Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Here’s an idea that occurred to me today: by making such a huge deal out of his denial of tenure, the DI and their apologists are actually hurting Gonzalez’ chances of landing another tenure track appointment at another university. The DI went so far as to encourage their followers to call and email the ISU president to pressure him in to reversing the decision, and my sources tell me that this has generated over 500 messages. The trouble is that it’s actually backfiring, hurting his chances of winning the appeal rather than helping. And it pretty much guarantees that no other reputable university is going to take a chance on hiring him for a tenure track position. Why would they? If they later deny him tenure, even if for entirely valid reasons, they will not only have wasted 7 years of investment in him but they will guarantee themselves a public relations mess as well. They have succeeded in making Gonzalez all but untouchable except by hardcore Christian schools, few of which even have astronomy programs much less good ones (I’m not talking about nominally Christian schools like Wake Forest or Georgetown, I’m talking about places like Biola or Messiah University; I doubt even a place like Calvin College would hire him at this point because of the controversy).

Comments

  1. #1 Doc Bill
    May 23, 2007

    Headline from EvoNews yesterday: Iowa State Promotes Atheist Professor Who Equates Bible with Mein Kampf While Denying Tenure to ID Astronomer

    So, now Gonzalez is an “ID Astronomer” rather than an astronomer who is ID-friendly.

    He might as well have rabies, now.

  2. #2 Flying Fox
    May 23, 2007

    500 messages? Who are these people and why do they care so much? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering what we know about the DI movement already. But still, sheeyeesh.

  3. #3 David Heddle
    May 23, 2007

    Ed,

    You are correct of course, but are guilty of one thing: stating the obvious. Everything the ID movement has done has backfired miserably. They have had no successes whatsoever, unless you count the accumulation of honoraria and expert-witness fees. After all their struggles, ID is not discussed more in public schools, but less–and only then, I would wager, to mock it. After all their “work”, the peaceful, respectful and productive relationship I always enjoyed between believing and unbelieving scientists has degenerated into a much more polarized arena. Nicely done, guys.

    Of course there is a honest response to all these failures: maybe we’re doing something wrong and there is a dishonest response: there is an unfair conspiracy against us. The movement has chosen the latter, i.e., the victimhood route, now even attacking (on UD) the American Scientific Affiliation (a respected organization of scientists/Christians) as apostate materialists for not lending their voice of support to help shore up the movement’s crumbling foundation.

    We all know ID is a form of evangelism. You would think these guys, most of them Christians, might get the hint from the fact that evangelism, as represented in scripture, is supposed to be done honestly. There is no example of St. Paul forcing his way into someone’s home under false pretenses. Evangelism is to bring glory to God–even a seminar professor ought to realize that an ends-justify-the-means approach might not be the best way to walk by faith.

    I wrote elsewhere that the best thing the ID movement could do, short of closing their shop, is to redirect their efforts toward improving science education in Christian schools. I’ve been browsing the science offerings in college catalogs collected by members of our church’s youth group. What I found, for the most part, was appalling.

  4. #4 SLC
    May 23, 2007

    Re DI hurting Gonzalezs’ chances of another faculty position.

    What makes anybody think that the DI gives a s**t about Gonzalez? They are interested in him as a martyr. If he were to get another faculty position, he wouldn’t be a martyr.

  5. #5 RAM
    May 23, 2007

    “I wrote elsewhere that the best thing the ID movement could do, short of closing their shop, is to redirect their efforts toward improving science education in Christian schools.”
    I fully agree, but this would negate their stated “Wedge” goal of redefining materialistic science. True?

  6. #6 waldteufel
    May 23, 2007

    I’m sure that DI has actually hurt Dr. Gonzalaz’s career.

    I’m also sure that DI couldn’t care less. They weren’t in this scrap to help Dr. Gonzalaz.

    They were cynically using him. Anyone surprised?

  7. #7 Reed A. Cartwright
    May 23, 2007

    I had the exact same thought.

    If he gets hired at another university, he would be up for tenure in 2 or 3 years not another 7.

  8. #8 J-Dog
    May 23, 2007

    Well, I for one, will still respect him just as much as I do now, when he asks me if I would like some fries with my BigMac in @ 6 months.

  9. #9 Michael Suttkus, II
    May 23, 2007

    After all their “work”, the peaceful, respectful and productive relationship I always enjoyed between believing and unbelieving scientists has degenerated into a much more polarized arena. Nicely done, guys.

    But that’s the goal. Polarizing everyone into an Us or a Them has been hugely successful in politics, at least since the 80′s. They want to claim everyone who believes in God a design supporter, then declare victory over the Evil Atheist Conspiracy.

    Nothing drives a fundamentalist crazier than someone who does not fit into their worldview. It’s why Fred Phelps claims Jerry Falwell supported gays. Black and white, us vs. them. Falwell didn’t support Phelps’ mad crusade, therefore HE SUPPORTED GAYS. Ooooo.

    Destroying the relationship between theist and atheist scientists is what it’s all about.

  10. #10 MS
    May 23, 2007

    I had the exact same thought.

    If he gets hired at another university, he would be up for tenure in 2 or 3 years not another 7.

    Posted by: Reed A. Cartwright | May 23, 2007 11:03 AM

    Not necessarily. It’s not uncommon for someone with significant prior experience to go up for tenure early in a new job, but some schools do not permit it, while some may under certain circumstances but not others. Further, sometimes a new hire will prefer to go the full time before applying for tenure in order to build up a track record of publication and research, especially if they’re moving up significantly in the academic food chain. It’s a matter for negotiation at the time the appointment is offered, just like salary, benefits, teaching load, material support for research, etc. Of course, at the senior level, people are sometimes hired with tenure, but that’s definitely not the rule.

    But the main thrust of the article is probably correct; the guy is probably toxic right now, maybe forever. Not getting tenure doesnt’ have to be the kiss of death, but with so many qualified people applying for every job available, why take a chance in this situation?

    I simply don’t know enough about his case, or his discipline, to have an informed opinion about the actual decision not to grant him tenure. People are denied tenure all the time, sometimes for valid reasons, and sometimes not.

    I have a general beef about the system, though. I really think a tenure decision, either way, should almost never be a surprise. Probational faculty should be getting adequate feedback along the way to know what their chances are and to be looking for other jobs if it isn’t looking favorable. Some schools are good about this, but a lot aren’t.

  11. #11 Dr. X
    May 23, 2007

    Tenure based on email pressure from evangelicals and fundamentalists?
    I think you’re absolutely right about this hurting Gonzalez’s chances of landing another position and, IMO, it should if he doesn’t disavow the conduct of his evangelical supporters.

    Many nutty things go on at universities, but universities are not the FOX (People’s) News Network and academics should not be apologetic for shunning anyone who courts interference from rubes who think they have a right to interfere in judgments pertaining to scholarly merit and just what should constitute an acceptable record of scholarly research.

    Am I an elitist about this? You betcha. Stupid, non-academics have no business substituting their judgments for the judgment of academics in the selection of academic personnel. What is offensive is not that academics should shun these people, but that these people have the temerity to believe that their uneducated, lazy-ass, armchair opinions are worth spit.

    Heddle: good observations re. Paul

  12. #12 dogmeatIB
    May 23, 2007

    I would fully expect the university to have advised Gonzalez along the way. State government in general has been increasingly careful to document employment issues. Law suits, whether legitimate or not, are expensive. They would be foolish not to have some documentation of the process to protect their standing, even with something as subjective as tenure.

  13. #13 Troublesome Frog
    May 23, 2007

    Is anybody else thinking of the final scene from “The Life of Brian” where everybody is thanking Brian for his martyrdom and all Brian wants is for them to untie him? Thanks for tanking your career for us, Guillermo!

  14. #14 jba
    May 23, 2007

    Frog:

    I hadnt, but now I am! Awesome. I love it when life can be explained using examples from Monty Python(no sarcasm). Next up, the ID movement and the Black Knight!

  15. #15 gwangung
    May 23, 2007

    I thought the DI was a character from Monty Python…

  16. #16 peter irons
    May 23, 2007

    Actually, Gonzalez said (but I don’t recall where) that he knew two years ago that his tenure prospects were dim. Most universities do give tenure candidates a heads-up at least two or three years before the final decision, most often with suggestions of how best to improve a potentially shaky case. I’m sure G. got this from his dept. chair.

  17. #17 Dave K
    May 23, 2007

    I have a general beef about the system, though. I really think a tenure decision, either way, should almost never be a surprise. Probational faculty should be getting adequate feedback along the way to know what their chances are and to be looking for other jobs if it isn’t looking favorable. Some schools are good about this, but a lot aren’t.

    Posted by: MS | May 23, 2007 11:53 AM

    *****************
    MS (and dogmeatIB) –

    I believe the ISU president has publicly stated that Gonzalez had several pre-tenure reviews, and that he was warned at each of them that his production was not up to snuff and would have to improve if he was going to get tenure. By all appearances, he had lots of warning.

  18. #18 Pete Dunkelberg
    May 23, 2007

    Come on, Gonzo’s got it made. As a martyr he can get a job a Biola and spend his time on the lecture tour, raking in the honoraria while being cheered and adored. All he has to do is tell the story over and over, and write another book every few years. And he will have the satisfaction of knowing he is greatly advancing the cause.

    How surprised can he be about not getting tenure? He knew he wouldn’t get it if he got no research grants, and seems hardly to have tried. This is great theater for Disco and a guaranteed soft life for Gonzo. He may be bored, but that’s good preparation for heaven.

  19. #19 Gerry L
    May 24, 2007

    When I saw the stream of press releases flowing out of the DI on the “persecution” of Gonzalez, I figured they viewed him as their sacrificial lamb. The only question is whether he is a willing lamb or a dupe.

  20. #20 SLC
    May 24, 2007

    Although it’s great fun to beat up on Prof. Gonzalez and the DI, there is another aspect to this situation which is rather sad. Based on his early work, Prof. Gonzalez appeared to be a very promising young scientist with a bright future ahead of him (which was why he was hired by Iowa State Un. in the first place). As Mr. Brayton has pointed out, he was extremely productive as a graduate student and post doctoral research associate, working in a new area of research requiring the development and application of cutting edge observation techniques. By allowing his religious convictions to overshadow his scientific expertise, he threw away that promising future. This should remind everyone of the sad case of Kurt Wise, another promising young scientist who threw away what could have been a productive career because of his inability to reconcile his religious convictions with his scientific expertise.

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