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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Denied tenure: Habitable zone astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez

Guillermo Gonzalez, Privileged Planet astronomer and longtime target of atheist materialists, has been denied tenure. Here is a fact sheet I have just received:

Update: For some more background on the Gonzalez case (I will update more later), visit Bipod at Telic Thoughts:

So let's get this straight. Hector Avalos, an atheist at Iowa State University, is leading a crusade of Scientific McCarthyism against Guillermo Gonzalez. The stated reason by Avalos: ""We certainly don't want to give the impression to the public that intelligent design is what we do." Now Avalos and the other 120 signers of the document will deny that they're doing anything inappropriate, but let's be serious. This is Scientific McCarthyism in a cheap tuxedo;-)

"Mr. Avalos said the statement was not intended to silence Mr. Gonzalez, or to get him fired…"

Sure. Then why single him out?

Hey, to respectfully protest this decision:
Dr. Gregory L. Geoffroy
President, Iowa State University
1750 Beardshear Hall
Ames, Iowa 50011-2035
(515) 294-2042

Now the fact sheet:

Biography of Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez

Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Iowa State University (ISU).

Born in Havana, he and his family fled from Cuba to the United States in 1967, where he earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Washington in 1993. Author of nearly 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers and co-author of a major college-level astronomy textbook, Dr. Gonzalez’s work led to the discovery of two new planets, and he has had his research featured in Science, Nature, and on the cover of Scientific American.

Dr. Gonzalez’s Scientific Research

In late 1995, Dr. Gonzalez began working on a series of projects examining stars with planets to see what sorts of properties they exhibited. This has been a major part of Dr. Gonzalez’s scientific research, and he has published twelve articles in peer-reviewed science journals on the subject and continues to research new planets and systems. Dr. Gonzalez’s research in this area led to he and his associate researchers discovering what is known as the Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ), a term Dr. Gonzalez coined. Our star, the Sun, is one of the few stars in the Galaxy capable of supporting complex life. The sun is composed of the right amount of “metals,” and its orbit about the galactic center is just right. Our solar system is also far enough away from the galactic center to not have to worry about disruptive gravitational forces or too much radiation. When all of these factors occur together, they create a region of space now known as a Galactic Habitable Zone. Dr. Gonzalez believes every form of life on our planet—from the simplest bacteria to the most complex animal—owes its existence to the balance of these unique conditions. Dr. Gonzalez has also made novel contributions by developing the idea of the moon as “Earth’s lunar attic,” where the moon may serve as a repository for meteorites that came originally from earth or other nearby planets. Dr. Gonzalez views the moon as a museum for the history of our solar system, and further exploration could yield great insight into our planet’s own history. His work has lead to feature stories in Science and Nature, two of the world’s premiere scientific publications. And he and his associates wrote a cover story about GHZ in Scientific American.

Dr. Gonzalez’s Book on Intelligent Design

In 2004, Dr.Gonzalez co-authored the book The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery, which presents empirical evidence for the hypothesis that the universe is the product of intelligent design. Supported by a research grant from the Templeton Foundation, the book has earned praised from such eminent scientists as David Hughes, a Vice-President of the Royal Astronomical Society, Harvard astrophysicist Owen Gingerich, and Cambridge paleobiologist Simon Conway Morris. The Privileged Planet was developed into a documentary and shown on PBS stations around the country.

Attacks on Dr. Gonzalez’s Academic Freedom

After the release of Privileged Planet, ISU religious studies professor Hector Avalos—faculty advisor to the campus Atheist and Agnostic Society—began publicly campaigning against Dr. Gonzalez and his work. Although Dr. Gonzalez had never introduced intelligent design into his classes, Avalos helped spearhead a faculty petition urging “all faculty” at ISU to “uphold the integrity of our university” by “reject[ing] efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science.” Avalos later conceded to a local newspaper that Gonzalez was the key motive for the petition. The logical conclusion of this campaign against Dr. Gonzalez came in the spring of 2007 when ISU President Gregory Geoffroy denied Dr. Gonzalez’s application for tenure.

I’ll keep up with this story. Gonzalez is a Christian. This will be a chance to find out how many profs who claim to be churchgoing Christians are really materialist fellow travellers who prefer to hang out with Thumbsmen - or honest dupes of materialists.

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Thinkquote of the day: Cardinal Schonborn on Darwnism

Regular readers of this space will know that I try to keep up with the Catholic Church’s growing awareness of Darwinism, as the creation story of materialism. Here are some brief excerpts from Christoph, Cardinal Schoenborn’s thoughts on the subject, as published in First Things. Schonborn is the Pope’s point man on the Catholic Church’s response to this problem:
... armed with a richer understanding of the nature and limits of modern science, we must reexamine the genuine science at work in Darwin’s theory and its developments, and begin to separate it from ideological and worldview-oriented elements are are foreign to science. Darwin must be disentangled from Darwiism; modern evolutionary theory must be freed from its ideological shackles.

To do this, people must be permitted to exercise criticism rooted in fact against the reductionist and ideological aspects of Darwinism. A truly liberal society would at least allow students to hear o fthe debate between anti-teleological theories and those scientists and philosophers who defend teleology in nature.

Hmmm. I’m not sure that Darwin himself can be freed from the shackles of Darwinism, but His Eminence is, of course, welcome to try. Anyway, I think the discussion that Cardinal Schonborn envisions could happen in a Catholic school in my city (Toronto) and would be valuable there. But I would give no good odds on it for a public high school here. given that no value system other than administrative correctness or a current edu-fad can really be given priority. And we can be reasonably certain that the great philosophers are not a current edu-fad.

Anyway, later, he says,
An oft-cited remark by [key Darwinist] George C. Simpson runs: “Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that does not have him in mind. He was not planned.” If Simpson had said merely that no plan according to which mankind came about may be discerned using the purely quantitative-mechanical methods of scientific inquiry, then this assertion could be correct. But this way of looking at things - this “self-limitation of reason,” in the words of Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address - is not “given by nature” but is a deliberate, methodological, and eminently goal-oriented choice.

Note that Schonborn says “could be correct”, not “would be correct.”

There is, of course, a critical distinction here. If science is applied materialism then, by definition, no evidence can ever be discovered that points to purpose or design because any other explanation, no matter how ridiculous, is - by definition - to be preferred, and ignoring contrary evidence and persecuting those who bring it forward or express doubt about a materialist consensus.

(Note: You have to buy a subscription to view Schoenborn’s First Things article just now (a good value, I may say); it doesn’t go into free archives for a couple of weeks.) For a good introduction to a Catholic understanding of evolution, go here.
If you want to understand why the intelligent design controversy cannot go away, read By Design or by Chance?.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

Animations of life inside the cell, indexed, for your convenience.

My review of sci-fi great Rob Sawyer’s novel, The Calculating God , which addresses the concept of intelligent design. My reviews of movies relevant to the intelligent deisgn controversy.

My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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