For the second time this summer, Ball State University (BSU) in Muncie, Ind., is in the middle of a controversy over intelligent design (ID). First BSU dealt with complaints over assistant professor Eric Hedin, who encouraged discussion about theories of origin in his classes. Then last month, BSU hired Guillermo Gonzalez, an astrophysicist who researches intelligent design science in his free time.
BSU handled the Hedin case cautiously after Jerry Coyne, a biology professor at the University of Chicago, went to the Freedom from Religion Foundation with complaints about Hedin allowing such open discussion in class. The school agreed to convene a review panel examining the professor.
Now the same evolution proponents are criticizing the school for hiring Gonzalez, who is no stranger to controversy: In 2007, the Discovery Institute claimed Iowa State University denied Gonzales tenure for his high-profile work on ID, including co-authoring The Privileged Planet and its accompanying video. Despite the fact that Gonzalez published nearly 70 peer-reviewed articles—surpassing the university’s standard for excellence, which is 15 articles—Iowa State still disqualified Gonzalez.
Internal faculty emails pointed to his outside ID research as his ultimate downfall. Two years earlier, more than 120 faculty members issued a statement condemning intelligent design: “Whether one believes in a creator or not, views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith.”
Gonzales went on to accept a non-tenured position at Grove City College, a Christian school in Pennsylvania.
Gonzalez will join BSU as an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy in August. Coyne criticized BSU for its decision, and said he doesn’t “believe in academic freedom for anyone who teaches religiously based woo as science.”
He also hinted at “some unholy connection between BSU and the Discovery Institute.”
John West, vice president of Discovery Institute, said there is no relationship. “The fact that a department of physics and astronomy doesn’t immediately blacklist someone who has argued for cosmic design does not supply evidence that the department is a hotbed of intelligent design. … My understanding from Guillermo is that he had been seeking a university more supportive of scientific research, and so Ball State was simply one of the places he had applied.”