Discrediting Ben Stein | thebereancall.org

TBC Staff

[TBC: In an effort to discredit Ben Stein’s recent documentary exposing evolution, Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptic Society and editor of Skeptic magazine, has denied the film's claims that scientists Richard Sternberg and Guillermo Gonzalez were persecuted for their support of intelligent design. The following rebuttal exposes Shermer’s error.]

Michael Shermer’s Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists [Excerpts]

Michael Shermer’s review of Expelled applies one-sided skepticism to anything that challenges Darwinism, withholding skepticism of claims made by pro-evolution sources. When claiming that Richard Sternberg faced no discrimination after sympathizing with Darwin-skeptics, but simply invented a “conspiracy," Shermer failed to scrutinize the blatantly false and contradictory claims by Darwinists trying to cover up what really happened. In that case, Eugenie Scott made private concessions that Sternberg did not do anything mortally wrong in his handling of the publication of Stephen C. Meyer’s paper on intelligent design (ID), and spoke as if Sternberg had been ousted. As I observed, Shermer’s methodology when dealing with the persecution of pro-ID scientists is as follows:

# (1) Ignore all the facts showing there was persecution;
# (2) E-mail the persecutor and ask them if there was any anti-ID discrimination;
# (3) Withhold all skepticism from the statements of the persecutors, and then trumpet their response as evidence that there is no persecution against ID proponents, blaming the victim for losing their job and then claiming those who feel there is persecution are just promoting a “conspiracy.”

Shermer Blames-the-Victim Case #2: Guillermo Gonzalez

Shermer blames pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez for being denied tenure at Iowa State University (ISU). Who is the expert that Shermer consults on Gonzalez's case? None other than Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Scott had many complaints against Gonzalez's academic record.

First, Scott claimed that while at ISU, Gonzalez’s “publication record tanked” while at ISU. But as I explained here, according to the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System, Gonzalez has published 34 publications since 2001 (the year he joined ISU) and his normalized publication score is 2nd among all astronomers in his department. As Rob Crowther observed:

 [H]e peaks in 2003 but ends in 2006 just as high as he was when he started at ISU. Moreover, he outperformed all ISU astronomy faculty in normalized publications during that period. The one year that is obviously less happens to be the same year that he co-authored an astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University Press.

Not only that, but as explained here, Gonzalez led astronomers in his department in a normalized count of citations to his work in other scientific papers: Gonzalez joined ISU in 2001, and for his publications since 2001 he has the highest normalized citation count of all astronomers in his department, including both tenured and untenured faculty! Moreover, despite the fact that he is much younger than many of the tenured faculty members in the department, he has the second highest lifetime normalized citation count among all astronomers in his department.

Given that Gonzalez apparently led all tenured ISU astronomers who voted against his tenure in both normalized publications and normalized citations since 2001, it's hard to see what grounds they have for complaining about his publication record. If Gonzalez's publication record went down at all during his probationary period at ISU, it still remained at an extremely impressive level that warranted tenure. If anything, this indicates that scientists should not be penalized for extraordinarily high academic achievements early in their careers if, like Gonzalez, they continue to produce outstanding publication rates during their tenure probationary period.

Next Shermer quotes Eugenie Scott claiming that Gonzalez “didn't have very many graduate students, and those he had never completed their degrees.” First, this is a blatant falsehood, first promulgated by anti-ID groups in Iowa. As I explained to Iowa Citizens for Science when they made the same claim: “Again, that statement is completely false. The truth is that in 2001, soon before Gonzalez left the University of Washington (UW) [to] join the faculty at ISU, he served as the primary advisor to a UW doctoral student in astronomy, Chris Laws. Gonzalez served as Laws’ primary scientific advisor over the course of Laws’ entire doctoral thesis, and Laws successfully graduated from UW with a Ph.D. in astronomy in December, 2004. Gonzalez also served on the committee of another Ph.D. student at UW, Rory Barnes, and this student also successfully graduated in 2004. You may want to also correct this false information as well and issue a retraction immediately.”

Second, it's worth noting that pre-tenure faculty typically aren't expected to have as many graduate students as tenured faculty, because pre-tenured faculty are supposed to focus primarily on research. So even if they were accurate, Scott's complaints here are of little relevance. Shermer should start applying some of his skepticism to the false claims of the pro-Darwin lobbyists like Eugenie Scott.