AAS members watched the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed on Friday April 18 at the Varsity II Theatre. After the movie, they handed out flyers advertising Dr. Avalos’s counter lecture. The Iowa State Daily obtained a video interview, which can be viewed along with the accompanying article: Movie sparks intelligent design debate (reprinted below for posterity).
Movie sparks intelligent design debate
Gonzalez spoke after film highlighting ID suppression
By Kyle Ferguson
The movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” documents how people researching intelligent design in their professional fields are ostracized and released from work and how the scientific community tries to prevent intelligent design from being taught. The film, which was viewed Friday at the Varsity II Theatre, 2412 Lincoln Way, included commentary from Guillermo Gonzalez, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, who was denied tenure last year and took his appeal to the Board of Regents. Supporters of Gonzalez say he was denied because he is a proponent of intelligent design.
After the movie concluded, Gonzalez, who was in the audience, spoke about some of the backstory of writing his book and its aftermath.
“I submitted 15 applications to colleges and universities last October, and I finally got a response last month,” he said. “It’s similar to the other professors in the movie – I am an internationally-endorsed scientist, and I didn’t get a single offer before that one.”
The movie also featured a few Iowa State professors who were critical of Gonzalez’s platform, including Hector Avalos, professor of philosophy and religious studies.
“The movie was about what I expected,” Avalos said. “My comments were used fairly, but overall the film was trying to use an emotional approach to rile up support for intelligent design.”
Zach Nereim, senior in psychology, who does not support intelligent design, went to the movie to see what the opposing side of the argument had to say.
“I am for evolution and science,” he said. “I already know most of the premises this movie has, so I don’t think I’ll see anything new.”
The majority of the audience, however, was supportive of intelligent design and Gonzalez.
“I agree with intelligent design,” said Stefan Nitzschke, freshman in liberal arts and sciences-open option. “I’m not going to stay close-minded, though. I hope to get a better understanding of both philosophies.”
After the movie ended, Gonzalez answered a few brief questions. One person asked what motivated him to investigate intelligent design.
“I studied a total eclipse in 1979, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the conditions needed for that to happen,” he said. “The amount of conditions needed to overlap with the conditions needed for a habitable planet and I went along with that line of thought to reach intelligent design.”
Gonzalez said he didn’t think the controversy over intelligent design would reach its current level but that it would not deter him from writing about the subject.
“When I first heard about the tenure [decision], I was shocked,” he said.
Gonzalez announced that if he had the chance to change his decision and keep quiet about intelligent design, he wouldn’t – which prompted the audience to give him a standing ovation.
Avalos wanted to make clear one particular aspect of Gonzalez’s ordeal.
“Our efforts were against intelligent design, not Gonzalez,” he said.
After the movie, members of the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society distributed fliers to a counter-lecture by Avalos.
“It will argue against a claim the movie made: That Darwinism was a necessary condition for the Holocaust,” Avalos said.
Matthew Raymond, member of the group and sophomore in microbiology, said he expected the movie to be one-sided.
“Usually, anti-evolution people don’t know much about evolution and just argue from their creationism or intelligent design perspective,” he said. “They never really produce any evidence of their own.”
Raymond was not at the movie premiere, but distributed fliers at the end.
“The group will probably see it, but we don’t want to be seen as paying and supporting it,” he said.
Gonzalez said the movie shows a real climate of fear about this topic in universities.
“At one university where I sent an application, an assistant professor attended the meeting where faculty were going over applicants,” he said. “He told me that someone said I was ‘that ID guy’ and that they didn’t even look at my application. This person also told me he was a closet ID supporter and he didn’t dare speak in my defense.”