Academic Freedom Expelled from Baylor University
According to CSC senior fellow and leading ID theorist William Dembski, what follows is:
“[A] big story, perhaps the biggest story yet of academic suppression relating to ID. Robert Marks is a world-class expert in the field of evolutionary computing, and yet the Baylor administration, without any consideration of the actual content of Marks’s work at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, decided to shut it down simply because there were anonymous complaints linking the lab to intelligent design.”
Read on if you care at all about academic freedom and protecting the right of scientists to freedom of scientific inquiry.
What a difference a year or two makes. Or not. The ugly specter of academic suppression seems incapable of being dispelled at Baylor University. It first ghosted across the campus a number of years ago when leading ID theorist William Dembksi undertook the task of heading up an intelligent design research program at the Michael Polanyi Research Center. Anti-ID bigots amongst Baylor’s faculty and staff moved quickly and decisively to stifle any such research on their campus, claiming that they were concerned that “people will make us guilty by association and assume that we are associated with or linked to this organization that is very well established as a pseudo-science.” It was clear then that intelligent design was not a subject that could be freely researched, studied, or discussed at Baylor University. Academic freedom be damned.
Fast forward to 2005-06. Academic suppression and anti-science prejudice again surfaced at Baylor, this time in denial of tenure to acclaimed faculty member and scholar Francis Beckwith. ENV reported on Beckwith’s case at that time:
Beckwith has defended the constitutionality of teaching about intelligent design. Note: He has not advocated the wisdom of teaching ID, nor has he taken sides on the ultimate rightness or wrongness of ID. He has only defended the constitutionality of presenting the debate.
The trampling of academic freedom at Baylor did not go unnoticed in the wider world. Indeed, Joseph Bottum of First Things responded with withering scorn:
Baylor has apparently decided to sink back into its diminished role as a not terribly distinguished regional school. President Sloan is gone, the new high-profile faculty are demoralized and sniffing around for positions at better-known schools, energetic programs like the Intelligent Design institute have been chased away, and the bright young professors are having their academic careers ruined by a school that lured them to campus with the promises of the 2012 plan and now is simply embarrassed by them.
Fortunately for Beckwith, the decision was ultimately reversed and he was granted tenure, as he should have been in the beginning. But the writing on the wall was clear for ID proponents: Keep your views to yourself at Baylor or find yourself disgraced. Public pressure notwithstanding, academic freedom was all but absent at Baylor.
Unfortunately for Robert Marks, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor, he didn’t keep his views to himself. Perhaps he was still under the misperception that tenured professors and proven researchers could still pursue scientific inquiry without fear of institutional reprisal.
Suffering from a delusion of academic freedom last year, Marks decided that research related to evolution and intelligent design, specifically the informational generative capabilities of Darwinian evolution, could be an interesting and fruitful subject for scientific investigation. Marks teaches signal processing and imaging intelligence, his current research is on computational intelligence, fuzzy systems and neural networks, and he has a recently published book on related subjects published by no less than Oxford University. Tying together all of these subjects, one of his biggest areas of research and study is evolutionary computing, which has to do with emulating evolution on computers and is a robust and growing field of engineering.
Marks discussed the subject of evolutionary informatics in an interview conducted by CSC’s Casey Luskin on ID The Future back in July. He described evolutionary informatics as basically conducting simulated evolution on computers. For better or worse Dr. Marks mentioned that he was working with William Dembski on some of his research into information and evolution computing. Just mentioning Dembski these days at Baylor is grounds for dismissal apparently — or at least for dismissal of your life’s work.
Actually, Marks committed an even worse crime — he said he was doing actual research with Dembski. And worse, he was posting their research on a website about the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, at www.evolutionaryinformatics.org. (As of this writing the website is accessible — it is now hosted by a third party and no longer under the administration of Baylor University.)
It should be noted here that Marks had received a grant from an outside organization that was administered through Baylor University to do this research. And that grant had been approved by the President of the University himself. Interestingly, the involvement of William Dembski caused Baylor to return the grant. Researchers familiar with the grant process will appreciate the significance of this. Recipient research centers seldom, almost never, return research grants for any reason. That fact that Baylor did so regarding a program of research related to intelligent design is quite telling about the University’s appreciation of academic freedom. One wonders what sorts of grants Baylor has administered without complaint for other “controversial” research in the past.
The punishment for Marks is that his “lab” (we’ll get to that in a moment) was shut down and his website taken offline because the lab’s research was perceived as being supportive of intelligent design. To recap, in June of this year the website went online. In July, ID The Future aired its interview with Marks about the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, and a scant dozen days later the website was erased from the net. Is academic freedom or freedom of scientific inquiry alive and well at Baylor University? (Journalist Denyse O’Leary has documented the exact timeline of events at uncommondescent.com, and has provided the backstory of academic persecution at Baylor.)
Dr. Marks has gone the extra mile in trying to accommodate any legitimate concerns Baylor administrators may have had about his evolutionary informatics website — even agreeing to put a disclaimer on the site making clear that it represented his views as a faculty member, not the university as a whole. But Baylor administrators have now spurned Marks’ efforts to accommodate them, apparently reneging on a compromise brokered last month by Marks’ attorney. Not only has Baylor deleted Marks’ website about his evolutionary informatics research, its lawyer is now outrageously charging Marks with misconduct in creating it and implying that Marks has no academic freedom to pursue research in evolutionary informatics as a faculty member at Baylor.
Under pressure from the administration, Marks agreed to rename the project “Evolutionary Informatics Group” since calling it the “Evolutionary Informatics Lab” bothered anonymous complainers at Baylor because they said it connoted a physical presence. Of course, a “lab” in science circles often refers to a group of scientists participating in related research and collaboration at differing locations. Bickering over whether or not it was a lab probably seemed a silly thing to a researcher like Marks, and so he agreed to change the name. Of course, for the anti-ID thought police in Baylor’s administration anything less than the complete annihilation of any research related to intelligent design wasn’t good enough. Changing the name didn’t go far enough. The work itself had to be stifled. After all, it’s not the name that is truly threatening, it is the research that can’t be allowed to progress.
Stay tuned for more about Baylor’s attack on academic freedom. The anti-science bigots were thwarted with the granting of tenure to Francis Beckwith. This current situation is a much more dire one for Darwinists and they are mounting a serious attack to censor scientists and stifle science.