Re: [asa] gonzalez' citation record

From: Ted Davis <tdavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Fri May 25 2007 - 12:10:13 EDT

>>> "Freeman, Louise Margaret" <lfreeman@mbc.edu> 5/25/2007 11:15 AM
>>>writes:
In plus/minus situations, political factors usually mange to tip the
scales, and in this case
Gonzalez probably had multiple factors working against him.

1. Anti-Christian or anti-theist bigotry. I'm not convinced this was a
major factor; unfortunatel,
we'll likely never know how much of a role this played, as people who feel
this way are very
unlikely to say so publically.
2. Anti-ID sentiment from people who see may have no personal beef against
religion, but see
the ID movement, as personified by the DI, as a major political threat
against quality science
education. Such people, perhaps understandably, do not want ID publically
associaed with their
science department or their university.
3. Anti-popular science sentiment. This type of "snobbery" is of course not
limited to
Christians; it likely cost Carl Sagan admittance to the National Academy.
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/275/5300/599
 Scientists who actively engage the public via popular books, films etc.
reduce their status in the
eyes of their peers. Personally, I think this is just another reflection of
anti-teachng bias, only
with the general public as the "students."

The question is, was the Avalos petition a reflection of factor #1, #2 or
both?

Ted replies:
I agree that the answer to this question is highly relevant. I understand
that NASA has funded some of his work--which work, and whether or not it
happened at ISU, I do not know as I did not investigate that aspect. It
obviously does not show up in a citation search. If the relevant
correspondence survives in fifty years (and it might not, lots of scientists
don't allow all of their files to become part of the historical record, for
various reasons), I won't be the least surprised to learn that 1 and 2 were
decisive reasons. Well, I am not likely to know that; I probably won't be
alive in 2057. As much as I could understand 2, I see a profound asymmetry
with the absence of public petitions against the work of scientists such as
Dawkins, Wilson, Pinker, Sagan, Atkins, Weinberg, and others who draw
atheistic conclusions from science all the time in their public writings.
Perhaps the absence of a clear organizational target, such as TDI, makes it
easier for Avalos to go after Gonzalez than for others to petition against
Dawkins and company? Yet Dawkins has an endowed chair for "the public
understanding of science," and Sagan functioned as if he did at Cornell.
Surely, this asymmetry speaks volumes, suggesting that Gonzalez' religious
interpretation of science was not acceptable while that of Dawkins and
others is acceptable. This is called viewpoint discrimination.

Now, as for Sagan and point 3. It is correct, that he didn't get elected
to the NAS (one of his wives, Lynn margulis, did). And perhaps his high
public profile had something to do with this in his case. I doubt that this
was the real reason, however. I will say here only that he wasn't
personally the most likeable individual, and that people on his campus who
might otherwise share his perspective on life just did not like the man.
The adjective "pompous" was once juxtaposed with a certain 3-letter noun
within the range of my ears; I doubt the source of that sound was expressing
an isolated opinion.

If we compare this with the fact that Dawkins got elected FRS only in
recent years, and that Wilson and Weinberg and Hawking seem to have suffered
no loss of reputation for writing popular books, I think we can say with
some confidence that Sagan's story is the exception, and we can look
elsewhere for reasons.

Gonzalez is nothing like Sagan, personally. Nothing. #3 does not apply,
IMO.

Ted

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Received on Fri May 25 12:10:54 2007

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