Is ID-phobia the next wave of intellectual McCarthyism? Seems so, and according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, it’s invaded the Iowa heartland. Especially revealing is the following remark by Hector Avalos, a religion professor at Iowa State University: “We certainly don’t want to give the impression to the public that intelligent design is what we do.” I’m beginning to understand why Karl Marx had such contempt for the bourgeoisie.
120 Professors at Iowa State U. Sign Statement Criticizing Intelligent-Design Theory
By JAMIE SCHUMAN
Chronicle of Higher Education
120 professors at Iowa State U. sign statement criticizing intelligent-design theory
More than 120 faculty members at Iowa State University have signed a statement denouncing “intelligent design” and urging professors at the institution not to portray the theory as science.
The statement, which was published this week in the student-run newspaper, the Iowa State Daily, was prompted in part by recent news-media attention surrounding Guillermo Gonzalez, a professor at Iowa State who supports intelligent design as a theory of how life evolved.
Some professors at the institution do not want Iowa State to be perceived as a research hub for the controversial theory, Hector Avalos, one of the statement’s three authors, said in an interview on Thursday.
“We certainly don’t want to give the impression to the public that intelligent design is what we do,” said Mr. Avalos, who is an associate professor of religious studies.
Intelligent-design theory, sometimes referred to as “ID,” holds that some biological systems are so complex that they could have arisen only through the action of an intelligent force — ostensibly divine — and not simply through Darwinian evolution, the theory of life that has overwhelming support from scientists. The debate over creation-of-life theories has heightened in recent weeks partly because President Bush said intelligent design should be taught in schools (The Chronicle, August 3).
While the statement at Iowa State does not single out intelligent-design supporters by name, Mr. Avalos said he had helped to write it partly to counteract the publicity received by Mr. Gonzalez, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and a co-author of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery (Regnery Publishing, 2004), a book that promotes intelligent-design theory.
The book attracted publicity this summer after the Smithsonian Institution showed a documentary based on it.
Mr. Avalos said the statement was not intended to silence Mr. Gonzalez, or to get him fired, but to encourage him to speak on the issues in a “mutually agreed upon forum” where faculty opponents could raise questions. “The most important action we want,” said Mr. Avalos, “is not to suppress Dr. Gonzalez but to express our own view.”
Mr. Gonzalez is having none of that. In a written statement, he called the petition “an attempt to silence talk of ID by definitional fiat.”
“It is too late for this power grab,” Mr. Gonzalez wrote. “The genie is already out of the bottle — there are prominent scientists around the world engaged in ID research in their disciplines.”
But James T. Colbert, an associate professor in ecology, evolution, and organismal biology at Iowa State who is also a co-author of the statement, said that it was an attempt to inform the public that a majority of scientists reject intelligent-design theory.
The statement calls the theory “an abandonment by science of methodological naturalism,” which it describes as “the view that natural phenomena can be explained without reference to supernatural beings or events.”
“Whether one believes in a creator or not,” the statement says, “views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith, and so not within the scope or abilities of science.”
Michael P. Clough, an associate professor in the university’s Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education, is also a co-author of the statement.