Up is down, black is white...

A few readers have asked in comments or emailed me regarding the tenure denial of Iowa State astronomer (and Discovery Institute fellow) Guillermo Gonzalez. I noted that I've not written about it because I've just not been around much lately due to travel, and because others are covering it quite well themselves (including lots of coverage over at The Panda's Thumb.) There are so many angles to the story--the reasons for tenure denial, the "academic freedom" issue (and is it really "academic freedom" to espouse anti-scientific beliefs in a scientific department?), the tenure process itself, Gonzalez's martyrdom and use by the DI (in spite of the probable irreparable damage it may cause his career), many others. Of course, to those of us in the reality-based community, we see this as yet another strike against Intelligent Design, but others (via Uncommon Descent) still manage to see this as a victory:

It seems that many scientists and academicians who hold views contrary to Dr. Gonzalez have concluded that the best way to avoid debate about the evidence for intelligent design is to simply deny jobs to those who will not affirm their atheistic worldview. The fact that these scientists, who are supposedly open to following the evidence wherever it leads, have resorted to blatant discrimination to avoid having this conversation speaks volumes about the weakness of their position. They realize their arguments are not sufficient to defeat the intelligent design movement and they must, therefore, shut their opponents out of the conversation. All the evidence suggests that it is unjust that Dr. Gonzalez was denied tenure and that this ruling should be overturned on appeal. Nevertheless, what happened to Dr. Gonzalez is a reflection of the growing strength of the intelligent design movement, not its weakness.

Would it surprise anyone to find out that the author of this paragraph isn't trained in science, and isn't an academic, but was Jeb Bush's lawyer in the Terri Schiavo case?:

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC and a nationally recognized trial lawyer who represented Governor Jeb Bush in the Terri Schiavo case.

Perhaps he's angling to take Phillip Johnson's place....


More like this

A brain-dead lawyer is PERFECTLY designed for both Terry Schiavo and ID!

Since ID is a public relations/political movement and not a scientific movement this sort of comment is totally explicable.

And no, it doesn't come as a surprise in the slightest to find out the person writing was a lawywer. There are quite a few lawyers in the ID movement...they are attracted to political movements like flies to cow ploppings.

never applogise

I _am_ an astronomer (and was recently awarded tenure, thank you very much!). Perhaps the reason Dr. Gonzales didn't make the grade was the fact that he apparently doesn't have a single paper in a refereed journal in the last 10 years. Or on the preprint server, for that matter.

By Dave Goldberg (not verified) on 29 May 2007 #permalink

Everything can be a victory.

If you manage to get a paper published it is a sign that people are taking you seriously.

If your paper is rejected it is a sign that the "orthodoxy" are scared and that people are taking you seriously.

If you manage to get an "orthodox" scientist to have a public debate it is a sign that people are taking you seriously.

If nobody wants to debate you it is a sign that they are scared and that people are taking you seriously.

Just follow this simple pattern and keep on predicting the imminent fall of the dominant paradigm and you too can be a pseudoscience crank.

Has anyone written a how-to-guide for pseudoscientists? Pseudoscience for dummies?

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 29 May 2007 #permalink

AHhhhhhh..... thats better been reading a thread on UD and needed to get back to reality land....."Maybe the devil made it look old." A little bit of pee came out when I read that one.

To be fair to Gonzalez, a quick search of the ISI database revealed 17 papers while he was at ISU - hence within the past 10 years - at least some of which are also available from the ArXiv preprint server.

I would knock 2 of those off the peer-review table - one was a Scientific American article (which should count for something else) and another was an article in the Scientist on "taking ID seriously." But the remaining 15 looked solid - although my ability to judge their quality is limited (my area is evolutionary genetics) at least some were heavily cited (a total of 185 citations for the 15 peer reviewed papers).

I don't know the expectations of ISU Astronomy, but I suspect it wasn't simply lack of publication that caused Gonzalez to fall short. I'm certainly not saying he deserved tenure - I simply don't know the criteria ISU was using to evaluate him. Without knowing his grant record, his collegiality, his outside letters, etc. it would be hard to say.

That said, I suspect this is not simple prejudice. Gonzalez is a hard case because he clearly brings his religion into his work in an obvious way that conflicts with the opinion of the majority of the scientific community. I suspect bringing his religion in in that manner could be viewed as a major negative if it were seen as detracting from his primary research focus. If ISU astronomy hired him to provide expertise in extrasolar planets but his heart seemed to lie elsewhere - in a topic that wasn't really astronomy - I think they would clearly have been justified. Denying him tenure for that reason isn't prejudice against religion - it is simply saying that the department and university hired an astronomer, not a preacher.

By Edward Braun (not verified) on 30 May 2007 #permalink

After all the bleating for years that ID is not religion, Gonzalez and his defenders (the Discovery Institute has gone completely bonkers on pro-Gonzalez releases) now appear to be working toward claiming religious discrimination against Gonzalez. It's astounding how the religious media and blogs are all up in arms about this...I wonder if anybody should warn them how hypocritical this looks?

It has been pointed out on a number of blogs that Prof. Gonzalez production of research papers has fallen off drastically since he arrived at ISU some 7 years ago. In addition he has received no grants in that time. Without even considering his ID involvement, this would be sufficient to deny him tenure. Of course, his ID involvement doesn't help his case. I strongly suspect that the folks in the Physics and Astronomy departments at ISU were not overjoyed at the prospect of having another Michael Behe at their school.

Astronomer David Golberg's assertion that Gonzalez has no peer reviewed publications in the last ten years is remarkable, considering the published list of Gonzalez' 68 refereed publications lists about 56 in the last ten years. See: http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=do…

Within Goldberg's field, Gonzalez further has 254% of the abstracts Goldberg has and 190% of the normalized citations reported in the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System.

Goldberg, D
Selected and retrieved 80 abstracts. Total normalized citations: 508

Gonzalez, G
Selected and retrieved 203 abstracts. Total normalized citations: 968

During that period, Gonzalez wrote the Cambridge text book "Observational Astronomy" used by ISU's astronomy dept.

John Templeton Foundation. Professor Gonzalez won an academic research grant from the John Templeton Foundation for a international competition was named the Cosmology and Fine-Tuning Research Project in physics and astrophysics. Based on this he wrote the book the Privileged Planet.

How does Goldberg propose to uphold academic freedom, and the unalienable Freedom of Speech? How does he propose to uphold objective science and avoid blacklisting those with opposing hypotheses?

By David L. Hagen (not verified) on 31 May 2007 #permalink

For David Hagen: (1) As has been pointed out elsewhere, part of Gonzalez' output while at ISU was originated prior to his stay at ISU. Granted, some of it was peer-reviewed as you say, but the ISU tenure committee may have not counted it as an ISU "product."

(2) Gonzalez' grant from the Templeton Foundation is as significant a clue to his thinking as is his affiliation with the Discovery Institute. Here, from a Templeton website (http://www.templeton.org/funding_areas/core_themes/) are some of their "Core Themes": "New Concepts of God;" "Prayer & Meditation;" "Worship;" "Unconditional Love." How do any of these topics "uphold objective science"?

As for your "unalienable Freedom of Speech": Does Gonzalez have the right to yell "Intelligent Design" in a crowded theater full of evolutionists? No wonder he got voted off the island!

"Would it surprise anyone to find out that the author of this paragraph isn't trained in science, and isn't an academic, but was Jeb Bush's lawyer in the Terri Schiavo case?"

I have to say, as someone who finds that good arguments are often made on both sides of this issue, that statements like the one above always remind me that the passion of anti-ID scientists seems related to their affinity for other causes dear to the "left", like starving and dehydrating crippled people to death. This is often about worldviews on both sides, despite the straight-faced insistence by some that they are only promoting "science" without any underlying agenda.

By Matthew Hoffman (not verified) on 26 Sep 2007 #permalink