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Reforming Polanyi

Oct. 19, 2000

Center needs new name, more input from faculty

The Michael Polanyi Center is a cutting-edge institute that seeks to prove the biblical creation of the universe and the existence of God through scientific and mathematical terms. This idea is very new and not widely studied throughout the country. The creation of this institute showed Baylor's willingness to think 'outside the box' and pursue new and challenging areas of study.

Unfortunately, the center has been surrounded by controversy concerning the legitimacy of its aims and studies, as well as the lack of faculty input in the organization and direction of the institute. As a result, an external committee was formed to review the founding of the Polanyi Center. The committee published its findings Tuesday. The committee correctly addressed the problems of the Polanyi Center and recommended solutions that could save the tarnished reputation of an institute that is a great asset to Baylor.

The committee recommended that the Polanyi Center be housed within the Institute for Faith and Learning. Since the Polanyi Center seeks to study and explain the relationship between religion, science and mathematics, we agree with the review committee that the Institute for Faith and Learning is a natural home for the Polanyi Center.

The committee also observed that the aims of the center were valid and such an institute has a legitimate place in higher education. The review committee consisted of leaders from several areas of academia across the nation. Such a diverse group of scholars agreeing the Polanyi Center is a legitimate institution should put to rest any talk that the university is wasting its time and money on the center.

The committee also called for the establishment of an advisory committee of Baylor faculty members to assist in planning and reviewing Polanyi studies. Many faculty members were troubled that they were not consulted about the creation or teaching of the center. Including faculty members in the direction of the center should alleviate faculty members' objections to the center's purpose.

Lastly, the committee recommended that Polanyi's named not be associated with the center. Polanyi was a dominant figure in discussion about religion and the sciences, but he actually wrote in his book, Personal Knowledge, that he did not necessarily believe intelligent design ought to be used in explaining the complexities of the natural world.

As a result, reference to the Polanyi Center at Baylor can lead to confusion over the center's goals. Renaming the center will clarify the center's aims.

By following the recommendations of the external committee of moving the center to the Faith and Learning Institute, increasing faculty involvement and deleting Polanyi's name from the center, the institute can more clearly focus on its study and get rid of the controversy that has shadowed this cutting-edge institute.