Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Should an Intelligent Design Creationist Be Denied Tenure?

The quick answer is, yes.

Guillermo Gonzalez was recently denied tenure in Iowa State's Dept. of Astronomy. It seems clear that part of the decision was based on Gonzalez's promotion of demonstably bad science; namely, Intelligent Design Creationism.

Mike Dunford spells it out on The Questionable Authority [The Discovery Institute and the Gonzalez Tenure Issue: Why Should Intelligent Design be Privileged?].
It is clear from the fragments of email that the Discovery Institute released that Gonzalez's colleagues believed - correctly - that Intelligent Design is not science, and that if Gonzalez believes otherwise it casts doubts on his understanding of science. They were not arguing that his belief in ID should be used against him just because he believes In ID. They were arguing that Gonzalez's belief in Intelligent Design is evidence that he has an incorrect understanding of science.

If a tenure candidate at an astronomy department were to argue that the moon is made of green cheese, it would not be unreasonable for the tenure committee to question the candidate's scientific credentials - and that candidate would be making a scientific argument that could be examined experimentally. Gonzalez doesn't even have that much going for him.
This is an important point. As Mike points out, the Discovery Institute is fond of promoting its work as "science" and it's proud to claim Guillermo Gonzalez as a bona fide scientist.

The Discovery Institute can't have it both ways. If it's science, then Gonzalez should be judged on the quality of his science, in which case he will be found wanting and denied tenure. If it's religion, then Gonzalez should not be making claims that his work is scientific and he should not put his creationist work on his CV.

In an effort to win an appeal, Gonzalez and his backers obtained email messages fro Professors in the Astronomy Department via the freedom of information act. Here's one email comment by Eli Rosenberg, the Chair of the Astronomy Department [see More on Gonzalez tenure denial].
... on numerous occasions, Dr. Gonzalez has stated that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory and someday would be taught in science classrooms. This is confirmed by his numerous postings on the Discovery Institute Web site. The problem here is that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. Its premise is beyond the realm of science. … But it is incumbent on a science educator to clearly understand and be able to articulate what science is and what it is not. The fact that Dr. Gonzalez does not understand what constitutes both science and a scientific theory disqualifies him from serving as a scienceeducator.
I see nothing wrong here. I looks to me like this is grounds for tenure denial.


  1. Do you know if Michael Behe refers to ID in his classes at Lehigh? I always thought that if he did, he could be easily fired for that.

  2. I agree, there was every good reason to deny tenure just based on his ID stance alone. Unfortunately the Iowa State University was less than forthcoming about this. So now, all the IDers are gleefully rubbing their hands over the supposed 'evidence' in the form of emails from Gonzalez's peers. They are all 'aghast' that Gonzalez could be denied just on ID alone (espeically O'Leary, but then she twists and blows up everything out of proportion).

    But seems perfectly reasonable to me! ISU has nothing to apologize about whatsoever!!!

  3. I agree, and I can't understand why there is much debate about this. The Chronicle of Higher Education says in an article on the issue "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."

    Nevermind Gonzalez's (lack of) scholarly attributes - where is the (possible) discrimination they speak of? Race? No. Gender? No. Religion...?

  4. ISU has nothing to apologize about whatsoever!!!

    Lousy communications? It should have been obvious that any public communications on this issue needed to be crisp and clear. From what I've seen so far, they were neither.

  5. hey, I could be uninformed. Maybe you can tell me what makes evolution a scientific theory and ID not. I can not imagine where all the evidence for evolution is hiding but nobody seems willing to point me toward it.

    Please understand, ID is a theory of existence that is scientifically unprovable as is, I believe, evolution.

  6. ID is a theory of existence that is scientifically unprovable

    You are relying on multiple definitions of "theory." If it is not supportable ("provable" would not be the right word, and only goes to reinforce the impression that you are ignorant on the matters of which you would speak) with experiment and evidence, and is therefore not scientific, then it is not a "theory" in the scientific sense. You are trying to ride into the discussion on one definition of theory and ride off on another.

  7. One basic reason why ID is not a theory (scientific or otherwise) is that it has no positive, substantive, content to it. In particular, ID offers no answers to the traditional questions of expository writing: Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How.

    Another basic reason why ID is not a theory is that it does not offer an explanation for anything. In particular, there is nothing that is more or less likely than anything else, according to ID.

    Is there anything which is so unlike a scientific theory as is ID?

  8. What a ridiculous article. The claim that the moon is made of green cheese is clearly and obviously untrue. The claim that the universe is intelligently designed is intelligently designed is based on the obvious fact that there is an appearance of design throughout nature. The fact is that anyone who believes in God believes in intelligent design. What idiots like this guy are saying is that essentially you can only be a scientist if you are an atheist, which rules out many of the greatest scientists in history.