical issues addressed, showing the connection between his scientific proposals and theology.

 

One would think that faculty at a strong Christian school like Baylor University would welcome such an academic, regardless of whether or not they agreed with his views.  But with some notable exceptions, especially in the departments of business and engineering, this has not been the case.  There is all too much evidence that Dembski’s academic freedom was denied at Baylor to propitiate hostile faculty concerned about secular canons of academic respectability.5  What is worse, Dembski is now treated as an intellectual leper, excluded from virtually all academic activities on campus. There is no reason to think that he will have any position at Baylor after his current contract runs out in 2005.

 

In what follows I will first recount Dembski’s experiences at Baylor, pointing the interested reader to more detailed sources.  I will then argue that Dembski’s harsh treatment is unjustified and in no way a good thing for the academy in general or science in particular.  The argument will draw on the history and philosophy of science to show why dissent is important in science. 

 

 

2. What Happened at Baylor.

 

William Dembski was already a research fellow for the Seattle based Discovery Institute6 when he was approached by Baylor University President Robert Sloan in 1996.  Sloan had read some of Dembski’s work and thought that Dembski could help with his project of promoting the integration of faith and learning on campus.  Sloan’s approach to integration was not heavy-handed.  He had “resisted the urging of fundamentalists to ‘throw the evolutionists out’ of the biology department, vowing never to bar anyone at Baylor from teaching evolution.”7  In 1999, Sloan was able to establish a Center, named for Michael Polanyi, a Hungarian chemist who had denied that biological information could be reduced to physics and chemistry.8  

 

Dembski and Bruce Gordon were directly appointed to the Center and for a while enjoyed a favorable reception: “the duo made a good first impression on the faculty they met.  Gordon led a colloquium reading group….  Discussion with participating faculty was cordial.”9   The honeymoon ended suddenly when the Polanyi Center established its Website in January, 2000.  There was nothing wrong with the site itself, but unfortunately, when “other groups with evolution-bashing agendas began linking up their Websites…[m]any on the biology faculty flashed back to old culture battles, when such groups had publicly questioned the professors’ integrity.”10

 

An email frenzy began on campus and spread to other schools.  Dembski “was subject to dismissive comments that he was a ‘stealth creationist.’   Michael Beaty, head of Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning…urged him to follow a turn-the-other-cheek strategy.”11  In all the furor, it seems that many did not notice the injustice of attributing guilt by association.  As Gordon has often pointed out, the Michael Polanyi Center never endorsed the connections from other Websites.  Sadly, many faculty were quite unable (or unwilling) to distinguish work on Intelligent Design (ID) from old-style creationism.  ID merely looks for empirical evidence of design in nature and does not presume to settle the identity of the designer, and it does not start from Scripture or a dogmatic position about the age of the Earth.

 

Despite this setback, the Polanyi Center went ahead and hosted the Nature of Nature conference in April, 2000.  This conference examined the adequacy of naturalism as a foundation for work in the natural sciences and philosophy. The conference drew an impressive cast of top scholars and scientists from around the world, the majority of whom were critical of ID, favoring either full naturalism or some form of methodological naturalism such as Howard Van Till’s Robust Formational Economy Principle, which asserts that nature is gifted with all that it needs to develop autonomously.  Yet a significant voice of dissent was heard from those who argued that naturalism is too poor in resources to explain all the phenomena, including the ultimate origin of the cosmos, biological complexity, ethics and the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics and logical reasoning.   This was certainly the most intellectually significant conference this writer has attended.  Real civility was demonstrated as people openly debated deeply held presuppositions. 

 

Tragically, many at Baylor had already made up their minds and “not only boycotted the event, but ... took to the press and the Internet to publicly excoriate Dembski.”12  One would have thought that any open-minded person would have at least listened to some of the debate, especially given the presence of so many erudite critics of ID.  Yet worse was to come.  “Just days after the naturalism conference, the faculty senate voted 27-2 to dismantle Dembski’s center.”13   Faculty complained that they should have been involved in creating the center.  The claim had no credibility with President Sloan as “[t]he procedure he used in setting up the center was no different from the one he and previous administrators had used to establish other centers,”14 such as the center for American Jewish studies, yet no-one had objected to the creation of these centers.   Sloan also pointed out the double standard many of the hostile scientists were employing:  “It’s rather ironic that people in the scientific community, whose rights had to be protected in the face of ideological pressure [from creationists], now appear to be suppressing others.”15  It is also "ironic that while faculty members at Christian colleges often resist conforming to statements of faith, they demand adherence to the tenets of the secular academic establishment with stereotypical dogmatism."16  Sloan courageously refused to close the Center, but “essentially put Dembski under a gag order.  Dembski was pressured not to attend a meeting in Washington, where intelligent design advocates met some members of Congress and their staff; and he was restricted in what he put on his Website and in how he could reply to his critics, no matter how public or vocal they became.  Freedom of speech at Baylor, it seems, only works one way.”17  In addition, Sloan agreed to create an external review committee to evaluate the Polanyi Center's academic credentials.

 

Dembski’s extensively peer-reviewed publication of The Design Inference with Cambridge University Press should have made such a review unnecessary.  Yet, not being a person to shy away from criticism, Dembski initially welcomed the review: “I always learn more from my critics than from the people who think I am wonderful.”18  It seems that committee selection was far from fair, including a majority of hostile critics and no-one with the background to understand Dembski’s mathematical arguments.  Yet we learned on October 17th of 2000 that the committee upheld the importance and legitimacy of Dr. Dembski’s work, while calling for the Center to be renamed and broadened in its scope.19  To be sure, the background conflict is still very clear in the exaggerated deference to Baylor’s scientists, who are described as “the inheritors of a long and distinguished tradition,”20 as if anyone had questioned their credentials.  Indeed, the “elephantine language of the external review committee…sounds more like the language of courtiers than the product of a robust intellectual community.”21

 

Vindication by a largely hostile source is about the highest form of endorsement one can hope for.  So one would think that the matter was over.  Yet one short email changed everything. On the same day the report was released, Dembski broadcast the following comment by email:

 

The report marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of

academic inquiry. This is a great day for academic freedom. I'm deeply

grateful to President Sloan and Baylor University for making this

 

possible, as well as to the peer review committee for its unqualified affirmation of my own work on intelligent design. The scope of the Center will be expanded to embrace a broader set of conceptual issues at the intersection of science and religion, and the Center will therefore receive a new name to reflect this expanded vision. My work on intelligent design will continue unabated. Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo.  Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression.22

 

This statement clearly agrees to the review committee’s stipulations regarding the future of the center. It also expresses gratitude to those who had--albeit in a qualified way-- supported Dembski’s academic freedom.  In fact, only the last 2 statements could be called “offensive” and even so they seem to me to be accurate.  Dembski’s opponents had acted in a dogmatic and intolerant way and their hope that the review committee would find against ID had been dashed.

 

This short email, it was claimed, provoked a fire-storm of protest across Baylor’s campus.  Cheek-turning was conspicuous by its absence.  The administration asked Dembski to retract or contextualize his email.  He refused on the grounds that his remarks accurately reflected the nature of the controversy. As a result, Dembski was removed from his directorship and the Polanyi Center lost its name and identity, being absorbed into the larger Institute for Faith and Learning.  It was stated that Dr. Dembski was removed on “administrative grounds,” because his comments (and refusal to retract them) were lacking in collegiality and “severely compromised his ability to perform his central administrative duties.”23

 

This claim is quite literally incredible.  If lack of collegiality is grounds for demotion, Baylor administration owes everyone an explanation of why not one of Dembski’s detractors at Baylor, no matter how misinformed or mean-spirited in their criticism, has suffered similar penalties.  Baylor faculty have misrepresented Dembski’s work as “creationist” or “fundamentalist.”  They boycotted his first major conference, then tried to close the Polanyi Center altogether.  These are not collegial actions.  Furthermore, when have leaders of controversial movements ever been noted for collegiality?  Socrates, Francis Bacon and Martin Luther were at times immensely uncollegial, yet each in his way pressed for needed reforms.  Jesus himself is a prime example of a powerfully dissenting reformer, although he had an agenda that transcended worldly affairs. The truth is that Dembski’s detractors enjoyed full academic freedom to criticize his work and engage in ad hominem attacks, yet Dembski’s own academic freedom has been abridged.  The leader of an intellectual movement has every right to criticize opponents who attempt to censor his views even when he offers an open forum for critical debate.

 

Some would argue that as an administrator, Dembski can be held to a different standard than an ordinary academic.  This has plausibility when one thinks of typical administrative positions dedicated to personnel management.  But Dembski's position was different in two important respects.  First, it was a flagship position for the ID movement and so he was expected to defend that movement's right to be heard. 

 

Second, Dembski's administrative role was one of rejuvenating the integration of faith and learning at an institution that had started to drift towards compartmentalized thinking.

 

According to Robert Benne’s recent survey of top Christian schools, at Baylor University “a large majority (90 percent) of the...faculty support the traditional ‘add-on’ or ‘two-spheres’ approach to Christian higher education... .”24  By this, Benne means that faith is held largely to be a matter of personal piety and spirituality, with no significant cognitive connections to a professor’s academic discipline.  In such an environment, it is not likely that one can promote integration of faith and learning without making some people defensive and upset.

 

Yet Baylor officials continued for months with the same line that the decision was purely administrative. There are two problems with this.  Calling something “administrative” is an attempt to mask the underlying moral issues with neutral language.  Can Pilate’s actions be justified by describing them as an “administrative necessity”?  Secondly, the basis for this decision was clearly the reactions of other faculty.  This sets the alarming precedent that academic freedom is conditional on the sensitivities and approval of the majority of other faculty.  Such a principle could only be defended if the majority were infallible in judgment and if their taking offense were always justified.  Since neither of these conditions is met, the practical result is that a tyrannical majority may censor dissent.  Fred Heeren bluntly asserts that Baylor faculty have “ensured that their university will be remembered as a place where the rule of the mob trumps free scientific enquiry.”25

 

But why exactly did Dembski make people so mad?  Overall, my sense is that there is a local factor, peculiar to Baylor, and a broader factor, which Dembski would have encountered at most major schools.  The local factor is that Southern Baptists have been through a painful controversy and schism between “fundamentalists” and “moderates,” and Baylor has emerged as a stronghold for the latter.26  As Dembski recently put it, “Baylor is—I didn’t fully realize this—the bastion for the moderates, where anything that smacks of fundamentalism, creationism, just sends people through the roof.”27   The broader factor reflects the enormity of Dembski’s challenge to contemporary academia.  Like C. S. Lewis before him28, William Dembski has dared to do what has become unthinkable for many in the post-Enlightenment academy.  He has exposed the fact that “Naturalism [is] the implicit creed of half his colleagues and (worse) that”—if he is right—“it [is] nonsense.”29  He has thereby alienated the accommodationist establishment who, in Blamires’ words, “prefer blunting sharp edges in controversy and greasing the works of social and intellectual interchange with the oil of noncommitment.”30

 

 

3. A broader perspective.

 

Many of the popular discussions of the Dembski affair, sympathetic or otherwise, tend to view the matters in contemporary political terms and fail to provide the broader perspectives of history and philosophy.   In what follows, I will attempt to remedy this by outlining some general historical and philosophical arguments to show that Dembski's harsh treatment is good neither for the academy in general nor science in particular.

 

 

3.1. The Benefits of Openness and Pluralism in Science.

 

A. Historical precedent.

 

The history of science is full of examples where an important theoretical insight was initially resisted on ideological grounds.   In Newton's day, the dominant paradigm was mechanism, which held that all causation depended on the motion of contiguous material particles.  Thus, when Newton first proposed his theory of gravity, it was initially rejected because it postulated an "occult" force that acted across empty space.  In effect, the objection was that gravity was a "force-of-the-gaps," masking our ignorance of the real mechanism, parallel to the "God-of-the-gaps" argument used against ID.

 

Interestingly, Newton's theory became widely accepted without determining a mechanical basis for gravity.31  What convinced the scientific community was that Newton's mathematical formulae worked, successfully accounting for such diverse phenomena as the tides, apples falling to the ground and planetary orbits.   Showing that a force is working does not require us to know how it works.  Much the same point has been emphasized by proponents of ID: a detective may infer an intelligent, preconceived killing without knowing the killer or his motives; there are numerous items in the Smithsonian which are obviously artifacts (that is, the results of intelligent design, and not wind sculptures, for example), whose purpose is entirely unknown.   Thus we do not object to force-of-the-gaps or mind-of-the gaps explanations when we know that they work.

 

The moral of the story is clear.  "Intelligent Design" may seem like an occult notion to many scientists who require a mechanical explanation such as mutation and selection.  But if proponents of ID succeed in expressing laws that reliably identify complex specified information (such as is found in DNA) and explain its transmission better than any available mechanism, the God-of the-gaps objection to ID will ultimately be as impotent as the force-of-the-gaps objection to gravitation. 

 

Openness to new, even "impossible" ideas is essential to scientific progress.  Martin Luther initially opposed Copernicus' heliocentric hypothesis on theological grounds.  Even from a scientific point of view, the available evidence made the geocentric hypothesis seem impregnable.  Nonetheless, Luther allowed the brilliant mathematician Georg Rheticus to explore Copernicus' theory unmolested at the University of Wittenberg.32  This serves as a wonderful precedent to the treatment Dembski should have received at Baylor University.

 

 

B. Philosophy of science.

 

It may be objected that some ideas are just "crazy" and unscientific.  The problem with this view is three-fold.  First, many of the greatest advances in science have derived from individuals with "crazy" beliefs.  Newton advanced his whole mechanical philosophy as an apologetic against atheism. Many today would regard Newton's Christian beliefs as "crazy," yet they were essential to the development of his theories.  Prior to Newton's work, most scientists followed Aristotle in supposing that there was one set of laws (terrestrial physics) for the corruptible sub-lunar domain and another (celestial physics) for the incorruptible heavens.  It was precisely because Newton believed in a rational God who was creator of all that he expected to find physical laws valid for both the terrestrial and celestial domains.33   Likewise, Kepler was a Pythagorean mystic, believing that number was the essence of universe.  Crazy or not, this view assisted Kepler in finding a mathematical ellipse as the orbital pattern in Tycho Brahe's astronomical data.

 

Second, nature is not beholden to human norms of sanity: crazy beliefs may have truth in them.  Even Newton's alchemical beliefs were not entirely false, as the discovery of the transition from radioactive uranium to lead has shown.  And Aristotle's idea of biological formal causes as an explanation of embryonic development, ridiculed for centuries, was at least partially confirmed by the discovery of the biological programs in DNA.

 

Third, as Karl Popper reminds us, we need sharply to distinguish between the context of discovery and the context of justification.   In the context of discovery, all sorts of ideas and prejudices may condition a scientist's expectations and theory construction, and no-one has ever shown a principled way of excluding some of these as inherently unfruitful.  It is claimed that Kepler, a good Lutheran, first thought that planetary orbits might be elliptical after he observed the curvature of beer barrels.  If the story is true, the ridiculous manner in which Kepler acquired this belief did not prevent it from surviving the context of justification: the idea accounted for Tycho Brahe's data effectively.  The point is that the context of discovery does not have to be "scientific" for an idea to have scientific value: that depends on the context of justification.

 

This basic point has escaped those like Michael Shermer34 and Charles Weaver35, who have attacked Dembski's work on psychological grounds, claiming that he holds the views he does because he is "insecure,"  "born again" or "fundamentalist."   For example, Weaver says that the worldview of ID "is designed to make us feel more comfortable.  We do best when we believe ourselves to be the pinnacle of creation....it has...to do with our insecurity as a species."36  Even if these allegations were true, they simply have no bearing on the merit of Dembski's ideas.  One could argue that Newton wanted a comfortable universe governed by simple, universal laws, but that was what propelled him to make some of the most significant scientific discoveries to date.  And ad hominems are two a penny. We can easily suggest that Weaver and Shermer, like stereotypical baby boomers, are threatened by the notion of divine order and purpose and cling to uncertainty as a refuge: that would be equally nasty, and equally pointless in evaluating the objective quality of their ideas.

 

 

3.2. The Dangers of Ideological Dogmatism.

 

Aside from the benefits of an open, pluralistic science, there are clear dangers in allowing a single paradigm to monopolize the conversation.  The history of science shows that entrenched theories tend to ossify into unquestioned axioms, which are no longer seriously tested against the natural world.  Aristotle "knew" that heavier objects fall more quickly to the earth because it was a deduction from his metaphysics. But when  Galileo tested the hypothesis by dropping objects of equal size but different weight, such as a cannon ball and a cabbage, it  was disproved.  In The New Organon, Francis Bacon showed how scholasticism led to an approach to science which deduced results from preconceived ideology, then distorted the evidence to agree:

 

[H]aving first determined the question according to his will, [the scholastic] then resorts to experience, and bending her into conformity with his placets leads her about like a captive in a procession.37

 

As Jonathan Wells has recently shown38, much the same pattern can be found in the work of dogmatic Darwinists.  For example, consider the Miller-Urey experiment of 1953, which seemed to show how the building blocks of life could arise from lightning in earth's primordial atmosphere.  Diagrams of the apparatus used still appear in recent textbooks even though geochemists have shown that the experiment falsely supposes that the early atmosphere lacked oxygen (a reducing agent).  Instead of accepting this difficulty, dogmatists have simply deduced the "fact" that the early atmosphere lacked oxygen from the assumption that the Miller-Urey experiment must be basically correct.   As Bacon put it in his day, "The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors...than to help the search after truth."39

 

As Bacon also emphasizes, human beings are afflicted by various "idols of the mind," prejudices which obstruct the search for truth.  One of these idols is the tendency of the proponents of a theory to be too willing to accept apparently confirming evidence and too unwilling to fairly consider apparently disconfirming evidence.  This is why computer programmers have their programs tested by a third party.  And it is why it is always a good thing for science to listen to the critics of currently accepted theory. 

 

Scientists of integrity should therefore welcome the challenge of ID as a stimulus to reexamine received opinions: even if the only outcome of ID is stronger justifications of Darwinian claims, it will have been good for science.  Without such openness, Darwinists are vulnerable to the charge of Congressman Souder.  Souder responded to a formal letter by eight Baylor faculty claiming that ID is not science because it is not materialistic:  "Is their position on teaching about materialistic science so weak that it cannot withstand scrutiny and debate?.…  [S]erious people make a case against Darwinism.…  Yet the Baylor biologists simply ignore these criticisms.  One senses here not a defense of science but rather an effort to protect, by political means, a privileged philosophical viewpoint against a serious challenge.…  As the Congress, it might be wise for us to question whether the legitimate authority of science over scientific matters is being misused by persons to identify science with a philosophy they prefer.  Does the scientific community really welcome new ideas and dissent, or does it merely pay lip service to them while imposing a materialist orthodoxy?"40

 

In a dogmatic environment, we will hear evermore overblown claims quite unjustified by the evidential base.  For example, Dobzhansky claimed that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."41  Yet much work in biochemistry, anatomy and ecology can proceed without assuming current evolutionary theory, because it analyses intrinsic properties and relations rather than speculating on their etiology.  It is a mistake to think that dogmatism is only bad because it protects false beliefs.  Ideas also have consequences.  Darwinists should beware of following in the footsteps of Lysenko.  On the basis of dogmatic adherence to Marxist dialectical materialism, Lysenko denied Mendelian genetics and required all Soviet scientists to subscribe to his own neo-Lamarckianism, with disastrous effects on agriculture.  When we hear evolutionary psychologists like Stephen Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer provide naturalistic rationalizations of rape42, we ought to be concerned about whether these consequences are really backed by good science, or are simply the result of the single child of Darwinism being spoiled by its lack of competition.

 

 

4. Conclusion.

 

Not attending to history we are condemned to repeat it.  Galileo's ideas were so philosophically and politically unacceptable that after being persecuted, he was forced to live out his life under house arrest.  After his demotion, "Dembski [now] spends most of his time at home with his family."  He hasn't been imprisoned, but it is hardly surprising that "[h]e doesn't like going to the university's campus,"43 where he has been the target of so much ill will.  The two beacons of generosity have been the departments of engineering and business. For example, the business school has encouraged Dembski to develop models of business organization based on Intelligent Design, rather than laissez-faire Darwinian principles.  But otherwise Dembski has largely been ostracized. He is never apprised of departmental colloquia or forums that might be of interest to him. He is never asked to speak about his work in any cross-campus convocation, and his strong sense is that the administration will expend no more political capital on him, is simply going to allow his contract to expire.  Even when the business school did offer him a position, administration blocked it, and they have never offered a renewal of contract in any department or capacity.  This prophet is decidedly unwelcome in his home town. Nontheless, Dembksi remains totally committed to the vision of the Michael Polanyi Center, and will see if fulfilled somewhere, even if it must be an independent research institute.

 

Dembski's demotion and subsequent ostracism is a triumph of dogmatism over open dialogue, of a culturally protected monopoly over serious competition, of secular accommodationism over robust Christian faith, and of ideological censorship over academic freedom.  Regardless of whether they think there is merit in Dembski's work, open-minded thinkers, Christian and non-Christian alike, should be outraged at what happened to Dembski at Baylor.  Science and the academy are helped in every way by making room for dissenting voices.  Indeed it is the very idea of a university to allow a plurality of ideas to compete in the search for truth. 

 

 

Notes:

 

1An abridged, earlier version of this paper appeared as “Few Signs of Intelligence: The Saga of Bill Dembski at Baylor,” Touchstone magazine, May 2001, 54-55.

 

2For more on Christian engagement with Science, see my “Lutheran Theology Meets Intelligent Design,” Dialog: A Journal of Theology Theology (Vol. 40:1, Spring 2001), 61-63.

 

3Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind, Study Guide Edition (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1997), 39.

 

4This occurred at the Nature of Nature conference (held at Baylor University, April 12-15, 2000) and the Design and its Critics conference (held at Concordia University Wisconsin, June 22-24, 2000).

 

5Some of this evidence is cited in the Second Protest statement of the Cranach Institute, a body devoted to working out the consequences of the Reformation for contemporary issues.  For more on the Cranach Institute, see http://www.cuw.edu/Cranach/default.htm.  The protest statement itself is available at:

 

http://www.cuw.edu/Cranach/dembski_protest.htm.

 

6The Discovery Institute is a non-partisan organization devoted to supporting scientific and philosophical critiques of, and alternatives to, Darwinism.  See “www.discovery.org” for more details.

 

7Fred Heeren, “The Lynching of Bill Dembski,”  The American Spectator, November, 2000, 46.

 

8One of the sillier arguments made by the external review committee who evaluated Dembski’s work was that since Polanyi did not argue for intelligent design, his name should not be used for the center.  This overlooks the enormous importance of the fact that Polanyi, like Dembski, did see complex biological information as a distinct category to be explained.  It is also never going to be the case that those who work at a named center agree with all the views of the person for whom it was named. Should just those physicists who believe in all and only the beliefs of Cavendish be employed by Cavendish Laboratories?!

 

9Fred Heeren, “The Lynching of Bill Dembski,”  The American Spectator, November, 2000, 47.

 

10Ibid.

 

11Tony Carnes, “Design Interference,” available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/014/18.20.html, 3.

 

12Fred Heeren, “The Deed is Done,” from The American Spectator (Dec 2000—Jan 2001), available at:

 

http://www.spectator.org/archives/0012TAS/heeren0012.htm,  3.

 

13Lauren Kern, “In God’s Country,” originally published by Houston Press, December 14, 2000, retrieved from: “http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2000-12-14/feature2.html/printable_page”, 5.

 

14Fred Heeren, “The Lynching of Bill Dembski,” The American Spectator, November 2000, 48.

 

15Ibid.

 

16Gene Edward Veith, "The Galileo Treatment," World, November 18, 2000, 13.

 

17Fred Heeren, “The Deed is Done,” 3.

 

18Fred Heeren, “The Lynching of Bill Dembski,” The American Spectator, November 2000, 48.

 

19The text of the External Review committee’s report can be downloaded from http://pr.baylor.edu/pdf/001017polanyi.pdf.  For the administration’s response, see http://pr.baylor.edu/feat.fcgi?2000.10.17.polanyi.

 

20From “The External Review Committee Report: Baylor University,” paragraph 2.

 

21John Wilson, “Unintelligent Designs: Baylor’s dismissal of Polanyi Center director Dembski was not a smart move” available at “http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/143/11.0.html” and from “www.discovery.org”.

 

22Dr. Dembski’s letter is available at: http://www.cuw.edu/Cranach/dembski_protest.htm, 6

 

23Michael D. Beaty, “Baylor University Responds to Misconceptions about the Polanyi Center Controversy,” Metanews, October, 27, 2000.  Dr. Beaty’s response is available at:

 

http://www.cuw.edu/Cranach/dembski_protest.htm, 3-4.

 

24Robert Benne, Quality With Soul: How Six Premier Colleges and Universities Keep Faith with Their Religious Traditions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 116-117.  For a survey of the different models at work in Christian higher education and an argument in favor of the “dialog” model, see my “Promoting Dialogue in the Christian Academy,” Logia, Eastertide 2002 XI: 2, 19-28.

 

25Fred Heeren, “The Deed is Done,” 5.

 

26These labels themselves are interesting, since liberals like to describe themselves as “moderates” to make their radical agendas seem reasonable, and to cast all conservatives as “fundamentalists” to make them seem unreasonable.

 

27Lauren Kern, “In God’s Country,” 6.

 

28Indeed Lewis was on numerous occasions denied deserved promotions because of his outspoken Christian views, never attaining the rank of professor while he remained at Oxford University.

 

29Harry Blamires, “Teaching the Universal Truth: C. S. Lewis among the Intellectuals,” in David Mills (ed.), The Pilgrim’s Guide: C. S. Lewis and the Art of Witness (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 18. 

 

30Ibid., 21.

 

31Newton himself speculated that gravitation could be explained by some sort of cosmic particle, but was unable to provide evidence.

 

32For a first rate examination of this episode, see Patrick Ferry, “The Guiding Lights of the University of Wittenberg and the Emergence of Copernican Astronomy,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, October 1993, 265-291.

 

33Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton argue in detail that presuppositions of Christian theology were instrumental in the rise of modern science.  See their The Soul of Science (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), especially pp. 21-37.  See also my “Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him: How the Bible and Science View the World.” Editorial in Issues in Christian Education Spring 2001, Vol. 35, No. 1, 4-5.

 

34Shermer is head of the Skeptics Society and when invited to debate ID at the Design and its Critics conference at Concordia University Wisconsin, June 22-24, spent most of his time on psychological explanations for the belief in ID.  This is a classic example of what C. S. Lewis called “Bulverism,” where one attempts to explain away a “false” belief without ever showing that it is false.

 

35Charles Weaver is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University and one of Dembski's most vociferous critics.

 

36Charles Weaver quoted in Lauren Kern, "In God's country," 5.

 

37Francis Bacon, The New Organon, LXIII.

 

38Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2000).  See also my review of this work, “Shattering the Icons of Dogmatic Darwinism,” Human Events, December 1, 2000, 12, 19.

 

39Francis Bacon, The New Organon, XII.

 

40From Congressman Souder's response to the Baylor 8 in the Congressional record for June 14, 2000, page H4480, available from: http://thomas.loc.gov/ entry for June 14, 2000, 1-3.

 

41Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,” The American Biology Teacher 35 (1973), 125-129.  See also Jonathan Wells’ critical discussion in his Icons of Evolution, 245-248.

 

42Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer authored the already notorious book, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000). 

 

43Lauren Kern, "In God's Country," 7.

 


 

Letter from Antony Flew to Angus Menuge
regarding MPC Controversy

 

18 January 2001

 

Dear Angus Menuge,

 

Thank you for your letter of January 9th. I had already seen the articles in The American Spectator, a journal to which I have been a long time subscriber. I wrote to the editor asking for more information about Dembski's published work, since I wanted to ensure that the one or two Skeptical and Humanist journals I can influence would give it due attention. I got no information from that source. But a friend at Liberty University – Jerry Falwell's foundation – gave me particulars of both The Design Inference and Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. I have some success already on both counts.

 

Of course I am in total agreement with everything you say in 'Dembski and Academic Freedom', and I will gladly add my name to the signature list of any protest organized in the USA. (For when the offenders are citizens of a liberal state I think the protest initiatives should come form their scandalized fellow citizens.)

 

You may be interested to learn that I knew both C.S. Lewis and Michael Polanyi, and engaged in public discussions, both oral and printed, with C.S. Lewis.

 

Yours,

Antony Flew


 

The Public Square

 

Richard John Neuhaus

First Things, February 2001

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0102/public.html

 

Baylor University has legitimate aspirations to being recognized as a major research institution. Those hopes were dealt a severe setback when William A. Dembski was removed as director of the newly established Michael Polanyi Center. Dembski, a contributor to this journal, is a widely acclaimed leader in intelligent design theory, and became a victim of what is best described as intellectual McCarthyism agitated by Baylor faculty who were fearful that the Baptist school would be tainted by association with "creationism"--in this case a smear word for any scientific challenge posed to Darwinian orthodoxies. The sordid story is told in detail by Fred Heeren in "The Lynching of Bill Dembski" (American Spectator, November 2000). University president Robert Sloan finally caved and dismissed Dembski for not being "collegial." His offense was that he had issued a press release following a peer review committee's finding in his favor and refused to retract it. His release said, "My work on intelligent design will continue unabated. Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression." That is feisty, but it is as nothing compared to what his opponents said about him. I know and respect President Sloan, but the dismissal of William Dembski is a personal injustice, a disservice to academic and scientific integrity, and, as aforesaid, a severe setback to the aspirations of a good university to be respected as among the best.

 


 

Few Signs of Intelligence

 

The Saga of Bill Dembski at Baylor

 

by Angus J. L. Menuge
May 2001
http://www.touchstonemag.com/docs/issues/14.4docs/14-4pg54.html

 

William Dembski, a leader in the intelligent design movement, was demoted last fall from his position as director of the newly founded Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. This action followed concerted efforts earlier in the year by members of Baylor's faculty to close the center.

 

An external review committee had been appointed to evaluate the credentials of the center's work. Despite the hostility of many of its members, the committee eventually found in favor of the legitimacy of Dembski's research. With reporters on his heels just after the committee report became public, Dembski issued a press release celebrating the vindication of his research and of the center&emdash;and the victory gained over his academic adversaries. This enraged many of his critics. It was claimed that Dembski's action "severely compromised his ability to perform his central administrative duties," hence his removal from the directorship.

 

How is it that a highly respected author and leader of the intelligent design movement became persona non grata at the very Christian university that hired him to carry on research in his field in the first place?

 

From Favor to Furor

 

William Dembski was already a research fellow for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute when he was approached by Baylor University President Robert Sloan in 1996. Sloan had read some of Dembski's work and thought that Dembski could help with his project of promoting the integration of faith and learning on campus.

 

Sloan's approach to integration was not heavy-handed. He had "resisted the urging of fundamentalists to 'throw the evolutionists out' of the biology department, vowing never to bar anyone at Baylor from teaching evolution."1 In 1999, Sloan was able to establish a center named for Michael Polanyi, a Hungarian chemist who had denied that biological information could be reduced to physics and chemistry.

 

Dembski and Bruce Gordon were hired and appointed to the center, and they enjoyed a favorable reception. But the honeymoon ended when the Polanyi Center established its website in January 2000. When "other groups with evolution-bashing agendas began linking up their Websites . . . [m]any on the biology faculty flashed back to old culture battles, when such groups had publicly questioned the professors' integrity."2

 

An e-mail frenzy at Baylor spread to other schools. Dembski "was subject to dismissive comments that he was a 'stealth creationist.'"3 As Gordon has often pointed out, the Michael Polanyi Center never endorsed the connections from other websites. Sadly, many faculty were quite unable (or unwilling) to distinguish work on intelligent design (ID) from old-style creationism. ID merely looks for empirical evidence of design in nature and does not presume to settle the identity of the designer, and it does not start from Scripture or a dogmatic position about the age of the earth.

 

Despite this setback, the Polanyi Center went ahead and hosted the Nature of Nature conference in April 2000. This conference examined the adequacy of naturalism as a foundation for work in the natural sciences and philosophy. The conference drew a cast of top scholars and scientists from around the world, the majority of whom were critical of ID, favoring either full naturalism or some form of methodological naturalism. Genuine civility was demonstrated as people openly debated deeply held presuppositions. Probably all sides were surprised to learn that the sophistication and intellectual muscle of their opponents far surpassed the stereotypes they feared.

 

Tragically, many at Baylor had already made up their minds and "not only boycotted the event, but . . . took to the press and the Internet to publicly excoriate Dembski."4 During the conference, both the local Waco newspaper and the Baylor newspaper published stories about the controversy, with comments about "pseudo-science" emanating from some Baylor faculty. One would have thought that any open-minded person would have at least listened to some of the debate, especially given the presence of so many erudite critics of ID.

 

Yet worse was to come. "Just days after the naturalism conference, the faculty senate voted 27&endash;2 to dismantle Dembski's center."5 Faculty complained that they should have been involved in creating the center. Sloan courageously refused to close the center, but the administration "essentially put Dembski under a gag order. Dembski was pressured not to attend a meeting in Washington, where intelligent design advocates met some members of Congress and their staff; and he was restricted in what he put on his Website and in how he could reply to his critics, no matter how public or vocal they became. Freedom of speech at Baylor, it seems, only works one way."6 In addition, Sloan agreed to create an external review committee to evaluate the Polanyi Center's academic credentials.

 

Waterloo in Waco

 

Dembski's extensively peer-reviewed publication of The Design Inference with Cambridge University Press (1998) should have made such a review unnecessary. Yet, not being a person to shy away from criticism, Dembski initially welcomed the review: "I always learn more from my critics than from the people who think I am wonderful."7 It seems that the committee selection was far from fair, including a majority of hostile critics and no one with the background to understand Dembski's mathematical arguments.

 

Even so, in October the committee upheld the importance and legitimacy of Dembski's work&emdash;yet called for the center to be renamed and broadened in its scope. Vindication by a largely hostile source is about the highest form of endorsement one can hope for. So one would think that the matter was over. Yet one short e-mail changed everything. On the same day the report was released, Dembski broadcast the following comment by e-mail:

 

The report marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry. This is a great day for academic freedom. I'm deeply grateful to President Sloan and Baylor University for making this possible, as well as to the peer review committee for its unqualified affirmation of my own work on intelligent design. The scope of the Center will be expanded to embrace a broader set of conceptual issues at the intersection of science and religion, and the Center will therefore receive a new name to reflect this expanded vision. My work on intelligent design will continue unabated. Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression.

 

Only the last two statements could be called "offensive," and even so they seem to be accurate. Dembski's opponents had acted in a dogmatic and intolerant way, and their hope that the review committee would find against ID had been dashed.

 

This short e-mail, it was claimed, provoked a firestorm of protest across Baylor's campus. The administration asked Dembski to retract or contextualize his e-mail. He refused on the grounds that his remarks accurately reflected the nature of the controversy. As a result, Dembski was removed from his directorship, and the Polanyi Center lost its name and identity, being absorbed into the larger Institute for Faith and Learning. It was stated that Dembski was removed on "administrative grounds," because his comments (and refusal to retract them) were lacking in collegiality and "severely compromised his ability to perform his central administrative duties."8

 

If lack of collegiality is grounds for demotion, the Baylor administration owes everyone an explanation of why not one of Dembski's detractors at Baylor, no matter how misinformed or mean-spirited his criticism, has suffered similar penalties. Baylor faculty have misrepresented Dembski's work as "creationist" or "fundamentalist." They boycotted his first major conference, then tried to close the Polanyi Center altogether. These are not collegial actions.

 

Too Hot to Handle

 

Why did Dembski make people so angry? There is a local factor, peculiar to Baylor, and a broader factor, which Dembski would have encountered at most major schools. The local factor is that Southern Baptists have been through a painful controversy and schism between fundamentalists and moderates, and Baylor has emerged as a stronghold for the latter. As Dembski put it, "Baylor is&emdash;I didn't fully realize this&emdash;the bastion for the moderates, where anything that smacks of fundamentalism, creationism, just sends people through the roof."9

 

The broader factor reflects the nature of Dembski's challenge to contemporary academia. Like C. S. Lewis before him, William Dembski has dared to do what has become unthinkable for many in the post-Enlightenment academy. He has exposed the fact that "Naturalism [is] the implicit creed of half his colleagues and (worse) that"&emdash;if he is right&emdash;"it [is] nonsense."10

 

One would think that faculty at a strong Christian school like Baylor University would welcome such an academic, regardless of whether or not they agree with his views. But with notable and courageous exceptions, this has not been the case. There is too much evidence that Dembski's academic freedom has been denied at Baylor to propitiate hostile faculty primarily concerned about secular canons of academic respectability. For Christian faculty who are worried about being associated with the "fundamentalist creationists," intelligent design apparently is just too hot to handle. The risk, even if slight, of being associated in any way with "creationism" seems to be too great to face, even if it means ignoring both intelligence and design. 

 

NOTES

 

1. Fred Heeren, "The Lynching of Bill Dembski," The American Spectator, November 2000.

 

2. Ibid.

 

3. Tony Carnes, "Design Interference," Christianity Today, December 4, 2000.

 

4. Fred Heeren, "The Deed Is Done," The American Spectator, Dec. 2000/Jan. 2001.

 

5. Lauren Kern, "In God's Country," Houston Press, December 14, 2000.

 

6. Fred Heeren, "The Deed Is Done," op. cit.

 

7. Fred Heeren, "The Lynching of Bill Dembski," op. cit.

 

8. Michael D. Beaty, "Baylor University Responds to Misconceptions about the Polanyi Center Controversy," Metanews, October 27, 2000.

 

9. Lauren Kern, "In God's Country," op. cit.

 

10. Harry Blamires, "Old Western Man," in David Mills (ed.), The Pilgrim's Guide: C. S. Lewis and the Art of Witness (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998), 18.

 

Angus J. L. Menuge is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Cranach Institute Speaker Series at Concordia University Wisconsin.

 


 

Baylor's Bastard Child

 

Editorial by James Kushiner

Touchstone, May 2001

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=14-04-003-e

 

 

If you only heard about Bill Dembski from his enemies, you would think Baylor University was well rid of him as head of the Michael Polanyi Center, an institution that Baylor invited Dembski to found in 1999. According to faculty opponents, Dembski posed a threat to the science department at Baylor with his ideas about intelligent design. In published stories last year, some even accused him of practicing pseudo-science.

 

Dembski is a leader in the intelligent design movement and the author of several groundbreaking books, including The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press) and Intelligent Design (InterVarsity). (In March, Signs of Intelligence [Brazos Press], an expansion of Touchstone's 1999 issue on intelligent design, was released, edited by Dembski and me.)

 

A Front for Creationism?

 

So why was Dembski fired as director of a center dedicated to intelligent design theory--at a Christian school? Essentially because intelligent design is not considered legitimate science by many in the academic establishment and because Dembski tired of playing the part of second-class citizen expected of him.

 

Intelligent design is opposed by scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, who are philosophically committed to Darwinism, essentially a purely naturalistic explanation for everything that exists: the cosmos, life, and everything that makes us human beings. But materialist scientists are not the only ones fiercely fighting Dembski and others. Some Christian scientists committed to Darwinism (such as those at Baylor, a Baptist school) oppose intelligent design as science because they believe it may be too closely associated with "creationism," and creationism is not welcome in serious academic circles. Creationism, generally speaking, takes as its starting point Genesis 1, a "religious text," and seeks to conform scientific findings to what is read (often literally, i.e., six 24-hour days) therein.

 

But Dembski and his intelligent design associates have limited their claims for intelligent design to purely scientific research and data. In April 2000, Dembski organized a conference at Baylor on "The Nature of Nature," which brought scientists together to debate intelligent design. Did the conference--boycotted by most of the Baylor science faculty--live up to its opponents' billing as a front for creationism? Hardly. Prominent scientists opposed to intelligent design, including two Nobel laureates, dominated the three-day event. And at the closing dinner of the conference, Christian De Duve, the Nobel laureate from Belgium and one of the world's leading cell biologists and evolutionists, rose and publicly complimented the scholarly quality of the conference and the civility of the debate. He toasted the organizers of a conference that had been, in his words, "intelligently designed."

 

Misbehaving


Despite such affirmations, Dembski was treated as a bastard son of real science. His critics tried to put Dembski in his place, but he didn't behave himself.

 

Shortly after the conference, the Baylor faculty voted to ask President Sloan to close the center. Sloan formed a review committee. In October the committee released its report, recommending that Dembski's work be recognized as legitimate science. They also said that the Faith and Learning Center, under which the Polanyi Center had been operating, should be free to run programs dealing with intelligent design. But they also said the Polanyi name should be dropped, effectively closing the center as it had been established. Further, they moved the new unnamed entity under the umbrella of the Faith and Learning Center, stipulating that Dembski could work there under an advisory board.

 

Apparently at Baylor, a Christian university, if

an intelligent design theorist is given a place

(under supervision), he'd best not get uppity.

 

Dembski cannily issued a public memo expressing his appreciation for the vindication of his work on intelligent design, and his determination to carry on his research "unabated" under a reorganized center as approved by the committee. Then he went on to say that the opponents of intelligent design had "met their Waterloo." He closed by commending Baylor "for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression."

 

This was too much for Dembski's opponents and a firestorm of protest broke out on campus. Dembski was asked by Sloan to retract his celebratory memo. Unwilling to do this, he was removed from the directorship for "uncollegial" behavior. (For a fuller account and analysis of this story, see Angus J. L. Menuge's "Few Signs of Intelligence" in this issue, pp. 54–55.)

 

Their Loss

 

To understand Baylor's perspective of Dembski and attitude toward him, think of Baylor as a well-heeled family and Dembski as a bastard son (in their view) who wants to be admitted to the family plantation (legitimate science). Well, after the family examines his claim, they can't deny that this is indeed the son of one of their boys (Cambridge University Press and a peer-reviewed book). But he is a bastard and racially mixed (intelligent design seems to play into the hands of those creationists). They admit him to the plantation (it would be scandalous to turn him away), and they will take care of him (honor their contract with him). They are stuck with him. But they will be darned if he will have the privileges of the other family members. He really can't live in the same house and eat his supper at the same table. He can live on the plantation, but in the servants' quarters where he will work (under Baylor supervision). The poor boy needs to remember his place.

 

Well, when he hears this, crazy ol' Bill thanks the family for recognizing his pedigree and for letting him move in (his memo). He walks right into the house and gives thanks (his memo again) that justice has been done and that bigotry has been set aside in his favor. He asks one of the ladies of the house what's for dinner and might he be shown to his bedroom so he can tidy up beforehand. Crazy Bill is hustled (demoted) back to the servants' quarters. He may be related to the family, but he sure enough is not going to be treated as an equal.

 

Apparently at Baylor, a Christian university, if an intelligent design theorist is given a place (under supervision), he'd best not get uppity. This is a shameful way to treat someone initially hired to direct a new center for scientific research, even if it is on a controversial theory.

 

We think that Baylor's loss is sadly, well, their loss, and eventually will become someone else's gain. For it would seem that when his contract is up, Dembski could do better than work at a school that treats him as Baylor has. Oxford University is sometimes remembered by admirers of C. S. Lewis as the place where he taught most of his academic career and yet couldn't get a professorship, largely because of his popularization of Christian doctrines and his apologetic work. Lewis eventually received a professorship at Cambridge.

 

If someday intelligent design theory--contrary to the devout wishes of many of the Baylor science faculty--is established as the best scientific explanation for life, it would be ironic (and fitting) if Baylor is remembered as the place that demoted Bill Dembski.

 

--James M. Kushiner, for the editors

 


 

William Dembski: An Intelligent Voice in the Design Debate
An interview by Glenda Mathes

(appeared in the 28sep05 vol24, no2 issue of Christian Renewal)

Dr. William A. Dembski is one of the most articulate and productive proponents of intelligent design theory. With advanced degrees in mathematics, philosophy and theology, Dembski’s intellectual arguments are making inroads within the scientific community while a more general audience finds his writing understandable.

An astute debater and prolific author, Dembski has written, co-authored and edited several books including: The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence, Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities, The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems, Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe, Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing and Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design.

Dr. Dembski is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Christian Renewal recently had the opportunity to interview him via email.

CR: Dr. Dembski, you write in The Design Revolution: “Intelligent design is not creationism and it is not naturalism. Nor is it a compromise or synthesis of these positions. It simply follows the empirical evidence of design wherever it leads. Intelligent design is a third way” (pp. 26-27). Can you briefly explain for Christian Renewal readers how intelligent design differs from creationism and naturalism and what it offers as a “third way”?

WD: Naturalism affirms that reality is constituted of material entities governed simply by undirected forces. Intelligence, from a naturalistic perspective, is simply the result of material processes working over the course of history (“blind evolution”). Creationism, on the other hand, affirms that there is an intelligence that governs nature but then goes further to assert that this intelligence is the Christian God who acted in line with Genesis, and specifically by interpreting Genesis so that the days of creation are six consecutive 24-hour days. Intelligent design is merely committed to an intelligence acting in and governing nature, without any stake in harmonizing this view with the Bible. Moreover, it claims to show that the actions of this intelligence are scientifically detectable.

CR: Do you ever feel as if you’re caught between the “rock” of creationists, who wish you were more overt in the expression of your biblical faith, and the “hard place” of evolutionists who accuse you of covertly trying to inject biblical faith into scientific debate?

WD: In fact, I tend to be on good terms with creationists. Duane Gish, perhaps the best known young-earth creationist after Henry Morris, commended intelligent design at a conference last year, saying “I love what you guys are doing.” A few years back, John Morris, head of the Institute for Creation Research likewise commended intelligent design to me, saying that while it did not go the whole way with the Christian doctrine of creation, it did sound the death knell for Darwinism, which he regards as a very good thing (as do I). I think many creationists are happy to see intelligent design as a positive contribution to our understanding of God’s handiwork in creation. To be sure, intelligent design falls short of providing a full doctrine of creation and some creationists are not entirely happy with this because they see it as distracting Christians from such a fuller understanding. But even that difference is ultimately a difference in emphasis. It does not undercut intelligent design and its role within a Christian worldview. As for the Darwinists and their efforts to try to identify intelligent design with young earth creationism, this is merely a transparent ploy. It has no intellectual merit. It is done simply for political purposes because creationism was defeated in the courts in the 1980s, and by identifying the two, they hope to avoid the hard work of defeating intelligent design by sound argument, something they have been utterly incapable of doing.

CR: Why is the adjective “intelligent” necessary to distinguish intelligent design from apparent design?

WD: Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker asserts that “biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” The language of design is common throughout biology. But most biologists take a materialistic view of biological origins and regard biological complexity as the result of an impersonal naturalistic process (e.g., natural selection and random genetic change). Thus, for most biologists, every instance of design in biology is merely apparent — there is no actual intelligence behind it. By contrast, in putting the adjective “intelligent” in front of “design,” proponents of intelligent design are emphasizing that they are referring to real design and not merely to apparent design. Note also that the adjective “intelligent” does not mean to imply anything about the goodness, cleverness, or competence of the designing intelligence. It is merely stressing that the intelligence is actual.

CR: Did you coin the term “specified complexity,” how would you define it, and why is it so important for intelligent design theory?

WD: The term has been around for at least thirty years, though until I gave it a rigorous formulation it was used intuitively or, as philosophers of science might say, pre-theoretically. The term refers to a type of patterned complexity that is best explained as the product of intelligence. Recall the movie Contact, which was about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Radio astronomers in the movie were looking for signs of intelligence from outer space in radio signals. In the movie they received a radio signal that came in as a sequence of beats and pauses. It was a long sequence, so it was complex. But complexity itself was not enough to require a design explanation (get out a coin and start flipping it long enough, and you’ll witness a highly complex sequence of coin tosses; still there won’t be any design there). Additionally what was needed was that the signal these astronomers received exhibited a salient pattern — in this case, it was a sequence of prime numbers. So it was complexity plus a particular type of pattern, what I call a specification, that convinced the astronomers that they were dealing with intelligence. This concept is important to intelligent design theory because it shows that we are not just blowing smoke — we have solid methods for identifying the effects of intelligence that in principle are applicable to biological systems. In other words, intelligent design is fully scientific.

CR: You’ve written several books and numerous articles, given lectures and participated in debates promoting the intelligent design theory. Yet it seems as if the more you articulate, the harsher criticism you receive. For instance, H. Allen Orr in “Devolution: Why intelligent design isn’t,” which appeared in the May 30, 2005 issue of The New Yorker, admits that your books “are generally well written and packed with provocative ideas,” but he also sharply criticizes you and calls intelligent design “junk science.” How do you view such attacks? Are they part of Darwinism’s death throes?

WD: I like to think of how scientists are reacting to intelligent design in terms of the stages of grief when someone is confronted with a catastrophe. Intelligent design represents nothing less than a catastrophe to conventional materialistic science, committed as it is to an atheistic understanding of the physical world. That’s because if we’re right, it’s not just evolutionary theory that must change but our very conception of science, which must open itself to intelligence as a fundamental power in nature. Recall that the stages of grief are usually the following:

1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Even two or three years ago, the scientific community was still in a state of denial, denying that ID was any sort of factor in scientific discussions. We’re now clearly in the anger stage, with violent attempts to shut down the discussion (Orr’s criticisms are actually fairly tame — compare, for instance, the attacks by his close colleague Jerry Coyne). I expect soon enough evolutionists will start bargaining, attempting to minimize the importance of ID while trying to incorporate some of its legitimate insights. The problem is that ID cannot be assimilated into a strict materialism, and so the more atheistic scientists will become depressed. As for acceptance, I doubt that the old guard will ever get that far. Rather, acceptance will come from a younger generation that is able to throw off the shackles of materialistic thinking.

CR: When you wrote your preface to No Free Lunch in 2002, you were an associate research professor with no teaching duties at Baylor University’s Institute for Faith and Learning and thanked Robert Sloan, the University president, for the opportunity to devote “uninterrupted time” to research on intelligent design. Last September you were appointed as director of the newly established Center for Science and Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and began your new duties as the Carl F.H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science on June 1. What happened at Baylor?

WD: My story at Baylor has been widely reported and I give a complete chronicle on my website (www.designinference.com/documents/2005.05.ID_at_Baylor.htm). The short of what happened is that dogmatic materialists, both inside and outside the school, pressured the Baylor administration to shut down an intelligent design research center that the administration had previously encouraged me to found. The administration bowed to pressure.

CR: One of your first actions at the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor was to organize the impressive April 2000 conference on “The Nature of Nature,” which examined the role of naturalism in science, featured high profile scientists (including two Nobel laureates) from a variety of disciplines, and allowed good-natured exchanges between differing views. It was a huge success. In spite of that, the Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly just a few days later to request that the Baylor Administration dissolve the Center. The Administration appointed an External Review Committee whose report, while flattering Baylor’s scientific community, endorsed the work of the Center by suggesting that it expand its vision and change its name to reflect that broader scope. Your press release in response hailed the Committee’s report as a victory not only for academic freedom, but also for intelligent design “as a legitimate form of academic inquiry.” The final two sentences of your press release, which created an immediate uproar, stated: “Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression.” Looking back on the firestorm that ensued from that press release, do you think you might have been hasty and do you regret the wording? Or do you believe your response was necessary and appropriate?

WD: Many people have interpreted my press release and the now famous “Waterloo” comment (it was widely reported in the press; Google reports over 500 hits) as an intemperate assault by a feisty academic who should have known when to shut up. Now that my appointment with Baylor is over, let me give you the real story. In May of 2000, before the review committee was installed, I was invited to speak on Capitol Hill before members of Congress. This was a bipartisan briefing — not a hearing — so there was no policy or law to be enacted on the basis of my remarks.

The Baylor administration, despite installing me as director of the Polanyi Center with duties to raise monies for the center, forbade me from attending this conference. I decided to play along (despite the clear violation of my academic freedom), but when a press release mistakenly appeared saying that I would be at the meeting on Capitol Hill after all, the Baylor campus was in an uproar and the Baylor administration drafted a letter which they wanted me to sign addressed to the Baylor community assuring them that I was not going to the Capitol Hill briefing because that would politicize intelligent design, something I could not do as director of the Polanyi Center.

I told the administration that I did not attend the briefing out of courtesy to them because of all the pressure they were under on account of the Polanyi Center, but that I would not sign the letter because I saw it as well within my prescribed duties to attend such meetings and that in the future I would do so. They reacted very negatively to this. In fact, they wanted to settle with me right then and there and show me to the door. I had to get a lawyer and after two months of negotiations they offered me $15,000 to buy me out of a five and a half year contract. I told them to forget it and that I would be moving to Waco [Ed. note: Baylor is located in Waco]. All this happened summer of 2000.

When the review committee finally met in September of 2000, it was a star chamber. I was grilled. All my works were scrutinized. I had no recourse to anyone on or outside campus. Unlike tenure review decisions, all the findings of the committee would be made public. John Moore, one of the persons on the committee, was interviewed in the local paper the day before the committee met with me and told the reporter that I was clever but that my work had only political, not scientific, significance. So the deck was already stacked against me.

When the committee issued its report a month later, they made four recommendations: (1) drop the name of the Polanyi Center; (2) absorb whatever entity it might become into Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning (in which I had no administrative authority); (3) change the emphasis of whatever this center might become from the scientific investigation of intelligent design to that fuzzy catch-all category known as “science and religion”; and (4) institute an advisory board to determine what should be done on the Baylor campus with regard to science and religion issues. In short, there was no more Polanyi Center.

The Baylor administration immediately signed off on these recommendations. I was to have been given two days notice about the review committee’s recommendations and the Baylor administration’s decision whether to adopt them. Instead, I learned of the recommendations Monday late afternoon. By Tuesday morning the review committee’s report was broadcast all over the Internet along with the Baylor administration’s full endorsement. By Tuesday afternoon the press was after me for comment. I therefore decided to issue the press release to which you referred. The one bright spot in the peer review committee report was that they had said my work had legitimacy. I decided to highlight that in the press release.

On the other hand, my whole purpose for coming to Baylor had been thwarted. My “Waterloo” comment was meant to underscore the irony, indeed the ridiculousness, of these entire proceedings. Unfortunately, those Baylor faculty who were most eager to shut down the Polanyi Center were also the most humorless people I have ever met. Rather than seeing the irony and understanding that they had been completely victorious in crushing the Polanyi Center, they agitated still further, thereby compounding the irony. Thus Baylor president Robert Sloan, after shutting down the Polanyi Center, went further and fired me from a center that no longer existed. I still have that letter.

CR: Now that you’ve received the appointment at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and are regularly teaching classes, how will you find time to continue your research and your prolific publication schedule? How will your current work at the Seminary promote your goals with regard to intelligent design?

WD: As for my duties at Southern Seminary, I see this as an opportunity to influence and attract talent to the ID movement from a denomination that has by and large stayed faithful to traditional Christian belief. I don’t see my teaching duties as undercutting my research. I can do doctoral seminars on books that I’m writing, and I find it helpful to interact with students to see how my ideas are being received and how I need to clarify them.

CR: In your preface to The Design Revolution, you write that clearing away the stumbling blocks is “the most important task in moving the design revolution forward.” What are the primary stumbling blocks, what can the average person do to clear them away, and why should a Christian work to promote intelligent design theory?

WD: As for clearing away stumbling blocks, I was referring to questions raised in many people’s minds about intelligent design that prevent them from taking its claims seriously. I think my book The Design Revolution does a good job clearing away such obstacles, as do many other books and videos that my colleagues and I have recently produced — I think especially of the video Unlocking the Mystery of Life, available through Illustra Media. Such a “ground clearing” operation is important from the vantage of Christian apologetics because atheists and agnostics often appeal to a materialistic way of viewing science to dismiss the claims of Christian faith. Richard Dawkins, for instance, remarks that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Intelligent design no longer leaves atheists that option.

CR: I’ve read that a sovereign Creator who was also a personal God was “off your radar” when you were younger. How and when did that change for you and what role has your Christian faith played in developing your theories of intelligent design? What role does your faith continue to play in your work?

WD: I would say my faith has been very important in getting me to think that certain lines of scientific inquiry might prove fruitful when, on materialistic grounds, those lines of inquiry would be precluded from the start. In short, my faith encouraged me to look in new places and explore new possibilities. Robert Schuller has coined the phrase “possibility thinking,” which, regardless of how one views Schuller’s theology, seems to capture what my faith brought to my scientific and intellectual endeavors. Because Christian theology teaches that God by wisdom made the world, it is a perfectly natural question whether any aspects of that wisdom might be evident to scientific investigation. What I found is a natural world chock-full of design.