Sunday, December 19, 2010

University Won't Hire Christians as Scientists

An astronomer argues that his Christian faith and his peers' belief that he is an evolution skeptic kept him from getting a prestigious job as the director of a new student observatory at the University of Kentucky.

UPDATE 1/18/11: University settles, paying astronomer $125,000

-- From "Scientist Alleges Religious Discrimination in Kentucky" by Dylan Lovan, Associated Press 12/17/10

Martin Gaskell quickly rose to the top of a list of applicants being considered by the university's search committee. One member said he was "breathtakingly above the other applicants."

Others openly worried his Christian faith could conflict with his duties as a scientist, calling him "something close to a creationist" and "potentially evangelical."

Even though Gaskell says he is not a creationist, he claims he was passed over for the job at UK's MacAdam Student Observatory three years ago because of his religion and statements that were perceived to be critical of the theory of evolution.

Gaskell has sued the university, claiming lost income and emotional distress. Last month a judge rejected a motion from the university and allowed it to go to trial Feb. 8.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Astronomer Sues the University of Kentucky, Claiming His Faith Cost Him a Job" by Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times 12/18/10

Whether his faith cost him the job and whether certain religious beliefs may legally render people unfit for certain jobs are among the questions raised by the case, Gaskell v. University of Kentucky.

Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, so interviewers typically do not ask about an applicant’s faith. Depositions and e-mails submitted as evidence suggest why Dr. [Michael Cavagnero, the chairman of the physics and astronomy department,] may have raised the issue with Dr. Gaskell.

For the plaintiff, the smoking gun is an e-mail dated Sept. 21, 2007, from a department staff member, Sally A. Shafer, to Dr. Cavagnero and another colleague. Ms. Shafer wrote that she did an Internet search on Dr. Gaskell and found links to his notes for a lecture that explores, among other topics, how the Bible could relate to contemporary astronomy.

“Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with,” Ms. Shafer wrote, “but potentially evangelical. If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department Web site.”

In his deposition, Dr. Cavagnero recalled reading Ms. Shafer’s e-mail and said he discussed Dr. Gaskell’s faith with the department chairman at the University of Nebraska, where Dr. Gaskell worked at the time. Dr. Cavagnero also said a colleague, Moshe Elitzur, worried that Dr. Gaskell “had outspoken public views about creationism and evolution.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Astronomer Denied Job at University of Kentucky Due to Perceived Sympathy for 'Creationism'" posted at Discovery Institute 12/13/10

The hiring search committee at UK confused intelligent design (ID) with theistic evolution, and both with creationism . . .

[This] case shows that if academia merely thinks you're an ID-sympathizer -- regardless of whether you actually are -- then you're a "creationist" who should have no role in public outreach at the university.

According to the court, UK rejected Gaskell's application because the university believed he was a "creationist" and couldn't tolerate having such a person in a position that would involve public outreach.

The court notes, however, that "Gaskell denies that he is a 'creationist.'"

. . . based upon Gaskell's stated views, he's in fact not a creationist, although he has expressed doubts about neo-Darwinian evolution and the chemical origins of life.

While Gaskell does not specifically identify with the ID position, he notes that it is a position that ought to be taken seriously as a criticism of evolution . . .

It appears that the position closest to that held by Dr. Gaskell is a non-dogmatic theistic evolution position that is seriously open to the possibility of intelligent design and also recognizes scientific problems with biological and chemical evolution.

But Gaskell's true views here really aren't important. What matters is what the UK search committee thought that Gaskell believed, and how they acted upon it. We already know that, for whatever reason, UK believed Gaskell was a "creationist." And as we'll see in the next post, they denied him the job on that basis.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.