Monday, May 01, 2006


The Epicures Guide to Intelligent Design

"The thing that hath been," wrote Ecclesiastes, "it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."

That lovely, poetic line being so, it is, perhaps, not news, exactly, that intelligent design theorists, such as William Dembski, have a -- quite unintentional -- propensity for making fools of themselves.

Still, RSR, being a connoisseur of this sort of thing, can't help but savor the subtle nuance and sweet variety, of the ways they to find do it.

In some respects, we've come to see ourselves as something like the ultra-sophisticated oenophile, who through long years of participation in blind taste tests has developed the ability to identify the vineyard and vintage of a great many wines, and yet still looks forward with keen anticipation to the third Thursday of each November when that season's Beaujolais Nouveau is shipped.

This weekend, Dembski delivered a classic that, were it less common, would certainly become the sort of rare vintage that collectors, such as RSR, would hoard in their cellars to decant only on the most special of occasions:

"Charles Darwin University," the sage Ft. Worth sagebrush wrote condescendingly on his Uncommon Descent blog, is where "instruction and indoctrination are the same thing. I understand this university evolved from a lower form of educational institution."

Understand now that Dembski, once the mighty Newton of information theory, is a man who was run out of his position at Baylor, a real research university, by faculty who feared for the institution's reputation.

Dembski then briefly took refuge at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

After being replaced a couple of weeks ago by a young earth creationist, Kurt Wise, the great ID theorist now finds himself in reduced circumstances, having to settle for a position at a humble bible college -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

The question for evolutionists is this: is there a lower form of educational institution than a bible college for Dembski's new home to have evolved from?

Southwestern Baptist, according to the seminary's web site, is known particularly for the diversity of its student body:

During the fall 2003 semester, Southwestern enrolled 2,887 students. 2,782 identified themselves as Southern Baptists, while 105 students identified themselves with one of nearly 30 other evangelical groups and denominations. 2,132 students were male, and 755 were female.

Now, we're sure Southwestern Baptist is a fine institution. Surely it's good at what it does -- turning out scads and scads of Southern Baptist ministers. Who knows, its science program may even rank among the better mail-order dentistry schools and online diploma mills. Without a doubt, Southwestern Baptist would rank in the upper 75 percent of cosmetology and beauty schools in the nation.

Southwestern Baptist's "Declaration on Academic and Theological Integrity," states that "Faithfulness to Jesus Christ demands that we pursue the knowledge of truth as a knowledge of him found in the knowledge of his word. The study of God's word, the Scriptures, therefore is central and primary in the academic mission of the Seminary. Our goal is a faithful understanding of Scripture and an application of its teachings in all aspects of life..."

Thus, we can be reassured that at Dembski's Southwestern Baptist, the colossus bestriding the world of higher education, instruction and indoctrination are not the same thing.

By contrast, the 2006 Good Universities Guide reports that the humble Charles Darwin University, located in Australia's Northern Territory, is ranked fifth among Australia institutions of higher learning in science. Only four out of 34 Australian universities placed higher than CDU in the undergraduate sciences degree.

Do you suppose Dembski gave any thought to his own position, or bothered to find out anything about CDU before writing his unintentionally revealing post? No, I didn't think so either. If he was capable of thinking two moves ahead, he wouldn't be in the position he now finds himself in. He wouldn't be an ID theorist, either.


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