More on the Iowa situation

| 37 Comments

As PvM already mentioned, It’s hitting the fan here in Iowa. For those of you who have been paying attention to the Smithsonian/Privileged Planet controversy, you may recognize the name Guillermo Gonzalez. He’s the co-author of the book by the same name, a DI fellow, and just happens to be a faculty member of the Astronomy department at Iowa State University. Hector Avalos, an associate professor of religious studies at ISU, and colleagues at ISU drafted a letter opposing the teaching of ID as science; 124 faculty signed it. Now, predictably, Gonzalez says he’s being “viciously attacked,” “intimidated,” and it’s created a “hostile work environment” (sound familiar, anyone?).

From what I’ve seen in the Letters to the Editor section, opinion seems to be fairly split, at least of the ones they’ve printed ( more here ). This is just a bit more of the backstory from Dr. Hector Avalos at ISU, showing how the petition came to be. The text of the invitation to sign the petition, and the petition itself, are also reproduced below:

BASIC TIMELINE

June 23 A film based on the Privileged Planet screened at the Smithsonian. The Privileged Planet is a pro-ID book written by Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, an astronomer at ISU, and Jay Richards, a member of the Discovery Institute, a pro-ID think tank.

July: Discussions between Avalos and other faculty members about how to respond to the increasing perception that ISU is a center of Intelligent Design research.

Last week of July: Dr. Avalos, Dr. Michael Clough, and Dr. Jim Colbert begin drafting the “Statement on Intelligent Design by Iowa State University Faculty.”

August 1 Bush comments on the desirability of teaching ID as well as evolution in classrooms.

August 2 The Statement on Intelligent Design is sent for circulation to the first set of departments (see copy of preface to Statement below):

Philosophy and Religious Studies; Ecology and Evolution and Organismic Biology, Anthropology, Geology and Atmospheric Sciences

Other departments are approached in the following days.

August 5 Dr. Avalos sends an e-mail to Dr. Gonzalez inviting him to a forum to discuss ID. No response as of today [August 27th].

August 22: The Statement, now signed by about 120 faculty members, begins to be released to media outlets.

August 23: Statement is sent to Dr. Gregory Geoffroy, President of ISU.

INVITATION TO SIGN THE STATEMENT

Dear colleagues, Intelligent Design has become a significant issue in science education, and it has now established a presence, even if minimal, at Iowa State University.

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. If you agree with this Statement, add your name and affiliation at the bottom and return it to Prof. Hector Avalos at [email]. Prof. Avalos will compile the full list of co-signers, and the Statement will be sent for publication in relevant media (e.g., ISU Daily, Ames Tribune) as well as sent to relevant administrators by August 26, 2005.

Thanks, Hector Avalos, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, and Director of the U.S. Latino/a Studies Program

Jim Colbert Associate Professor Department of Ecology, Evolution & Organismal Biology Undergraduate Biology Program Coordinator

Michael P. Clough Associate Professor Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education

STATEMENT ON INTELLIGENT DESIGN BY IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY FACULTY

We, the undersigned faculty members at Iowa State University, reject all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor.

Advocates of Intelligent Design claim that the position of our planet and the complexity of particular life forms and processes are such that they may only be explained by the existence of a creator or designer of the universe. However, such claims are premised on (1) the arbitrary selection of features claimed to be engineered by a designer; (2) unverifiable conclusions about the wishes and desires of that designer; and (3) an abandonment by science of methodological naturalism.

Methodological naturalism, the view that natural phenomena can be explained without reference to supernatural beings or events, is the foundation of the natural sciences. The history of science contains many instances where complex natural phenomena were eventually understood only by adherence to methodological naturalism.

Whether one believes in a creator or not, views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith, and so not within the scope or abilities of science. 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.

Other local articles and letters can be found at this site.

And now, Dembski suggests that the next step may be to “petition Guillermo to turn in his telescope”. Can’t ID supporters recognize the difference between an attack on ID, and attack on a person? As Dr. Avalos notes,

The truth is that our attempt was not to silence Dr. Gonzalez. The issue is larger than ISU, especially after Bush provided his endorsement of ID. Gonzalez is never mentioned in the Statement, which discusses the idea of ID rather than any particular person.

Rather, we were motivated, in part, by the fact that the pro-ID advocates were marketing ISU as a place where pathbreaking Intelligent Design research was taking place. We were in peril of being perceived as a pro-ID university. So many faculty wanted the public to be aware that at least a lot of us do not think ID is science, and we had a right to say so.

Our hope is that now ISU faculty will be seen as among the most vocal opponents of ID in any university in the nation. I think we have begun to reverse dramatically any Pro-ID perceptions already.

As a new Iowan (transplanted from Ohio), I sure hope he’s right.

Much thanks to Hector Avalos for the history and text of the petition.

37 Comments

Much ado at ‘Moo U’!

Des Moines Register Wrote:

Guillermo Gonzalez , an ISU astronomy professor who is nationally known for his research on intelligent design

He’s done actual research? That must mean he has an actual theory of Intelligent Design Creationism.

What I love about Gonzalez’s “hostile work environment” statement is that any legal claim involving such an environment would have to be based on discrimination because of his religion. 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a). (I presume his race, color, sex, and national origin aren’t at issue here.) Isn’t “intelligent design” supposed to be unmotivated by religion? How can this be religious discrimination if what intelligent design proponents are doing is science, not religion?

OMG! (Oh My Ghu) My daughter almost went to ISU! Fortunately, she had good enough science grades and qualified for Northwestern.

At least it looks like the people at ISU are taking a strong, pro-active stance and will hopefully cut out the cancer before it spreads. Good luck Cyclones.

That one letter printed in the Des Moines Register is just too precious:

Evolution has no - zero - data of any type to show how one species ever developed into another one. Darwinians’ failure to produce any basic supporting data after 100 years renders their basic “theory” false.

A very large number of the finest scientists in the United States believe that life, in its simplest and most fundamental building blocks, shows that it was designed by intelligent beings. There are scientific organizations growing all over the United States committed to the idea that life on Earth was designed and did not evolve from purely physical matter. -Michael Montross,

Some of those letters to the editor are extremely ignorant.

Gov. Thomas J. Vilsack hands out first Iowa state quarter with a schoolhouse on the back

Gov. Vilsack Wrote:

Education has always been a top priority in the state. It is our responsibility to ensure every child’s successful future, making sure education is valued and adequately supported. From this point on, across the country, citizens will look at the Iowa Quarter and be reminded of this state’s unprecedented commitment to children and the education they receive.

First Lady Christie Vilsack Wrote:

As a lifelong learner and former teacher, I am so proud that Iowa will be known as the education state, Iowa’s educational heritage began with a one-room schoolhouse. Now, Iowa’s classrooms represent the future of education where every student has access to the best resources and every opportunity to succeed.

House Journal: Page 201: Thursday, January 28, 1999

We have a strong and proud educational heritage in Iowa, and we have identified ourselves, rightfully so, as the Education State. So I ask you, members of the General Assembly, isn’t it time that we again assume our rightful position in this nation as first in education?

But … but … but … A Washington Post sports columnist has just weighed in on the merits of ID. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy[…]2800964.html )

I would love to see this piece be fisked here, if anyone thinks it worth the effort.

For example:

>>Jeffrey M. Schwartz, a neuroscientist and research professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, is a believer in ID, or as he prefers to call it, “intrinsic intelligence.” Schwartz wants to launch a study of NASCAR drivers, to better understand their extraordinary focus. He finds Darwinism, as it applies to a high-performance athlete such as Tony Stewart, to be problematic. To claim that Stewart’s mental state as he handles a high-speed car “is a result of nothing more than random processes coming together in a machine-like way is not a coherent explanation,” Schwartz said.

>>Instead, Schwartz theorizes that when a great athlete focuses, he or she may be “making a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening our intelligence.” It’s fascinating thought. And Schwartz would like to prove it’s scientifically justifiable.

Golly! An ID (or “intrinsic intelligence”) proponent would like to prove his theory (or mysticism) scientifically justifiable. I would be very intrigued if Dr. Schwartz would let us know how he intends to test/falsify his “making a connection with something deep” hypothesis.

And if that works, hey, I’d like some grant money to test or falsify my hypothesis that when I get stoned I make a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening my intelligence. I mean, dude, to say that my high is nothing more than “a result of nothing more than random processes coming together in a machine-like way is not a coherent explanation”.

Go ahead and check out “Just Check the ID” by Sally Jenkins – as long as you can either (1) grit your teeth really long; or (2) untwist yourself from the contortions of logic that she rambles on with.

(Oh, and to keep this on-topic, as I’m new to this place, I’ll add that I’m a University of Iowa alum, and would be tickled black-and-gold at the attention the rival Iowa State folks are getting if it didn’t reflect on Iowa’s status in education as a whole. See a few comments above for the pot-shots ISU’s already getting.)

Tom Allen Wrote:

(Oh, and to keep this on-topic, as I’m new to this place, I’ll add that I’m a University of Iowa alum, and would be tickled black-and-gold at the attention the rival Iowa State folks are getting if it didn’t reflect on Iowa’s status in education as a whole. See a few comments above for the pot-shots ISU’s already getting.)

Welcome! I’m currently a professor at U of IA, and already have seen several places where ISU and U of I have been used interchangably by people who don’t realize they’re 2 different universities, or are just lazy, or sloppy, or whatever (for example, here: “If Gonzalez’s attempt to find a graduate student to help him further his research is going to get him kicked out of the University of Iowa…)

The Des Moines Register said:

Gonzalez said he doesn’t teach about intelligent design because it’s controversial and because he doesn’t want to teach about an idea that’s not yet accepted.

So we learn, once again, that even ID advocates do not teach intelligent design (where could a high school teacher get training to teach it if no one else teaches it?), and that ID advocates agree the science is Not-Ready-for-School-Time.

“Intelligent design” is the only area of academia – in science, humanities, art, or any other discipline – where local school boards wish to teach the stuff before any university does.

That they don’t recognize the problem is troubling indeed.

This is hitting a little too close to home. Does anyone have a list of good books about evolution for children, sorted by age?

Thanks,

Can’t ID supporters recognize the difference between an attack on ID, and attack on a person?

Of COURSE they can’t. Heck, many of THEIR “attacks on evolution” are nothing but “attacks on a person”.

Gonzalez said he doesn’t teach about intelligent design because it’s controversial and because he doesn’t want to teach about an idea that’s not yet accepted.

Or even exists.

Kids’ books on evolution?

I still like the Dorling Kindersley (DK) Eyewitness Guides, especially the one titled Evolution. I hope it’s still in print. Amazon isn’t producing a listing right now.

Many of their books cover evolution – the one on whales, amphibians, etc.

Here’s the listing at DK.com:

Evolution Revised Edition Eyewitness Guides Linda Gamlin - Author $15.99 Book: Hardcover | 8.81 x 11.25in | 64 pages | ISBN 078945579X | 23 Feb 2000 | 8+ years

So we learn, once again, that even ID advocates do not teach intelligent design (where could a high school teacher get training to teach it if no one else teaches it?), and that ID advocates agree the science is Not-Ready-for-School-Time.

“Intelligent design” is the only area of academia — in science, humanities, art, or any other discipline — where local school boards wish to teach the stuff before any university does.

That will be a useful thing to bring up in future school board fights. “I’m a teacher. I don’t know ID Theory. Where’s the nearest state college I can take biology courses in ID?”

>>Instead, Schwartz theorizes that when a great athlete focuses, he or she may be “making a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening our intelligence.” It’s fascinating thought. And Schwartz would like to prove it’s scientifically justifiable.

Gee, I’m off the hook.

I lost my concentration at Daytona and hit the wall so I’ll just blame my designer. I couldn’t climb mountains like Lance Armstrong so I’ll blame my designer. I didn’t stay with Randy Moss when he caught that touchdown pass so I’ll blame my designer. I couldn’t keep my drives on the fairway like Tiger Woods so I’ll have to blame my designer.

Maybe a real neuroscientist will try to come up with an idea why some people are more capable of concentration than others and realize that these people self-select into certain activities.

Apropos of faculties speaking up against ID, Lehigh’s Department of Biological Sciences has put a statement on their web site disclaiming ID:

Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”

The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of “intelligent design.” While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. 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.

I note also that Ken Miller will be speaking at Lehigh in October.

RBH

Hat tip to Mark Perakh.

Oops. That hat should have been tipped to Burt Humburg. Sorry, Burt.

RBH

Damn, as an ISU alum, I’m pretty embarassed that this is going on at what’s actually a pretty good university. I’m heartened by the reaction of the faculty, though. Go ‘Clones!!

I went to Iowa State many years ago when it was commonly know as Moo U. Definitely a lot of farm kids there (Heck, I even received my first degree in Agronomy before I went back and earned a degree in Computer Science which is what I use today). I am not sure if I should be sad that ISU has a faculty member like Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez or be happy that others on campus are upset with him. I believe I will go for the latter. I no longer live in Iowa, but return to visit my family every year or two (so I still have some contact with Iowans). I am still amazed at how progressive the state is in many ways and at the same time, how religiously right and backwards it can appear to the rest of the country.

Hmmmm … I guess it is pretty much like any other state in the union. Just a matter of degree.

If astounding concentration is proof of ID, A.D.D. is.…?

I’m another ISU alum who’s not too happy with Prof. Gonzalez’s dumping science for ID, but I’m quite pleased with how the faculty and administration is treating ID. FYI, the Daily is the student paper and has had several editorials and op-eds on the matter, with the editorial board on the pro-science side.

Speaking of which, people should really check out the DI’s supporter list to look for supporters in their state that may make it look bad. I wonder what state has the highest per capita signatures.

My scan of the names suggests that would be your state, Reed. What’s up with Georgia Tech? Good thing you’re moving to my state. I only saw one guy from NCSU.

The ISU statement makes the Discovery Institute’s 400 scientist bull pucky look like the scam that it is. There is a clear difference what the faculty of ISU state about ID from the mealy mouthed deception that the Discovery Institute is trying to push for its objections to biological evolution.

If the Discovery Institute statement isn’t about their objections to biological evolution why can’t they state that clearly? Why try and con the rubes with Darwinian junk statements? Why is it acceptable to con their supporters with objections to Darwinian mechanism and not tell them what those supporters really want to know. They want to know if there are any guys with half a brain that believe the same thing that they do. Anyone that thinks that the creationist support base for ID is interested in the mechanism and not biological evolution itself is full of whatever their full of.

Tom Allen Wrote:

And if that works, hey, I’d like some grant money to test or falsify my hypothesis that when I get stoned I make a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening my intelligence. I mean, dude, to say that my high is nothing more than “a result of nothing more than random processes coming together in a machine-like way is not a coherent explanation”.

I am willing to do whatever it takes to assist in this research.

Off-topic:

With Sally Jenkins op-ed and the DI crowing about it see here it seems that they agree with what she said. So, I think we should hold them to that, because it seems pretty obvious to me that she is saying that the intelligent designer designs each person individually. So, now we have a designer that goes into wombs and tinkers with people in order to make great athletes?

On-topic:

Does anyone know how significant a percentage of the faculty the 124 signatures makes up?

“To claim that Stewart’s mental state as he handles a high-speed car ‘is a result of nothing more than random processes coming together in a machine-like way is not a coherent explanation,’ Schwartz said.”

It’s good to know that NASCAR is part of the Intelligent Designer’s plan for us. Let’s trace back the steps in His plan:

1. Stock car racers learned their skills as bootleggers.

2. Bootlegging developed in defiance of prohibition and sin taxes.

3. Prohibition was pushed heavily from the pulpit.

4. All primates are attracted to alcohol.

There is no way that all of this could have been accomplished through a series of random processes. Clearly the world was created for NASCAR.

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD Wrote:

This is hitting a little too close to home. Does anyone have a list of good books about evolution for children, sorted by age?

As a matter of fact… (scroll to the bottom–not sure if they’re all in print anymore, though).

GCT Wrote:

Does anyone know how significant a percentage of the faculty the 124 signatures makes up?

According to the Des Moines Register, “The petition that was signed by about 7 percent of ISU’s faculty was forwarded this week to university administrators.”

Finally, Gonzalez is going to be on the Jan Mickelson show today sometime between 9 am and 11:30 am (CST) on WHO 1040 AM (Des Moines). The phone number listed is 515-245-8900 for call-in comments.

Thanks for the book info.

One of the lists includes How Whales Walked into the Sea, by Faith McNulty That was published in 1999.

Has one of you actually read it? Is it outdated by the recent finds of transitional whale ancestor fossils? The Editorial Review at Amazon.com mentions mesonychids.

I already sent out copies of Zimmer’s book to nieces & nephews earlier this year.

One of the lists includes How Whales Walked into the Sea, by Faith McNulty That was published in 1999.

Has one of you actually read it? Is it outdated by the recent finds of transitional whale ancestor fossils? The Editorial Review at Amazon.com mentions mesonychids.

That’s one I don’t have; ‘cause I believe it’s out of print, and used copies I’ve seen have been pretty pricey. I’m sure it’s outdated, but for a young kid (suggested ages are 7-10), I’d think the general principles (whales evolved from land animals, and the associated issues) would be more important than the specific groups. Could even be a good exercise in showing how hypotheses are tested and refined over time, as new evidence becomes available.

Thank you for the info Dr. Smith.

Personally, I had problems with this particular section from the Iowa statement:

Methodological naturalism, the view that natural phenomena can be explained without reference to supernatural beings or events, is the foundation of the natural sciences. The history of science contains many instances where complex natural phenomena were eventually understood only by adherence to methodological naturalism.

Was it really necessary to make this particular statement, given that “methodological naturalism” is the supposed great evil that the religious opponents of evolution are so against in the first place?

It just seemed odd and slightly wrong to me to inentionally increase the tensions between holders of the two extreme views. The language is clear and accurate to the views of many scientists, yes, but I think also unnecessarilly antagonistic.

Guillermo Gonzalez’s complaints are taken from the language of civil rights and feminism, which is an ironic tribute to those movements’ success and yet another example of rightists’ skill at coopting their opponents’ vocabularies.

The stock phrases of numerous progressive causes and groups are now routinely parasitized by the Republican yammer machine. Environmental, labor, childcare, multicultural, freespeech, organic, antiwar, even socialist ideals are daily wrapped around those most thoroughly opposed to them. The process may have reached its peak - so far - when Taco Bell literally flew banners with their ugly little Chihuahua mascot wearing Che’s beret.

Note that only the antiwar movement has more than institutional survival as a political current these days, and its revival depends on one woman and her attractiveness to the media (which may already be past its first halflife). Whether losing the meaning of their own words to their opponents was cause or effect of these movements’ paralysis is best left to more heuristic minds than mine, but the correlation is not likely to be coincidence.

The history of these once-triumphant causes is the memetic/semiotic equivalent of organisms whose success exposes them to parasitism, and its components show clear evidence of both evolution and wily design.

Science’s turn has come, and someday someone may write a fine thesis by documenting the political exploitation of modern scientific vocabulary and the consequences thereof. I doubt it will be cheerful reading: vampire stories usually aren’t.

Posted by Tom Allen on August 29, 2005 02:59 PM (e) (s) -

But … but … but … A Washington Post sports columnist has just weighed in on the merits of ID. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/art… ) … I would love to see this piece be fisked…

I tried a smartmouth allusion to the FSM which PT’s nannyware “denied for questionable content”, so let me just ask you to visit http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/[…]uch_biology/

Guillermo Gonzalez’s complaints are taken from the language of civil rights and feminism, which is an ironic tribute to those movements’ success and yet another example of rightists’ skill at coopting their opponents’ vocabularies.

At the risk of having “Godwin” invoked, I point out that there was a reason why Herr Hitler’s little band called itself the, uh, “National Socialist German Worker’s Party”.

Lenny -

The NSDAP, as it’s usually described by historians, was at its founding a genuine hybrid of rightists & leftists. This uneasy balance persisted, more or less, until a year and a half after it took power; then the leftie faction was either killed (Strasser) or fully subjugated (Goebbels) in what’s called “The Night of the Long Knives” - actually a weekend of guns & blackjacks, but even among historians a dramatic sobriquet has the edge over mere accuracy.

The NSDAP, as it’s usually described by historians, was at its founding a genuine hybrid of rightists & leftists. This uneasy balance persisted, more or less, until a year and a half after it took power; then the leftie faction was either killed (Strasser) or fully subjugated (Goebbels) in what’s called “The Night of the Long Knives” - actually a weekend of guns & blackjacks, but even among historians a dramatic sobriquet has the edge over mere accuracy.

I’m not sure I’d characterize them as “leftists” – although they certainly were more “left” than the Hitlerites (not a difficult trick). After all, the NSDAP SA and the KPD were happily shooting each other for years before Herr Hitler took over.

But then Mussolini had previously been a socialist union organizer, too.

And I note in passing that many of those who were eliminated by the Long Knives were (1) members of the SA, which was getting a little difficult for Hitler to control, and (2) disproportionately gay. Rohm, who was both, was above all a potential rival to be eliminated.

But I fear this probably isn’t the place to go into it any further. ;>

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on August 29, 2005 11:46 AM.

My Evening with Kent was the previous entry in this blog.

Florida and Antievolution is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.361

Site Meter