Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Dembski, Cats and Bags

The Baylor University student newspaper, The Lariat, has a most revealing article, entitled "Baylor not immune to scholarly feud over origin" by Van Darden and Josh Horton, on the recent denial of tenure to Dr. Francis Beckwith and the possibility that it resulted from Beckwith’s outspoken support for the Intelligent Design Movement.

After recounting the history of the Michael Polanyi Center and its original head, William Dembski, and the presidency of the University by Dr. Robert B. Sloan Jr., who some faculty felt was attempting to move the institution to the far right, the article quotes Dembski as saying:

Dembski said he thought part of the controversy surrounding the Polanyi Center had to do with university politics, as the center "became the poster child of what Robert Sloan was doing with the university."

Many members of the faculty expressed concern at the time that Sloan was pushing an aggressive conservative agenda for the university.

"I think with the conservative-moderate split, there's just a lot of bad feeling and I think it's unfortunate that intelligent design got rolled into what's perceived as conservative fundamentalism and put that side of the aisle," Dembski said. "(The center) was stereotyped and demonized."

He said that, as a Christian school, Baylor should be a place where Christian ideas are debated.

"A flagship evangelical institution -- at least that's what the 2012 vision says -- is a place where these ideas can be freely discussed." Dembski said. "I think it's shameful what's happened in the last five years."

Now, remind me how this works again . . .

ID is all about the science, right?

No doubt we will find out that Dembski was quoted out of context or misunderstood or something. After all, it is not like he has ever been caught speaking out of both sides of his mouth before.
The article was not on The Lariat's site for a time yesterday but is now back.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Michael Polanyi Center and Dembski's relationship with it can go to the site maintained by Steven Schafersman, of Texas Citizens for Science, for a large collection of the contemporaneous reports.

I'm a student at Baylor. The reason why the paper removed the story, rewrote it for its online version, and published corrections the next day is because Professor Beckwith complained to the paper that it had misrepresented his views. You are, unfortunately, doing the same thing. Beckwith is not "an outspoken supporter of the Intelligent Design Movement." In fact, if you knew anything of his philosophical writings on religion you would know that he is no great fan of design arguments. His project on ID concerns the legal question of teaching it in public schools. He argues that it is constitutionally permissible. But he also argues that it should not be required. And as a matter of policy, he is against teaching it.

Your painting with a broad brush is sloppy and a sign of intellectual laziness.

Why do you perpetuate falsehood against another person? Do you think it is ethical? What would you think of someone who did that to you, or your family?
First of all, Beckwith does support the "Intelligent Design Movement" by supporting the teaching of it in public schools, since the promotion of Christianity of a certain stripe at public expense is what the movement is about, not any honest philosophical argument. I find it strange that you think that his support of this disingenuous project is somehow mitigated by the fact that he admits ID is intellectually bankrupt.

As to the rest, I was unaware that the student paper had rewritten the article, not having checked it against the original since I would have expected that any such change would have been prominently noted by reputable journalists-in-training. I'll certainly look into it now.

Finally, do you think it is ethical to hide behind anonymity to criticize others? At least I said what I said about Beckwith out in the open, not crouching in the shadows.
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