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College Crunch honors Robert Marks for Work on ID


Here’s an article that appeared today in my local paper. It will be interesting to see what the incoming Baylor president Kenneth Starr does about the Marks case when he arrives June 1st, especially in light of this recognition by College Crunch. For Prof. Marks to have his lab and research (see evoinfo.org) recognized and reinstated by Baylor as legitimately part of his job description would, perhaps, constitute a truer vindication of his work on evolutionary informatics. Even so, the College Crunch list, designating Marks as one of the “20 most brilliant Christian professors,” is a foretaste of good things to come.


Professor Robert Jackson Marks IIBaylor faculty member named one of ’20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors’

[alternative title in local paper: “In the Spotlight, Again: BU Professor Marks Nets Honor for Research in Evolutionary Informatics”]

[PHOTO CAPTION: Marks was named one of “The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors” by CollegeCrunch.org (link here).]

By Tim Woods Tribune-Herald staff writer
Thursday April 15, 2010

Robert Marks, Baylor University Distinguished Professor of electrical and computer engineering, once again finds himself in the spotlight.

Less than three years ago, Marks was at the center of an intelligent design-related controversy at the school.

But Marks now is being honored for his work, notably his research in the area of evolutionary informatics.

CollegeCrunch.org, a college resource Web site, named Marks as one of “the 20 most brilliant Christian professors.”

CollegeCrunch said professors included on the list “shine brightly among their peers as towering figures in the academic world.”

Included are professors from such renowned universities as Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Notre Dame, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford. The list was limited to professors in English-speaking countries.

Marks said he was humbled by his inclusion on the list.

“For the record, I don’t deserve this,” he said. “But I have lower back pain and don’t deserve that, either.”

Ian Gravagne, a tenured electrical and computer engineering professor at Baylor, disagrees with Marks’ self-assessment.

“This list would simply be incomplete without mention of Bob,” said Gravagne, who has worked closely with Marks for seven years. “Brilliant: This description is absolutely spot-on. . .  . His career spans practically the entire breadth of the fields of electrical engineering, and, what’s more, his contributions in those fields are deep and substantial.

“To modify an overused cliché, Bob is a jack of all trades and master of most.”

Walter Bradley, Baylor Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering, also praised Marks’ work in areas directly related to faith and science, referring to Marks’ research as “pioneering.”

In August 2007, though, Marks’ research led to legal wrangling with Baylor, which removed his Evolutionary Informatics Lab’s Web site from its server without notifying him.

Much of his research was, and still is, conducted with William Dembski, former director of the controversial and short-lived Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor.

It was the first center formed on the campus of a research university to study intelligent design.

University officials said at the time that the site was removed because of a lack of clarification that the research was Marks’ own and that it contained no disclaimer stating the research was not endorsed by the university.

Marks, Dembski and their attorney, John Gilmore, said the real issue was academic freedom. They claimed Baylor did not want to be associated in any way with intelligent design or related research.

2008 film

The Marks case was one of many instances of purported academic persecution highlighted in the 2008 movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

Marks acknowledged that Baylor was in a tricky position, balancing its research goals with its Christian heritage. But he said in the movie, “The fact that (his Web site) was singled out, let alone shut down, is jaw-dropping.”

The site remains off Baylor’s server. Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said the school has “no plans to add anything called the Evolutionary Informatics Lab Web site to the Baylor server.”

Fogleman, though, said Baylor is “immensely proud of the quality of our faculty and welcome it whenever their many accomplishments or the high caliber of their scholarship is publicly recognized.”

Fogleman congratulated Marks, along with Peter Berger, a visiting Distinguished Professor of church-state studies at Baylor. Berger, who is early in his contract as visiting professor from Boston University, also was named to the College-Crunch list.

Natural systems

Evolutionary informatics uses the natural, mathematical and engineering sciences to study systems as they change and evolve.

Marks said the work is intelligent design-friendly, though he points out that evolutionary informatics eliminates the “spooky forms of causation that have no place in science,” according to the lab’s Web page.

He said information contributing to a mutation can be shown scientifically, through established engineering and mathematical “information theory,” to be the result of input external to the evolutionary process.

Critics of intelligent design and evolutionary informatics contend that Marks and others in the field are not conducting science but are attempting to prove the existence of God.

Marks said evolutionary informatics is not a quest to prove God, but rather to show that external intelligence plays a role in evolution or mutation. He said “one has to ask the question, ‘Where does the intelligence come from?’ ”

Marks said the recent recognition of his work is not vindication for criticism that has been directed both at him and the field in general.

“I think that when truth emerges, that will be the ultimate vindication,” he said. “And I think that’s going to come someday.”

Stacking up

That day may be sooner than later, Marks said, noting that peer-reviewed publications in his field in 2009, if printed and stacked, “would exceed the height of the Empire State Building.” 

Said Gravagne: “Bob’s research will vindicate itself. He finds himself at the center of a firestorm that is really not of his own making, and one day ­ yes, this day is coming, eventually ­ after the controversy wanes, Bob’s work will still be standing, simply because it is powerful and true.”

twoods@wacotrib.com | 757-5721

Dr Beckwith, your statement in support of Marks here is very welcome and does a lot to restore my estimation of you. lars
And being listed directly behind one of my personal favorites, Donald Knuth (I know, it's the alphabet thing)! Congratulations! DiEb
Let me answer for Frank. During my dark time, Frank was also always there with advice and encouragement. For example, after I met with the university administration for the first time with my great attorney, John Gilmore, Bill Dembski and Frank Beckwith were together waiting for us afterward at a prearranged meeting place - waiting to see how they could be of support no matter what happened. Frank was a wonderful source of “charity and valor”, and I know he will be there the next time something like this happens. Remember, he now has TENURE! Be of good cheer. Bob Marks bobmarks
Prof. Beckwith: When Prof. Marks had "the darkest period of his academic career" (that is, when his website was taken down and his research was vilified by the Baylor administration), how did you express "charity and valor" toward him? What exactly did you do to help reinstate his website and honor? kibitzer
Thank you for sharing the list and the article. Is College Crunch a Christian organization? It is very refreshing to see a list like this that can include supporters of different positions on ID and evolution. It is a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere that has been too polarized. Nakashima
The abuse that Bob endured was outrageous and unconscionable. Although I have my disagreements with aspects of what is known as ID, I firmly believe that Bob's research has a place at Baylor University. It is certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but so what. There are many things taught and published by my colleagues with which I disagree. But what an impoverished institution Baylor would be if the disagreement of a few (or even many) became the university's guiding principle by which to assess the merit of academic research. I owe much to Bob. During the darkest period of my academic career (the time between March and September 2006 when I hung in tenure limbo), Bob had the courage to stand up, on my behalf, to several misguided souls. I will always remain grateful, and humbled, by Bob's Christian charity and valor. fbeckwith

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