Pharyngula

Baylor has a stalker

(Note addendum to this post: the infamous Uncommon Descent memory hole is in operation.)

A while back, Bill Dembski was bragging about how he was going to be snuffling about Baylor University, affiliating himself with an ID research lab there. It was a strange situation: a serious lab working on ID problems? OK, we’ve been asking them to do this for a long time. But then to associate itself with a weirdo like Dembski? One step forward, ten steps back.

Here?s a fun interview with my friend and colleague Robert Marks. I hope you catch from the interview the ambitiousness of the lab and how it promises to put people like Christoph Adami and Rob Pennock out of business (compare www.evolutionaryinformatics.org with devolab.cse.msu.edu).

Yes, do compare. The MSU link takes you to the Avida group doing research on digital evolution; the other link…well, it’s defunct. It makes Dembski’s arrogant claim rather amusing, don’t you think? I don’t think his reputation as a prophet is holding up well.

Apparently, Baylor pulled the plug on their lab. It seems that this was not a Baylor-supported initiative, but was an entirely independent idea from Robert Marks, and they did not like the fact that there were implications that this work was being done under their sponsorship. It is also amusingly revealed that this “lab” actually had no physical location, but was actually some kind of virtual entity, and that Marks was merely “signifying his wish to use a computer to analyze problems in evolution”. I’m so inspired by this, I think we’re going to have to start referring to Pharyngula labs — it’ll work if I throw a white lab coat on over my pajamas, won’t it?

“Apparently” is emphasized in the paragraph above, though, because the source of all this information is Uncommon Descent, which is the very personification of untrustworthiness. As if to emphasize that fact, UD also posted a purported letter from Baylor president John Lilley. It is a bizarre document that sounds like nothing I’ve ever read from the head of a university; despite my sympathy with its anti-creationist sentiments, I’d find it a little weird to have an administrator dictating what a department is allowed to consider science … and it’s a little unlikely that the head of a conservative Baptist college would be quite so forcefully opposed to a religious idea. It was very suspicious.

The commenters over there bought it without hesitation, though; the author (suspected of being Dembski himself, posting under an alias) had to belatedly add a disclaimer that the letter was a parody. A parody of what has not been explained.

As Wesley notes, it’s a weird situation. Dembski has long been doing this desperate dance to maintain some tenuous connection to Baylor, a place with considerably more prestige than the bible college he’s at now, and all he’s ever managed to do is stick his foot in his mouth and alienate himself still further. This is another case; I wouldn’t be surprised if the Baylor president is wishing there were some way to kick this persistent kook off his campus forever.

Being a politic fellow, though, as most university presidents are, he won’t say that, ever. Maybe the paranoid creationists at UD should forge another letter with Lilley saying, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome creationist?”


Dembski has now deleted the “parody” comment and all of its comments, and instead makes this ridiculous accusation:

Clearly, readers of UD fell for it, but so did many people on the other side, judging by all the many emails they sent President Lilley to confirm whether Botnik’s parody actually represented Lilley’s words.

No. The people on my side were rightly incredulous that Lilley had written it, and were also loathe to believe that UD would sink that low (we should know better now). Faced with two unbelievable explanations, people tried to resolve the dilemma by writing to the one person in the affair who we could expect would respond honestly — and it wasn’t the nuts on the ID side.

While the original post in poor taste has been deleted at UD, the Panda’s Thumb has preserved a copy.

Comments

  1. #1 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 2, 2007

    As Wesley notes, it’s a weird situation.

    A link to Wesley’s Weird Science is here. He also notes:

    It is all reminiscent of Dembski’s famous “Waterloo” email, snatching defeat from the very jaws of victory.

    If Dembski is behind any of this, it could possibly explain the weirdness. As World Magazine notes:

    Marks’ attorney John Gilmore said the resolution with school officials stemmed from the willingness of all parties to approach each other with respect, an atmosphere often lacking during Dembski’s ordeal seven years ago. [Emphasis added.]

  2. #2 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 2, 2007

    Also notable is that Robert Marks is not barred from discussing religion on the Baylor university site. He has apologetics texts there.

    What has gone missing is the “EIlab” pages, where 3 unpublished papers coauthoured with Dembski was presented. John Lynch has a description of how the “Lab” turned out.

    Some commenters on Good Math, Bad Math discussed these papers. Commenter secondclass has the best analysis.

    In short: As usual Dembski doesn’t prove what he claims. (That he has found an obstacle to evolution, or that a reduction of a search space constitutes measurable “active information”. Their explicit example takes the ev model outside its expressly described applicable parameter space to find it a bad algorithm. And so on.) If those papers sneak past peer review they will be ripped into so much confetti.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?
    September 2, 2007

    He didn’t ask for religious debate. If someone demands the park acknowledge the earth is 6000 years old, its not “religion” to point out how silly that is.

    It may or may not be silly — that’s completely beside the point. It’s wrong.

    It’s demonstrably and demonstratedly wrong. That brings it to the science side of the NOMA line. Therefore it is fair game for a national park service.

  4. #4 esenler insaat
    March 27, 2009

    nice web thanks demirsoy