6 September 2007
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.Email This Post Print This Post