Incoming professor pledges not to teach intelligent design
The Daily News
The controversial professor who will join the astronomy department in the fall has released a statement that pledges not to discuss intelligent design in his classes.
Guillermo Gonzalez taught at Iowa State University until he was denied tenure in 2008. Gonzalez and the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design group of which he is a senior fellow, claim the decision to deny tenure was due to Gonzalez’s ties to ID, while ISU cited academic reasons.
“As I communicated to members of the department during my interviews, I plan to continue my research on astrobiology and stellar astrophysics,” Gonzalez said in the statement. “I will not be discussing Intelligent Design in my classes. I didn’t discuss ID at ISU either.”
Jerry Coyne, an ID critic and blogger, said the controversy surrounding Ball State professor Eric Hedin for accusations of teaching creationism in class may have led to Gonzalez’s announcement clarifying the role of ID in classes.
“He’s under the gun because he has to keep his nose clean and teach real science and do science because he needs to get tenure,” Coyne said. “I take the guy’s word when he says that and I think it’s in his best interests to keep his promise.”
Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, an organization that fights for the separation of church and state, said the FFRF will be keeping an eye on Coyne to ensure he keeps his promise.
The FFRF wrote a letter to Ball State prompting the ongoing investigation on Hedin. Seidel said the FFRF will be releasing another letter later this week to Ball State with new information gathered from students about Hedin and his class.
“We were pleased to hear that the university took the complaints seriously and assigned a panel to investigate the claims and see exactly how professor Hedin is teaching the class,” Seidel said. “We want them to have access to some of the same information that we did.”
The FFRF will not release all of the information it has in order to comply with the confidentiality wishes of some of the students involved. It is also trying to obtain course and professor reviews pertaining to Hedin, which Ball State is currently withholding.
“The whole point is that we want [the review committee] to have as much of the information that we can pass on as possible so that they can make the best decision for Ball State,” Seidel said.
Even with plenty of information, John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, is worried the committee might be stacked against Hedin. The Discovery Institute sent a letter and a petition for fairness in the course review to Ball State president Jo Ann Gora and the Board of Trustees. West said there has been no response from Gora’s office and the Board of Trustees has only confirmed that it received the letter and petition.
“The university appears to be following a completely different process than it used in a prior academic freedom case,” West said. “Moreover, the university has failed to provide any clear standards that it will be using to evaluate Hedin’s course.”
The prior academic freedom case West refers to is that of George Wolfe, who was accused of pushing a liberal bias into a peace studies class he taught in 2004. The university didn’t appoint a panel to review Wolfe, who was instead defended and exonerated by the provost at the time, according to the Star Press.
The lack of consistency has West questioning the integrity of the university’s review process.
“If BSU is truly serious about academic freedom, it had better stop applying double standards,” he said.