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Scientist “Expelled” for Religious Views

on December 18, 2010

Louisville Courier-Journal: “Job Candidate Sues UK, Claiming Religion Cost Him the PostIt’s the latest case of a scientist “expelled”—or, in this case, never let in—because of his religious views.

You would think astronomer Martin Gaskell had sufficiently distanced himself from “wacko” young-earth creationists to be hired for a scientific role at a major public university—in this case, an astronomy position at the University of Kentucky. Gaskell had claimed that young-earth creation (as defended by News to Note, the Creation Museum, and elsewhere) is “very bad scientifically and theologically” and “actually hinders some scientists becoming Christians.”

Gaskell was “potentially evangelical” and a “creationist.”

That wasn’t enough for his would-be colleagues at the University of Kentucky, however, who shot down Gaskell’s candidacy on what appear to be primarily (if not exclusively) religious, rather than professional, grounds. The Courier-Journal quotes excerpts from faculty e-mails that warned, among other things, that Gaskell was “potentially evangelical” and a “creationist”—apparently misunderstanding the chasm of difference separating old-earth from young-earth creationist views. Another faculty member claimed hiring Gaskell would be a “disaster . . . [we] might as well have folks from the Creation Museum get involved with UK’s science outreach.”

The head of the search committee even claimed the university was rejecting a “superbly qualified” candidate due to “religious beliefs in matters that are unrelated to astronomy,” and that this rejection “repudiated any claim to honoring the principles of diversity that are so piously proclaimed on this campus.” That individual has since retracted his claim, however, and points to genuine concerns over unrelated aspects of Gaskell’s candidacy.

Obviously it is impossible for us to know what really happened in the case—viz., assessing the counterfactual of whether Gaskell would have been hired were it not for his religious views. Still, the fact that members of the hiring committee are on record questioning Gaskell’s candidacy on religious grounds—especially considering his stance against biblical creation—shows what an uphill professional battle is in store for any scientist who might question evolution.

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