Uncommon Descent

6 September 2007

Baylor’s Main Argument Against the Evo-Info Lab — Reply to Lori Fogleman

William Dembski

In her remarks to the Baptist Press, Lori Fogleman (well beloved Baylor sports personality who regularly comments on “Inside Baylor Sports” for the Lady Bears) offers the following argument against allowing Robert Marks’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab to continue at Baylor:

Lori Fogleman, director of media communications at Baylor, told Baptist Press Sept. 5 that the school’s objection to the website involves standards by which something can or cannot attach its name to Baylor.

“This isn’t about the content of the website. Really the issue is related to Baylor’s policies and procedures of approving centers, institutes, products using the university’s name,” Fogleman said. “Baylor reserves the exclusive right to the use of its own name, and we’re pretty jealous in the protection of that name. So it has nothing to do with the content but is all about how one goes about establishing a center, an institute, a product using the university’s name.”

So she is saying that the problem was procedural — Robert Marks did not follow proper procedure for his lab to be approved and permitted on the Baylor server. But this argument does not stand. Consider the following:

(1) Robert Marks has another research entity on the Baylor server: “The Baylor University Time Scales Group” (note the Baylor URL: web.ecs.baylor.edu/faculty/marks/Research/TimeScales). This research group (a collaboration between engineering and mathematics) has been allowed to proceed unimpeded by Baylor, using its name and absent any disclaimer. Is Baylor now, to maintain a foolish consistency, going to take down that site as well? Is it going to require disclaimers when previously it didn’t? Note that Prof. Marks, by way of compromise, was willing to rename the “Evolutionary Informatics Lab” the “Evolutionary Informatics Group,” but this too was unacceptable to the Baylor administration.

(2) Many other labs and groups associated with Baylor scientists have websites on the Baylor server, and none of them carries disclaimers. Here are some that I found in a few minutes of googling the Baylor server: (i) The Robert R. Kane Research Group (chemistry); (ii) Rene Massengale Research Group (biology); (iii) The Klausmeyer Research Group (biochemistry); (iv) Jeffrey Olafsen’s Nonlinear and Nonequilibrium Dynamics Group, aka Nonlinear Dynamics Laboratory (physics); (v) The Stanford Lab (Matthew Stanford’s lab in neuroscience).

(3) To compare Robert Marks’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab with other Baylor centers or institutes is highly misleading. Centers and institutes at Baylor are organized by administrative fiat (as was the Michael Polanyi Center that I directed at Baylor 1999-2000). Groups, labs, and other such entities are organized by faculty as they freely pursue their research interests and freely collaborate with one another. When I described to one senior Baylor scientist how Baylor was trying to justify, on procedural grounds, that the Evolutionary Informatics Lab had no place at Baylor, s/he worried that his/her own lab might be in jeopardy if it ventured into controversial waters. This scientist regarded the Baylor administration’s actions in the Marks case as chilling.

(4) Throughout this controversy it needs constantly to be borne in mind that the Baylor administration went into Robert Marks’s personal webspace not because they had any impartial assessment of the merits of the research and judged it to be so substandard or outside the pale that it didn’t deserve to be on the Baylor server but solely because anonymous (i.e., to this point unnamed) critics linked the research of the lab to intelligent design. If one actually reads the research papers on which Robert Marks and I collaborated, one would see that they fall squarely within the fields of information theory and evolutionary computing. They are under review with standard journals in the field. They are part of an ongoing conversation about the power of evolutionary processes. Benjamin Kelley, the dean of engineering at Baylor, who removed the Evolutionary Informatics Lab website from Robert Marks’s space on the Baylor server, does not have the expertise to assess the work of the lab — a fact he admitted to me back when I was a senior research scientist at Baylor briefly last year. The provost, Randall O’Brien, has his expertise in theology; the president, John Lilley, has his expertise in music. None of them had even the faintest trace of knowledge about the actual work of the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. Lori Fogleman is therefore correct about this — removing the Evolutionary Informatics Lab website from the Baylor server was not about content. The Baylor administration removed it simply because of guilt by association.

(5) Controversy has not kept Baylor from lending its name to at least one website on the Baylor server, namely, Marc Ellis’s Center for Jewish Studies. Ellis, like Robert Marks, is a distinguished/university professor at Baylor; unlike him, Ellis is not a Christian, and unlike most of his fellow Jews, seems to side more readily with the Palestianians than with the Israelis. Moreover, he rubs shoulders with Norman Finkelstein, who claims Jews are exploiting the “holocaust industry.” On the Center for Jewish Studies website, which is carried on the Baylor server, Ellis has a page titled “Great Thinkers.” Among the great thinkers listed are Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Dorothy Day. Also included among the great thinkers is Marc Ellis, depicted with a half-tone, half-lit photo, and captioned with “Does a world without struggle about God understand the image of solidarity and solitude any better than those who always and everywhere know who God is?” There is no disclaimer about Baylor product branding on any of these pages of the Center for Jewish Studies. So, in regard to the “Great Thinkers” page, are we to understand that Baylor is happy to place Ellis in the same company as King, Gandhi, and Day?

The Baylor administration needs to come clean about the real reason it removed the Evolutionary Informatics Lab website from Robert Marks’s server (i.e., its antipathy to intelligent design) and stop hiding behind procedural smoke screens. If there are some actual procedures explicitly laid out in Baylor policy required for the formation of a lab, then the Baylor administration should have pointed these out and given Prof. Marks the chance to form the lab consistent with those procedures. But so far any such procedures remain unspecified.

By the way, if the issue is money (i.e., a lab at Baylor requires start-up funds), it should be pointed out that the Evolutionary Informatics Lab did have funds pledged toward it: Prof. Marks secured a $30,000 grant for me to work with him as a postdoctoral fellow (with the title “Senior Research Scientist”) on evolutionary informatics. President Lilley, however, decided to return that money and revoke my fellowship back in December 2006 (for that story, go here). So even the money argument doesn’t work.

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17 Responses




1:42 am


This brings to mind a scene from that great film “The Power of One”.

The prisoners sing a beautiful song which is secretly about the prison guards.

The translation goes like this.

“They run this way
They run that way
They are confused
They are afraid”




2:09 am


It looks like the classic policy no.




8:08 am


It’s interesting how Big Religion (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish) has failed us. When they all should have been in the front lines against materialism’s attack on Western Civilization, instead they all cowered in the corner.

Must history always be written this way?




8:46 am


Most university administrators are cowards. Baylor’s is no exception. What they’ve done is unethical, but they would rather toss ethics aside then face intolerant darwinists who have difficulty facing challenges to their views.




8:46 am


Rude wrote:
“instead they all cowered in the corner.”

Indeed. They capitulated. And now they look, well, rather foolish. What I don’t understand is that institutions like Baylor have Christian roots and yet they seem to a problem with Intelligent Design. Seems to me that they may as well say “Yes, we believe God exists. But we think He’s really, really stupid.”

idnet.com.au wrote:
“This brings to mind a scene from that great film “The Power of One”.”

I always think of Princess Leia’s line from the original Star Wars film, speaking to Governor Tuck:

“The more you tighten your grip, Tuck, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”




9:01 am


Well now, we must not be too judgmental. It appears that these rules and procedures are not the product of intelligent design. On the contrary, they seem to have evolved through some sort of unguided process. Thus, university standards operate as “living” rules, meaning that they are always changing and sometimes appear spontaneously. Think of them as “emanations” and “penumbras,” emerging from the university’s mission, which itself has been evolving.

Within this Darwinist-materialist framework, one can violate a principle prior to its coming into existence. As many post modern theorists have pointed out, monism-naturalism allows for an activity to take logical precedence over the intention that prompted it. Communication specialist Carl Weick embody’s this principle with his famous statement, “how do I know what I am thinking until I hear what I say.” Thus, by extension we can ask about professor Marks, ”How do I know if he broke the rules until I see what he did.”

Some might want to question this assessment and probe for some evidence of intelligence. But as everyone knows, only religious crackpots use this kind of methodology. Indeed, anyone who uses this approach poses a clear and present danger to the integrity of science and should be stopped at all costs.




9:59 am


Hey folks,

No one wants to talk about the 2000 pound gorilla in the room. This is not just about large Christian institutions failing us but preserving us from what they see as a cancer. They see two cancers and decided to fight one of them and not both because it easiest in the short run. In the long run they will all be secular anyway and the only interesting thing will be the fight over property and money when it comes to a head.

ID is entwined with YEC so anytime ID raises its head it is the same as YEC raising its head. Despite the protestations that ID is not YEC, it is so closely identified with it that for all practical purposes they are the same. If all the YEC proponents left this site, it would wither and die.

So the university faces two foes, and both are not rational on a science basis but one is much less so according to them so that is what gets the focus.

Does anyone here think this is not about YEC?


William Dembski


10:51 am


This is not about YEC. The Baylor administration has been dealing with this issue long enough. They are coming down on ID as ID.




11:02 am


Lori Fogleman stated “Baylor reserves the exclusive right to the use of its own name, and we’re pretty jealous in the protection of that name.”

To bad Baylor’s “good name” is soon going to be tarnished, as well as Iowa’s, for not standing up for the overwhelming truth that science is now finding in the absolutely stunning and intricate complexity of molecular biology.
Does she even know the science behind the issue of Intelligent Design? I don’t even see a reference to any kind of science whatsoever in her remarks! She openly admits to folding to social pressure. Isn’t there a Christian principle about not worrying about what men think, but instead worrying about what God thinks? She is vastly more worried about the perceived reputation of men than the actual truth of the science behind the drive for research!
Isn’t this basically a Christian school? You would think that they would be happy to allow investigation of the science behind the issue to actually see if could possibly be true and as such give it at least some leash to do research!
Do they actually have belief in God, in Baylor’s leadership, or do they just have a fake “on Sunday only” belief in God since it is the socially convenient thing for them to do? From her very own words, I’m afraid its the latter and not the former!




11:33 am


*pssst* It was Governor Tarkin.

What? Me a Star Wars fan?






12:17 pm



What do you make the odds are of Lilley saying yes to an interview for Expelled?




12:56 pm



If all the YEC proponents left this site, it would wither and die.

I’m of the opinion just the opposite would happen. The largest segment of the U.S. public accepts the evidence of billions of years of common descent and at the same time does not accept the idea that it happened without intelligent design at one more points in time. I think many of those don’t want to be seen as supporting YEC. In fact it’s a rather transparent tactic the chance worshippers use to conflate, at every opportunity, ID and YEC. They as I believe that there are many more people who would embrace ID if it wasn’t associated with creation science and biblical literalism.

At one point, about 18 months ago, I wrote an article saying I was going to delete all arguments against common descent because I believed it was turning off too many people who’d otherwise embrace ID. I still believe that but ultimately this is Bill Dembski’s blog and he didn’t want to end debate over common descent.




2:03 pm


To Jerry’s defense IMHO he does have a point.

No matter what you think Baylor should know about ID it is almost a given that when someone (who is not an IDist) hears or reads ID they twitch-out and ID gets translated to YEC.

I call it willful ignorance.

And willful ignoirance is inexcuseable for any university.

Here’s the bet:

Write to Baylor’s president and ask him to describe ID in his own words.

My money says he will describe YEC or something very YEC-like.


William Dembski


2:49 pm


DaveScot: I expect Lilley will work through spokespersons on this one as long as possible. I can’t see it as being in his interest to provide Ben Stein with an interview. On the other hand, it will look bad if he refuses. The Baylor administration is in a tight spot. They can still stop the bleeding by simply doing what they should have done from the start, namely, allow Robert Marks to leave the EIL site on his space on the Baylor server. Once media outlets like the NYT and WSJ start weighing in, to say nothing of O’Reilly and Hannity & Coombs, there won’t be any way to stop the bleeding. In fact, at that point I wouldn’t be surprised if the Baylor Board of Regents puts the present president out to pasture — that’s what they did with Sloan, they made him Chancellor, a well-paying nice-sounding meaningless job with no real authority.




3:54 pm


Jerry wrote, “does anyone here think this is not about YEC.”
Joseph wrote, “I call it willful ignorance.”

Sorry guys, I can’t buy it. One cannot possibly confuse ID with CS while consciously calculating ways to blur the distinction. Yes, many people are ignorant about the differences, but a university president presiding over ID suppression would not be one of them. Do you think such an educated man could be ignorant about how the Augustine /Anselm tradition differs from that of Aquinas/Paley? If not, then how could he be ignorant about the differences between the latest manifestation of those traditions?

Conflating CS with ID is not a mistake; it is a strategy designed to muddy the intellectual waters. The general public may not yet know the difference, but the people who matter do. They lampoon CS, but they are in mortal fear of ID. Misrepresenting ID theory is just as important part of their strategy as rationalizing the inadequacies of their own. For those who truly are ignorant, we should recognize them as truth seekers and intstruct them with all due humility. For those who are lying, we should recognize them as adversaries and take them on.

[…] September 6, 2007: “Baylor’s Main Argument Against the Evo-Info Lab — Reply to Lori Fogleman” — Baylor is saying that the problem with Robert Marks putting his Evolutionary Informatics Lab on the Baylor server was procedural, violating Baylor policy about the appropriate use of its “brand name.” This line of argument is here shown to fail. Marks’s lab was removed because of guilt by association with intelligent design. […]




9:29 am


Sorry guys, I can’t buy it. One cannot possibly confuse ID with CS while consciously calculating ways to blur the distinction.

I don’t know of any anti-IDist who doesn’t conflate ID with CS.

The NCSE is one of the perpertrators of this moronic stupidity.

It is their only recourse- they cannot fight ID on its merits so they are forced to say “ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo”.

That is what I call “willful ignorance”- meaning they should know better but they choose not to.

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