Continuing with James Barham’s The Best Schools interview with design theorist Bill Dembski – who founded this blog, we look at how he managed to not avoid trouble, principally with Christian academics:
WD: The problem is that within a month of publishing The Design Inference, I also published Mere Creation, the proceedings of a 1996 conference at Biola on creation and design. In that book, I did put my cards on the table regarding where I saw the methods developed in The Design Inference leading. So, Darwinists quickly made the connection and started going after the earlier book.
Another thing that worked against the book is that I was hired shortly after its publication to found and direct Baylor’s Michael Polanyi Institute. This gave me national prominence, to the consternation of Darwinists in- and outside of Baylor, and thus incentivized them to refute the book at all costs. When the Polanyi Center was dissolved a year later (more about this below), many who had their finger to the wind and wondered whether to back intelligent design, backed down. I stayed on at Baylor to complete my contract, but was persona non grata the entire time.
In 1999, I could still get a job in the mainstream academy on the basis of my work in The Design Inference. By the fall of 2000, my career was toast.
Okay, let’s hop to the Polanyi Institute. What happened there?
TBS: In 2000, after organizing and hosting a very successful and visible international conference (whose proceedings, coedited by you and Bruce Gordon, are now published as The Nature of Nature [ISI, 2011]), you were first demoted, then essentially fired, by Baylor University, in Waco, Texas. Can you explain how this came about? What were the ramifications of Baylor throwing you under the bus for you personally? What do you think the long-term ramifications of this incident have been for our intellectual culture as a whole?
WD: The short of it is that Baylor hired me to start an intelligent design think-tank, the Michael Polanyi Center, we put on a tremendously successful conference, and three days after the conference the faculty senate voted 27–2 to shut the center down. Not immediately, but a few months later, the Baylor administration acceded to the faculty senate’s wishes.
When I protested the center’s dissolution, I was fired as director from a center that had already ceased to exist. This, at Baylor—an ostensibly Christian institution. But in fact, the science faculty at Baylor were probably more Darwinian than their secular counterparts, having to prove that they were as “reliable” in their science as those outside.
The whole story is available online, arranged chronologically in a series of news articles: “The Rise and Fall of Baylor University’s Michael Polanyi Center.” If I had it to do again, I would never have gone to Baylor. But the past is past. It’s all there. It made national news. And Baylor got a black eye for its failure to respect freedom of thought and expression. But massive institutions like Baylor can handle a bit of battering. Private individuals who get chewed up by them are less fortunate.
Mmmm. For many Christian academics, the worst news possible is that the atheists they are discreetly selling out to don’t have the goods anyway. They don’t hate anyone as much as they hate the guy who can demonstrate that fact.
Next: What Dembski is planning to do now.
Why Bill Dembski took aim against the Darwin frauds and their enablers #1
Why Bill Dembski took aim against the Darwin frauds and their enablers Part 2
Bill Dembski: The big religious conspiracy revealed #3
Bill Dembski: Evolution “played no role whatever” in his conversion to Christianity #4
So how DID Bill Dembski get interested in intelligent design? #5a
So how DID Bill Dembski get interested in intelligent design? #5b – bad influences, it seems
Comment on Dembski interview here.