(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.