Discovery Institute’s Bill Dembski Recants

For those who can’t get enough of Discovery Institute shenanigans, there was an interesting little item on DI fellow William Dembski’s reversal on the issue of the earth’s age. Dembski has long argued that he is an old-earth creationist and the earth is billions of years old.

A year ago in November, Dembski, a mathematician at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, released a book titled The End of Christianity. In explaining his position on the age of the earth on the blog Uncommon Descent, Dembski wrote in the comment thread, “As I note in THE END OF CHRISTIANITY, I would be a young-earth creationist in a heartbeat if I didn’t see the evidence for an old earth as so strong. The young-earth old-earth debate, however, is only about 20 percent of the book. Most of it will be of interest to Christians of either stripe and even to theistic evolutionists.” So, his point is that even though one fifth of the book is devoted to the evidence against a literal interpretation of the Bible, fundamentalist Christians will still find it interesting. He also speculated in his book that the Great Flood was likely regional, rather than worldwide. However, according an article this week in Florida Baptist Witness (hat tip to Jack Krebs at The Panda’s Thumb), when Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson, Dembski’s boss, learned of Dembski’s statements, he called him into a meeting with other high-ranking officials.

According to the Baptist Witness:

At that meeting, Dembski was quick to admit that he was wrong about the flood, Patterson said. “Had I had any inkling that Dr. Dembski was actually denying the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible, then that would have, of course, ended his relationship with the school,” he said.

In response to the meeting, Dembski backtracked mightily and wrote what he referred to as a clarification in “A Reply to Tom Nettle’s Review of Dembski’s End of Christianity” (see page 8), in which he explains what he would have done differently had he written the book today.

In writing The End of Christianity today, I would also underscore three points: (1) As a biblical inerrantist, I accept the full verbal inspiration of the Bible and the conventional authorship of the books of the Bible. Thus, in particular, I accept Mosaic authorship of Genesis (and of the Pentateuch) and reject the Documentary Hypothesis. (2) Even though I introduce in the book a distinction between kairos (God’s time) and chronos (the world’s time), the two are not mutually exclusive. In particular, I accept that the events described in Genesis 1-11 happened in ordinary space-time, and thus that these chapters are as historical as the rest of the Pentateuch. (3) I believe that Adam and Eve were real people, that as the initial pair of humans they were the progenitors of the whole human race, that they were specially created by God, and thus that they were not the result of an evolutionary process from primate or hominid ancestors.

He also reconsiders his position on the Great Flood:

Yet, in a brief section on Genesis 4-11, I weigh in on the Flood, raising questions about its universality, without adequate study or reflection on my part. Before I write on this topic again, I have much exegetical, historical, and theological work to do. In any case, not only Genesis 6-9 but also Jesus in Matthew 24 and Peter in Second Peter seem clearly to teach that the Flood was universal. As a biblical inerrantist, I believe that what the Bible teaches is true and bow to the text, including its teaching about the Flood and its universality.

What I find most interesting about this is the Discovery Institute has maintained a steady drumbeat on the issue of academic persecution, pushing the argument in countless articles (see here, here, and here), as well as in the movie Expelled. They argue that academics who believe in intelligent design are being persecuted and that an oppressive and orthodox academic establishment is quashing dissent in an all-out attack on free speech. But now they have a prime example of this actually happening to one of their fellows and their response? They have not raised a peep.

Strange.

laurilebo@gmail.com'

Lauri Lebo is the author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, a book about the 2005 First Amendment trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in which intelligent design was ruled creationism.