Biologist and associate professor PZ Myers explains why Francis Beckwith does not deserve tenure:
I get to vote on tenure decisions at my university, and I can assure you that if someone comes up who claims that ID 'theory' is science, I will vote against them. If someone thinks the sun orbits around the earth, I will vote against them. If someone thinks fairies live in their garden and pull up the flowers out of the ground every spring, I will vote against them. Tenure decisions are not pro forma games, but a process of evaluation, and I'd rather not have crackpots promoted. Beckwith may be a nice fellow with a commendable publication record, but when it gets right down to it, his untenable position on intelligent design puts him smack in the middle of the tinfoil hat brigade. And that position on ID is a focus of many of his publications, so it is certainly a legitimate criterion for judging him.
Later in the comments section, Myers rationalizes his closed-minded position as follows:
It's a matter of whether it screws up their ability to do their job. People have a right to do any crazy damn thing that doesn't harm others outside the workplace…but when they're advocating lunacy in their profession, then it's bye-bye time.
This, of course, is muddled thinking.
The tenure review process is designed to determine whether someone has “the ability to do their job.” The junior faculty member has six years to construct a track record of success. During these six years, the junior faculty member acquires teaching evaluatons from students and colleagues. The junior faculty member acquires grants and sets up a lab with a productive research program. The junior faculty member develops a reputation of collegiality and service within the department and the university. If claiming that ID 'theory' is science means you are part of the "tinfoil hat brigade" and this interferes with one’s ability to do their job, this should impact negatively on these conventional criteria used to vote for tenure. In other words, Myers's criterion is an extrinsic litmus test. If thinking that ID is science is as bad as he says it is, the candidate’s ability to secure good evaluations, grants, and publications will be compromised and Myers’s criterion is redundant and superfluous. If the candidate is able to succeed according to the conventional measures for tenure, Myer’s criterion is falsified and becomes nothing more than an attempt to institutionalize his prejudice.
But let’s not stop here. Either Myers is a lone crank or his views are shared by others in academia. If it is the latter, the sociological implications are immense. A commmon argument against ID is that it presents no research and publications in the mainstream peer reviewed literature. But Myers is one of those peer reviewers. Since he has admitted he would deny tenure to someone who thinks ID is science, it stands to reason he would also deny the hiring of any ID proponent. Yet to conduct ID-based research to generate preliminary data for grant funding purposes, the person is in essense declaring his belief that ID is science. In other words, an attempt to get a ID-based research program off the ground is reason, according to Myers, for kicking you out of academia.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Striking A Brave Blow For Freedom Of Inquiry
From Telic Thoughts: