Egnor and ignorance

| 48 Comments
Egnor Wrote:

It’s clear that Dr. Gonzalez was denied tenure for only one reason: he stated publicly that he believes there is evidence for design in the universe. As I observed in a previous post about Georges Lemitare, the Catholic priest who is the father of the Big Bang theory, many of the most prominent astronomers in history have shared Dr. Gonzalez’s opinion about the evidence for design in the universe. Nowadays, it is very dangerous to state such beliefs in science departments of many universities, including Iowa State University.

In spite of the evidence to the contrary, the Discovery Institute insists that Gonzalez was denied tenure for believing that there is design in the universe. Even Hauptman was clear that it was not an issue of belief but an issue of science and that Intelligent Design is scientifically vacuous.

Hauptman Wrote:

Intelligent design is not even a theory. It has not made its first prediction, nor suffered its first test by measurement. Its proponents can call it anything they like, but it is not science.

and

Hauptman Wrote:

I believe the comment that somehow this decision had something to do with the feelings of the community was also reprehensible, as are statements that this tenure decision is a denial of free speech.

It is purely a question of what is science and what is not, and a physics department is not obligated to support notions that do not even begin to meet scientific standards.

Source: Des Moines Register: Rights are intact: Vote turns on question, ‘What is science?’ John Hauptman, letter to the editor, June 2, 2007

In other words, its all about the science not the belief.

Similarly, Iowa State University President Geoffroy observed that

But I can outline the areas of focus of my review where I gave special attention to his overall record of scientific accomplishment while an assistant professor at Iowa State, since that gives the best indication of future achievement. I specifically considered refereed publications, his level of success in attracting research funding and grants, the amount of telescope observing time he had been granted, the number of graduate students he had supervised, and most importantly, the overall evidence of future career promise in the field of astronomy.

And in fact, the Des Moines Register reports that Gonzalez’s support of intelligent design was not a factor in the decision.

“I based my review strictly on what he submitted himself as part of his dossier when he requested tenure,” Geoffroy said. “I did not consider any of the issues that have been circulating around about intelligent design.”

While people like Hauptman have considered Gonzalez’s support for a scientifically vacuous concept to be a valid reason to reject tenure, the lack of (any meaningful) external funding, the publication record and other relevant factors seems to have been the reasons provided to Gonzalez as to why tenure was denied.

Geoffroy said because the issue of tenure is a personnel matter, he could not share a detailed rationale for the Gonzalez decision.

However, Geoffroy said he focused his review on Gonzalez’s overall record of scientific accomplishment as an assistant professor at ISU.

Geoffroy said he considered refereed publications, Gonzalez’s level of success in attracting research funding and grants, the amount of telescope observing time he had been granted, the number of graduate students he had supervised, and the overall evidence of his future career promise in the field of astronomy.

While the university does not have the right to release this information, Gonzalez is free to present these stated reasons to the public.

Egnor’s comparison of Gonzalez with Arno Penzias fails for the simple reason that in the latter case, there is a scientific theory which Penzias interprets as having religious implications.

In other words, when Egnor claims that

Who else, besides Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Lemitare, would qualify for Iowa State’s blacklist? Nobel laureate Dr. Arno Penzias (photo) meets Iowa State’s implicit criteria for denial of tenure. He has discussed his opinions regarding the philosophical ramifications of his discovery quite openly, and, in many ways, has done so in a way that was more explicitly religious than Dr. Gonzalez.

He is comparing apples and oranges in addition to inaccurately reporting on the (implicit) criteria for (denial of) tenure.

48 Comments

Egnor Wrote:

It’s clear that Dr. Gonzalez was denied tenure for only one reason: he stated publicly that he believes there is evidence for design in the universe.

Same for Ken Miller. What a shame that he was denied tenure…what?…he wasn’t?…Oh…Never mind.

OK, now for the seriousness. I am tired of the use of “egnorance,” and am pretty sure that by now it will do nothing but backfire. Like any DI person, Egnor is sly as a Fox. The DI’s game plan involves a neat mix of arguments that range from the super-silly to the super-slick. Egnor’s role is to deliver the former.

Yes, they are all super-silly to us, but put yourselves in the shoes of nonscientist fence-sitters.

Frank J,

I’m not a fence sitter-I’m decidedly anti-ID, and even I find the constant use of “egnorance” and “IDiot” to be bloody tiresome.

The other thing i find tiresome is the constant insistence by some that Gonzales should have been denied tenure due to his pro-ID stance. All evidence points to Gonzales simply not having met the stated requirements for tenure at Iowa State and that is the only reason he or anyone else should be denied tenure.

The pervasive use of the “anyway” argument is dangerous and corrosive. PT hosts numerous academics, many of whom are familiar with tenure, tenure procedures and should understand that academic freedom includes the right to hold opinions that go against established conventions. Some non-academics posting here have exhibited complete non-familiarity the concepts of academic freedom and tenure, and one, has even referred to the academic focus on academic freedom as “non human” (the implication I gather being that it is alien).

Hauptman’s arguments, and the arguments of others are dangerous, corrosive and unnecessary.

At first glance, it seems easy to define the standards for science in a field like physics. But as long as people publish and teach well, they are free to challenge the standards (though if challenging the standards means they can’t teach well, get grants or publish then they have to accept the consequences). Academic freedom includes the right to have and express opinions that go against the grain of scholarly consensus-no matter how dead wrong I think those opinions are.

The end result of Hauptman’s kind of thinking is what has happened at DePaul, where a political scientist (Finkelstein) and an economist (Mehrene Larudee) have been denied tenure on the thinnest of pretexts (I guess I should throw an allegedly in there).

It’s instructive to compare these cases to Gonzales, precisely because Gonzales case does not compare. At least in Finkelstein’s case, the University President brought in additional, last minute criteria, while acknowledging the seriousness of Finkelstein’s scholarship and the quality of his teaching.

It is incredibly short sighted for people to promote the idea that one’s beliefs and opinions are valid grounds for denying tenure.

So, I repeat: All the evidence points to the decision against Gonzales having been due to proper motivations. The “anyway” argument makes PT look bad, much as does the constant use of “Egnorance” and “IDiot”.

“Georges Lemitare” would be Father Georges Henri Lemaître (1894-1966) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lemaître

Frank: The word “Egnorance” is perfectly appropriate to describe Egnor’s brand of willful ignorance and dishonesty. As long as creationists are calling us far worse epithets, why should we be so quick to assume that only our epithets will backfire?

Chip: when one’s opinions are seen to be clearly dishonest or destructive (i.e., racism or bigotry), or are seen to have a negative effect on one’s work, or are strongly held in opposition to well-known facts, then yes, they ARE valid grounds for denial of tenure. Personal opinion does not trump personal responsibility for the consequences of one’s own words and actions.

Chip Poirot -

Although it is irrelevant in this case, I feel that advocacy of “intelligent design”, as it is presented by the inventors of the term, essentially, Behe, Dembski, and other fellows of the Discovery Institute, can and should count as a negative factor in a tenure review, in certain circumstances.

You say…

It is incredibly short sighted for people to promote the idea that one’s beliefs and opinions are valid grounds for denying tenure.

I would strongly agree with this statement in most possible circumstances, but it is somewhat overly general.

When the beliefs or opinions in question cause an individual to directly deny valid scholarly consensus in the very field he or she practices, based on documented evidence such as empirical scientific results or well-verified historical records and archives, then denial of tenure should be strongly considered.

For example, a holocaust denier might conceivably be able to function as a professor of mathematics. But if a holocaust revisionist was up for tenure as a professor of European history, I would certainly encourage that tenure be denied.

Because ID is poorly done, politically motivated claptrap, (and is not at all related to the scientifically neutral Catholic theism of LeMaitre, Ken Miller, or the many thousands of other Catholic scientists who have ever existed, I might strongly add), embracing it does, unfortunately, reflect ill on scholarly capacity across many fields.

It would be most uncontroversial, in my mind, to dismiss the tenure application of an ID advocate for any position related to biomedical science, certainly including applied fields like agriculture. It would be the equivalent of denying tenure to a chemistry candidate who denies the existence of atoms.

Since ID makes use of distorted, incorrect mathematical and philosophical “arguments”, I would suggest that advocating it would reflect most negatively indeed on a tenure applicant in any fields related to statistics, probability, or logic as well.

It’s just common sense. You don’t give flat earthers tenure in geography or astronomy. You don’t give someone who denies the existence of gravity tenure in mechanical engineering.

Egnor can’t even get his history right, as I showed in my post about his attempt to turn Lemaitre into a creationist:

I wrote: Over at Evolution News, Michael Egnor is straining–and I mean straining to score a point:

“Ironically, we owe much of our modern understanding of the universe to pro-intelligent design astronomers. Georges Lemaître was the astrophysicst who pioneered the Big Bang Theory. Fr. Lemaître (above, with Einstein) was a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, honorary prelate, and a professor of physics and astronomy. He famously described the moment of the Big Bang as “the day without yesterday”, referring to the first day of creation in Genesis, and he was explicit in his belief in the evidence for God’s design in the universe. His Big Bang theory met with considerable opposition because of its religious implications.”

First, Lemaître was not referring to the day without yesterday as the first day of creation in Genesis. I’m sure it will surprise no one that Mr. Egnor offers no quotes to support his contention. In fact, let me offer a quote from Lemaître to affirm exactly the opposite.

“As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being. He may keep, for the bottom of space-time, the same attitude of mind he has been able to adopt for events occurring in non-singular places in space-time. For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God, as were Laplace’s chiquenaude or Jean’s finger. It is consonant with the wording of Isaias speaking of the “Hidden God”, hidden even in the beginning of creation. … Science has not to surrender in face of the Universe and when Pascal tries to infer the existence of God from the supposed infinitude of Nature, we may think that he is looking in the wrong direction.”

Lemaître said this during his presentation at Solvay in 1958: “The primeval atom hypothesis and the problem of the clusters of galaxies,” reprinted in Stoops, R., ed., La Structure et l’Evolution de l’Univers, Brussels: Coudenberg, 1958, pp.1—32.

Let me take this a step further. When Pope Pius XII tried to draw a direct connection between the Big bang and the ‘moment’ of creation, Lemaitre was not enthusiastic. Let me quote in depth from my bio of him: (this was in 1951)

Needless to say, the Pope’s statement made headlines. The December 3rd issue of Time Magazine, for example, was titled: “Behind every door: God.”

“One physicist, predictably, who seems to have found the entire controversy an endless source of amusement, was George Gamow. Not only did he take a chunk of the Pope’s statement and append it to the introduction of a paper he wrote a year later, raising a few eyebrows as he hoped. He apparently wanted to continue encouraging the Pope’s incursions into the realm of cosmology and religion, by feeding him articles via an archbishop he knew would deliver his material directly to the Vatican doorstep. “He never had anything to do with the English article ‘The’,” Hoyle later remarked of Gamow, “and he went through a phase when he was forever quoting the Pope: ‘Pope say this…,’ or ‘About mangan (manganese) Pope says that…’”

“Lemaître was clearly upset. Having been appointed to membership in the Pontifical Academy by Pius’s predecessor because of his standing among cosmoslogists, he was understandably dismayed as to why he had not at least been consulted about the Pope’s address in advance. Within a few months, both Lemaître and the director of the Vatican Observatory, the Jesuit astronomer Daniel O’Connell, met with the Pope to explain that such blatant connections drawn between science and theology would not help the cause of the Church nor the progress of science. And less than a year later, when the Pope addressed a gathering of 650 astronomers at Castel Gandolfo, he this time refrained from discussing the religious and metaphysical implications of the Big Bang theory. To that end, Lemaître and O’Connell’s intervention seems to have succeeded.”

So much for Egnor’s revisionist history. He has not responded.

Re Chip Poirot

I don’t want to be accused of hijacking this thread by getting into a discussion of Norman Finkelstein but I can’t let Mr. Poirots’ comment pass without response. The best response is to attach a link to a discussion of Prof. Finkelstein by Harvard professor of law Alan Dershowitz. It should be noted that in response to criticism leveled at him by Prof Dershowitz, Finkelstein has engaged in a smear campaign against the former based on false accusations of plagiarism, an example of the type of scholarship exhibited by the latter and one of the main reasons tenure was denied.

http://blogcentral.jpost.com/index.[…]_post_id=904

For the edification of Mr. Poirot, I include a paragraph from the Dershowitz commentary.

“Finkelstein willingly collaborates with neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites. Just watch him on YouTube.com, where a clip is posted of his appearance on a Holocaust denial program on Lebanese TV, where he claimed that Holocaust survivors are liars and that Swiss banks—which have agreed to pay back millions of dollars belonging to deceased Jewish depositors and their heirs—never withheld any money from Jews. Neo-Nazis also love Finkelstein, and for good reason. Listen to Ernst Zundel, the notorious Hitler lover and Holocaust denier who is now in prison in Germany:

Finkelstein’s exceedingly useful to us and to the Revisionist cause. He is making three-fourths of our argument - and making it effectively. Never fret - the rest of the argument is being made by us, and will topple the lie within our lifetime. We would not be making vast inroads in Europe with our outreach program, were it not for his courageous little booklet, “The Holocaust Industry.””

SLC,

You are right-we should not hijack this thread. Out of respect for that principle, I will simply confine myself to stating that I disagree with your interpretation of the record.

This seems to me to clearly illustrate my point: it becomes very easy to smear people via guilt by association and unproven innuendos. The test of scholarship lies in scholarly standards for publication.

This is not a perfect standard, but it is better than all the alternatives.

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SLC -

I agree that this thread should not go off on a tangent.

Since I was the one who introduced the valid analogy between ID and the well-known phenomenon of holocaust denial/”revisionism”, in that both deny the objective findings of major bodies of scholarly research in service of an agenda, I will make two important clarifying comments.

One, Norman Finkelstein is not an example of a holocaust denier; in fact, his parents are holocaust survivors. He is a somewhat controversial critic of contemporary political policies which claim to be justified by or otherwise related to the holocaust. The salient point with regard to this thread is that I am not all analogizing ID to controversial but subjective or potentially valid opinions held in the context of acceptance of the facts, but to the well-known phenomenon of outright denial of historical reality.

Norman Finkelstein may or may not have deserved tenure for valid reasons not related to his opinions, but he does NOT fit my analogy at all.

Two, although we all realize it, of course I used the term “holocaust” to refer to the horrific and inhuman atrocities committed against massive numbers of Jewish people, and many of other types of people in smaller but also horrifying numbers, by European fascists, during the 1930’s and the course of WWII.

I did not intend, of course, to understate the horrific impact of other inhuman atrocities, committed at other times and places, sometimes chronically over a long period of time, nor to deny that in a more general sense, the term “holocaust” may apply in other circumstances. I merely used the term in a commonly understood way. In common usage, without qualifiers, the term is understood to mean what I used it to mean.

This is the kind of crap I was talking about -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holoca[…]_revisionism

And for once I feel a rare urge to “defend” ID advocates. Although many of them are, in fact, motivated by an authoritarian agenda of “enforcing Biblical Law” at some point in the future (as they have tended to admit here, when pressed), they aren’t quite as overtly slimy as holocaust revisionists.

(Odds are, a creationist/holocaust revisionist double troll will soon pop up and make me partially eat these words, but I’d certainly say that at least Behe deserves this minimal defense.)

But the analogy is valid because both are well-funded, pseudo-scholarly, agenda-driven denials of reality.

Open advocacy of either is a valid consideration when denying tenure to a scholar in a relevant field.

The only person who can set the record straight is Guillermo Gonzalez himself.

He has the tenure report and he has his performance reviews for the past 5 years.

My speculation is that Gonzalez will not publish his tenure report because it will show that he was denied tenure fairly and for cause. Of course, that would spoil the poor-little-me martyr image that the DI is trying to cultivate.

No, far better for the DI to keep things shrouded in mystery. And no mystery is greater than whether ISU would have granted tenure to The Professor and denied it to Gilligan. Hopefully, the good doctor Egnor will address that burning issue soon.

I think I probably agree with Chip that tenure applications should not take into a consideration an applicant’s beliefs/pet theories. Tenure is all about allowing great academic freedom, not restraining it. If a person is producing good papers published in respected journals, if they are winning grants, if they are successfully running post-grad research teams, but have some beliefs/ideas that are out of phase with the “norm” then frankly, I would be more inclined to them, than someone that always plays it safe.

The quality of the candidate’s work is assured by looking at publication and grant history. Any oddity in addition to that should be embraced, not rejected. Wacky ideas have always held a certain respect in science, provided that it can be backed up. Think Lovelock with Gaia, Hoyle with Panspermia, Einstein with Special Relativity.

Please note, that in the specific case of Gonzalez, I am not suggesting that the man should have received tenure - his preoccupation with the non-science of ID clearly inhibited his capacity to do real science (again, grants/publication record). The system already weeds out these weak players, without having to use the tenure committee as a last line of defence.

Raging Bee Wrote:

Frank: The word “Egnorance” is perfectly appropriate to describe Egnor’s brand of willful ignorance and dishonesty. As long as creationists are calling us far worse epithets, why should we be so quick to assume that only our epithets will backfire?

You and I may not like it, but it’s a fact of life that those who peddle pseudoscience - any pseudoscience not just ID/creationism - can get away with a lot more with the public than any defender of science. With us it’s mostly “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” They have a lot more leeway with words, and in the case of IDers, are always conscious of the words they choose and who is most likely to read them.

Demallien -

Apparently, if I understand correctly, you and Chip do not distinguish between ultimately irrelevant personal opinions, or controversial but supportable or at least subjective ideas, versus support for outright, dishonest rejection of the objective facts underlying an area of scholarship, in a way that is relevant to scholarly performance.

I’m not sure why you disagree with this distinction. For example, I’d consider a flat earth advocate to be at a substantial disadvantage as a geographer. I wouldn’t consider a belief in the healing power of chrystals to be the least bit relevant in that context, but I’d hesitate to grant tenure, in a geography department (or almost any other science department), to someone who was known to personally advocate that the earth is flat, rather than approximately spherical.

Even if the person had a record of some valid publications, it would cause me worry. At best, I might consider granting tenure contingent on the signing of a legal agreement that it would be void if they advocated flat earth in any scientific publications or teaching, or that they used their association with the university to imply institutional support for their position. Given the likelihood that such an agreement would be broken, I’d be more inclined to suggest to them that their profession was at odds with their obsessively held beliefs, that applying yourself to a field of study in the vain hopes of “destroying it from the inside” a al West is usually futile, and that it might be mutually beneficial for them to apply their talents in another way.

There’s no controversy in a case like this. We aren’t discussing the issue of someone who concedes that the earth is round, but advocates in a controversial way against the use of time zones, or some such thing. When someone flat out denies the facts of a specific field in a way that can only be explained by delusion, dishonesty, or both, why on earth should there be any question of granting them tenure to teach it?

It seems to me that euphemizing outright denial of objective reality in the service of a political and social agenda as mere “opinion” or “eccentricity” serves ill in this context.

Why aren’t people more open to the idea that these are not non-overlapping considerations?

i.e. it’s entirely plausible that Gonzalez’s poor track record of attracting outside funds and failure to spur independent research leading to high-profile publications are a result of paying more attention to his membership in a fringe political element than to his academic position.

Just a thought, from a non-academic

I agree 100% with Chip in his first post about Gonzalez (don’t have enough info re: Finkelstein, etc,).

CJO is probably correct that Gonzalez’s poor track record as ISU is, at least partially, the result of his ID activities but that doesn’t matter - and this the beauty of tenure. Provided tenure decisions are based exclusively on productive output it is irrelevant why the standards for tenure were or were not met. Actually, people are commonly denied tenure because they get sidetracked into lines of legitimate research which are too ambitious or speculative which prevents them publishing more mainstream stuff. However, if one does pull of a major discovery then one could get tenure with only a single paper (obviously this is rare and depends on the field). That’s why the results rather than the methods, motivations or beliefs should be assessed

I would be behind Gonzalez getting tenure if he had, say, 10 ISU originated papers in respectable journals and a grant on top of what he has now (including his pro-ID book etc).

The risk that Gonzalez would turn into a Behe post tenure would be worth taking had Gonzalez met the tenure criteria clearly. If the case was marginal then the rule is to deny and so I can’t see why his extra-curricular ID activities should even be a consideration.

harold Wrote:

Apparently, if I understand correctly, you and Chip do not distinguish between ultimately irrelevant personal opinions, or controversial but supportable or at least subjective ideas, versus support for outright, dishonest rejection of the objective facts underlying an area of scholarship, in a way that is relevant to scholarly performance.

Non, you have misunderstood harold. What I am saying is that the people that are best placed to make such a distinction are precisely the peer-review journals and grant boards, and they make this distinction for specific projects. Over time, a large collection of scientifically accepted projects is a good indicator of the candidate’s ability to do science, and the fact that it is not the candidat’s immediate collegues making the judgement, gives the procedure some much needed impartiality.

I concede your point that there is the risk, with such a system, that there will be people that do this in an attempt to wreak havoc from the inside. In response, I say quite simply that I prefer to run this risk rather than risk censoring someone who ultimately turns out to be correct. Don’t forget that we have already successfully weeded out most bad eggs simply through the processes I’ve already mentioned. Also don’t forget that even your system is not perfect. People like Behe slip through by simply keeping their mouths shut until after tenure.

The pervasive use of the “anyway” argument is dangerous and corrosive. PT hosts numerous academics, many of whom are familiar with tenure, tenure procedures and should understand that academic freedom includes the right to hold opinions that go against established conventions.

not UNSUBSTANTIATED OPINIONS WITH NO EVIDENCE, especially in a science field!

this is the thing you keep seeming not to get through that thick skull of yours, and you keep bringing this up as a strawman argument over and over and over again.

It was wrong the first time you brought it up, and it’s no more correct now.

I don’t know exactly what your malfunction is, Chip, but it’s gotten very tiresome, to say the least.

Demallien -

I suppose we don’t have much disagreement.

As it happens, by all reports, this is irrelevant in the case of Gonzalez, since, although it may have contributed indirectly, obsessing over ID was not directly related to his failure to achieve tenure.

Nevertheless, I continue to point out that you don’t have to worry about “censoring someone who could turn out to be correct” if what they advocate is dishonest claptrap that cannot possibly be correct.

Creationism/ID, Flat Earth, holocaust revisionism (that is, denial of the historical record), HIV-denial, and the like are not “controversial maverick opinions”. They are lies told in the service of an agenda, and they contradict objective fact.

I guess I wouldn’t be inclined to worry that a flat-earther/HIV-denier would turn out to be correct.

I suppose the worst case scenario of giving someone tenure is “Behe syndrome”, where they embarrass themselves, and your institution, for years. Still, I think that giving attention to claims of HIV denial or the like, if you know of them, can be defended.

I suppose the worst case scenario of giving someone tenure is “Behe syndrome”, where they embarrass themselves, and your institution, for years.

subsequent constant embarrassment resulting in reduced placement for graduates, reduced enrollment of qualified individuals in related dept., and of course reduced funding from grant providers.

it’s a lose-lose all the way round.

I would just add that I think Demallien has said it just about perfectly.

I agree that support for junk science can lead a person to fail to do the things that need to be done for tenure. I also agree there is a distinction between being honestly and wrong and outright fraud. The way to weed out fraud is through the peer review process and if that fails, through formal investigations.

It is sometimes hard to distinguish between an opinion that is held honestly but is bluntly wrong and opinions that involve outright manipulation of evidence and data.

The generic argument to or from design is a valid philosophical argument. ID as it is constituted from my point of view borders on fraud, save for the fact that I think most of its proponents honestly believe in what they do. So you have a case of wishful thinking blocking good inquiry.

The question to my way of thinking is: how (and who) gets to draw the line? Again, I say, the line is drawn by referees, grant reviewers, academic book publishers and journal editors. These too can be biased and in error, but it is hard to think of an alternate system.

So, if you can pass the test of journal editors, etc., then you pass the test and the rest becomes irrelevant, unless someone can prove fraud in a formal hearing.

Sir Toejam: Instead of engaging in constant personal attacks and smears, why don’t you go back and do me the courtesy of reading the threads carefully. Multiple people have indeed specifically stated that they view support for ID alone is sufficient to deny tenure, even if all other qualifications have been met. Others have specifically said that they viewed tenure as a privilege, while still others have stated that people should be denied tenure if they are an “embarassment” to the University.

This isn’t an imputation on my part-this has been stated explicitly.

Thus, I am led to the conclusion that you are either not reading the thread carefully, don’t understand the issues, or that you feel a need to grind some axe against me. You could simply leave it at disagreeing with me. Instead, you have made numerous innuendos on multiple threads, which while bordering on libel are probably non-actionable simply because your opinion can’t possibly do me harm.

Either way, I think you are a bloody, tiresome twit.

Harold,

I think a substantive difference between you and me is how you use “objective fact”. I gather you think that “facts” in the natural sciences come at us clearly, unmistakably and with 100% warrant. At least that is what it seems to me you are saying.

I personally believe there is an objective reality and that the best way to know this reality is through systematic empirical inquiry and theoretical interpretation. However, the set of facts that we can know with 100% certainty and independently of our preconceptions is extremely small and IMO, may be zero.

In other words, I think fallibilism puts severe constraints on us at times. Thus I have a greater tolerance for views that I think are objectively wrong. I am still willing to say they are objectively wrong, but it strikes me that I could be wrong. Therefore, I think people have the right to make wrong arguments and to have those arguments weeded out imperfectly through the peer review process.

Chip -

I suspect that our disagreements in this specific matter are rather minor and philosophical, and that in many practical cases, we would be in 100% agreement.

Having said that, let me just clear one thing up.

I gather you think that “facts” in the natural sciences come at us clearly, unmistakably and with 100% warrant. At least that is what it seems to me you are saying.

No, of course and that seems to be a rather unfair paraphrase, to say the least. It’s hard for me to get quite how you thought I was making that extreme and incorrect a claim. Seriously, Chip, you do have a habit of distorting what people say from time to time.

I am making a much less grandiose and more obvious point.

There are some facts which are extremely well-established.

And there are some well-known delusion/fraudulent/agenda-serving pseudoscholarly positions which deny extremely well-established facts. And I have named a number of these - holocaust revisionism, HIV-denial, flat earth, and ID/creationism.

To fully clarify, for example, much of what we know about HIV/AIDS or the holocaust or evolution may be expanded, fine-tuned, or unexpectedly modified over time, but the dishonest positions of “deniers” in these fields will never be supported by the facts in any forseeable future.

I think this point is uncontroversial.

CJO Wrote:

Why aren’t people more open to the idea that these are not non-overlapping considerations?

i.e. it’s entirely plausible that Gonzalez’s poor track record of attracting outside funds and failure to spur independent research leading to high-profile publications are a result of paying more attention to his membership in a fringe political element than to his academic position.

Sure, and I would not put it past the DI for actually recommending that he do just that. After all, with or without tenure, he will be successful as a pseudoscience writer, with the backing of a well-connected pseudoscience/authoritarian-right organization. The DI can’t lose: if he got tenure, they’d brag about having another tenured scientist supporting them, if not, they can portray him as the martyr.

Besides, it’s almost guaranteed that the incident would bait some critics into saying (in so many words) that he ought to be denied tenure based on his beliefs. Once that happens, and AIUI, it unfortunately did, no amount of evidence that he was really denied tenure based on his record will stop the DI spin machine.

Either way, between advice from the DI and ISU, he surely know what was needed from him at least 2-3 years ago if he tryly wanted tenure.

_Arthur Wrote:

“Georges Lemitare” would be Father Georges Henri Lemaître (1894-1966)

Yes, and in all fairness to Egnor, it is PvM who has introduced the misspelling. (Probably when trying to correct a miscopied “î”.)

Frank J Wrote:

I am tired of the use of “egnorance,” and am pretty sure that by now it will do nothing but backfire.

Again in all fairness to Egnor, he has repeatedly being ignorant of biology as used in medicine, among other things he should not be ignorant of.

But I agree that it is a reflexive reference by now, and as such potentially damaging.

Michael Egnor on Lemaître (the previous article) Wrote:

His Big Bang theory met with considerable opposition because of its religious implications.

On Egnor’s full argument: creationists like to maintain this, and as usual creationists are wrong.

Einstein had at the time much influence, and he had proposed a version of cosmology that was at the time supportive of the general steady state view. When he learned of Lemaître’s result, and Hubble’s discovery of an expanding universe, he endorsed Lemaître’s theory.

I’m not good on history, but it seems Wikipedia may have gotten this in detail:

Wikipedia Wrote:

In this report, he presented the new idea of an expanding Universe, but not yet of the primeval atom. Instead, the initial state was taken as Einstein’s own finite-size static universe model. Unfortunately, the paper made little initial impact because this journal was not widely read by astronomers outside of Belgium.

Wikipedia Wrote:

It is there that he proposed an expanding Universe which started with an initial singularity, and the idea of the Primeval Atom which he developed in a report published in Nature. Fr. Lemaître himself also described his theory as “the Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation”; it became better known as the Big Bang theory, which was originally a critical comment by Fred Hoyle.

This proposal met skepticism from his fellow scientists at the time. Eddington found Lemaître’s notion unpleasant. As for Einstein, he found it suspect, because, according to him, it was too strongly reminiscent of the Christian dogma of creation and was unjustifiable from a physical point of view. On the other hand, Einstein encouraged Lemaître to look into the possibility of non-isotropic expansion models, so it’s clear he was not dismissive of the concept altogether. He also appreciated Lemaître’s argument that a static-Einstein model of the universe could not be sustained indefinitely into the past.

[Fred Hoyle (along with Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi) was proposing an alternative theory explaining the steady-state universe then believed.]

Wikipedia Wrote:

Einstein at first dismissed Friedman and then (privately) Lemaître out of hand, saying that not all mathematics leads to correct theories. After Hubble’s discovery was published, Einstein quickly and publicly endorsed Lemaître’s theory, helping both theory and priest to get fast recognition.

Wikipedia Wrote:

He died on June 20, 1966 shortly after having learned of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, proof of his intuitions about the birth of the Universe.

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George[…]ema%C3%AEtre )

Oh, and I forgot: AFAIK Eddington seems to have been a bit kooky (at least in some areas) in his later years, so any claims must be treated with some skepticism. And while he still enjoyed great reputation among most, I doubt his peers was listening as closely as earlier at the time.

Harold,

I you feel I misunderstood you, then i apologize. I assure you I intended no misrepresentation.

I think there is a simple way to handle misunderstandings and that is to clarify.

I should have put things in the form of “you appear to be saying” rather than just assuming that was what you were saying.

But having said all that, I don’t think it was a wild misinterpretation of the literal meaning of the words.

The question to my way of thinking is: how (and who) gets to draw the line? Again, I say, the line is drawn by referees, grant reviewers, academic book publishers and journal editors. These too can be biased and in error, but it is hard to think of an alternate system.

why do you keep insisting it is so hard to draw the line?

if anything, people like Gonzales have made it quite easy to figure out where to draw the line.

Gonzales said, on several occassions, he did not think his support of ID had anything to do with religion, but rather it was science.

now, since he himself has declared it NOT to be an issue of personal ideology that has nothing to do with his work, but rather, that it is legitimate science, then the onus is on him to have at least some supporting evidence for that.

he had none.

ergo, down in flames he goes.

just that frickin simple.

this is NOT an issue of philosophy or free speech, like you keep trying to make it. It’s an issue of incorrectly applied woo. nothing more.

all gonzales has done with this whole debacle is attempt to create room for him to write books as a DI fellow.

so yeah, I as a scientist, completely resent the implication that those of us criticising this man, and others, for trying to claim ID is science is an issue of free speech.

it isn’t an issue of free speech in a science dept., any more than holocaust denial is an issue of free speech in a history dept.

frankly, I’m shocked that after you have misrepresented so many people here, so often, that there are still those remaining who even choose to engage you at all on this issue.

must have REALLY short memories.

why do you keep insisting it is so hard to draw the line?

Sir TJ, let me give you a few hypotheticals. - Should belief in UFOs disqualify a physicist from tenure? - Should a belief in Panspermia disqualify an astronomer? (that one get’s awfully close to ID in some of its forms) - Should a belief in homeopathy disqualify a doctor?

At what point do we say that enough is enough? That call is incredibly subjective. There were entire labs of medical researchers in France that believed that homeopathy was real. Enough that the damn “medications” are still available on prescription from pharmacies. My current doctor tried to prescribe me some!

My position, and that of others in this discussion, is that it is better to allow people the freedom to hold what ever belief they like, on the condition that it does not affect their work. Liberty of expression is after all the whole reason that the tenure system exists in the first place!

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- Should belief in UFOs disqualify a physicist from tenure?

show me verifiable evidence of UFO’s that he could use to justify spending his time on, and I’d say no.

- Should a belief in Panspermia disqualify an astronomer? (that one get’s awfully close to ID in some of its forms)

you gonna give him a grant to study it, are you? why not?

- Should a belief in homeopathy disqualify a doctor?

define what you mean by “belief”. if he chooses “faith” in homeopathy OVER researched and tested methods? hell yes. If you mean something entirely different than homeopathy, like he looks at research on raw plant extracts likely to have an effect on a given biochemical pathway based on actual research, then you should be clear on that.

again, NONE of these have anything to do with free speech. they relate to the efficacy of the person in the role THEY THEMSELVES have chosen.

if you are a professor at a university, you are expected to be productive in your given field. Devotion to untestable ideas, even if sound philosophically (which ID isn’t even that), should give GREAT pause as to whether one should be granted tenure or not.

You guys are WAY over analyzing this situation. You ALREADY have a great example of what happens when someone who devotes their time to pseudo science gets tenure:

Michael Behe.

This is NOT an issue of philosophy, or religion. for example, Ken Miller spent no time deciding to devote time researching the roots of his catholic faith AS a representative of the dept. of biology. His going to church in this case IS an issue of freedom of speech. If he decided that he needed to rewrite his biology textbooks to include catholic dogma, it no longer is an issue of freedom of speech. If he decided to spend his time researching catholic dogma instead of biology, I’m sure you would agree there is a problem. Are you seriously saying that shouldn’t be considered in a tenure decision??

perhaps those who work in philosophy depts. have the room to debate the value of a time waster and brain killer like ID, and considered as a philosophical position there might (I don’t see it at all) be some value in pursuing it. I assure you, in a science dept., it’s more than a waste of time and effort, it’s downright antithetical to the pursuit of science generally.

So yes, I view it as indeed EXACTLY like supporting a position of holocaust denial and trying to become a tenured professor in a history dept, and for the same reason, i would ask if YOU would support tenure for a holocaust denier in a history dept.?

Tenure is given for very specific reasons within a dept. NOT getting it does not mean one has no room to explore maintaining a career in the field. Gonzales never should have expected tenure, not just based on his lack of productivity statistically, but based on the putative reasons FOR his lack of productivity as well. If he wanted to explore matters of philosophy or religion, he should have applied to those departments, and gotten a different degree.

Toejam,

First of all (as I said many times before) I never said the Gonzales case was a case of free speech. I said multiple people were saying explicitly or implying that Gonzales’ belief in ID was sufficient cause to deny him tenure.

In contrast to you, I do not believe that there is any belief that disqualifies a person innately to be a member of discipline x, y or z. Each discipline sets criteria for publishing and teaching. If a person can meet those criteria, then other beliefs are irrelevant for the case of granting tenure.

Based on your most recent e-mail I have not mischaracterized you at all. You seem to be very clearly saying that even if Gonzales had a proven track record of peer reviewed articles, had produced good graduate students, received funding from the grant agency, that even then his writing of a book on ID would be sufficient to deny him tenure.

In other words, you seem to be very clearly, unambiguously stating that Gonzales’ belief in ID, all by itself, was sufficient cause to deny tenure.

Now, if that does not describe your position, why don’t you state clearly what it is you are saying? If that is what you are saying, then I have never misrepresented you at all.

We obviously disagree about what the term “academic freedom” means. I think the term academic freedom includes the right to hold and express beliefs that challenge the very core of one’s discipline. I think academic freedom includes the right to hold and express beliefs that are weird, fundamentally wrong, and even socially repugnant. Thus, academic freedom includes the right to challenge existing definitions and practices of science. It includes the right to dabble in philosophy, speculative metaphysics, theology, or even sociology of knowledge and deconstructionism if one is a member of a science department.

What it does not include is the right to get tenure without publishing, without effective teaching, or without meeting any of the University’s stated requirements. If your beliefs make it impossible for you to publish or to teach effectively, then it is the lack of publication or effective teaching that should disqualify one from tenure.

In several legal cases the courts have defined science. These definitions, when examined closely, are in fact problematic. They work because they are narrowly construed and crafted to deal with a specific legal problem. To wit: 1) defining standards of scientific testimony in court; 2) delimiting the sphere of religion vs. science for constitutional purposes (i.e. trying to apply specific legal tests).

I do not believe that any tenure committee can or should use any of these cases as the defining criteria for granting tenure.

Now instead of engaging in further ad hominem blusteringm why don’t you clearly and precisely define what your position is.

Oh, and one more thing: first you accused me publicly (several threads ago) of misrepresenting my credentials. I disproved that false accusation very quickly. Second you accused me of having been denied tenure at my current university. I provided information as to my current job status.

Now, you are representing yourself in a specific capacity, albeit vaguely.

Why don’t you tell us what your position is. I’m taking a guess at what it is not.

Chip Poirot -

I think I may finally get what you’re trying to say, assuming your not just arguing a dead point out of obstinacy.

In contrast to you, I do not believe that there is any belief that disqualifies a person innately to be a member of discipline x, y or z. Each discipline sets criteria for publishing and teaching. If a person can meet those criteria, then other beliefs are irrelevant for the case of granting tenure.

So in other words, you would support a holocaust revisionist for tenure as a WWII historian, a flat earther for tenure as a professor of geography/cartography, an HIV denier for tenure as a virologist, a Lysenkoist as a professor of genetics, and so on. As long as their publishing and teaching meet “criteria”.

But how would you know that they were a holocaust revisionist or whatever? If the belief is entirely secret, or only privately expressed (for example only in a setting of private spiritual expression), of course you’re right. But that’s irrelevant, because by definition, it would not be part of tenure review in those circumstances.

We could only possibly be discussing a case in which the agenda-driven, post-hoc science-denying pseudo-scholarship is publicly expressed; otherwise, how would it be part of an ethical tenure evaluation at all?

In the best case scenario, the HIV-denier would be mouthing the words that HIV causes AIDS in very formal settings (or avoiding all formal discussion of HIV, a profoundly limiting thing for a teacher of virology), and running around denying it in other public venues, possibly including popular books and right wing seminars. In the worst case scenario their “belief” would taint, distort, or inhibit their work, or be very predictably expected to do so in the future.

I haven’t said that tenure should necessarily be outright denied solely on the basis of such a “belief”, merely that one would be designer damned fool not to take such a “belief” into consideration as a clear negative in tenure decisions. How anyone can seriously argue that public arguments against the existence of atoms should not be considered when evaluating a chemist for tenure is beyond me.

(Of course, I agree with you that if he only secretly believes that atoms don’t exist and expresses competent mainstream science publicly, or attends a church on Sunday that denies atoms as part of its dogma, but never inappropriately discusses his private spiritual beliefs and doesn’t let them affect his work, that shouldn’t be considered, but it never would be, anyway. By definition, we’re talking about public statements here.)

Harold,

No, I am not arguing out of obstinacy but out of genuine committment. You can critique my committment if you like. I have said quite clearly I am a first ammendment extremist (in reference to the free speech clause).

In essence, yes I am saying what you are saying I’m saying: let me clarify.

If someone holds beliefs that are contrary to the foundations and practices of that discipline, and professes those beliefs publicly and at the same time is capable, in spite of those beliefs, of publishing articles in relevant peer reviewed journals, teaching the established curriculum competently and fulfilling whatever other job requirements exist, then I would support that person for tenure if that person had met the stated University requirements.

I would do so whether I believed that person held beliefs that were socially repugnant, contrary to good reason and evidence, etc. and stated those beliefs publicly.

In theory therefore, yes, that means I would have to on some occasions support people who I think are not only wrong, but wrong in fundamentaly dishonest, incompetent or wildly irrational ways. Again, as I keep stressing, my support would be conditional on their actual demonstrated ability to publish in relevant, refereed journals, etc.

In every discipline there is a set of hegemonic ideas and practices. In many cases, those ideas are hegemonic for legitimate reasons (just because a practice is hegemonic does not necesarily mean it is bad or immoral). Nor for that matter are counter-hegemonic ideas always good (they can actually be quite bad).

Nevertheless, openness requires the ability to critique the hegemonic practices and to practice counter-hegemonic ideas and beliefs.

Now, before someone accuses me of being infected by the English department let me state that I think the freedom to practice counter hegemonic ideas carries with it the responsibility to put one’s ideas forward in a way that is open to counter critique and rational discussion based on reason and evidence.

As a practical matter, I suspect that in many cases where people really radically break with conventions, their break with convention is going to make it extremely difficult for them to function in the discipline. A holocaust denier will have trouble publishing for obvious reasons. An advocate of ID will have trouble publishing. But if they are capable of overcoming the hurdles then their publicly professed beliefs cannot be held against them.

My seeming defense of extremism is not a defense of extremism per se. What I want to protect is legitimate dissent and the ability of marginalized and marginal ideas to get a fair hearing. Protecting marginal and marginalized ideas does mean that some bad and socially repugnant ideas also get protected.

At least as far as Universities go, I would rather live with the consequences of too much free speech than of too little. As I have stated before, I would like to see that idea extended downwards to the high school level, with suitable adjustments made for age appropriate material.

Again, Chip is spot on. Part of the problem underlying this discussion, perhaps, is the unstated assumption by some that having attained tenure a person is then in a special position to influence their discipline and, perhaps, public opinion. In fact, tenure only provides basic job protection. One still has to work very hard to publish and attract grants in order to influence anything. Behe has tenure and, it could be argued, is now abusing his position. However, he is actually quite useful in fighting ID; here is a person in a position to do actual lab work that demonstrates his ideas on ID and he cannot do that. It weakens the ID case. However, what if his ideas had actually led somewhere?

Once the argument is made that some beliefs disqualify one from getting tenure, irrespective of one’s actual performance in whatever field one works, then that is the end of academic freedom. I have no problems at all with Behe’s pursuit of ID in itself. His failure to deliver the goods is actually a useful demonstration of the vacuity of ID. Plenty of scientists go off on tangents, pursue loony ideas, or become academic dead wood. But now and then these loony ideas lead somewhere, or their failure means that they can be eliminated as fruitful lines of inquiry. It’s just the way the system works. Once the thought police have got rid of the loonies they don’t just stop - they revise their definition of lunacy.

To get tenure one either has to do as Chip says or, more rarely, produce something truly brilliant and remarkable enough that grants and multiple publications are not needed. The second path is extremely rare although too many assistant professors try to pursue it and end up not getting tenure - often not because their ideas are bad but because they simply run out of time.

The system should err on the side of including people with outlandish ideas provided they have clearly met basic criteria of competence and creativity. This ring of loonies provides a useful buffer and, also, ensures that academia at least includes ideas prevalent in society at large.

If someone holds beliefs that are contrary to the foundations and practices of that discipline, and professes those beliefs publicly and at the same time is capable, in spite of those beliefs, of publishing articles in relevant peer reviewed journals, teaching the established curriculum competently and fulfilling whatever other job requirements exist, then I would support that person for tenure if that person had met the stated University requirements.

then you’re an idiot.

simple as that.

then you’re an idiot.

I don’t think he’s an idiot, but something worse, because he has berated others for not subscribing to his irrational extremist poor judgement.

Like this fine bit of hypocrisy:

The other thing i find tiresome is the constant insistence by some that Gonzales should have been denied tenure due to his pro-ID stance.

Tiresome? Constant insistence? Pot/kettle beam/mote.

Popper’s ghost,

Do you think that public advocacy of ID in and of itself is justification for denying someone tenure? What other beliefs would you suggest people should be denied tenure for?

How will your standard not become a weapon of misuse and abuse?

My view that even bad speech is protected is consistent with the view of the AAUP. I am an “extremist” only in the same sense that Nat Hentoff was an extremist.

And besides, an extreme position is not of necessity true or false.

The accusation of poor judgement is an evaluation for which you provide no justification.

As matters stand, multiple people have indeed made the argument that public advocacy of ID alone is sufficient grounds on which to deny tenure. So in fact, I have not mischaracterized people’s positions at all. Because that is the argument that is being made and that is the argument I am critiquing.

Chip -

I completely disagree with your view in this matter, although I do give you credit for at least erring in the direction of excessive fairness and tolerance.

Since I am an intensely strong supporter of first ammendment rights, let me clarify my own position one final time. (And let me add that first ammendment rights protect the freedom to express oneself in public venues; they do not give anyone a “right” to be paid for their opinion nor to disrupt private venues.)

Only things that are relevant to academic job performance should be considered in tenure discussions. With that we both agree. And we’d both agree that this should be interpreted strictly, with strong protection for the individual’s right to self-expression and freedom from discrimination, and to protection of controversial but potentially legitimate views that don’t contradict well-established fact.

Where we part company is on the subject of people who make clear public statements that are directly related to the known facts of the field of scholarly endeavor under consideration, in such a way that the sincere holder of such views could not function competently in that field.

For example, a nutrition professor candidate who, while publishing a string of narrowly focused technical papers and forcing himself to unenthusiastically present standard curriculum material to students, advocates vocally in public discourse, through talk show appearances, editorials, and popular books, that vitamins don’t exist, and scurvy is a magical punishment from Neptune, god of the sea.

I would consider this individual’s public advocacy of this view as a negative consideration in evaluating a tenure application.

I can’t help asking, do you hold some irrelevant but controversial personal position that motivates your views in this matter? Again, I recognize that you err on the side of fairness and tolerance, but does it really make sense to allow a vocal flat earther to teach map-making?

Harold,

Of course you can come up with any number of ludicrous positions that you might legitimately hold against people. But again as I stated, I don’t see how you can develop a consistent criterion that will not be abused. A department that was dominated for example by a group of people committed to Richard Dawkins’ methods might feel perfectly justified in saying that someone who adhered to Lynn Margulis’ approach just wasn’t doing science. I think that Richard Lewontyn and Steven J. Gould both sometimes allowed their poorly understood versions of Marxism to influence their judgement in the sociobiology debate with E.O. Wilson. There are any number of positions held by people in history about the Soviet Union, some of which I think one can only hold by willful ignorance and blind ideology (I recall an argument with a former professor of mine where he said Stalin only killed 100,000 people or so). My concern is that once you start erecting some test of correctness, then debate and innovation cease.

Academia is supposed to be a place that tolerates some wacko, zany and weird positions-provided these positions don’t interfere with their ability to do competent work in their field. For the most part, I don’t think that the ID people do much real harm to science per se, though they sure do a lot of harm to public discourse. I can think of many far worse threats to scientific inquiry-such as some of the more extreme versions of the sociology of knowledge. Are we going to start denying tenure to people who flirt with or advocate sociology of knowledge in natural science departments? What about archaeology and biological anthropology? Do you see what I am getting at. The ludicrous examples you give are few and far between. If someone really is so wacked out, they probably won’t be able to teach or publish anyway-or they wind up at some out of the way university.

I agree that free speech does not confer the right to disrupt a private venue. But that’s the point: academia is not a “private venue”, at least not as far as public universities are concerned. Private universities for the most part profess adherence to the same standards of free speech as the public universities. Academic freedom doesn’t give me the right to neglect the catalogue description of the courses, but it does give me the right to experss dissent with the more orthodox opinions that might normally be taught in such a course. It certainly gives me the right to go out and start a research program and try to get funding and published in journals without fear that my attempts will be held against me.

Several people have now accused me of faulty motives for what I am saying, despite the fact that what I am saying is actually the same position as that of the AAUP.

If you insist on reducing this to a matter of personal perspective then you might simply consider that I am a social scientist (not a natural scientist) and that I tend to view matters from that perspective. Very few things are ever settled in the social sciences and the threat that one group or another will try to impose orthodoxy is very real. As I said before, I can see that the natural sciences are bound together by stronger points that are often soundly established by empirical evidence. It is tempting to say that the natural sciences could set up litmus tests but the social sciences and humanities could not. But that won’t work. If you set up a litmus test in the biology department, then the English department can fire people for being too post-modern or not post-modern enough. The History Department can fire people for not treating American slavery as uniquely evil, or as happened at DePaul, the political science department (in this case the administration) can fire people for engaging in polemics about Israel.

So, I remain opposed to any test of collegiality or position. If someone does the job and meets the standards, that’s good enough for me. And in fact, if schools do start imposing tests they will open themselves up to significant legal liability. That is why Iowa State would never say directly that they denied tenure to Gonzales as a consequence of his views (which I don’t think is true in this case).

Do you think that public advocacy of ID in and of itself is justification for denying someone tenure?

Non sequitur. What I think, as I said, is that you’re a hypocrite.

The accusation of poor judgement is an evaluation for which you provide no justification.

Fine, then you’re entitled to disagree with it. Just as everyone is entitled to disagree with you. So stop being such a hypocritical jackass and berating everyone who does.

harold,

Like Chip, I’m very concerned about the idea of tenure reviews being used as a way to enforce orthodoxy. The whole point of tenure is to give researchers a bit of freedom to be unorthodox (not a huge amount mind, they still have to remain sufficiently orthodox to win research grants etc).

Judging people’s suitability for tenure based on activities outside of their professional activities is fraught with danger. Do we block any attempts to obtain tenure by Bobby Henderson (the guy that created Pastafarianism). I mean, he’s written a book about his religion too right!?!? And that goes against teachings of science!

Oh, but he didn’t mean it to be taken literally. OK, so now we are onto the very slippery slope of judging people’s motives. Take Behe for example. He’s quite a smart guy, even if he does believe in God. But I for one do not buy for a second that he believes in all of the ID crap. Read those books he’s written, look at the very elementary errors made, and you can’t help arriving at the conclusion that he’s just doing it to scam people into paying him money.

So, is poking fun at Creationists an ok motivation for writing a religious book that conflicts with science, but making money isn’t? Do you see where I’m going? You end up in really murky moral waters, trying to figure out what a person’s true motivation is, and trying to determine if that should have a bearing on that person’s tenure candidacy.

Popper’s ghost,

You really don’t have any arguments at all, do you?

Btw, one who claims to be haunting in the name of Popper should surely recognize the fallacy in appealing to consensus as you do. But then again, better sense would preclude an appeal to Popper at all.

But, as it turns out, your appeal to consensus is phony. It is phony because a) other people have said they agree with my characteriziation of the debate but disagree with my stand; b) other people agree with both my characterization and with my stand.

If you think I am misrepresenting opinions or being too harsh, there is a simple solution. You can show how I am misrepresenting opinions and/or suggest other ways of looking at the issue.

The difference, as I see it is the following:

Multiple people, both on this thread and others, have egregiously misrepresented my opinion and engaged in imputing my credentials. To wit, I have been accused on multiple occasions of being a closet ID supporter (a clearly false accusation that is directly contradicted by evidence) of having a personal axe to grind (an accusation that is false and made with no evidence whatsoever), accused of misrepresenting my credentials (an accusation I readily disproved).

My argument is that multiple people have made an “anyway” argument of the following form:

Gonzales was not denied tenure for his pro-ID views. But anyway, even if he had been, that would be acceptable.

I agree (as I have said before many times) that all the evidence suggests that Gonzales was not inappropriately denied tenure. To wit: he did not publish sufficient articles, did not get enough grant money and did not produce graduate students. That is all the argument that needs to be made. Full stop.

The anyway clause of the argument is counter to the principles of academic freedom as advocated by the AAUP. IT is also, probably an illegal argument as to follow the injunction implied by the sentence would lead to lawsuits based on religious or other discrimination against universities or possibly to First Amendment suits against Universities and even, I suspect, to AAUP censure (though I doubt AAUP censure is something anyone is too concerned about).

Neither you nor anyone else have shown that you are not making an anyway argument nor have you shown how you would enact and enforce such a standard without doing harm to the principles of academic freedom.

Instead, you resort to baseless insults and refuse to address the issue.

Your attack is directed solely against my person. My attack is directed against the arguments.

An ad hominem argument is of the form: The argument X is wrong because it is made by Y, and Y is a Z.

A harsh critique of someone takes the form of: X’s argument is wrong because it will have the impact of A, B or C.

So yes, my critiques have at times been harsh. But they have not been deliberate misrepresentations nor ad hominem. Where I have mistakenly characterized someone’s argument I have apologized.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on June 12, 2007 1:16 PM.

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