NASHVILLE, Tenn. Though he exceeded the requirements, an astronomy professor at Iowa State University was denied tenure possibly because his personal views on Intelligent Design conflict with the widely held beliefs of his colleagues.
Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, filed an appeal of the tenure denial in early May, and proponents of Intelligent Design say the treatment he has received at the university is more evidence of an attack on scholars who believe the earth's existence is more than a coincidence.
"The denial of tenure to Dr. Gonzalez is a blatant violation of both academic freedom and free speech," John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, said May 14. "The denial of tenure is all the more incredible given the fact that Dr. Gonzalez exceeds by 350 percent the number of peer-reviewed journal publications required by his department to meet its standard of excellence in research."
Gonzalez said he does not teach Intelligent Design in the classroom, and any support of it he has expressed has been outside the realm of his employment with the university. A senior fellow with the Discovery Institute and an open Christian, Gonzalez co-authored a book titled "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery" in 2004.
His academic achievements include writing 68 peer-reviewed scientific articles, authoring a college-level astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University Press, and organizing the research that led to the discovery of two new planets. Gonzalez is well-known in his field for developing the concept of a Galactic Habitable Zone, and journals such as Nature, Science and Scientific American have featured his work, according to World Magazine.
"The basic freedom of scientists, teachers and students to do scientific research and question the Darwinian hegemony is coming under attack by people that can only be called Darwinian fundamentalists," West said. "Intelligent design scientists are losing their jobs, and their professional careers are being torpedoed by these extremists."
In a statement released May 14, the university said tenure is a complex process that is never taken lightly. "Outside of academia, however, there is little shared understanding of tenure, its rigor and significance," the statement said in part. Anika Smith, a spokesperson for the Discovery Institute, said the statement dodged the issue by dismissing criticism of the school's decision as naïve.
Gonzalez told World he was surprised and a little depressed over the tenure denial.
"I almost decided not to turn in an appeal, but several friends convinced me to do so," he said. "This might have precedent, so it was important for me to go through it for the sake of others who might go through this in the future."Gregory Geoffroy, president of Iowa State, has until June 6 to decide on Gonzalez' appeal.