A most interesting op-ed appeared in the Waco Tribune (April 6, 2008) by Argye Hillis, a retired biostatistician. Hillis is quite obviously proud of Baylor’s embrace of “the ‘E’ word” (evolution), and of the way in which the institution skillfully circumvented lay concern. For example,
The late Dr. Cornelia Smith reveled in remembering “the time in the 1920s when the merchants of Waco marched four abreast from downtown Waco in support of Lula Pace.”
Dr. Smith, whose memory is still revered by the older Baylor faculty, carefully avoided labeling Dr. Pace’s teaching as evolution, just as she avoided the “E” word in the more than 40 years that Dr. Smith led the Baylor biology department herself.
In general, Hillis offers the usual boilerplate in favour of a dying materialist idea, accompanied by reassurances that the Baylorites who embrace it are devout Christians. (That glow you are seeing is faith, folks, not phosphorescence.)
She laments the fact that Bill Dembski ever set foot on campus, but curiously avoids mentioning him by name:
Without consulting any of the science departments or the religion department at Baylor – and to the distress of some members of both – Sloan enthusiastically recruited a leading intelligent design advocate to Baylor with a contract that shocked longtime faculty members.
She ends with,
The Baylor biology faculty may avoid the “E” word as much as possible when talking to lay people, but some of them make Frances Collins’ book, The Language of God, required reading in freshman biology, and many still take the time to develop caring relationships with their students and help them learn to think for themselves.
(On a minor point of information, the geneticist and Language of God author is Francis Collins. Francis is, like Rene, traditionally a guy’s name.)
Now, I am going to assume that Hillis represents a popular point of view among Baylor faculty, present and retired. If so, a number of pieces of the developing story link up.
Her op-ed makes clear that Baylor’s old, wide, and deep attachment to Darwin’s theory has been dissembled to lay people for many decades. Even today, when the institution purges skeptics and dissenters, lay people are expected to passively believe the spin and continue forwarding their kids and cash.
You know, Dr. Hillis, people do eventually figure things out. That’s why the Expelled film was made.
At any rate, this is definitely another one for the Expelled denormalization files:
Basically, lack of transparency on an issue that is important to donors, alumni, parents, and students is not a normal relationship. If Baylor is determined to front Darwinism (and its inevitable materialist train) but most Baptists disagree, then perhaps Baylor should just not be a Baptist university.
The recent events detailed in Expelled, may start a long overdue discussion down there.
On another subject: I am dismayed that the first year biology students are given Francis Collins to read. Collins is a nice guy by all accounts and a good geneticist, and I have no reason to doubt a good Christian. But a serious thinker on these issues he is not. I fear that his approach to the subject will encourage students along the fatal path of seeing their faith as a sort of “inward light,” not as an assent to the nature of reality, based on evidence.
But then maybe Baylor’s Darwin fans are doing their students a favour. If students are distracted by an emphasis on how Christianity is allegedly compatible with Darwinism, they are unlikely to evaluate Darwin’s theory on the scanty evidence.
And their confusion protects them. After all, Baylor is the university that shut down the Web site of a distinguished professor for skeptically investigating evolutionary computing programs. (By the way, so much for teaching students to “think for themselves.” What good did thinking for himself do Prof. Marks?)
If Baylor’s Darwin fans want to try to inoculate students against intelligent design, they could at least assign rigorous, non-heretical Christian thinkers like Owen Gingerich, John Polkinghorne, or Alister McGrath.