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Guillermo Gonzalez (astronomer)

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Subject: Center for Science and Culture, Guillermo Gonzalez, Intelligent design controversies, Discovery Institute fellows and advisors, Hector Avalos
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Guillermo Gonzalez (astronomer)

Guillermo Gonzalez (born 1963 in Havana, Cuba) is an astrophysicist, proponent of intelligent design, and an assistant professor at Ball State University, a public research university, in Muncie, Indiana. He is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, considered the hub of the intelligent design movement, and a fellow with the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design, which also promotes intelligent design.


  • Education, work and academics 1
  • Iowa State University tenure denial 2
    • Faculty statement 2.1
    • Denial of tenure and appeals 2.2
    • Reasons for denial 2.3
    • Discovery Institute and intelligent design campaign 2.4
    • Colleagues speak out 2.5
  • Grove City College 3
  • Ball State University 4
  • Books 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Education, work and academics

Gonzalez obtained a BS in 1987 in Physics & Astronomy from University of Arizona and his Ph. D. in Astronomy from the University of Washington in 1993 and has done post-doctoral work at the University of Texas, Austin and the University of Washington. He has received fellowships, grants and awards from NASA, the University of Washington, Sigma Xi, and the National Science Foundation.[1] He introduced the Galactic Habitable Zone concept.[2][3] He currently teaches at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school, and was previously an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University until May 2008.

Gonzalez was a regular contributor to Facts for Faith magazine produced by Reasons To Believe, an old earth creationist group.[4] In addition to his work for the Discovery Institute and International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, he is a researcher for the Biologic Institute, which is funded by the institute for research into intelligent design.[5]

In 2004 he published The Privileged Planet and its accompanying video, which takes the arguments of the Rare Earth hypothesis and combines them with arguments that the Earth is in prime location for observing the universe. He then proposes that the Earth was intelligently designed. William H. Jefferys, a Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, reviewed the book writing "the little that is new in this book isn't interesting, and what is old is just old-hat creationism in a new, modern-looking astronomical costume."[6] Co-author Jay Richards responds to such criticism with the following statement: "It has absolutely nothing to do with biological evolution. We are talking about the things that you need to produce a habitable planet, which is a prerequisite for life. It doesn't tell you anything about how life got here."[7] A documentary based on the book was produced by the Discovery Institute.[8]

His primary research interest is studying radial velocity and transit techniques in extrasolar planets.[9]

Iowa State University tenure denial

Faculty statement

Two years prior to his consideration for tenure, approximately 130 members of the faculty of Iowa State University signed a statement co-authored by Hector Avalos, a professor of Religious Studies, opposing "all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor." Similar statements were issued by faculty at the University of Northern Iowa and at the University of Iowa. A total of approximately 400 professors signed the three petitions.[10][11] No mention of Gonzalez was made in these petitions, and Hector Avalos maintained the statement "was in no way targeted specifically at Gonzalez", that Tom Ingebritsen, an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, had been advocating, and teaching a course in, Intelligent Design at ISU for a number of years before Gonzales arrived, and that "[a]t that time [the] statement began to circulate, Dr. Gonzalez was not well-known as an ID advocate to most faculty even at ISU". Avalos also accused the Discovery Institute of "combining sentences from different sections of [the statement] in order create a fragmented syntax that appears to target Gonzalez":[12]

  1. Intelligent Design has become a significant issue in science education, and it has now established a presence, even if minimal, at Iowa State University.
  2. Accordingly, if you are concerned about the negative impact of Intelligent Design on the integrity of science and on our university, please consider signing the "Statement on Intelligent Design by Iowa State University Faculty" below.
  3. We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of "science and technology," convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science.

[emphasis in original]

Two years later, an article in the local newspaper The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported Gonzalez' appeal against his denial of tenure and claimed he was "the unnamed target" of the ISU petition. The article noted that "Gonzalez won't discuss the reasons for the tenure denial" but that he "noted, however, that he has frequently been criticized by people who don't consider intelligent design as a legitimate science." Comments from John West, the associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture - with whom Gonzalez was a senior fellow - blamed the failure to secure tenure directly upon Gonzalez' belief in intelligent design and compared it to a "doctrinal litmus test" typical of his native Cuba.[13]

Denial of tenure and appeals

In April 2007 Iowa State University denied Gonzalez tenure.

On June 1, 2007, Gregory Geoffroy, President of Iowa State University, rejected Gonzalez's appeal and upheld the denial of tenure. In making this decision, Geoffroy states that he "specifically considered refereed publications, [Gonzalez's] level of success in attracting research funding and grants, the amount of telescope observing time he had been granted, the number of graduate students he had supervised, and most importantly, the overall evidence of future career promise in the field of astronomy"[14] and that Gonzalez "simply did not show the trajectory of excellence that we expect in a candidate seeking tenure in physics and astronomy – one of our strongest academic programs." Geoffroy noted, "Over the past 10 years, four of the 12 candidates who came up for review in the physics and astronomy department were not granted tenure."[15] Gonzalez appealed to the Iowa Board of Regents and the board affirmed the decision on February 7, 2008.[16] [17]

Reasons for denial

The University has issued an FAQ concerning the situation saying that "The consensus of the tenured department faculty, the department chair, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the executive vice president and provost was that tenure should not be granted. Based on recommendations against granting tenure and promotion at every prior level of review, and his own review of the record, President Gregory Geoffroy notified Gonzalez in April that he would not be granted tenure and promotion to associate professor."[18] The denial of tenure for Gonzalez resulted in one of the Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns with the Institute encouraging its followers to call and email Geoffroy and urge him to reverse the decision.[19][20]

The Chronicle of Higher Education said of Gonzalez and the Discovery Institute's claims of discrimination "At first glance, it seems like a clear-cut case of discrimination ... But a closer look at Mr. Gonzalez's case raises some questions about his recent scholarship and whether he has lived up to his early promise." The Chronicle observed that Gonzalez had no major grants during his seven years at ISU, had published no significant research during that time and had only one graduate student finish a dissertation.[21] The Discovery Institute misrepresents an op-ed by John Hauptman, one of Gonzalez's colleagues in the physics department. Hauptman states clearly that Gonzalez's work falls far short of what scientists know to be science, containing not one single number, not one single measurement or test of any kind.[22][23] "I believe that I fully met the requirements for tenure at ISU," said Gonzalez. On May 8, 2007 Gonzalez appealed the decision.[24]

Gonzalez's failure to obtain research funding has been cited as a factor in the decision. "Essentially, he had no research funding," said Eli Rosenberg, chairman of Gonzalez's department. "That's one of the issues."[25] According to the Des Moines Register, "Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez's peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure."On February 7, 2008, his appeal to the Board of Regents was denied.[26]

Discovery Institute and intelligent design campaign

The Discovery Institute launched a campaign portraying Gonzalez as a victim of discrimination by "Darwinist ideologues" for his support of intelligent design,[27][28] comparing Gonzalez's denial of tenure to the claims of discrimination by Richard Sternberg, another institute affiliate, over the Sternberg peer review controversy.[29] The institute's public relations campaign also makes the same claims of discrimination as the campaign it conducted on behalf of institute Fellow Francis J. Beckwith when he was initially denied tenure at Baylor University.

The Discovery Institute filed a request for public records and as a result, in December 2007, [31] In a letter to the Iowa State Daily, Physics and Astronomy Professor Joerg Schmalian stated that the e-mail "discussion was prompted by our unease with the national debate on intelligent design", not the issue of tenure.[32]

Critics such as PZ Myers have argued that the Discovery Institute's statement "relies heavily on fragmentary quotes taken from emails that they obtained through an open records inquiry", that the "entire anti-evolution movement" has a track-record of taking quotations out of context, that "the DI has not made the full text of the sources available for examination", leading to a "reluctan[ce] to accept the quotes provided at face value", and that in any case "[t]his is precisely what his colleagues are supposed to do: discuss concerns about his tenure case."[33] Another critic has analysed the list of Gonzalez's publications supplied by the Discovery Institute, and found that "he peaked in 1999, and the decline [in his publications] began even while he was still at the University of Washington" and that "[e]ven more pronounced than the drop in publications is the complete bottom-out in first authorships that is almost sustained throughout his entire probationary period leading up to tenure."[34] Another critic commented:

Additionally, Gonzalez appeared in the controversial 2008 movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The American Association for the Advancement of Science describes the film as dishonest and divisive, aimed at introducing religious ideas into public school science classrooms,[36] and the film is being used in private screenings to legislators as part of the Discovery Institute intelligent design campaign for Academic Freedom bills.[37] Expelled portrays Gonzalez as a victim of religious discrimination and the Discovery Institute campaign asserts that his intelligent design writings should not have been considered in the review. However, Gonzales listed The Privileged Planet as part of his tenure review file. Dr. Gregory Tinkler of Iowa Citizens for Science stated that "Being a religious scientist is perfectly normal and acceptable, but scientists are supposed to be able to separate science from non-science, and good research from bad. Academic freedom protects a scientist's ability to do science, not to pass off a political or religious crusade as science."[38][39]

Colleagues speak out

One of Gonzalez's colleagues, physics professor Joerg Schmalian wrote "To deny tenure to a colleague is a very painful experience. It literally causes sleepless nights to those who are forced to make a responsible decision. Faculty candidates who are being hired in our department always come with promising backgrounds and terrific accomplishments. The decision to recommend or deny tenure is then predominantly based on research performance while at Iowa State. As far as I can judge, this was no different in Gonzalez's case. What I know with certainty is that Gonzalez's views on intelligent design, with which I utterly disagree, had no bearing whatsoever on my vote on his tenure case."[32]

Grove City College

In late 2007, Gonzalez accepted a non-tenure track position to head the astronomy program at Grove City College in Pennsylvania starting in fall semester 2008.[40] Grove City College acquired an observatory from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in February 2008 that will be utilized for astronomy classes as well as faculty and student research.[41] The observatory's telescope will be operated more than 60 miles away remotely from the college's main campus. The purchase of the property, three buildings and equipment inside will pave the way for the addition of an astronomy minor on campus. Through this observatory and under Gonzalez's headship, the college's physics department plans to work with area public schools as well as other colleges and universities on educational and research projects and draw prospective students who are looking for strong physics programs and astronomy coursework.

Ball State University

On 12 June 2013, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana announced it had engaged Gonzalez as an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy. At the time, the university was already investigating a complaint that another assistant professor in that department, Eric Hedlin, had been promoting intelligent design in an honors symposium titled "The Boundaries of Science".[42] Concerns about the course had been raised by critics including Jerry Coyne, who commented on the new hire that if Gonzales "wants to talk about it in his writing and speeches, he has a right to do that. But he can’t pass that stuff off in a university classroom. He doesn’t have the right to get tenure working in discredited science." The university's investigation into Hedlin had begun following a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, whose attorney said that the university "already has a serious issue with creationism being taught as science" by Hedin, "Now they've hired another astronomy professor and creationist to teach science at their university, Gonzalez", and this pattern could damage the university's reputation as well as involving the administration in work "to ensure that proper legal, ethical, and educational boundaries are followed by Gonzalez."[43] The Discovery institute's Evolution News and Views website published a statement Guillermo Gonzalez had issued about his new position as a faculty member:

"I am very happy to join the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ball State University. As I communicated to members of the department during my interviews, I plan to continue my research on astrobiology and stellar astrophysics. I will not be discussing intelligent design (ID) in my classes (I didn't discuss ID at ISU either). My view that there is evidence of design in physics and cosmology (the type of design I have written about) is not out of the mainstream; a number of cosmologists and physicists hold to this view. In my opinion, the controversy surrounding my hire is artificial -- largely generated by one activist blogger who is not an astronomer. Lastly, I need to reiterate that I was denied tenure at ISU not because of poor academics on my part, but for ideological and political reasons."[44]

At the end of July, Professor Jo Ann Gora as president of the university stated that science courses would not include teaching intelligent design and that Hedlin would remain on the staff, but his symposium would not continue. She issued a letter to faculty and staff advising that "Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory" and that "Said simply, to allow intelligent design to be presented to science students as a valid scientific theory would violate the academic integrity of the course as it would fail to accurately represent the consensus of science scholars."[45]

The Discovery Institute had meetings with Indiana Senator Dennis Kruse, chairman of the Education Committee, and three of his fellow Republican legislators. The legislators, acting on behalf of the Discovery Institute, wrote to the university to raise concerns about the decision, including the "establishment of a speech code restricting faculty speech on intelligent design" and demanding that Gora answer the question, "Does the policy forbid science professors from explaining either their support or rejection of intelligent design in answer to questions about intelligent design in class?" The Discovery Institute's vice president John G. West alleged that "one science class is covering intelligent design in order to bash it. If they allow that, it’s tantamount to state endorsement of an anti-religious view."[46]

The Discovery Institute also sought access to any emails between the university and Coyne to investigate their suspicions that a faculty member had contacted Coyne to sabotage the hiring of Gonzalez: Coyne described this as "crazy" and said "I made it clear I didn’t think Guillermo Gonzalez or Eric Hedin should be fired. The question was whether religion can be taught as if it were science. Like president Gora said, it’s not only wrong but illegal to represent religion as if it were science." He also commented that "The Discovery Institute is hurt because they lost, so they’re trying to make trouble. This is a watershed thing, the first time the issue of intelligent design came up in a university as opposed to a high school or elementary school. Ball State was the first time they tried, and it failed."[46]

The Indiana legislators met in private with university officials, and Kruze said afterwards "Ball State officials were very attentive to our requests and concerns during the April 4 meeting. A majority of issues have been resolved, and I look forward to working more on these matters concerning academic freedom with the university." On 8 May 2014 the university announced that Hedin had been promoted to associate professor, virtually guaranteeing that he will eventually get tenure.[47]



  1. ^ Guillermo Gonzalez at the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design. Accessed November 13, 2006
  2. ^ The Galactic Habitable Zone I. Galactic Chemical Evolution, Guillermo Gonzalez, Donald Brownlee, Peter Ward, arXiv
  3. ^ Robert Roy Britt, Amid the Universe's Chaos, a Few Habitable Places,, 28 May 2002
  4. ^ The Measurability of the Universe––a Record of the Creator’s Design By Guillermo Gonzalez, Facts for Faith Issue 4, 2000.
  5. ^ "Biologic Institute People".  
  6. ^ "Review of The Privileged Planet".  
  7. ^ "Review of the Privileged Planet".  
  8. ^ Privileged Planet official webpage
  9. ^ "Guillermo Gonzalez Research Interests".  
  10. ^ Intelligent Design opponents willing to debate, Marcos Rivera, Virginia Arrigucci and Emily Schaefer, Iowa State Daily
  11. ^ Statement by Iowa State University Faculty
  12. ^ Never trust a creationist ellipsis — Hector Avalos on the Gonzalez emails, Pharyngula
  13. ^ Intelligent design advocate denied tenure at ISU, Nafeesa Syeed, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
  14. ^ Statement from Iowa State University President Greg Geoffroy Ames Tribune. June 2, 2007.
  15. ^ "Statement from Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy". Iowa State University News Service. 2007-06-01. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  16. ^ Monastersky, Richard (2008-02-07). "Intelligent Design and Tenure: Not in the Stars". Chronicle of Higher Education. 
  17. ^ Beisser, Andrea (2008-02-08). "Regents dismiss Gonzalez appeal" (– Scholar search). Iowa State Daily. 
  18. ^ Facts regarding status of tenure case at Iowa State, Iowa State University
  19. ^ "Action Item: Help Guillermo Gonzalez in his fight for academic freedom. Contact ISU President ... let him know that you support academic freedom for Dr. Gonzalez to follow the evidence wherever it leads." Iowa State Avoids Key Question in Gonzalez Tenure Case Discovery Institute,
  20. ^ Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez And Academic Persecution Discovery Institute. May 18, 2007.
  21. ^ Advocate of Intelligent Design Who Was Denied Tenure Has Strong Publications Record Richard Monastersky. The Chronicle of Higher Education, May, 2007. Subscription needed
  22. ^ ISU Physicist Misrepresents Guillermo Gonzalez’s Arguments for Testing Intelligent Design Casey Luskin, Discovery Institute., June 4, 2007.
  23. ^ a b Rights are intact: Vote turns on question, 'What is science?' John Hauptman. Des Moines Register, June 2, 2007. dead link as of November 13, 2007
  24. ^ Gonzalez appeal to be decided by Board of Regents Andrea Beisser, Iowa State Daily. February 7, 2008.
  25. ^ | Printer-friendly article page
  26. ^ Intelligent Design and Tenure: Not in the Stars, The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 7, 2008
  27. ^ Intelligent Design Scientist Denied Tenure Despite Exceeding Standard Requirements, Discovery Institute
  28. ^ Proponent of intelligent design denied tenure by ISU, By: William Dillon, Mid-Iowa News
  29. ^ Updated: Iowa State University Denies Tenure to Noted Scientist Who Supports Intelligent Design, John West, Evolution News & Views, Discovery Institute
  30. ^ Lisa Rossi (2007-12-01). "Intelligent design theory influenced ISU tenure vote". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  31. ^ "Secret Emails Reveal How ISU Faculty Plotted to Deny Distinguished Astronomer Tenure".  
  32. ^ a b Joerg Schmalian. "LETTER: Released Gonzalez e-mails lack context".  
  33. ^ The Discovery Institute and the Gonzalez Tenure Issue: Why Should Intelligent Design be Privileged?, The Panda's Thumb
  34. ^ Guillermo Gonzalez Expelled Exposed, National Center for Science Education. 2008
  35. ^ Gonzalez, Discovery Institute seek to replace science with politics, religion, Iowa Citizens for Science
  36. ^ "New AAAS Statement Decries "Profound Dishonesty" of Intelligent Design Movie".  
  37. ^ Stephanie Simon (May 2, 2008). "Evolution's Critics Shift Tactics With Schools".  
  38. ^  
  39. ^ "Iowa Citizens for Science - Gonzalez, Discovery Institute seek to replace science with politics, religion". Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  40. ^ Intelligent Design Film Debuts With Former ISU Professor, Who TV, April 18, 2008
  41. ^ College Acquires Observatory for Research, Grove City College, February 13, 2008
  42. ^ Ball State U. Hires Astronomer Who Advocates Intelligent Design, July 8, 2013
  43. ^ Ball State University astronomy pick raises questions in light of on ongoing Creationism debate, Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed 9 July 2013
  44. ^ Statement from Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez about His New Position at Ball State University, John G. West, Evolution News and Views, the Discovery Institute, 9 July 2013
  45. ^ Ball State University Denounces Intelligent Design, Keeps Professor Accused of ID Bias, Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post, 2 August 2013.
  46. ^ a b Indiana lawmakers probe Ball State over intelligent design, Seth Slabaugh, The Indianapolis Star, 14 March 2014
  47. ^ Ball State promotes 'intelligent design' professor, Seth Slabaugh, The Star Press,8 May 2014

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