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Iowa Citizens for Science Stealthily Promotes Misinformation about Guillermo Gonzalez and Discovery Institute

Casey Luskin

On December 3, Discovery Institute helped organize a press conference at the Iowa State Capitol where we released evidence that Guillermo Gonzalez faced discrimination at ISU because he supports intelligent design as a science. Someone from the pro-Darwin activist group, Iowa Citizens for Science, attended that press conference and passed out a press release. Citizens were welcome to attend the press conference and we made no objections to this person attending and distributing his press release.

Within a couple days, a press release appeared on the Iowa Citizens for Science (ICFS) website, asserting that “[Guillermo] Gonzalez and the DI have announced plans to sue Iowa State University.” But that statement was both untrue and impossible: Discovery Institute is not Dr. Gonzalez’s legal representative and has no right to sue on his behalf, and that statement was directly contradicted at the press conference where Dr. Gonzalez’s attorneys made it clear that no decision has yet been made regarding whether to sue ISU. The correct position was public even before ICFS issued its press release at the Dec. 3rd press conference, having been repeated in the Des Moines Register. Soon after ICFS posted their press release, Dr. Gonzalez stated in the Iowa State Daily, “I haven’t decided yet. I have not yet decided to pursue legal action.”

The misinformation remained in ICFS’s website until last Sunday, when I e-mailed ICFS asking them to correct this statement. Thankfully, they did correct this point, responding quickly with a one-line e-mail stating the correction made to the press release. The e-mail I received in reply was sent by a generic ICFS e-mail address and was signed by … no one. We saw a similar pattern of behavior from ICFS at the Dec. 3 press conference: when the person who claimed to be a representative of ICFS at the press conference was asked what his name was, he answered with visible reluctance and only called himself “Greg.” Now, apparently a nameless operative is modifying their website and corresponding with the outside world on behalf of the organization. Whoever these stealthy “citizens” are at Iowa Citizens for Science, they continue to promote blatantly false information about Dr. Gonzalez:

In my e-mail to ICFS, also observed that “the Iowa Citizens for Science press release wrongly asserts that, ‘None of his graduate students had completed their programs.'” As I explained in my e-mail, the truth blatantly contradicts their false assertion:

Again, that statement is completely false. The truth is that in 2001, soon before Gonzalez left the University of Washington (UW) [to] join the faculty at ISU, he served as the primary advisor to a UW doctoral student in astronomy, Chris Laws. Gonzalez served as Laws’ primary scientific advisor over the course of Laws’ entire doctoral thesis, and Laws successfully graduated from UW with a Ph.D. in astronomy in December, 2004. Gonzalez also served on the committee of another Ph.D. student at UW, Rory Barnes, and this student also successfully graduated in 2004. You may want to also correct this false information as well and issue a retraction immediately.

ICFS did not correct that statement. Subsequently, Dr. Gonzalez’s attorney, Timm Reid, asked ICFS to correct the false assertion in their press release that “[n]one of his graduate students had completed their programs.” ICFS has gone into deep stealth mode and has sent him no reply. At present, this false claim remains uncorrected on the ICFS press release.

As a final problem with the ICFS press release, it cites the Chronicle of Higher Education to assert that “Gonzalez’ rate of publication had dropped off dramatically since he joined the ISU faculty.” Yet as we’ve recounted elsewhere, Dr. Gonzalez has the highest per-capita publication count and highest per-capita citation count among ISU astronomers since 2001, the year he joined ISU. So if there was any “dro[p] off” in Dr. Gonzalez’s productivity, he still outperformed the very ISU astronomers who voted against his tenure.

Moreover, as Rob Crowther recently documented, Dr. Gonzalez’s annual publication rate has remained about the same at both the beginning and the end of his probationary period at ISU, so ultimately there seems to be no “dro[p] off”. Dr. Gonzalez does have a temporary drop in publications during 2004, but this is because during that year he expended much time co-authoring a peer-reviewed astronomy textbook for Cambridge University Press–a textbook that is now used for teaching in his department! But Dr. Gonzalez immediately bounced back in his publication rate after the textbook was published, and as Crowther shows, when Gonzalez was denied tenure by ISU’s president, he was tied for the highest per-capita publication count among ISU astronomers since January, 2006.

ICFS’s objective claim that “[n]one of his graduate students had completed their programs” is flat wrong, and ICFS’s subjective claim that “Gonzalez’ rate of publication had dropped off dramatically since he joined the ISU faculty” is highly questionable. But don’t expect ICFS to change any of this false information–they seem much more interested in secrecy and promoting false information, and blaming the victim for the anti-ID discrimination at ISU.


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 Gonzalez