ASA member publicly attaced in Iowa, for his religious views

From: Ted Davis <tdavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Mon Sep 05 2005 - 08:58:16 EDT

In the past 10 days most of us have (quite rightly) devoted much spiritual
and intellectual attention to events in New Orleans. During that same
period of time, however, an ASA member has been under attack by colleagues
at his university (Iowa State), simply for giving the history of the
universe a religious interpretation--something that other ASA members have
done without a similar backlash elsewhere (such as Owen Gingerich at Harvard
or Howard Van Till at Calvin--in Howard's case the attacks on his view came
from outside the college).

I refer to Guillermo Gonzalez, astronomer at Iowa State University. Many
are familiar with his views second hand, through our discussion of the
"Priviledged Planet" showing at the Smithsonian--surrounded by false charges
that PP was creationism in disguise. 120 faculty at ISU recently signed a
petition, organized by campus atheist Hector Avalos, distancing themselves
from the implication (which they are creating themselves) that ISU has
somehow endorsed ID. Think about this for a moment--what's the last time
you heard of a large group of faculty members distancing themselves publicly
from a popularization of science that includes a religious interpretation of
the science? Did anyone do this for Carl Sagan, Edward Wilson, Steven
Weinberg, Ken Miller--or even our own Keith Miller? Richard Dawkins'
colleagues haven't even done this, they haven't circulated a petition to the
university president. Alister McGrath has written a book responding to
Dawkins, but that's not at all the same thing: it's fair play to respond to
books with books, ideas with ideas. This is IMO a reprehensible action, and
I call on ASA members to do their own research (it isn't hard to find lots
that's been written about this online) and decide whether or not a personal
response is in order.

Make sure in your research, to include Prof Avalos, who has organized this
effort. IMO, Avalos sees Gonzalez' book as a serious threat to his own
campus efforts to promote atheism (I do not exaggerate this description of
his activities, as you will see for yourself if you dig into it), and this
is the reason for his petition.

My understanding is that quite a few signatories of the petition have now
withdrawn their names, having seen the error of their ways; and the original
petition did not include any of Guillermo's colleagues in astronomy, which
speaks well of him. I also speak well of Guillermo, who shared the
speaker's platform with me at a conference in the DC area a couple of years
ago.

I am composing a letter to the ISU president. ISU made the terrible
mistake 50 years ago of denying tenure to my late doctoral mentor, whose
ground-breaking research on religion and science in the 17th century was
apparently not seen as worthy of tenure; he then went on to become the
world's leading Newton scholar, largely b/c of the careful attention he
devoted to religion and alchemy in Newton's life and thought. Guillermo is
not tenured, and I hope to prevent ISU from sinning against philosophy
twice.

Other ASAers have also been singled out inappropriately for their religious
views, incl. Forrest Mims, whose story is well known to many of us. We need
to stand with Guillermo.

Again, I urge members to do their own research and take whatever steps they
believe are warranted.

Ted
Received on Mon Sep 5 09:01:15 2005

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