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Letters to the Editor

Oct. 27, 2000

The Cranach Institute wishes to express its dismay at the decision to remove William Dembski as director of the Michael Polanyi Center. Shortly before this announcement, we learned that the committee appointed to evaluate the status of the center upheld the importance and legitimacy of Dembski's work, while calling on the center to be redefined in its scope. In his press release Dembski clearly agreed to these terms. We appreciate that Dembski has not actually been fired as associate professor, but his removal as center director does not seem to have been made on legitimate academic grounds.

It is quite true that Dembski goes on to say that the dogmatists who had wanted to close the center 'have met their Waterloo.' This may be 'offensive' to some of Baylor's faculty but it is unquestionably true -- the center will live on, albeit with a new name and wider vision, and it is inappropriate for a school with a strong Christian tradition such as Baylor University to acquiesce to the demands of political correctness. The compartmentalized approach to faith and academic work has become prevalent in American universities, even Christian ones, and it would appear that what many oppose in Dembski's work (at Baylor and elsewhere) is his explicit and rigorous integration of the two.

There is nothing in what Dembski says in his press release that is not protected by normal academic freedom, and further, while he may be called to be 'collegial' with other faculty, this can hardly be construed to mean that he should be 'nice' to those who have misrepresented his work or who have engaged in caricature.

Many universities are now in an analogous position to Rome during the Reformation. There is considerable entrenched power of secular humanism and an almost indistinguishable liberal Protestantism, both of which are calling for dissenting (and especially robust Christian) views to be squashed by force, not debate.

To its great credit, Baylor did not initially follow this path, and instead appointed an independent peer review committee. However, since the committee has upheld the academic integrity of Dembski's work, it would be unfortunate if Baylor now relies on force to overrule the committee. Is Baylor content to count itself among those universities in which political power can stifle academic dissent? I hope and pray not, not only for the sake of the religious mission of Baylor, but also for its academic reputation as an institution which is not willing to be ideologically captive.

For all of these reasons, the Cranach Institute urges Baylor to reconsider its decision to remove Dembski as director of the Michael Polanyi Center.

Board of Directors: Bruce Lee, Ilona Kuchta, Dr. Angus Menuge, Rev. Todd Peperkorn, George Strieter, Dr. Gene Edward Veith (chairman)

According to its Web site:

'The Cranach Institute is a research and educational arm of Concordia University devoted to working out the implications of the Lutheran doctrine of vocation and engaging contemporary culture with the truths of the Lutheran confessions.'

Dembski's removal from Polanyi Center disappointing