Vindication for I.D. at Baylor?
William A. Dembski
Posted on May 6, 2010
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Baylor University remains a
proving ground for SBC controversies. Former Baylor president Robert
Sloan's "2012 Vision" continues, at least for now. This vision rests on
two pillars, seeking to establish Baylor both as a top research
university and as a school faithful to its Christian heritage.
Secularized faculty, who are in the majority at Baylor and forced
Sloan's removal (he is now president of Houston Baptist University), see
Baylor's Christian heritage as a liability and would like to make the
university's slide into secularization complete.
Ken Starr, who
becomes Baylor's new president June 1, therefore faces a crucial test:
Will he continue the full Baylor 2012 Vision, advancing not just
Baylor's academic distinction but also its Christian faithfulness, or
will he give up on this second pillar of the vision? Starr's commitment
to academic excellence is not in doubt. During his tenure as dean of
Pepperdine Law School, he significantly raised its academic standing.
The question is what he will do regarding Baylor's Christian identity.
no stranger to controversy, seems poised to do the right thing. But
good intentions are one thing, decisions and actions are another. Baylor
will be sure to test Starr's mettle. Indeed, his first test is likely
to come from an unexpected source, an online college resource known as
College Crunch (http://www.collegecrunch.org). Organizations like this
draw traffic to their website (and thus earn their keep) by posting
items of interest to prospective college students. One such item, first
appearing on the site in March, lists "The 20 Most Brilliant Christian
Professors." On this list is Baylor professor Robert J. Marks II. Here
is College Crunch's description of him
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University. A
founder of the field of computational intelligence (comprising fuzzy
sets, neural networks, and evolutionary computing), Marks has published
hundreds of articles on a very wide range of problems (everything from
optimal detection of non-Gaussian noise to proper placement of
radioactive inserts to treat prostate cancer). His work has enormous
practical implications that are felt every day -- all major North
American utilities deliver energy using his work on neural networks. A
Christian intent on understanding teleology in nature, Marks founded the
Evolutionary Informatics Lab, which publishes peer-reviewed scientific
papers supporting the controversial theory of intelligent design."
appearing on this list, Marks finds himself in the company of such
luminaries as Alvin Plantinga, N.T. Wright, Marilynne Robinson, and the
SBC's own R. Albert Mohler Jr. Everyone on the list is truly
outstanding. The list seems well-balanced and well-thought-out -- it's
clear that the people at College Crunch gave it careful attention.
Granted, such lists are not to be taken overly seriously. And if that's
where things stood, Marks' appearance on the list would go no further.
it has gone further. The local paper in Waco, where Baylor is located,
reported on Marks's newfound super-genius status and drew attention
specifically to Marks' Evolutionary Informatics Lab. As Tim Woods
reported in the Waco Tribune (April 15, 2010), "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." (Source:
research lab was expelled from Baylor because Baylor officials saw it
as supporting Intelligent Design, a scientific theory that purports to
dismantle Darwinian evolution (Baylor biologists enthusiastically teach
and promote Darwinian evolution -- see their "Statement on Evolution" on
the Baylor Biology Department's website:
http://www.baylor.edu/biology). The expulsion of Marks' lab from Baylor
was reported nationally from World Magazine to the Chronicle of Higher
Education. It was also a centerpiece of Ben Stein's film "Expelled,"
documenting the persecution that proponents of Intelligent Design endure
from the academy.
It is naively optimistic to think that Marks'
appearance on the College Crunch list vindicates his research on
Intelligent Design. Such optimism would be better justified if incoming
Baylor president Ken Starr were to reinstate the Evolutionary
Informatics Lab's website on the Baylor server and to recognize
Intelligent Design as a legitimate area of research for Baylor faculty.
That would constitute a true vindication of Marks' work on Intelligent
Design. It would also constitute a true validation of Starr's commitment
to the full Baylor 2012 Vision.
Perhaps the College Crunch list
is a foretaste of good things to come.
William A. Dembski
teaches at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth,
Texas, and was formerly on the faculty of Baylor University. His most
recent book, co-authored with Jonathan Witt, is "Intelligent Design