J Walking

An interesting article this morning about a very, very popular professor at Iowa State who was apparently denied tenure because he held positive views about intelligent design:

An assistant professor who supports intelligent design and was denied tenure at Iowa State University (ISU) was found to have the highest score among the entire faculty, according to the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS),which calculates the scientific impact of scientists in astronomy.

…The ranking system is devised on how much a scientist impacts other colleagues’ research. The more times a person’s papers are cited in other scientific articles or research, the more weight that person receives.

The citation index is normalized since multiple people often author an article, so an article that is cited with more than one author will be weighted less than a paper which has only one author.

The score here looked at articles published from 2001-2007. Calculating Gonzalez normalized index, he received a score of 143. The next closest professor on the ISU staff had a score of 103 and the next best tenured astronomer was 68.

Should a professor – who doesn’t even teach a class on intelligent design – be denied tenure simply because he happens to believe in it? I think not.

I had an interesting conversation last week with a good friend who is an editor for a major New York publishing house. They are considering a manuscript from a very well respected scientist about intelligent design. They have passed it around to scientists that they have worked with in the past and it has been given positive reviews – the science is strong. Now it is very important here to stress that this book is not a book about creation science. It would actually be offensive to those who believe God created the earth much as we see it now. It does argue, however, that there was a designer to this world and to all life – even if that life does have a common ancestor.

The biggest problem my friend has run into, however, is getting any of the scientists to publicly say anything good about the book. The reason? They would probably be fired from their jobs simply for saying anything positive about the book – no matter how good.

The academy should be about the free exchange of ideas – there is even a well-respected professor at Princeton who believes infanticide is tenured. Shouldn’t that same free exchange of ideas and tolerance apply to someone who believes in intelligent design?

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