Pharyngula

Martin Gaskell, the astronomer who wasn’t hired at the University of Kentucky (my words were chosen carefully; that really is the only ‘crime’ against him), has won an out-of-court settlement in his discrimination suit, and has gone on to give an interview which confirms my opinion of him: Kentucky is better off not having this credulous guy on the staff. He now insists that he is a supporter of evolution, a fact not in evidence in his writings about the field, and also not evident in his answers to his dodgy replies to specific questions in the interview.

But the real problem is his complete lack of any kind of scientific filter in his evaluation of the literature. This is a man more likely to cite a religious source to answer a question about biology than to refer to any of the scientific evidence; he gets his biology from Hugh Ross, Josh MacDowell, and Philip Johnson. He expresses his gullibility well in this interview; this comment made my jaw drop, at least.

What are your thoughts on the paradox between public universities needing to teach scientific fact and the fact that they receive government funding and thus are likely not allowed to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs, which may contradict scientific fact (e.g. believers in the young earth premise)? (And I mean this in the sense that this debate could come up for a biology faculty position, in which your beliefs might actually affect what you are teaching.)

Dr. Gaskell:
This HAS come up multiple times with biology positions. There is a good book covering this in great detail. It is called “Slaughter of the Dissidents” by Jerry Bergman. I’d highly recommend getting a copy to understand what goes on. The recurrent problem you’ll find if you look at the cases documented in the book is that Christian biologists get fired or demoted not because of what they actually teach or do in their research, but because of who they are.

See what I mean? He’s citing Jerry “Nine Degrees” Bergman, a liar and known nutcase. I’ve met Jerry Bergman; I’ve debated Jerry Bergman; I’ve read Slaughter of the Dissidents, which doesn’t document anything other than the paranoia and lunacy of its author.

You cannot take Bergman seriously. Bergman is the fellow who announced that there was a conspiracy among evolutionists to get the periodic table of the elements ripped down from classroom walls because it was a document that supported creationism; he claims to know a Christian chemistry teacher who was fired for daring to post Mendeleev’s work. This is the Jerry Bergman who also claimed that carbon is irreducibly complex, thereby proving that Intelligent Design creationism was true. So Gaskell actually recommends Bergman’s work? I wouldn’t hire him for that alone. That’s a kind of fundamental incompetence.

And Gaskell just digs his grave a little deeper.

This is a major problem in the life sciences. One recent major survey showed that 51% of scientists in the life sciences believe in some sort of “higher power” (which most of them identify as “God”). Half of all scientists also claim a religious affiliation. There is an enormous problem if one disqualifies one half of biologists because of religious
affiliation or beliefs!

But that makes no sense! If over half of all biologists are believers, doesn’t that fact right there say that biologists don’t get disqualified for their beliefs? I’ve been in this business for almost 30 years, and I’ve never once seen a committee meeting disrupted by bickering over differing religious beliefs — they are generally regarded as about as irrelevant on the job as what sports teams the faculty are rooting for. The only place where it could come up is if a faculty person started babbling irrational fairy stories that contradicted solid scientific thinking…and then they would be getting in trouble for bad science, not for what church they go to.

That’s what made Gaskell a poor candidate for the position at UK: that he was publicly promoting bad science.