May 23, 2007

More on Gonzalez - Article at Nature online

On the heels of apparent attempts by the DI and its minions to push this thing so far over the top there will be no place for Guillermo Gonzalez to go (thus increasing their opportunities for mewling about persecution a hundredfold) comes the piece below published at Nature online.

As with any bit of reporting on Gonzalez' tenure denial the ID hacks ignore relevant contributors to tenure evaluations and continue to trumpet Gonzalez' publication statistics in their tiresome, sniveling wails.
Astronomer blames setback on his support of intelligent design.
Geoff Brumfiel

He’s a young astronomer with dozens of articles in top journals; he has made an important discovery in the field of extrasolar planets; and he is a proponent of intelligent design, the idea that an intelligent force has shaped the Universe. It’s that last fact that Guillermo Gonzalez thinks has cost him his tenure at Iowa State University.

Gonzalez, who has been at Iowa State in Ames since 2001, was denied tenure on 9 March. He is now appealing the decision on the grounds that his religious belief, not the quality of his science, was the basis for turning down his application. “I’m concerned my views on intelligent design were a factor,” he says.
[Time for a mea culpa. I was lazy and intemperate in leaving in the reactions below (which actually preceded this comment). I was too anxious to gain another point for the ID=religion argument (not that it needs support) and should have either contacted the Nature reporter for more information or removed the first accusation and let Gonzalez' words stand. Since I don't want to appear to be covering my ass I'll mark this confession to catch attention. And so there's no confusion, I'll say again that I retract my remarks from the following two paragraphs.]

Well, now isn't that an untidy admission? Gonzalez has apparently left ID's religious coattails hanging out. Notice he didn't even deliver the usual equivocation "...on the grounds that what they perceive as his religious belief..." One would think he'd gotten with the program by now, but as usual all one has to do is just let these guys talk.

Update: Gonzalez has responded that the journalist was misreporting his position here, and that he is not appealing on the basis of religious discrimination - "That is absolutely false. I specifically told a representative of the President's office last week that I am not appealing the tenure decision on the grounds of religious discrimination." - I leave in the above comment, however, because I find it hard to believe that the reporter created out of whole cloth the notion that Gonzalez was concerned that his religious beliefs played a part in the denial. Thus the observation about the relationship of ID with religion stands.
Advocates of intelligent design are rallying behind Gonzalez in the latest example of what they say is blatant academic discrimination. “Academia seems to be in a rage about anything that points to any purpose,” says Michael Behe, a biochemist and prominent advocate of intelligent design at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “They are penalizing an associate professor who’s doing his job because he has views they disagree with.”
Of course Dr. Behe knows full well that what is happening is that scientific academia is, as it has always been, concerned about anything that points to introduction of non-natural, non-investigable purpose - in other words non-science - into their departments. And Behe knows full well that this is not only entirely warranted, but required by the implicit responsibility to protect the quality of prospective students' educations these academics bear. Of course Behe has difficulty looking past his celebrity, and his penchant for wishful thinking, and thus makes silly statements such as the above.

It is obvious to anyone who evaluates this calmly that ISU is not punishing Gonzalez any more than the other tenure applicants they've denied (Gonzalez' department there is apparently tough on tenure) and without the DI's meddling he might have been able to find another position elsewhere. Now, with all this very public nonsense surrounding the issue it's going to be much harder for him to find a university willing to take a chance on him.
But other researchers think that the department’s decision was entirely justified. “I would have voted to deny him tenure,” says Robert Park, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park. “He has established that he does not understand the scientific process.”

Gonzalez’s early career was far from controversial. He graduated with a PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1993 and did a postdoc at the University of Texas in Austin. “He proved himself very quickly,” says David Lambert, director of the university’s MacDonald Observatory. He and Gonzalez co-authored several papers on variable stars, and Lambert says that while there, the young Cuban immigrant was an impressive scientist. “He is one of the best postdocs I have had,” he says.

In 1996, Gonzalez returned to the University of Washington to do his second postdoc, and again distinguished himself producing two papers1, 2 that linked a star’s metal content to the presence of extrasolar planets around it. The papers are still highly cited, and they have encouraged other researchers to search for planets around metal-rich stars.

The 43-year-old astronomer is also a deeply religious evangelical Christian, and his faith has shaped his views on science. He considers himself a “sceptic” of Darwin, and says that his Christianity helps him to understand Earth’s position in the Universe. “Our location in the Galaxy, which is optimized for habitability, is also the best place for doing cosmology and stellar astrophysics in the Galaxy,” he says. In other words: “The Universe is designed for scientific discovery.”
Think about the many layers of naivete that underlie these statements from Gonzalez and you'll understand Robert Park's earlier comments. It's not possible to know that "Our location in the Galaxy..." is "also the best place for doing cosmology and stellar astrophysics in the Galaxy.” How can anyone know this without knowing all there is to observe and understand about the galaxy itself? The fact that Gonzalez cannot conceive of important phenomena in other parts of this galaxy, ones that we cannot observe from earth, that might make somewhere else a better place to do cosmology speaks to his childlike, and very religious, placement of man at the center of things universal.

Indeed, what does it mean to say that “The Universe is designed for scientific discovery?” The idea is so full of silly, unwarranted inference: e.g., "designed," and religious hubris: i.e., the notion that we know enough of the universe to conclude that it exists for our intellectual satisfaction, that Gonzalez might as well be declaring his disdain for reason and restraint as integral components of scientific inquiry.
Gonzalez refrained from mentioning his beliefs in his teaching and peer-reviewed works, but in 2004, he co-authored a book entitled The Privileged Planet, which included many of his pro-design arguments. He has since traveled the country delivering talks that support the thesis of his book.
His work did not go unnoticed at Iowa State. In 2005, Gonzalez’s rising profile led a group of 131 faculty members to sign a petition disavowing intelligent design. “We were starting to see Iowa State mentioned as a place where intelligent-design research was happening,” says Hector Avalos, a religious-studies professor who helped lead the signature drive. “We wanted to make sure that people knew the university does not support intelligent design.” Avalos adds that they did not name Gonzalez directly, and he takes no position on the astronomer’s tenure.
Nevertheless, proponents of intelligent design point to the signature drive as evidence of a widespread academic hostility to those who support the idea. “There is a pattern happening to everybody who’s pro intelligent design,” says one pro-design biologist, who declined to be named because his own tenure process has just begun. “The same thing could happen to me,” he says. “I don’t want to get into trouble.”
The best way to avoid trouble is to understand and observe the difference between religious ideology and science. Gonzalez is in trouble because he does not - "My ID research is strictly based on observations; it does not depend on any religious assumptions, Christian or otherwise. Neither do we discuss religious aspects in our Privileged Planet book."

He has, however, learned how to dissemble and manipulate the truth just like a seasoned ID pro.

4 Comments:

Blogger RBH said...

I leave in the above comment, however, because I find it hard to believe that the reporter created out of whole cloth the notion that Gonzalez was concerned that his religious beliefs played a part in the denial. Thus the observation about the relationship of ID with religion stands.

I'm less certain of that than I once would have been. Nature's news reporting has gone downhill in the last couple of years.

10:46 AM  
Blogger RLC said...

RBH -

I agree. In fact I was just checking back here after a few hours consideration of the comments in question with the intent to amend them.

I will remove no context.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

"That is absolutely false. I specifically told a representative of the President's office last week that I am not appealing the tenure decision on the grounds of religious discrimination."
But what did he tell the reporter? The same or was it different from what he told the representative of the President?

4:41 AM  
Blogger RLC said...

Martin -

Yours is a good point, and I share your skepticism. But it's something that only the reporter and Gonzalez know and if it's pursued any further will probably become a useless he said/she said kind of thing.

8:21 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home