Free Speech Icon Free Speech
News Media Icon News Media

Wired Magazine Acknowledges Discrimination against Guillermo Gonzalez and Understands What the Ames Tribune Ignored

Casey Luskin

In a post entitled “Denied Tenure, Astronomer Alleges Intelligent Design Witchhunt,” Wired Magazine‘s blog has acknowledged that Iowa State University (ISU) discriminated against Guillermo Gonzalez because he supports intelligent design:

So far, science bloggers and defenders of evolution have dismissed Gonzalez’s complaints. However, I’m not sure they’re being fair. Though out-of-context email excerpts can be misleading, statements like “this is not a friendly place for him to develop further his IDeas” make it sound like Gonzalez was not, as the university insisted, judged solely on the content of his astronomical scholarship.

Wired is exactly right. Regardless of Dr. Gonzalez’s level of grants or his publication record, the crucial question here is, Was Gonzalez discriminated against because he supports intelligent design? The evidence undeniably shows that such discrimination did exist:

  • Eli Rosenberg, Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, instructed other voting faculty in Dr. Gonzalez’s tenure file that his support for ID as science is a litmus test that “disqualifies him from serving as a science educator.”
  • John Hauptman, an ISU physicist, explicitly admitted that he voted against Dr. Gonzalez’s tenure because “Intelligent design is not even a theory.” He further said, “I participated in the initial vote and voted no, based on this fundamental question: What is science?”
  • In secret e-mails recently released, other faculty prejudged Gonzalez’s tenure case a year before the official tenure deliberation process began. It is noteworthy that in these e-mails, the faculty were only complaining about Dr. Gonzalez’s support for intelligent design–they were NOT complaining about his academic track record. Here are a few sample statements showing that their prejudice against intelligent design caused them to prejudge the case:

    “In view of an upcoming tenure decision, secrecy in the department may equally be interpreted as prejudging the case as making a statement. If we go on record, we give Gonzalez a clear sign that his ID efforts will not be considered as science by the faculty.”

    “Yes it will get worse before it gets better. But circulating such a statement could accelerate the process and could easily play into the hands of your perceived adversaries. For example, it could be used to justify a legal claim of a ‘hostile work environment.’ That could be ammunition in any appeal of a tenure decision. Damage has been done, and more will happen. We need to minimize that damage. Pushing ahead with this statement will serve no purpose but to increase the damage I feel.”

    “[L]awyers might well be successful in convincing a jury of average Americans that publication of our statement was responsible for creating a hostile work environment. …. I now feel that publication of such a statement might become the most important piece of evidence in a successful court case to guarantee tenure to the person whose scientific credibility we would be attempting to discredit. … As for the unfortunate publicity we are receiving and the embarrassment we feel as a department, I think the best policy is to just grin and bear it for the next couple of years.”

    [S]ome faculty in his department are not going to count his ID work as a plus for tenure. Quite the opposite. If he devotes his time to hard core astronomy and his case is based on work separate from ID then I might choke (because I regard his ‘hobby’ as detrimental to science) but I could live with a strong case getting tenure. I don’t see that happening right now.”

    In other words, various ISU faculty prejudged Dr. Gonzalez’s tenure case long before they even started to look at Gonzalez’s academic accomplishments, and in fact they admitted they would hold him to a higher standard than otherwise due to his support for ID. The Ames Tribune chooses to report none of this information because they claim Dr. Gonzalez lacks grant funding. In so doing, they miss the following points:

  • Dr. Gonzalez’s funding level, high or otherwise, does NOTHING to negate the undeniable evidence of bias and prejudice against him in the department because he supports intelligent design. For faculty like these, it didn’t seem to matter whether Gonzalez had $1 in grants or $1 billion in grants: they were dead set against giving him tenure simply because he supports ID. Wired Magazine seems to get this, but the Ames Tribune tries to muffle this crucial point. Had Dr. Gonzalez been denied tenure after receiving a fair hearing, perhaps there would be no grounds for complaint. But this evidence shows that without question, Dr. Gonzalez was indeed not given a fair hearing.
  • Dr. Gonzalez’s department does not even consider grants as a criterion for gaining tenure. As one external reviewer observed “Dr. Gonzalez is eminently qualified for the promotion according to your guidelines of excellence in scholarship and exhibiting a potential for national distinction. In light of your criteria I would certainly recommend the promotion.” (emphasis added) So the over-focus on his department’s perception of Gonzalez’s grants is largely a red-herring and a distraction.
    In the end, grants just became the pretext for denying tenure to Dr. Gonzalez. If you are the Ames Tribune:
  • Nevermind the fact that Dr. Gonzalez has published over 350% more peer-reviewed science articles than what his department ordinarily requires for indicating the type of reputation that demonstrates research excellence.
  • Nevermind the fact that Dr. Gonzalez has more per-capita publications and more per-capita scientific citations since 2001, the year he joined ISU, than all ISU tenured astronomers who voted against his tenure. And nevermind the fact that Dr. Gonzalez co-authored a peer-reviewed astronomy textbook with Cambridge University Press that some ISU astronomy classes are now using.
  • Nevermind the fact that observational astronomers don’t need the millions of dollars that physicists need to do research; roughly, they only need time on telescopes to collect data and then a PC to number-crunch the data. In fact, last March, before ISU’s provost or president had decided his tenure, Dr. Gonzalez received a $50,000 grant from Discovery Institute that allows him to collect more than enough observational astronomy data each year for the next 5 years. In short, Dr. Gonzalez has precisely the money he needs to have a successful research program at ISU.
  • Nevermind the fact that 2/3 of the external reviewers who gave an opinion about whether Dr. Gonzalez deserves tenure said he should receive tenure.
  • Nevermind the fact that Dr. Gonzalez’s level of grant funding or any other measure of his scientific accomplishments do absolutely nothing to negate the existence of the harsh anti-ID prejudice that is undeniably revealed by these e-mails. …the Ames Tribune‘s agenda is to blame the victim and stifle the existence of real discrimination at ISU.

Note: Unfortunately, Wired Magazine did misreport one issue. It stated: “Guillermo Gonzalez … has announced his plans to sue the university.” As Dr. Gonzalez’s attorney Timm Reid stated at the press conference last Monday, no decision has apparently been made as to whether Dr. Gonzalez will sue ISU. Indeed, Dr. Gonzalez himself stated in a 12/7/07 article in the ISU Daily that “I have not yet decided to pursue legal action. I will be consulting my lawyers and attorneys based on the totality of the evidence.”


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 GonzalezWired Magazine