Although seldom recommended as a rhetorical strategy, gratuitous rhetorical abuse can function as mere decorative filigree or verbal phroo-phroo and, regretfully, it can be quite effective. However, ad hominem is no more proof of the absence of good argument than the appearance of design in the cosmos is proof of an intelligent designer.
It is true that people who have no good argument to make in their own defense will often resort to ad hominem; it is not true that all those who indulge in ad hominem have no good argument.
Furthermore, John Patterson did not, "in effect," call Gonzalez "a member of the Taliban" as Gonzalez balefully asserts. He accused him instead of advancing the agenda of those Patterson refers to as Christian reconstructionists, who seem to advocate turning the United States into a Christian theocracy, one very like the Taliban, "though far from being as violent," as Patterson clearly states. I would add only the qualifier "yet."
Gonzalez himself is an example of someone who attacks the character and style of the opposition, in this case unjustly, rather than come to grips with the primary claims at stake: in this case, the status of "intelligent design" as good science and competent argument.
Intelligent design "scientists" are charlatans, preying on the ignorance and gullibility of a poorly educated public, and I will prove it to you.
If you tell a 5-year-old that God made the world, almost to a child, very nearly every single one will then ask you, "Who made God?"
If you insist that the world shows such signs of irreducible complexity that imagining it to have arisen ex nihilo - from nothing - is too hard to believe, how much harder it must be to believe that a Great Designer able to conceive and execute such complexity could have arisen ex nihilo, existing always and forever without an origin. If every design requires a designer, where did the Original Designer come from?
Proposing the existence of an agent (God or divine creator or intelligent designer) to get the process of generation going is no explanation at all if the existence of each necessary being is logically dependent on the prior existence of an infinite number of such beings. The name for the fallacy here is infinite regress.
From a logical perspective, very little more need be said about "intelligent design" as a scientific explanation for the origins of life on this planet. As an argument, it is a non-starter.
Gonzalez alludes to "the river of data about extrasolar planets, galaxies and the larger universe flowing in from NASA," but he does not offer a single argument. Astrologers also invoke the power of the stars, with equal futility.
The very least he could do is explain how his wonderfully "scientific" theory gets past a problem older than Aristotle, who posited an "unmoved mover." However deeply the problem may be buried in quasars and extrasolar planets, the insolvability of the infinite regress problem will forever, I think, keep so-called intelligent design from being a science.
If Professor Gonzalez can provide a solution to this insoluble obstacle to his argument, one that has not been tried and rejected by St. Thomas Aquinas or Bertrand Russell or every sophomore in every dorm since the beginning of human inquiry, I would very much like to hear it. Until he can, intelligent design remains no more persuasive than astrology.
Archbishop Richard Whately called this "the challenge of refutation." Intelligent Design advocates need to meet the challenge or retire from the stage.
Oh, and let me pre-empt another ad hominem attack offered in place of argument: like Rhett Butler, I do humbly apologize for my many flaws. Now either answer the question or concede that you cannot.