William A. Dembski

68

William A. Dembski : biography

July 18, 1960 –

Early opposition to evolution

Dembski holds that his knowledge of statistics and his skepticism concerning evolutionary theory led him to believe that the extraordinary diversity of life was statistically unlikely to have been produced by natural selection. He presented these thoughts in his 1991 paper ‘Randomness by Design’, which appeared in the journal Noûs. These ideas led to his notion of specified complexity, which he developed in The Design Inference, a revision of his PhD dissertation in philosophy.

Lawyer Phillip E. Johnson’s first book Darwin on Trial (published in 1991) attracted a group of scholarsForrest & Gross, 2004, p. . who shared his view that the exclusion of supernatural explanations by the scientific method was unfair and had led to the Edwards v. Aguillard ruling that teaching creation science in public schools was unconstitutional. Dembski was part of that group at a symposium at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in March 1992, before they came to call themselves "The Wedge".Barbara Forrest, . Talk Reason, Chapter 1 of the book "Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics" (MIT Press, 2001). Retrieved May 28, 2007.

In 1987, the phrase "intelligent design" replaced "creation science" in drafts of a book, Of Pandas and People that was intended for secondary-school students. The phrase referred to the idea that life was created through unspecified processes by an intelligent but unidentified designer. The book asserted that there was a logical need for such a designer because of the appearance of design in biological organisms. This replacement was intended to evade the Edwards v. Aguillard ruling. The book was published in 1989 amidst campaigning by the publisher for the introduction of "intelligent design" into school science classes.

Biochemist Michael Behe, another member of "The Wedge", contributed the argument that he subsequently called "irreducible complexity" (IC) to a subsequent edition of Pandas in 1993. The book contained concepts which Dembski later elaborated in his treatment of "specified complexity" (SC). (pdf) A Position Paper from the Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy Barbara Forrest. May 2007. by Nicholas J Matzke, NCSE Public Information Project Specialist

Discovery Institute

After completing graduate school in 1996, Dembski was unable to secure a university position; from then until 1999 he received what he calls "a standard academic salary" of $40,000 a year as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC). "I was one of the early beneficiaries of Discovery largess," says Dembski., Jodi Wolgoren, New York Times, August 21, 2005

As of 2008, Dembski serves as a senior fellow at the CSC, where he plays a central role in the center’s extensive public and political campaigns advancing the concept of intelligent design and its teaching in public schools through its "Teach the Controversy" campaign as part of the institute’s wedge strategy.

Baylor University

Michael Polanyi Center controversy

In 1999, Dembski was invited by Robert B. Sloan, President of Baylor University, to establish the Michael Polanyi Center at the university. Named after the Hungarian physical chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi (1891–1976), Dembski described it as "the first intelligent design think tank at a research university". Dembski had known Sloan for about three years, having taught Sloan’s daughter at a Christian study summer camp not far from Waco, Texas. Sloan was the first Baptist minister to serve as Baylor’s president in over 30 years, had read some of Dembski’s work and liked it; according to Dembski, Sloan "made it clear that he wanted to get me on the faculty in some way".

The Polanyi Center was established without much publicity in October 1999, initially consisting of two people – Dembski and a like-minded colleague, Bruce L. Gordon, who were hired directly by Sloan without going through the usual channels of a search committee and departmental consultation. The vast majority of Baylor staff did not know of the center’s existence until its website went online, and the center stood outside of the existing religion, science, and philosophy departments.