ISU Prof Appeals Denial of Tenure
Supporters say it was because of 'intelligent design' ideas
Des Moines Register
May 15, 2007
An Iowa State University assistant professor who has triggered controversy for his promotion of intelligent design, a theory that disputes parts of evolution, is challenging a university decision to deny him tenure.
Guillermo Gonzalez, an ISU assistant physics and astronomy professor, last week appealed the denial of tenure to Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy.
University officials said the decision to deny Gonzalez tenure was not political. Supporters of Gonzalez said they think the university denied him tenure because he promoted an unpopular idea on college campuses, the theory that some features of life are best explained as products of an intelligent cause, rather than natural selection or random mutation.
"I think if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it likely is a duck," said John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that supports discussing intelligent design in science classes. "There are two issues here: academic freedom and the First Amendment.
Gonzalez has gained national attention for his advocacy of intelligent design as a legitimate science in his book "The Privileged Planet."
Advocates of intelligent design said they distinguish themselves from those who believe in creationism, which they say starts with a religious text and tries to see how the findings of science can be reconciled to it. West said intelligent design scientists start with the empirical data of science and try to see what can be logically inferred from that evidence.
More than 400 faculty members at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa have signed petitions that reject attempts to represent intelligent design as science. None of the statements mentions Gonzalez by name.
Gonzalez is not the first ISU professor to be turned down for tenure, which essentially gives a faculty member a lifetime job at the university.
About 12 people have applied for tenure in the past 10 years in the physics and astronomy department, and four of those were denied, said Eli Rosenberg, the chairman of the ISU department of physics and astronomy.
John McCarroll, an ISU spokesman, said tenure is achieved through approval from the candidate's department, the department chairman, a committee within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the executive vice president and provost, and the university president.
Gonzalez was denied a favorable vote on each of those levels, he said.
The decision on whether to award tenure is also based on the quality of the faculty member's work, the "impact in the community, how you are being received in the community," Rosenberg said.
Gonzalez has said he does not teach intelligent design at ISU, nor is he an advocate of including intelligent design in public schools.
Gonzalez said in an interview Monday that he has worried since August 2005 about his chances for promotion.
At that time, ISU faculty members circulated a petition that rejected attempts to characterize intelligent design as science.
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