Formal letter of protest concerning Dembski’s removal
STATEMENT OF THE CRANACH INSTITUTEPROTESTING THE REMOVAL OF WILLIAM DEMBSKIAS DIRECTOR OF THE MICHAEL POLANYI CENTERAT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
The Cranach Institute wishes to express its dismay at the decision to removeWilliam Dembski as Director of the Michael Polanyi Center (Metanews,10/19/2000). Shortly before this announcement, we learned that thecommittee appointed to evaluate the status of the Center upheld theimportance and legitimacy of Dr. Dembski’s work, while calling on the Centerto be redefined in its scope (http://pr.baylor.edu/pdf/001017polanyi.pdf).In his press release (Metanews 10/17/2000 and attached), Dr. Dembski clearlyagreed to these terms, stating that “[t]he scope of the Center will beexpanded to embrace a broader set of conceptual issues at the intersectionof science and religion and the Center will therefore receive a new name toreflect this expanded vision.” We appreciate that Dr. Dembski has notactually been fired as Associate Professor, but his removal as CenterDirector 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 hadwanted to close the center “have met their Waterloo.” This may be”offensive” to some of Baylor’s faculty but (a) it is unquestionablytrue-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 asBaylor University to acquiesce to the demands of political correctness. Thecompartmentalized approach to faith and academic work has become prevalentin American Universities, even Christian ones, and it would appear that whatmany oppose in Dr. Dembski’s work (at Baylor and elsewhere) is his explicitand rigorous integration of the two. How popular would Leibniz or Newton beat such universities if they expressed all their views, including anoverarching religious understanding of their scientific work?
There is nothing in what Dr. Dembski says in his press release that is notprotected by normal academic freedom, and further, while he may be called tobe “collegial” with other faculty, this can hardly be construed to mean thathe should be “nice” to those who have misrepresented his work or who haveengaged in caricature.
I would like to clarify the Cranach Institute’s perspective on this matter.The Cranach Institute is a Lutheran research institute “devoted tocontinuing the Reformation tradition…and applying its insights today.”Here is a relevant insight from the life of Martin Luther. When Rome calledLuther to recant his teaching on justification, Luther asked Rome to agreeto 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 theReformation. There is considerable entrenched power of secular humanism andan almost indistinguishable liberal Protestantism, both of which are callingfor dissenting (and especially robust Christian) views to be squashed byforce not debate. To its great credit, Baylor did not initially follow thispath, 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 thedogmatism of Rome model if Baylor now relies on force to overrule thecommittee. Is Baylor content to count itself among those universities inwhich political power can stifle academic dissent? I hope and pray not, notonly for the sake of the religious mission of Baylor, but also for itsacademic reputation as an institution which is not willing to beideologically captive.
It is worth noting that Concordia University Wisconsin, the home of theCranach Institute, hosted the Design and its Critics conference (June 22-24,2000), featuring both proponents and opponents of Intelligent Design. Theconference was much like the excellent “Nature of Nature” conference held atBaylor during the Spring of this year. At both of these conferences, a muchhigher degree of academic civility was attained than is usual. At manyconferences, such ideological dogmatism has taken hold that there is onlydebate 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 thetable for review. Nor was either conference a straw-man side show. Theconferences recruited the very best defenders of naturalism and critics ofintelligent design to meet their opposite numbers so that there was a realrisk of each side being shown to have weaknesses. Surely these conferences,both of which Dr. Dembski helped to organize, are the academy at its verybest, and anyone who has the knowledge and courage to facilitate them shouldbe rewarded, not punished. Certainly they were vastly superior to thesycophantic gatherings of the like-minded that have made many conferences inthe Humanities and Social Sciences venues for the self-perpetuation ofunexamined prejudice. The very premise of the university is the pursuit oftruth, not cultural power, and when power becomes the overriding objective,truth, and those who believe in it, are always the first victims. It is asorry day when universities make sacrifices of those who epitomize what auniversity should be all about.
For all of these reasons, the Cranach Institute urges Baylor University toreconsider its decision to remove William Dembski as Director of the MichaelPolanyi Center.
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.
Dr. Dembski’s 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 ofscience 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 strongin the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression.
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