Ball State University seems intent on embarrassing itself. The latest news, provided by an reader who likes real science, is that BSU has hired yet another Discovery Institute (DI) intelligent-design creationist to teach astronomy classes.
Yep, you’re right–that’s Guillermo Gonzalez, a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and currently an associate professor of Physics at Grove City College. According to Wikipedia, he’s also “a fellow with the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design, which also promotes intelligent design.” (It’s not clear to me whether Gonzalez will just be visiting and teaching at BSU or is a permanent hire.)
You may know about the man for several reasons, one of which is his co-authorship of the notorious book The Privileged Planet, described below. Although I haven’t read the book, I have seen the video on which it’s based, and it gives a religiously slanted view of cosmology. Its message: Earth was designed by
God an Intelligent Designer as a great place from which to find out more about the universe.
Here’s a bit more about his background, again from Wikipedia:
Gonzalez was a regular contributor to Facts for Faith magazine produced by Reasons To Believe, an old earth creationist group.In addition to his work for the Discovery Institute and International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, he is a researcher for the Biologic Institute, which is funded by the institute for research into intelligent design.
In 2004 he published The Privileged Planet and its accompanying video, which takes the arguments of the Rare Earth hypothesis and combines them with arguments that the Earth is in prime location for observing the universe. He then proposes that the Earth was intelligently designed. William H. Jefferys, a Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, reviewed the book writing “the little that is new in this book isn’t interesting, and what is old is just old-hat creationism in a new, modern-looking astronomical costume.” Co-author Jay Richards responds to such criticism with the following statement: “It has absolutely nothing to do with biological evolution. We are talking about the things that you need to produce a habitable planet, which is a prerequisite for life. It doesn’t tell you anything about how life got here.” A documentary based on the book was produced by the Discovery Institute.
Gonzalez is also notorious for having been denied tenure at Iowa State University, which led the Discovery Institute to cast him as a martyr fired for his belief in ID. The University has denied that, and was supported by the Chronicle of Higher Education. From Wikipedia again:
The University has issued an FAQ concerning the situation saying that “The consensus of the tenured department faculty, the department chair, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the executive vice president and provost was that tenure should not be granted. Based on recommendations against granting tenure and promotion at every prior level of review, and his own review of the record, President Gregory Geoffroy notified Gonzalez in April that he would not be granted tenure and promotion to associate professor.” The denial of tenure for Gonzalez resulted in one of the Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns with the Institute encouraging its followers to call and email Geoffroy and urge him to reverse the decision.
The Chronicle of Higher Education said of Gonzalez and the Discovery Institute’s claims of discrimination “At first glance, it seems like a clear-cut case of discrimination … But a closer look at Mr. Gonzalez’s case raises some questions about his recent scholarship and whether he has lived up to his early promise.” The Chronicle observed that Gonzalez had no major grants during his seven years at ISU, had published no significant research during that time and had only one graduate student finish a dissertation.
That’s not a strong case for tenure. But even if Gonzalez had been denied tenure not for lack of good scholarship but because of his work on ID, I would not consider that a tenure-able accomplishment. Such work would not have been publishable in decent scientific journals, for ID is, after all, a religously based theory with no scientific support.
Gonzalez now has an untenured position at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, where he heads an astronomy program.
Now I’m not claiming that Gonzalez is going to teach intelligent design, or proselytize for religion in Ball State classrooms, but really, is this the best BSU can do when hiring astronomy professors, even on a temporary basis? Is there some unholy connection between BSU and the Discovery Institute, or is the Department of Astronomy just sympathetic to intelligent design?
Regardless, this is a very unwise move for Ball State, particularly when one of its other astronomy professors, Eric Hedin, is under investigation for teaching ID in an astronomy class. If the University wants to retain any scientific credibility, they should start hiring scientists who will teach real science and not religious apologetics.