I almost feel sorry for Guillermo Gonzalez. The Discovery Institute is turning him into a political football, and making his denial of tenure a far greater mess than is warranted. They’re going to hold a press conference on Monday.
The fight will rage on over Iowa State University astronomy professor Guillermo Gonzalez, who advocated for intelligent design, the theory that disputes parts of evolution, and lost a bid for tenure.
Advocates for Gonzalez said in a release distributed Tuesday that they will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Monday in Des Moines. There, they said, they will discuss documents they contend will prove that Gonzalez “lost his job” because he supports intelligent design, not because he was deficient as a scholar. Gonzalez’s backers say an appeal to the Iowa Board of Regents and possibly a lawsuit would be the next steps.
The news conference scheduled for Monday at the Capitol will include attorneys for Gonzalez, representatives of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that supports discussions of intelligent design in science classes, and one or more state legislators, staff of the Discovery Institute said.
The most likely result of this caterwauling: no change in Gonzalez’ status at all, and he’ll have to find another job elsewhere. Search committees everywhere, though, will see him as pure poison, a grandstander who will turn every criticism into a public event. He will be known as the Intelligent Design creationist with a team of lawyers.
If by some bizarre stroke of highly politicized luck he is given tenure, he’s going to be the non-collegial colleague who is taking up a tenure line that they could have given to someone more productive. This will not be a happy situation for him or his department.
Gonzalez can’t win in this fight.
The Discovery Institute, though, stands to benefit from turning Gonzalez into a martyr — they’ll be waving the bloody shreds of his career at everyone, blaming the Darwinists, when the real destructive force here is the DI itself. Anyone else in this position would quietly go through internal channels to review the tenure decision, and when that failed, would quietly go about applying for new jobs…with the intent of doing a better job of fulfilling the requirements for tenure at a new position. This situation comes up a lot — tenure approval is not automatic by any means — and you just have to move on. I’ve been there myself.
I suspect, though, that the DI simply sees a state full of presidential candidates and an opportunity to score some political points. We’ll have to tune in on Monday and see if any of them take the bait and try to use a national candidacy to play games with an individual decision by a single university.