left biblioblography: Slaughtering The Dissonance – Part The Deux

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Slaughtering The Dissonance – Part The Deux

I began researching the book, Slaughtering The Dissidents here, and began my step-by-step examination of some of the accusations that (I’m told) are in it. Part one is here. In part two, we’ll examine the claim that one of the big boys of the movement, one Guillermo Gonzalez, was in some way discriminated against.

Guillermo Gonzalez (born 1963 in Havana, Cuba) is an astrophysicist and notable proponent of intelligent design, and is a professor at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, considered the hub of the intelligent design movement, and a fellow with the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design, which also promotes intelligent design.

I’ll freely admit, not too crazy about any of his bylines, but as usual, instead of foraging about for interpretations I’d rather hear, we’ll just examine the hard cold facts, shall we?

Gonzalez obtained a BS in 1987 in Physics & Astronomy from University of Arizona and his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Washington in 1993 and has done post-doctoral work at the University of Texas, Austin and the University of Washington. He has received fellowships, grants and awards from NASA, the University of Washington, Sigma Xi, and the National Science Foundation. He is a proponent of the Galactic Habitable Zone concept. He currently teaches at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school, and was previously an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University until May 2008.

He has sufficient credentials – he’s obviously an expert in the field of astronomy.

Two years prior to his consideration for tenure, approximately 130 faculty of Iowa State University signed a statement co-authored by Hector Avalos, a professor of Religious Studies, opposing "all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor." Similar statements were issued by faculty at the University of Northern Iowa and at the University of Iowa. A total of approximately 400 professors signed the three petitions.

How on earth this would impact an astronomy professor is hard to see. Of course, somebody made a connection:

Although no mention of Gonzalez was made in these petitions, two years later at the time of his denial of tenure, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier called Gonzalez "the unnamed target" of the ISU petition.

An ‘unnamed target’? The eyes roll. Was there anyone else there who was an Intelligent Design advocate? (Shudder)

However, Hector Avalos has stated that this statement "was in no way targeted specifically at Gonzalez", that Tom Ingebritsen, an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, had been advocating, and teaching a course in, Intelligent Design at ISU for a number of years before Gonzales arrived, and that "[a]t that time [the] statement began to circulate, Dr. Gonzalez was not well-known as an ID advocate to most faculty even at ISU".

Well, my personal opinion is that ID shouldn’t even be within spitting distance of a science class, but who am I to dictate policy. Still, it tears a hole through the entire argument that one could drive a truck through.

Avalos also accused the Discovery Institute of "combining sentences from different sections of [the statement] in order create a fragmented syntax that appears to target Gonzalez":

Why is this unsurprising?

Denial of tenure and appeals

In April 2007 Iowa State University denied Gonzalez tenure.

On June 1, 2007, Gregory Geoffroy, President of Iowa State University, rejected Gonzalez's appeal and upheld the denial of tenure. In making this decision, Geoffroy states that he "specifically considered refereed publications, [Gonzalez's] level of success in attracting research funding and grants, the amount of telescope observing time he had been granted, the number of graduate students he had supervised, and most importantly, the overall evidence of future career promise in the field of astronomy" and that Gonzalez "simply did not show the trajectory of excellence that we expect in a candidate seeking tenure in physics and astronomy – one of our strongest academic programs." Geoffroy noted, "Over the past 10 years, four of the 12 candidates who came up for review in the physics and astronomy department were not granted tenure." Gonzalez appealed to the Iowa Board of Regents and the board affirmed the decision on February 7, 2008.

Skipping a paragraph:

The Chronicle of Higher Education said of Gonzalez and the Discovery Institute's claims of discrimination "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." The Chronicle observed that Gonzalez had no major grants during his seven years at ISU, had published no significant research during that time and had only one graduate student finish a dissertation. The Discovery Institute misrepresents an op-ed by John Hauptman, one of Gonzalez's colleagues in the physics department. Hauptman states clearly that Gonzalez's work falls far short of what scientists know to be science, containing not one single number, not one single measurement or test of any kind. "I believe that I fully met the requirements for tenure at ISU," said Gonzalez. On May 8, 2007 Gonzalez appealed the decision.

Gonzalez's failure to obtain research funding has been cited as a factor in the decision. "Essentially, he had no research funding," said Eli Rosenberg, chairman of Gonzalez's department. "That's one of the issues." According to the Des Moines Register, "Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez's peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure."On February 7, 2008, his appeal to the Board of Regents was denied.

I’m no college or university professor, but it’s pretty clear what actually happened here. The professor became so involved with his full-time hobby that his work suffered for it. And he’s gainfully employed at Grove City College, so it’s not as if he’s foraging food out of a MacDonald’s dumpster.

So, in a nutshell – it’s another episode of life slapping someone’s hand, that person blaming the people around him, the inability to look in the mirror and admit he’s made a mistake. Which is, in fact, simply one of the many ingredients of the stew that is the human condition.

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