Monday, December 10, 2007

Did they or Didn't They? Another dilemma for the opponents of Intelligent Design

Opponents of Intelligent Design seem to be very conflicted about what to say concerning Iowa State University denying astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez tenure because he supports Intelligent Design.

On the one hand, ID opponents seem to think ISU should have denied him tenure for thinking ID is science, since, they say, it clearly is not science. On the other hand, it is hard for them to admit that this is what ISU did, since, if they do, they would be supporting misrepresentation by the University and the tenure committee about what their decision was based on.

To put the dilemma another way, if you don't admit that he was denied tenure because of his support for Intelligent Design, then you look like you're slightly out of touch with reality, since the evidence appears to be pretty damning. And if you accept that Gonzalez was denied tenure on the basis of his support for Intelligent Design, then you have to admit that ISU and his tenure review committee were dishonest.

So the choice for ID opponents involves which horn of the dilemma they want to impale themselves on.

Over at Panda's Thumb, Mike Dunford seems to favor the first horn. He says, in the face of the of the e-mail evidence, he is "unconvinced" that ID played a significant role in tenure denial for Gonzalez. Well, you can see some of the e-mail remarks documented by the Discovery Institute here and see for yourself. This is the kind of evidence that, under any other such circumstances would be considered definitive, but which, in the intellectual fever swamps of scientism just simply cannot be admitted:
Given the notorious track record of the entire anti-evolution movement when it comes to quoting scientists, I'm somewhat reluctant to accept the quotes provided at face value, particularly since the DI has not made the full text of the sources available for examination. Even if all of the quotes the DI uses do accurately capture the spirit of the full emails they are taken from (and does anyone want to offer me odds on that), I still don't think they've made their point.
It makes you wonder whether the anti-ID crowds assertion that Gonzalez was treated fairly is a falsifiable belief, doesn't it?

A slightly more lucid Jason Rosenhouse over at EvolutionBlog finds the second of the two horns of the dilemma a less painful alternative. He admits that, indeed, ISU appears to have considered Gonzalez' belief in ID in its decision, and was simply dishonest in its denials:
... [H]ad the ISU physics department stated forthrightly that he was being denied tenure because his advocacy of ID pseudoscience was hurting the department and plainly hampering his scientific work, there might have been no reason for this blog entry.

But they didn't, at least not primarily. Instead they publicly denied that Gonzalez's ID advocacy played a significant role in his tenure denial. One member of the department, John Hauptmann, wrote an op-ed in which he argued, preposterously, that Gonzalez did not understand the scientific process and that was the reason for denying him tenure. I reported on this sorry essay here.

In other words, Dunford is concerned with the honesty of the advocates of ID, but Rosenhouse is admitting a virulent case of dishonesty in it's own ranks.

Some days you just can't win.

6 comments:

BobC said...

Iowa State University would be crazy to give Guillermo Gonzalez tenure. He would ruin their reputation. What student would want to choose a university that would employ an anti-science astronomer? Look at what Michael Behe did to Lehigh University's reputation. They are so ashamed of Behe their Department of Biological Sciences put a Department Position on Evolution and Intelligent Design on their website which said "It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."

Everyone knows the designer is god, and everyone knows invoking god has never solved any problem. Everyone knows the Discovery Institute is being dishonest when they claim invoking intelligent design is science. Intelligent Design is just another word for supernatural magic and no real scientist could ever accept this worthless childish idea.

Anonymous said...

There is no dilemma; there is no doubt that getting involved in IDism didn't help Gonzalez with the tenure committee. A more interesting question is whether Gonzalez would have gotten tenure if you look at his career outside of IDism. A handy graph you can link to from The Panda's Thumb shows how unproductive Gonzalez has been at ISU. As discussed by an astronomer in a website I cited in a previous thread, astronomers need NSF quality grants in order to obtain tenure, and Gonzalez wasn't getting them. Thus, its unlikely Gonzalez would've gotten tenure even if he wasn't an IDist. Of course, the irony is that because IDism is such a sterile idea scientifically, its likely that the collapse of Gonzalez' productivity was caused by his choice to devote his time to IDism, instead of science.

Motheral said...

First, a tenured professorship is like any other job: you have no right to it, there are normally more qualified applicants than available positions, and employers are generally free to hire whoever they want, for whatever reasons they want. On what grounds would you say Gonzalez was "discriminated against?" "Religious freedom?" That would be yet another admission that ID is religion, not science.

Second, support for ID as "science" is a perfectly valid reason for denying tenure: it's not science, it's produced nothing of scientific value, its basic dishonesty has been repeatedly exposed and documented, and a tenured IDiot would only tarnish the image of any university. And, as other bloggers have explicitly stated all over the non-censored blogsphere (including anonymous' comment above), ISU had plenty of other reasons for denying tenure to Gonzalez. Just because they don't mention one more reason among many, does not mean they're being "dishonest." In fact, it could be said that they were making a point that an ID supporter simply has not accomplished enough to deserve tenure.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral said:

First, a tenured professorship is like any other job: you have no right to it, there are normally more qualified applicants than available positions, and employers are generally free to hire whoever they want, for whatever reasons they want. On what grounds would you say Gonzalez was "discriminated against?" "Religious freedom?" That would be yet another admission that ID is religion, not science.

1. I never argued that Gonzalez had a legal right to the position or the ISU did not have the legal right to make the decision they did.

2. I never claimed that he was "discriminated against" or that his "religious freedom" was violated.

Others have argued these things, but I have not. My only point in all this is that ID opponents (like the author of the first comment on this post) make allegations about ID supporters being dishonest. And yet the e-mail evidence certainly makes it appear that some of those who oppose it are themselves dishonest.

Why dishonesty allowed to count against ID, but not its detractors. It seems to me it's just one more double standard being applied by ID opponents.

Motheral said...

And yet the e-mail evidence certainly makes it appear that some of those who oppose it are themselves dishonest.

The operative words here are "some" and "appear." Strip away the (alleged) dishonesty of a handful of ID opponents, and you'll still have a solid case for denying Gonzalez tenure (not to mention a theory of evolution that still stands firm and uncontested). Strip away the dishonesty of the cdesign proponentsists, and you have absolutely nothing left.

BTW, the author of the forst post on this thread did not make "allegations;" he/she stated obvious, proven and documented facts.

One Brow said...

You have presented a lovely false dichotomy in this post, but there is neither problem nor contradiction with both being true. Gonzalez's public support for ID was most likely a minor factor in his tenure commitee's decision, and rightfully so. Most likely more important factors were the lack of incming grants and the absence of graduating students, indicating he had no active research. If he had been bringing in the grant money and graduating students, his IDism might well have been overlooked.

No horns, no dilemma, simply two different aspects of an issue.