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Baylor Releases Polanyi Center Committee Report
Oct. 17, 2000
by Larry D. Brumley
Baylor University President Robert B. Sloan Jr. today released the
report of the Michael Polanyi Center peer review committee, which was
appointed last spring to assess the purposes and activities of the
The eight-member committee, composed of academics from throughout the
country and chaired by Dr. William F. Cooper, professor of philosophy
and former dean of the Baylor College of Arts and Sciences, concluded
that the Polanyi Center's mission of fostering dialogue regarding the
history and philosophy of science and especially the relationship
between science and religion is important, even if sometimes
The report further stated that "the committee wishes to make it clear
that it considers research on the logical structure of mathematical
arguments for intelligent design to have a legitimate claim to a place
in current discussions of the relations of religion and the sciences."
Polanyi Center Director William Dembski's research and writings in the
area of intelligent design have been the most controversial aspects of
the Center's work, even though its academic mission is much broader.
Specifically, the committee recommended that the University establish
an advisory committee, to be composed of Baylor faculty members from
disciplines related to the Center's work, to assist in planning and
reviewing its activities. The report also said that the linking of the
name of Michael Polanyi to programs related to intelligent design is,
on the whole, inappropriate, given the late scientist's views as
expressed in his book Personal Knowledge. The committee recommended
that the University discontinue the use of the name while continuing
the Center's work within the Institute for Faith and Learning. The
Polanyi Center has resided administratively within Baylor's
three-year-old Institute for Faith and Learning since it was
established in 1999.
"I want to express my deep appreciation to Dr. Cooper and the other
members of the review committee for their diligence and dedication in
carrying out their charge," Sloan said. "They invested many hours in
reviewing and evaluating the work of the Polanyi Center and have
delivered a well-written and thoughtful report. I accept all of the
committee's recommendations and have asked Provost Donald Schmeltekopf
to implement them fully and specifically as soon as possible.
"I am pleased that the central mission of the Center has been affirmed
and that the committee has underscored the fact that support of
academic freedom includes protecting controversial ideas," Sloan said.
"We certainly could have and should have handled more effectively the
program's implementation, but we will correct some of those early
mistakes by acting on the committee's recommendations, specifically to
appoint a faculty advisory committee and to discontinue the use of the
Michael Polanyi name."
Schmeltekopf said work will begin immediately on appointing the advisory committee.
"I will be consulting with Dr. Wallace Daniel, dean of the College of
Arts and Sciences, and others on the appointment of an advisory
committee that includes faculty members from disciplines that relate to
the history and philosophy of science as well as those disciplines that
touch on the relationship between science and religion. Its role will
be to clarify policies and practices and serve as a sounding board for
these programs in the Institute for Faith and Learning. I also
anticipate that the committee will play an important role in
encouraging better communication between the Institute and various
academic departments on campus."