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Intelligent Design Professor Switching Seminaries

A year after coming to lead a highly touted center for science and theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, intelligent design advocate William Dembski is reportedly leaving to accept a teaching post at another Southern Baptist Convention seminary.

Baptist Press reported Wednesday that trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Fort Worth, Texas, elected Dembski, 45, as research professor of philosophy.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Dembski told EthicsDaily.com in an e-mail he lives in Waco, Texas, and has been commuting to Louisville this academic year. He said has enjoyed his time at Southern and especially the students there, but “a combination of professional and family reasons led to my decision to stay in Texas and take a position at Southwestern Seminary.”
 
One of the country’s leading proponents of intelligent design, which argues that some features of life are best explained by an intelligent cause, Dembski’s arrival at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., was hailed as a major component of the school’s commitment to develop instruction in a “Christian worldview.”
 
Theology Dean Russell Moore described the September 2004 announcement that Dembski was coming as “an historic event in Southern Seminary’s long heritage of equipping Christians to engage the culture with a Christian worldview.”
 
Seminary President Al Mohler said in his report at the Southern Baptist Convention in 2005 that Dembski’s appointment is part of the seminary’s efforts to “stand for absolute truth in the face of moral relativism,” according to Baptist Press.
 
Dembski began teaching at Southern Seminary last fall. His hiring at Southwestern is effective June 1.
 
Southwestern Seminary’s press release does not identify him as coming from Southern Seminary but as being “best known for helping develop and articulate the theory of intelligent design.” His appointment is given two paragraphs in the middle of a wrap-up story about trustees hiring seven faculty members, including two deans, on Tuesday, April 4.
 
Another of the new professors at Southwestern, Steven Ortiz, is currently assistant professor of archaeology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Before moving to Southern Seminary, Dembski was associate research professor at BaylorUniversity’s Institute for Faith and Learning. In 1999 he was named first director of the first intelligent design think tank at a major research university, the Michael Polyani Center, but was fired from the job in 2000 amid controversy that Baylor was pursuing pseudo-science based more on religious belief than scientific fact. He continued to teach at Baylor after his demotion.
 
Baylor recently denied tenure to Francis Beckwith, associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, another proponent of intelligent design.
 
Dembski told Agape Press that the decision by the world’s largest Baptist university to deny tenure to his friend and former Baylor colleague suggests the university wants to get rid of Beckwith because he waded into the intelligent design debate by writing a book on the legality of teaching it in public schools. Dembski termed the denial a “petty political shenanigan.”
 
Beckwith and Dembski are both affiliated with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that advocates the theory of intelligent design and supports its teaching in biology classes in public schools.
 
Their view has gained a hearing in several states, where intelligent design initiatives are being considering, and with President Bush, who said last year he believes that public schools should teach both evolution and intelligent design so that students can be “exposed to different ideas.”
 
Trained in mathematics, Dembski has written several books, including The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems, a biology textbook he co-authored with Michael Behe in 2005.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
Previous related story:
Bush Sides with Religious Right on Intelligent Design