The ID Tenure Plan

Now that they’re quite irate about Guillermo Gonzalez failing to get tenure, the gang at the Discovery Institute seems to have forgotten Bill Dembski’s radical plan for dealing with biologists.

If I ever became the president of a university (per impossibile), I would dissolve the biology department and divide the faculty with tenure that I couldn’t get rid of into two new departments: those who know engineering and how it applies to biological systems would be assigned to the new “Department of Biological Engineering”; the rest, and that includes the evolutionists, would be consigned to the new “Department of Nature Appreciation” (didn’t Darwin think of himself as a naturalist?).

So he’d just get rid of the non-tenured faculty, and banish the rest to a new department with a mocking name. I don’t think these guys can legitimately complain about Gonzalez’s treatment — he was handled far more respectfully than the creationists would deal with us.

Dembski would never become president of any credible university since his plan would destroy the representation of a major discipline on the campus, with concomitant loss of student enrollment, and would utterly demolish the university’s status in graduate and medical schools. It was an insane, stupid thing to suggest then, but it’s an awfully handy counterpoise to the current DI position now.


  1. says

    Awesome pick PZ. I suspect there’s alot more that would keep Demski from attaining any position as a president of a credible university than the position he stated above.

  2. says

    “Engineered” will be the new term for design enthusiasts. I can see it now: Teleological Engineering demonstrates the antiquated flaws of Darwinian Naturalists. More poetic manipulation.

  3. says

    Getting these updates about whatever Dembski–a congenital oaf of rare perfection–is up to is a bit like having a webcam in some guy’s frathouse toilet. Oh, look, more shit is on the way!


  4. waldteufel says

    Gig him, P.Z.!

    I’ve read none of Dembski’s scribblings that would qualify him to be any sort of faculty member at any real college or university.

    Dembski is the prototypical denizen of the generic “Billy Bob Bible College.”

  5. Doc Bill says

    The DI PR machine is in full swing issuing press releases left and right. Well, at least right.

    It’s the same machine they used to sway the state school board elections in Kansas. Oh, hang on, they lost that one.

    Anyway, it’s the same machine they used to influence the decision in Dover. Oh, wait, wait, they lost Kitzmiller.

    Cobb County? Ohio? Michigan? New Mexico? Arkansas?

    Perhaps the PR machine needs oil. I’m sure they have some in the stockroom. Yes, here’s a nice selection: asp, copperhead, garter, king…

  6. DragonScholar says

    Ah, yes, Dembski’s street theater. I’m sure he’d say he was just being funny.

    Of course then he and his merry band of pants-wetters freak out over anything said about themselves, or ID, in a humorous manner.

    A sense of humor, like love, humility, and a good freeway, goes both ways.

  7. bernarda says

    It is not only the jesus freaks that get evolutionary science wrong. The following link leads to a “rational” libertarian defending teaching creationism at the nuthouse CATO Institute.

    “As someone who agrees wholeheartedly that a natural process of evolution is the best explanation of how human beings came to be, allow me to suggest why the ram-evolution-down-their-throats approach is illiberal, undemocratic, divisive, ineffective, and counter-productive.”

    Of course none of what the wanker says has anything to do with science. That is libertarianism for you.

  8. says

    Not too tough to see why they see conspiracies in everything though, is it? They behave that way, so they assume everyone does.

    Docbill said: Perhaps the PR machine needs oil.

    Yeah, but at least they have all that groundbreaking science they’ve done to fall back on.

  9. Rey Fox says

    It’s been nine years since I got out of high school, and my throat still hurts from all that evolution-ramming.

  10. Caledonian says


    I hate to interrupt your Libertarians-are-stupid wankfest, boys, but the man has a point. Religious conservatives are reacting to their loss of status and respect by making a show of force.

    Unfortunately, watering down the standards of science isn’t an option. But as long as religious nonsense is excluded (rightly or wrongly) the religous are going to fight to gain influence.

    Asking them to present actual research for their pseudoscience will help, at least in the short term. Ultimately, though, we’re going to have to do more than use sweet reason.

  11. George Cauldron says

    I hate to interrupt your Libertarians-are-stupid wankfest,

    I hope you are, it barely got started.

    Can we get back to it now?

  12. George Cauldron says

    Aw, c’mon, I have some great Libertarian jokes to try out!

    And certainly we haven’t used up the whole concept of a libertarian extolling the virtues of letting the marketplace decide what science should be taught, no?

  13. Caledonian says

    I’ll let you in on a little secret:

    The market is what will decide what should be taught. One way or another.

    What, you thought decisions about education were made in a void?

  14. George Cauldron says

    As someone who agrees wholeheartedly that a natural process of evolution is the best explanation of how human beings came to be, allow me to suggest why the ram-evolution-down-their-throats approach is illiberal, undemocratic, divisive, ineffective, and counter-productive.


    It is illiberal because it makes the government the sole arbiter of absolute truth, and this is wholly at odds with a founding principle of our nation: freedom of thought and belief. If we accept the principle that government is in possession of absolute truth, and that this truth is derived from the application of scientific methods to natural observations, then where would we draw the line? Why would we stop at mandating evolution? Why, in particular, would we allow parents to pass along any religious views at all to their children?

    There is growing political support for a national science curriculum, the public wants evolution/creation decisions decided at the national level, and the public thinks evolution and creationism should be taught alongside one another. This is not what the evolution oligarchs have in mind, and they should think about it long and hard before continuing to argue for a government-imposed truth on the subject. It may not end up being their truth.

    Yup, we’ll take a vote. We’ll ask how many people want evolution taught, ask how many people want Creationism taught, and whichever gets a bigger show of hands will be what we teach in schools.

    Libertarian jokes are hardly even necessary.

    There are many fields, including many sciences, in which it is entirely possible to work effectively no matter what one’s views on human origins.

    Wow, reminds me of Larry Fafarman.

  15. says

    Libertarians are their own punchline.

    If you need a further laugh:

    What did the Libertarian say to the kid who took a shortcut through his lawn?

    KABOOM!! Hey, he initiated the force…

  16. SWT says

    Actually, Dembski didn’t say he’d get rid of the non-tenured faculty, he said he’d reassign the tenured faculty he couldn’t get rid of. After all, it’s a lot harder to bully tenured faculty than it is to bully the untenured faculty.

    Remember, it’s all about academic freedom! Teach the controversy!

  17. sparc says

    Can you imagine what IDists would have written in case GG would have been tenured? Horrifying.

  18. waldteufel says

    Well, sparc, it seems that O’Leary is both delusional and incredibly ignorant.

    I think she suffers delusions of adequacy.

    I love the part where she talks about the “global positioning satellite” (singular). She doesn’t even have a clue how GPS works. What a dumbass.

  19. Dustin says

    I can’t believe anyone can be that stupid. Is she really insinuating that Polaris is evidence of Intelligent Design? Because it wasn’t the Northern Star when those bronze-age goat herders were penning the Old Testament. And it isn’t even a perfect north star! It’s 42′ off the pole. If it was designed to be there, wouldn’t it be centered on our axis of rotation?

    You’ve gotta be kidding me! And I thought Dembski was a tool.

  20. says


    I’ll let you in on a little secret:

    The market is what will decide what should be taught. One way or another.

    That’s not a good thing. “The market” understands even less science than Dembski does. He at least knows enough about it to exploit it for his own personal political gain. “The market,” on the other hand, turned The Secret, Dianetics and The Purpose-Driven Life into best-sellers.

    What, you thought decisions about education were made in a void?

    Personally, I don’t think that filling the void with stupid people is the best solution, but YMMV.

  21. says

    “Nature Appreciation” just makes me want to kick someone in the balls.

    I didn’t work my ass off to get a degree, and then return for more sucker punishment this year to get into Honors, to get my field of science dismissed as “appreciation”.

    That’s is old school Linnean thinking. Natural Biology is not stamp collecting.

    I think a lot of Physicist/Engineer Creationists really have this misconception that you can’t do experiments regarding “simple” biology/ecology. That somehow its just sitting back and watching and saying “Oooh that’s pretty and amazing”. Thanks Jane Goodall.


  22. Caledonian says

    zayzayem has an excellent point. It’s probably the nature of the public’s perception of biology that makes it, and not geology or astronomy, the primary target of Creationists.

    You’d think psychology would be a target for highlighting just how non-special humans are, but no. Peculiar.

  23. DinoBoy says

    I’m I the only one who thinks “Biological Engineering” sounds a lot like Eugenics?

  24. Joe Bob says

    About that “polaris-is-no-accident” b.s. at

    The claim that there are “41,253 square degrees in our night sky” (such exactitude!) seems to me to be an exaggeration by a factor of about 15.

    Surface area of a sphere of radius R is 4*PI*(R^2).

    Area of “one square degree” on the surface of a sphere of radius R is about ((2*PI*R)/360)^2. (Slightly less because I’m projecting a square of that area onto the surface of the sphere. But the sphere is much larger, so the difference is negligeable.)

    When you divide the former by the latter you get less than 2600, not 41,253.

    Somebody please check my math…

  25. Taxorgian says

    Joe Bob:

    You (and O’Leary) are both wrong. In the only sense where “square degrees” makes sense, we can count them directly. Any point in the sky will have a definite elevation from the horizon: 0 (for, say, the horizon) to 90 (for zenith). You can face in any direction from west to north to east to south to west: 360 degrees. Hence, in the night sky there are 90*360 or 32,400 “square degrees”. [Worldwide would be twice that, at 64800, but since Polaris is a Big Deal, those in the Southern Hemisphere were obviously not to be included in the discussion!]

  26. windy says

    From the comments: “And anyway, having Both a North Star and a South Star would have been too obvious…”

  27. raven says

    Dembski has just adopted the Ann Coulter style of ridiculous rhetoric to get attention.

    It could be worse. He could have suggested a good old fashioned witchhunt of biologists and MDs who accept evolution followed by public burning at the stake of the survivors. Just like the good old days in medieval times.

    Come to think of it, I hope he isn’t reading this thread. Some of the creos undoubtedly think that would be a dream come true.

  28. Brian says

    You’d think psychology would be a target for highlighting just how non-special humans

    Probably a meaningless meme, but have you noticed that when a person does something considered ethically poor they’re referred to as an animal or brute? Is it ironic that people only realise humans are not unique when humans act poorly (but very human)? Still, I feel sorry for animals that have no concept for revenge or grudges get labeled as brutish, just like a human who exacts revenge or violates another sentient being….

  29. Carlie says

    I just want to say, as someone whose tenure file is currently somewhere in the black hole of upper administration awaiting judgment, every time one of these posts come up I lose a few months off my lifespan, and for some reason they seem to be coming up a lot lately. I think Pharyngula has cost me a year by now, at least.

  30. says

    Dembski is a picture-perfect example of how religion can make you stupid. Not too many people have the combination of intelligence and tenacity necessary to earn two doctorates (I’m sure opportunity and finances figure in there, too, but that’s not my main point). So you’d think Dembski must be a pretty smart cookie. Yet he manages to say one dreadfully foolish thing after another, the most dreadful being those embarrassingly fluffy “mathematical” arguments that persuade no one except his fellow pseudo-scholars. Dembski’s problem is that he has subordinated his intellect to his faith, debasing the power of reason by subjecting it to preordained conclusions that cannot be questioned.

    Religion has made Dembski stupid.

  31. TheBlackCat says

    Not this again. There already are dozens of departments of Biological Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biomedical Engineering across the country. They make large contributions to both biology and medicine, they work very closely and very well with both biology departments and medical schools, and they have no problem with evolution. Biologically-oriented engineering has been around for about half a century. His idea of a biological engineering department is neither new nor controversial. The idea that it is somehow incompatible with or better than conventional biology or evolution is flat-out wrong.

  32. andy says

    Taxorgian: that’s not how it works, because a sphere cannot be mapped onto a rectangle without distortion. The 41253 figure is correct (to the nearest integer).

    The total solid angle is 4*pi steradians (ratio of the area of a sphere to its radius).

    A degree is pi/180 radians, so a square degree is (pi/180)^2 steradians.

    This gives a total of 4*pi / (pi/180)^2 = 41253 square degrees (to the nearerst integer).

  33. valhar2000 says

    Google “Steve Dutch when the cranks rule”, and you’ll see an interesting article about the lengths cranks go to when they are given even a smidgeon of power over scientists. Dembski’s mendacity is almost mild, as his kind goes.

  34. says

    How to get tenure if you are a proponent of Intelligent Design:

    Step 1) Make dubious claims about irreducible complexity.

    Step 2) Pray daily for science to be redefined to include the work/views connected with step 1.

    If steps 1 and 2 do not work, try bullying and threats of legal action – those are always available as a backup when prayers go unanswered.

  35. says

    “Still, I feel sorry for animals that have no concept for revenge or grudges get labeled as brutish, just like a human who exacts revenge or violates another sentient being.” – Brian

    While I also find it funny that humans get labelled as “animals” for doing rather human activities like revenge or having sex with their sister’s dead pet dog because the garden gnomes told them to… it is a bit poxy to claim that poor innocent animals don’t know how to engage in a good bit of revenge etc. Animal psychology is showing really interesting observances that even the most shockingly human traits aren’t human-exclusive.

    This is where it gets really important to not have “Nature Appreciation”; if you have the pre-conception that animals and creation are inherently good and its just humans who got screwed up by listening to a legless smooth talking liberal hiding in a tree – you miss the really mind-boggling cool things that make science cool.

    This is what’s totally weird: When a human does something sadisticly vengeful, they are a loathesome savage brute; when a shark does it, it’s a cunning and intelligent foe to be feared yet respected…

  36. TheBlackCat says

    I agree, animals definitely get revenge. I once saw a sea turtle quietly swim up and nip another sleeping sea turtle’s rear end, then swim away as fast as it could. The second turtle chased it down the tank and body-slammed it against the wall at the other end. Although if it was humans the others would probably pick sides and join in. For the turtles nobody else noticed and these two just went back to sleep.