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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Intellectual freedom: Science historian weighs in on Gonzalez tenure denial

Ted Davis, a Messiah U science historian who has often attacked ID and the ID guys in general, had this to say, among other thngs, about the denial of tenure to Guillermo Gonzalez, in a letter to Iowa State University's president:
From where I sit, the impact of Dr. Avalos’[*] deeds is not hard to see: he poisoned the environment for Dr. Gonzalez, by undermining his academic reputation and isolating him at Iowa State*and all based on a book that is actually one of the best popular books about science in recent years. I am an expert on the history of religion and science in the United States (my current project on modern America has received significant support from the National Science Foundation), and in my opinion Dr. Gonzalez’ treatment of historical topics in The Privileged Planet is far superior to the treatment of comparable topics in Sagan’s famous series. His debunking of the so-called “Copernican principle,” associated with the late Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley, is an excellent corrective to the false view of Shapley, Sagan, and many other scientists that Copernicus somehow “demoted” humanity by moving us out of the center of the universe. As Dennis Danielson has shown decisively (in an ! article in American Journal of Physics and in The Book of the Cosmos), Copernicus and his followers believed no such thing, and Gonzalez’ clear explanation of the details helps the record straight for many in the general public. A leading historian of astronomy, Owen Gingerich of Harvard (a former student of Shapley), justly praises Dr. Gonzalez for this in his recent book, God’s Universe (Harvard University Press, 2006), itself yet one more example of a scientist offering a religious interpretation of his work to the general public. I have to wonder*if Professor Gingerich were also a junior faculty member at Iowa State, would Dr. Avalos now be organizing another petition drive against this particular book, for its defense of a designed universe?

Well, yes, probably he would, Ted. That's what this is all about. People who are not materialists or are willing to question materialism or support or praise or protect anyone who is not a materialist are supposed to just shut up and die. And the only important question is, where was any given non-materialist while all this was happening. All the rest is, uh, academic.

By all means, read the rest of his letter excerpt here.

I’m not completely surprised by this because Davis - whom I have accused in the past of being a mugwump* - has expressed distinct discomfort in the past with the right of people like religion prof Hector Avalos to poison the atmosphere with persecutions against working scientists like Gonzalez.

[*]Yes, Avalos is indeed the bowdlerizing little crank who wants to cut out the violent parts out of the Bible. Honest. Sigh.

And THAT guy got dozens and dozens of faculty to sign his petition against Gonzalez? Yes, it is long past time someone opened a window on American academic life ….

*A mugwump has his head on one side of the fence and his wump on the other. I withdraw the accusation. - d.

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?

NEW!! Evolution in the light of intelligent design - look up intelligent design topics here.

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

Anti-God crusade ... no, really! 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.

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

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