Perhaps we've been the victim of a bait-and-switch. Teaching intelligent design in public school science classes is currently a national issue and I suspect many faculty had this in mind when they signed the petition. Then professor Hector Avalos, our outspoken village atheist, has used their names in his battle against Gonzalez.
What is Avalos' objection to Gonzalez's work? He told the Des Moines Register that he knows ID is religion and not science because "I'm a Biblical scholar." So Iowa State has one thing in common with unaccredited Bible colleges and medieval heresy tribunals: our Bible scholars think they can tell our astronomers how to do their jobs.
If there are ISU faculty who believe that Gonzalez's work should be condemned, that intellectual diversity shouldn't be allowed at IS, or that scientists should be forced to debate Biblical scholars who take exception to their work, then they should sign a petition saying so. Otherwise, let's stop pretending they did. The fact that only 7 percent of ISU faculty signed the existing petition doesn't lend much support to the claim that ID is almost universally rejected by scientists.
Maybe I'm wrong and all those faculty members really are concerned about Gonzalez teaching intelligent design. If so, how does one explain that curious fact that no one has offered any evidence that ID has ever been taught in an ISU class by anyone? Gonzalez says he hasn't taught it.
Can it really be that all these defenders of science are attacking something entirely imaginary? The lack of a witch has never deterred the witch hunters, but a witch hunt is a poor model for scientific inquiry.
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Department of Sociology
Iowa State University