Alternative ideas still under attack

Whatever happened to freedom of expression and to universities being bastions of open debate on diverse ideas? It is deplorable when a professor proposes new ideas and is ridiculed and often ostracized by other members of the faculty.

This fall an instructor in the science department at the University of Iowa suggested there were flaws in Darwin’s theory of evolution. Others in the department castigated him for saying something which might make them look bad. The cornerstone of true science is evaluation and reevaluation of possible evidence.

In 2004, Guillermo Gonzalez, astronomy professor at Iowa State University who is considered one of the world’s top astronomers, coauthored “The Privileged Planet” presenting compelling reasons to support the idea of intelligent design as the origin of the universe. He was subsequently chastised by the atheist head of the religion department who led the charge to deny Gonzalez tenure and ISU denied it.

Respected scientists at other universities have met similar fates; besides loss of tenure, blacklisting and firings have occurred.

Challenges to entrenched ideas have existed for centuries. Consider the ridicule of Columbus for saying the world was round and Aristarchus of Samos who dared to say the Earth revolved around the sun when the establishment of the day sided with Aristotle who averred the sun revolved around the Earth. Both Columbus and Aristarchus have been proven right.

It is alarming that in our enlightened age, there are those who attack alternative ideas and those who propose them. Personal attacks are not valid substitutes for rational debate.