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Seminary establishes Center for Science and Theology to be led by author, philosopher
September 27, 2004
By Jeff Robinson
Renowned author and Intelligent Design advocate William Dembski will join the seminary faculty June 1. Dembski, pictured here at a previous speaking engagement on Southern's campus, will direct the seminary's new Center for Science and Theology. Photo by David Merrifield
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. announced Sept. 16 the establishment of the Center for Science and Theology along with the appointment of renowned philosopher of science William A. Dembski as its first director.
Since 1999, Dembski has served as associate research professor at Baylor University's Institute for Faith and Learning. He also serves as a senior fellow for the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle, Wash., and is executive director of the International Society of Complexity, Information and Design.
Mohler said that the new center, along with Dembski, will represent a major component of Southern Seminary's commitment to develop and articulate a comprehensive Christian worldview. Dembski, who will begin June 1, will serve as the Carl F.H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science.
"[The center will be] a representation of our commitment to be very serious about the task of the Christian worldview, its development [and] its application," Mohler said. It will arm "this generation of Christian leaders and ministers with all that will be necessary, given the challenges of a technological and scientific age, to be ready to confront those issues with Christian truth and the undiluted resources of the Christian worldview."
Having Dembski as the center's director is a major development, not only for the seminary, but also for the Southern Baptist Convention and the evangelical world at large, Mohler said.
"Dr. Dembski is one of the most skilled philosophers of science in this generation," Mohler said. "He is a primary theorist of Intelligent Design as well as a primary opponent of Darwinism and evolutionary theory. ... His name is well-known in the scientific world. This is a new thing for a theological seminary and it is a great thing. We look forward to having Dr. Dembski on this campus."
Dembski said he desires to help students understand how science should be understood in terms of Christian theology. Theology, he said, underpins all of his views of science and Intelligent Design.
"I started out as a straight research mathematician but got into these questions of philosophy and theology because I was so exercised in my spirit about the unbelief I saw in the academy [and] why it seemed so reasonable to disbelieve the Christian faith," Dembski said. "That is what really motivated me to work on Christian worldviews and apologetics and it is in the background of my work on Intelligent Design as well.
"Theology is where my ultimate passion is and I think that is where I can uniquely contribute. ... I am looking forward to engaging students, and theological students have always been my favorite to deal with because for theology students, it's not just a job, but a passion, especially at a place like Southern, because they want to change the world."
Dembski and other evangelical scholars such as Phillip E. Johnson have used arguments of Intelligent Design to loosen the stranglehold that Darwinian naturalism has held over contemporary science and academic thought.
"Intelligent Design is not tantamount to the biblical doctrine of creation," Mohler said. "Theologically, Intelligent Design falls far short of requiring any affirmation of the doctrine of creation as revealed in the Bible. Nevertheless, it is a useful and important intellectual tool and a scientific movement with great promise.
"The real significance of Intelligent Design theory and its related movement is the success with which it undermines the materialistic and naturalistic worldview central to the theory of evolution."
A mathematician and philosopher, Dembski is the author of a number of influential books, including Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, The Design Inference, and his latest, The Design Revolution. Dembski previously taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Dallas. Dembski holds seven degrees, including two Ph.D. degrees -— one in mathematics from the University of Chicago and the other in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He holds a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and also holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a master of science degree in statistics. In addition, Dembski has done post-doctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago and in computer science at Princeton.
Russell D. Moore, dean of Southern Seminary's School of Theology and senior vice president of academic administration, said Dembski's appointment is significant.
"Bill Dembski's appointment to the Southern Seminary faculty is an historic event in Southern Seminary's long heritage of equipping Christians to engage the culture with a Christian worldview," Moore said. "Dembski is the preeminent proponent of Intelligent Design, known throughout the world by both his admirers and his naturalistic critics. Dembski will help us to prepare a new generation of Christians to confront fearlessly the reigning Darwinian orthodoxies of our confused era."
During his time at Baylor, Dembski became a focus of controversy, with some members of the Baylor faculty charging that Dembski's work, and that of the center he directed, would embarrass the university by implying that its science faculty was not fully committed to the theory of evolution.
"Our students and faculty are thrilled that Bill Dembski is joining us, and we are proud that he will be teaching in the classroom and directing the work of this very important center," Mohler said. "This is a proud day for Southern Seminary and for Southern Baptists."