Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stein's "Expelled" and Baylor University

Yesterday I saw the Ben Stein film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Worth watching, especially since it has annoyed all the right people. Here's a short trailer:

Longer trailer:

My alma mater--and the school both sons plan to graduate from--is featured in the film. Robert Marks, who holds the title of distinguished professor of engineering at Baylor University has been using highly sophisticated mathematical and computational techniques to determine if there are limits to what natural selection can do. Walt Ruloff, executive producer of the film, wrote in the student newspaper, the Baylor Lariat:
"At Baylor, a Christian institution, this should be pretty unremarkable stuff. I'm assuming most of the faculty, students and alumni believe in God, so wouldn't it also be safe to assume you have no problem with a professor trying to scientifically quantify the limits of a blind, undirected cause of the origin and subsequent history of life?"
But, as the film points out, in 2007 Marks was told he could not use the Baylor server to host his website that reported his private research.

Marks probably didn't belong on the list with the other "expelled" professors in the film. He remains a professor at Baylor--he was simply asked to remove his website from Baylor servers. And Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman took issue with Marks’ claim the site was shut down because of its intelligent design connection, saying that a professor is free to conduct any outside research “as long as he or she does not represent that work as being connected to Baylor University.”

Had the film producers wanted to highlight a high-profile ID proponent whom Baylor actually "expelled," William Dembski would have been a better choice. Dembski shows up the film, but not in connection with his past troubles at Baylor.

Logan Craft, co-executive producer of the film and chairman of the film’s production company, Premise Media, explains why a school such as Baylor needed to be included in his film. He said that though most of the expelled academics in the film are affiliated with secular institutions, ID is controversial at schools with religious roots:
“To me, the long history of religiously founded universities and colleges in the United States is typically one of the ultimate capturing of the colleges and universities by the progressive secularists. I think you see that at Baylor partly. You see that at SMU almost entirely. . . . What we see here is a struggle for a religiously founded university to maintain its credibility to the larger academic world and frequently that has come by simply being co-opted by whatever the zeitgeist of the day is, in this case, this commitment to scientific materialism.”
You can find a quick summary of Baylor's discomfort with Intelligent Design in this Breakpoint piece.