Friday, May 18, 2007

Intellectual Insecurity at Iowa State?

Is the faculty at Iowa State University intellectually insecure? The statement of two years ago signed by 120 members of the faculty perhaps suggests that, especially when compared with the actions of other schools and faculties. I wonder if they are afraid that others will think they are backward country bumpkins for allowing someone who is interested in exploring intelligent design on the faculty.

Harvard University is not ashamed of Owen Gingerich, who had this to say about Gonzalez' book The Privileged Planet:

This thoughtful, delightfully contrarian book will rile up those who believe the ‘Copernican principle’ is an essential philosophical component of modern science. Is our universe designedly congenial to intelligent, observing life? Passionate advocates of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) will find much to ponder in this carefully documented analysis.

The University of Cambridge is not ashamed of Simon Conway Morris, who had this to say:

Is our universe a blind concatenation of atoms, evolution a random walk across a meaningless landscape, and our sense of purpose a pathetic shield against a supremely indifferent world? Or does the universe and our place within it click into place, repeatedly? These starkly different views open up immense metaphysical and theological questions, and at least part of the answer must come from science and the unfolding triumphs of cosmology, astronomy, and evolution.

In a book of magnificent sweep and daring Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards drive home the arguments that the old cliché of no place like home is eerily true of Earth. Not only that, but if the scientific method was to emerge anywhere, the Earth is about as suitable as you can get. Gonzalez and Richards have flung down the gauntlet. Let the debate begin; it is a question that involves us all.

Dartmouth College was not ashamed of Robert Jastrow, who explored similar ideas and had this to say in his book God and the Astronomers:
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

Are these schools not ashamed because they are clearly more academically respected and more intellectually secure than Iowa State? Is this kind of denial of tenure merely a phenomenon of the academicly mediocre?

Were the other faculty members insecure because Guillermo Gonzalez was more widely published and cited than they, and they were afraid that they would always be living in his shadow?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Comparing Iowa State with Arizona State

It is interesting to compare two "statements" coming out of two different universities.

First, take a look at the statement signed by many of the faculty at Iowa State a few years ago. In addition to misrepresenting several aspects of intelligent design, and providing a wrong or misleading definition of methodological naturalism, it seems obsessive about defining science in such a way as to keep it in a tidy little box, and encouraging its faculty and students to keep their thinking inside that box. There is no indication of any awareness that scientists may fruitfully explore interdisciplinary ideas and concepts.

Contrast that with this press release from Arizona State University on the formation of a think tank, which I discussed previously here. Here is an excerpt:

“ASU is pushing the boundaries of what a university can achieve,” says Davies. “Most institutions are fixated with the old subject categories that belong to the 20th, or even the 19th, century. ASU has a new way of organizing research themes, better suited to the new century. This new research institute conforms with this radical vision. It has an agenda that goes beyond the traditional subject boundaries. That’s where we want to take this venture – beyond.”

The institute will bring people together from different disciplines to engage in brainstorming sessions on the deep conceptual issues that frame the scientific world view. “They should go away brimming with fresh ideas for research,” Davies explains.

“We aim to open up novel approaches on the edges of existing disciplines,” he says. In fact, that’s how Davies defines a measurement of success for the institute: the development of new lines of inquiry.

“I have had a lifelong fascination for questions like: Where do laws of physics come from? Why is nature mathematical? What is time? Can we make life in the laboratory? Why can the human mind comprehend the universe? The list is endless,” Davies enthuses. “But I won’t be satisfied with just a talking shop. I want to see new research programs emerging from our deliberations.”

Davies is particularly suited to head up such an institute. His interests are broad, extending from the highly mathematical to the deeply philosophical, as evidenced by the titles of some of his books: How to Build a Time Machine, The Origin of Life, The Big Questions, The Last Three Minutes, The Mind of God, and The Cosmic Blueprint. His most recent book is The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the universe just right for life? newly published by Penguin in the UK. It will be released in the United States in April under the title Cosmic Jackpot.

As you can see, Davies is asking the same kinds of questions as Guillermo Gonzalez. While Iowa State is trying to shut down creative thinking, Arizona State is reveling in it.

Where would you rather go to school?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Darwinian Fundamentalism Triumphs At Iowa State

It looks like Hector Avalos and his band of philosophical materialists at Iowa State have succeeded in maintaining their vision of intellectual narrowness through viewpoint discrimination.

My previous post on the fact that many on the faculty there do not know the difference between Methodological Naturalism and Philosophical Naturalism is here. This ignorance should trouble everyone.

Guillermo Gonzalez had made an earlier statement on the attacks on his career here. Here is a portion:

My name is Guillermo Gonzalez. I’m an assistant professor of astronomy at Iowa State University. Also at Iowa State is an outspoken atheist and religion professor named Hector Avalos. Imagine if a Christian professor at the university began circulating a petition targeting Avalos, a petition stating that atheism is not a proper part of a religion program and that, moreover, any professor who offers scientific or philosophical evidence for atheism taints the university and, by implication, should be prevented from doing so?

Would any of you sign the petition? I would never sign it. It was Voltaire who said, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.” I, however, was targeted by such a petition, and it all occurred shortly before I am scheduled to come up for tenure.

Another ISU professor, John Patterson, also campaigned against me. In a letter to the Ames Tribune he pointed to a funder of Discovery Institute to argue that I was plotting to establish a theocracy. He even implied that I am linked to the Taliban.

When I was a child, my family and I fled Cuba with little more than the clothes on our backs. We came to the United States in search of freedom, so I find Patterson’s slander that I’m plotting with others to establish a totalitarian government deeply offensive.

The link above also contains a lot of background material on the harassment Gonzalez was subject to at Iowa State.

A previous NPR story on academic freedom and intelligent design is here.

A previous post on these events at Telic Thoughts is here.

Another Evo News post is here, and the DI's press release on the denial of tenure is here.

Darwinian Fundamentalism is not just a theoretical idea or the name of a blog. It is having a serious impact on the life of a fine scholar and is truly poisoning the discourse in our country on many very important topics.

I encourage everyone who believes in academic freedom to make your voice heard, regardless of whether you agree with Gonzalez.