We’re saddened to report on a recent administrative action at Baylor University (a Baptist school) in Texas, where administrators ordered a professor’s personal website be shut down because of “anonymous concerns” that the site supported ideas associated with the intelligent design movement (IDM).
The professor under fire this time is Robert Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Baylor’s record on dealing with academic freedom, particularly as it concerns intelligent design the IDM, is now all the more odious. In 2000, Baylor removed intelligent design theorist William Dembski, now at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, because Dembski “refus[ed] to rescind a statement supporting Intelligent Design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry.”
The professor under fire this time is Robert Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, who launched a website called the “Evolutionary Informatics Lab” in June to study whether natural selection can use chance mutations to generate new information. “Marks’ conclusions, as explained on the website, placed limits on the scope of Darwinism and offered scientific support for Intelligent Design,” explains Baptist Press.
Marks was asked by Baylor’s engineering school dean to remove the website.
The debate, surprisingly, does not concern the validity of Marks’ research, but rather “Baylor’s policies and procedures of approving centers, institutes, products using the university’s name,” according to Lori Fogleman, director of media communications at Baylor. In July, after giving an interview to the IDM-promoting Discovery Institute, Marks was asked by Baylor’s engineering school dean to remove the website. In response, Marks requested a meeting for discussion, but just shy of a week before the scheduled meeting, all references to the Evolutionary Informatics Lab on Marks’ website were forcibly removed.
Should we be surprised? Dembski, the previous victim, offers a fairly chilling perspective on academic freedom when it comes to disagreement with Darwin:
You have to understand, in the current academic climate, Intelligent Design is like leprosy or heresy in times past. To be tagged as an ID supporter is to become an academic pariah, and this holds even at so-called Christian institutions that place a premium on respectability at the expense of truth and the offense of the Gospel.
Dembski added that he knows of faculty at Baylor who support the IDM but “who don’t have tenure and don’t speak up on the topic.” However, Dembski’s harshest criticism is reserved not for anything directly relating to the IDM, but rather for Baylor’s handling of the situation:
Dembski said the way the Baylor administration has dealt with Marks in this case is “inexcusable by any standard, certainly Christian but even secular.”
Dembski supported his comments by citing specific secular institutions that would find Baylor’s disregard of academic freedom “unconscionable”—even beyond typical complaints that intelligent design research is stifled.
The Discovery Institute’s Robert Crowther adds that he believes IDM “has become such a controversial issue in academia because of the scientific threat it poses [to Darwinism. ...] ‘There are new discoveries being made all the time that are leading a number of scientists to not just question Darwinian evolution but to actively pursue research into Intelligent Design.’”
There are several points to take away from this sad news. First is the obvious—that even many “Christian” schools (some effectively Christian in name only) have become founts of Darwinism. Second, all too well known is that despite evolutionists’ cries that virtually all scientists agree wholeheartedly with Darwinism, such cries are untrustworthy when academicians are afraid to speak out with their criticisms because of the harsh consequences associated with those that do. Even questioning Darwinism, let alone actually voicing support for the intelligent design movement or true biblical creation, can doom one’s reputation a priori in science fields. Despite this fact, hundreds of scientists have signed an official statement dissenting from Darwinism, in addition to the many scientists who go beyond accepting the tenets of the intelligent design movement and accept, specifically, the Bible’s account of creation.
Baylor’s leadership . . . did not even consider the validity of the ID research presented.
But ultimately, the saddest lesson to learn from this story is the attitude many—including, apparently, some Christian academia—are not even willing to fairly consider the creation/evolution issue. Apparently, Baylor’s leadership is so frightened of standing against secular dogma that in dealing with Marks, it did not even consider the validity of the ID research presented.
We certainly hesitate to question the faith of anyone who, for example, works at a Christian university, and we know there are many Christians who attend Baylor today and who have graduated or taught at Baylor. However, we must ask how the administrators of any Christian school could so vigorously combat research that supports the notion of a Creator! And don’t forget, we’re not even talking about the six-day, recent creation that Bible metaphorizers dispute; we’re talking about anything that flies in the face of Darwinism. Perhaps this should not be surprising, considering Dembski claims an old guard at Baylor “supports secularization.”
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