Divide between faith and science “illusion” claims Christian astronomer

Martin Gaskell sued the University of Kentucky recently. He’s of the opinion that religious discrimination happened, that he lost out on a good job as director of the student planetarium there because

of his professed faith and statements he made that were taken to be critical of evolution. The controversy fueled the long-running debate between scientists and Christians who believe the Bible refutes some scientific discoveries.

Gaskell said the two sides can find agreement. He has, as a devout Christian who uses the tools of science to study the universe.

“That’s one of the things that people like myself really want to counter, is this idea of some sort of incompatibility between religion and science,” Gaskell said.

While he asserts he bought his ticket for the evolution train ages ago, he insists there’s something wrong with the track itself, or possibly the fuel that powers it. The documents that might have cost him this job included phrases like “significant scientific problems” and “unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations.”

Gaskell said scientists shouldn’t be discouraged or rejected for holding non-mainstream views.

It’s not like he’s an alternative science oddball. Christianity is pretty mainstream.

“The question some people ask me is ‘If I were a biologist and if I did have major doubts about the theory of evolution, would that disqualify me from being a biologist?’ ” he said. “And I’d firmly say ‘No “…’ “

Other scientists tend to disagree with him. I think doubts might hobble some research but wouldn’t necessarily mean he couldn’t do the work.

Dissecting a frog in grade 7 was enough biology to last me a lifetime so I didn’t go that route when it came to picking classes later but the bits I’ve read about experiments people have done with plants and fruit flies and things.. knowing what I know (which is not much) about how breeders select pairings for ideal traits (be it horses or dogs or birds), it seems fairly likely that what hasn’t been tweaked deliberately by humankind used to be tweaked (and is still tweaked) by environments and nature and habitat and personal preference on the part of the animals themselves. Bees pick what flowers they want to hover over, after all, and cows get picky over what bull they’ll let mount. All you have to do is watch and you can see that.

You do have to wonder why biologists would have been consulted about an astronomy job, though.

In one e-mail from court records, a biology professor said he thought that Gaskell’s “public premise is to provide as much intertwining between science and religion as possible, and this will most certainly lead to misconceptions about scientific evidence.”

Scott, who taught at Kentucky in the 1970s, said the university’s scientists were likely “really, really sensitive” about the school’s image as the newly opened Creation Museum was attracting national attention to Kentucky by asserting that the earth was 6,000 years old.

A member of the search committee worried that “creationists in the state would be eager to latch on to” Gaskell’s hiring.

Gaskell would like to see even more Christians get hired in science fields eventually. He’d like to see them take more interest in the research and the pursuit of answers to the unsolved questions.

It’s a pity he seems to forget many of them have already decided that God is always the answer to those supposedly unsolved questions and probably won’t encourage their kids to think differently lest they stop being Christians altogether. So long as people keep insisting people can’t be both scientifically minded and Christian, Christians are probably going to pass on science careers. The science fields are probably missing out on some very intelligent people this way, but if these are mostly people who’d let their faith drive over letting the result of research speak for itself, then you can hardly blame current scientists for being willing to limp along without their aid. Then again, maybe at some point pride will have to take the back seat and let progress take the wheel for a while…

Things to think about on the eve of Darwin Day.

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