That's what a university is all about. I also greatly enjoyed a lecture by William Dembski a few years ago. I got to meet him and I got to ask a question at his lecture. It was a very valuable experience. Over the years I've heard several creationists speak on my campus, even Hugh Ross. Attending those lectures has put me in touch with many creationist sympathizers in my area and I've formed a number of friendships. Some of them read my blog.
Dembski is giving a talk at the University of Chicago and Jerry Coyne is upset. He doesn't think that people like Dembski should be given an opportunity to speak on a university campus [Creationist Dembski gives academic talk at MY university!].
Coyne has published a letter he wrote to Dembski's former Ph.D. supervisor—the person who invited Dembski to give the talk [Why Dembski is speaking at the University of Chicago]. Here's part of what Jerry Coyne wrote ...
As for hearing "intelligent opinion on various sides of issues," that might apply if the views presented really were rational, if the person’s theories had not already been debunked, and if the speaker were not motivated by belief in Christianity (Dembski has admitted this).I don't agree with Jerry on this issue. In fact, I think it might be informative for history students to hear the views of a holocaust denier and I'd love to have the opportunity to challenge the views of someone who supports homeopathy. I'd even tolerate a scientist who dismisses junk DNA.
Your rationale, I’d add, would also justify inviting advocates of homeopathy, astrology, and dowsing, which have exactly as much credibility (i.e., none) as Dembski’s claims. Would you invite a Holocaust denier to speak to a history department? For this is exactly what you are doing by inviting Dembski. Further, you’re giving unwarranted academic credibility to debunked, religiously-motivated science. I should know, because I teach evolutionary biology here at Chicago, am familiar with Dembki’s claims, and have spent much of my career fighting his form of religiously-based creationism, gussied up though it may be with mathematics. His views, and that of his colleagues, are damaging to science education, and have no merit.
I have no intention of going to Dembski’s talk, but I do find this part of your email odd: “You and everyone are invited to come to his seminar and offer questions and opinions in the measured tones appropriate for academic discussion.” I can interpret that only as a warning to me and other critics to behave ourselves and not make a fuss. It’s condescending.
It does not speak well of you or your seminar to invite a purveyor of creationism to speak to an academic audience at Chicago, and then characterize that creationism as an "intelligent opinion." It is exactly as intelligent as homeopathy or the view that the Holocaust is a ruse. Your invitation to Dembski is an embarrassment to this University.
Clearly there are different views on this topic. I'm pretty sure Jerry Coyne's view is motivated by a desire to keep religion out of universities. I suspect that he would have tried to ban Dembski if the University of Chicago were a public university.
What do you think? Does Vincent Torley have a point when he complains about comparing Dembski to a Holocaust denier and then writes [Coyne compares Dembski to a Holocaust denier] ...
I might add that as Professor Coyne has no mathematical qualifications whatsoever, he is hardly qualified to express a professional opinion about the ‘No Free Lunch’ theorem, let alone declare it "debunked."I wonder what Jeffrey Shallit thinks of this? Would he come to a Dembski talk and point out the fatal flaws in Dembski's speculations? I'd pay to watch that.