Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

A MUST-READ interview with Dr. William A. Dembski, author of “The Design Inference”

Who is William Dembski?

Dr. Dembski has taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Dallas. He has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton University. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where he earned a B.A. in psychology, an M.S. in statistics, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, he also received a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1988 and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1996. He has held National Science Foundation graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

I found this fascinating interview posted at “The Best Schools”. It’s an exceedingly great read. I could not take my eyes off of it until I read the whole thing.

Excerpt:

TBS: You have stated that “design theorists oppose Darwinian theory on strictly scientific grounds.” But then why is the ID movement so heavily populated with religious believers? Could we not expect more of the scientific community to support ID if your statement were true? Why do the majority of the world’s leading scientific bodies oppose ID and claim that it does not qualify as science?

WD: The quote needs context. I’ve also written that intelligent design, besides being a scientific program, has a theological dimension, in trying to understand divine action, and a cultural dimension, in trying to overturn naturalism. So intelligent design is a number of things. But at its core, it is a scientific program. Indeed, unless there is good science to back it up, all the cultural and theological superstructures that people build on it will be in vain.

As for why religious believers tend to be associated with design, I could turn the question around. If Darwinian evolution is strictly scientific, then why is that field so heavily populated with atheists? In one survey of around 150 prominent evolutionary biologists, only two were religious believers (as I recall, Will Provine was behind this survey). I see a scientific core to both intelligent design and Darwinian evolution. And I see no merit in questioning their scientific status by the company they keep. The character of the proposals that both approaches make is what really ought to count.

But why, then, have so many scientific bodies turned against ID? I recall speaking at a symposium at Grove City College back in 2007, and University of Wisconsin historian of science Ron Numbers mentioning that over 100 professional scientific societies had issued formal denunciations of intelligent design. It’s probably more by now.

I’ve been unimpressed with these denunciations. In every case, they have seemed to me politically motivated, attempting to ensure that the professional society doesn’t lose face should some of its wayward members be perceived as sympathizing with ID. I recall the AAAS denunciation of ID. I was a member at the time, though I let my membership lapse subsequently. When my colleagues inquired into who was behind their denunciation and what materials they had read that convinced them to issue it, it became clear that the materials were unread and the denouncers didn’t understand what they were denouncing.

As for more scientists coming on board with ID if it were legitimate, I think this question misses the point. The question is not legitimacy, but incentives. There are no incentives for coming on board with ID save that one thinks it offers some interesting ideas and true insights. There is no federal funding for ID research. If it’s known that you accept intelligent design and you’re in the mainstream academy, you can expect your career to be derailed. Support ID and expect some pain.

On the other hand, if you denounce intelligent design, you score points. Think of Judge Jones (right) in the Dover v. Kitzmiller case. After ruling against ID in 2005, he was voted one of 2005’s ten most sexy geeks by Wired magazineTime magazine voted him one of the 100 most important thinkers of 2005. And the last I heard, he had been awarded four honorary doctorates (I’ve confirmed two of them). Jones’s claim to fame prior to Dover was not expertise in the theoretical underpinnings of evolutionary biology, but rather heading the Pennsylvania liquor commission.

I could recount case after case of mediocre academics who have done well for themselves (tenure, named professorships, etc.) by denouncing ID. And I can recount case after case of very bright individuals whose careers have been derailed for supporting, or even showing sympathy toward, ID. The documentary Expelled demonstrates this last point.

And more:

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.

The bottom line is that ID remains without the sort of institutional support that could accelerate its research and acceptance. I give the Darwinists credit here for their implacable opposition to ID. The Polanyi Center was the first and remains the last ID center at any college or university. It’s a sad commentary, not just on higher education, but on Christian higher education specifically.

One of the main lessons I’ve drawn from this is that most of the academic world, Christian included, is not so much concerned with truth as with fitting in and looking good. Perhaps I should have known that from the start. After the Polanyi Center closed, so too did much of the sympathy toward and curiosity about ID.  In many people’s minds, ID was no longer a winner, and people like to be associated with a winner. We saw the same phenomenon a few years later with the Dover trial.

But history teaches that truth has little to do with winning and losing. Christ—the one who calls himself “the way, the truth, and the light”— is hardly a picture of victory on the Cross. So, I never lose heart.

For me personally, the Baylor episode has been better in the aftermath than in its unfolding at the time. Lots of people rallied to me. And I gained many valuable conversation partners. I had enough visibility and support so that I could land on my feet. But it could easily have turned out worse.

As for the ramifications of this incident for our culture as a whole, I don’t want to read too much into this. I don’t think it should be read as a decisive battle that changes the course of a war. Rather, I would see it as emblematic of the corruption that had existed in the academy already. This incident merely underscored the degree to which secular ideology was and remains entrenched in the academy.

This interview is fairly long, and well worth the read. William Dembski is someone I admire a great deal. He is probably the toughest Christian I know. How could someone as intelligent as he is – with multiple Masters degrees, Ph.Ds and post-doctoral posts – persist in his Christian faith after having his career ruined by Darwinian fascists and cowardly Christian theistic evolutionists, too? If you ever wondered where my extreme disgust for theistic evolutionists comes from, the answers are in this interview. It is not easy to do what Bill Dembski did and come out the other side. People in evangelical circles seem to fixate on sports heros, musicians, theologians and pastors. But none of these comes close to the level of toughness and defiance of William Dembski. If the world were fair in any way, then Christians would know more about William Dembski and his academic work than they know about Tim Tebow – no offense to Tebow.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , ,

Republican lawmaker introduces bill to protect questioners of Darwinism

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Excerpt:

An Arlington lawmaker has filed a bill aimed at protecting Texas college professors and students from discrimination because they question evolution.

The measure from Republican state Rep. Bill Zedler would block higher education institutions from discriminating against or penalizing teachers or students based on their research into intelligent design or other theories that disagree with evolution.

Zedler said he filed the bill because of cases in which colleges had been hostile to those who believe that certain features of life-forms are so complex that they must have originated from a higher power.

“We can have the academic freedom to have all kinds of ideas and philosophies but, lo and behold, even mention intelligent design and there are people that want to run you out of town on a rail,” Zedler said.

Zedler said fear of workplace discrimination is preventing evolution critics in colleges from speaking their minds.

“I do believe there are people that want to say something but … they’re afraid to because there are people around the country that have been discriminated against,” Zedler said.

Secular leftists place a great premium on getting “consensus” for whatever ideas provide maximum autonomy from moral obligations, whether the ideas are true or not. They don’t care whether the consensus is true, just that everyone agrees on it and that it produces good feelings. They just don’t handle differing points of view well… it confuses them and makes them anxious and frustrated. They are uncomfortable with concepts like being judged, or being punished. The don’t want anyone to disagree with their religion of materialism, which allows them to pursue pleasure apart from any objective moral obligations. Since the religion of materialism, which is so popular on the left, does away with morality, we have to be very careful to enshrine into the law protections for those who would dissent from this denial of objective morality. Otherwise you end up with cases like the Guillermo Gonzalez case or the Richard Sternberg case. There are no limits to what a materialist will do in order to keep up the illusion that no one is there to hold them accountable. They’ll believe anything. They’ll do anything. There isn’t anything in their materialism to stop them from committing atrocities. That’s why we need laws to contain their abuse of power.

A quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrates the point:

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

Until the time where those on the secular left learn to accept dissent, and allow debate, without resorting to insults and personal attacks, laws that protect dissenters will be necessary.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Israeli education minister dismisses chief scientist for asking questions

Scary story from Haaretz.

Excerpt:

The Education Ministry’s chief scientist sparked a furor among environmental activists and scholars Saturday with remarks questioning the reliability of evolution and global warming theory. The comments from Dr. Gavriel Avital, the latest in a series of written and oral statements casting doubts on the fundamental tenets of modern science, led several environmentalists to call for his dismissal.

“If textbooks state explicitly that human beings’ origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. There are many people who don’t believe the evolutionary account is correct,” Avital said yesterday.

[...]Avital, who received bachelor’s and advanced degrees from Haifa’s Technion Institute of Technology, previously directed the aeromechanical arm of electronic-systems manufacturer Elbit.

Avital is the ministry’s first chief scientist to be drawn from outside the community of education scholars. A 20-year Likud member, he represented the party in an unsuccessful 2006 Knesset run.

[...]“Why are environmental organizations pressuring the government over alternative energy that is both unattainable and probably very costly? These questions cannot be avoided,” Avital wrote. “The answers to them are likely to surprise and possibly disappoint. But the moment science is enlisted for political ends – that is, in the name of ideology – questions arise as to the scientific basis of environmental organizations.”[...]In an article published last year in the newspaper Israel Hayom and other media outlets, Avital wrote, “There is no scientific proof that the rise in carbon dioxide leads to a rise in temperatures – I would recommend to scientists not to join this intimidation campaign, which is entirely predicated on the basis of dubious science.”

Now, let’s take a look at the “arguments” of the people who are trying to silence him.

Prof. Hava Yablonka of Tel Aviv University said Avital’s statements are tantamount “to saying that space should be given in textbooks to the view that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it. It’s astonishing that the chief scientist of a government ministry can say such bizarre things.”

“Avital must resign from his position,” said Dr. Lia Ettinger, academic supervisor of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership in Tel Aviv. The chief scientist’s remarks, she said, “are similar to the Health Ministry’s chief scientist declaring that all the research linking cigarettes with cancer are nonsense. …Avital has removed himself from the consensus,” she said.

Notice how they take their questionable theory and say that it is similar to a completely unrelated theory for which we have observational confirmation. And then they say he stupid for not equating the two things, which is the very point under debate – is there evidence for the weaker theories like there is for the stronger theories, which he obviously accepts? Notice that none of the people who are trying to silence him brought up arguments. They just commit the fallacy of begging the question, and then they demand that he agree with them. It really just amounts to insulting him rather than refuting him. Is that science?

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

Caroline Crocker’s new book recounts her experience of being expelled

Caroline Crocker

Caroline Crocker

Story from Evolution News.

Excerpt:

One of those incidents took place at George Mason University (GMU), where Caroline Crocker was ousted from teaching biology because she challenged to neo-Darwinian evolution and favorably mentioned ID in the classroom. Dr. Crocker later appeared in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, but now many more details about Caroline Crocker’s story are revealed in her new autobiographical book, Free to Think: Why Scientific Integrity Matters.

Free to Think tells the story of a biology professor who cares deeply about students, received glowing student reviews, wouldn’t compromise her integrity when challenged to disregard anti-cheating rules, and produced high quality curricular tools. But Crocker had one fatal flaw: she would not capitulate to the Darwinian consensus in the classroom. When some GMU administrators learned that she’d challenged evolution, they told her that she had to be “disciplined” because she taught “creationism.” While GMU now denies that Crocker’s dismissal had anything to do with evolution, her book explains that this is most definitely not what she was told behind closed doors.

But Free to Think is not some sob story. It contains heartwarming and amusing accounts of Crocker’s interaction with students. What struck me were the lengths to which Crocker would go to accommodate and help students facing difficult life circumstances. It is saddening (though not surprising) that she has received many attacks on her character from evolutionists who know neither Crocker nor her story.

[...]At the very time Crocker was told by her Department Head that she would be disciplined for challenging Darwin, she received a performance review from her Provost that called her teaching “outstanding” as “evidenced by unusually high student rankings”! The Provost even praised her, saying, “This kind of teaching quality is essential for this vital educational program, and we’re very grateful for your successful efforts.”

Such statements hardly describe a teacher who would otherwise be expected to soon lose her job. Yet Crocker did subsequently lose her job, and we know exactly why. As Crocker documents in her book, her administrators didn’t want her challenging Darwin.

There’s more here.

And you can even listen to an interview she did with Casey Luskin about her new book.

I like Caroline Crocker a lot. I don’t talk about her as much as I do about Michele Bachmann or Jennifer Roback Morse, but she’s one of my heroes. I was disgusted with George Mason University for doing this to her. I remember Walter Williams saying at some point (maybe when he was guest hosting for Rush Limbaugh) that GMU is a normal liberal university with conservative departments of law and economics. That explains it.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

University of Calgary convicts eight pro-life students

From CCBR press release.

Excerpt:

U OF C FINDS PRO-LIFE STUDENTS GUILTY AFTER CLOSED-DOOR HEARINGS,
VOWS “MORE SEVERE SANCTIONS” FOR FUTURE PRO-LIFE ACTIVITIES

CALGARY – The University of Calgary has notified eight members of the Campus Pro-Life (CPL) student group that they have been found guilty of a major violation under the Non-Academic Misconduct Policy regarding a pro-life display held last month. The verdict comes one week after the students each attended individual, closed-door hearings with an Associate Vice-Provost during which legal representatives were disallowed.

The verdict is “a formal written warning” that if the students “fail to comply with directives of Campus Security staff in the future” it will “result in more severe sanctions,” said Acting Associate Vice-Provost Meghan Houghton, who was the sole decision-maker in the guilty verdict.

Fascist feminist educrats are paid with tax money and mandatory student fees to deprive students of their free speech. In the most conservative city in Canada! This is the only campus club that is treated like this. Because of what they believe.

CCBR accepts donations, if you want to help them to fight back against the University of Calgary. Click through the article to read some defiant statements from the pro-life students.

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