Hector Avalos sent me his response to the Discovery Institute’s ‘shocking’ revelation that people had been discussing Guillermo Gonzalez’s affiliation with Intelligent Design creationism before they denied him tenure. It’s a classic pointless objection: of course they were, and of course his openly expressed, unscientific beliefs which were stated as a representative of ISU were a serious consideration. It does not speak well of the Discovery Institute that they had to cobble together quote-mines from the email to try and make a non-case for a non-issue.
THE DI AND THE SMOKING GUN THAT WASN’T
Avalos, Iowa State University
I needed to look
no further than the following post in Evolution News and Views to
see clearly how the Discovery Institute misleads readers by selectively quoting
the supposed smoking gun e-mails from ISU. I know because, in this case, they
are quoting e-mails of mine.
The DI held a
news conference on December 3 in Des Moines that revealed—drum roll, please—scientists
do not like other scientists portraying non-science as science. And from this
mass of e-mails they only managed to find this supposed inconsistency in my
Hector Avalos, outspoken atheist Professor of
Religion at ISU: Then:
In the summer of 2005, Avalos e-mails ISU faculty, inviting them to sign a
statement calling on "all faculty members to … reject efforts to portray
Intelligent Design as science" because of the "negative impact"
due to the fact that "Intelligent Design … has now established a presence
… at Iowa State University." Guillermo Gonzalez, being the only well-known
ID proponent who has "established a presence" at ISU, is the
undeniable target of such a statement. Later: Avalos asserts publicly in the ISU
"The statement we wrote was in no way targeted specifically at
they are wrong about Gonzalez being the ONLY one who had established a
“well-known” ID presence at ISU. Another advocate of ID at ISU is Thomas
Ingebritsen, who was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2005, and who has been
open about his support for ID. He was the one actually teaching a course that
was quite favorable to ID.
DI scribes should know this because they said it themselves in a post dated
December 13, 2005:
On the hand, Dr. Tom Ingebritsen, associate
professor of genetics in Iowa State’s The Department of Genetics, Development
and Cell Biology (GDCB) has been teaching a course called "God and
Science" for the past five years that presents intelligent design in at
least a more neutral, if not favorable, light.
Do the math—
“for the past five years” would mean Ingebritsen was known to be advocating ID
at ISU in 2000 and BEFORE Dr. Gonzalez arrived at ISU in 2001.
Second, the DI
does not tell readers how it is combining sentences from different sections of
a document in order create a fragmented syntax that appears to target Gonzalez,
if that means his tenure status. Here is the three original sentences, snippets
of which were recombined by the DI:
1. Intelligent Design has become a significant
issue in science education, and it has now established a presence, even if minimal, at Iowa State
2. Accordingly, if you are concerned about the negative impact of Intelligent Design on the integrity of
science and on our university, please consider signing the "Statement on
Intelligent Design by Iowa State University Faculty" below.
3. We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university
of "science and technology," convey to students and the general
public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject
efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science.
none of those sentences, nor anywhere in the whole document, is Dr. Gonzalez
named. At that time our statement began to circulate, Dr. Gonzalez was not
well-known as an ID advocate to most faculty even at ISU, but only to the few
of us who studied ID or those in his department. The nature of “the presence at
ISU” was left unspecified in order not to draw attention specifically to Dr.
was Dr. Gonzalez who subsequently made his name well-known by identifying
himself very publicly as the supposed specific target of that faculty
statement. He made himself the issue at a time we were trying to make ID the
issue as our Statement plainly states.
he kept quiet, I doubt many faculty outside of his own department would have
even known who was advocating ID at ISU. I did not get e-mails wondering “who
is the presence?” Or “what does presence mean?”
that in sentence #2 we express our worry about the impact of ID on the
integrity of science and on our university. We said we wanted to educate the
public. Now that is what the faculty cared about. The DI leaves that all that
out of its recombined syntax.
there is no inconsistency in my position quoted: “The statement…was in no way
targeted specifically at Gonzalez.”
read the beginning of our faculty statement again: “We, the undersigned faculty
members at Iowa State University, reject all attempts to represent Intelligent
Design as a scientific endeavor.”
Statement does not say “we reject Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez” or “we reject Dr.
Gonzalez’s tenure.” It is ID we reject, and so how is that specifically
targeting Dr. Gonzalez unless Dr. Gonzalez embodies the whole of the ID
course what the DI did not reveal is my fuller account of the rationale for
that faculty statement, which eventually was signed by over 130 faculty members
at ISU, and about 400 faculty members in Iowa’s three regent’s universities.
In an e-mail (dated 6-3-07) I submitted as part of the open records request,
and presumably also obtained by the Discovery Institute, I presented the
following more complete rationale to Dr. John Hauptman, a professor in Dr.
Gonzalez’s own department:
cannot speak for every signatory, but I can tell you my motives had as much or
more to do with what was going outside of Iowa, on the national scene, than what was
going on here.
First, in my mind, was the fact that the Discovery Institute had
been using ISU’s name when trying to introduce ID into school curricula in
Texas, among other states for years.
One case in point is the 2003 textbook hearings in Austin, Texas
in which William Dembski, the most prominent advocate of ID, used the ID
research taking place at ISU to justify the introduction of ID into school
See, for example, this extract from p. 34 of Dembski’s portfolio
as an expert witness in such hearings:
"Cosmological Fine-Tuning and Anthropic Coincidences.
Although this is a well worn area of study, there are some new developments
here that derive from a specifically design-theoretic perspective. Guillermo
Gonzalez, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State
University, and Jay Richards, a senior fellow with Seattle’s Discovery
Institute, have published The Privileged Planet in which they make a case for
planet earth as intelligently designed not only for life but also for
scientific discovery. In other words, they argue that our world is designed
to facilitate scientific discovery of its own design. This work has been featured
on the front cover of the October 2001 Scientific American. It connects
intelligent design in biology to intelligent design in cosmology."
Second, in June, the Smithsonian Institute featured a movie based
on The Privileged Planet, in an event which was again meant to highlight how
research at Iowa State was validating ID.
A third development was the Dover trial which was about to begin
in Pennsylvania in September of 2005. That is still the most significant
federal court case regarding ID.
Fourth, President Bush had issued a statement on Monday, August 1
stating that he favored introduction of ID into science classes as a way of
teaching "both sides."
Our petition began circulating on Tuesday, August 2, the day after
Bush’s statements, even though it had been drafter prior to that.
Given all of these factors, I wanted to say that we, at ISU, did
not think ID was either a "new development" or science. Otherwise ID
advocates were using our silence to validate themselves, especially in states
where they wanted to introduce it into schools.
As long as a lot of us were on record saying we did not think ID
was science, then Dr. Gonzalez’s work on ID was not so much the issue. His
tenure was not an issue. What we wanted to stop is the unchallenged use of
ISU’s name to validate ID.
So, it was not at
all about Gonzalez’s tenure, but rather about the use of our university’s good
name to market ID. Gonzalez can say ID is science, but we can also say it’s
And lest we think
that the DI has no flip-flops of its own, let’s play the same game
with them, shall we?
On the one
hand: Intelligent Design
is scientific, not religious.
On the other
hand: Being against
intelligent design constitutes religious discrimination
On the one
hand: We want academic
freedom declare Intelligent Design to be science.
On the other
hand: We will cry
viewpoint discrimination if someone expresses the opinion that ID is not
On the one
hand: We want scientists,
not judges or politicians, to define science
On the other
hand: If scientists do
not define ID as science, then we will take our
case to court and court politicians to achieve our ends.
On the one
hand: ID advocates are
On the other
hand: “cdesign proponentsists”
(need we say more?)
general, the December 3 news conference was more of a bust than the DI
anticipated. And while the DI complains that newspapers who do not agree with
their position are tools of ISU (see Evolution News and Views, December 6, 2007), they forget that a
local pastor admitted to being a puppet of a DI fellow.
Posted by Tim: 08/24/2005 :: Ministry News :: 1 comments on
Well, my arm was twisted. Rather than working hard on campus
ministry stuff, I was coerced into writting a letter to the editor of the D.M.
Register regarding the Intelligent Design debate. It went through a major revision after Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez himself advised me multiple
times as to what to say and what not to say. This one got his blessing.
Hmm. Coerced? Arm
twisted? Others would call it hypocrisy and a blatant
attempt to hide the author’s true identity. Reminds one of the famous
Wedge Document that the DI secreted for a while. So much for open records and
truthfulness. So much for higher ethical standards that ID would supposedly
bring to our society.
let the DI explain why it withholds information of its own when quoting
those e-mails. Why not give the whole context so that people can make up their
minds? Why not quote the other side, and truly teach the controversy.