Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith

Infobox Philosopher

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color = #B0C4DE
name = Francis J. Beckwith
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birth = 1960
New York City
death =
school_tradition =
main_interests = Christian philosophy
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Francis J. "Frank" Beckwith (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.Cite web
title = Right Reason: My Return to the Catholic Church
accessdate = 2007-05-07
url =
author = Francis J. Beckwith

Beckwith has defended the pro-life position on abortion [ [ Bio-ethics Philosopher and Evangelical President Francis Beckwith Joins Catholic Church] - Accessed December 15, 2007] and the constitutional permissibility of the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. [ [ Baylor denies tenure to highly regarded Beckwith] - Accessed December 15, 2007] He has been affiliated with organizations that advocate for these issues. Beckwith is a former fellow at the Discovery Institute [ [ National Review Online - What would Reagan do?] - Accessed December 15, 2007] the "hub of the intelligent design movement"; [ [ British Centre for Science Education - Truth In Science Material] - Accessed December 15, 2007] and a former member of the advisory board for the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center. [ Corrections and Comments to statements made about the IDEA Center in Creationism's Trojan Horse] IDEA Center staff. Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness.] As of late 2007, he is a fellow at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (CBHD); [ [ Meet Francis J. Beckwith] , Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity] and a professor at Baylor's Institute for the Studies of Religion (ISR). [ [ Francis J. Beckwith] , Baylor University]

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). [ [ UNLV Magazine - Winter 2005 - Class notes] - Accessed October 16, 2007]

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, [ [ Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air] - Accessed December 16, 2007] 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). [ [ A Guide to Christian Resources on the Internet - Francis Beckwith: A Contribution to Apologetics] - Accessed December 16, 2007]

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 a member of the society, effective May 7, 2007.

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. [ [ Letter to the Editor] , Francis J. Beckwith, Academe, May June 2005] Critics of intelligent design, such as Barbara Forrest, consider Beckwith a proponent. [ [ "Is It Science Yet?: Intelligent Design, Creationism And The Constitution"] , Matthew J. Brauer, Barbara Forrest, Steven G. Gey, Washington UniversityLaw Quarterly, Volume 83, Number 1, 2005. (PDF file)] 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. [ [ "Faith factors don’t negate Intelligent Design, prof says"] , Marilyn Stewart. Baptist Press, February 13, 2006] [ [ 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.] 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 [ [ Article database listing for Francis J. Beckwith] , Discovery Institute] and by receiving support from the Institute during his tenure controversy. [ Scandal Brewing at Baylor University? Denial of Tenure to Francis Beckwith Raises Serious Questions about Fairness and Academic Freedom] John West. Discovery Institute's, March 28, 2006] [ Baylor University in the Hot Seat] John West Discovery Institute's, March 28, 2006] [ Pressure on Baylor University Building to Right the Wrong Done to Dr. Beckwith] Robert Crowther. Discovery Institute's, April 5,2006] [ New Disclosures in Baylor Tenure Scandal] John West. Discovery Institute's, September 5, 2006] Beckwith endorsed fellow Discovery Institute Fellow Richard Weikart's controversial book, "From Darwin to Hitler, Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany". [ [ 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.]

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 lawyer and philosophy Brian Leiter, [ [ Harvard Law Review Embarrasses Itself] Brian Leiter. The Leiter Reports, March 10 2004.] 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." [ [ The Professor’s Paroxysm, A scholar’s attack on a student writer — and academic freedom] Hunter Baker. National Review Online, March 15 2004.] Hunter's article was republished by the Discovery Institute, [ [ Discovery Institute article archive] ] 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. [ Political Animal, Intelligent Design] Kevin Drum. Washington Monthly, March 24 2004.] [ A Case Study in How the Right-Wing Slime-and-Smear Machine Works] Brian Leiter. The Leiter Reports, March 17 2004.] This prompted Leiter to question the journalistic integrity of Hunter and to describe such tactics as "fraud" and a "right-wing slime and smear job."

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. [ [ Sloan’s Struggle, What Baylor University can prove about Christian scholarship] Hunter Baker. National Review Online, January 10 2005.]

Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly reported in the magazine's weblog that this controversy led the creation of the blog the Panda's Thumb, which has become one of the most notable fora for critics of intelligent design; however, Ed Brayton of the Panda's Thumb stated that the timing was a coincidence. [cite web |url= |title=The Calpundit Weighs in on Leiter vs VanDyke and Plugs This Site |accessdate=2007-11-23 |author=Ed Brayton|date=March 24, 2004|publisher=The Panda's Thumb]

Baylor Controversies

In 2003 twenty-nine members of the J.M. Dawson family called on Baylor University to remove Beckwith as associate director of the Baylor's J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies. In a letter the Dawson family members questioned the appointment of Beckwith as associate director of the institute. The letter accused Beckwith 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." [ [ Dawson family protests Beckwith's appointment to Baylor institute] Marv Knox. Baptist Standard. September 19. 2003.] 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. [ [ "Baylor denies tenure to highly regarded Beckwith"] by Erin Roach, article dated March 31, 2006, from Accessed September 1, 2006. ] 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". [ [ Baylor Professors Criticize Denial of Tenure to Conservative Colleague] , Chronicle of Higher Education] 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, 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. Beckwith also received support from an opponent of intelligent design, Ed Brayton, on his blog "Dispatches from the Culture War". [ [ Beckwith Tenure Denial Reversed] , Dispatches from the Culture War, Scienceblogs]


*"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).


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.

External links

* [ Francis Beckwith's website]
* [ Whats Wrong With The World, a website in which he contributes]
* [ Right Reason] , a group blog in which he participates
* [ review by Douglas Groothuis] of "Law, Darwinism and Public Education", "Philosophia Christi", 5/1 (2003)
* [ A critical book review of The Mormon Concept of God] by Blake T. Ostler, a Mormon scholar. "FARMS Review" 8/2 1996 pp 99-146.
* [ Antidote to abortion arguments, a favorable review] by Jonathan Sarfati of "Politically Correct Death"

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