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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://www.cranach.org/]
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. Beatyís explanation of the matter was unsatisfactory and that a second statement be made in response by the Cranach Institute.
In the Cranach Instituteís earlier statement, we had said that Dr. Dembski did not seem to have been removed on legitimate academic grounds. Dr. Beatyís 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. Dembskiís 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. Beatyís 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. Dembskiís story have seen numerous occasions on which Baylor (and other) faculty have misrepresented Dr. Dembskiís 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. Dembskiís 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. Dembskiís 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 Baylorís mission. These changes involved dropping the claim that the Michael Polanyi Center was advancing science because Baylor science faculty denied Dr. Dembskiís 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 Instituteís 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
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.
Director, The Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning
FIRST STATEMENT OF THE CRANACH INSTITUTE
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. Dembskiís 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 Baylorís 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. Dembskiís 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 Instituteís 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. Dembskiís 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.
Dr. Dembskiís 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
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.
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