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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2006
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Claim CA320.3:

Baylor University president Robert Sloan, in 1998, invited William Dembski to set up a research center focusing on intelligent design. Dembski set up the Michael Polanyi Center (MPC) and planned a major conference, "Nature to Nurture," on design in the unvierse. Baylor's biology faculty boycotted the April 2000 conference, and a few days after it, the faculty senate voted to close the Michael Polanyi Center. Sloan resisted for a while, but the faculty forced him to review the status of the Center, and the committee appointed to review it, stacked with faculty hostile to Dembski, confirmed the recommendation to close the Center. Dembski was removed from his position, and Sloan later lost his job. "The Baylor lesson is clear: Darwinists will not tolerate any open discussion of intelligent design." (Wells 2006, 91).


Wells, Jonathan, 2006. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Washington DC: Regnery, 89-91.


  1. Wells greatly distorts the events surrounding the Polanyi Center. Briefly, the faculty objected to Sloan's connecting a Center that promotes creationism with the biology department. The MPC was renamed, not closed, and Dembski was extremely pleased with the review committee's report. Dembski was removed on account of his own hubris, and Sloan resigned years later.

    In more detail, . . .

    President Robert Sloan unilaterally established the center and appointed William Dembski, who named it the Michael Polanyi Center. Public controversy erupted over the MPC in 2000, at the time of the "Nature to Nurture" conference, when Baylor faculty, especially in the science departments, worried that the MPC would attract negative publicity to the science departments. They also noted that the MPC had never approached the scientists for input (Martin 2000a). The faculty senate voted 27-2 for the MPC to be abolished. Sloan rejected that idea, and as a compromise a committee of eight scholars from across the country was set up to review the MPC and its operation. Contrary to what Wells wrote, the committee said that ID was a legitimate field for the MPC to study, although it recommended that the Center be placed within Baylor's Institute of Faith and Learning and renamed, that an advisory committee of Baylor faculty be appointed for it, and that it expand its focus (Martin 2000c). Dembski greeted the report as marking "the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry" and sent a press release saying in part,
    Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression. (Dembski 2000)
    Sloan, beliving the email was inflamatory and not collegial, asked Dembski to retract it. When Dembski refused, he was removed as director of the Center. The Center, following the committee's recommendations, was renamed "Program in Science, Philosophy and Religion." Sloan resigned five years later; there is no indication that his resignation was prompted by the incidents surrounding the MPC.

  2. Intolerance came from the creationist side. Outgoing psychology and neuroscience professor Lewis Barker said, in an article which Wells cites,
    Faculty are not speaking out because Sloan can make their lives miserable. They don't speak out for fear of their salaries and of being singled out by administration. I know you can't get many faculty responses, but the ones you have represent the majority of the faculty. The others are just too scared to speak out and want to hold on to their jobs. (Martin 2000b).


  1. Dembski, William. 2000. Polanyi Center Press Release. Oct. 17, 2000.
  2. Martin, Blair. 2000a. BU science-religion center draws critics. Lariat, Apr. 6, 2000.
  3. Martin, Blair. 2000b. Professors debate legitimacy of Polanyi. Lariat, Apr. 12, 2000.
  4. Martin, Blair. 2000c. Polanyi committee suggests compromise. Lariat, Oct. 18, 2000.

Further Reading:

Scott, Eugenie C. 2000. Baylor's Polanyi Center in turmoil. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 20(4): 9-11,
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created 2006-8-23