Iowa Citizens for Science on Gonzalez and the Discovery Institute

The Iowa Citizens for Science have a great press release up concerning the Gonzalez tenure case at ISU.

Iowa Citizens for Science, a grassroots group dedicated to improving public education, feels that the Discovery Institute and Guillermo Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the creationist think tank, are circumventing the normal scientific process to promote their religious ideology. Gonzalez and the DI have announced plans to sue Iowa State University, asserting that ISU violated Dr. Gonzalez’ First Amendment rights in denying his tenure application.

The claim that his rights were violated seems odd to many observers. “How can Gonzalez complain if his work on ID was considered?” wonders Dr. Tara Smith, president of Iowa Citizens for Science and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa. “If intelligent design is scientific, his department is entitled judge his work in that field. If ID is not science, it’s fair to question why their faculty member is spending so much of his time and resources on it. The claims of persecution issuing from the Discovery Institute and Dr. Gonzalez require that intelligent design be both science and religion. This isn’t about science, it’s about politics.”

It isn’t just that the DI wants IDC to be both science and religion; they want to pick and choose which view is legitimate in every available context. In the “Expelled” roadshow, the tour presenters want everybody to know that IDC is religion. Anyplace that they think may include skeptics, they want to claim IDC is all science and has nothing to do with religion. In the Gonzalez case, they can’t seem to figure out exactly which thing to call it. If it is “religion”, then they can play the “religious discrimination!” and “persecution!” cards (as Gonzalez is featured in the “Expelled” roadshow). If it is “science”, they can play the “Darwinists don’t get our paradigm shift” card. But each of those comes at a cost, and the DI wants to welch on that. If they go the religion route, they can’t legitimately push for governmental imprimatur or special treatment. If they go the science route, they can’t legitimately claim that criticism is out of bounds. The DI simply wants it all to go their way, without any ill consequences. They want the deference that we in the USA are used to giving a divergent and narrow religious view, meaning no criticism involving the merit of the view, and the respect that is due to a successful scientific research program. People need to wake up to the fact that the DI should have no expectation that others will allow them to play “privileged politics”; nor can they expect that non-science will not be recognized as non-science and given the level of respect due a sham aimed at evading the constitution.

The ISU astronomy department did not publicly release detailed reasons for the tenure denial, but the Chronicle of Higher Education found that Gonzalez’ rate of publication had dropped off dramatically since he joined the ISU faculty. None of his graduate students had completed their programs, and he had not received grants from the National Science Foundation or NASA, the major funders of astronomical research. The decline in Gonzalez’ productivity corresponds to the time when he began writing and promoting intelligent design.

The DI wants to deny that anything but IDC was an issue in the tenure considerations, or diminish how much emphasis went into consideration of the other factors. Apparently, the Monday press conference strained them a bit on the timetable, and one can see it reflected in some parts of their 44-page press package, as in footnote #79:

79 Get some cites to post-UW metallicity papers from GG.

Back to the ICfS release…

Dr. Paul Bartelt, past president of the Academy of Science and professor of biology at Waldorf College, is not surprised. “Intelligent design is not science, and it’s fairly predictable that his scientific productivity dropped off once he devoted himself to pursuing an unscientific agenda. I don’t know what his department considered, but declining scientific productivity and the reasons for that decline would be fair points to consider.” Tenure denial is not rare; a third of the applicants in Gonzalez’s department over the last decade were denied tenure.

Gonzalez listed The Privileged Planet, his book about intelligent design, in his tenure review file. “How can he and the DI claim that it was improper for ISU to consider the material he asked them to review?” Dr. Gregory Tinkler, of Iowa Citizens for Science, asked. “He invited his colleagues to consider his work on ID. His department and the scientific community have examined ID, and found that it isn’t science. Gonzalez made his best case and lost at every level of tenure review. Being a religious scientist is perfectly normal and acceptable, but scientists are supposed to be able to separate science from non-science, and good research from bad. Academic freedom protects a scientist’s ability to do science, not to pass off a political or religious crusade as science.”

That’s an important point. Gonzalez had control of what he would or would not put on the table for evaluation in the tenure deliberations. Gonzalez chose to put his IDC book, “Privileged Planet”, in his tenure dossier. The DI is trying to obscure this point or deny it outright, as one finds in their press package:

Yet Dr. Hira wrote that “[i]t is undeniable that his work in ID was considered during the tenure review,” intimating that Dr. Gonzalez opposed having his ID work considered by his tenure evaluators.

Hello? How can anyone claim that Gonzalez did not want his ID work evaluated in his tenure application when he himself prominently included it in his very own tenure dossier? Well, how could anyone with a working conscience do that, I should say.

Finishing up with the ICfS release:

In 2005, faculty members at ISU, the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa signed petitions to inform the public and policymakers that ID is not science. The Kansas Board of Education was considering ID-based science standards, and the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial under way in Dover, Pennsylvania was testing whether teaching intelligent design in public high schools was unconstitutional. A federal judge, John A. Jones, ruled in December, 2005 that intelligent design is a form of creationism making it a religious view and not a science, and that teaching it in public schools violates students’ First Amendment rights.

Iowa Citizens for Science is a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to improving science education in the Hawkeye State. Its membership consists of scientists, educators and parents from across the state. On the web at www.iowascience.org.

See also Mike Dunford’s view at Panda’s Thumb.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

6 thoughts on “Iowa Citizens for Science on Gonzalez and the Discovery Institute

  • 2007/12/06 at 10:53 am
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    This is consistant with their approach at and after Dover. Ask both that scientfic status of ID not be considered – and ask that it be considered in favor of the DI position. That way, they win regardless. If it was judged as science, they would loudly proclaim how both they and plaintiffs asked for it. If it was not so judged (as happened in real life), they’d loudly proclaim that they never wanted it judged in the first place. Heads they win, tails they win. No ‘other’ science asks for or needs these exemptions.

  • 2007/12/06 at 11:04 am
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    It’s probably no coincidence that Steve “Affirmative Action For Ideas” Fuller was part of the defense at Dover.

  • 2007/12/06 at 12:36 pm
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    Ah yes, Mr. Po-Mo himself. People have the right to hold such ideas if they so choose, but there is no “right“ for them to be accepted. Wasn’t it Twain who said people have a right to their own opinions, not to their own facts?

  • 2007/12/07 at 10:21 am
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    Seems to me, that Gonzales has simply made the shift to ID a little sooner than Behe did in his career. After all, why waste all that time on actual hard science work, when he can start to cash in on the ID gravy train. And who knows how long that gravy train will be providing. Seems rather like a planned outcome. All this hubbub then being the payoff in media buzz, etc.

  • 2007/12/11 at 2:39 am
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    Dangnabit, this is a great post. Why not add it to PT?

  • 2007/12/11 at 9:16 pm
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    Following Geirge, I’m beginning to suspect that this whole thing is an elaborate publicity stunt. Maybe the DI has come to the conclusion that, for now at least, they can’t win in the courts, so they’re just spreading the word through good old fashioned propaganda.

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