A report issued by the peer review committee appointed to evaluate the credibility and legitimacy of the Michael Polanyi Center was finally released Tuesday morning, stating that despite controversy, it found the Center’s research legitimate.
The committee, composed of eight respected scholars from all over the country and led by Dr. William F. Cooper, recommended that the university should “foster a broad range of scholarship” to address the relationship between science and religion.
Controversy erupted shortly after the center was created in 1999 as a result of a perceived “creationist” undertone of its mission and the lack of communication between Baylor science faculty and the administration.
Chairman of the Faculty Senate, Dr. Jay Losey, said he thought the committee’s review of the center was concise while remaining sensitive to all of the concerns raised.
“I am very pleased with the content,” he said. “I thought they were very diplomatic and offered great ways to address some of the major concerns.”
Although the committee deemed the research valid, they expressed several recommendations to mend the bridge of communication between faculty and the center’s administration.
First, the committee concluded that the center’s mission is best supported under the structure of the Institute of Faith and Learning, “where it seems naturally at home.”
Therefore, Dr. William Dembski and Dr. Bruce Gordon, who had been the sole researchers for the Center, will remain on campus to continue their research under the supervision of Dr. Michael Beaty, the director of the Faith and Learning Institute.
Second, the committee believes the center should not only continue to pursue the intelligent design theory but should expand its focus to include broader areas of its mandate as well.
Third, an advisory committee, composed of Baylor faculty members, should be created to assist in planning and reviewing the science and religion component of the center.
Finally, the committee recommended that the center no longer bear the name Michael Polanyi.
President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said the name change was due to the controversy surrounding the center and its mission.
“The discontinuance of the name, I believe, is for a couple of reasons,” Sloan said. “First, I think that name now has gathered a lot of political baggage, and its important for the institute to get a fresh, new start.”
He also said that there was inconsistency between the late scientist’s views and the original intent of the center.
The transition and formation of an advisory committee should take a couple of weeks, Sloan said.
Although Sloan insisted that the committee’s recommendations will be carried out completely and as soon as possible, the question of administrative structure within the center still remains unresolved.
Whether the center will re-emerge under a new name or just be another research project within the Institute of Faith and Learning is unclear.
“We are going to ask the advisory committee to consider that,” Sloan said. “If they think its appropriate that we still have a structure like the center, then one of the things they can suggest is a new name.”