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Two faculty members at Iowa State University have conceded that the beliefs of assistant professor of astronomy and physics Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of “The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery,”
played a part in the school’s decision to deny him tenure.
A story to be published in World Magazine quotes professor Eli Rosenberg, chairman of the physics and astronomy department at the school, insisting that intelligent design “was not an overriding factor” in the decision but that it “played into” the process.
The article also reported that astronomy professor Curtis Struck said he was unsurprised by the denial because Gonzales “includes some things in his astronomy resume that other people regard as taking a coincidence too far.” His reference apparently was to the issue of intelligent design.
As WND reported earlier, a report in the Ames, Iowa, Tribune said Gonzales was one of three members of the ISU faculty denied promotion or tenure of the 66 considered during the past academic year.
“I was surprised to hear that my tenure was denied at any level, but I was disappointed that the president at the end denied me,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez’ acknowledgment of intelligent design had earned him opposition within the school earlier. In 2005, three ISU faculty members drafted a statement and petition against intelligent design in the science curriculum that collected 120 signatures.
Claims for intelligent design, said the ISU faculty statement “are premised on (1) the arbitrary selection of features claimed to be engineered by a designer; (2) unverifiable conclusions about the wishes and desires of that designer; and (3) an abandonment by science of methodological naturalism.
“Whether one believes in a creator or not, views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith, and so not within the scope or abilities of science. We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of ‘science and technology,’ convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray intelligent design as science.”
Officials with Evolution News, which has reported extensively on the case, earlier said two of the professors linked to the statement were in the astronomy and physics department: Prof. Steven Kawaler, who has linked to the statement on his website, and Univerity Professor Lee Anne Willson, who is married to ISU math professor Stephen J. Wilson, who signed it.
Rosenberg also told World Magazine that the “reputation” of the professor among others in his field is a significant factor. “Of course, if ‘reputation’ is used as a code word for whether one’s views are popular among fellow scientists, then this is another way anti-ID bias entered into the decision,” Evolution News said.
Evolution News also debunked Rosenberg’s claim that there was something deficient about Gonzalez’s research record.
“You take a look at somebody’s research record over the six-year probationary period and you get a sense whether this is a strong case. Clearly, this was a case that looked like it might be in trouble,” he said.
“Really?” questioned Evolution News in its commentary. “Was Gonzalez somehow derelict in publishing 350 percent more peer-reviewed publications than his own department’s stated standard for research excellence? Or in co-authoring a college astronomy textbook with Cambridge University Press? Or in having his research recognized by Science, Nature, Scientific American and other top science publications?”
In 2004 Gonzalez department nominated him for an “Early Achievement in Research” honor, his supporters noted.
According to Robert J. Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor, he checked a citation index of journal papers, and found one of Gonzalez’ research papers had 153 citations listed; another had 139.
“I have sat on oodles of tenure committees at both a large private university and a state research university, chaired the university tenure committee, and have seen more tenure cases than the Pope has Cardinals,” he said. “This is a LOT of citations for an assistant professor up for tenure.”
He noted Willson’s top two papers have been cited 99 and 86 times.
The Discovery Institute, a Seattle group that supports the discussion of intelligent design evidence, has launched an action alert in support of Gonzalez.
“I think if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it likely is a duck,” John West, a senior fellow at the institute, said. “There are two issues here: academic freedom and the First Amendment.”
Gonzalez has reported he does not teach intelligent design at the school.
He also has declined to comment on why he believes he has now been denied tenure, but John G. West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute called it “ideological discrimination.”
Gonzalez has filed an appeal with ISU President Greg Geoffroy.
In 2005, WND reported the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. reneged on an agreement to co-sponsor the premier of Privileged Planet after coming under pressure from The Washington Post and James Randi – “the Amazing Randi” – magician and long-time debunker of psychic and paranormal claims.
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