John G. West Political Scientist and Cultural Critic

Iowa State Avoids Key Question in Gonzalez Tenure Case

Published at Evolution News

Action Item:
Help Guillermo Gonzalez in his fight for academic freedom. Contact ISU President Gregory L. Geoffroy at (515) 294-2042 or email him at and let him know that you support academic freedom for Dr. Gonzalez to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

As reported last week, two members of the department that denied tenure to astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State University (ISU) have publicly admitted that Gonzalez’s work on intelligent design played a role in his denial of tenure. Two additional members of the department have been connected to a National Center for Science Education statement denouncing intelligent design as “creationist pseudoscience.” Yet these new facts haven’t stopped Iowa State or its defenders from continuing to promote the idea that nothing was amiss in Gonzalez’s tenure process.
ISU’s spin is conspicuous for its avoidance of what should be a central question in the Gonzalez case, namely: Given the poisoned atmosphere regarding intelligent design on the ISU campus, what specific steps did the ISU administration take to ensure that Prof. Gonzalez was treated fairly during the evaluation and promotion process?

It should have been obvious to ISU administrators that Prof. Gonzalez would likely face discrimination during his tenure process given the hostile work environment he had experienced. After the book and video The Privileged Planet came out, more than 120 of his faculty colleagues signed a petition “reject[ing] all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor,” and “urg[ing] all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of science and technology… and reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science.” (emphasis added) The demand that “all faculty members… uphold the integrity” of ISU by repudiating intelligent design was practically an invitation to deny tenure to Dr. Gonzales in the name of defending the university’s reputation. Dr. Gonzalez was further demonized through anti-intelligent design events held on ISU’s campus, including a forum specifically set up to denounce Dr. Gonzalez and The Privileged Planet.

Again, given the hostile environment toward the intelligent design viewpoint at ISU, a university administration genuinely committed to academic freedom and diversity of thought would have taken measures to try to ensure that the tenure process was based on valid criteria and not tainted by the ideological litmus tests of campus Darwinists.

So what exactly did the ISU administration do to ensure Gonzalez’s fair treatment? Did it specifically instruct all faculty evaluators that they should not take into consideration Dr. Gonzalez’s intelligent design views in their tenure evaluation? If not, why not? If so, well then, let’s see the evidence—the actual memos and meeting notes where these instructions were supposed to have been given. Unlike the rationale for why Dr. Gonzalez was denied tenure, information about what measures (if any) the ISU administration adopted to ensure a fair tenure process for Dr. Gonzalez should not be confidential and should be presented to the public.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.
Discovery Institute