Dembski’s students: Trolling for Grades

At Free Range Talk, we find this , on a course being taught by ID proponent William Dembski: 

Sure, we’ve all had our suspicions that some trolls were paid for their “work,” but this news is rather shocking.  Over at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, trolling is actually 20% of the grade for theology students.

Intelligent Design (SOUTHERN EVANGELICAL SEMINARY #AP 410, 510, and 810; May 11 – 16, 2009)

NEW! THE DUE DATE FOR ALL WORK IN THIS COURSE IS AUGUST 14, 2009. Here’s what you will need to do to wrap things up:

AP410 — This is the undegrad [sic] course. You have three things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 40% of your grade); (2) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 40% of your grade); (3) provide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 2,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade).


The final exam for the Christian Faith and Science class asks students to come up with a 20-year plan to promote theocracy in America:

Trace the connections between Darwinian evolution, eugenics, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Why are materialists so ready to embrace these as a package deal? What view of humanity and reality is required to resist them?


You are the Templeton Foundation’s new program director and are charged with overseeing its programs and directing its funds. Sketch out a 20-year plan for defeating scientific materialism and the evolutionary worldview it has fostered if you had $50,000,000 per year in current value to do so. What sorts of programs would you institute? How would you spend the money?

[I’m unclear about whether this is the same class — Tony]

Comments on other blogs:

Aside from the comments others have been making: I’m wondering if these posts will be anonymous, or submitted by the students under their own names. If Dembski accepts anonymous posts, his students will only need to find 10 posts, and not actually write 10 posts. If they are not anonymous, they could be traced to his class and exposed to ridicule.

This is a course offered at bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels in which students are not just assigned questions to tackle, but actually assigned what position to take on those questions.

I am reminded of something that happened to me as a 9th-grader in a Catholic high school in the 1960s. For a required Religion class we were given an assignment to write a letter to members of the state legislature urging them to pass legislation providing public funding for bussing students to Catholic schools. I wrote the required letter, then drew a horizontal line across the bottom, and added:

Please disregard the above letter. My class of 200 freshman at our Catholic high school was assigned to write letters to legislators advocating this position; but I have not studied this issue, and I don’t have a position of my own about this.

About half an hour later, the priest who taught the class pulled me out from posing for a class photo. Red-faced and sputtering, he implored me not to send the letter. “Don’t you know that it would only do harm?” he asked. “No, I don’t know that,” I answered, “I don’t know what’s good or bad on this issue, since I haven’t studied the opposing sides. That’s the whole point.”

I wonder what grade Dembski would give to a student who wrote ten posts arguing, perhaps, something like this:

While I personally believe in Intelligent Design, I can see that it has no place in the natural sciences.



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