Monday, May 21, 2007

More on Professor Gonzalez's Tenure Battle at ISU

The Center for Science & Culture

Following the evidence where it leads

Key Developments in Gonzalez Tenure Denial Case, May 14-21

Action Item: Help Guillermo Gonzalez in his fight for academic freedom. Contact ISU President Gregory L. Geoffroy at (515) 294-2042 or email him at and let him know that you support academic freedom for Dr. Gonzalez to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

The big story this week was the denial of tenure to widely-published pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State University, despite the fact that he exceeded by 350% his department’s standard for research excellence in peer-reviewed publications. A quick recap of the key developments in the case:

1. Two tenured professors in Gonzalez’s department publicly admitted that his work on intelligent design played a role in his tenure denial.

2. Two additional faculty members in Gonzalez’s department were found to be connected to a national statement denouncing intelligent design as “creationist pseudoscience.”

3. Tenure statistics were obtained showing that 91% of faculty who applied for tenure this year at ISU received it, refuting the university’s claim earlier in the week that its tenure standards are “so high, that many good researchers have failed to satisfy the demands of earning tenure” at ISU.

4. Tenure standards for ISU's Department of Physics and Astronomy were released showing that outside research funding was not a stated criterion for tenure decisions in the department.

5. ISU continues to pretend that nothing is wrong while ignoring the hostile work environment for Gonzalez.


Anonymous said...

I was unable to access any of the links you placed in this post...

Sir Fab said...

For a rebuttal to a couple of points highlighted by Dr. Groothuis, see the following:
Show Me The Money

and this

"In the past 10 years, a third of the 12 tenure applicants in the physics and astronomy department have been denied. Asked if Gonzalez's Intelligent Design views were considered, department head Eli Rosenberg replied, 'Only to the extent that they impact his scientific credentials.'
One hopes the ISU president's response to the appeal will answer any lingering questions about bias toward Gonzalez for his personal beliefs. But Intelligent Design proponents are wrong to equate the exclusion of their theory from the classroom with academic bias. Professors are entitled to their own beliefs, but not to teach as science something that is not."
You can read the whole article here.

The clincher, to me, seems to be that regardless how many applicants were denied tenure on the whole, in the physics and astronomy department two thirds of applications were rejected.

I am not saying that it is impossible that the University's decision regarding Mr. Gonzalez's tenure is caused or aided by bias. But here's what I perceive the real issue to be: If a professor lets his personal unscientific beliefs encroach upon the right of students to be taught science, then I would support denial of tenure whatever his other credentials and strengths may be. If he can keep his personal beliefs out of the classroom, then I would say that denial of tenure, absent any other negative factors, is arbitrary. With one caveat: the University may still want to deny tenure to defend its scientific reputation by denying tenure to an applicant if it has reason to believe that the personal beliefs of the applicant may end up sneaking into his lectures and courses. Given the hard-earned ill repute of intelligent design in scientific circles, this is not a trivial consideration.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Sir Fab:

The distinction between personal beliefs and non-personal beliefs is not obviously true. For example, I think the kalam cosmological argument for God's existence is successful. Some philosophers disagree. In a sense, my belief in God is personal insofar as it is a belief had by me. But it also a belief for which I offer warrant. Admittedly, not everyone accepts that warrant. But why should I care? If one offers arguments I believe are convincing and others don't agree, that's life. But calling a belief "personal" does not change the quality of the argument or the critiques of it.

What you are trying to do is offer us some kind of air-tight epistemological exclusionary rule, a neat little method that can separate the "objective" from the "subjective." But it can't be done. After all, consider this: your awareness of yourself as an agent over time is not something you observe, for it is a necessary condition in order for observation to take place. Thus, there is something you know that is personal, since no one else can have direct acquaintance with the experience of being you over time. And yet, this seems to be a pretty solid knowledge-claim, even though it is not known empirically or a result of a hypothesis.

Ed Darrell said...

2. Two additional faculty members in Gonzalez’s department were found to be connected to a national statement denouncing intelligent design as “creationist pseudoscience.”

Is that supposed to be a problem? How? This statement was a telegraph to Gonzalez to get off his high horse, to contribute in the field, to avoid crank science. Are you suggesting we should blame the lighthouse when the ship runs aground on the rocks?