Gonzalez used the first 45 minutes of the Sigma Xi lecture to explain the theory of intelligent design, as well as his own theory that says the link between the conditions required for life and the conditions required for doing science on earth are inference for design.
While the crowd of students, faculty and local residents had differing views on intelligent design, Gonzalez spent much of the 45 minute-question-and-answer session defending the use of intelligent design in science and arguing for the validity of the theory.
"If you eliminate intelligent design as a possibility, if you claim that the universe does not contain objective evidence of design because that is your prior commitment, then you are never going to discover some things," he said. "Some discoveries may be made more quickly when the scientist is open to the universe being designed for scientific discovery."
While many believe the intelligent designer to be God, Gonzalez argued that studying the intelligent designer itself goes beyond the purview of intelligent design as science.
"You cannot narrow it down and say uniquely what designer it was," he said. "It can become a theological and philosophical argument for the nature of the designer."
Gonzalez also argued that intelligent design is not a "Christian plot" or a repackaging of creationism, a belief often found to conflict with evolution and natural selection. He said religious views are irrelevant in the context and validity of intelligent design.
"I really don't care what the personal religious views of practitioners of evolutionary theory are because they are irrelevant," Gonzalez said. "I wish people would treat intelligent design the same way."
One of the first questions of the night came from Hector Avalos, an ISU associate professor of religious studies and firm believer against the idea of intelligent design in science.
After the lecture, Gonzalez admitted he was "a little intimidated" to see Avalos at the public lecture. Avalos has invited Gonzalez numerous times to participate in a forum debate on the topic of intelligent design. Gonzalez has continuously turned him down for the public meetings, claiming Avalos uses dirty tactics in his debate style, often focusing on the debater instead of the topic. Avalos refutes these claims.
For his one question, Avalos asked Gonzalez why he picked the two features of the earth - habitability and the ability to observe the universe - out of the million that could be chosen.
Gonzalez's response was that they hold intrinsic value.
Avalos then argued Gonzalez presents no data to show that these qualities have any value to a designer.
"I only see data that it is valuable to him," Avalos said.
One woman called Gonzalez's theory androcentric, seeing the world as if it were created for man.
"If I were a bat, I would see Mount Rushmore as perfectly designed to provide roosting areas for me to roost during the day," she said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
Gonzalez said it is rarely contested that most people think science and answering the questions about life elsewhere in the universe have an intrinsic value.
After the lecture, Gonzalez said he was ready for Avalos' question, adding that it is the same question he has posed lately in the editorial pages of local newspapers.
After the lecture, Avalos said the lecture's question-and-answer period illustrated the need for a joint forum on the topic.
"You cannot really engage in sustained questioning of the idea in this kind of setting," Avalos said. "The questions are too random, there are no follow-ups and so forth."
In August, Avalos co-authored a statement signed by more than 120 faculty at ISU denouncing intelligent design as a science. Earlier this week, nearly 120 UNI faculty signed a similar statement. Neither groups say the statement was directed at Gonzalez.
"It wasn't supposed to be a deliberate undermining, it wasn't meant to be an attack and the statement has nothing to do with him," said Wendy Olson, a UNI faculty member who led the organizing of signatures in Cedar Falls.
A poster-size copy of the statement hung on a wall outside the lecture hall during Gonzalez's program. A table was also set up with stacks of free informative handouts denouncing intelligent design as a science and a clipboard for faculty who still wanted to sign the statement.
"We were not trying to predispose people against him," Olson said. "I told my entire class to come and make up their own minds."
A similar statement is being considered at the University of Iowa, but if any such action is taken, it will not happen until after an Oct. 19 panel discussion on intelligent design, said Tara Smith, an assistant professor in the UI department of epidemiology.