Did This Astronomer's Religion Cost Him a Job Opportunity?

By Andrew Moseman | December 20, 2010 12:05 pm

GaskellWhen I attended the University of Nebraska, Martin Gaskell was a professor of astronomy there. Shortly thereafter, in 2007, he was leading candidate to take a position as head of an observatory at the University of Kentucky. Now, Gaskell has a new title: plaintiff.

Gaskell argues that he was passed over for the Kentucky position because of his religious beliefs. The astronomer sued the university, and now a judge has ruled that Gaskell vs. University of Kentucky can go to trial in February.

Both sides agree that Dr. Gaskell, 57, was invited to the university, in Lexington, for a job interview. In his lawsuit, he says that at the end of the interview, Michael Cavagnero, the chairman of the physics and astronomy department, asked about his religious beliefs. “Cavagnero stated that he had personally researched Gaskell’s religious beliefs,” the lawsuit says. According to Dr. Gaskell, the chairman said Dr. Gaskell’s religious beliefs and his “expression of them would be a matter of concern” to the dean. [The New York Times]

The lead-up to the trial has turned up emails that are rather embarrassing to the university, particularly one by staff member Sally A. Shafer to Cavagnero.

“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.” [The New York Times]

Gaskell’s attorney leaped on the “potentially evangelical” remark as evidence of discriminatory hiring. AP reports that concerns about Gaskell’s religiosity appear to have cropped up elsewhere in the department, too:

The topic became so heated behind the scenes that even university biologists, who believed Gaskell was a critic of evolution, weighed in by citing a controversial Bible-based museum in Kentucky that had just opened. “We might as well have the Creation Museum set up an outreach office in biology,” biology professor James Krupa wrote to a colleague in an October 2007 e-mail. [AP]

Gaskell, who is now at the University of Texas, rejects charges that he denies biological evolution. In his writings posted online that helped to ignite this fight, he discusses different interpretations of Genesis ranging from “young-Earth creationism”—the idea that the Earth was created by God 6,000 years ago—to more metaphorical interpretations of the text, and distances himself from the literal interpretations. Nevertheless, he says, he sued Kentucky because a university shouldn’t be able to get away with what he calls religious discrimination.

Gaskell’s lawsuit is indicative of an increasingly tense debate between religion and science on college campuses and elsewhere, said Steven K. Green, a law professor and director of the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. “I think it reflects a phenomenon that the sides in this debate are becoming more encamped, they’re hunkering down,” Green said. “Because certainly within the biology community and within the science community generally, they see the increasing attacks creationists are making as very threatening to their existence – and vice versa, to a certain extent.” [AP]

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Image: University of Texas

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space
  • http://nrcse.creighton.edu Charles Austerberry

    According to some who heard Dr. Gaskell’s lecture at the Univ. of Kentucky in 1997, Dr. Gaskell seemed unaware that the theory of evolution is supported by strong evidence. Dr. Gaskell insists that he was misunderstood when he gave the 1997 lecture. In any case, Dr. Gaskell’s public essay on the topic did evolve. Compare three versions of the essay:

    1997:
    http://homepages.wmich.edu/~korista/Gaskell.htm

    2005:
    http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1498

    2010:
    http://incolor.inetnebr.com/gaskell/Martin_Gaskell_Bible_Astronomy.html

    According to the testimony of Univ. of Kentucky biologist Dr. Krupa, Dr. Gaskell’s 1997 lecture gave the impression that a lack of transitional fossils undermined the evidence for common ancestry. This is exactly the approach taken in “Of Pandas and People,” a book Dr. Gaskell strongly recommends in the 1997 version of his essay but which is not mentioned in the 2005 or 2010 versions. “Pandas” figured prominently in the Dover, PA intelligent design court case. Of course, Dr. Michael Behe participated in “Pandas” yet has always recognized the evidence for common ancestry, so in fairness to Dr. Gaskell, one cannot assume that his 1997 recommendation of “Pandas” as “even-handed” meant that Dr. Gaskell agreed with everything in the book.

    Also, by 2005, Dr. Gaskell added this sentence to his essay: “The evidence is very good (and gets stronger every year) that all life on earth descended (i.e., evolved from) from a common origin.” The 1997 version of his essay had no such statement.

    It could be that memory of the 1997 lecture caused some at Kentucky to be more suspicious of Dr. Gaskell when he applied ten years later for a position at that university.

  • steve

    After reading your headline, and then the article, I guess the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’.

  • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    How sad. I had always thought that astronomy was the field where objectivity and logic prevailed while astrology was the field where subjectivity and superstition ruled. I guess I will have to rethink that dichotomy.

  • Jeff

    Having been a student of Dr. Gaskell, then a tutor for his students and a research assistant, alongside considering him a friend, I am appalled to hear this. This man is the type of teacher that gets students excited about learning. He was frequently nominated for teacher awards and impacted MANY students who attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while he worked there. The few times I’ve ever seen him involve religious views is to talk about it in a historical context (as in Galileo for example). He is an important part of where I am today…a middle school science teacher.

    Good luck Dr. Gaskell, you can likely figure out who I am.

  • James Emge

    The question I ask myself is where to we draw the line between discrimination in hiring and not hiring a person because their views are not scientific? We would not call it unfair discrimination if a 7 day creationist applied to teach geology or biology and was not hired. Dr. Martin Gaskell’s views are not spelled out in this article but is it fair to base hiring someone on their view in a different subject than they are hired to teach? In Dr. Martin Gaskell defence, it seems that his views on evolution have changed over the years, which makes a good case in his favour because isn’t that what all good scientists do, change their views with new evidence?

  • Janelle

    The nature of science is that theories are made to be adjusted, challenged, altered, and replaced. Biology consistently proves to be the field where this is not the case–challenges to evolutionary theory are usually treated with suspicion, even vehemence, rather than with an inquisitive, open mind.

    But with all that aside, this is a case simply of a non-equal-opportunity employer, and Dr. Gaskell is completely correct in his decision to challenge the decision.

  • plutosdad

    thanks. much of the other writing on this accuses him of being a young earth creationist, which understandably would disqualify him from chairing any science department in many minds (including mine). But these new emails and posts by him make it less clear cut.

    It is sad though, since it gives ammo to the people who push lies and misunderstandings such as the Expelled “documentary” Of course, it all depends, if the person they hired was just as good, then no he wasn’t.

    More to the point, every private company I have worked in knew back in 05 and earlier to crack down on emails of that nature. My girlfriend does litigation, and it’s funny in email chains among more savvy companies, there’s always the last email that says “I’ll head over to you” or “I’ll call you about this” :)

  • Nevermark

    @Janelle,
    I don’t think any serious challenge to evolution would b rejected vehemently. But we don’t know because there hasn’t been such a challenge since the evidence for evolution solidified.

    What scientists act strongly to are the repeated rehashing of long since debunked challenges. Its frustrating, a time waster, and damages the scientific literacy of the public. People have the right to believe anything they want, but they don’t have the right to not be judged on the quality of their thinking, especially for a position where science is involved.

    The whole point of science is to increase knowledge based on facts and theories verified in ways that prevent our normal biases, wishful thinking, uncritical acceptance of cultural viewpoints, and overreactive belief systems from spoiling. Its difficult, its important, and its worth defending because in the end lives are (measurably as apposed to metaphorically) saved, people live better, and serious problems get solved.

  • Eugene Charniak

    In 1997, as it is today, the evidence for evolution was overwhelming. If he got it wrong then he is either over influenced by religious beliefs, or has no problems speaking about something he does not understand.

  • Dan

    The guy is a professor of Astronomy, not biology.
    My guess is that by surveying the faculty of a university you could turn up more embarrassing misunderstandings of biology than the evidential weight behind evolution.
    The e-mails exhibit pretty blatant anti-religious bias, and the interview question was out-and-out illegal at a public institution.

  • Nan

    @Nevermark

    Brilliant. “People have the right to believe anything they want, but they don’t have the right to not be judged on the quality of their thinking, especially for a position where science is involved.”

  • Mark

    Thanks for the links Charles. I see nothing that would indicate to me that he didn’t believe in evolution in 1997.

  • Mark T.

    I am currently a college student majoring in astronomy. I’m pretty sure that if I heard a particular astronomy professor held this sort of opinion I’d have to choose a different one. The problem is that I would not know how true what I heard was or how good a teacher he may be. The evidence for evolution is very strong and it bothers me that he would have made some of those statement without really looking into it first.

  • http://www.happyphil.com Happy Phil

    I find it sad that a man of Dr. Gaskell’s caliber would behave in such a childish manner as to sue because he didn’t get chosen. It seems that the University of Kentucky was correct in choosing someone more mature for the position.

  • Betty

    I point out that in astronomy, it is important that you not believe in young earth creationism. An earth, and by inference a universe, that is only 6000 years old does wreak havoc with a lot of astronomical science, especially the Big Bang.

    Not that I see any evidence that convinces me that Dr. Gaskell does believe in it.

  • Daniel

    Astronomers observe objects way futher out than 6000 light years, which means that the light and the images of most objects we see in the sky was emitted well before this time. Astronomers observe stars and planetary systems at different stages of formation lasting millions of years: they see how stars and planets form, this does not occur in a few days. They observe all the way galaxies forming up to the first galaxies emerging after the Big Bang in processes requirring billions of years. All these complex processes make sense in a universe 13.8 billions year old consistant with known physics.

    An astronomer should not even waste a minute discussing the possibility of an Earth young theory, except for educating people how wrong people were in antiquity, like with the flat Earth model.

  • blacksea

    Many of you have science degrees but went to school to waste your time and only memorized what you were taught, rather than understanding any of that science. Evolutionism should not exclude creationism, and vice-verse. And if all is evolutionism, why don’t we see today transitional processes, where for example a monkey is in the middle of process of becoming a man? (you can extend this line of thought to all other species) …but we only see clear cut species and nothing in between. Did the process stopped? Did the evolution stopped? And then why would the same process of evolution of the man stop at the man and not continue to change the man into something else? And not only the man. Saying the that universe was created by a Big Bang (from nothing!) is a story to put to sleep the kids, as it is estimating the age of the universe, but it is understandable. You guys need to earn a paycheck, and eventually make astronomy even more interesting!
    Science does a good job discovering and eventually explaining things and phenomena, but should not over-estimate itself believing that it will ever answer the most basic and fundamental question of who created this world, which clearly extends way beyond our little planet Earth!

  • questioner

    Two items in this are amusing to me, first is in the UK email that he is “potentially Evangelical”. Is that better or worse than someone being “potentially Jewish” or “potentially Muslim”? Oh, the horror of a person’s faith!! What if someone were “potentially Buddhist”? If people’s preconceptions are so lacking in objectivity that they can’t see the blatant nature of these statements, they really have no place as scientists – as objectivity is the goal.

    Second has to do with that lack of objectivity seen in the scientific community. Asking questions regarding the unknowns of science (yes, quit with the pride and be humble enough to admit that in this huge universe what we don’t know is much greater than what we do know) would seem to be part of the scientific process. Doesn’t true science start with questioning? The man said, basically, “There are holes re the lack of transitional species in the fossil record, it makes me wonder why. ” I think I’d have a problem with someone who didn’t ask questions re what we don’t know, versus someone stating with blind faith that although we honestly don’t know what fills the holes, he takes it on faith and doesn’t question. That to me would seem like more honest science.

    I could see where as an astronomer, if he believed in a literal 6,000 year old earth, that could be a problem, given the measuring of vast distances many more than 6,000 light years away. But to say that an astronomer is disqualified for a position, for merely openly wondering about holes in the fossil record, is asinine, and completely against the spirit of inquiry. Where we get stuck, is when nobody questions anymore, and everyone accepts everything they’re told. I sure am glad for people like Galileo who openly questioned (and no, I’m not claiming he’s of the stature of Galileo, I don’t know the man’s work, just a comparison of where status-quo establishment disallowed questioning).

    And oh my goodness, let’s not hire anyone who’s “potentially Hindu”! ;-)

  • Matt B.

    @ #17, Blacksea. It’s all in transition. you also dont see mountain ranges rise, or rivers change course, because these are slow processes. And there’s no fixed linear progression in which all monkey become people. Life branches out, species are not clear cut, and people evolved from the common ancestor of monkeys (not the monkeys that are around now) due to the conditions at the time. Conditions are different now and the species we evolved from are no longer around, so whatever a species of monkey will become in 30 million years will not be human.

  • Brian

    @blacksea: Evolution and creationism are, by definition, mutually exclusive ideas. With regards to “monkeys in the middle of the process of being human”, why should we see such things? Monkeys are not trying to become more human — they are trying to become more monkey! Modern monkeys and humans do share a common ancestor — and scientists have a pretty good idea of this lineage using DNA markers. Mankind is indeed continuing to evolve — all living beings capable of adaptation continue to evolve — but it’s a slow process. Surely you acknowledge that modern humans evolved through earlier hominid forms — ardipithecus and australopithecus — before converging on modern homo sapiens.

    As for the big bang, science does not address what it was that banged. When modern cosmologists refer to the big bang theory, they are referring to the model that describes the evolution of the universe as it expanded from a hot and dense initial state to the present day. Science, as yet, has no epistemological traction on the initial cause of the expansion, and any claim that they do comes from the critics, not the science.

    Funny that you began your post criticizing those of us with science degrees as not understanding the science, when I would suggest that it is you who has a less than satisfactory mastery of the subjects you appear all too eager to debate.

  • Malcolm Thomson

    To the question “Did this astronomer’s religion cost him a job opportunity.” My answer is “I sure as hell hope so.”

  • Uursamajor

    I’m amazed at the apparent disconnectedness of the above comments to the simple case in hand:
    The Big Bang is not on trial, the University will be on trial for clearly not hiring someone on the basis of their religious beliefs. That is illegal in the U.S. and the Professor’s ruling will have a profound effect on how universities select top positions. The courts are not going to adjust 200 years of constitutional law for the sake of scientific purity.

  • Mark T.

    Careful not to feed any trolls, from the Black Sea or elsewhere.

  • el_dhulqarnain

    @#18: “questioner”.

    There is a difference between asking questions about genuine unknowns, and asking questions to which there is already a quite compelling answer. As someone has already mentioned, trying to rehash views that have already been comprehensively debunked is not scientific research.

  • Mark McAndrew

    There is no case to answer. That email merely notes that he’s “potentially evangelical” – which means they’re concerned that he’ll be evangelising, NOT that he’s religious per se.

    Quite right too.

    You have the right to believe any primitive superstitious nonsense you like, but you don’t have the right to never shut up about it (because that’s what evangelising means) at your place of work. It’s embarrassing for the employer and unprofessional for the employee.

    (Christians: Whenever the Bible contradicts the Universe, please remember which one definitely involved imperfect humans in its creation, and which one definitely did not… “Sorry God, the Bible says you’re wrong…!”)

  • Mike Hixson

    The amount of prejudice in this comment section against any spiritual approach to origins is breathtaking. Granted, all science is inherently natural, and any discussion on origins, while containing natural evidence, is limited to cosmology and not intrinsically scientific (hence the lack of any resolution to the ongoing origins debate).

    With that said, no amount of evidence on either side will convince the other to change his ways. Any claims for objectivity – for both the evolutionist and non-evolutionist – are patently false. What I find amusing is the sincere belief that evolution is a purely objective science. The evolutionist is as equally “evangelical” within the classroom, and he is assured of the objectivity of what he teaches by virtue of its label: science.

    However, what I find disturbing is the perception that anyone who is not a strict evolutionist is somehow unworthy or unqualified to fill a position in scientific academia. That person is viewed (both implicitly and explicitly above) as an insidious infiltrator to the hallowed halls of science, trying to pervert the minds of unsuspecting students and to undermine the credibility of scientific endeavor. That a creationist could capably teach astronomy, biology or geology (much less contribute anything of value in the research arena) is unfathomable to the evolutionist. This is myopic at best and dangerous at worst. Should a student be precluded from a graduate program because of his view on origins? How about a practicing physician? Surely he cannot grasp the complexity of human anatomy without truly appreciating the Darwinian impact! Is there a line to be drawn?

    It seems that evolutionists have become the “thought police” for science, leaving no room for dissent despite protests to the contrary.

  • David Ryan

    Speaking for myself and not about Dr. Gaskell’s particular views:

    An example of Occam’s Razor,

    Which is simpler to explain homogeneity in the universe: Cosmological faster-than-light inflation by some unknown physical mechanism or a fine tuned initial condition in the “Big Bang” by an Almighty God? The only reason for rejecting fine tuning out of hand is a priori rejection of God.

    A true scientist can assume the unknown, look for it and still go to church. Even if he finds it, there will be another unknown behind it and God can be behind an infinite regression or around the next corner.

    For science, this is a good theoretical process. If you *assume* God, the pursuit of answers in science ends. But this must be recognized in humility as *only* a theoretical construct because if, in fact, God *is* the origin or cause and science does not reach that conclusion simply because it is forbidden to, then science becomes superstition in pursuit of something that isn’t there.

    Inflation, multiverse, superstring etc. may be worthwhile or they may just be extravagant attempts to avoid the obvious. I have an open mind.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    Omigosh, the bigotry & arrogance in these comments is incredible! No wonder modern “science” is such a mess…

  • Zachary

    Science is fundamentally opposed to a “spiritual approach.” You might as well ask why engineers don’t carve more ruins and cast spells to strengthen their structures.

  • Albert Bakker

    One thing Dr. Gaskell does really contribute to with respect to this episode is to a quite extensive amount of empirical evidence that there is a near total overlapping of Dr. Goulds non-overlapping magisteria.

    Serious religionist scientists suffer an internal conflict. Often the solution takes the form of a methodological schism to externalize the conflict where one takes on a sophisticated falsificationist identity in their particular niche of expertise and a verificationist identity outside of it with respect to truth claims in service of favoured religious dogma.

    I suspect in most people this balancing act would be quite stable.

  • http://www.PrometheusGoneWild.com DennisBuller

    Mr. Andrew says:

    “There is no case to answer. That email merely notes that he’s “potentially evangelical” – which means they’re concerned that he’ll be evangelising, NOT that he’s religious per se.”

    So if an email went out saying that Dr. Gaskell “potentially evangelical” about being gay there would be no discrimination case either?
    How about an an email saying that Dr. Gaskell is “potentially Evangelical” about being Muslim or Jewish?

    Granted, when hiring someone, the quality of their work must be looked at.
    If the people in the hiring committee feel the quality of the work is not good, that person should not be hired.
    Having arguments over email on the persons religious beliefs is the height of stupidity and hubris.

  • Albert Bakker

    #31 – There is no need to pick at those words, the deposition of Ms Shafer (page 24-27) linked to in the article actually explains what was meant by the remark “potentially evangelical” quite clearly, and the grounds for worries about this: Dr. Gaskel sprouting non-scientific nonsense ( in service of favoured religious dogmas) on their University website as he did in Nebraska.

    Those suggestive comparisons, like those in an earlier comment, might have been cleverly crafted to appeal to a sense of hypocrisy or something but actually they belong to different categories (which in short means the argument is fallacious.) And in the sense in which the remark was actually used and carried it’s meaning, they don’t even superficially make sense.

    Was it perhaps undiplomatic to put it that way (I mean diplomatic language in the sense in which we were accustomed to perceive of it in the pre-Wikileaks era) in a personal e-mail? Well perhaps, if one has to take into account all the ways ones out of context quotes can be used for judicial or ideological purposes.

  • http://www.PrometheusGoneWild.com DennisBuller

    Mr. Bakker,
    I just scanned Dr. Gaskell’s MODERN ASTRONOMY, THE BIBLE, AND CREATION paper. I have also read Ms. Shafer’s testimony.
    I found it to be a well crafted paper mainly supporting the idea that science and the Cristian faith can coexist without mush issue.
    A large first section was dedicated to pointing out famous scientist who had faith and quoting some of them about the issue.
    One of the last paragraphs outlines what the scientifically accepted age of the universe as we know today.
    It seemed to be a paper aimed at reconciling many issues students had raised in his class (he actually says this in the paper).
    After reading it, I find it vary hard to see what Ms. Shafer was talking about when she decries that he is “potentially evangelical”. I do not see ” Dr. Gaskel sprouting non-scientific nonsense” as you so put it being a concern.
    Lets face it, when it comes to hiring, the committee cannot ask Age; Ethnic background; Religious belief; Pregnancy condition; and a host of other non-job related issue.
    They cannot even ask women if they are interested in the faculty day care.
    That is a cleaver way to find out of a woman is looking to take time off for kids……
    So while you maintain it s being taken out of context for judicial and ideological reasons, I feel the comment in the context of a job search are right on the nose.
    Ms Shafer was upset that Dr. Gaskell even talked about the bible in the context of his teaching and disproved.
    So I go back to the “suggestive comparison” that you think is fallacious.
    If a professor talked about being gay or being a person of color in the context of his/her teaching; then applied to a job; and Ms. Shafer did not like them due to this, would that not be inappropriate?

  • Daniel J. Andrews

    Science is fundamentally opposed to a “spiritual approach.”

    I would disagree unless I’m misreading your statement. Science deals with measurable quantifiable items. It doesn’t deal with the supernatural or spiritual which can’t be measured or quantified so just leaves it out of any equations/theories/hypotheses.

    Science is the best tool kit we have for understanding the physical world. Using science to look at the claims* of something that can’t be detected in the first place is like using religious philosophy to understand how the material world operates (and we all know how well that latter attempt worked out). Different tool kits, different purposes, not in opposition.

    On topic, Ms. Shafer’s remark was very ill-considered. “Potentially evangelical”? That’s the sort of comment that gives a lawsuit traction.

    *If those claims involved something in the physical world then science applies. E.g. “prayer heals people” can be examined.

  • Albert Bakker

    Mr. Buller, maybe I was not clear enough.

    The remark “potentially evangelical” in the context in which it was used and as it was explained in the disposition was not in the first place about potentially being something but about potentially doing something, namely – doing – evangelizing. The first thing – being something – would let itself perhaps compare in a conceivable theoretically idealized scheme with being something other like (another assumed religious identity) Muslim, Hindu, Scientologist, Winti-believer or whatever. If however in equal circumstances there would be a reasonable suspicion in either of these hypothetical cases of using their position and the weight of their authority that comes with it to do something, namely proselytizing their favoured set of beliefs and dogmas then there would be equal ground for worry.

    So if you are honest you compare doing something with doing something belonging to the same category of acts (here – potentially – proselytizing of some kind of religion or sect, of convincing) and compare being something with being something belonging to the same category of things (here belonging to a group of followers of some religion or sect, of having a conviction.)

    But gays, people with a relative abundance of melanin, people with red hair, deaf people, people with a clubfoot and so on belong to a different category, of being endowed with a set of biological facts or genetic make up or whatever, not to a category of – preferential – convictions.

    The important thing about this with respect to science and teaching of science is the matter of interpretation of favoured (holy) scripture. Does one take from it that religious texts make or are a source of truth claims about the world (revelations) or not.

    In both of these cases then there is a major conflict with science. If not, if one accepts that religious texts bear no a priori relevance to truth claims about the real world, there need not be. Then in Gould-speak the magisterium of science and the magisterium of religion could be kept separated. This however is – a few declared exceptions here and there excluded – not the way it works in real life or ever will and is why Universities are right to very carefully guard the separation of science and religiously motivated special pleading and why invoking (hypersensitive) political correctness as almost always is so misguided.

  • http://www.PrometheusGoneWild.com DennisBuller

    OK Mr. Bakker,
    Lets skip the sexual identity, skin color, sex and disability aspects of this and focus on Religion.
    Obviously, there is a line that has t be drawn between discussing religion in the context of science and Preaching that religion.
    Professors have power; so the search committee has to be careful not to hire people who will abuse their position and compromise the integrity of the institution.
    You suggest that since Dr. Gaskell was open about his belief and wrote a paper trying to bridge pure science with Christian belief, “There would be equal ground for worry” as you put it.
    So if Professor Gaskell was Jewish (or Muslim) and wrote a paper to answer some questions his students asked about his area of research and the Torah (or Qua-ran), this would also be “ground for worry”.
    The problem I have with all three situations is, in no way did the paper Dr. Gaskell wrote promote Christianity. It was a “Bridge” paper, trying to connect the Christian students belief (which they already have) with Dr. Gaskells class materials. He was doing what professors should do, educate and connect with his students.
    You could argue that by having a bridge paper just for Christians, and no other major religion, he is favoring Christianity. There may be a point to that. However, it would be hard for him to write a paper connecting his field of expertise with a religion he is not familiar with…..
    Ms. Shafer seemed to have a bug up her butt that Dr. Gaskell even mentioned religion in the context of his area of research.
    So in effect, if a professor even mentions religion in any professional manner, even to connect with his students, this is a black mark against them during the hiring process.
    In effect, I think the bar has been set so low by these academics concerning religion, that it constitutes not a healthy worry about professors proselytizing, but discrimination.
    Amazingly enough, there is a law against that.

  • Amy

    It is illegal to ask about religion in a job interview. Period. Atheists are far far more likely to be discriminated against than Christians, so as an atheist I am happy to see this practice challenged. Discrimination is discrimination and it has no place in employment practices. If the search committee worried about his beliefs interfering with his scientific objectivity, they could have asked about the age of the universe, the source of light, etc. Those questions would be legit.

  • http://www.neo-opsis.ca Karl Johanson

    I don’t think questioning someone’s religion, or lack of belief is appropriate in a job interview. However, I think you might ask a potential biology prof, “do you think evolution happens?” and turn them down as unqualified if they answer “no.” Similarly, you might ask a potential astronomy prof if they think the universe is 6,000 years old and turn them down as unqualified if they answer “yes,” (especially if you want them to examine stars more than 6,000 light years away).

  • Jeff

    Thought I would post this info to the article. UK ended up settling for $125,000. There are some quotes in this article that are particularly noteworthy. It seems that UK found Gaskell to exemplify exactly their expectations for someone in the position he applied for, but several quotes from UK staff members clearly indicate that his religious views are what lost him the job.

    http://www.aclj.org/News/Read.aspx?ID=4074

  • B

    Can you really have an idiot who thinks the Earth is 2000 years old researching astronomy, and tossing out all the data that doesn’t support his crazy beliefs about his imaginary friends?

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