SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Ball State University in Indiana is
facing scrutiny for hiring a science professor who wrote a book on
intelligent design, a move that comes after another professor at the state
college was accused of teaching creationism.
Ball State defended the hiring of Guillermo Gonzalez and said it does not
support the teaching intelligent design in science classes. Proponents of
intelligent design contend life is too complex to have evolved through
"This is a disturbing pattern and it could be a serious blow to the
science curriculum at Ball State," said Andrew Seidel, attorney for the
Freedom from Religion Foundation, a group from Madison, Wis., that
promotes separation of church and state. "Their reputation is on the
Gonzalez gained notoriety in 2004 when his book about intelligent design,
"The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for
Discovery," was published. He was later denied tenure at Iowa State
Ball State spokeswoman Joan Todd said the university offered Gonzalez a
job on June 12 as a tenure-track assistant professor of astronomy to teach
in the department of physics and astronomy. Gonzalez will teach
undergraduate and graduate courses in physics and astronomy, starting with
introductory level astronomy courses in the fall semester at the state
university in Muncie, about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis, she said.
The hiring was approved by dean, provost, and university president, which
is normal university procedure, Todd said.
The hiring comes after Freedom From Religion wrote the university in May
complaining that Eric Hedin, an assistant professor of physics, was
teaching an honors course exploring the nature of the universe that it
contended was actually religion disguised as science. The university
announced last month it had appointed a review panel to investigate the
allegations. Provost Terry King has received the panel's report, reviewed
it with Hedin, and is determining what to do next, Todd said.
Robert Kreiser, senior program officer for the American Association of
University Professors, said he found it surprising that a university would
have two cases that appear similar in such a short span, although he said
he doesn't know what discussions went on in each instance.
The Gonzalez hiring appears to pit professional competence against
academic freedom, Kreiser said.
"He has the freedom to carry out the research that he judges to be
appropriate, but his colleagues have the freedom as well, and indeed the
responsibility, to assess his research in terms of norms of the
profession," Kreiser said.
Gonzalez declined a request for an interview Tuesday, but in an email he
said he never taught intelligent design at a university. He later released
a statement through the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based, proponent of
intelligent design, saying he plans to continue research on astrobiology
and stellar astrophysics and will not be discuss intelligent design in his
"In my opinion, the controversy surrounding my hire is artificial —
largely generated by one activist blogger who is not an astronomer.
Lastly, I need to reiterate that I was denied tenure at ISU not because of
poor academics on my part, but for idealogical and political reasons," he
Critics contend Gonzalez book isn't based on science and more than 120
Iowa State faculty members signed a petition renouncing it.
Todd said Ball State University agrees that intelligent design is not
appropriate for science courses, "although it might find its place in
appropriate classes and contexts including — but not limited to — religion
and philosophy courses," she said.
Jerry Coyne, an ecology and evolution professor at the University of
Chicago who said he first complained to Ball State about Hedin's class,
said during an interview Tuesday that he doesn't think either Hedin or
Gonzalez should lose their jobs.
"I just think they need to keep religion out of science class. That's my
only mission," he said.