Email This Story Email This Story

Editorial: Disclosure lacking in ID dispute

Nov. 27, 2007

When the Lariat editorial board met with President John Lilley in September, one of the issues we brought up was that of administrative transparency.

Lilley then asked for our definition of transparency. It was an understandable question since we were leveling the charge that Baylor as a whole is not famous for the quality.

In light of the Nov. 16 article we ran on Baylor's history with intelligent design research, perhaps we can offer a few clarifications on what transparency does and does not entail.

The controversy around intelligent design research came into focus when Dr. Robert Marks, distinguished professor of computer science and engineering, procured a private grant to hire a researcher. His research assistant was Dr. William Dembski, who once ran Baylor's controversial Polanyi Center, which addressed science and religion.

Dembski was mentioned in the grant proposal, but since it was not processed through proper academic channels according to university claims, key figures were not aware of Dembski's involvement until his arrival. The administration returned the grant money, effectively terminating Dembski's position.

Trying to find out the details behind this story proved that truth comes out eventually, and when there's nothing to hide, there's no real reason to skirt around an issue.

Certain professors contacted for the story refused to comment on the situation. One was gracious, respectful and open.

The other was rude, condescending and hostile. He refused to answer even general questions and literally told us we were "barking up the wrong tree," even though he knew information that would have shed light on the issue at hand.

He said certain things are better left out of the light and away from others' knowledge, and he responded to almost all our questions not with answers, but with charges that we were irresponsible and unethical for even asking such things.

Irresponsible for asking a question? That's a sad thing for a professor to say. Being inquisitive is not the same as forming an inquisition, and even if the former is mistaken for the latter, one can at least be civil in responding.

We relate his message for no other reason than to give a clear picture of what we mean when we say Baylor has problems with transparency.

But Baylor is not the only player with transparency issues. Although intelligent design advocates often accuse Baylor of violating academic freedom and being less than forthcoming in its dealings with the controversial field, perhaps both sides in the argument have something to learn about conducting business openly.

If Marks had wanted to give the administration a heads-up about bringing a controversial figure back to campus, he certainly could have done so, academic channels or not.

This entire situation closely resembles the inner workings of boardroom politics, an unfortunate reality at a Christian institution of higher education. But as in politics, openness and honesty are the best ways to tackle a problem, no matter the side you're on.

Opinions expressed in the Lariat are not necessarily those of the Baylor administration, the Baylor Board of Regents or the Student Publications Board.

More News ...