An Interview With William Dembski
A Senior Fellow with Seattle’s Discovery Institute and Professor at Southwestern Seminary, William Dembski is a leading theorist for intelligent design. He has published articles in mathematics, engineering, philosophy, and theology journals and authored/edited over 20 books. In The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge University Press, 1998), the first book on intelligent design published by a major university press, he analyzed the connections linking chance, probability, and intelligent causation. In 2000, he founded the first intelligent design think-tank at a research university, Baylor’s Michael Polanyi Center. He lectures widely on intelligent design and has appeared on various radio and television programs, including ABC’s Nightline and Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. [Photograph courtesy of Laszlo Bencze.]
TheBestSchools: Thank you for allowing us to interview you for TheBestSchools.org. You are a mathematician, philosopher, theologian, prolific author, and one of the leading lights of the intelligent design (ID) movement, which has mounted a very public and highly controversial attack on mainstream neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory—so we have a lot of ground to cover.
Could we begin by asking you to give us some personal background? Where were you born and raised? Were you brought up in an academic environment? What set you on the track toward a life of scholarship, writing, and teaching?
William Dembski: Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview, which looks as though it will be my most extensive interview to date. I was born on July 18, 1960, in Chicago. My dad, who was from Chicago, was a World War II veteran who had dropped out of high school but after the war finished it in an accelerated program on the GI Bill. He then went on to study at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
Though from a thoroughly blue-collar background (he was selling newspapers on the streets of Chicago at age seven—those were Depression-era days), he came to love the academic life. After getting his bachelor’s in biology, he went on for a master’s in biology and another in education, all at the University of Illinois. After that, in the early to mid-1950s, he was teaching high school in the Chicago area.
He was still single and he loved teaching biology, so in 1957 he went on a Fulbright scholarship to Germany. There he met my mother (who was a German citizen). They got married in 1958 and moved to the U.S. in 1959. Upon their return, my dad started teaching biology at the University of Illinois…
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