Meanwhile, the Gonzalez case continues. The President of ISU has turned down Gonzalez’s appeal:
Because the issue of tenure is a personnel matter, I am not able to share the detailed rationale for the decision, although that has been provided to Dr. Gonzalez. But I can outline the areas of focus of my review where I gave special attention to his overall record of scientific accomplishment while an assistant professor at Iowa State, since that gives the best indication of future achievement. I specifically considered refereed publications, his level of success in attracting research funding and grants, the amount of telescope observing time he had been granted, the number of graduate students he had supervised, and most importantly, the overall evidence of future career promise in the field of astronomy.
The denial of tenure of an Iowa State University assistant professor who has studied the concept of intelligent design and has expressed his belief in it has stirred controversy about academic freedom and freedom of speech.
His tenure denial violates neither of those principles. I participated in the initial vote and voted no, based on this fundamental question: What is science?
A decent start! But the op-ed goes downhill from here.
The assistant professor, Guillermo Gonzalez, works in the ISU Physics and Astronomy Department in the area of astrobiology. He is very creative, intelligent and knowledgeable, highly productive scientifically and an excellent teacher. Students in my Newspaper Physics class like to interview him.
I have always been fascinated by his ideas, for example, that the first few millimeters of moon dust contain pieces of ancient Earth, the circling moon acting as a vacuum cleaner scooping up impact debris, or that numerous but precise and delicate conditions allow life on our Earth. Where else is life allowed? These are great questions.
They are great questions indeed. But this was supposed to be an op-ed explaining why Gonzalez’s tenure application was denied. I’m still waiting for the explanation of that little point.
Hauptman now goes on, at considerable length, about what ID is and about how the Greeks invoked Gods to explain mysterious aspects of nature and how scientists don’t think like that any more and how Galileo was an important figure in this regrad. Fascinating stuff. But I’m still waiting for the part about Gonzalez.
Eventually we come to this:
We are past this way of thinking about nature. If one person exemplifies this, it is Galileo, who argued that just thinking about what you see and imagining reasons are not enough. You must test your ideas with measurements, and your ideas (your “theory”) must not only agree with all previous measurements, but also predict the results of measurements that have not yet been made. Any single wrong prediction, and you must junk the theory.
Intelligent design is not even a theory. It has not made its first prediction, nor suffered its first test by measurement. Its proponents can call it anything they like, but it is not science.
Well said! But who cares? I want to know why the decision was made to deny Gonzlez’s tenure. We are now three paragraphs before the end of the op-ed, and this is where Hauptman uncorks this:
I believe that the letter signed by 120 ISU faculty members criticizing intelligent design as not scientific was reprehensible, not because I do not agree, but because it was obviously aimed at Gonzalez. An assistant professor at a university has every right to pursue whatever investigations he or she so chooses to investigate. There must be no bounds, no restrictions and no penalties for research of any kind. This is the very meaning of a free university, and society that supports free inquiry. It is a very precious thread that weaves its way from Socrates through Galileo to us.
I see. When 120 professors express concern that their university is being associated with pseudoscientific gobbledy-gook, they are behaving reprehensibly. But a department denying tenure to someone who believes in the gobbledy-gook is perfectly fine. Makes perfect sense.
And you have to wonder what it means to say that an assistant professor has every right to pursue whatever investigations he or she chooses, if that person will subsequently be denied tenure for holding the wrong views about the nature of science. Apparently Hauptman doesn’t see “You will lose your job!” as a restriction on the free inquiry of an assistant professor.
Hauptman concludes with:
I believe the comment that somehow this decision had something to do with the feelings of the community was also reprehensible, as are statements that this tenure decision is a denial of free speech.
It is purely a question of what is science and what is not, and a physics department is not obligated to support notions that do not even begin to meet scientific standards.
We can certainly agree with that last sentence. The trouble is that if this op-ed is taken at face value, Gonzalez was denied tenure solely for what he believes, and not for what he did. Anyone reading this is going to see confirmation of everything the Discovery Intstitute has been saying. It’s a strange argument that denying someone tenure for what they believe is not a threat to free inquiry or free speech.
If you are going to write an op-ed defending the tenure decision, you say, “Look, this guy is actively promoting rank pseudoscience and happily affiliating himself with anti-science organizations like Regnery Publishing and the Discovery Institute. At the same time he has become active in promoting pseudoscience, his productivity by all of the normal standards by which academics are measured has dropped precipitously This was not a difficult decision.”
That’s an argument for denying someone tenure. What Hauptman wrote, by contrast, is a long-winded, internally contradictory mess.