Avalos responds

Hector Avalos himself, the target of a Discovery Institute smear campaign, left a comment here, replying to some of the DI's many falsehoods. It's worth promoting up top.

The Discovery Institute has mounted the latest in a long string of creationist smear campaigns against me in Iowa. While I have never called for Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez to be fired, or even to be denied tenure, there are plenty of creationists who blatantly direct our university to fire me.

All such efforts have failed because they clearly distort the facts and my academic record. Here are some of the most significant questions and distortions voiced in these attacks:

1. Avalos is not a scientist, and so cannot critique ID
I have a formal degree and a year of graduate work in anthropology, which is home to the study of human evolution. The study of human evolution is a legitimate scientific field. I have published numerous articles on science and religion.

Nature and Science also have recognized my expertise in the area of science and religion in a number of news articles. See, for example, my quoted comments on scientific studies or prayer in Science, 276 (1997): p. 359; and on religion and violence in Nature 446 (March 8, 2007), p. 115.

ID is regarded by virtually all scientists and scholars of religion to be a theological argument, and I have the training to evaluate theological arguments. I have a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in biblical and Near Eastern Studies from Harvard.

I may not be an astronomer, but my article, "Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy," passed the editorial review of Mercury: The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 27 no. 2 (March/April, 1998), pages 20-24. There, I critiqued fine-tuning arguments before I even heard of Gonzalez.

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is the SAME organization that has published, via a sister publication (Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific), some of the work of Guillermo Gonzalez.

So the irony is that it is the scholar of religion whose work passed the editorial review of a legitimate astronomical organization, and it is the astronomer who has not published a refereed article on ID in an astronomical journal.

2. Avalos's book, Fighting Words, blames the Jewish people for the Holocaust
This is an outright canard. I see the Holocaust as the synthesis of many factors. But I place much of the responsibility on a long Christian history of anti-Judaism. I explicitly (Fighting Words, pp, 195-96) say that Hitler's plan is an updating of Martin Luther's famous seven-point plan for the Jews.

This outrages creationists because they have long held that evolutionary theory led to the Holocaust (e.g., Richard Weikart's biased and grossly uninformed From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany [New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2004]). I show that every major feature of Holocaust had a long religious history that predated Darwin.

That some authors of the Hebrew Bible (1 Samuel 15, Deuteronomy 7) advocate genocide is a well-known fact recognized by nearly all Christian and Jewish scholars, and not a statement against Judaism or an effort to blame the Jews for the Holocaust.

Moreover, Jewish scholars who have reviewed Fighting Words have viewed it positively. Note these comments about Fighting Words by Prof. Martin Jaffee of the University of Washington:

"Hector Avalos (of Iowa State), joins the conversation with a lucid,
provocative, and deeply disturbing study of the role of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in fostering the conditions necessary to liberate human ingenuity in the services of unspeakable acts of carnage."Source: Comparative Religion (A Publication of...The University of Washington (2005-2006), p. 3 (http://jsis.washington.edu/religion/46756.CompRel.NL.pdf)

Finally, perhaps the DI should also note that I have also been a member of the Jewish Studies Committee at Iowa State for many years. My doctoral research won a dissertation grant from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.

3. How can Avalos, an atheist, teach courses on the Bible and religion?
Unlike learning Bible in Sunday School classes, courses on the Bible in public universities are descriptive not prescriptive.

We study what people believe about the Bible, and not what people should believe. We report what different viewpoints (including Christian, Jewish, and secular) say ABOUT the Bible, without forcing students to believe in any viewpoint.

Such pedagogy is premised on the idea that a professor can objectively describe what other people believe about their religion. If that were not the case, then Christians could never teach about the religion of anyone else in a public university either.

My ability to be objective has been validated by the fact that I was named Professor of the Year at Iowa State in 1996, after being nominated by CHRISTIAN students. I was named Master Teacher in 2003-04. I usually receive some of the highest,
if not the highest, teaching evaluations in my department, and most of the students are Christians.

And while pro-ID advocates make much of the fact that Dr. Gonzalez supposedly promotes ID only outside the classroom, they always erroneously assert that I promote secular humanism inside the classroom.

In addition, some of my books and articles have been published by well-recognized Christian presses, including Abingdon Press, Hendrickson Press, and Eerdmans (Dictionary of the Bible).

4. Avalos is too anti-religious to teach in Iowa
The Discovery Institute will first have to convince a number of churches who have invited me to speak with the full knowledge that I am an atheist.

My lectures based on Fighting Words and on other topics have been delivered, by invitation, at the following Christian churches in Iowa:

Collegiate United Methodist Church, Ames, Iowa, February 15, 2007
West Des Moines United Methodist Church, January 7, 2007
Westminster Presbyterian Church (Des Moines), November 7, 2006
Bethesda Lutheran Church, Ames, IA, December 7, 2003
Unitarian Fellowship, Ames, IA, November 10, 2002

Open-minded Christians do want to hear an alternative viewpoint
from me, and we have had many constructive discussions.

If I am not anti-religious enough to be speaking in churches, why am I too anti-religious for public universities?

5. Avalos spearheaded an atheist plot in Iowa
Not true. Any success against ID in Iowa has come because we have assembled a coalition that cuts across religious lines, and includes Christians, Jews, Hindus, and secularists. They all recognize that being against ID is to be against pseudo-science, and not to be against religion.

Christians can recognize that, even if God exists, there are bad arguments for the existence of God (and ID is one of them).

Pro-ID forces in Iowa can usually muster only fundamentalists, who write letters in the local papers defending ID with biblical passages. Thus, these letter writers only expose the fact that ID is a religious position, and not a scientific one.

The Discovery Institute has only itself to blame for its string of defeats in academia and in court. The DI underestimated Iowans who know the difference between science and religion. And these smear tactics will not help the DI with those who know my academic record best.

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Quoting: "Such pedagogy is premised on the idea that a professor can objectively describe what other people believe about their religion. If that were not the case, then Christians could never teach about the religion of anyone else in a public university either."

Taken 1 step further: If science is just another religion, as some creationists argue, then "Christians" could never teach science classes at university, either!

By Phingyonomous (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

Hearing the IDiots going on about one of their folks at Iowa State (Gonzalez, obviously) always made me slightly embarrassed for my alma mater. Now the fact that Physics has denied tenure to Gonzalez, and Religious Studies has offered it to Professor Avalos, that I can renew my pride in ISU. (I took a couple classes in RelStud, but never had Prof. Avalos.)

I wonder if the ID folks realize that they've effectively made it nearly impossible for Gonzales to ever achieve tenure at any major university with the way they've cried and messed their diaper over this. I could be wrong but I seriously doubt that anyone other than some low rent bible college is going to want to touch him with a ten foot pole.

"Such pedagogy is premised on the idea that a professor can objectively describe what other people believe about their religion. If that were not the case, then Christians could never teach about the religion of anyone else in a public university either."

Considering the vast differences you can find in the not-monolithic Christian sphere, I'd go a step further and say Christianity can't be taught at all. Mormons, Catholics, Mennonites, Unitarians, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses... Oh my! What a disparate group...

He responds to wild attacks on his intellect, personality, ethics and judgement with a clear, sober, rational, well-constructed and convincing argument.

I wish I had half his skills, the bastard!

Aren't you going to accuse Avalos for being an apologist, speaking at churches and having open, positive discussion with the ignorant believers? I bet he didn't even berate them or tell them how stupid they are or anything. Pussy.

Outstanding response.

Could you possibly be any more off base, no1uno? I've spoken at churches, and have had conversations with Christians. There's a difference between slamming the door and refusing to speak, and having an actual argument on issues that divide us.

Over on the other thread, I've asked for links to the actual DI smears. This is the sort of thing I'd like to use to demonstrate to some uniformed folk I've been in discussion with on another forum the low and duplicitous ways of the cdesign proponentists, but I'd want to have links for the smears so they can't claim Prof Avalos is making up strawmen.

ID is regarded by virtually all scientists and scholars of religion to be a theological argument,..

Apparently now that includes Gonzalez, who used to claim that ID is science. But since it helped to derail his tenure and he wishes to claim religious discrimination he has changed his tune.

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

An excellent post - deserves to be read widely.

By Jack Krebs (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

Dr. Avalos is officially my hero for the next week, when he shall assume the title from Christopher Hitchens.

By Traffic Demon (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

PZ, I retract my statement. I admit I really don't know in detail the views of those you have previously derided as 'apologists'. I am guessing I WAS way off base.

At one time, one aspect of tenure was that the professor not bring unwelcome attention to the university. Ironically, this was at a time in history when certain political viewpoints could get you into hot water with older department heads. (heck, it still goes; look at the price Juan Cole has paid over time for daring to speak unpopular facts)
I am just wondering what is Gonzalez thinking, to let the DI gang get embroiled in this? One rejection does not mean he will not be up for tenure again and even if he never gets tenure at ISU, there are other universities. If his light shines as brightly as DI claims, he should be getting job offers on a daily basis from other universities. The connection with DI will give any search committee, save at Liberty or Bob Jones or Regency, great pause.

I admit that the mental image of PZ in full pirate regalia standing before the pulpit in a crowded church is amusing. I see him proudly waiting for the crowd to hush down to hear what he has to say, and then... "you're all stupid!" and walking out.

Come on, its a funny picture, even if you would never actually do it.

Yet another example of the way the DI conducts their affairs, which is sickening. I saw yesterday that even Nature news has picked up on the Gonzales issue and ran a piece about it.

1. Avalos is not a scientist, and so cannot critique ID

Oh, oh, Mr. Avalos, may I play this game with you? So many brilliant ploys! "Casey Luskin is not a scientist and so cannot promote ID." "Philip Johnson is not a scientist and so cannot promote ID." "William Dembski is not a scientist[*] and so cannot promote ID." And on and on and on.

I think we should shout this from the rooftops every time one of these maroons opens his mouth: by your own standards you're forbidden to comment on such matters. We should add that to our collection of rhetorical brass knuckles.

[*]Dembski is a mathematician. The relationship between mathematics and science can be debated forever, but if we're going to play the DI's game we should be willing to fall on the side of the debate that is most congenial to our needs of the moment.

Thanks for promoting Avalos's comments. You have made your web log an effective and widely read soapbox... so no doubt Avalos has a larger (and more eager) audience than if he had posted this on his own web page.

Well played PZ. And nice comment Prof. Avalos.

I'm with Bronze Dog and others here, Hector Avalos is (as quoted to-date in this blog) very impressive!

Dembski is a mathematician.

Don't think they want him either, actually.

I could be wrong but I seriously doubt that anyone other than some low rent bible college is going to want to touch him with a ten foot pole.

That may be part of the DI's intent, whether or not they admit it to themselves: get GG so thoroughly discredited that he'll have no choice but to join the ID camp, so they can then bask in his credentials and reinforce their "persecution of ID 'scientists'" script.

Question: how actively is GG himself involved in the DI's "defense" of him?

Avalos is not a scientist, and so cannot critique ID

That rule would completely depopulate UD. First to go: Springer and O'Leary.

Oh, I forgot: you have to be a scientist before you can condemn ID, but you don't have to be a scientist to argue in favor of ID. Gotcha.

Further proof that ID is nothing more than religious apologetics is how the promotion of martyrs and creation of villains has always been the cornerstone of their movement. Have to do something to keep busy when you're a 'scientific' movement that doesn't do science...

By George Cauldron (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

Unfortunately for Gonzalez and the DI, his denial of tenure has nothing to do with his belief in ID. It is based on the fact that he has not demonstrated that he is a capable independent scientific researcher. One of the main criteria for getting promoted is that you have to establish that you have the ability to run a productive, _independent_ research program. The publication list, so touted by the DI, actually shows a serious problem. The first thing you have to do is to look to what he has published independent of his grad school (Wallerstein) and post-doc (Lambert) advisers. Looking at what he has published since 2002 (about the time he got to ISU), there are only 12 publications without his advisers. Moreover, a good chunk of those papers look to be based on new results, and are basically an assessment/organization of what others have done. For example, papers such as

"Indium abundance trends in Sun-like stars" and
"Condensation Temperatures trends among stars with planets"

that he published in "Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society" are probably not new research papers, but are commmentaries on what others have discovered. In fact, I don't know much about the journal, but given that he has lots of papers like that in that journal, my interpretation is that they are probably all of that style. While they are contributions to the field, they do not indicate his ability to discover great new things about the universe.

There are other publications like that, such as "Habitable Zones in the Universe" published in Origins of Life and Evoluation of Biospheres, that are summaries or reviews of other work, and do not constitute original work. In the end, it looks like there are at best 4 reasonable papers.

1) A review in Reviews of Modern Physics. I'll grant that one, it's a top journal
2) "A re-evaluation of the Super Li-rich star J37 in NGC 6633" in Astrophys J
3) "Parent Stars of Extrasolar Planets VII..." in Astron J
4) "Reseeding of Early Earth by Impacts of Returning Ejecta..." in Icarus (maybe - but lacking no reason to discount it at this time)

Paper (2) is probably based on their own observations, but is looking at something someone else has done, and does not indicate a lot of creativity. Paper 3 is probably based on their own observations, but then again, it is a collaboration of a lot of workers, and it is not clear how much of Gonzalez's ISU work was included (although it is worth mentioning that it includes an ISU undergrad - Walker, in the author list)

So that is the extent of his scholarly activity. Basically no new observations, no cutting edge results.

Moreover, the publication list reveals a bigger problem: telescope time. In order for an astronomer to do anything worthwhile, they have to have telescope time to look at the stars. We can see from Gonzalez's publications that he basically doesn't have any telescope time. The only observations he is apparently getting is in collaboration either with his old advisers, or with C Laws, who works with the telescope at UWash, where Gonzalez was in grad school. A productive astronomer is going to have to get lots of telescope time to do the types of observations they want to do. You can't achieve this by relying on the moments of free time available on your old grad school scope. You need to be writing proposals to secure time at any facility that will have you. Apparently, he hasn't been successful at this. Why would the department tenure an astronomer who hasn't demonstrated an ability to get access to a telescope? Given this, and his lack of productivity in general, I would be surprised if he has any other research funding, either.

Lastly, it's really hard to sustain a research program without graduate students. As far as I can tell, he hasn't graduated any grad students. In fact, his actions are consistent with that. His papers in that "Monthly Notices..." are typical of the types of things that old professors do when they have run out of funding and grad students and they are trying to make themselves look productive. However, this is not the kind of productivity that one looks for in an assistant professor.

So, to summarize: they guy has had no significant research discoveries in his independent career, isn't able to get telescope time to do observations (convincing C Laws to look at some stuff now and again is not a career), and doesn't have a sustained research group. On what basis do you promote him?

Notice I have said nothing about his belief in ID. He fails on his own merits.

To nitpick one particular point (assuredly not a crucial one) from Dr. Avalos's comment:

My lectures based on Fighting Words and on other topics have been delivered, by invitation, at the following Christian churches in Iowa:
[...]
Unitarian Fellowship, Ames, IA, November 10, 2002

The "Unitarian Fellowship" in Ames (actually the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames - http://www.uufames.org/ ) is, like the vast majority of congregations within the national Unitarian Universalist Association, not a "Christian church." As its members page ( http://www.uufames.org/members.html ) states, among the Fellowship's parishioners are "Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, humanists, atheists, and many others." Indeed, Unitarian Universalism has not been a Christian entity since the Association was born in a merger in 1961. Christians have been a minority within the UUA since day one, and believers in the supernatural only amount to a tiny handful. (UU Christianity--indeed, UU theism--is extremely liberal, for better and for worse; almost all Christian and/or theist UUs contend that theirs is a non-supernatural God. As far as I can tell, Dawkins' term "Einsteinian religion" describes these folks' ideas fairly well.)

I'm a UU (though not an Iowan), and I'm as atheist as anyone--check out my posts in the original Avalos thread. I'm also an enthusiastic fan of PZ, Dawkins, Harris and company. I'm guessing I'm going to like Fighting Words a lot.

So please don't make the mistake of thinking that all (or even a consensus of) Unitarian Universalists are Christians or supernaturalists. There is definitely a longstanding struggle within UUism that bears significant similarities to the conciliation-vs.-activism battle often witnessed on this blog, but the "activist atheist" side includes plenty of UUs--including, I suspect, at least a few at the Fellowship in Ames.

Rieux:

I'm glad to hear that activist atheists are well-represented in UU. I've been to a couple of meetings, where I have been upfront about where I stand. At the same time, I've heard once or twice from a theist that "the atheists at my UU church aren't nasty, etc", so I wasn't sure how well I went over there. I'm glad I will not have to choose between having a community and voicing my strong opinions.

Excellent pushback.

I really don't have much to add, other than lauding your defense. Too frequently, we see people shrink back when attacked, and you didn't. For every point, you have an excellent rebuttal that can only leave them mumbling.

They mostly mumble anyway, but your rebuttal can only make that worse.

Keep it up. I never heard of you before this episode, and now, you have more support than you ever imagined.

Unfortunately for Gonzalez and the DI, his denial of tenure has nothing to do with his belief in ID. It is based on the fact that he has not demonstrated that he is a capable independent scientific researcher

But the possible result is that now any Pro-ID professor is going to be associated with their actions. Whether or not belief and promotion of ID (the promotion is the important part) is a criteria that is being used to judge the competency of a candidate, their unwarranted public romper-room styled temper tantrum is probably going to be in the back of the minds of people who make these decisions on the campuses of Universities. This display of their 3rd grade persecution complex and the resulting hubbub will not be a positive thing for them. It may not have any bearing on any future tenure decisions but it sure as hell won't be a positive if it does.

Professor Avalos, if you read this, you might be interested to know that I just bought your book and I look forward to reading it. Ironically, I might never have heard of it if not for the DI's sniveling...

By Richard Clayton (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

Professor Avalos, if you read this, you might be interested to know that I just bought your book and I look forward to reading it. Ironically, I might never have heard of it if not for the DI's sniveling...

By Richard Clayton (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

Professor Avalos, if you read this, you might be interested to know that I just bought your book and I look forward to reading it. Ironically, I might never have heard of it if not for the DI's sniveling...

By Richard Clayton (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

Denial of tenure isn't going to hurt Gonzalez much. Like any celebrity, all publicity is good publicity. His book gets more attention, well-meaning IDiots will now buy his book (he lost his job, he needs the money), he'll now be able to promote his book full time, without having to worry about his teaching or research schedule... DI will give him a fellowship that will probably make up for his base salary at ISU (what? $60k?) and he will get a contract from Regnery Press to write the Politically Incorrect Guide to Astronomy.

My guess would be that ISU was just a step up the credential ladder. Maybe he'll be able to bridge two causes and get a job from David Horowitz. Imagine that, an opportunity to feed at both the Scaife and the Ahmanson troughs.

Avalos' response is beautiful and puts his critics to shame.

(#2 above) appears to equate the denial of tenure to Dr. Gonzales with the promotion of Dr. Avalos to full professor (he was granted tenure quite some time ago, obviously). I haven't seen it pointed out here or on the previous thread that granting tenure at most Universities is quite different from promotion within the ranks once tenured. Dr. Myers quite rightly commented on the other thread that a vote to grant tenure has the voting faculty asking themselves, among other important questions, whether they really want to have that particular candidate working down the hall from them for the remainder of their career. In contrast, promotion to Associate of Full Prof. generally is considered upon application (usually not forced) and tends to represent that candidate has met a set of more-or-less defined criteria. The tougher hurdle is the first one- promotion to the permanent faculty (aka grant of tenure).

By Mike Kinsella (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

I would be interested in seeing anything Avalos had to say about Dawkins' "The God Delusion". He seems about as neutral as one could get given his areas of study.

I am a straight male.

After reading this, I am considering writing to Dr. Avalos and asking if I might bear his children.

By Sivi_Volk (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

"Do you have to hand links to the specific spots where the DI folk have made the claims against you that you are responding to?"

I'd like to see those links as well. I don't recall those claims being made by the DI.

I also ran across a blog where you wrote that you were once a fundie/creationist preacher until you realized that the bible was a crock.

When a fundie preacher receives that enlightening revelation that the cosmos arose from absolutely nothing (quite an unscientific claim, IMHO), they pretty much find themselves out of a job. Shoot, that would suck.

Oh, wait...the next best place for them to go would be our public universities.

That would make for a good poll...how many university religion instructors hold atheist or agnostic faith beliefs? How does that number compare with those who hold to other religious beliefs. Has anyone run across a poll of this type?

William Dembski has just posted yet another distortion
(http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/and-hector-avalos-deserves-ten…) of my academic record.

He states the following concerning my claim about my article (Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy") passing the "editorial review" of Mercury: The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific:

"That's why Avalos says it passed editorial muster but not peer-review muster. This way he can fudge on the article's status but have plausible deniability. This is also evident by his placing in the magazine's subtitle "The Journal of..." even though it is not there in the actual publication."

Amateur researcher that Dembski is, he probably only looked for the journal on-line. The actual hard-copy I have has "The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific" right underneath the title "Mercury" on the cover of the issue (volume 27, no. 2) March/April 1998 in which I wrote my article.

So, contrary to Dembski's claims, "The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific" is in the "actual publication." Look up the hard copy of this publication in a library, and you will see who is right.

Moreover, the claim that my article passed "editorial review" (not "peer review") is accurate, and Dembski is positively miffed that I did not claim more than what honesty demands. The DI could take a few lessons from atheists about honesty in their own claims.

By Hector Avalos (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink

[*]Dembski is a mathematician.

That's just what he likes to tell himself so that he doesn't burst into sobs between working the Fart Foley on flash animations and trying to get into Ann Coulter's pants.

I know undergraduates in mathematics with a better record of mathematical research than he has.

That would make for a good poll...how many university religion instructors hold atheist or agnostic faith beliefs? How does that number compare with those who hold to other religious beliefs. Has anyone run across a poll of this type?

and exactly why is that important in a university where we teach ABOUT religion, not OF religion.

or can't your tiny little brain, as usual, grasp the difference, there, FTK?

as to the links to the DI, you really don't know how to search the web, do you?

explains why you never seem to be able to find the articles that we refer you to on evolution, then turn around on your own blog and claim they don't exist.

you're a pathetic excuse for a blogger, babe.

When a fundie preacher receives that enlightening revelation that the cosmos arose from absolutely nothing (quite an unscientific claim, IMHO), they pretty much find themselves out of a job.

oh wait, that's what Gonzalez claims, right?

universe poofed into existence and all.

hey, he's out of a job...

why, you must be right!

LOL.

oh, btw, a little hint for you FTK:

a REAL university doesn't teach religion like Bob Jones U does, or liberty U, for that matter, as I'm sure Falwell would have liked to have clarified for you.

just to be clear, a University doesn't call church services "classes".

not surprising you know about as much about theology as you do about biology.

just thought it might be worth pointing out anyway.

and thanks, Dr. Avalos.

some very refreshing commentary that is all too uncommon.

good luck and congratulations.

I am dismayed to hear about an ID book called "From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany" because it could be mistaken with a french book called "La Société pure de Darwin à Hitler" (The Pure Society : From Darwin to Hitler) by respected historian of science André Pichot.
I read it half a dozen years ago and beside its garish title, it is a serious, interesting, and well documented history of the eugenistic concepts (Huxley, Carrel, Gobineau...)
http://www.amazon.fr/Soci%C3%A9t%C3%A9-pure-Darwin-%C3%A0-Hitler/dp/208…

This one strikes a chord with me and Avalos responds perfectly:

3. How can Avalos, an atheist, teach courses on the Bible and religion?

I get the same question, mostly from religious family members, when I tell them I'm going back to Uni to retrain as a Secondary teacher in Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies. I usually answer that as an atheist I'm probably a better choice than a religious person for teaching this subject. I can look on all religions without any hint of bias and teach about them all equally. The keyword here being "about" - I'm not going to be telling anyone to run along to church, the mosque, whatever.

Balderdash, Professor Avalos.

In your response, you basically claim that the Hebrews invented genocide.

Further, you call for the ELIMINATION of religion in your book, Fighting Words.

Not separation, or even just education attacking it, but ELIMINATION...an odd choice of words in the context, Herr Professor!

Wow, Dembski's latest attack on Dr. Avalos went to the memory hole right quick.

By W. Kevin Vicklund (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

Post #46 by Greg S. provides not a single quote from my book to support his contention that I "basically claim that the Hebrews invented genocide." Only the most superficial exegesis will draw that conclusion from my book.

Perhaps he missed my statement in Fighting Words, p. 165, where I note that ancient Israel's neighbors had similar ideologies of violence:

"The idea that a god fights for his people is known from neighboring cultures who were quite warlike... This rhetoric did not prevent Assyrians from effecting horrible carnage on their enemies."

Moreover, and unlike fundamentalists, I date the formation of the Hebrew Bible to the late first millennium BCE, and so the Assyrians and other Near Eastern cultures would have been practicing genocide for at least a millennium before biblical authors advocated genocide.

What biblical authors contributed was the main religious justification for many later genocidal policies in "western" civilizations (e.g., crusades, anti-Jewish violence throughout Christian history, European wars against Native Americans, etc.).

Being an anthropologist, by training, I also know that aggression can be found in non-human primates, and it was probably part of our earliest human history. I discuss that idea on pp. 63-64.

By Hector Avalos (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

Well, hi there Icky. You wrote:

"...and exactly why is that important in a university where we teach ABOUT religion, not OF religion."

I'm quite aware of how college religion classes are taught (I took religion classes in college). Obviously, we don't want to push a specific religion, but rather teach about religious thought.

And, Paul writes:
"I usually answer that as an atheist I'm probably a better choice than a religious person for teaching this subject. I can look on all religions without any hint of bias and teach about them all equally. The keyword here being "about" - I'm not going to be telling anyone to run along to church, the mosque, whatever."

This seem logical, no? But, in reality, atheist and agnostics are every bit as biased as those who hold to a specific religious belief. They may be able to teach various religions "equally", but their bias could very well come across to the students as well. They believe all religions to be mythical/imaginary beliefs which various groups throughout history have adhered to for a variety of reasons. And, some atheists, as in Avalos case, believe that religion is a serious root for violence, and they proceed to write books on this subject. Certainly religion (including atheist & agnostic faith beliefs), like just about anything else, can cause hatred and violence in people who are predisposed to hatred and violence, but religion is also a blessing to much of society. I'm not sure the atheist bias in the classroom would be any more easy to hide than that of a person who is a Muslim, Christian, Hindu, etc. They certainly would never suggest that anyone "run along to a church, the mosque, whatever", and perhaps that attitude comes across during class?

Icky wrote:
"...as to the links to the DI, you really don't know how to search the web, do you?"

Well, dang Icky, I've been searching but haven't run across those particular accusations from the DI yet. I think the good Professor might be projecting. But, I could certainly be wrong about this...I'll keep surfing.

Biased? On what grounds? Would you also say that the people who hold the Earth to be spherical are biased?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

FTK wrote:

But, in reality, atheist and agnostics are every bit as biased as those who hold to a specific religious belief.

On the one hand, this is true: all humans have some bias or other; and, as a Central American history prof. said to me a long time ago, in many fields, such as history, culture, comparative religion and others, bias is both inevitable (because we all have our own opinions and feelings about what's important) and necessary (to help us prioritize and organize huge masses of facts into a coherent picture).

On the other hand, since we've now established that everyone is biased -- or at least potentially biased -- the question, in Avalos' case, now becomes: has his bias visibly compromised the quality of his teaching? And so far, I have yet to hear of specific instances indicating a "yes" answer.

I'm not sure the atheist bias in the classroom would be any more easy to hide than that of a person who is a Muslim, Christian, Hindu, etc.

So, if Avalos' atheist bias is so hard to hide, then it should be easy for FTK to prove he's doing a poorer job because of it. Knock yourself out, girl...

FTK,

Would you call non-belief in ghosts a belief? Of course not, there's no 'belief' involved in the simple statement, "I do not believe in ghosts," implied or otherwise. Lack of belief is not, in and of itself a belief, it cannot be.

You can accurately talk about an atheist's or agnostic's world-view in relation to the existence of a god, but you cannot talk about their beliefs in regard to such.

Just a nitpick.

J. Random, FCD

Avalos is in full rebelion against the, what we might call "Dead Religion" that he grew up with. This is very understandable for someone who has had "Religion" forced down their throats as a child. Unfortunately he has not sought God at his points of need in his life so he is, what I may say is, unenlightened and does not know that a living God truly does exist who is very much alive and is their for us in our times of need. He was raised with a very strict religion when he grew up and now he has come to full maturity in worshiping a entity (blind chance) who could care less about him or anything in his life. It truly is tragic.

"This is very understandable for someone who has had "Religion" forced down their throats as a child. Unfortunately he has not sought God at his points of need in his life so he is, what I may say is, unenlightened and does not know that a living God truly does exist who is very much alive and is their for us in our times of need. He was raised with a very strict religion when he grew up and now he has come to full maturity in worshiping a entity (blind chance) who could care less about him or anything in his life. It truly is tragic."

?? How do you know how he was raised? It's one thing to take a stab in the dark about how a person was raised and how that may affect their beliefs, but to write it as a fact is a bit presumptuous unless you have inside information of some sort.

"On the other hand, since we've now established that everyone is biased -- or at least potentially biased -- the question, in Avalos' case, now becomes: has his bias visibly compromised the quality of his teaching? And so far, I have yet to hear of specific instances indicating a "yes" answer."

There is no telling whether his bias comes across during class or not. I'd guess that it does not, but he has written several books and articles that many would say are a bit anti-religion.

I guess this would be a case similiar to the Gonzalez case. Can one teach without bias and keep their outside research, writing, and beliefs separate from what they relay to the students in class?

Seeing as Avalos' case is so simliar to the Gonzalez case, you'd think the man would support academic freedom and lay off Gonzalez.

Avalos doesn't want his university to be considered one that supports ID, but on the other hand, does that university want to be thought of a supporting atheism & religious intolerance due to some of the writings of Avalos? See my point?

Hehe. You really do know how to miss the point. But keep trying.

Academic freedom... hehe.

I love the...

"Atheists haven't sought out god enough, if they did they would know he was real."

I may hurt myself laughing so hard while my eyes roll.

Can they get stuck in that position?

I'm guessing I'm not seeing how Avalos is anything at all like the Gonzalez case.

There is no telling whether his bias comes across during class or not. I'd guess that it does not...

So you "guess" that Avalos is a perfectly competent teacher, and his bias has not visibly affected his work, or his credibility among his students? I "guess" that means there's no problem with Avalos, and we can stop dragging him into a debate about some other professor in a completely different department.

I guess this would be a case similiar to the Gonzalez case.

Only if you can show Avalos giving vocal support to a pseudoscience whose rank dishonesty has been repeatedly demonstrated in Federal courts and other public venues. Or if you can show other academics criticising Avalos' teachings as unscholarly, as Gonzalez was criticized.

Avalos doesn't want his university to be considered one that supports ID, but on the other hand, does that university want to be thought of a supporting atheism & religious intolerance due to some of the writings of Avalos? See my point?

Not really -- you have just "guessed" that you saw no evidence that Avalos' bias affected his scholarship, or that he was trying to promote "intolerance" any more than any religion that wants opposing beliefs "eliminated."

One more thing, FTK: why do you lump atheists and agnostics together as if they were the same? They're not. Are we seeing a bit of religious bias showing here?

They aren't anything alike Pablo. You're not missing anything.

If ID is just like religion...they have aboslutely no point whatsoever.

And it is.

I found this about Avalos, so it might be of interest;
For what it is worth, from the ISU site "news" on 2-06-97.
"Avalos was a child preacher and faith healer while growing up in Northern Mexico. A Biblical scholar, he earned his master's degree from the Harvard Divinity School and doctoral degree from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences."

So I'm sorry for presuming facts that may not be in order. He seems to have sincerily sought God. But found the level of proof he required to be wanting.

I found this about Avalos, so it might be of interest;
For what it is worth, from the ISU site "news" on 2-06-97.
"Avalos was a child preacher and faith healer while growing up in Northern Mexico. A Biblical scholar, he earned his master's degree from the Harvard Divinity School and doctoral degree from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences."

So I'm sorry for presuming facts that may not be in order. He seems to have sincerily sought God. But found the level of proof he required to be wanting.

I found this about Avalos, so it might be of interest;
For what it is worth, from the ISU site "news" on 2-06-97.
"Avalos was a child preacher and faith healer while growing up in Northern Mexico. A Biblical scholar, he earned his master's degree from the Harvard Divinity School and doctoral degree from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences."

So I'm sorry for presuming facts that may not be in order. He seems to have sincerily sought God. But found the level of proof he required to be wanting.

Most rational people do find proof the required to be wanting.
Most rational people do find proof the required to be wanting.
Most rational people do find proof the required to be wanting.

Shocking I know.

Most rational people do find THE proof required to be wanting.

Damn. That's lame. I hit post way too quickly, much to often.

"One more thing, FTK: why do you lump atheists and agnostics together as if they were the same? They're not. Are we seeing a bit of religious bias showing here?"

Not at all. What I'm saying is that I've heard it said, and Paul alluded to it above, that agnostics and atheists may perhaps be better suited for teaching religion classes because they would show no preference to a particular religious belief. But, in fact, they themselves hold to a particular faith belief as well. Some are even quite anti-religious for various reason...violence they associate with religion, etc., etc.

So, in conclusion, it is quite hard to believe that there are many people out there who are completely unbiased when religious or philosophical beliefs are being considered.

Oh, and if anyone can post the links to those DI accusations, I'd appreciate it. I still can't seem to find them.

Damn it. Now I have to go stomp on a gnome.

"Not believing in a god takes faith"

I don't have time for all this myth bashing!

1. Avalos is not a scientist, and so cannot critique ID
2. Avalos's book, Fighting Words, blames the Jewish people for the Holocaust
3. How can Avalos, an atheist, teach courses on the Bible and religion?
4. Avalos is too anti-religious to teach in Iowa
5. Avalos spearheaded an atheist plot in Iowa

I have tried to read both sides of this issue with an open. I can not find any references to these statements being made officially by DI. Now, I admit these statements are easily defeated by Professor Avalos arguments above, but it does no good to defeat strawmen which are not really put forward by your opponents. So which is it. Are these strawmen or really the arguments of DI?

"Are these strawmen or really the arguments of DI?"

This is a very important question that needs to be answered, Professor Avalos. Please do so.

Why don't you look a little deeper on this site.
Try reading the post "A man after my own heart at Iowa State"
which is linked to up in the very first sentence of this topic.

How can they be strawmen if you haven't bothered to pay attention?

Hmmm...I must be quite thick. I don't see that John West made those particular accusations anywhere. Every fact that he did relay to his readers he backed up with evidence taken from Avalos' pen.

Could you point out the specific points that Avolos alluded to above? Maybe I'm just missing them, or you're reading more into West's words than what is actually there?

Heck, earlier in this very thread someone linked to the Evolution News&Views post that contained attacks #2,4,5 (see comment #23). Maybe you should, you know, actually look at the information provided before saying you can't find it?

By W. Kevin Vicklund (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

W. Kevin Vicklund

Words are important. What I can say as a careful parser of the English language is that attacks #2, #4, and #5 are definitely not made in the post that is alluded to in comment #23.

Since this is your reference in support of #2,4,5 I will think that Professor Avolos is merely putting down strawmen until I see otherwise. I really do not like burning up strawmen, it only clouds the issue.

They believe all religions to be mythical/imaginary beliefs which various groups throughout history have adhered to for a variety of reasons.

SO FTK do you think that Hindus hold mythical/imaginary beliefs?

I agree with FTK. I can not find assertions 1,2,3,4,5 in any of the articles alluded to at this site.

FTK uses the same technique that Behe uses, she places her hand over her eyes and then proclaims, "nope, no evidence here!". As such, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for her to actually click any of those links.

So, is this the statement from West that Avalos deems as equivalent to his #4 or #5?

"It is worth pointing out that ISU issued a press release a few years ago boasting about Avalos's appointment as the executive director of a group affiliated with the Council for Secular Humanism that seeks to debunk religion."

I guess with a lot of projecting one could somehow tie in #4 or #5 with that statement.

But, when we look at the press release West alludes to, it pretty much states exactly what West suggests...

"The organization was created to examine traditional world religions and new religious groups from a scientific perspective, and provide naturalistic explanations for religious phenomena."

Sound pretty much like his group's intent is to "provide naturalistic explanations for religious phenomena". In others words, they seek to "debunk religion".

Quite effective illustration of argumentum ad hominem and the association fallacies there Boosterz, obviously no substance though.

LOL...love the handle "GeorgeBurnsGod". Sheesh! I thought violence was due to religious thought, not an atheist trait.

GeorgeBurnsGod -

The problem is not that I have not read the articles alluded to in the post. Its that these articles do not say 1,2,3,4, and 5.

I have read them carefully. If this is your best evidence for DI having said 1,2,3,4 and 5. Then I have to say I win the argument. Otherwise bring forth better evidence.

By John Hansen (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

Funny. Guess you don't remember George Burns playing God in a movie with John Denver.

Idiot.

You're right John H.

At other points, Avalos appears to blame Jewish people for Hitler's attempt to exterminate them, locating the origins of the Holocaust in what he calls "Hebrew racism."

Obvious Strawman.

By GeorgeBurnsGod (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

John H writes: "What I can say as a careful parser of the English language is that attacks #2, #4, and #5 are definitely not made in the post that is alluded to in comment #23. Since this is your reference in support of #2,4,5 I will think that Professor Avolos is merely putting down strawmen until I see otherwise. I really do not like burning up strawmen, it only clouds the issue."

Hmm.

HA's point #2: "Avalos's book, Fighting Words, blames the Jewish people for the Holocaust."

John West in EN&V: "At other point, Avalos appears to blame Jewish people for Hitler's attempt to exterminate them..."

Is it the phrase "appears to" that you so carefully parse, in order to read Avalos's presentation as a strawman? If so, then you would appear to be a willfully obtuse weasel.

I hear he put his cigar out on children and puppies too. He was such a wicked God. I miss him.

By GeorgeBurnsGod (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

Sorry GeorgeBurnsGod "appears to blame" does not equal "blames". Strawman confirmed.

"appears to" is a very important phrase. It says that the writer's argument could be taken to mean this although I am not sure that is what the writer meant.

I don't know why this escapes you as an important distinction.

How stupid are you creationists anyway? You can't read? Those points are all right out there, plain as day, in the DI's attack on Avalos.

1. Avalos is not a scientist, and so cannot critique ID

See Dembski, who belittles Avalos's credentials and further implies that his CV is padded with fluff.

an academic not well-versed in the details of the philosophical arguments that one is required to know in order to engage the topic competently.

2. Avalos's book, Fighting Words, blames the Jewish people for the Holocaust

That's right there in plain english at the DI site:

Avalos appears to blame Jewish people for Hitler's attempt to exterminate them, locating the origins of the Holocaust in what he calls "Hebrew racism."

This next series of complaints are implicit in the whole attack on Avalos.

3. How can Avalos, an atheist, teach courses on the Bible and religion?

4. Avalos is too anti-religious to teach in Iowa

The DI article complains that Avalos is an extremist, and makes an appeal to the "Iowa taxpayers":

Just how extreme Avalos's view of the Bible is can be seen in his previous book, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence (2005), in which he repeatedly equates the Bible with Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Iowa taxpayers can be relieved to know that ISU is making sure their tax dollars will be spent on worthy scholars like Prof. Avalos rather than disreputable astronomers like Dr. Gonzalez.

The last one is addressed in the very first paragraph of the DI complaint.

5. Avalos spearheaded an atheist plot in Iowa

After pointedly mentioning that he was the advisor to the atheist and agnostic society and that he was an outspoken atheist, the DI says:

Avalos has led the charge against Gonzalez and intelligent design on ISU's campus

Are you kooks trying to argue that this recent DI campaign is an attempt to say nice things about Hector Avalos? The level of obtuse idiocy in the people who claim they can't find the criticisms is an indicator of just how stupid the ranks of ID fans are. Yeah, I'm talking to you, FtK.

It's certainly true that "appears to blame" does not equal "blames". No word precisely equals any other word, for that matter, and yet paraphrases and summaries are not universally strawmen. "Seems to" and "appears to" are often used merely as rhetorical devices; if West had gone on to show that the appearance was misleading, or had explicitly flagged his characterization as hostage to unresolved questions, his inclusion of "appears to" would have been more substantive.

As it is, by refuting the assertion simpliciter, Avalos demonstrates (even on your heroically strained reading) that the "appearance" is of West's concoction. Since a strawman is a fallacy of relevance, and since Avalos is palpably engaging what West actually wrote, with obvious relevance, your insistence on dismissing this as a strawman is obviously mistaken. That's often what happens when you start with a conclusion and try interpreting the facts to fit it.

FTK is just like every other run of the mill creationist crank. She makes all kinds of wild claims/accusations, but when she gets called on her craziness, she either refuses to acknowledge it or she disappears. If you had been on the KCFS forums last year you could have watched her do it on a daily basis. Behe is famous for trying this in open court during the Dover trial. He kept denying the evidence even after they walled his ass in on the witness stand with it, literally. The way that both of these loons deal with evidence being presented to them is to close their eyes and pretend it's not there.

BTW, I think it's cute when cranks start throwing around terms like ad hom and logical fallacies. They seem to think that knowing the definition of one or two logical fallacies means they know how to debate logically. It's kind of like watching a tiny dog barking at a much larger dog from the safety of a window. :-)

I love how you guys carefully parse the English language. In that case, you appear to be a douchebag troll.

By GeorgeBurnsGod (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

In regard to Posts #70, 77 etc.
Please note that my initial response was not simply to the DI's attacks
but also to "a long string of creationist smear campaigns against me in Iowa." That is why I said, "All such efforts have failed..."

But here are some actual examples for each of the types of allegations I mentioned:

1. Avalos is not a scientist...

http://thesolomoniccynic.blogspot.com/
"Further, in addition to his duties as a religious studies professor Avalos heads up the Latino studies program, yet he has worked the hardest to marginalize Gonzalez' (Cuban-born) work as an astronomer with his silly petitioning. And did I mention that the religious studies professor believes he can tell the professional scientist how to do his job?"

ttp://www.midiowanews.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=15121481&BRD=2700&PAG=461&dept…
"What is Avalos' objection to Gonzalez's work? He told the Des Moines Register that he knows ID is religion and not science because "I'm a Biblical scholar." So Iowa State has one thing in common with unaccredited Bible colleges and medieval heresy tribunals: our Bible scholars think they can tell our astronomers how to do their jobs."

2. Avalos's book, Fighting Words, blames the Jewish people for the Holocaust

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/05/iowa_state_promotes_atheist_pr.html
"At other points, Avalos appears to blame Jewish people for Hitler's attempt to exterminate them..."

3. How can Avalos, an atheist, teach courses on the Bible and religion?

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/still-hectoring-guill…
Response #18 (9-27-2005):

"that is mind boggling that an avowed atheist (someone so set in his ways that he co-founded the ISU atheists group could be teaching religous studies to anyone!!!"

http://farmeruminations.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
"The thing about this travesty that galls me the most is that the attack on Dr. Gonzalez is being led by Hector Avalos, the associate Professor of Religions Studies at ISU, an avowed atheist. That is a lot like putting a child molester in charge of a day care."

4. Avalos is too anti-religious to teach in Iowa

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/habitable-zone-astron…
Response #16
DaveScot, 5-13-07:

"I suggest writing letters to the editor of Iowa newspapers. Iowa is predominantly either rural and small towns under 3,000 people (89% of the population). It's a red state in the so-called heartland and considered more often than not inside the bible belt. If the good people of Iowa find out that their kids are going to a state college where an atheist is appointed professor of religious studies (Hector Avalos) and a fine astronomer like Guillermo Gonzalez is getting shown the door for popularizing the notion that earth is uniquely suited for intelligent life they'll have a conniption fit and call for heads to roll."

5. Avalos spearheaded an atheist plot in Iowa

http://telicthoughts.com/standing-up-for-scientists/
"So let's get this straight. Hector Avalos, an atheist at Iowa State University, is leading a crusade of Scientific McCarthyism against Guillermo Gonzalez."

There are many more such examples, but I thought I would summarize some of the most frequent. One of the more frequent amusing errors is that critics frequently promote me to being the head of the department of religion (it is actually the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies), even though I have never held that position. Here is an actual example:

http://media.www.iowastatedaily.com/media/storage/paper818/news/2004/04…

"I am a Christian and would much rather see a Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu in charge of our department than a man who doesn't believe in anything but trying to disprove the beliefs of the institutions that pay his salary."

By Hector Avalos (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

FTK wrote:

Sound pretty much like his group's intent is to "provide naturalistic explanations for religious phenomena". In others words, they seek to "debunk religion".

No, those two are not the same thing. Just like "providing a naturalistic explanation for how my brain gets information from my eyes" is not the same as "debunking vision."

"Seems to" and "appears to" are weasel words.

OK, John H, you appear to be a chronic donkey-raper. This is an important distinction; I have not attempted to slander you as the kind of person who would willingly rape donkeys, or even takes great pleasure in the act. It merely suggests that you could be an inveterate practitioner of forceful bestiality, but I'm not sure that you really are.

Would you mind, though, if I mentioned in a public venue your employer could read that you appear to be the kind of man he shouldn't trust near pets and livestock?

Well it appears Mr. Avalos has answered your inquiries. Care to now state that he was correct and the ID diaper wetters are throwing a giant smear campaign to go along with their persecution complex temper tantrum?

"Are you kooks trying to argue that this recent DI campaign is an attempt to say nice things about Hector Avalos?"

Of course I'm not you "stupid" "kook". Your level of "obtuse idiocy" reigns far superior to any creationist's ramblings. Of course the DI thinks that Avalos played a part in degrading Gonzales. Obviously, he did.

But, you sir, are projecting. Every single quote coming from West and the DI was backed up with evidence from the pen of Avalos. Truth hurts in this case, evidently, or you wouldn't be in here right now name calling.

I'm saying, as John stated, that words are very important, and the words that Avalos chose to use were not equivalent with what the DI has stated about the man.

BUT, what they did say was RIGHT ON TARGET, and THEY BACKED UP THEIR WORDS WITH PROOF.

Carry on you "kooky" atheist...

PZ-

Thanks for the personal attack on me. Questioning wheher a Ph.D physicist can read.

Sorry I stepped into your site. I will leave now and let you carry on. Your type of arguments like the "complaints are implicit.." and making '"appears to blame" equivalent to "blames"' are the type of flame filled rhetoric I have tried to avoid.

It does nothing but belittle the other person, trying to dismiss the argument by dismissal rather than defetaing it in the full intellectual power that human beings are capable of. It does not advance the cause of the search for truth.

I know, I know I have seen the same type of rhetoric participated in on Dembski's site before. One big difference I have seen thought is that when this happens:
1. The fallacious arguments are usually recognized as such and reworded or dumped.
2. The opposing point is linked to.

This is why I respect his site. I don't see the same type of intellectual honesty on this site or amongst your commenters.

Sorry for wasting my time over here.

JH PhD UCLA 1990

FTK just hit shrill. Did anybody have a stop watch going so we can record the time?

BTW FTK, PZ and Avalos both have posted the actual text you refused to click a link to go to. Do you still feel like denying what the DI and other creationists said now? lol

:-)

FTK, you really are amazing. Your reading comprehension skills must really be suffering if after the attacks have been noted and after Avalos answered each and every one of them you still come here shooting off at the mouth like some sort of street corner soap box hollerer. Please just try for a little bit to not be an myopic blundering tool.

John H: "This is why I respect his site. I don't see the same type of intellectual honesty on this site or amongst your commenters."

BWAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Thank you for the immense gut laugh. I really needed it.

By GeorgeBurnsGod (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

The actual text in question was posted(instead of just linked to) so now of course the creationist troll decides he's been "attacked" and beats a hasty retreat with his tail firmly tucked in. I don't see how anybody can take these jokers seriously.

BTW John H, I'm calling bullshit on that PhD too. That's my "theory".

Professor Avalos,

Those quotes, except the one from West, are found in blogs or blog comments by people who are not DI fellows, and I believe West used the words "appears to blame", and he's right, it does appear that you place the blame on Jewish people for Hitler's attempt to exterminate them.

I believe it's quite inappropriate to equate bloggers and commenters who may support ID with the Discovery Institute. Shoot, I could find all kinds of comments to provide as ammunition against atheists, evolutionists, etc. if I were to use stuff that people stated in blogs.

In your position, you need to be very careful how and who you accuse. Choose your words wisely and don't project.

Questioning whether a Ph.D physicist can read.

I'd also question whether or not you're a Ph.D physicist, especially since you link reading skills (re an area outside your proclaimed expertise) as being invariably linked with your assertion that you have a doctorate in physics.

If it's that easy, then fine, you're not a doctor of physics, as it's been demonstrated without reasonable doubt that you can't read, or you're too prejudiced to competently read what was written. See, if you were a (proper) physicist you'd know that evidence trumps credentials, and that the value of the latter are proven by the former.

And the evidence is that you leave in a huff and puff of non-sequiturs when the evidence is given to you. After all that, you may actually have a Ph.D in physics, but why would than impress anybody after your little snit at being caught out?

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

"FTK just hit shrill. Did anybody have a stop watch going so we can record the time?"

LOL, ya think? I merely used some of PZ tactical verbiage. Seems I'm "shrill" and he's "enlightened". Figures.

John H: "Your type of arguments like the "complaints are implicit.." and making '"appears to blame" equivalent to "blames"' are the type of flame filled rhetoric I have tried to avoid."

Uh. First you say that "words are important," then, when it's convenient, a remark like "complaints are implicit" counts as "flame-filled rhetoric"?

Notice, in any case, that my remark that "you appear to be a willfully obtuse weasel" (and two subsequent remarks by other posters making the same point) can only count as a "personal attack" if in fact the phrase "appear(s) to" does not remove all the assertoric force of the utterance. That was precisely the point. You can't have it both ways: either nobody said anything bad about you (following the phrase "appear to be"), in which case your complaint of a personal attack is baseless, or West really did convey that Avalos blamed the Jews, in which case your charge of a strawman is baseless. You made your choice, getting offended at the personal attack. I quite agree with your choice: West did charge Avalos with blaming the Jews for the Holocaust.

Finally, I stated very clearly that "blames" and "appears to blame" are not the same thing; and I went on to explain how they could diverge, and why (for all you've said) they do not diverge in this particular case. Nobody else engaged the question in any detail, and PZ not at all. So your petulant snit, unlike Dr Avalos's post, really is a strawman. You attack something that nobody said, and which the only person to really raise the matter explicitly denied.

You can be a PhD physicist all day, but lousy argumentation is lousy argumentation. You could be a grade-school dropout, but if your reasoning were clear and defensible it would be met with respect from me.

Of course the DI thinks that Avalos played a part in degrading Gonzales. Obviously, he did.

And what "obvious" part was that? You didn't specify.

...it does appear that you place the blame on Jewish people for Hitler's attempt to exterminate them.

It does NOT appear, however, that you offer any quotes of Avalos actually saying anything like that. Avalos, meanwhile, quoted and referenced himself saying something quite different, in the original post above.

By Raging Bee (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

LOL, ya think? I merely used some of PZ tactical verbiage. Seems I'm "shrill" and he's "enlightened". Figures.

Well, he posted the material in question(that you refused to follow a link and read) and you have YET to answer it even after you posted a dozen posts where you said the DI didn't say what the text clearly indicates they DID say. Who would you say is the "enlightened" one and who is the goofball?

This would appear to be a certain John H? I see a pattern developing here, and it involves more parsing:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_03/010844.php

Kevin,

I think it is a very interesting question why the global warming stuff splits left/right. Here are my two guesses:

1. This simply shows that the global warming evidence is not that good. One would usually assume that a true fact with good evidence would not correlate so well with political persuasion. Man made global warming looks like it has some evidence, but not much. Think about it, in a UN report whose goal was to convince people of the danger of man-made global warming the writers had to project 73 years into the future ( 2080 ) to come up with any disastrous problems. Let's look at that logically. Does anyone in their right mind think that scientists living in 1934 had any idea about what the worst problems were of today? Please remember that knowledge and technology are increasing not decreasing. What sense does it make to make any prediction about the weather in 2080?

2. People have a need to find deep meaning in their lives. They need to think something in their lives is transcendant. Much of the committed right already has a religion or a ideology like libertarianism that gives them meaning. The left tends to grab onto the latest "scientific" portent of global doom ( global cooling, resource depletion, overpopulation .... ). Thus people on the left are much more susceptible tos these disaster scares.

The fact that the global warming thing correlates so well with political persuasion should cause some of you on the left to doubt this, but you will probably just conclude that your smarter than the people who disagree with you, as you usually do.

Dr. John D. Hansen
PhD. Ionsopheric Physics
UCLA 1990

Posted by: John Hansen on March 3, 2007 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK
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Trex - I would have LOVED to see the answer to the question: "Do you believe we found WMD's in Iraq?" Who wants to bet that over 80% would respond in the affirmative despite our own search teams saying otherwise.

Again you have to word the question carefully.

1. Did we find WMD's in Iraq? YES!
2. Did we find large stockpiles of WMD in Iraq? NO!

Technically those who answered YES to such a sloppily worded question would be correct.

Posted by: John Hansen on March 3, 2007 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

By GeorgeBurnsGod (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

No, he does not "appear to blame" the Jews for the Holocaust. When you read his words and the section of the book itself, he plainly blames a collection of complex historical features, especially that long history of anti-semitism, for the Holocaust. When John West says "He appears to blame...", John West is distorting his thesis and outright lying about what Avalos said, as part of a calculated smear campaign.

He only "appears to blame" if you're an illiterate nitwit, or if you're trying to swiftboat someone.

It's all a colossal waste of effort, too. What does the DI hope to accomplish by lashing out at Avalos? Avalos is not a member of the physics department. He did not vote on Gonzalez's tenure. It is not a good faith criticism of a problematic tenure decision -- it is pure random slander to try and distract and mislead. The people who are playing word games are just part of a blind and stupid mob going along with their propaganda.

and I believe West used the words "appears to blame", and he's right, it does appear that you place the blame on Jewish people for Hitler's attempt to exterminate them.

One has to remember the audience, of course, and "appears to blame" means something quite different to Ftk vs., say, to someone who is intellectually honest.

You're an atheist, Avalos, Ftk is ipso facto inclined to believe the worst of you, so when you bring up the approval and commanding of atrocities in a book hallowed by two "major religions," and at least given respect by a third (Islam), it appears to Ftk that you're blaming the Jews for the Holocaust. Thus it is fine to say that it appears that you are doing so, just as it is fine for us to say that it appears to us that Ftk is a KKK sympathizer if we just happen to be unfair enough to think the worst of her (I hasten to add that she does not appear so to any competent and fair reader).

It's that old game, the IDiots controvert evolutionary theory (yes, some are "evolutionists", with a ridiculous creationist causal "explanation" for evolution), hence the "controversy" must be taught. That to reasonable people there is no controversy over "Darwinism", and to reasonable people Avalos does not blame the Jews for the Holocaust, matters not in their bizarre little world of shifting contextual meanings around to fit their squalid agendas.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

"And what "obvious" part was that? You didn't specify."

Does the word "petition" ring a bell with you? Sheesh, it's no secret the he's not exactly fond the ID movement and Gonzalez' connection with it.

Let's ask him...

Professor Avalos, do you have a problem with the Intelligent Design movement? And, are you proud of the fact that Gonazalez, an ID advocate, is a professor at your university? Just curious.

Apparently if you want FTK to acknowledge something, you'll have to tatoo it backwards on her forehead and force her to stand in front of a mirror. She's THAT hopeless.

I believe it's quite inappropriate to equate bloggers and commenters who may support ID with the Discovery Institute. Shoot, I could find all kinds of comments to provide as ammunition against atheists, evolutionists, etc. if I were to use stuff that people stated in blogs.

In your position, you need to be very careful how and who you accuse. Choose your words wisely and don't project.

FtK, did you perhaps not read Dr. Avalos post thoroughly? He specifically addressed that very issue. Since you seem to have some problems in picking out the relevant bits, I'll copy them for you:

Please note that my initial response was not simply to the DI's attacks
but also to "a long string of creationist smear campaigns against me in Iowa." That is why I said, "All such efforts have failed..."

His wording was in fact quite precise and carefully chosen.

By W. Kevin Vicklund (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

"That to reasonable people there is no controversy over "Darwinism", and to reasonable people Avalos does not blame the Jews for the Holocaust, matters not in their bizarre little world of shifting contextual meanings around to fit their squalid agendas."

There's the statement for the day...

And, who are these "reasonable people"? Of course, PZ's choir believe themselves to be the "rational" and "reasonable", while those on my side of the fence believe they are the ones who fall under this description.

We really should be striving to live together peacefully, accept differences of opinion, and keep our schools open to academic freedom, or this culture war we find ourselves in is going to continue to get worse.

And, PZ, you really need to cool it with the name calling. It's not very professional. You noticed that when I used *your* words, I was accused of being "shrill". That should tell you something.

keep our schools open to academic freedom, or this culture war we find ourselves in is going to continue to get worse.

not when "academic freedom" is a just slimy doublespeak for "lying about science in the name of religion".

screw that. fighting that's worth all the "culture war" we can muster.

Just for fun, google Dr. John D. Hansen, Ph.D.; I have found many with different middle initials and one with the correct initial who teaches marketing and another who is trustee for some sort of charter school advocacy group or something.
I always thought that to refer to someone by both Dr. and Ph.D. (or M.D. or D.V.M. or whatever) was redundant and no one really did it, the same as no one should use an honorary degree as the basis to claim the honorific of Dr. However, I have found people lacking a high school diploma proudly sporting the Dr. label on the basis of an honorary degree.

"FtK, did you perhaps not read Dr. Avalos post thoroughly?"

Sure did. He was pretty specific in his intro:

"The Discovery Institute has mounted the latest in a long string of creationist smear campaigns against me in Iowa."

Now, from what I can tell, only 1 of those accusations actually came from a "DI" representative, and he was relaying accurate information backed with evidence.

Perhaps Avalos should have been much more specific about which comments came from the mouth of some ticked off "creationist" at a blogsite and those that came from members of the DI.

We really should be striving to live together peacefully, accept differences of opinion, and keep our schools open to academic freedom, or this culture war we find ourselves in is going to continue to get worse.

Is playing the "Can't we all just get along?" card your way of admitting that you were completely, hopelessly, and laughably wrong in your defense of the DI? :-)

FTK,

The "academic freedom" ploy worked really well for you guys in Dover. Keep up the good work.

By GeorgeBurnsGod (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

FTK wrote:

We really should be striving to live together peacefully, accept differences of opinion, and keep our schools open to academic freedom, or this culture war we find ourselves in is going to continue to get worse.

And the best way you could think of ataining this goal is by lashing out at the nearest atheist professor you all could find?

Unbelievable.

There's the statement for the day...

And, who are these "reasonable people"? Of course, PZ's choir believe themselves to be the "rational" and "reasonable", while those on my side of the fence believe they are the ones who fall under this description.

Actually, those on your side of the fence claim anything that sounds good at a given time. They claim to be pro-science while attempting to undermine the standards which allow there to be science, they claim to be rational while twisting words irrationally to suit their own agendas, and they pretend that "seems" doesn't normally have this implicit sense that it refers to how things "seem" to recognizably competent and intellectually honest folk.

Of course we know the nihilistic little game of the unreasonable, just pretend that "both sides" should be granted the same sort of respect, regardless of the obvious deficits in argumentation by Ftk, John H, Dembski, Behe, etc., etc.

All one has to do to show how everyone, even Ftk and her ilk, know that to be a crock is to ask why they don't accord "reasonability" to the insane. Who's really to say that Andrea Yates didn't do her children a heavenly service by killing them before they were sinners? Do we really know that the CIA hasn't implanted chips into the brains of university professors, controlling them so that they believe the unbelievable, that we "came from monkeys"?

Of course it's a "subjective", or "inter-subjective" judgment that Ftk is pretty much worthless in these discussions, however such judgments are necessary and demanded every day, so that "inter-subjectively" chosen judges rule on the insane every day, and judge Jones sensibly decrees that Behe doesn't have the slightest bit of scientific credibility on the stand (not in those words, it's implied).

And yes, it is up to us to keep the Ftk's and John H's of this world from taking over, or it would be a lesser version of the insane running the insane asylum. There are people who know much more than Ftk, and who are generally noted for being far more reasonable (at least on this subject) by other recognizably reasonable folk, who really must decide against religious lunacy overtaking society. It is not for no reason that we live in a republic, and not a pure democracy--what some have called mobocracy.

We really should be striving to live together peacefully, accept differences of opinion, and keep our schools open to academic freedom, or this culture war we find ourselves in is going to continue to get worse.

How would we be able to live together peacefully when irrationality is ruled to be better than rationality, in the courts, in the schools, and in research funding?

What you're recommending is sheer anarchy and war against the reasonable rule that allows us to mostly live together peacefully, whatever our differences.

And, PZ, you really need to cool it with the name calling. It's not very professional. You noticed that when I used *your* words, I was accused of being "shrill". That should tell you something.

The one place where I'll agree with you is that you were no more "shrill" than many here, including PZ (probably myself as well). Now I do think he has more cause and justification for greeting the irrationality of the creo/IDist dissembling with that sort of rhetorical response than do you (or rather, I believe he's outright justified, because he happens to have not strayed from rationality (generally), while you have). However, I would not have called you "shrill", merely obtuse.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

"Is playing the "Can't we all just get along?" card your way of admitting that you were completely, hopelessly, and laughably wrong in your defense of the DI? :-)"

Not, at all. In this instance, I think I'm right regardless of whether you agree with me or not. And, I truly do believe that we need to work harder at "getting along".

"And the best way you could think of ataining this goal is by lashing out at the nearest atheist professor you all could find? "

I haven't "lashed out" at anyone. In fact, I stuck up for Avalos in one of my posts above.

I'm merely saying that we all need to be upfront and honest about our words and actions and how they play out in these little tifts between the ID and evolution proponents.

entlord -

You should know better how to use a search engine. John and Hansen are both very very popular names. Instead try googling ( with the quotation marks )

"J. D. Hansen" Plasma

check out the 3rd and 4th entries

MAJeff (#2) said he was "slightly embarrassed for my alma mater. Now ...I can renew my pride in ISU."

Well there always is Cael Sanderson.

By Ferrous Patella (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

Not, at all. In this instance, I think I'm right regardless of whether you agree with me or not.

This is your main problem. It's most obvious when you've been presented with irrefutable evidence to the contrary. lol

Hopefully Hector Avalos will not be set-up like Paul Mirecki.

By Gary Hurd (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

Wow, creationists sound like people on acid.Would it be possible to get hypnotized to think you're a fundie for 12 hours or so? Not to go clubbing, might get terribly confusing, Im thinking more in the hippy tradition,a long walk in the countryside or a picnic in a park perhaps.

I'm merely saying that we all need to be upfront and honest about our words and actions and how they play out in these little tifts between the ID and evolution proponents.

I'll bite: What's a tift?

I'll bite: What's a tift?

A misspelling of 'tiff'.

By George Cauldron (not verified) on 25 May 2007 #permalink

I'm merely saying that we all need to be upfront and honest about our words and actions

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!

*wipes tear from eye*

gotta be the award for most ironic statement of the week.

I've been following the DI articles about Gonzales and Avalos and haven't seen any of the points he is trying to defend himself against. What I did see is that he got a petition together at ISU though without naming Gonzales was clearly aimed IDers with implications for Gonzales. I also saw he is an active atheist on the campus. Lastly, I saw that he has said that the Old Testament scriptures are worse than Mein Kampf. Is this not true? His rebuttal above deals with issues I haven't seen raised anywhere in the Gonzales case, even though they might be addressing other legitimate concerns.

By Ron Coody (not verified) on 26 May 2007 #permalink

In fact Avalos wrote in his book "Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence (2005)":

"The purpose here is to show that the Nazi policy of genocide was based on premises quite similar to those in the Hebrew Bible." [p. 316]

"the Nazi Holocaust represents the synthesis of attitudes found in both the New Testament and the Hebrew scriptures." [p. 318]

"[Scholars Katz and Wolpoff] fail to see the parallels between certain practices promulgated in the Hebrew Bible itself. Indeed, the supreme irony of the Holocaust is that the genocidal policies first systematically enunciated in the Hebrew scriptures were reversed by the Nazis. Nazi ideology simply had better technology to do what biblical authors had said they would do to their enemies." [pp. 318-319]

"Hitler saw himself as trying to counteract Hebrew racism, which he saw as the main counterpart and enemy of the German race." [p. 319]

"In fact, Mein Kampf does not contain a single explicit command for genocide equivalent to those found in the Hebrew Bible... Thus, if all of Mein Kampf is to be rejected simply for its implied genocidal policies, we should certainly reject all of the Bible for some of its explicit and blatant genocidal policies." [p. 363]

By Ron Coody (not verified) on 26 May 2007 #permalink

There once was a religion professor named Mirecki that the DI opposed ....

By Pete Dunkelberg (not verified) on 26 May 2007 #permalink

I think it is a very interesting question why the global warming stuff splits left/right.

That question is wrong. Acceptance that global warming is an observed fact splits US right vs the whole rest of the world. Even Europe's shrillest xenophobes don't deny global warming.

We really should be striving to live together peacefully, accept differences of opinion, and keep our schools open to academic freedom, or this culture war we find ourselves in is going to continue to get worse.

Heh heh. That sounds good. That sounds very good. But, you see, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. That ID is not science is a fact; from that fact it follows that people who don't understand that ID is not science don't understand what science is, and surely you agree that understanding what science is should be a prerequisite for being employed at a university.

And, PZ, you really need to cool it with the name calling. It's not very professional. You noticed that when I used *your* words, I was accused of being "shrill". That should tell you something.

If you can't stand the heat, what are you doing in the lab with your head over the sand bath? If you can't tell apart what PZ said and how he said it, I'll join the chorus of those who question your reading comprehension skills*. Being shrill and being wrong are not the same thing.

* That doesn't need to be an accusation that you are stupid, mind you. Maybe you were taught to read as if English words were Chinese characters -- a very effective method to prevent you from ever making sense of words you haven't encountered before, and from deciphering statements that don't conform to your expectations.

It is not for no reason that we live in a republic, and not a pure democracy

The words you are probably looking for are "representative democracy" and "direct democracy". "Republic" just means "not a monarchy". (Even though etymologically -- "public affair" as opposed to "private affair" -- it shouldn't.)

Regarding comment 136, I'd like to see the 2nd quote in context; in the others, however, I can't see how Avalos "blames the Jews for the Holocaust". The most blatant example is the 2nd-to-last quote: Hitler saw himself as a lot of things, delusional as he was -- I'd be very surprised if Avalos thought Hitler was right about himself! The last quote is accurate, BTW: the Bible is quite a bit more explicit.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 26 May 2007 #permalink

I wrote:

Acceptance that global warming is an observed fact splits US right vs the whole rest of the world.

That's using the US definitions of "left" and "right". Remember that the conservative candidate for US President in 2004 was Kerry.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 26 May 2007 #permalink

Folks, this is about as close to a formal retraction as I am going to receive from Dembski in regard to his claim that I misstated the full name of Mercury: The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, a publication for which I wrote an article in 1998.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/and-hector-avalos-deserves-ten…
Response #44:
To Hector Avalos: I'm happy to concede whatever other designations the periodical MERCURY may have. The larger issue is that it is a popular periodical and you cite your piece in it as though it had some leverage against Guillermo Gonzalez and his scholarship. This is patently absurd. Gonzalez is a professional in astrophysics as well as in its larger metaphysical implications. You are an amateur in both. Moreover, the question of just what it took for you to gain tenure at ISU remains. Was your MERCURY piece one of the things you cited as evidence that you should receive tenure? Please answer the question (the timing is right since you were an assistant professor when the piece came out). Was it in fact counted in your favor? If so, why shouldn't Gonzalez's PRIVILEGED PLANET count likewise in favor of his tenure? Or do you know in advance (on what grounds? scientific? ideological? philosophical? ...) that he's full of it and you're not.

By Hector Avalos (not verified) on 26 May 2007 #permalink

Wow. Dembski is the one who's full of it. He's a theologian and sorta mathematician who thinks he has disproven the bulk of biology.

I don't even understand the point of his question. In a tenure file, you put everything—every talk, every meeting abstract, every paper, peer-reviewed or not, and you categorize them appropriately. I'm sure Avalos did that, as well as Gonzalez. This line dissection, where they try to find a line for Gonzalez comparable to a line in a file that earned a promotion, is ridiculous and completely misses the point.

Once again, Dembski proudly reveals his cluelessness.

FTK wrote:

I'm merely saying that we all need to be upfront and honest about our words and actions and how they play out in these little tifts between the ID and evolution proponents.

And I'm merely saying that you accept the fact that Hector Avalos is not responsible for Gonzalez' bad career moves. Bringing up anyone else's name, much less the first atheist you all could find, is in all ways dispicable, unprofessional, childish and wildly inappropriate.

So if you are interested in "getting along", then I suggest you apologize directly to Avalos for implying that anyone other than Gonzalez is responsible for his bad career choices and that you further apologize for supporting John H's sloppy remarks about what Avalos' book "appeared to say".

But let's be honest. You aren't merely saying that we be honest and forthright about our opinions, are you? After all, Avalos has made himself pretty clear, several times. You are attempting to make it seem as if he is to blame for Gonzalez tenure denial, and you think if Avalos admits that having a tenured ID advocate at his university would be an embarrasment you've proved it.

Guess what honey, pretty much everyone thinks it would be an embarrassment because it would be. For the same reason that having a tenured psychic surgery advocate in a medical school would be. If you don't understand that, or if you think Avalos is somehow responsible for making ID the laughingstock that it is, then you really, really need to get out more.

Anyway, I will say that feel sorry for Gonzalez. With friends like you guys, there isn't much more damage Avalos (or any of us) could do, even if he tried. This really reflects badly on him, and that is unfair.

At the risk of boring everyone, I will respond to the DI's attempt to shift attention from a current tenure case to a tenure case (mine) from nearly a decade ago. I received tenure at Iowa State University in the spring of 1998.

Insofar as Dr. Dembski's query (post #140 above) about whether my article in Mercury was considered for my tenure case, the answer is definitely NO.

My tenure portfolio with actual publications was submitted in the fall of 1997, BEFORE that article in Mercury was published in 1998. That article, if at all, would have been cited as work in progress, in the fall of 1997.

Ms. Denise O'Leary's suggestion that this article was "planted" to thwart Dr. Gonzalez's tenure case is beyond contemptible, unless she attributes psychic predictive powers to me in 1998 (and keeping in mind that Dr. Gonzalez did not arrive at ISU until
2001). See post #13 (5-25-07)
http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/and-hector-avalos-deserves-ten…

When going for promotion to full professor, that article was not listed as part of my refereed publications. In fact, I was MORE than honest. On my official CVs, I classified the Mercury article in a non-refereed category (e.g., "other," "invited," or "semi-popular" etc.) DESPITE the fact that Mercury has "journal" in its own subtitle.

But I had to cite the name of the publication accurately and completely, nonetheless. What else was I to do if Mercury called itself that in 1998?

Since my article was not "peer-reviewed," I was honest enough to say that it passed editorial review. Again, why reprove me for being honest?

Because I was responding to the charge that I had no right to speak about the "scientific" merits of ID, I pointed out that passing the review of an editor who is an astronomer should be a credit to an author who is not an astronomer.

After all, The Privileged Planet is published by Regnery Press, which is not even a science press at all.

And Dembski's co-bloggers, who are obsessed with comparing my citation and article counts to those of Dr. Gonzalez, are simply misinformed about how different the fields of religious/biblical studies are from Astronomy.

Strict citation counts are not how we are judged in biblical studies. Refereed articles may count more in Astronomy than books. Books count for a lot in biblical/religious studies.

I had 5 books (4 solely authored, and one edited) since I received tenure in three very different areas (ancient health care, U.S. Latino Studies, and religion and violence). I believe that is the most books ever published by any associate professor in my department at the time such an associate professor was promoted to full professor. If that level of productivity is "fluff," then I plead guilty.

Nor are big grants expected of biblical scholars (such is the case for many scholars in the humanities).

The impact of our work, especially books, is judged by other scholars and journal reviewers in order to measure a candidate's status in our fields, one of which is, for me, health care in the ancient Near East.

In assessing my status in this area of inquiry, I will quote not with my own words, but the words of Mark W. Hamilton, an independent reviewer of my book, Health Care and the Rise of Christianity (1999), in the journal Restoration Quarterly (2001) p. 124:

"One of the foremost experts on ancient Near Eastern medicine and the author of a major monograph on the subject (Illness and Health Care in the Ancient Near East, [Harvard Semitic Monographs 54; Atlanta Scholars Press, 1995]) extends his research here into early Christianity."

To be regarded, by independent reviewers, as "one of the foremost experts" in my field is what is important in going from associate to full professor. An article in Mercury was one of those supplementary items that showed my range of interests.

Service may also be of greater weight in going from associate to full professor. I had been administering a new academic program I had founded (U.S. Latino/a Studies) at ISU at the same time I was producing 5 books, refereed articles, book chapters, serving on committees, speaking in churches, etc.

I also had won a Master Teacher award in 2003-04 in addition to the university-wide Professor of the Year award in 1996.

So forgive me for thinking that I had teaching, research, and service requirements well covered. What else would Dr. Dembski like to see me do in my spare time?

In any case, the DI's overall tactics in Dr. Gonzalez's tenure-denial case are certainly misguided. The case for tenure should be made in the field and department of Astronomy, and not on requirements for tenure or for promotion to full professor in biblical/religious studies.

Besides, Bill Dembski and John West are not biblical scholars, and so why do they arrogate for themselves the right to pass judgment on my work in biblical studies, but deny me the right to pass judgment on ID, which is a religious concept.

The DI is not creating any more sympathy for the overall cause of ID when colleagues at ISU and in the broader community of scientists and scholars see the manner in which the DI is conducting itself.

In fact, the DI now seems to be persuading even past detractors to come to my defense unsolicited. See, for example, the post at Higgaion ("In Defense of Hector Avalos") by a biblical scholar with whom I have disagreed in the past: http://www.heardworld.com/higgaion/?p=621#comments

By Hector Avalos (not verified) on 27 May 2007 #permalink

The response from William Dembski, after I left a similar response on Uncommon
Descent:
http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/and-hector-avalos-deserves-ten…
Response #48
William Dembski
05/27/2007
5:35 pm
To Hector Avalos: Thank you for your forthright response and for answering my questions. You certainly seem worthy of tenure, and I expect I would have voted for your tenure had I been on any of the appropriate committees. (Would you do the same for Guillermo Gonzalez?)

Your preceding comment, however, raises another question, which is, How do you understand persecution? If you think the questions I raised on this blog constitute persecution, then you live a very cossetted life.

I suspect that you did not lose any sleep over my blog post. On the other hand, by poisoning the well for Guillermo with your petition and attacks against him on campus, I suspect that you did cause him considerable upset.

You really did institute a witch hunt against Guillermo. In referring to a witch hunt here, I was merely being ironic. In any case, please be sure to let us know what negative repercussions this post has on your career at ISU. If anything, you seem to be getting considerable mileage now by playing the martyr. So even your past detractors are now coming to your defense because of the "attack" here? You are welcome to these new supporters -- I certainly have no use for them.

By the way, my wife is from Iowa, and I get up there now and again. I'd be happy to debate you at ISU if you're up for it. My one condition is that I have as much uninterrupted time to present my case as you do yours. The title of my talk would be "How to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

By Hector Avalos (not verified) on 27 May 2007 #permalink

I suppose with literalists, you have to be literal so that if someone suggests googling an individual as an act,that he must also provide the exact terms and such he is googling or else it isn't valid.
Funny, I thought google had finally entered the language as a verb. At any rate following Dr. Hansen's instructions, I find 2 articles, one from 1990, the other 1992.
The search speaks for itself.

Dembski wrote:

You really did institute a witch hunt against Guillermo. In referring to a witch hunt here, I was merely being ironic. In any case, please be sure to let us know what negative repercussions this post has on your career at ISU. If anything, you seem to be getting considerable mileage now by playing the martyr.

How did Avalos institute a "witch hunt" (in any sense of that phrase) against Gonzalez? That petition didn't mention Gonzalez by name, and those who made the actual decision on Gonzalez' tenure were not bound to obey it in any case. Furthermore, the facts of the case pretty well prove that, while support of ID pseudoscience is indeed valid grounds for denial of tenure, that was in fact not the primary reason (or even A reason) for denial of tenure in Gonzalez' case.

So now Dembski accuses Avalos of "playing the martyr" AFTER Avalos explicitly shows himself unbowed by the creationists' smears; then Dembski plays the very same "martyr" card himself, and cries about how Avalos is still standing while Gonzalez got discredited. What a hypocritical crybaby!

Your preceding comment, however, raises another question, which is, How do you understand persecution?

Speaking for myself, I'd say I "understand persecution" from listening to opponents of creationism describe how they were treated by their "community" after initiating lawsuits like the Kitzmiller case.

Then, on top of all that, Dembski tries to salvage his manly-scientist credentials by challenging Avalos to a debate, on a (completely unrelated) subject of his own choosing, and implying that Avalos is not "up for it" if he refuses.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be stupid enough to take Dembski seriously anymore.

I think it is a very interesting question why the global warming stuff splits left/right.

That question is wrong. Acceptance that global warming is an observed fact splits US right vs the whole rest of the world. Even Europe's shrillest xenophobes don't deny global warming.

We really should be striving to live together peacefully, accept differences of opinion, and keep our schools open to academic freedom, or this culture war we find ourselves in is going to continue to get worse.

Heh heh. That sounds good. That sounds very good. But, you see, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. That ID is not science is a fact; from that fact it follows that people who don't understand that ID is not science don't understand what science is, and surely you agree that understanding what science is should be a prerequisite for being employed at a university.

And, PZ, you really need to cool it with the name calling. It's not very professional. You noticed that when I used *your* words, I was accused of being "shrill". That should tell you something.

If you can't stand the heat, what are you doing in the lab with your head over the sand bath? If you can't tell apart what PZ said and how he said it, I'll join the chorus of those who question your reading comprehension skills*. Being shrill and being wrong are not the same thing.

* That doesn't need to be an accusation that you are stupid, mind you. Maybe you were taught to read as if English words were Chinese characters -- a very effective method to prevent you from ever making sense of words you haven't encountered before, and from deciphering statements that don't conform to your expectations.

It is not for no reason that we live in a republic, and not a pure democracy

The words you are probably looking for are "representative democracy" and "direct democracy". "Republic" just means "not a monarchy". (Even though etymologically -- "public affair" as opposed to "private affair" -- it shouldn't.)

Regarding comment 136, I'd like to see the 2nd quote in context; in the others, however, I can't see how Avalos "blames the Jews for the Holocaust". The most blatant example is the 2nd-to-last quote: Hitler saw himself as a lot of things, delusional as he was -- I'd be very surprised if Avalos thought Hitler was right about himself! The last quote is accurate, BTW: the Bible is quite a bit more explicit.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 26 May 2007 #permalink

I wrote:

Acceptance that global warming is an observed fact splits US right vs the whole rest of the world.

That's using the US definitions of "left" and "right". Remember that the conservative candidate for US President in 2004 was Kerry.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 26 May 2007 #permalink