Friday, December 07, 2007

The Witch Trial of Dr. Gonzalez

The Discovery Institute has posted an updated document detailing the reasons why Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure at Iowa State University. It is simple. Despite his very impressive publication record, he was targeted because he advocates Intelligent Design--even though he never does so in the classroom. This is ideological assassination. There is no intellectual tolerance at state institutions when it comes to arguing against naturalism in the sciences.

I have an unpublished paper on why ID should be taught at state universities. It is called, "Intelligent Design and the State University: Accepting the Challenge," which is available on my web page. This was originally read on October 6, 2007, at “The Crisis of the University,” University of Colorado—Boulder.


Jeff S. said...

Wow, this is powerful stuff. I am very interested to see where this all goes from here.

His work on the "Priveleged Planet" brought up some points that I had not thought of before, such as the Earth's location in the galaxy being advantageous to exploration.

I hope Dr. Gonzalez is able to weather the storm and continue his work, either at ISU or somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

I'm also very interested to follow this. What shocks me is how blatant (not to mention fallacious) the remarks against him are.

I hope that ISU continues to take heat for this.

Ed Darrell said...

Gonzalez's publications fell off the table when he got to Iowa. He conducted very little research, attraced a pittance of research money (and much of that from a Discovery Institute contract that detracted from his astronomy work), and had very few graduate students.

On almost every scale of what one does in a science department to get tenure, Dr. Gonzalez didn't.

Powerful stuff? What the DI shows is that Gonzalez's department was appropriately concerned that he was merely occupying a chair and not carrying his share of the departmental load.You can see a chart of his publication record here:

It shocks me that anyone would defend this record as outstanding. It's shocking that Gonzalez's record of publications declined so dramatically once he got to Iowa State -- but it's not shocking that a lack of publications didn't get him tenure.

There is talk that advocacy of intelligent design produces writers' block in the advocates. What do you think?

Ed Darrell said...

I am absolutely mystified about your defense of ID. There is no science there, it should be clear from the lack of scientific output.

It's fine to teach intelligent design in theology, I suppose, where more rigorous proof standards of the sciences do not apply. But that is not what you argue.

At what point do we say some idea is lacking enough in substance that it should not be taught? Would you support study of pig aerodynamics, in the idea that pigs could fly, someday?

Of course not.

What's the difference between pig aerodynamics and intelligent design? I suspect there may be a lot more research available on pig aerodynamics than intelligent design. Certainly there is much more available on cold fusion, if you want a serious science topic.

How much relativism are you willing to allow in sciences?

Jeff S. said...

Ed, I must admit I am not familiar with the tenure process, and so I have not researched if Dr. Gonzalez qualifies based on his academic history. I suppose if it is true that he has not published much, then that seems a reasonable criticism. However, the email threads I read from ISU didn't mention his academic record, they seemed to focus on his support for ID. That raises some suspicion for me. Let's suppose his peer-reviewed record was outstanding, and they were on topics outside of ID. If he also happened to be a ID proponent, would that still disqualify him from tenure?

2nd question... And this one I'm still working out myself. I am not sure what kind of empirical data would actually point to design. I don't know what that would look like. Any test you run is going to provide some sort of quantifiable data, and the data itself I don't believe will point to a designer. I think this is up to the mind to intuit. However, would it be ok to hold ID as a hypothesis, as a reason for doing the experiment in the first place? For example, if I held to a designer and so I thought widget A was there for a purpose, I might do research to find out what it does.

3rd question... Would you agree that a forensic expert is involved in determining intelligence at a crime scene? The gunshots, the bag of money, hair samples... whatever the evidence is, the evidence doesn't necessarily prove agency, but the forensic expert takes that data and makes an inference to agency. Would you agree with this analogy? Is this not similar to what ID proposes? Or should I separate the actual forensic evidence (i.e. the science) from the person who looks at the evidence? Maybe this part of his/her job is better labeled as psychologist or something instead of scientist?

What do you think?


Jon said...

Dr. G,

Thanks for providing a link to your paper. Though I am quite familiar with the topic, it was a good refresher, and I look forward to using it as a resource for those who might wish for an introductory overview on the topic.

Marty "the fly" Rosenbloom said...

Interesting paper, but there are several problems.

Ed has already pointed out the red-herring in the ID discussion. The fact that Gonzalez argues from a conservative Christian perspective (and that this is what his tenure board was somewhat concerned about) should not obfuscate the problem of his publication record. Nor should others not privy to the facts jump in on the witch hunt.

Secondly, I read the paper and was impressed with some of your writing. I could tell that you've been mulling these ideas over; it didn't feel as if you were writing sentence by sentence with a source in one hand trying to figure out your next sentence. Good job! The problem, however, with this paper is that you don't cite any primary sources or academic publications. That said, I appreciate how you tipped your hand to the discussion that it wasn't research but a Christian apologia by citing your Bible verses. The honesty is refreshing and that's what bugs me about some ID proponents: there's a failure to be honest about the true intentions.

Let's make this clear, however. I'm an advocate of ID and a scientist, but ID is not science. It is not empirical.

Of the 50k scientists in America an astoundingly low number would disagree. I can think of a dozen, all of whom don't publish in the best science journals. Jesus' words about the narrow gate does not apply; it is not a conspiracy and the earth is not 10,000 years old (or less) as the Bible suggests.

Marty "the fly" Rosenbloom said...

I think an explanation is in order for those of you without advanced scientific training.

This is the ID methodology: God of the gaps. When something cannot be explained God must be the source. While I believe this is true, it is ad hoc. The absence of explanation is not proof for a creator. Every discipline has unexplained problems that seem to defy rationale, yet, this is not observable and testable proof.

Olorin said...

This is a witch trial, but the Dishonesty Institute is the one that's lighting the fire under Gonzales, not ISU. Their need for martyrs far outweighs any concern for Gonzales as a person.

Intelligent design is not only not science, but it seems to poison all other research among its adherents as well. Gonzales' publication rate dropped drastically when he became involved with ID. And so did Michael Behe's! Other DI "researchers" didn't have any publications to begin with. (If anyone claims that their articles were rejected because of ID, ask them how many they have ever submitted to mainstream scientific journals. (Hint: The answer starts with "Z" and ends with "o".)

Marty "the fly" Rosenbloom said...

Please defend this assertion: "Despite his very impressive publication record." In what leading journal was he published. Publishing popular literature and writing for a few non-prestigious journals is not "impressive."

This is misleading sophistry. Championing worthy cause is not grounds for dishonesty. Ed already pointed this out--now I expect you to be honest enough to retract your statement.

While I'm sure that you meant well in this statement, equivocation is not acceptable.

William Bradford said...

The entire Gonzalez history at ISU is an embarassment to his collegues. The treatment of him by Avalos et al was a disgrace. Apples and oranges, denying tenure based on Gonzalez's ID views while pretending a different motive is dishonest. The apologies should come from the Avalos crowd.

Sam said...

Is the baterial flagellum still considered 'irreducibly complex'?

William Bradford said...

Sam, is the translation mechanism irreducibly complex? Which tRNA aminoacyl synthetase can be dispensed with without impacting function?