Astronomy professor C. Martin Gaskell is suing the University of Kentucky, accusing the school of passing him over for a plum job due to his evangelical Christian faith. Gaskell, who is now an astronomer at the University of Nebraska, missed out on running an observatory at Kentucky back in 2007. Gaskell has written publicly about the "significant scientific problems in evolutionary theory," although he says he is not a creationist. Discrimination on the basis of faith is illegal under federal law. But are there relifious beliefs that make you unfit to be an astronomer?
Some of his beliefs conflict with science: The university wasn't opposed to hiring a Christian, says PZ Myers at Science Blogs. It just didn't want to hire a "theistic evolutionist who looks favorably on Intelligent Design creationism." Someone who subscribes to "wacky ideas that are contradicted by the available evidence" might not be able to "think scientifically," which is "legitimate grounds to abstain from hiring him."
"Martin Gaskell was not expelled"
Believing in God does not make you ignorant: Sorry, says Warren S. Moore at The American Culture, but "Gaskell is not a creationist." Simply attempting to "reconcile astronomy with Biblical accounts" does not constitute a denial of evolutionary theory. Under these stipulations, noted believer Sir Isaac Newton "apparently wouldn't have been able to get a gig at UK." How "disheartening."
"Christians need not apply?"
The debate is far from settled: This case raises a host of questions, says Emma Marris at Nature, including whether it matters "if astronomers have unorthodox ideas about biology." What concern is it if biologists "believe funny things about the stars — like astrology," for example? Gaskell's "day in court" will no doubt "stimulate water cooler conversations among the cosmic set" trying to settle on some answers.
"In the heavens, science. But on earth..."