Effect Measure

Creationist crap lawsuit dismissed (again)

The detritus of the Bush era continues to wash ashore, but some of it has decomposed sufficiently that it isn’t as noxious as when first dumped into the sea. One example is what was left of a Federal lawsuit filed by a creationist post doc against the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution alleging he was fired for his religious views. Those views were of the Creationist variety, and the job he was fired from was research involving development in zebra fish, specifically involving evolutionary processes. His views, per se, had nothing to do with it, of course. It was that his views prevented him from doing the necessary work. I didn’t write about this at the time because it was well covered in the scientific press and I know the researcher who allegedly discriminated against the complainant (he is an occasional commenter here, as a matter of fact). As one of my colleagues said of him, one cannot imagine a more unjust and perverted accusation, since this person is the soul of fairness, kindness and helpfulness, besides being one of the best scientists I know. So the accusation of religious discrimination lodged against him was so outrageous it didn’t seem it had a chance of succeeding.

And it didn’t succeed. It was denied on the merits by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) (and adopted by the federal EEOC), which found a lack of probable cause and ruled that the postdoc’s “attitude towards evolution was clearly in conflict with” the research, and the complainant “was involuntarily terminated based upon his own actions rather than any discriminatory animus due to his religion.” But the complainant post doc, Nathaniel Abraham, had the resources of the anti-evolutionists behind him and a case was filed in Federal court. That court was not interested and dismissed the case on the grounds that it was filed too late, a technical argument. The appeal of the dismissal has now been unanimously upheld by a three-judge apnel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. I can’t imagine the Supremes will take this if appealed one last time. It’s over. All of us heave a sigh of relief for our friend and colleague Mark Hahn at Woods Hole who had to suffer this egregious attack on his integrity

We will undoubtedly continue to feel those twinges of pain reminding us of past injuries, but we can hope that with a new generation in charge, the attitude toward science will right itself and this kind of crap will be just an unpleasant memory.

Comments

  1. #1 Tony P
    January 31, 2009

    What astounds me most about this is the enormous amount of money involved with pursuing court cases and appeals.

    But these are the classic tactics of the religious. When your argument can’t sustain reason and logic you resort to litigation.

    We had a similar case here in RI, though not really religious in nature but conservative in nature. A guy enters the social work program at Rhode Island College then whines and complains it is too liberal.

  2. #2 moneduloides
    January 31, 2009

    I’m certainly glad Dr. Hahn pulled through this unscathed. Let’s hope it doesn’t go any further than this.

  3. #3 James F
    January 31, 2009

    Why on earth would you work in an evolutionary biology lab when you don’t accept evolution, unless you want to stir up trouble? Hrm, I think I answered my own question….

    And look at this! I was just about to say that he ought to look for work at a place like Liberty University, where he’ll fit fight in with his deluded colleagues.

  4. #4 Joe
    January 31, 2009

    Tony P. – don’t be fooled. The “other side” will also use those “classic tactics” and “resort to litigation” when necessary. The Christians get hammered for being closed minded, but really most of the accusations launched from either camp is valid on both sides. There is very little civility in this disagreement, from either side.

  5. #5 Terry
    January 31, 2009

    No, “Joe,” it’s NOT “the Christians” who “get hammered for being close-minded,” it’s specifically the ignorant who do — be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist or otherwise. That’s the classic misdirect by creationists — to claim that their religion is being oppressed. The fact is, a large percentage of Christians of all faiths are quite capable of seeing the logic and overwhelming evidence in support of evolution and natural selection. So it’s the ignorant, close-minded religionists that are to be resisted and, yes, disdained — not the open-minded, educated ones.

  6. #6 Lea
    January 31, 2009

    Wow Terry, thank you for that. It hit the nail on the head and is in-line with what the “revere’s” have said in the past.

  7. #7 paiwan
    February 1, 2009

    The poet is talking duck’s language, and the journalist is talking chicken’s language. How can duck and chicken communicate each other?

    Even the poet and the medical doctor are talking different languages; the doctor is talking the medicine and healed survival, the poet is talking death. Read John Updike’s (Passed away on Jan. 28, 2009) poetry-
    “For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
    And death is real, and dark and huge.
    The shock of it will register
    Nowhere but where it will occur.”

    Genesis is a piece of poetry. It conveys the truth of faith. Evolution is the scientific hypothesis and theory and truth.

    In the world of possible pandemics, do we need faith? Evolution is teaching the survival of the fittest, at the same time it points the waste of nature- lots of non-survivors. Does the history of human civilization teach us what kind of human beings are in the right evolution?

    Do we listen to scientists all or poets all? Your choice, of course.

  8. #8 CAP
    February 2, 2009

    Genesis is an work of fiction that conflicts itself (Genesis 1 v.s. Genesis 2) full of mistranslations and vagueness. For example, apples did not grow in the Mediterranean but everyone recognizes an apple (probably red) as a symbol of Eve’s temptation– the word “malus” in Latin means both “evil” and “apple” so the translation was a Catholic pun. Did you know that God kicked out Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge?

    Paiwan must have great faith in the Almighty Cloud Patriarch to believe that pandemics are tests of faith. Just so you know, “survival of the fittest” with respect to pandemics probably has to do with one’s immunology versus infectious pathogens, which, I admit, are too small to see with the naked eye, cannot be smelled, tasted, heard, or touched, just like God; however, I have good evidence that viruses and bacteria are real–I’m just waiting on a microscope powerful enough to see a deity.

    There is no such idea as “right” evolution. Evolution is a process, not a benevolent Thing watching over us. The history of human civilization teaches us that, yes, evolution has been occurring with each successive generation of humans born. So what, Paiwan?

    Since you like to postulate questions in black/white dichotomies, why not apply this shaky logic to your own life every day? Holy crap, instead of going to a doctor when you need medicines, go to a poet and have that poet recite some Scripture to cure your viral infections! Your choice, of course.

  9. #9 paiwan
    February 2, 2009

    What you say about Genesis 1 v.s. 2 is a fact, but your interpretation is different from mine. But we both have distained the Biblical literalism which has misled many evangelical believers (I am reluctant to call these groups of people-christians).

    My interpretation(understanding)on Genesis, especially Chapters 1&2 are in the form of poetry, and the theme was to re-affirm the tradition of the faith- life is good because Nature and event have been under the same control by what they had understood as J. E. P. D traditions.

    The formation of Bible was not like journalism which emphasizes the fact, history, but rather the collective reflection and the art of memory. It has proved the weight of Bible in Western civilization. One of billionaire named Mr. Hsu Wen-Long, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shi_Wen-long
    Advised his children when they were entering University had to study two books; Bible and Shakespeare. For me, Shakespeare can not be leveled so high to compare, but it is not the point here. To read Bible beginning at the age of 18, perhaps is a good tip.

    To many evangelical believers, I think that they are very stupid in reasoning. They can afford to stay in modern house, using modern equipments to update their learning, but stay in a rugged structure of faith; where many children from this family do need lots of psychiatry help / to make Reveres so busy to clean up tons of garbage.

    GAP, pandemics is an analog of flood stated in Genesis 1- too much water or famine stated in Genesis 2 without water. It is under the control of nature. You need the paradoxical acumen to live with pandemics threat. The faith that nature will not suddenly collapse and being bewildered. The faith in nature remains as grace and being ruled to us. This paradoxical part is that we need work hard to understand it and the self-understanding of human endeavor is finite.

    The knowledge of medicine is not absolute (tree of knowledge0. Believe it or not, why breat cancer, diabetes, Alzeimer’s, allergy, etc have more incidences than before?

    To let the child bare foot to play in the dirt and not wash their hands when they come in to eat. Perhaps it is against ultra-hygiene medicine, but without the worm in the child, the immunity system can not be developed sound.

    The faith in God is individual and it has taken life experiences to refine, not dogma. To have faith in God is more paradoxical, therefore is more correct, especially in dealing with scientific research and the edge.

  10. #10 paiwan
    February 3, 2009

    CAP:

    There are some issues relating to semantics:

    1. “postulate questions in black/white dichotomies” and the paradoxical inquiry; I guess that modern physics has taken the lead to let human reasoning enter the paradoxical inquiry such as light as wave / particle and uncertainty principle. Modern Biology is catching up by accepting non-linear process in life. So, ambiguity is a legitimate form of communication.

    2. The convergence or divergence between science and religion in academic study has been going on many centuries; for instance Natural Theology has been lost or intentionally neglected.

    A person like me as a biologist and a person who have cherished the biblical tradition only can say the following:

    1. I know much more than we can prove. Reductionism in scientific category is not enough to answer the life’s challenges. The more life experiences of understanding my own inspiration’s occurrences and unexpected encounters have made me recognized the mystery of life- providence.

    2. The insight of religious reasoning can help much better understanding of nature- the given ness and potentiality.

    3. Evolution so far has not explained the random drift of life process; instead it depicts the long history of change, and seems almost infinitely adaptable towards orderly entropy of life. It is directional and non-reversible.
    For instance, immunity material-like peptides and gene material-nucleotides parallel engineering, and mitochondria/ ribosome symbiosis particularly illustrates the beauty of creation- the possibility of Natural Theology.

  11. #11 CAP
    February 5, 2009

    Again, I disagree with your views, Paiwan. Subjectivity is not a strong point of mine, so I readily concede that it is difficult for me to see any merit in holding faith to traditions stemming from a long history of willfull ignorance.

    1. The wave/particle duality is not a dichotomy because the wave/particle duality is a function of elemental particles that can be expressed one-or-the-other and/or simultaneously without mutual exclusion. A photon, for example, may exhibit properties of a wave or a particle without violating the laws of the universe as we understand them today.

    2. Yes, the convergence or divergence between science and religion in academia has been going on for centuries. On December 24, 2008 Pope Benedict XVI recinded 400 years of heretical accusations against Galileo. This admission of wrongful prejudice against legitiamte (and correct) science is long overdue and predictable. How much longer can theologens or educated men of faith hold vendettas against scientists out of ignorance? This question depends on the level of willfull suspension of reality on the part of the religious.

    Claiming to know much more than anyone can prove takes a position of supreme arrogance. Why issue a taunt that cannot be supported? I find your reductionism to a single explanation (Providence) to be a statement of hypocricy: quote Paiwan, “Reductionism in scientific category is not enough to answer life’s challenges”, so based on this confession of intellectual defeat religious reductionism is enough to answer life’s challenges?

    The insight of religious “reasoning” is profoundly Medieval. To this day Catholics rage in debate over when whether stillborn fetuses, unbaptised as they would be, go to Hell or Limbo; St Thomas Aquinas said Limbo but St Augistine said Hell–neither knew anything about applicable biology, reproduction, or medicine. Seventh-Day-Adventists reason that antibiotics are evil and that blood transfusions are heretical. Jews refuse to eat dairy and meats together because going so would anger God somehow. As religious reasoning must come from prior religious doctrines, and all religious doctrines are inherently outdated/obsolete, then how should one judge your own source of “reasoning” other than obsolete?

    Ahh, at last, a Creationist claim, that the endosymbiotic theory lends evidence to a Creator as if by intelligent design! So let’s rewind the geological clock:
    4.5 billion years ago (bya) the Earth is formed
    3.5 bya prokaryotic, RNA-based life emerges as defined as single cells with a plasma membrance, a metabolism, and a mechanism for reproduction
    2.5 bya multicellular life arises around the same time that the Earth’s atmosphere switches from a reducing to an oxidizing environment
    All the while cells are evolving. Eukaryotic single cells engulf prokaryotic cells which develop a mutualistic parasitism; mitochondria, chloroplasts, and ribosomes are examples of independent, prokaryotic cells operating in tandem within larger eukaryotic cells. Co-evolution between eukaryotes and prokaryotes explains the ingestion of RNA-based ribosomes, DNA-based mitochondria, and chloroplasts.

    The assimilation of prokaryote DNA code into eukaryotes (like humans) is evidence of evolution. Bacteria membranes and mitochondria membrances both acting as sites of oxidative phosphorylation is evidence of evolution. Mitochondria and chloroplasts containing DNA transcription/translation independent of the eukaryote host cell is evidence of evolution.

    Please point out to me the written Bible passage(s) that irrefutablly demonstrate God’s/Jesus’s/The Holy Spirit’s/any Saint’s/any Apostle’s wisdom on the subject of cellular/evolutionary/molecular/ or genetic biology to any real, specific extent. You may use any Bible you want to (King James, Gnostic, Coptic, Mormon, etc).

  12. #12 paiwan
    February 6, 2009

    Thank you for your inputs of LUCA, etc. I read that it had taken several billion years to form the eukaryotes cell, the foundation of advanced life form; the hit of asterisk which had destroyed the reptile for leading to mammalian evolution, can we say all of these events accidental. Random drift must be back and forth, somehow all were destroyed. But it has been directional all the way.

    I always have a scientific question by myself; proteins rely on nucleotides to duplicate, organisms rely peptides to protect. Prion theory confirms that protein can duplicate without nucleotides. How complicated is our immunity and could be built-in billion years ago?

    Germany scientists are receptive to ID more than in the US; I don’t mean to support ID. But there is the gray spectrum that belongs to the convergence.

    It seems that you have not jumped out the semantics issue yet, CAP.

    Therefore, the terms that you define are prone to polarize/ oversimplify my post, and I find that you will have difficulty to interpret the biblical passages.
    1. I never say that the Bible can interpret science.
    2. Reductionism can answer many challenges of science, but not of life in total. Do you think that life is larger than science?
    3. Maybe you read a bit that I have sneaked Intelligent Deign to this discussion; this is still in the ambiguity of semantics. In fact, I didn’t have the attempt. The terms to illustrate the convergence of science and religion have been presented several decades. I personally find the latest presentation from a professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology of Cambridge University- Simon Conway Morris is very interesting. Alister McGrath, a theologian and Molecular Biologist, also. You can read in the following three websites:
    http://www.naturaltheology.org/
    http://www.giffordlectures.org/
    http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/content/view/93/78/

    Talking about reductionism, there are many critics about it. The famous- Victor Frankle- the founder of Logotherapy, a Austrian Jew who survived in Auswitz Holocaust. He had about 9 millions copies circulated in the US must be known to you.

    I personally take Simon Morris’s critic; and his convergent evolution depicts the song of Creation and orthogonal to every- day experiences.

    I thought that science is not talking about the area of value, beauty and art. The biologist can easily take the leap and possesses the convergent life experiences.

  13. #13 highflyer
    February 6, 2009

    “Germany scientists are receptive to ID more than in the US; I don’t mean to support ID. ”

    Pardon me? Intelligent Design? If this utter nonsense was not discussed frequently in the US, we would not even know it existed. Twisted humor intended.

  14. #14 CAP
    February 8, 2009

    Paiwan-

    I do not know if you are a Christian, this is true. I guessed you to be one, but perhaps you may be a Muslim or a Jew (I doubt you subscribe to a polytheistic religon given the scarcity of those these days); in any case, I still challenge you to provide any unambiguous, divine scripture to support God’s wisdom on the aforementioned studies.

    The protein-only prion hypothesis demonstrates to scientists that, perhaps, another mode of information transmission is possible distinct from DNA–RNA–Protein model. As the mechanism for prions is still unclear (research has been conducted for over 40 years) claims for the mechanism of protein-to-protein synthesis cannot form yet a Theory. Highlighting this one exception to the DNA–RNA–Protein model, however, is misleading because prion formation, though an enigma, does not cast doubt on established protein synthesis pathways or stimulate legitimate debate over whether previous models are correct or not.

    The immune system has been evolving for about 2.5 million years with respect to humans. The human immune system is complicated but can be studied and understood. Simple examples include blood-type antigens, immunization to viruses (chicken pox, example), and transmission of bacteria. Coevolution between humans and pathogens has directly led to the diverse immune system that we collectively possess today.

    Intelligent Design is a fundamentally religous construct which purports intervention on the behalf of a Creator into natural processes. There is no evidence to support such wild conjecture; furthermore, scientific ignorance on a biological pathway does not immediately confer credit to a supernatural God. Intelligent Design was perfectly shot-down in the Dover trial in Pensylvannia where Dr. Behe was challenged on his irreducable beliefs about cells and cellular motors (such a flagellum); over 56 books, 9 peer-reviewed journals, and a stack of relevant biology papers were slammed in front of him at the trial. Dr. Behe replied that the evidence meant nothing to him. When asked to propose a mechanism for the same flagellum he used to denounce evolution, he deluded the court room by stating science has limits and cannot uncover such irreducable marvels. Dr. Behe lost the trial, his book “Of Pandas and People” was pulled from publishing, and he was made a laughing stock of the local community (not only the scientific one!). ID and evolution are not black and white with grey between. ID and evolution are “supported by imagination” and “supported by reality”, respectively.

    Lastly, you asked me if I believe that life is larger than science. Science is the best evidence-based, rational, and real approach to understanding, truly understanding, life. Life is not above or below science but an experience revealed by science; you might as well have asked me if I value a book or the ability to read a book more. Science is the closest reflection to reality that humans have to understanding the natural process of the universe, of the planet, and of life on this planet. I am content with my science and my life.

  15. #15 Solerso68
    March 19, 2009

    While running web searches for Homo Heidelbergensis, I discovered a thread on belief.net which contained a lively discussion on some idiotic story about “creating” a Neanderthal from “manipulated chimp DNA”. I dont have much experience with the young earth crowd, and i dont want any more than i can help. They never fail to terrify me with their deliberate stupidity.

    Only the kind of moron that believes the earth and everything on it was created all together or days apart, would believe that “scientists” could make a Neanderthal from “chimp DNA”. Never mind that that one is a modern species of ape, and the other is an extinct species of human. OH NO, dont waste your time going there with these people! There seems to be nothing so ridiculous for such people to believe. In the world of such people, science is the new sorcery, and its “practioners” are necromancers, who can summon neandertal men from the depths of time. I fear for the future, that all such delusional types are wandering around unsupervised.

    Sorry for posting off topic, but after I read that I ran a search on “creationist crap” and this was the first page that came up. I needed to vent. thanks

  16. #16 Eugene Shubert
    August 12, 2009

    CAP,

    You have mistaken Jehovah’s Witnesses for Seventh-day-Adventists.