Basu: Bias over views or credentials?

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Rekha Basu at the Des Moines Register has written an opinion on ISU’s denial of tenure to Guillermo Gonzalez. She raises some good issues:

In the past 10 years, a third of the 12 tenure applicants in the physics and astronomy department have been denied. Asked if Gonzalez’s Intelligent Design views were considered, department head Eli Rosenberg replied, “Only to the extent that they impact his scientific credentials.”

One hopes the ISU president’s response to the appeal will answer any lingering questions about bias toward Gonzalez for his personal beliefs. But Intelligent Design proponents are wrong to equate the exclusion of their theory from the classroom with academic bias. Professors are entitled to their own beliefs, but not to teach as science something that is not.

It is important to remember that the Tenure requirements are more extensive than suggested by some ID proponents who limit their argument to what the department requirements specify (and even there seem to mangle the requirements)

The university maintains the tenure denial was based on the professor’s teaching, service, scholarly publications and ability to get research funding, and not his Intelligent Design advocacy.

So let’s look at Gonzalez’s publication record, compare his record before joining ISU to his record after he joined, remembering that the customary 7 year period is of a probationary nature. During this period one has to show that the promise for success based on which one was originally hired for a tenure track position is actually playing itself out, This includes the ability to continue and expand the research, the ability to attract external sources of funding, and so on.

In this light, the responses by the Discovery Institute seems quite puzzling. Are they really interested in the best outcome for Gonzalez? Sometimes I wonder.

136 Comments

Just when I thought this discussion was over-here we go again. I’ll say a few things here that will no doubt cause a few regulars to continue to ID bait me, rather than deal directly with my arguments.

For the record, just to remove any misunderstanding and attempt to move this debate to where it belongs (discussion of the meaning of the term “academic freedom”), any person who has access to EBSCO data host or a University library can hunt down the March 2007 issue of The Journal of Economic Issues and discover my academically published views on Darwinism in the social sciences. Those person(s) would quickly discover that not only am I pro-evolution, I am pro extending evolutionary concepts to the social sciences (with some caveats). I say this only because several people keep responding to what I am saying with accusations that I am shilling for the ID people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

That disclaimer out of the way, let me make another one: I still don’t have any real evidence that Gonzales was improperly denied tenure.

Now, on to the real issue. I am bothered by the statement that Gonzales’ pro ID views might have been considered negatively against him in the tenure decision because they negatively weighed against his scientific credentials.

There is to my mind a significant difference between a federal judge, for purposes of trying to decide what can and cannot be forced on high school biology classrooms, and trying to officially decide what counts as a scientific view for a tenure decision.

Science proceeds best when it is open to challenge and critical scrutiny (that is not the same as saying science education proceeds best…). Science today does indeed rest on a naturalistic world view. There is nothing wrong and sinister about that. In addition, people have the responsibility to teach the curriculum.

However, especially at the University level academic freedom does include the right to hold views that are considered outside the pale in one’s discipline. How much one has the right to introduce views outside the pale into the classroom is a tricky issue. On balance, I don’t have a problem with someone discussing ID to a very limited degree (and I stress very limited) in a **College** science classroom, provided the standard curriculum is covered and covered rigorously.

Furthermore, provided one is publishing in accepted academic journals, getting grant money, turning out graduate students, etc. or meeting other University specified requirements, one has the right to advocate even crackpot theories. Now if one’s crackpot theories make it impossible to publish, then that’s a different story.

To make a long story short: the way to decide these matters generally is to apply a “But for” test. In other words, remove the fact that Gonzales is a well known advocate of ID and ask would his record have been tenurable otherwise. The way to test this is to compare his record to that of other people recently granted and denied tenure. If by comparison his record was tenurable, and people are on record as saying that his pro-ID views were a motivating factor, then I would have to say there is prima facie evidence of viewpoint discrimination.

Again, I wish to stress that I have no evidence any of this happened to Gonzales. If he really has evidence, there are mechanisms by which to bring his complaint to light. He certainly has the right to generate publicity to support his case. But in the end, I doubt that publicity will decide the matter. His individual case should be decided first by the appropriate University appeals mechanisms. People should avoid jumping to any conclusions until that is done and the record is in writing.

Now, I’ll bring this to a close with my central point: I continue to oppose any effort to impose any kind of “litmus test” on the viewpoints of anyone in academia as a condition for granting or maintaining tenure.

The saddest part of the article was reading the comments after the article, complete with accusations that the reporter got her marching orders from MoveOn and that she is ideologically comparable to Castro. This does not include the usual quote mining and other forms of intellectual dishonesty displayed by her readers. Be that as it may, the issue of tenure has always been a tangled one, as there is a very large subjective element in any such decision. Anywhere in the process, anyone who has had a run-in with the applicant has an opportunity to grind his axes. In the case of professors who have taken controversial stands, such as arguing that slavery played no role in the run up to the Civil War, will find it more difficult to be granted tenure. So long as the denial of tenure is not based on civil rights grounds, at one point, it seemed a professor could be denied tenure for something as minor as preferring to wear polka dot bowties at seminars. Now maybe things have changed in the ensuing years, but the whole issue of tenure is another issue separate from the ID debate (if it can be so dignified)altogether.

HMMM, interesting fact #1 Two members of the department that denied tenure to astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State University (ISU) have publicly admitted that Gonzalez’s work on intelligent design played a role in his denial of tenure.

Interesting Fact #2 After Gonzalez published “The Privileged Planet” an “atheistic religious studies professor” (explain that connection to me) had a petition signed by 120 faculty members of ISU to reject ID from even being considered science. (Sounds like Orwell’s thought police are alive and well at ISU) even though Gonzalez never taught ID in his class. Now if that is not setting the stage for “witch hunting” I don’t know what is. It is/was definitely a hostile work environment for Gonzalez. In spite of Gonzalez excellent research record, which would compare favorably with any fully tenured professor, and the fact He never taught ID in class, It is most likely from the solid evidence presented so far that he was denied tenure for his personal beliefs. To deny this is to deny the facts. This does not surprise me for I find evolutionists are experts in ignoring hard facts that are inconvenient to them and exalting suggestive facts that can’t be conclusively proved.

However, especially at the University level academic freedom does include the right to hold views that are considered outside the pale in one’s discipline.

ID is not a controversial alternative scientific line of inquiry, as, say, string theory currently is; it is, and has repeatedly been proven to be, a pack of lies, a con-game based on misunderstanding and misrepresentation of facts and how science works. To continue to advocate ID, after all the public smackdowns it has received, is a sign of either incompetence or dishonesty – either of which should be considered valid reasons for denial of tenure.

I continue to oppose any effort to impose any kind of “litmus test” on the viewpoints of anyone in academia as a condition for granting or maintaining tenure.

Even when those “viewpoints” are blatantly contrary to known truth or the basic values the university wishes to uphold?

Calling a well-known lie a “viewpoint” should not insulate it from scrutiny or accountability, whether it’s ID, rejection of germ theory, or a Jewish-conspiracy story.

It is most likely from the solid evidence presented so far that he was denied tenure for his personal beliefs.

So is ID valid science, or just a “personal belief?” And which did Gonzalez say it was?

I have heard elsewhere that Gonzalez had no research grants. Does anyone know if that is the case, and if it is, does that not provide solid grounds for denying him tenure, regardless of whether or not he is an IDist?

Re Aagcobb

Prof. Gerard Harbison of the Un. of Nebraska attempted to discover if Prof. Gonzalez had ever been awarded any grants during his tenure at Iowa State Un. He was unable to find any evidence of such awards. As Prof. Harbison points out, this by itself would be sufficient to deny tenure these days.

http://homepage.mac.com/gerardharbi[…]WP_blog.html

Re Chip Poirot

I suspect that many of the faculty members at Iowa State Un. were very reluctant to grant tenure to a Peter Duesberg, Michael Behe, Brian Josephson, Arthur Butz type of individual like Prof. Gonzalez. These individuals have tenure and have been an embarrassment to their universities. Faculty members understandably don’t like being embarrassed at national meetings by the presence of tenured whackjobs at their universities.

According to this blub from DI: Dr. Gonzalez has published 68 refereed articles in peer-reviewed journals, exceeding the normal standard of his department by 350%! Significantly, nowhere do his departmental standards even mention outside research grants as a criterion for promotion or tenure. Why exactly should ID be ruled out prior to investigation. To assert that it not even possible to deduce intelligence is to deny many commonly accepted diciplines of science and is to hold a biased presumption prior to investigation.(That is clearly bad empirical science in its own right) Remember, the materialistic philosophy fought tooth and nail to prevent the Big Bang from joining mainstream science because of its Theistic implications. Even today we find a few people fighting against the Big Bang because of its implications. Yet we are suppose to unquestionably follow the materialistic party line of evolution and never question that it could produce the amazing complexity we are witnessing around us. Excuse me if I don’t click my heals to the thought police on this matter and demand proof that cleary violates Genetic Entropy.

I have heard elsewhere that Gonzalez had no research grants. Does anyone know if that is the case, and if it is, does that not provide solid grounds for denying him tenure, regardless of whether or not he is an IDist?

There is an article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education that says:

Mr. [sic] Gonzalez said he does not have any grants through NASA or the National Science Foundation, the two agencies that would normally support his research, on planets beyond our solar system and their parent stars.

Assuming he did not get any other external funding, except for his Templeton grant to write The Privileged Planet, it would really seem like an exceptionally poor record in that respect, and a major hurdle to tenure. On the other hand, the DI says funding is not officially listed in ISU’s tenure requirements (surprising, if true, but who knows).

I don’t know how it works for astronomy, but in the biomedical field in a major university, a junior faculty member who receives no funding in 7 years would have been encouraged to find more suitable employment long before the tenure application deadline. It also depends on Gonzalez’s recruitment contract - they usually spell out what the funding expectations are.

I have heard elsewhere that Gonzalez had no research grants. Does anyone know if that is the case, and if it is, does that not provide solid grounds for denying him tenure, regardless of whether or not he is an IDist?

There is an article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education that says:

Mr. [sic] Gonzalez said he does not have any grants through NASA or the National Science Foundation, the two agencies that would normally support his research, on planets beyond our solar system and their parent stars.

Assuming he did not get any other external funding, except for his Templeton grant to write The Privileged Planet, it would really seem like an exceptionally poor record in that respect, and a major hurdle to tenure. On the other hand, the DI says funding is not officially listed in ISU’s tenure requirements (surprising, if true, but who knows).

I don’t know how it works for astronomy, but in the biomedical field in a major university, a junior faculty member who receives no funding in 7 years would have been encouraged to find more suitable employment long before the tenure application deadline. It also depends on Gonzalez’s recruitment contract - they usually spell out what the funding expectations are.

The tenure and promotion guidelines are outlined in the faculty handbook and further details may be added at the college and department levels.

5.2.2.3.2. Research /Creative Activities.

Faculty members who engage in research/creative activities are expected to make original contributions that are appropriate to their chosen area of specialization and that are respected by peers within and outside the university.

Some examples of research/creative activity include the following:

* conduct of experimental research * creative performance or exhibition * conceptualizing and theorizing in an original way * synthesis, criticism, and clarification of extant knowledge and research * innovative collection or analysis of empirical data * seeking and obtaining competitive grants and contracts * relating research to the solution of practical problems * leadership in professional societies or organizations

A portfolio format is used to document faculty research/creative activities beyond what is contained in the candidate’s vita. The faculty portfolio includes materials such as summaries of completed, current, and future research projects; descriptions of applied use of research; summaries of grants, patents, and inventions; exhibition catalogs and other non-juried creative works.

The effectiveness of the candidate’s research/creative activities is determined by evaluating the character of the scholarship of these activities using the criteria described in the scholarship section and in Table 1.

Scholarship resulting from research/creative activities is documented through means appropriate to the specialty, such as peer-reviewed publications, lectures, performances, exhibits, invited lectures, conference papers. Evaluation of scholarship considers its impact as judged by its influence, use, or adoption by peers; its originality, richness, breadth and/or depth of expression.

Under normal circumstances, Mr. Gonzalez’s publication record would be stellar and would warrant his earning tenure at most universities, according to Mr. Hirsch. But Mr. Gonzalez completed the best scholarship, as judged by his peers, while doing postdoctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin and at the University of Washington, where he received his Ph.D. His record has trailed off since then.

and

That pattern may have hurt his case. “Tenure review only deals with his work since he came to Iowa State,” said John McCarroll, a spokesman for the university.

When considering a tenure case, faculty committees try to anticipate what kind of work a professor will accomplish in the future. “The only reason the previous record is relevant is the extent to which it can predict future performance,” said Mr. Hirsch. “Generally, it’s a good indication, but in some cases it’s not.”

and finally

The department’s promotion and tenure guidelines do not explicitly list external financial support as a requirement for tenure, he said. But Iowa’s Mr. McCarroll said that the tenure-review process does consider how many research grants scientists have received.

This shows what various others have been saying as well, that tenure is a forward looking statement indicating that there is a strong likelihood that the person will be able to contribute significantly. It’s not a simple bean counting of publications, and certainly the focus should be on the work performed while being on probation for tenure.

Chronicle of Higher Education.

PC2,

I know I’m going to hate myself for this in the morning, but OK, I’ll bite. Could you please state for us precisely what you mean by “genetic entropy”. What is the basic concept? Is it published in any real scientific journal? Is it just another way of saying “conservation of information”? Did you just make this up by yourself or did you copy the idea from someone else? Do you really think this is a problem for evolutionary theory? Do you have any evidence? Will you be submitting your ground breaking research to any journal soon? How about the DI journals, will they be publishing this soon? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now, as for the topic of the thread. PvM kindly provided the portion of the faculty handbook that states that “seeking and obtaining competitive grants and contracts” is expected for the position. According to the evidence presented here, this guy had none. That is the criteria most often applied in these types decisions, as far as I know. Why condemn yourself to forty more years of this guy if you think you can hire someone else who can bring in millions in grants? I didn’t say it was right. I just mean that the reasoning is at least understandable.

Far more telling is the part that says:

“Faculty members who engage in research/creative activities are expected to make original contributions that are appropriate to their chosen area of specialization and that are respected by peers within and outside the university.”

So, it seems appropriate that views that are definately not respected by most peers should be considered. Especially if you choose to be very public about those views prior to the tenure decision.

Even if the whole thing is one big conspiracy, so what? What is anyone going to do about it? If the evil Darwinist conspiracy reaches into every decision in every deparment in every major university, then I guess you better just give up now. Or, you could try to adopt illegal legislation that would demand the brainwashing of school children and mean the end of science in this country. Yea, I’m sure that’s the right way to go to fight an ideological conspiracy.

Why exactly should ID be ruled out prior to investigation.

Because there’s been PLENTY of investigation, and ID never stands up under serious scrutiny.

Remember, the materialistic philosophy fought tooth and nail to prevent the Big Bang from joining mainstream science because of its Theistic implications.

Philosophies don’t fight; people and interest groups fight. Who, specifically, “fought tooth and nail to prevent the Big Bang from joining mainstream science?” And why did the Big Bang become the accepted theory despite such a horrific fight?

Even today we find a few people fighting against the Big Bang because of its implications.

Who, specifically, and why? The fact that the Big Bang is currently accepted, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that science does not reject new ideas merely because of their “theistic implications.”

Excuse me if I don’t click my heals to the thought police on this matter and demand proof that cleary violates Genetic Entropy.

And this statement very strongly implies that “PC2” is actually “realpc,” version 2.0. Aparently the upgrade from version 1.0 didn’t have much of an effect on performance.

If any faculty members worked in the vicinity of Gonzales or even had casual conversations with him about scientific matters, I would suspect that it would be quite likely they picked up on some disturbing misconceptions in Gonzales’ thinking. It is extremely difficult to hold the kinds of views the ID/creationists do without having major conceptual errors in one’s scientific understanding.

These kinds of conceptual problems would be strong indicators of limited future potential in obtaining competitive grants, mentoring graduate students, teaching classes, and contributing to advancing knowledge.

I think that anyone who has worked around an idiot who has maintained his/her position by political means will understand these implications. Getting rid of such idiots before a political process locks them in place is far better than living with them after it becomes impossible to ditch them.

At this point, we just don’t know the details, but if Gonzales’ problems are anything like those we see in the fake scientists at the Discovery Institute, then the process of dumping him will very likely be subtle and obscure. It wouldn’t be persecution; it would be a pragmatic awareness of the future difficulties caused by supporting someone who is very likely to be incompetent. It would also take into consideration the political battles that would almost certainly ensue whenever ideologists, like those among the ID/creationist crowd, start howling that they are being persecuted for their religion when in fact they are really incompetent.

The idea that his research record should be evaluated independently of his veiws on ID is wrong - his views on ID are part of his research record. It would be an entirely different matter if his views on ID had only been expressed in private. However, he has published extensively on the subject, so it is completely legitimate to consider it as part of his record for tenure evaluation. The point of tenure is to decide “is this person going to be a productive scientist and contribute positively to the department and the university?” Gonzalez’s support of ID shows him to have very poor scientific judegment and cannot be seperated from the rest of his record.

If any faculty members worked in the vicinity of Gonzales or even had casual conversations with him about scientific matters, I would suspect that it would be quite likely they picked up on some disturbing misconceptions in Gonzales’ thinking. It is extremely difficult to hold the kinds of views the ID/creationists do without having major conceptual errors in one’s scientific understanding.

These kinds of conceptual problems would be strong indicators of limited future potential in obtaining competitive grants, mentoring graduate students, teaching classes, and contributing to advancing knowledge.

I think that anyone who has worked around an idiot who has maintained his/her position by political means will understand these implications. Getting rid of such idiots before a political process locks them in place is far better than living with them after it becomes impossible to ditch them.

At this point, we just don’t know the details, but if Gonzales’ problems are anything like those we see in the fake scientists at the Discovery Institute, then the process of dumping him will very likely be subtle and obscure. It wouldn’t be persecution; it would be a pragmatic awareness of the future difficulties caused by supporting someone who is very likely to be incompetent. It would also take into consideration the political battles that would almost certainly ensue whenever ideologists, like those among the ID/creationist crowd, start howling that they are being persecuted for their religion when in fact they are really incompetent.

(I’m not sure what is happening with the posting. Sometimes hitting Post produces nothing, then trying again a few minutes later produces a double post. Is there something I am missing? I’m trying this a second time, so if there is a double post, that is what happened.)

SLC Wrote:

Faculty members understandably don’t like being embarrassed at national meetings by the presence of tenured whackjobs at their universities.

Yes, the ability of producing good science (and its acceptance in lieu of perhaps being produced by a despicable person) is different from the requirements for being a good scientist in all situations.

Someone who takes an anti-science position outside his department, regardless of the science, should not be considered a good scientist (as in “leadership in professional societies or organizations”) in the larger sense.

It is also unlikely that such a person could produce a continous scientific effort if his extra-curricular efforts are in direct opposition to his research, which IMHO think could be another de facto consideration here.

Never having heard of the book, Privileged Planet, I put it in search engines and got some excerpts. It seemed to be typical creo nonsense. Supposedly the atmosphere is transparent to visible light so our eyes can see. More likely that our eyes are evolutionarily selected to be sensitive to visible light because that is what the atmosphere is letting through. If it couldn’t get through, it wouldn’t be called “visible” now, would it.

One other thing that bothers me. Astronomers say that the nearest large spiral galaxy, Andromeda, will collide with the milky way in ca. 2 billion years. This could definitely be hard on life in our galaxy. So what is so privileged about being a rabbit in the headlights while a spectacular intergalactic collision occurs? It’s not like we are going to be able to stop it or anything.

FWIW, when fundies are presented with possible future problems like global warming, overpopulation, asteroid dinosaur killer class impacts, emerging diseases such as HIV, SARS, avian flu evolving into human pandemic capable forms, etc., their usual response is so what. After all, any day now, Gabriel will blow his horn, the rapture will occur, and we will all be killed by our benevolent creator and sent to various afterlifes. They’ve been wrong for 2,000 years but being wrong never seems to bother them.

@Chip Poirot:

I disagree with you that holding views that are utterly beyond the pale for one’s dicipline should not negatively effect your chance of tenure. For that matter, I don’t believe that you really believe that either, if you think about it for a while. Would you claim that being active in a holocaust denial group (in any capacity other than agent provocateur) should not factor negatively into a tenure decision for a Political Science chair? After all, holocaust denial doesn’t have to negatively impact the performance of any specific duties of the chair in question.

I’m sorry ID’ers (and other crackpots), but holding beliefs that are objectively batshit crazy does disqualify you from employment at most respectable scientific institutions. And that’s not even going into the fact that Behe’s lacklustre performance since joining the DI gives every reason to believe that being tenured and creationist at the same time does Bad Things for your productivity.

Disclaimer: I’m not claiming moral equivalence between holocaust deniers and creationists - merely that they are wrong by approximately the same order of magnitude (10^6, to be precise…).

- JS

@Chip Poirot:

I disagree with you that holding views that are utterly beyond the pale for one’s discipline should not negatively effect your chance of tenure. For that matter, I don’t believe that you really believe that either, if you think about it for a while. Would you claim that being active in a holocaust denial group (in any capacity other than agent provocateur) should not factor negatively into a tenure decision for a Political Science chair? After all, holocaust denial doesn’t have to negatively impact the performance of any specific duties of the chair in question.

I’m sorry ID’ers (and other crackpots), but holding beliefs that are objectively batshit crazy does disqualify you from employment at most respectable scientific institutions. And that’s not even going into the fact that Behe’s lacklustre performance since joining the DI gives every reason to believe that being tenured and creationist at the same time does Bad Things for your productivity.

Disclaimer: I’m not claiming moral equivalence between holocaust deniers and creationists - merely that they are wrong by approximately the same order of magnitude (10^6, to be precise…).

- JS

For the record, just to remove any misunderstanding and attempt to move this debate to where it belongs (discussion of the meaning of the term “academic freedom”),

AGAIN, chip, this is your OPINION of the direction these threads should take.

By and large, all your posts have done amounts to hijacking to original gist of the threads you post in.

that you seemingly either fail to realize this in your zeal to argue for your own version of “academic freedom”, or willfully choose not to care, is troubling to say the least.

just like all the other threads you have posted this argument in, it is innapropriate as none of them have at their cores really BEEN issues of academic freedom.

In fact, at some level you seem to realize this when you say things like:

I still don’t have any real evidence that Gonzales was improperly denied tenure.

why don’t you make a proposal to the PT staff to create a thread to discuss your notions of academic freedom, or else create one yourself over on ATBC?

that would be far more appropriate.

PC2 is obviously “RealPC”; hasn’t this person broken several PT rules already?

Is anyone else disturbed by the opening sentence in the Chronicle article?

“At first glance, it seems like a clear-cut case of discrimination.”

Shouldn’t the Chronicle of Higher Education have a more sophisticated understanding of what “discrimination” might (or might not) entail in a tenure review? The article approaches the question by stacking up Gonzalez’s professional merits, as though approval or denial of tenure can be justified by looking at the length of the publication record.

I blogged about this here before I realized the Chronicle article had been discussed in this thread.

I tend to agree that if someone is being considered for the position of full-time lifeguard, the fact that he’s written a book called “Why God Wants People to Drown” is relevant and disturbing. The facts that the candidate has great eyes and ears, is a powerful swimmer, passes all the technical requirements (carries of violent thrashing victims, carries in heavy waves, etc.) are certainly important, but what we’re trying to assess here is what the candidate WILL do when required, not what he CAN do.

Gonzalez seems to have spent far more time pursuing his anti-science activities than actually doing any science, and over time the situation is clearly deteriorating. No way I’d want him as a tenured scientist.

Raging Bee,

I disagree. It’s that simple. Academic freedom includes the right to work outside the prevailing paradigm or even to challenge the prevailing paradigm.

Again, as I stated: if one’s work outside a paradigm makes it impossible to publish, to get grant money, or to teach the curriculum effectively, then it is valid to deny someone tenure for those things.

I agree, that given the normal conventions of science, ID is not a scientific line of inquiry per se (using the term science very narrowly here to refer to what is done in the natural and physical sciences). I would call ID in the abstract, a mildly interesting philosophical/metaphysical position. I would call ID as advocated by the Discovery Institute a bad joke.

The issue is whether or not a scientist has a right to hold and publicly express a position on philosophy/metaphysics. I think they do, even if that philosohical/metaphysical view is unpopular or subject to abuse. On the other hand, they don’t have a right to turn an astronomy class into a course on religious philosophy.

PvM: I reject this “bean counting” argument you keep turning up. This isn’t the issue (it may be for some, but not for me). Of course publications need to be weighed. But the weighing is not a subjective, pesonal weighing. It’s a weighing of things similar to what a jury in a trial is supposed to do. The evidence for future performance is based on past performance-not a subjective, wild guess about what you think might happen at date x in the future. If someone has proven potential by meeting relevant requirements, you can’t make up new requirements, or use the weighing to say ridiculous things like: sure he published in the relevant journals but…

The issue in Gonzales case is what he was told at the time of appointment. If he knew he needed money and didn’t get it, then he has nothing to complain about. If on the other hand, research money was not a requirement, but one factor to be weighed among others, then it is necessary to look at how things have been done in the past.

Someone else said: you could deny tenure for wearing the wrong kind of tie. Legally, you may or may not be able to do that, depending on the state. Practically, in many localities denying tenure for invidious reasons would open a University to legal action. Furthermore, no University is going to admit that they are denying tenure for invidious reasons (unless they are just stupid, which does happen). Those actions raise controversy and might lead to institutional censure by the AAUP (not that anyone pays attention to the AAUP’s list).

The point remains: There isn’t enough evidence to say anything about Gonzales’ case, and frankly, I think people should stop speculating and wait for the matter to work out. As far as I am concerned it helps no one and helps no cause to say he was denied tenure inappropriately. Similarly, it helps no one and serves no cause to say the deinal was appropriate.

The simple matter here is that nobody knows, nor could we know (nor for that matter I don’t see any reason why Iowa State would release the information to us it would require for us to know).

From my pov, thus far, this is what I am willing to say. There is no evidence of persecution and to claim that this demonstrates persecution against ID proponents cannot be supported by any evidence.

Ok Dave Stanton, you don’t have to yourself, but here is what I’m talking about when I say genetic entropy, “Genetic Entropy” is a growing body of evidence that indicates a level of entropy for the information in a life form that is separate and more rigorous than the entropy demonstrated by the Second Law of Thermodynamics for the material realm. A book titled “Genetic Entropy” has recently been written. The following is a review of that book that I found on amazon. Please note the the stature of the scientist who wrote the book. “Genetic Entropy” was written by Cornel University Professor of Genetics, John Sanford. In his 25 years as a research scientist at Cornell he was granted 25 patents, the most well known one for the gene gun, better known as the ballistic process. It is as a result of this development that I first learned of his important work (I have used this technology in my molecular biology research). I agree with much in this book partly because I have come to the same conclusion as Dr Sanford, only by a very different route. This work for me only further solidified the case for evolution, only evolution the wrong way, downward instead of upward, i.e. the genome is degenerating. Even if half of Dr Sanford’s well documented arguments turn out to be incorrect, he has still made his case in this well written, yet packed full of insight, easy to read, book. He makes his case in 10 chapters, any one of which stands alone as clear evidence for genome degeneration. One point that impressed me was the fact that most mutations are not neutral, as commonly believed, but near neutral. As a result, they are not selected out by natural selection. Consequently, they accumulate in the genomes of all life forms so that, as a set, they reduce fitness for the entire species, eventually producing genetic meltdown. This may be one reason for animal extinction. The harmful mutations are not the problem because those that are dominnt are usually soon selected out by natural selection. This, as is well documented in this book and elsewhere, is the main role of selection, to help maintain the stability of the genome by reducing the effects of deleterious mutations. Neo-Darwinist today believe that the major means of producing new genetic information is mutations and selection. As Sanford documents, the problem is not the survival of the fittest, though, but the arrival of the fittest because mutations as a whole clearly reduce usable information, not increase it. All other theories of the source of new genetic information, such as Darwin’s pangenesis, and acquired traits as developed by Lamarckism ideas, have been discarded. The only viable theory left is mutations. This book will be important in showing that mutations are not only not the answer to the arrival of the fittest problem, but are clear evidence against Neo-Darwinism.

Thanks SLC.

I’ve taken the relatively unpopular position that Gonzalez’s promotion of ID, per se, should not have been considered in his tenure case. However, it appears The Privileged Planet was included in his tenure file. Gonzalez did not have to do this, but he did, and therefore The Privileged Planet was subject to review for scientific rigor. If some of the claims about The Privileged Planet have been reported accurately - e.g. that the transparency of the atmosphere at visible wavelengths shows the planet was designed for human eyes - then it must surely have been an unfavorable review.

By the way, it’s not just the DI that have been making fallacious or misleading claims about the Gonzalez case. Denyse O Leary today discussed at length hoiw one of his papers has over a hundred citations - without disclosing that the paper dates to 1998, before he began at ISU, and therefore would not have been a significant part of his tenure review. I have several papers that were cited hundreds of times from my grad. student days; they were not included in my tenure review.

Gonzalez’s output during his probabionary period was apparently nondescript in both quality and quantity; he lacked major funding; and he included scientifically questionable material in his tenure file. I doubt it was even a close call.

Hey, Phil, you dishonest spamming troll plagiarist,

YOU ALREADY POSTED THAT, with no attribution. At that time, I identified the possibilities. They are: you are spamming the comments with drivel YOU WROTE that appears elsewhere and could simply be linked to, OR You are plagiarizing the hack who reviews books on Amazon under the nom de fool “The Professor.”

Both sorts of behavior are against the comments policy here. Do yourself and the rest of us a favor, and go away.

Thanks SLC.

I’ve taken the relatively unpopular position that Gonzalez’s promotion of ID, per se, should not have been considered in his tenure case. However, it appears The Privileged Planet was included in his tenure file. Gonzalez did not have to do this, but he did, and therefore The Privileged Planet was subject to review for scientific rigor. If some of the claims about The Privileged Planet have been reported accurately - e.g. that the transparency of the atmosphere at visible wavelengths shows the planet was designed for human eyes - then it must surely have been an unfavorable review.

By the way, it’s not just the DI that have been making fallacious or misleading claims about the Gonzalez case. Denyse O Leary today discussed at length hoiw one of his papers has over a hundred citations - without disclosing that the paper dates to 1998, before he began at ISU, and therefore would not have been a significant part of his tenure review. I have several papers that were cited hundreds of times from my grad. student days; they were not included in my tenure review.

Gonzalez’s output during his probationary period was apparently nondescript in both quality and quantity; he lacked major funding; and he included scientifically questionable material in his tenure file. I doubt it was even a close call.

PPS: Would any of this talk of how easy it is to observe the Universe from here have carried any weight before the invention of our more powerful optical telescopes? It seems to me Heddle’s “good place to do astronomy” argument depends a lot on technology we’ve created.

Even if we had evolved in an opaque atmosphere, sooner or later we would have discovered that some EM radiation travels better outside that atmosphere, and we could then have invented orbiting telescopes that use that part of the spectrum. We would have learned about the other stars a lot later than we did, but we still would have found the Universe just as “observable” as we find it now.

“a habitable place for complex life will necessarily be good for scientific observations”

And it will also be good for birds of prey that locate their prey from great height by sight.

The Earth was designed for hawks and falcons! Oh, and Old World vultures.

Lucky for us it suited us too, as a mere happy accident, when we came along later.

Raging Bee,

We are talking about intense x-Rays and gamma rays. You would have to have clouds of lead. Of course, you should really be taking this up with the editors and referees who approved the habitable zone papers. The papers were not rejected, and certainly not for any of the considerations you list. Why? Because it is not crackpot, once you look at the chemistry and physics, to argue that complex life will likely be carbon based, require liquid water, and be in a region free of intense radiation. Divorce it from any creationist baggage and many biochemists would agree. Carbon is the best basis for complex chemistry. Water is the best natural solvent. And radiation, in simple terms, breaks matter down. As for design, you know quite well that I would agree that that is not science. It’s a metaphysical conclusion. And yes, the design idea is found throughout the Privileged Planet. My point is, however, if you consider the central theme of the book, that habitability correlates to observability, and you allow yourself to set aside the design aspects of the rest of the book, then you should be able to see that the idea is not lunatic fringe, and not necessarily tied to creationism or ID.

Indeed, as I’ve stress many times, is somewhat anti-design. To see that, ask yourself which of these two arguments would IDists prefer to make:

1) The earth is in the habitable zone. As a consequence, we’ll be able to see outside our galaxy.

2) The earth is in the habitable zone. As an added surprise bonus, it appears as if “someone” also wanted us to be able to do Astronomy.

It think it is fairly obvious that the second argument is more ID friendly—but the PP argument is the first.

Before I read the PP, when I spoke about cosmological ID, I used to make the second argument. (We used to call it the “tie-breaker.”) I no longer do. The PP convinced me that observability is not a feather in ID’s cap—it’s simply a neutral consequence of habitability. (Well, convinced is probably too strong—I would say the argument is sensible enough that it completely neuters argument 2.)

No, I do not think the PP argument (habitability – observability) is testable. But that doesn’t mean it is lunatic fringe—it means it is not science per se. Just like, say, Susskind’s cosmic landscape and Smolin’s cosmic evolution. Interesting ideas that most likely can never be tested in any normal sense of the word.

How does one refute a speculation?

I speculate that you’re 6’7” and have a club foot. How could you possibly refute that?

Especially one that’s a tautology

There’s no need to speculate on statements that we know are true, and certainly not ones that are necessarily true.

in the single sample we have, habitability and observability both exist

In the single sample we have, someone named les posting in this thread hasn’t a clue what a speculation, a refutation, or a tautology, is, but he isn’t necessarily clueless.

Thanks, Popper. So you would agree with me that the premise of PP, and the particular question posed, are essentially kind of stupid? Your speculation about me could be refuted-just find all of the me’s that there are. Appears to be unworkable in the case at hand. If there’s no need to speculate, then the demand that science refute the speculation offered is clueless? Note that I didn’t offer the “speculation” nor the demand for refutation. As to your speculation regarding my vocabulary skills, it is fairly clueless–offered without a clue as to it’s accuracy. Did you have a point?

David Heddle — First, it is not May 2008 yet. :-)

But it was you who moved the goalpost. It was you who made claims regarding habitability - observability correlation.

That’s demolished. So now you change your tune to

habitability implies observability

which is obviously different.

And by the way, the galactic life zone argument appears in Rare Earth and, restricted to life-as-we-know-it, is certainly sound…

Oops. statements, not claims.

Apologies.

David Stanton,

First of all they are correlated according to the PP argument. There is no goal post moving. According to the PP premise every place habitable for complex life will be good for observation. My statement: habitability—observability correlation stands. You just foolishly took it to mean that the fact that they are correlated implies that observability–>habitability when it implies no such thing.

Second, even if I was sloppy with my language (which I wasn’t), everyone who has read the PP knows what they argued–if you haven’t read it, then you shouldn’t be voicing your opinion about it.

Third, as your rebuttal shows: gee Pluto is a good observation platform but a bad place to live, case closed, game over man! you are arguing from the premise that Gonzalez is an idiot (or I am) for never considering such a slam dunk rebuttal. Oh gosh, I never thought that Pluto would be a great place for a telescope! D’oh! That’s a really poor way to argue–to use my oft-used example, that is the intellectual equivalent of a YEC coming here and smugly asking “what good is half an eye? A-ha, gotcha!”

David Heddle — It is still not May 2008. :-)

I am not Stanton!

You used the word correlation. Guess you don’t understand its meaning.

I read The Privileged Planet several years ago. So distastefully wrong that I have forgotten most of it.

So it was up to you to define exactly what you meant to say, instead of just slanging it around…

David Benson,

Oops, sorry about the name–but what is the 2008 reference? That’s going over my head.

David Heddle — When you left the other day, you said you would check back in a year, implying, at least, not earlier.

I’m just reminding you of that. :-)

“The Earth was designed for hawks and falcons! Oh, and Old World vultures.”

It was designed for monkeys. The banana is proof.

David Stanton Wrote:

Seriously, the anthropic principle has been discredited so many times in so many ways, I’m amazed anyone could seriously advocate any form of it.

I am not sure why you say so - the anthropic principle and its kissing cousin the environmental principle is still viable in physics, even being used to propose later confirmed parameters.

But it is true that certain forms have been discredited. To sort it out, we can distinguish the three main forms.

The tautological anthropic principle (TAP) is that physical laws and parameters must be compatible with our life. TAP was used by Hoyle to suggest the carbon-12 resonance that enables the triple alpha process that breeds carbon in our stars. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple-alpha_process )

TAP is (of course, being tautological) compatible with any mechanism setting the laws, be it a fully constrained Theory Of Everything or a TOE that admits a probabilistic choice.

The weak anthropic principle (WAP) is that physical laws and parameters are such that quantities are not equally probable but they take on values restricted by observers. WAP is considered in string landscapes and/or inflation multiverse settings where parameters can vary locally - we live in a Hubble volume that was compatible with life.

The weak environmental principle (WEP) is when the values can be constrained by an objective measure. One application of WEP is Smolin’s cosmic evolution, another is Boussou’s causal entropic principle. There are two problems here, to express probability (where Smolin succeeds by using a local “evolutionary” fitness measure, and Bousso by using modern knowledge in QM) and falsifiability.

The strong anthropic principle (SAP) is when physical laws and parameters are such observers are inevitable.

SAP is a teleological principle, based on confusing a priori probabilities with a posteriori outcomes to make a perspective error such as in the famous puddle analogy. It is related to the misuse of large numbers btw, see http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/20[…]rs_using.php for a good explanation.

In summary, TAP is useful, WAP is questionable, and SAP is discredited.

One way to strengthen discredit of SAP is to use WAP, btw. One can show that the more finetuned a universe is, the more likely it is to be constrained by natural means. It is first if we see an unconstrained universe which would be suited for life in all its volume we can no longer distinguish it from a created SAP universe.

David Heddle Wrote:

The PP argument is on a par with Lee Smolin’s cosmic evolution.

I don’t see how you can formulate the PP argument as any of the anthropic principles.

Some of it seems to be a coincidence question as in the perspective error. (Taking the outcome of a random process which has already happened, and treating it as if you were predicting it in advance.) We happen to live on a planet that is nicely situated in a rather ordered galaxy.

Perhaps you can explain how the rest is tied into the AP’s.

Smolin’s local fitness principle is interesting since it avoids the problems general principles have in the same way as evolution, it works locally, contingent. But his cosmology isn’t used. AFAIK the properties of black holes are such that they don’t admit his baby universes - ‘white holes’ are no longer a viable solution.

William Jefferys Wrote:

Guillermo is a promising young astrophysicist, and I hope that he doesn’t throw away his career on such nonsense.

Too late, he fell for the brain eaters of creationism.

David Heddle Wrote:

A review from a scientist (Jefferys) who, btw, has an unpublished (as far as I know) paper whose abstract states

Your tu coque doesn’t engage Jefferys’ criticism - a criticism made necessary by Gonzalez’s creationism, btw. He finds it more likely to explain the PP with “a little anthropology and a little history”, and in effect so did I in my earlier comment. You haven’t explained why the PP would be more likely to need physical explanations.

Glen Davidson Wrote:

But I don’t know if planets around red dwarfs are thought to similarly spiral inward or not.

Let me first note that I really like that raven took up this new and engaging subject, that directly discredit much or all of the PP argument.

The reason it is new is that since red dwarfs are old they have less metallicity, and so it was a surprise when the statistics points to that planetary systems and Earth sized are common.

The statistics are still wobbly, since a few observations was enough to turn it, but it is much easier to see small planets around dwarfs, so the trend is expected to continue.

For your question, AFAIK planets are expected to spiral in, and IIRC it was easier, and the planets in the habitable zone is expected to have lots of water. The inspiraling is fairly fast AFAIK so I don’t know if it would help against early star heat. Our own sun has increased luminosity from 70 % of todays value, so it would be interesting to delve into star evolution.

But the water would help with against outgassing and promote heat distribution as noted in the thread. Red dawrfs are much calmer than our own sun, so it would be another benefit.

Chistopher [sic?] Yukna Wrote:

One important fact to remember is red dwarfs emit a great deal of their energy in the infrared. Which could offer some problems to the process of photosynthesis.

I don’t remember where I saw this, but I believe someone noted that while plants use two photons to pump photosynthesis ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis ), they have observed or think three photons are possible.

IOW, comparatively low energy in red wavelength photons would perhaps not be a problem as such. (As long as it isn’t IR.)

SLC Wrote:

life at the bottom of the oceans which receives no energy from the Sun but relies on heat from vents in the ocean floor

This is another possibility for red dwarf life metabolism.

Evolution finds so many solutions spontaneously. Earlier AFAIK researchers have discussed bacterias that indirectly feed of radioactivity by using released hydrogen.

Now I see a note on researcher looking at fungi in nuclear reactors, which seems to feed directly of radioactivity. The pigment melanin is suspected to be involved.

For example, two types of fungi–one that was induced to make melanin (Crytococcus neoformans) and another that naturally contains it (Wangiella dermatitidis)–were exposed to levels of ionizing radiation approximately 500 times higher than background levels. Both species grew significantly faster (as measured by the number of colony forming units and dry weight) than when exposed to standard background radiation.

The researchers also carried out physico-chemical studies into melanin’s ability to capture radiation. By measuring the electron spin resonance signal after melanin was exposed to ionizing radiation, they showed that radiation interacts with melanin to alter its electron structure. This is an essential step for capturing radiation and converting it into a different form of energy to make food.

Dr. Casadevall notes that the melanin in fungi is no different chemically from the melanin in our skin. “It’s pure speculation but not outside the realm of possibility that melanin could be providing energy to skin cells,” he says. “While it wouldn’t be enough energy to fuel a run on the beach, maybe it could help you to open an eyelid.”

( http://www.sciencedaily.com/release[…]22210932.htm )

Torbjorn Larsson,

Thank you for responding to my comment. Also thanks for pointing out that there are many different types of “anthropic principles”. As you point out, some are easier to discredit than others. This is not my field of expertise, so I was basically assuming a simple argument such as: “I am special because (fill in the blank): the universe was created for life/me, the universe was created so that life/I could evolve, the universe was created so that life/I could observe it, etc. The following are a few references that I have come across as Talkorigins and elsewhere. I don’t know if they address all the types of anthropic principles, but at least they are a start.

Fulmer (2001) A Fatal Flaw in Anthropic Principle Design Arguments. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 49:101-110.

Kane et. al. ((2002) The Beginning of the End of the Anthropic Principle. New Astronomy 7:45-53.

Drnge (2000) Fine Tuning Argument Revised. Philo 3(2):38-49.

Stenger (1999) The Anthropic Coincidences: A Natural Explanation. Skeptical Enquirer 3(3):2-17.

life at the bottom of the oceans which receives no energy from the Sun but relies on heat from vents in the ocean floor

just to add another that DOESN’T in any way depend on heat energy as an input (really, the vent systems don’t either - the heat merely acts to speed up reactions).

check out cold seep systems:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_seep

http://montereybay.noaa.gov/sitechar/cold.html

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