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Iceberg Uncovered in Iowa

The Des Moines Register has run a story that starts to reveal the real reasons Iowa State University has denied tenure to one of its most productive astronomy faculty members, Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, and yes, it turns out to be a case of discrimination based on Gonzalez's views that the origin of the universe shows scientifically detectable signs of design.

But The DMR story is just the tip of the iceberg. A press conference Monday will reveal more of the suppressed email traffic that shows the climate of viewpoint suppression at Iowa State that led to denial of tenure for Dr. Gonzalez. In important addition, it will unveil the high level cover-up that tried to prevent the public from learning the reasons for getting rid of Gonzalez. So far, the Board of Regents. meeting Tuesday, has declined to intervene.

Here is a University Administration--and its Board of leading figures appointed by the Governor--that apparently cannot abide having on faculty an astronomer who merely detects design in the origin of the universe. But it has this year promoted Hector Avalos, Gonzalez' leading campus tormentor. Avalos is a tenured professor in the Religion Department and is regarded as Iowa's most outspoken atheist.

Readers may suspect that I am overstating the problem at ISU, but they should look more closely. For openers, it might be asked how many of Gonzalez' critics--the people quoted in the emails and the President and other Administration officials and Board at ISU who have ruled on this matter have ever bothered to read The Privileged Planet, the co-authored book that seems to have agitated Gonzalez' enemies? Are they even aware of the internationally prominent scientists who praised Professor Gonzalez' work? Is this failure of curiosity not then a clear indication of the faculty's and University President's prejudice--literally their "pre-judgment"?

It also would be interesting if reporters asked Gonzalez' critics to identify those sections in Gonzalez' writing they consider outside the bounds of respectable scientific discussion of the origins of the universe. It may become clear from their replies that personal projection and prejudice again are quite evident, even if those questioned aren't conscious of them.

"Banned in Iowa" is destined to become a very strange advertisement for a university system that claims to be part of the great Western tradition of free inquiry. Meanwhile, Hawkeye citizens outside of academia may want to look at this case in greater detail. Tomorrow's press conference should help them understand better how ISU is using their tax money.