News flash: I’m now a member of The Darwin Lobby! Or so says the vice-president of the Discovery Institute.
Yes, that’s true, but this is only a note of unintentional humor in a rather distressing piece of news.
Seth Slabaugh at the Muncie Star Press has written a piece on the hiring of intelligent-design (ID) advocate Guillermo Gonzalez in the Physics and Astronomy Department of Ball State University (BSU) in Muncie, Indiana. This department is already under fire for hosting a science course given by professor Eric Hedin, accused of teaching intelligent design (ID) in a public university as well as pushing a Christian point of view on his students. Hedin’s course is currently under review by a committee of professors appointed by BSU’s administration.
Gonzalez, you may recall, was something of an ID cause célèbre when he was denied tenure in 2007 at Iowa State University for failing to produce adequate scholarship. Since Gonzalez was also a vociferous ID advocate, having co-authored the ID book The Privileged Planet and its accompanying video, the Discovery Institute and other backers claimed that Gonzalez was discriminated against for working on ID. But his tenure appeal was denied on the grounds of poor academic performance, and Gonzalez took an untenured position at Grove City College, a small Christian school in Pennsylvania. As Wikipedia notes, Gonzalez is active in several venues for intelligent design:
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.
He’s also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.
A reader at BSU had informed me that Gonzalez’s name was down for two courses at BSU this fall, but it wasn’t clear whether he was simply doing a teaching stint or had been permanently hired at BSU, Now, according to Slabaugh’s piece in today’s paper, “Ball State hires intelligent design leader to teach astronomy“, the latter is the case. Gonzalez is now on staff as a tenure-track faculty member at BSU:
President Jo Ann Gora approved the hiring of Guiellermo Gonzalez as an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy on June 12 at a salary of $57,000.
Beginning Aug. 19, Gonzalez will be teaching The Sun and Stars, as well as The Solar System, both introductory astronomy classes.
Slabaugh quotes me on this turn of events, though I’m not keen on his characterization of me as “an atheist.” Is that relevant? If so, why aren’t Hedin and Gonzalez identified by their faith as well, for surely that’s at least as relevant to their activities as to mine?
“Do you see any pattern here?” Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, asked. “I’m wondering … why Ball State’s physics and astronomy department has a penchant for ID (intelligent design) people. This (hiring) 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.”
An atheist who claims religion and science are incompatible, Coyne is behind the investigation of Hedin. He complained about Hedin’s class to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“Why would [BSU] hire a person who didn’t get tenure at Iowa State because of his poor academic performance … and then went to a small religious school where I’m not sure he was tenured?” Coyne asked.
The paper also gives a bit of Gonzalez’s history and, unlike previous articles in the paper, at least attempts to show why there is scientific opposition to ID:
Intelligent design creationism is not supported by scientific evidence, according to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which was established when Abraham Lincoln was president to address the government’s need for an independent advisor on scientific matters.“Echoing theological arguments that predate the theory of evolution,” intelligent design supporters “contend that biological organisms must be designed in the same way that a mousetrap or a clock is designed,” NAS reports.
. . . The Des Moines Register reported in 2005 that Gonzalez had said publicly that he wanted to find a graduate student to pursue intelligent design.
After being forced out at ISU, Gonzalez told The Associated Press he had trouble finding another job. He sent about 15 applications to schools around the country.
“I didn’t receive a single invitation for an interview from many of the large public universities, even though I expected to,” he was quoted as saying. “In my opinion, if it hadn’t been for my known stance (on intelligent design), I would have been interviewed.”
Gonzalez finally wound up at Grove City College, a Christian school in Pennsylvania that does not have a tenure track program.
Grove City College has been on the American Association of University Professors’ list of censured administrations (for violations of academic freedom and tenure standards) longer than any other institution — since 1963, AAUP’s Greg Scholtz told The Star Press.
Fifty years on the censured list!
Gonzalez was one of the scientists who appeared in the controversial 2008 documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” It documented the plight of scientists and scholars who dare to question the claims of Darwinian evolution, which the film links to fascism, the Holocaust, communism, atheism, and eugenics. “Expelled: [sic] was denounced as propaganda by The American Association for the Advancement of Science, USA Today, The New York Times and others.
In response to questions about the hiring of Gonzalez, BSU spokeswoman Joan Todd — to whom press inquiries about Hedin and Gonzalez are being funneled — said in a prepared statement: “This is our response. His qualifications are in his cv (curriculum vitae).”
I guess those qualifications, though not sufficient for Iowa State, are good enough for Ball State. I haven’t yet seen the c.v., but BSU sounds awfully defensive.
Among other questions, [Todd] declined to answer whether BSU is seeking to become a research hub for intelligent design. She also declined to respond to Coyne’s comments, including, “Is there some unholy connection between BSU and the Discovery Institute, or is the department of astronomy just sympathetic to intelligent design?”
It probably would have been wiser had Todd admitted that ID is not science and that by no means would BSU try to become an ID research hub. Does BSU want scientific credibility or not?
[Gonzalez] declined comment to The Star Press. But his colleague John West, a political scientist and vice president of Discovery Institute, complained that Coyne is “taking it upon himself to try to dictate the curriculum and now the hiring decisions” of BSU’s department of physics and astronomy.
Coyne belongs to what West calls “the Darwin lobby.” “They don’t believe in academic freedom for anyone who disagrees with them, and they want to win the intellectual debate simply by silencing and intimidating any scholars who differ from them. In this case, Coyne is trying to destroy the careers of people in a discipline where he has no expertise whatsoever. Frankly, this is outrageous.”
I don’t believe in academic freedom for anyone who teaches religiously based woo as science, just as I wouldn’t for someone who taught astrology in a psychology class or homeopathy in medical school. As for my silencing and intimidating IDers, or trying to destroy careers, that’s insane. I have simply pointed out what I see as a violation of the First Amendment in a public university, and a blatant rejection of good standards for teaching science. And as for destroying careers, West is behaving just like an ID advocate: ignoring the facts. I’ve repeatedly said that I don’t think Hedin should be fired, but only that his course be deep-sixed. And I’ve said that BSU should keep an eye on Gonzalez to make sure he doesn’t teach ID in his science classes.
That doesn’t sound like “destroying careers” to me. The Discovery Institute is being a Drama Llama here, trying to set up these guys as martyrs.
But I do chuckle as being identified as a member of The Darwin Lobby. If that’s true, they haven’t yet sent me my membership card!
If you can’t read Slabaugh’s piece since there’s a per-month article limit, his piece also appears in the BoilerStation, apparently the Purdue-University news section of the Journal and Courier paper in Lafayette, Indiana. Like the Star Press, the Journal and Courier is also a Gannett paper.
Here’s an instructive comment on the BoilerStation site by one of Hedin’s students. She admits that Hedin was teaching the class from an intelligent-design viewpoint: