Posted by: Dan | May 19, 2007

Kudos to Iowa State

I don’t know if the Discovery Institute‘s take on Guillermo Gonzalez’s denial of tenure is correct, but they’re claiming quite strongly that it was because of his support of Intelligent Design. It’s an assault on academic freedom, they say.

Well, John West and the Discovery Institute are morons and pseudoscience activists, and Gonzalez has done everything to support Intelligent Design and the Anthropic Principle but trot out astrological evidence (have you actually seen his movie, Privileged Planet?).

But just under the assumption that they’re right on this one issue, that of the motives of Gonzalez’s tenure committee, I have to say: Kudos! to ISU. Also, John West asks that you contact ISU President Gregory L. Geoffroy at (515) 294-2042 or email him at

I have to say – that’s an outstanding idea. I already emailed Geoffroy, and have voiced my support opinion. Have you?

UPDATE: Nature has a brief news article on the tenure decision.

My letter below the fold:

1. Two tenured professors in Gonzalez’s department publicly admitted that his work on intelligent design played a role in his tenure denial .

Kudos to those two tenured professors. What Gonzalez is most well known for is not his publishing or funding record, but his role in advocating a fraudulent theory that takes aim directly at how science works (referred to in some circles as “methodological naturalism,” or, more simply, the scientific method).

Frankly, Gonzalez is an astronomer taking aim at the Copernican Principle, with horribly non-scientific arguments (have you actually seen his movie, Privileged Planet? I have, and Gonzalez and Richards did everything but use blatant astrology to argue for the Anthropic Principle). Hardly the makings of an astronomer worthy of tenure, or the license to tout his schemes with any authority.

2. Two additional faculty members in Gonzalez’s department were found to be connected to a national statement denouncing intelligent design as “creationist pseudoscience.”

Again, kudos.

3. Tenure statistics were obtained showing that 91% of faculty who applied for tenure this year at ISU received it , refuting the university’s claim earlier in the week that its tenure standards are “so high, that many good researchers have failed to satisfy the demands of earning tenure” at ISU.

So? Is West implying that the 9% who were denied tenure weren’t good researchers? Clearly they were adequate enough to be considered for tenure-track positions, refuting the Discovery Institute’s rebuttal.

4. Tenure standards for ISU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy were released showing that outside research funding was not a stated criterion for tenure decisions in the department .

Again, so what? The tenure standards are still qualitative guidelines, as are the criteria for any job opportunity, as anyone who’s ever searched for a job will tell you.

In conclusion, I’m of the opinion that the Discovery Institute, and creationists everywhere, should quit their whining. Kudos to ISU for their handling of this issue, amidst the contentions of pseudoscience .

-Dan Rhoads, Cornell University



  1. […] the other, those who want to defend the integrity of the Scientific Establishment are just fine with it — denying tenure because a teacher believes […]

  2. As you point out in your letter, it is important to make the distinction between methodological naturalism and the way science actually works. One of the criticisms of Gonzales’ denial is that it is forcing scientific homogenization, but in this case (and in the case of ID/creationism) the refusal of tenure is necessary–not to protect scientific ideas but to protect the practice of science.

  3. Follow-up: ISU president upholds denial of tenure .

    Guillermo Gonzalez’s advocacy of intelligent design did not factor into the decision, Gregory Geoffroy says.

    Regardless of why he upheld the original decision, I’m glad that he wasn’t influenced by the Discovery Institute’s pressure/propaganda.


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