The tenure denial of Guillermo Gonzalez by Iowa State University has been much discussed on this blog of late. The tenure of Hector Avalos, religious studies professor and militant atheist at Iowa State University, however, has yet to be broached here. So let’s do it.
Avalos conducted a witch hunt of Guillermo Gonzalez back in 2005 (go here). He just posted on PZ MyersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ blog a response to the Discovery Institute (go here). Here is an interesting quote from it:
I may not be an astronomer, but my article, “Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy,” passed the editorial review of Mercury: The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 27 no. 2 (March/April, 1998), pages 20-24. There, I critiqued fine-tuning arguments before I even heard of Gonzalez.
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is the same organization that has published, via a sister publication (Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific), some of the work of Guillermo Gonzalez.
So the irony is that it is the scholar of religion whose work passed the editorial review of a legitimate astronomical organization, and it is the astronomer who has not published a refereed article on ID in an astronomical journal.
A couple of points about Avalos’s article. First, he misstates the name of the journal. It is actually called Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mercury Magazine,Ã¢â‚¬Â and is not the ASPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s academic journal. It is its membership magazine. In fact, ASP does not list as an academic journal but under the category of magazine: www.astrosociety.org/pubs.html. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why Avalos says it passed editorial muster but not peer-review muster. This way he can fudge on the articleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s status but have plausible deniability. This is also evident by his placing in the magazineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s subtitle Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Journal of…Ã¢â‚¬Â even though it is not there in the actual publication. See the contributors guidelines here: www.astrosociety.org/…/guidelines.html. There is quote from it worth extracting:
We encourage writers to read past issues to get a sense of MercuryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s style. Mercury strives for a conversational tone. As you write your article, envision yourself sitting next to a stranger during a long airplane flight. The stranger asks about your interests, and after you tell him or her that you are an astronomer or are interested in astronomy, the stranger asks you for more detail. The stranger is intelligent and inquisitive, and may have a basic knowledge of science and astronomy, but he or she does not have a formal education in astronomy. Write the article as if you are speaking to this person. And remember that most readers will be reading your article in their leisure time.
Rigorous academic journal? Has Avalos puts this on his CV as a peer-reviewed article? Did this help him get tenure or promotion at ISU?
Second, the article touches the fine-tuning arguments in a cursory and superficial way, something one would expect from an academic not well-versed in the details of the philosophical arguments that one is required to know in order to engage the topic competently. Most of the article is a superficial rant against Bible-science arguments, rehashing the Galileo case in its secular urban-legend fashion. This is perhaps not surprising given Avalos’s biosketch at the end of the article (note that he was an assistant professor at the time he wrote it and thus without tenure):
HECTOR AVALOS is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University in Ames, where he was named the 1996 Professor of the Year. He also serves as Executive Director for the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. He was a former fundamentalist child evangelist who now crusades for a non-religious understanding of the universe.
Note the statement in bold. Could it be that Avalos has gone too far in going after Gonzalez? Is he so desperate to undo Gonzalez’s “religious understanding of the universe” that he discredits himself rather than Gonzalez?
Third, if Avalos has fudged on the status of this articleÃ¢â‚¬â€and has done so in a very public wayÃ¢â‚¬â€his CV may loaded with this type of fluff. Perhaps it’s time to start hunting for the real witch.