Darwinism Evolution Intelligent Design

Guillermo Gonzalez — The Next Richard Sternberg?

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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
http://chronicle.com/temp/email.php?id=geiheleucp31k8ey2g35qhozlx5enqj2

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.

22 Replies to “Guillermo Gonzalez — The Next Richard Sternberg?

  1. 1
    Dan says:

    Sickening, but expected. The anti-science philosphers of MN need to be confronted in court if they discriminate against GG based upon his philosophical view of science.

  2. 2
    neurode says:

    That’s why the theory of evolution is so beloved by those of weak moral fiber: it tells them that all they have to do to live successful lives is “fit into their environments” while displaying just the right balance of profiles.

    As it goes for organisms and their natural environments, likewise for academic drones and their social, political and vocational environments. To “adapt”, they obtain academic credentials and develop uncontroversial theses approved by the majority; to “compete”, they sign petitions, exchange damning memos regarding ideological outliers, and generally apply pressure to the “weak and unfit”, i.e., to those who unwisely deviate from environmental norms, thus signaling to each other that they are eminently “fit”, i.e., well-adapted to the institutional fishtanks in which they reside.

    Yes, it’s an undistinguished and cowardly way to live, boring and even disgusting to many of the outsiders who read about it. But sometimes, academic organisms inadvertently introduce an element of comedy to their situation by pretending that “the public” is on their side, and that the man on the street mistakes their timidity for temerity and forthrightness. With the vast majority of citizens actually holding their opinions somewhere between doubt and contempt, they unwitting become a focus of public mirth.

    A fitting irony.

  3. 3
    Mats says:

    I think someone should tell James Colbert that Naturalism is not the basis of true science.

  4. 4
    Watchman says:

    “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.”

    Is this an alarming bit of ‘newspeak’, or am I overreacting?

  5. 5
    jasonng says:

    “Is this an alarming bit of ‘newspeak’, or am I overreacting?”

    It depends if Dr. Gonzalez can take on 120 of his colleagues in a “forum”. Now those are just slightly unfair numbers, don’t you think?

  6. 6
    SteveB says:

    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.”

    Indeed. Nothing is stopping Mr Avalos from writing his own book. He is free to express his views in whatever way he might like.

    I wonder how many Iowa State faculty members in recent memory have been singled out to defend their academic views in such a “mutually agreed upon forum”? Is this a standard practice at Iowa State? If not, why the special treatment for Gonzalez? I further wonder if Avalos or any of the rest of the 120 signers have actually bothered to read Gonzalez’ book (or any other professional treatment of ID for that matter)?

    In the end, it’s hard to interpret this as anything else but a campaign to intimidate and squelch academic dissent. And lets be clear–such a campaign is not “science”–it is fundamentalism in a lab jacket.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    johnnyb says:

    Philosophic claims masking as empirical science:

    “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.””

    Methodological naturalism is just that — methodological. Only philosophic naturalism is the view that all natural phenomena can be explained in such a way. Methodological naturalism is fine if it’s limits are played face-up. If science truly is the limitted to the study of the material, then we have to say “there’s many things that science cannot study, because of it’s limitations, and likewise its statements about past history cannot be trusted because of the constraints of its view”. If science is not limitted in such a way, then there is no reason to remove ID on any grounds from scientific theory.

    What really amuses me is that while anti-ID’ers constantly say, “well, what’s your theory for how things happened”, they fail to say what their theory is for detecting design. Let’s have a _real_ conversation. If Dembski’s procedure for detecting design is wrong, what is the right one? If there is no procedure for detecting design, how does one actually know that it did not occur, or at least is without evidence? The fact is that the evidence is so clear and dramatic for design in nature that allowing the subject to be broached would kill the dogmatic Darwinists.

    This last century is going to be remembered like the alchemists — they tried so desperately to turn lead into gold, but just weren’t able to bring themselves to admit that chemistry lacked such power. Likewise, biologists cannot bring themselves to admit that materialistic evolution lacks such power of creation.

  9. 9
    anteater says:

    # 4

    This is actually a compliment to Gonzalez. It takes 120 evolutionists to counter 1 strong ID proponent.

  10. 10
    DaveScot says:

    Johnny B said

    The fact is that the evidence is so clear and dramatic for design in nature that allowing the subject to be broached would kill the dogmatic Darwinists.

    Yup.

  11. 11
    jasonng says:

    “This is actually a compliment to Gonzalez. It takes 120 evolutionists to counter 1 strong ID proponent.”

    It really shows that ID proponents really know what they’re talking about, while Darwinists need to group together just to fight one guy.

  12. 12
    anteater says:

    It would be interesting to see the list of faculty who were given the petition but did not sign.

  13. 13
    jasonng says:

    “It would be interesting to see the list of faculty who were given the petition but did not sign.”

    Nope, they never intended to give a fair debate to this, the 120 set the rules and the rest are expected to follow along. It would be very surprising if someone publicly sided with Gonzalez, I’m sure many are siding with him in secret.

  14. 14

    I hate the term “McCarthyism” to the extent that I refuse to use it. McCarthy was right – his detractors were wrong.

  15. 15

    The cost of scientific dissent, part deux

    So little time, so many careers to ruin.

    “Guillermo Gonzalez is an Assistant Research Professor of Astronomy at Iowa State University, He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1993 from the University of Washington. He has done post-doctoral work at t…

  16. 16
    DaveScot says:

    I’d stand up for Gonzalez in a heartbeat. I love a fight and never mince words. Life’s too short to live a lie. Semper fidelis.

  17. 17
    notenure says:

    “It would be interesting to see the list of faculty who were given the petition but did not sign.”

    I am one of the faculty. The petition was emailed prior to publication to give people a chance to sign.

    As a young scientist who is in the intelligent design camp, I did not sign. Am I publicly standing up for Gonzalez? It’s extremely risky to deviate from the norm (which, in my discipline, is Darwinism) before having tenure. Actually, before retirement, if you factor politics into your career strategy.

    And as far as an invitation to a “forum”, from what I’ve heard, Avalos loves to tear an opponent apart in public debate.

  18. 18
    Srdjan says:

    #10
    120 out of 1600. Not bad 🙂

  19. 19
    anteater says:

    #17,

    Just curious, was the petition sent to all faculty or was it a chain-email sort of thing?

  20. 20
    notenure says:

    I received it along with the emails of our department faculty in the To: field.

  21. 21
    Analyysi says:

    Iowa State Daily, 1.9.2005:

    “At the request of ISU President Gregory Geoffroy, the ISU Faculty Senate will work to organize a forum to discuss Intelligent Design, a topic that in recent weeks has sparked hot debate on campus.”

    “Geoffroy has asked the Faculty Senate to sponsor a forum, said Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Faulty Senate secretary and associate professor of library.”

    “Claudia Baldwin, president of the Faculty Senate and associate professor of veterinary clinical sciences, said the date of the forum will be announced this semester.”

    http://www.iowastatedaily.com/.....68d658d5da

  22. 22

    […] Avalos conducted a witch hunt of Guillermo Gonzalez back in 2005 (go here). He just posted on PZ Myers’ 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. […]

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