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Iowa State Daily Misconstrues Astrobiologist's Position on Debating Intelligent Design

In an Iowa State Daily story about the running debate between religion professor Hector Avalos and astronomy professor Guillermo Gonzalez, the reporter (or perhaps the copy editor) misrepresents Gonzalez, an astrobiologist with dozens of peer-reviewed papers to his name.

The story, "Intelligent design opponents willing to debate," discusses a new seminar led by Avalos, Jim Colbert, and Michael Clough entitled, 'Why the Overwhelming Consensus of Science is that Intelligent Design is not Good Science." Boy, that's sounds balanced, a real effort to stimulate the critical thinking skills of students. No spoon feeding there.

Eventually the article quotes Gonzalez: "I don't intend to participate in a kind of forum presented by the opposing side." That's it. No explanation. End of story. One gets the image of a grumpy old man, arms crossed, holed up in his office grinding his teeth. One sentence for the man at the center of the Iowa State controversy. Fishy.

Let's finish the article.

"I explained that Avalos and the other critics of ID on campus have to date resorted to misrepresentations of ID and personal attacks on me," Gonzalez explained in an e-mail. "So, I don't want to waste my time with them."

"I make myself available to questioning by critics every time I speak on ID," he added. "I've done so to a highly critical audience in September at UNI, at the Univ. of Northern Texas in September, at the invitation of a well known ID critic at Truman State in October, and at the UT Austin in November."

He also answered questions at Smithsonian in June, though as far as we know, none of the Smithsonian staff critical of his work showed up to ask him questions.

Meanwhile, perhaps someone at the new seminar can ask Avalos if he thinks the "Overwhelming Consensus of Religion" is that atheism is good religion, and whether an atheist should be able to teach his worldview right alonside Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other world religions in a religion department funded by taxpayers.

I say, sure. It's called academic freedom.

The article then goes on to give the misdefinition of intelligent right out of the NCSE's playbook (the National Center for Selling Evolution) The definition succinctly presents ID as an argument from incredulity that appeals to a supernatural agent when in fact ID appeals to positive evidence for design and merely detects design, leaving the question of the designer's identity to religion.

The reporter does deserve credit for interviewing Iowa State's Tom Ingebritsen, associate professor of genetics, who says that, while ID shouldn't be taught as fact, it isn't "unreasonable to discuss the subject in a science class" (reporter's language).