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Old 18th December 2010, 02:32 PM   #1
FattyCatty
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Astronomer Claims Faith Cost Him a Job

This article, Astronomer Sues University, Claiming Faith Cost Him a Job, was in The New York Times online this morning:

Quote:
In 2007, C. Martin Gaskell, an astronomer at the University of Nebraska, was a leading candidate for a job running an observatory at the University of Kentucky. But then somebody did what one does nowadays: an Internet search.
<snip>
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.

In late November, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled that the case could go forward, and a trial is scheduled for February. The case represents a rare example, experts say, of a lawsuit by a scientist who alleges academic persecution for his religious faith.
<snip>
Dr. Gaskell has written that “there are significant scientific problems in evolutionary theory (a good thing or else many biologists and geologists would be out of a job.)” And in the lecture notes Ms. Shafer found online, Dr. Gaskell tried to reconcile the creation account in Genesis with recent astronomical findings.
Do you think believing there are problems with evolutionary theory and trying to reconcile Genesis with astronomy are sufficient grounds not to hire someone? Or is it a straightforward violation of the Civil Rights Act (discrimination on the basis of religion)?

How can you separate, in a court of law, the fact that some religious beliefs go against commonly held scientific theories? Does going against mainstream science give enough reason not to hire a qualified individual? Has anyone seen anything like this tested in court before? Is it similar to the stories in other threads about science teachers teaching woo and creationism? Is that grounds for firing?

The repercussions of this decision are frightening if it carries over into what teachers are allowed to say in a classroom, although I don't know if it would. Or am I just being alarmist?

Also, this is being tried in Lexington, KY. Does that mean a more favorable-toward-religion environment? How significant would that be?
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Old 18th December 2010, 02:35 PM   #2
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He didn't lose a job, he didn't get one. Because he's a nutbar.
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Old 18th December 2010, 02:46 PM   #3
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The university doesn't owe him a job. There's nothing to complain about here.

Quote:
Do you think believing there are problems with evolutionary theory and trying to reconcile Genesis with astronomy are sufficient grounds not to hire someone?
Depends. Is the person capable of teaching the current state of understanding of astronomy, biology, physics, geology, or whatever field he's in? (I know that this was about an astronomy professor position, but the question is more general, so I'm answering the more general question.) Failure to do your job should result in not having that job anymore, and I'm not concerned with why you're unable to do the job.

Quote:
How can you separate, in a court of law, the fact that some religious beliefs go against commonly held scientific theories?
Irrelevant. If this gets to court it should be laughed out. The man isn't complaining about discrimination, he's obviously whining because he believes wanting something creates in others an obligation to give him that thing.

Quote:
Does going against mainstream science give enough reason not to hire a qualified individual?
If he's capable of teaching it properly, not necessarily (though if it were me I'd rather hire someone with a more consistent view of things). However, I've met VERY few people who go against the scientific mainstream and who are capable of teaching their fields properly.

Quote:
The repercussions of this decision are frightening if it carries over into what teachers are allowed to say in a classroom, although I don't know if it would. Or am I just being alarmist?
You're being alarmist. This isn't about what the teacher is or is not allowed to say, it's about whether or not the professor (there's a difference) can properly teach his subject or not. If he can't, he shouldn't be hired, period. There have been many professors with unorthodox ideas. In fact, the whole concept of tenure was created, to some extent, to prevent people with unorthodox ideas from being fired merely because the ideas are unorthodox.

Quote:
In 2007, C. Martin Gaskell, an astronomer at the University of Nebraska, was a leading candidate for a job running an observatory at the University of Kentucky. But then somebody did what one does nowadays: an Internet search.
This quote I'm highly skeptical about. First off, what does "a leading candidate" mean? How high up does he have to be? How many positions does he have to loose before he can sue? If he only lost one (ie, they hired someone else) any court decision to overturn the university pick would amount to the court saying "You MUST hire people who disagree with the mainstream scientific opinion".

Other than the prospect of having theism barred/forced upon our universities, this is a minor disagreement with an employee no rational company would hire and the university system, and wouldn't be newsworthy. It's a storm in a teacup.
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Old 18th December 2010, 03:04 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by FattyCatty View Post
This article, Astronomer Sues University, Claiming Faith Cost Him a Job, was in The New York Times online this morning:

Do you think believing there are problems with evolutionary theory and trying to reconcile Genesis with astronomy are sufficient grounds not to hire someone? Or is it a straightforward violation of the Civil Rights Act (discrimination on the basis of religion)?

How can you separate, in a court of law, the fact that some religious beliefs go against commonly held scientific theories? Does going against mainstream science give enough reason not to hire a qualified individual? Has anyone seen anything like this tested in court before? Is it similar to the stories in other threads about science teachers teaching woo and creationism? Is that grounds for firing?

The repercussions of this decision are frightening if it carries over into what teachers are allowed to say in a classroom, although I don't know if it would. Or am I just being alarmist?

Also, this is being tried in Lexington, KY. Does that mean a more favorable-toward-religion environment? How significant would that be?
No one should be getting a job in any field of science IF they are, in that field, working to reconcile real science with their belief system.

I have no problem with a person who believes dinosaurs ran a flourishing trade in tulips working as an astronomer - assuming he is otherwise qualified. BUT I have a large problem with anyone having that belief getting any kind of a job in paleontology.

If your nut theories are not in your field of qualification cool - go wild. If they are in your degreed field, you have no business having any job or position of authority in that field.

Last edited by fuelair; 18th December 2010 at 03:45 PM. Reason: Fixed trade
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Old 18th December 2010, 03:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Other than the prospect of having theism barred/forced upon our universities, this is a minor disagreement with an employee no rational company would hire and the university system, and wouldn't be newsworthy. It's a storm in a teacup.

Hopefully the court is rational. These days I never assume that - what with the phenomenally anti-science republickers and their ilk and the packing of legal systems with those grads of the Xtian/right wing university whose name (Bob Jones?) I can't remember during the loathed Shrub "administration".
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Old 18th December 2010, 03:55 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by FattyCatty View Post
The repercussions of this decision are frightening if it carries over into what teachers are allowed to say in a classroom, although I don't know if it would. Or am I just being alarmist?
Do you think it is frightening if a biology teacher can't talk about how YEC is true in a classroom? Is it frightening if an astronomy teacher can't talk about how astronomical findings must be reconciled with creationism?

Teachers rightly should be limited in what they say if what they are saying undermines the education they are supposed to be providing.

Further, running an observatory is a pretty big deal. A university is going to want papers and some prestige from the person doing it. If that person espouses views that would make him a laughingstock in his field of study, then I think it is quite reasonable for him to not hire. Further, they'd also have every reason to suspect his religious views in this case would undermine his ability to perform the job
(e.g. research and teaching). I'm not sure what the law is in terms of religion, but I know that for the handicapped it is legal to not hire them IF they can't perform the job because of their handicap (such as directing traffic for a blind person). I would think the same would apply to someone because of their beliefs as wel.
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:08 PM   #7
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Gaskell's faith did not cost him his job, as he never had the job in the first place. Unless the people doing the hiring were utter nutters, they likely based their decision to hire someone else on that other person's curriculum vitae and presentation during an interview, and not on Gaskell's improvable beliefs.

HOWEVER, common sense would dictate that if you are applying for a prestigious job, you first 'sanitize' your on-line presence, focussing on any posts that feature your real name.

Save the holy-rolling for the anonymous websites.
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:08 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
The university doesn't owe him a job. There's nothing to complain about here.
I'm sorry, but this is wrong -- religious discrimination in hiring is generally illegal, especially when the entity involved is a public institution like the the University of Nebraska.

Quote:
Depends. Is the person capable of teaching the current state of understanding of astronomy, biology, physics, geology, or whatever field he's in? (I know that this was about an astronomy professor position, but the question is more general, so I'm answering the more general question.) Failure to do your job should result in not having that job anymore, and I'm not concerned with why you're unable to do the job.
Being a religious nutbar doesn't mean you can't teach; just because I'm an atheist doesn't mean that I don't understand theological arguments and cant' teach them. Similarly, my understanding is that he wasn't being considered for a teaching position anyway -- the question is whether he was capable of directing an observatory.
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:09 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
... the question is whether he was capable of directing an observatory.
What part of "religious nutter" do you not understand?
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:10 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Drachasor View Post
Do you think it is frightening if a biology teacher can't talk about how YEC is true in a classroom? Is it frightening if an astronomy teacher can't talk about how astronomical findings must be reconciled with creationism?

Teachers rightly should be limited in what they say if what they are saying undermines the education they are supposed to be providing.

Further, running an observatory is a pretty big deal. A university is going to want papers and some prestige from the person doing it. If that person espouses views that would make him a laughingstock in his field of study, then I think it is quite reasonable for him to not hire. Further, they'd also have every reason to suspect his religious views in this case would undermine his ability to perform the job
(e.g. research and teaching). I'm not sure what the law is in terms of religion, but I know that for the handicapped it is legal to not hire them IF they can't perform the job because of their handicap (such as directing traffic for a blind person). I would think the same would apply to someone because of their beliefs as wel.
How about a doctor who believes in witchcraft or a devout Jehovah's Witness?
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:28 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by MontagK505 View Post
How about a doctor who believes in witchcraft or a devout Jehovah's Witness?
Or an astronomer who thinks the Universe is 6,000 years old?
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:32 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
<snip>This quote I'm highly skeptical about. First off, what does "a leading candidate" mean? How high up does he have to be? How many positions does he have to loose before he can sue? If he only lost one (ie, they hired someone else) any court decision to overturn the university pick would amount to the court saying "You MUST hire people who disagree with the mainstream scientific opinion".

Other than the prospect of having theism barred/forced upon our universities, this is a minor disagreement with an employee no rational company would hire and the university system, and wouldn't be newsworthy. It's a storm in a teacup.
According to the complaint filed, Gaskell had pretty good qualifications, both in terms of science and of teaching. He was employed by the University of Nebraska when he applied; he was employed by the University of Texas subsequent to the application. So other universities saw him as qualified.

Part of the problem that worried me was that the University of Kentucky ended up hiring someone who "had substantially less qualifications and experience than Gaskell." This is stated in the complaint; I don't know if will be proven true or not, but I could see it helping his case.

Also, he is requesting a jury trial in a city not that far away from the Creation Museum, which may be an indication of beliefs in the area. He is being represented (at least for the compliant) by the American Center for Law and Justice, which may give him more ability to fight, if they are not charging him the going rate. Their website says that they focus on Constitutional Law, which seems to mean they use the First Amendment to keep religion in areas where it might be thought separation of Church and State would keep it out. So I'm not sure I agree that this is a storm in a teacup.
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:40 PM   #13
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You know, being an unpleasant twat can be grounds for not being hired. We don't know everything about this case, but wearing a virtual tinfoil hat to his interview seems likely.
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:47 PM   #14
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The question isn't just "can he teach?". It is also "can he run an observatory?" and "can he effectively act as the public face of the University?" as those are all part of the job.

Frances Collins is a noted scientist and religious. He effectively compartmentalizes his science and his religion. So religion, per se, would not disqualify someone. If the interview resulted in the opinion that Haskell could not effectively compartmentalize; or even if he could not compartmentalize as well as the person who got the job, then he has no complaint.
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:50 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by OlegTheBatty View Post
The question isn't just "can he teach?". It is also "can he run an observatory?" and "can he effectively act as the public face of the University?" as those are all part of the job.

Frances Collins is a noted scientist and religious. He effectively compartmentalizes his science and his religion. So religion, per se, would not disqualify someone. If the interview resulted in the opinion that Haskell could not effectively compartmentalize; or even if he could not compartmentalize as well as the person who got the job, then he has no complaint.
Very. Paper qualification don't mean squat when it comes to people management and leadership. Its the whole package that counts, not just the C.V.
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Old 18th December 2010, 04:52 PM   #16
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I am willing to be persuaded otherwise but I at the moment think it is absolutely fine for a religious person to be discriminated against for a scientific position. Science and religion are both different methods of gaining knowledge (either through experiment and observation or through revelation and scripture) and if the religion a person subscribes to makes a testable claim about the material world and evidence does not support that claim then you have to be confident that the person you hire will follow the evidence and say that scripture is incorrect. Is it not generally claimed by the religious that scripture is infallible?
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:00 PM   #17
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I'm sorry, but this is wrong -- religious discrimination in hiring is generally illegal, especially when the entity involved is a public institution like the the University of Nebraska.
If your religion prevents you from being able to teach the material properly (or if the people hiring you think that it will), I can see justification for refusing to hire you. I mean, would you be crying "Discrimination!" if an atheist were not hired to teach religious courses? Oh, and by the way, religious discrimination is NOT illegal--there are several states that have statutes prohibiting atheists from holding office.

Quote:
Being a religious nutbar doesn't mean you can't teach; just because I'm an atheist doesn't mean that I don't understand theological arguments and cant' teach them. Similarly, my understanding is that he wasn't being considered for a teaching position anyway -- the question is whether he was capable of directing an observatory.
No. The question was whether or not the university would hire him to direct the observatory. HIS qualifications weren't the only thing being considered--there were other people looking for the job. Frankly I see nothing wrong with hiring someone who's equally qualified on paper and who doesn't hold delusional views on the subject matter instead of someone who's qualified and does hold delusional views.

Quote:
According to the complaint filed, Gaskell had pretty good qualifications, both in terms of science and of teaching. He was employed by the University of Nebraska when he applied; he was employed by the University of Texas subsequent to the application. So other universities saw him as qualified.
And they have every right to make that decision. One person didn't and this Gaskell guy starts throwing a tantrum? That's just immature. Sure, they may have done it for reasons he disagrees with, but a mature person will realize that a group that will refuse to hire you because of something like this may not be the best place for you to work.

As for the storm in a teacup comment, I meant that it should be one. A guy didn't get hired, and for stupid reasons. This happens all the time. Okay, there's some indication that the reason was religion in this case (though it's certainly not very well supported)--is that really any worse than refusing to hire someone because they dress in a manner you find distasteful? Or refusing to hire someone for any of the other things that can go wrong in a job interview? It sucks to not get hired. Deal with it. And by "Deal with it" I don't mean "sue them".
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:02 PM   #18
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This reminds me strangely of the catholic priest who was not selected for a job in an abortion clinic. There's just something similar here . . .
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:06 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
What part of "religious nutter" do you not understand?
The part where being a religious nutter disqualifies you from running an observatory. Newton was a religious nutter, after all -- he wrote more words on his rather (ahem) unique spin on Christianity than he did on science. That doesn't invalidate his work as a scientist and mathematician.

A religious nutter can still work as a director of an observatory; to the extent that the job is mostly administrative, it could be done by any skilled administrator regardless of beliefs, and to the extent that the job is scientific, it can be done by anyone willing to present the "textbook" material regardless of his/her personal objections to it.

Or to put it another way, an atheist can teach theology. Belief in material isn't required either for understanding or presentation.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:08 PM   #20
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They screwed the pooch a bit when they asked him openly in the interview about his religious beliefs. Now they could have asked him astronomical questions that might have given him away if he was a YEC, or they could have kept their findings about his religious beliefs out of the interview. But unfortunately, right or wrong, you cannot legally ask a job applicant that sort of question. If they asked him more standard questions and they did not hire him he would not have had a leg to stand on, unless again it was leaked that they did not hire him for his religious beliefs. The problems is that a lot of these lawsuits are heard by a jury of your "peers". Unfortunately for the university this jury will not consist of members of the scientific community but average Kansans, a lot of whom are YECs.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:09 PM   #21
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A religious nutter can still work as a director of an observatory
Very true. I've known some fine geologists who were Creationists. And if there were some evidence that the religious thing alone was the reason behind him not being hired, the cries of "Discrimination!" may have some merit. However, nothing has been offered to support this argument. I mean, the man could be one of the people who's simply unpleasant to be around. Or he could have had personality issues with one of the people in charge. I know a professor that was refused tenure because he had once made a disparaging comment about one of the people who was on the committee deciding tenure. There are a number of factors that could have lead to this decision, of which his religious views probably are one.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:12 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
The part where being a religious nutter disqualifies you from running an observatory. Newton was a religious nutter, after all -- he wrote more words on his rather (ahem) unique spin on Christianity than he did on science. That doesn't invalidate his work as a scientist and mathematician.
Did you notice this isn't the 17th Century?
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:16 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
Did you notice this isn't the 17th Century?
Yes. I also noticed that it's not a Tuesday. But since neither are relevant to the question of whether someone can understand and teach positions with which he disagrees, I didn't mention either of them.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:20 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
Yes. I also noticed that it's not a Tuesday. But since neither are relevant to the question of whether someone can understand and teach positions with which he disagrees, I didn't mention either of them.
Well, today we expect people to have a grasp of reality in that kind of job. Having to check in with an imaginary friend before going to bed doesn't demonstrate that very well.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:22 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
Well, today we expect people to have a grasp of reality in that kind of job.
No, we don't. We merely expect them to appear to have a grasp of reality sufficient to cover the material. What you do before going to bed is your own affair as long as you're capable of performing in the office -- or the classroom, or the observatory.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:23 PM   #26
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I don't think anyone owed this guy a job, but there seem to be some misconceptions among the skeptics here. The guy is not a YEC, and he doesn't think the universe is 6000 years old.

Carry on.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:25 PM   #27
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What you do before going to bed is your own affair as long as you're capable of performing in the office -- or the classroom, or the observatory.
True. But if that person's beliefs cause him to act in ways that they consider inappropriate for someone running an observatory (not praying, but for example becoming angry when his beliefs are questioned, or insulting those who don't hold them) that would justify kicking him out. And it would explain all of the data we have here.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:34 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by OlegTheBatty View Post
The question isn't just "can he teach?". It is also "can he run an observatory?" and "can he effectively act as the public face of the University?" as those are all part of the job.

Frances Collins is a noted scientist and religious. He effectively compartmentalizes his science and his religion. So religion, per se, would not disqualify someone. If the interview resulted in the opinion that Haskell could not effectively compartmentalize; or even if he could not compartmentalize as well as the person who got the job, then he has no complaint.
I think you didn't read the complaint. It gives Gaskell's credentials, mentions that he performed the duties of the new position in his previous position, and also states that:
Quote:
During his time as coordinator of the University of Nebraska Student Observatory Gaskell also gave advice to the University of Kentucky Department of Physics and Astronomy on the construction of the similar MacAdams Student Observatory.
So he was good enough to give them advice, but not good enough to hire?

The more I look at this, the more I think he's going to win. The jurors will not be scientists (at least, not the majority). They're going to see a qualified applicant who was not hired because of "his religious beliefs and his expression of these beliefs"; beliefs that many of the jurors themselves probably share.

If the article in The New York Times is accurate, the people at the University of Kentucky weren't worried so much about whether his beliefs compromised his ability to do the job, as they were about how it would look to have someone "potentially evangelical" in their department and on their website.

To even ask someone about their religious beliefs in a job interview is pretty dicey. To want details on the "exercise and expression" of those beliefs is inappropriate. I can see asking whether his beliefs will interfere with his duties, but anything else should be out of bounds. And it looks like they made their minds up ahead of time.

By the way, Gaskell says he is not a creationist and does not deny the theory of evolution.

ETA: The whole "file suit" thing started because a faculty member in the University of Kentucky Department of Physics and Astronomy let him know that someone else within the Department had complained to the University's equal employment office about how Gaskell was treated. He said that a lawyer had reviewed the case, interviewd participants, and saved all correspondence. So it looks like they knew they had screwed the pooch.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:40 PM   #29
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So he was good enough to give them advice, but not good enough to hire?
Yup. Like I said, it could be a personality issue between him and one of the people who would be in charge of him. Advice would be a very short period of contact, something where they both could suck it up and deal. A job would be MUCH longer, and could result in some nastiness that everyone wanted to avoid.
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Old 18th December 2010, 05:57 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
No, we don't. We merely expect them to appear to have a grasp of reality sufficient to cover the material. What you do before going to bed is your own affair as long as you're capable of performing in the office -- or the classroom, or the observatory.
How can you have a grasp of reality and think the Universe is 6,000 years old?
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:13 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
How can you have a grasp of reality and think the Universe is 6,000 years old?
How can you be a skeptic and ignore evidence which contradicts your assumptions?
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:21 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by FattyCatty View Post
This article, Astronomer Sues University, Claiming Faith Cost Him a Job, was in The New York Times online this morning:

Do you think believing there are problems with evolutionary theory and trying to reconcile Genesis with astronomy are sufficient grounds not to hire someone? Or is it a straightforward violation of the Civil Rights Act (discrimination on the basis of religion)?
I think the person who needs to separate their 'faith' and their job is the employee here, not the employer. By what grounds is this a one way street?

Originally Posted by FattyCatty View Post
How can you separate, in a court of law, the fact that some religious beliefs go against commonly held scientific theories? Does going against mainstream science give enough reason not to hire a qualified individual? Has anyone seen anything like this tested in court before? Is it similar to the stories in other threads about science teachers teaching woo and creationism? Is that grounds for firing?

The repercussions of this decision are frightening if it carries over into what teachers are allowed to say in a classroom, although I don't know if it would. Or am I just being alarmist?

Also, this is being tried in Lexington, KY. Does that mean a more favorable-toward-religion environment? How significant would that be?
Try thinking of this in a different way.

Suppose a physician believed in faith healing. A hospital can be sued along with a physician in many cases. Would you expect the hospital to grant admitting privileges to this physician knowing the evidence is overwhelming that one cannot pray someone well and knowing that is what he planned to do to treat his patients? Assume he wanted to admit the patients so they could get nursing care.

Should an employer be required to hire an engineer who had bizarre beliefs about structural elements?

So why should a conviction the scientific evidence was wrong and the Bible right be any different?

Is it that you don't know evolution theory is not in doubt?
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:28 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by bokonon View Post
How can you be a skeptic and ignore evidence which contradicts your assumptions?
Okay, pick a date when this guy thinks the Great Sky Fairy made the Universe. I'm okay with 6,000-14,500,000,000. It still comes down to him believing his imaginary friend created the whole thing.
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:30 PM   #34
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Are religious universities required to employ outspoken atheists?
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:31 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Yup. Like I said, it could be a personality issue between him and one of the people who would be in charge of him. Advice would be a very short period of contact, something where they both could suck it up and deal. A job would be MUCH longer, and could result in some nastiness that everyone wanted to avoid.
You may be right, but given the fact that two people in the Department, one a faculty member, support him, you don't make a good case for him being hard to get along with. The first member of the Department (position unknown) went to the equal opportunity office of the University on Gaskell's behalf and the second, a faculty member, sent an unsolicited e-mail to let him know that this had happened.

Also, I think that the "personality issue" has historically been used to deny jobs to qualified people in many instances of discrimination. Hence the Civil Rights Act. I think the excuse sucks just as much when used for racial reasons as it does when used for religious reasons.

When I first read the article, I was really thinking "Oh, how can they have someone who may believe in creationism in their university." But after I read the complaint and thought about it a little more, I realized that I was guilty of prejudice and of taking a stance before I knew the facts. I'm ashamed of myself.

If he can't teach accepted science, he has no business in a job that requires it. If he can, then his beliefs have nothing to do with deciding to hire him. We don't know whether or not he can. His history as a teacher, writer, and speaker should be able to provide an answer to that question.

I also think it's important to know if his previous employers think his beliefs interfered with his duties. If they don't, I think the University of Kentucky loses. If they do, I think it depends on how well the University of Kentucky's lawyers explain to non-scientists why that is important. Actually, if the previous employers say there was no problem, I bet the University of Kentucky settles.

[guilty of theorizing without all the facts]Based only on what was in the article and in the complaint, if I served on the jury, I'd find for Gaskell. I'd worry about the implications (e.g., could it be stretched to cover other instances where people actually go against accepted science?), but unless the complaint and article are all lies and the previous employer(s) come forward to say he was preaching instead of teaching science, I'd have to decide for him.[/guilty of theorizing without all the facts]
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:31 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Are religious universities required to employ outspoken atheists?
If they have a football you can apply to be a tackling dummy.
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:37 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Suppose a physician believed in faith healing. A hospital can be sued along with a physician in many cases. Would you expect the hospital to grant admitting privileges to this physician knowing the evidence is overwhelming that one cannot pray someone well and knowing that is what he planned to do to treat his patients?

Assumes facts not in evidence. I've highlighted the problematic phrase here.

A physician could very well believe that faith healing worked, but that there was insufficient evidence to support recommending it as a form of clinical practice. It's not that uncommon for scientists to disagree with the accepted theories, and in fact, that's where most research programs originate (I think that such-and-such is wrong, and so I've devised an experiment that will show the accepted wisdom wrong and my alternative theory correct). But it's not ethical to do medical research on human subjects without their informed consent and without the consent and concurrence of the local IRB.

Under such circumstances, there's nothing at all to keep that physician from practicing medicine in a hospital, as long as he refrains from using his 'experimental' treatment without approval and sticks to the standard regime. In fact, that's what we expect of research physicians of all types. A research oncologist may believe that microdoses of radium will encourage the body's ability to repair radiation damage and provide long-term cancer protection (and work nights and weekends feeding microdoses of radium to his rats at home) while still sticking to the standard regime of care in a hospital setting.

Why do you assume that secular research physicians are capable of practicing what they don't believe, but not theistic ones?



Quote:
Should an employer be required to hire an engineer who had bizarre beliefs about structural elements?
Sure, why not? As long as the engineer's work reflects standard textbook engineering principles, it doesn't matter if she thinks that you can use cornflakes as girders once she gets the formula perfected. And in fact, she may even be right. Again, that's what engineering research is all about.

Quote:
So why should a conviction the scientific evidence was wrong and the Bible right be any different?
It's not. Which is why a person's beliefs about scientific evidence are irrelevant as long as their scientific practice is acceptable.

.... which from the record, Dr. Gaskell's practices are.
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:37 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
Okay, pick a date when this guy thinks the Great Sky Fairy made the Universe. I'm okay with 6,000-14,500,000,000. It still comes down to him believing his imaginary friend created the whole thing.
Which is the kind of religious belief the law says you can't discriminate against.

"an age of 13.7 billion years CANNOT BE EXCLUDED BY THE BIBLICAL GENEALOGIES."

http://incolor.inetnebr.com/gaskell/...Astronomy.html

I haven't read this link closely, but in skimming it it looks like he's trying to reconcile what's in The Bible with current scientific understanding, not slant science to fit scripture.

Like I say, I don't think anyone owed this guy a job, but if the interviewer really did ask about his religion, he may have a case.
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:41 PM   #39
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It would seem that he was being persecuted on the grounds of him being religious. If it didn't interfere with his ability to do his job, I don't see an issue with him not getting the job. It would of course be an issue if it does.
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Old 18th December 2010, 06:42 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Are religious universities required to employ outspoken atheists?
Generally, yes, IIRC. Unless there's a bona fide reason why belief is a necessary component of the job -- e.g., in the capacity of a chaplain or something.

But even if they weren't,... the situation isn't parallel. Atheist private universities might be able to get away with discrimination against theists under the same rule as church-based universities. But the University of Nebraska is a state agency and as such is required to be viewpoint-neutral.
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