Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gonzalez Denied Tenure, But Why?

Guillermo Gonzalez's being denied tenure at Iowa State left many speculating, with good reason, that it was due to his support of Intelligent Design (ID) theory. You can read more about it here.

In a well-written article in the prestigious scientific journal Nature*, Geoff Brumfiel offers a balanced account of the story. On behalf of Gonzalez's critics, Brumfiel quotes University of Maryland physicist Robert Park, who makes the following laughable statement:
“I would have voted to deny him tenure. He has established that he does not understand the scientific process.”
Unbelievable. I cannot help but conclude that Park is mentally unhinged. Gonzalez, according to Nature, has published "dozens of articles in top journals," and "has made an important discovery in the field of extrasolar planets." This important discovery "linked a star’s metal content to the presence of extrasolar planets around it. The papers are still highly cited, and they have encouraged other researchers to search for planets around metal-rich stars."
So, Gonzalez doesn't understand the scientific process. Uh-huh. Ok. Perhaps we could borrow Gonzalez's telescope to try and figure out what planet Dr. Park is living on.

*The article appears in the May 2007 issue of Nature.


Blogger Joel said...

I like the role of Devil's Advocate. So, I will remind you that the achieving tenure usually requires an individual also meet teaching and service goals along with producing publishable research. In addition, in a good number of places, establishing outside funding is a critical piece of the tenure process. Is it possible that Gonzalez was deficient in one or more of the areas outside of publication rate? Without all the information, speculation is fruitless endeavor. Fun, but fruitless

8:32 AM  
Blogger chris said...

Those are good points, Joel. Not having gone through the process, and not being a hard-science guy, I defer to those in the know.

My main point in this post, however, was that Park's comment about Gonzalez not understanding the scientific process was preposterous. I have been surprised that otherwise reasonable scientists can be so dismissive of those who support ID. Even if ID is a bad idea, support of it doesn't automatically cancel out or trump all of one's work.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

You know, I've only ever heard one in-depth discussion regarding ID. I must admit, the individual that I heard discuss it seemed decidedly unscientific. I think the main problem is that ID already has a conclusion. Support is then sought to bolster that conclusion. That is not necessarily how the scientific process works, as I understand it.

That aside, a belief, and at this point, that is what I think ID is, should not cost an individual tenure.

6:32 PM  

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