If there was ever any doubt that the process for determining the legitimacy of Intelligent Design is rigged against it, that doubt seems now to have been dispelled.
Recently, Baylor University, an allegedly Baptist university, went back on agreement with William Dembski that would have allowed him to participate with one of its faculty members in a research project on information theory that had implications for the other theory that Dembski has made famous, and of which he is the best known exponent: Intelligent Design.
The project would have cost Baylor nothing, since the project was being funded by a grant from the Lifeworks Foundation. The grant was processed through the normal administrative channels at the school, and Baylor President John Lilley signed off on it. Then, about a month later, Dembski was called in to the office the Dean of Baylor’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, under whose auspices the research was to be done, and told the whole thing was off. Something about the "good of the department."
Dembski, who taught at Baylor from 1999-2005, gives on his website the whole seedy chronology of the actions of the Indian givers at Baylor who didn't actually have to give anything except their consent--and did, only to go back on their word.
There are two stories here: the first being that this is the same institution of higher indoctri..., excuse me, learning, that tried to run off Francis Beckwith, in part, at least, because he publicly advocated the legal case against excluding Intelligent Design from scientific discussions in public schools. The school finally had to back down in the Beckwith case on account of his formidable body of published scholarly work that, in another circumstance, would have had university officials beating down his door to hire him. Its handling of the Beckwith case became a public embarrassment to Baylor, as well it should.
But there is a more significant aspect to this case.
The opponents of Intelligent Design have for several years now deployed as their chief argument against it that the theory lacks research to support it. But a funny thing always happens on the way to the laboratory--or on the way to the publisher. Baylor's action takes its place alongside another recent event that shows just how determined are the scientific establishment in particular and the academic gatekeepers in general to squelch any critical reconsideration whatsoever of Darwinism.
The first was the treatment of Richard Sternberg, the editor of a publication of the Smithsonian Institutes's National Museum who published a peer-reviewed article which came to positive conclusions about Intelligent Design. The article's publication set off the academic equivalent of the Inquisition among the scientific community. Sternberg was personally vilified, his motives impugned, and his reputation besmirched--all because he had the temerity to take his colleagues at their word.
For years critics within the scientific community have been challenging Intelligent Design proponents to get their papers published in peer-reviewed journals. But when Sternberg actually let it happen, they came down on the perpetrator like a hammer. Put up or shut up, Intelligent Design scholars are told, but when they actually go to trouble of putting up, they are told to shut up.
Now we know where Lucy got the idea of snatching the football away just before Charlie Brown got a chance to kick it. The scientific establishment demands that Intelligent Design prove itself, but at the same time will do everything in its power to prevent it from getting the opportunity to do so.
The recent incident at Baylor is of the same genus. We are constantly hearing about the lack of research support for Dembski's theory. So you would think, in the interest of open scientific inquiry, that the same academic community that has been calling for Intelligent Design to prove itself would be supportive of actually seeing it get the opportunity.
The opponents of Intelligent Design need to get together and decide whether they really want to give the theory a fair shake. If the scientific community chooses instead to stonewall every opportunity for the theory's proponents to prove it legitimate, then there will be no question why it happened--and it won't be because of any inadequacy in the theory.
If the critics want to say that the theory fails the test of science, then they're going to have to allow it to be tested scientifically. To tell Intelligent Design advocates that they must prove their theory scientifically, but that, at the same time, they will be systematically denied the means and the opportunity of doing so is hardly model behavior for a group of people who make such a show of objectivity and openmindedness.