For some institutions of higher education, it isn’t enough that one avoid the subject of Intelligent Design in one’s classes. One must be pure as the driven snow in one’s private life as well, no matter how well you teach or how effective your work in your field. According to the Christian Post:

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 Discovery Institute, a think tank of intelligent design (ID) proponents, is again advocating for Guillermo Gonzalez to receive tenure, and argues that the school’s refusal is a result of their bias against ID – which holds that the biological aspects of life are too complex to have evolved randomly, but must have been produced by an unidentified intelligence. Gonzalez is author of the pro-ID book The Privileged Planet.

“In other words, Iowa State denied tenure to a scientist whose impact on his field during the past six years outstripped all of the university’s existing tenured astronomers according to a prestigious Smithsonian/NASA database,” said Dr. John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture (CSC), on the Discovery Institute website.

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.

Gonzalez, who has written 68 peer-reviewed journals (53 more than the 15 required by his department to meet its standard of excellence in research), says that he does not teach ID in class, however, and that it is purely outside research.

Apart from his work on ID, the denied professor has helped in the discovery of two planets, helped build technology that discovered extrasolar planets, and wrote a college-level astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University.

He was one of three professors not given tenure out of a total of 66 professors at ISU.

Because ID advocates contend that the theory is not based on religious beliefs, this isn’t a case of religious discrimination. I do think, however, that it raises free speech issues. What Iowa State seems to be saying is that what you teach in your classes, or the research and publications you present for peer review, can be cancelled out in tenure evaluations by what you say in purely popular writing. If universities can start denying tenure (and hence long-term employment) to those who challenge reigning orthodoxies in works for the general public (as opposed to the academic guild) despite otherwise sterling records, it won’t be long before the they are nothing but organs of propaganda rather than schools.