Free Speech Icon Free Speech
Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design

Hector Avalos Misrepresents Discovery Institute’s Position on Academic Freedom

Casey Luskin

In the Iowa State Daily Hector Avalos asserts that “the Discovery Institute seems to want it both ways. They want scientists whose work leads them to believe ID is scientific to have academic freedom, but they don’t want scientists whose research leads them to believe ID is not scientific to express their opinions.” No, that’s not our position at all. Critics of ID have every right to oppose intelligent design and express their opinions. If they want to publish articles, books, blogs, etc., or speak expressing dissent from intelligent design, they should absolutely have the right to do that. But no one has the right to create a hostile work environment for other faculty and abridge their academic freedom, regardless of their views on any issue.

Indeed, Avalos’ mischaracterization of Discovery Institute’s position seems to be based upon a need to deflect attention away from his own wrongdoing. In the summer of 2005, Avalos e-mailed ISU faculty inviting “all faculty members to … reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science” because of the “negative impact” due to the fact that “Intelligent Design … has now established a presence … at Iowa State University.” Gonzalez, being the only well-known ID proponent who has “established a presence” at ISU, is undeniably the target of such a statement, which was ultimately signed by over 120 ISU faculty.

Avalos may view his anti-ID petition as nothing more than a group of academics merely “express[ing] their opinions,” but one Darwinist ISU faculty member saw right through it: John Hauptman called Avalos’s petition “reprehensible” and said “freedom of inquiry … was violated by your petition.” Here, Hauptman is correct. Keep in mind that Avalos’s petition expressly called on “all faculty members” to reject ID, effectively targeting the academic freedom of those faculty who might support ID. In this sense, Avalos’s petition was not just an expression of dissent from ID, but was rather a call for uniform conformity among ISU faculty to oppose intelligent design. It therefore represented an abridgment of academic freedom more than it was a mere expression of it.

People are entitled to have opinions and express them. Avalos apparently does not understand that sometimes one’s method of expressing an opinion is not an exercise of academic freedom, but is rather an offense to academic freedom.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



Guillermo GonzalezHector Avalos