If you’re going to cherry pick, don’t provide a link

It just makes it too easy to show your dishonesty.

UD continues to harp endlessly about Gonzalez’ tenure case as they have nothing else to do, like original research. But I have to give them a piece of advice. If you’re going to cherry pick, either don’t cherry pick the first line of an article, or don’t provide a link, or worse, don’t then quote in full the paragraph you’ve just misread. It just gets too easy to show you’re full of it.

Here’s DaveScot’s quote from this Chronicle of Higher Ed article in his post “The Chronicle says of Gonzalez ‘a clear case of discrimination’”:

At first glance, it seems like a clear-cut case of discrimination. As an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez has a better publication record than any other member of the astronomy faculty. He also happens to publicly support the concept of intelligent design. Last month he was denied tenure.

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Emphasis mine. Then try reading the rest of the article.

To assess Mr. Gonzalez’s scholarship, The Chronicle examined the record of his citations — how many times other scientists have cited his work. The citation data were taken from the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System. For each paper, the number of citations was weighted for the number of authors, so that papers with 100 authors counted less than papers with one or a few authors.

To compare different professors, The Chronicle calculated for each person a measure of scholarship called an h-index, devised by Jorge E. Hirsch, a professor of physics at the University of California at San Diego. A scholar with an h-index of 5 has published five academic papers, each of which has been cited by least five other papers.

Mr. Gonzalez has a normalized h-index of 13, the highest of the 10 astronomers in his department. The next closest was Lee Anne Willson, a university professor who had a normalized h-index of 9.

Under normal circumstances, Mr. Gonzalez’s publication record would be stellar and would warrant his earning tenure at most universities, according to Mr. Hirsch. But Mr. Gonzalez completed the best scholarship, as judged by his peers, while doing postdoctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin and at the University of Washington, where he received his Ph.D. His record has trailed off since then.

“It looks like it slowed down considerably,” said Mr. Hirsch, stressing that he has not studied Mr. Gonzalez’s work in detail and is not an expert on his tenure case. “It’s not clear that he started new things, or anything on his own, in the period he was an assistant professor at Iowa State.”

That pattern may have hurt his case. “Tenure review only deals with his work since he came to Iowa State,” said John McCarroll, a spokesman for the university.

I’m not in a position to evaluate his publication record, that’s for his tenure review committee, and frankly, I don’t care. The embarrassment of having an evolution denialist in the department would be enough for me to deny tenure to a scientist. Just as in a history department I’d be embarrassed to have a holocaust denier, or in a biology department to have an HIV/AIDS denier, or in a geology department having a flat-earther. His position on ID is enough of a reason to deny tenure. ISU has done nothing wrong.
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Comments

20 responses to “If you’re going to cherry pick, don’t provide a link”

  1. J-Dog

    Just more DaveScot dishonest blatant bufoonery, learned at the knee of his ID Master, William Dembski. Yes, it’s an ugly picture, of the ugly, useless “theory” that is intelligent design.

    I wonder how that tenure thing is working out for Dr. Dr. Dembski?

  2. Alan B.

    I agree. Policies at places like Answers in Genesis make much more sense. If they quote-mine something, they will reference some journal available only in college libraries that their readers are unlikely to look up. Online links are reserved for sources that support their position. Of course, it’s just as dishonest as DaveScot, but it more effective at keeping the followers clueless.

  3. His position on ID is enough of a reason to deny tenure. ISU has done nothing wrong.

    No, if they denied him tenure because of his position on ID, they’d clearly be wrong. How is it not an affront of academic freedom to start denying tenure to faculty based on the views they hold on topics outside of their academic focus?

    If ISU denied him tenure for the prosaic reasons that they’re not that impressed with his recent publication record or his ability to bring in grants, (which is most likely the case), then they’ve done nothing wrong. If the denied him tenure because he holds eccentric and inaccurate views in areas outside of his speciality, then they should reverse their decision.

  4. sparc

    How is it not an affront of academic freedom to start denying tenure to faculty based on the views they hold on topics outside of their academic focus?

    IMO, one can not call his book “topics outside of his academic focus”. He just can’t have it both ways.

  5. “based on the views they hold on topics outside of their academic focus?”
    “inaccurate views in areas outside of his speciality,”

    How is this so? Intelligent design creationism does not solely attack biology. Gonzalez wrote a book about intelligent design creationism arguing from astronomy (or so I understand, I haven’t read it). Not having read the book, I don’t know if his writing it should count against him in a tenure decision or not. That said, the article says he didn’t get any grants at all from the major funders of his field. Fair or not, you’re not likely to get tenure at a school like ISU without major funding, no matter what your views are.

  6. So Matt, would it be wrong to prevent an HIV/AIDS denialist from joining your virology department even if he restrains his idiocy to his free time? Think of how that reflects on the university, your department, your colleagues. How about a holocaust denier in a history department?

    Hell, how about a holocaust denier in any department.

    I think you’re just going to have to disagree with me on this one. I find some views so contemptible, and so antithetical to science and reason that they have no place at an academic institution, and no institution in their right mind should legitimize them by granting their proponents positions on the faculty or tenure.

    Intelligent design is creationism, but even creationism wouldn’t be a problem. Intelligent design is the political movement that is attempting to get creationism taught as science and undermine a theory through rhetorical nonsense, disinformation and the sowing of doubt. It’s different from a mere religious belief. It’s an insidious attack on science, and it has no place in scientific institutions. I don’t care if some professor thinks god did this or god did that. Religion wouldn’t even enter my mind as a consideration for tenure. But when you start getting professors that are trying to assert that science proves a magic man done it, or this race is inferior to that race, or this event that everyone knows happened didn’t happen etc., I’m going to vote no. And just look at the tactics of the ID movement, classic denialist rubbish. It’s a no brainer, you don’t let denialists into your department, you don’t give them tenure and legitimacy, and you don’t act as if they’re honest brokers who just have different beliefs.

  7. sparc/Colst,

    My position is that The Privledged Planet doesn’t count as part of his output in his speciality, just as I wouldn’t count the grant he got from Templeton to do so as a demonstration of his ability to get relevant grants. I probably overstated the distance between the arguments in tPP and his academic work, but I’d still say that his views on cosmological ID don’t directly tie into his academic work in a way that would undermine his ability to produce valid research or teach. I’m not claiming that he should have been granted tenure, but rather that his views on ID are not in and of themselves valid grounds for denying tenure.

  8. sparc/Colst,

    My position is that The Privledged Planet doesn’t count as part of his output in his speciality, just as I wouldn’t count the grant he got from Templeton to do so as a demonstration of his ability to get relevant grants. I probably overstated the distance between the arguments in tPP and his academic work, but I’d still say that his views on cosmological ID don’t directly tie into his academic work in a way that would undermine his ability to produce valid research or teach. I’m not claiming that he should have been granted tenure, but rather that his views on ID are not in and of themselves valid grounds for denying tenure.

  9. Mark,

    To your questions, depending on what they’re working on, yes, as long as they are producing good research. We’re going to persist in disagreement on this. The idea of academic freedom is to protect the expression of controversial ideas within academic institutions, even at the cost of allowing faculty to entertain ideas that are controversial because they’re wrong. Just like you can’t have free speech means allowing all kinds of vile rhetoric to persist, you can’t have academic freedom without allowing faculty to indulge suprious ideas. Depriving the advocates of bad ideas of credentials in order to make it harder for them to argue those ideas isn’t an appropriate use of the tenure process – good ideas don’t need this kind of support to succeed, nor do bad ones need it to fail.

  10. Matt that may be some ideal, but it simply does not exist in the real world. Chris will have a post up soon on this which might provide some clarification on what academic freedom actually means.

    Academic freedom does not mean you can say whatever the hell you want. No professor is going to survive sexually harassing his students or being an anti-semite, or being absolutely hateful. There is not a first amendment right to being a college professor, and the university or college as your employer has a lot of leeway in kicking your ass out under a host of different excuses. And in a way that’s good. Free speech doesn’t mean that others have to put up with your BS in the workplace. You can discriminate against others, especially as private agents, based on things they say, and if you think about it, we do this all the time. The university also has an interest in keeping its reputation intact, and while they are restrained from censoring you, they can kick your ass out if you’re an embarrassment.

    Academic freedom of speech doesn’t mean a complete absence of consequences from speech. In fact, I can think of no place that that is an absolute right.

  11. “My position is that The Privledged Planet doesn’t count as part of his output in his speciality,”

    As I said, I haven’t read it, so I can’t really have a solid opinion on it. That said, I don’t see why his tenure committee should ignore the book when Gonzalez himself puts it forward as a scientific book in the area of his expertise.

    See this, for example,
    http://www.las.iastate.edu/newnews/gonzalez0909.shtml
    which reads like a press release and talks about the work he and his research team performed.

    In my opinion, the Templeton grant would also be fair game, but at $58,000, I suspect it isn’t large enough for the department’s taste.

    Now that I think about it, the circumstances of the Templeton grant are making me more certain that the book is fair game for the tenure committee. The article indicates that the grant went towards paying his salary. This only makes sense if it was considered to be a part of his Iowa State academic work. It’s normal for science faculty at research universities to finance part or even all of their salary through grants, and the work they do with these grants is considered in tenure and promotion decisions.

  12. Mark,

    You’re putting words in my mouth – I don’t think that academic freedom is unlimited in its ideal formulation or that it is a legally enforcable right like free speech. What I am saying is that the views of faculty should not be scrutinized regarding matters that will not impact their ability to continue to produce quality research and teach effectively, especially controversial topics, in order to maintain a healthy diversity of thought even at the cost of occasionally lending authority to people who have bad ideas. The parallel with free speech rests in the mechanisms by which these policies deliver their benefits – both are intentionally biased towards allowing inaccurate information in order to protect the expression of novel ideas and address the issue of dead dogma by ensuring that even points of broad consent get argued against occasionally.

  13. …matters that will not impact their ability to continue to produce quality research…

    Even by that standard it could probably be argued that his work on TPP did in fact impair his ability to produce quality research. Based on the Chronicle article that’s been mentioned on a few of the Scienceblogs, it’s pretty clear most of his research output came from his postdoc work — he didn’t generate much new work while at ISU. I can’t help but think his writing of TPP sucked up time that should have been focused on his research.

  14. Chris Noble

    Many Denialists cherry-pick or pubjack and give the correct citation to a publicly available reference.

    This suggests self-delusion rather than concious deception. It seems that people like DaveScot can’t even conceive the possibility that other people won’t interpret information in the same way that he does.

  15. If I am reviewing research grant proposals in the sciences and I come across one from a professor at an institution that just granted tenure to an Intelligent Design crackpot how am I supposed to evaluate it? One crackpot taints the entire department and his presence reduces the ability of other faculty members to seek research grants.

  16. Troublesome Frog

    I’m surprised at how many people see The Privileged Planet as somehow distinct from his work as a professor of physics and astronomy. If it was a book on politics or gardening, I would certainly agree, but when the book is essentially “As an expert in X, I believe that the evidence in my field supports Y conclusion” you’re acting in a professional capacity as an expert, and the book certainly is part of your relevant body of work.

    If you’re a doctor who writes books putting out quack medical advice in the popular press, but you’re a very good doctor at the hospital your work at, would you really expect them not to take a dim view of your side activities? Being a recognized expert in a field comes with responsibilities, and I don’t think that he can be let off the hook just because his book was aimed at common folk rather than his peers.

  17. MartinM

    This suggests self-delusion rather than concious deception. It seems that people like DaveScot can’t even conceive the possibility that other people won’t interpret information in the same way that he does.

    Less charitably, perhaps they just don’t expect their intended audience to bother checking, or to understand the original reference, or to pay any attention to a refutation coming from outside their group.

  18. In some cases, it’s because they don’t bother to read the cited item themselves.

    Next time Fore Sam comes around to ramble on about the Simpsonwood document proving there’s a Soooooper Sekrit conspiracy to cover up thimerosal-autism, I should post a link to it and mock him for not doing the same during his trolldom.

  19. Katie

    As far as I can tell, the point is not that he holds those particular views, it’s that those views are taking up valuable research time and keeping him from having a good publication record (while as an assistant professor).

    I’m not sure a lot of people would care if I as a biology graduate student, for instance, had really strong views about radical feminism. What they would care about is whether I spent all my time writing/reading about it. If I do that, rather than publish in reputable biology journals and get grants, I’m in the wrong field.

    I think the same goes for Gonzalezs.

    Yes, I’m irritated by ID’ers. But, I don’t think the issue with Gonzalezs is his particular views as much as the time those views take away from his work as an astronomer.

  20. Well, based on what Chris has now written about academic freedom and things we have discussed on our own, Gonzalez really doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If his peers don’t want him there, that’s pretty much it. As long as they insist that ID is a scientific idea, it’s perfectly fine for his peers to decide it’s a crackpot one that they don’t feel needs to be represented at their university.

    If ID, on the other hand, were his religion, and he maintained it as an extramural activity (which he hasn’t in this case, publishing under that Templeton grant), then it would be outside the scope of a tenure review committee, just as it should be. If, however, your religion means that you think your experiment worked because God did it, that becomes intramural, and subject to criticism by your peers.