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Francis J. Beckwith

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Francis J. Beckwith
Replace this image male.svg
Full name Francis J. Beckwith
Born 1960
New York City
Main interests Christian philosophy

Francis J. "Frank" Beckwith (born 1960) is an American Christian philosopher, scholar, debater, and lecturer. Beckwith advocates in the areas of social ethics, legal philosophy, philosophy of religion, intelligent design and the Christian countercult movement. Currently, he is the associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and an associate professor of Church-State studies at Baylor University. Beckwith, born in New York City, now resides with his wife in Texas. Beckwith returned to Roman Catholicism in 2007.[1]

Beckwith has defended the pro-life position on abortion[2] and the constitutional permissibility of the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.[3] He has been affiliated with organizations that advocate for these issues. Beckwith is a former fellow at the Discovery Institute[4] the "hub of the intelligent design movement";[5] and a former member of the advisory board for the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center.[6] As of late 2007, he is a fellow at The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (CBHD);[7] and a professor at Baylor's Institute for the Studies of Religion (ISR).[8]

Education and career

Beckwith is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A. in Philosophy), Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim (MA in apologetics), Fordham University (Ph.D. and M.A. in philosophy) and the Washington University School of Law, St. Louis (Master of Juridical Studies).[9]

A condensed version of Beckwith's 1984 MA thesis on the Bahá'í Faith was published by Bethany House in 1985.

Other social ethics questions to which he has contributed include the influence of relativism on public culture,[10] affirmative action and discrimination, same-sex marriage, bioethics generally (including cloning), and interpreting constitutional issues as they touch on religious liberty and practices, such as the inclusion of intelligent design in public school science curricula.

Beckwith has held academic appointments at Whittier College (1996-1997) and Trinity International University (1997-2002).[11]

In November 2005, Professor Beckwith became the President-elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, a professional organization of theologians. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Philosophy and Law.

In May 2007 Professor Beckwith made public his return to the Roman Catholic Church, which took place in late April 2007, and resigned as both President of the Evangelical Theological Society and member of the society, effective May 7, 2007.[1]

Intelligent design and the Discovery Institute

Beckwith states that he is not an intelligent design advocate, and his interests lie in the legal and cultural questions raised by the movement.[12] Beckwith has stated that although he is sympathetic to the intelligent design movement he thinks they mistakenly accept the "the modern idea that an Enlightenment view of science is the paradigm of knowledge."[13] Critics of intelligent design, such as Barbara Forrest, consider Beckwith a proponent.[14] Beckwith often speaks on the legal permissibility of teaching intelligent design in public school science classes, arguing that it is legally permissible and arguing against the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that intelligent design is essentially religious in nature, a form of creationism, and thus its teaching as science in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He provided much of the legal reasoning and justification behind the claim of the Discovery Institute that intelligent design is not a religious belief and maintains that the religious motives of the policy's supporters, which he says the judge in the case relied on, should have no bearing on assessing the constitutionality of the policy, since a motive is a belief and the federal courts have, in other contexts, forbidden the government's assessing of beliefs.[15][16] Beckwith is closely tied to the Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns, both from his arguments and writings being often repeated and promoted by the Discovery Institute[17] and by receiving support from the Institute during his tenure controversy.[18][19][20][21] Beckwith endorsed fellow Discovery Institute Fellow Richard Weikart's controversial book, From Darwin to Hitler, Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany.[22]


Hunter Baker / National Review Online controversy

In 2004 the Harvard Law Review published a review by Lawrence VanDyke, a Harvard Law student, praising a book written by Beckwith that defended the teaching of intelligent design in schools. In response to a scathing review of VanDyke's review by professor of law and philosophy Brian Leiter,[23] the National Review Online published a response to Leiter written by Hunter Baker defending Beckwith and alleging Leiter was "attacking" both a student writer and "academic freedom."[24] Hunter's article was republished by the Discovery Institute,[25] where Beckwith sat as a Fellow and which as part of its intelligent design campaigns consistently casts ID proponents as the victims of efforts to curtail academic freedom.

Leiter revealed that Hunter Baker was Beckwith's teaching assistant when he wrote the defense of Beckwith for the National Review, something both Beckwith and Hunter did not disclose.[26][27] This prompted Leiter to question the journalistic integrity of Baker and to describe such tactics as "fraud" and a "right-wing slime and smear job."[27]

During the controversy over Beckwith's tenure Hunter Baker went on to write another National Review article arguing that the denial of tenure was an attack on academic freedom, again without disclosing his relationship to Beckwith.[28]

Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly reported in the magazine's weblog that this controversy led to the creation of the blog the Panda's Thumb, which has become one of the most notable fora for critics of intelligent design[26]; however, Ed Brayton of the Panda's Thumb stated that the timing was a coincidence.[29]

Baylor Controversies

In 2003 shortly after his appointment as associate director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor, twenty-nine members of the J.M. Dawson family called on Baylor University to remove Beckwith as associate director.[30] In a letter the Dawson family members questioned the appointment of Beckwith, accusing him of holding church-state positions contrary to the strong stand for separation advocated by J.M. Dawson: "We are troubled because Dr. Beckwith is a fellow of the Discovery Institute. The activities of this organization are widely recognized in the academic community as engaging in political activities that contravene the fundamental principle of the separation of church and state for which J.M. Dawson stood." ... "The Discovery Institute works to get the concept called 'intelligent design' into the science curriculum of public school textbooks, claiming that intelligent design is a scientific, not a religious, concept. In our judgment and in the judgment of the scientific community, this is a ruse for getting a religious notion into the public schools--clearly a violation of the separation of church and state."[31] The university ultimately allowed Beckwith to remain in the position.

On March 24, 2006, Beckwith was denied tenure by Baylor University. As is typical in such cases, the reasons for denying tenure were not released.

According to a March 31, 2006 BPNews article Beckwith stated that he was following an appeals process in hopes of having the decision reversed.[32] In early September 2006 stories concerning the reasons for Beckwith's denial of tenure and the political intrigue behind it were published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.[33] On September 22, 2006, Beckwith won his appeal and was tenured by Baylor University. The Discovery Institute, where Beckwith served as a Fellow, lobbied extensively on his behalf during the controversy,[18][19][20][21] comparing him to others connected to the Institute who've alleged academic or employment discrimination due to their advocacy of intelligent design such as Richard Sternberg and his peer review controversy.[18] Beckwith also received support from an opponent of intelligent design, Ed Brayton, on his blog Dispatches from the Culture War.[34]

Bibliography

  • Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2010)
  • Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview with William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, eds. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004).
  • Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003).
  • Do the Right Thing: Readings in Applied Ethics and Social Philosophy editor, 2nd ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002).
  • The New Mormon Challenge with Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, eds. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).
  • The Abortion Controversy 25 Years After Roe v. Wade: A Reader 2nd ed. with Louis Pojman, eds. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1998).
  • Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air with Gregory Koukl, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998).
  • Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination? with Todd E. Jones, eds. (Amherst: Prometheus, 1997).
  • See the gods fall: Four Rivals to Christianity with Stephen E. Parrish, (Joplin: College Press, 1997).
  • Are You Politically Correct?: Debating America's Cultural Standards with Michael E. Bauman, eds. (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1993).
  • Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993).
  • The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis with Stephen E. Parrish, (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1991).
  • David Hume's Argument Against Miracles: A Critical Analysis (Lanham: University Press of America, 1989).
  • Bahá'í (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985).

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Francis J. Beckwith. "Right Reason: My Return to the Catholic Church". http://rightreason.ektopos.com/archives/2007/05/my_return_to_th.html. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  2. Bio-ethics Philosopher and Evangelical President Francis Beckwith Joins Catholic Church - Accessed December 15, 2007
  3. Baylor denies tenure to highly regarded Beckwith - Accessed December 15, 2007
  4. National Review Online - What would Reagan do? - Accessed December 15, 2007
  5. British Centre for Science Education - Truth In Science Material - Accessed December 15, 2007
  6. Corrections and Comments to statements made about the IDEA Center in Creationism's Trojan Horse IDEA Center staff. Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness.
  7. Meet Francis J. Beckwith, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity
  8. Francis J. Beckwith, Baylor University
  9. UNLV Magazine - Winter 2005 - Class notes - Accessed October 16, 2007
  10. Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air - Accessed December 16, 2007
  11. A Guide to Christian Resources on the Internet - Francis Beckwith: A Contribution to Apologetics - Accessed December 16, 2007
  12. Letter to the Editor, Francis J. Beckwith, Academe, May June 2005
  13. Francis Beckwith (10 November 2008). "The Truth About me and Intelligent Design". http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/11/the_truth_about_me_and_intelli_1.html. Retrieved 16 November 2008. 
  14. Is It Science Yet?: Intelligent Design, Creationism And The Constitution, Matthew J. Brauer, Barbara Forrest, Steven G. Gey, Washington University Law Quarterly, Volume 83, Number 1, 2005. (PDF file)
  15. Faith factors don’t negate Intelligent Design, prof says, Marilyn Stewart. Baptist Press, February 13, 2006
  16. The Court of Disbelief, The Constitution's Article VI Religious Test Prohibition and the Judiciary's Religious Motive Analysis Francis Beckwith. Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Winter/Spring 2006.
  17. Article database listing for Francis J. Beckwith, Discovery Institute
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Scandal Brewing at Baylor University? Denial of Tenure to Francis Beckwith Raises Serious Questions about Fairness and Academic FreedomJohn West. Discovery Institute's EvolutionNews.org, March 28, 2006
  19. 19.0 19.1 Baylor University in the Hot Seat John West Discovery Institute's EvolutionNews.org, March 28, 2006
  20. 20.0 20.1 Pressure on Baylor University Building to Right the Wrong Done to Dr. Beckwith Robert Crowther. Discovery Institute's EvolutionNews.org, April 5, 2006
  21. 21.0 21.1 New Disclosures in Baylor Tenure Scandal John West. Discovery Institute's EvolutionNews.org, September 5, 2006
  22. From Darwin To Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism In Germany Richard Weikart. In it, Weikart makes the contentious claim that acceptance of evolution, which he his fellow Discovery Institute colleagues term "Darwinism," led directly to atrocities committed by the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler and specifically The Holocaust.
  23. Harvard Law Review Embarrasses Itself Brian Leiter. The Leiter Reports, March 10, 2004.
  24. The Professor’s Paroxysm, A scholar’s attack on a student writer — and academic freedom Hunter Baker. National Review Online, March 15, 2004.
  25. Discovery Institute article archive
  26. 26.0 26.1 Political Animal, Intelligent Design Kevin Drum. Washington Monthly, March 24, 2004.
  27. 27.0 27.1 A Case Study in How the Right-Wing Slime-and-Smear Machine Works Brian Leiter. The Leiter Reports, March 17, 2004.
  28. Sloan’s Struggle, What Baylor University can prove about Christian scholarship Hunter Baker. National Review Online, January 10, 2005.
  29. Ed Brayton (March 24, 2004). "The Calpundit Weighs in on Leiter vs VanDyke and Plugs This Site". The Panda's Thumb. http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2004/03/the-calpundit-w.html. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  30. Wedging Creationism into the Academy Barbara Forrest and Glenn Branch. Acadame, January-February 2005. American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
  31. Dawson family protests Beckwith's appointment to Baylor institute Marv Knox. Baptist Standard. September 19. 2003.
  32. "Baylor denies tenure to highly regarded Beckwith" by Erin Roach, article dated March 31, 2006, from BPNews.net. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  33. Baylor Professors Criticize Denial of Tenure to Conservative Colleague, Chronicle of Higher Education
  34. Beckwith Tenure Denial Reversed, Dispatches from the Culture War, Scienceblogs

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Other Relevant Sources

  • Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity (Colorado Springs: NAV Press, 2001), pp. 214-217.

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