Sunday, December 09, 2007

Evolutionary firing

So a biologist, who does not believe in evolution, was fired from a project that dealt directly with evolutionary biology. This should be a logical thing. However, now he has filed a lawsuit claiming that he was dismissed for his Christian beliefs. Details are below.
Nathaniel Abraham filed a lawsuit earlier this week in US District Court in Boston saying that the Cape Cod research center dismissed him in 2004 because of his Christian belief that the Bible presents a true account of human creation.

Abraham, who is seeking $500,000 in compensation for a violation of his civil rights, says in the suit that he lost his job as a postdoctoral researcher in a biology lab shortly after he told his superior that he did not accept evolution as scientific fact.

So can one work on something that he/she does not not believe in? Here is philosopher, Michael Ruse:

"I have a cleaning woman who is a Seventh-day Adventist and neither of us feel any tension," said Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University who has written extensively on creationism and evolutionary biology. "Yet, what is a person doing in an evolutionary lab when they don't believe in evolution . . . and didn't tell anybody they didn't believe in evolution?"

But an additional problem is that he did not want to work on the evolutionary project:

He has a master's degree in biology and a philosophy doctorate, both from St. John's University in New York, a university spokeswoman said. He was hired by Hahn's marine biology lab in March 2004 because of his expertise working with zebra fish and in toxicology and developmental biology, according to court documents. He did not tell anyone his creationist views before being hired. Hahn's lab, according to its website, studies how aquatic animals respond to chemical contaminants by examining ". . . mechanisms from a comparative/evolutionary perspective."

In October 2004, both agree, Abraham made a passing comment to Hahn saying he did not believe in evolution.

"My supervisor appeared angry and asked me what I meant," Abraham wrote in a 2005 complaint he filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. "My supervisor and I had a follow up meeting during which my supervisor informed me that if I do not believe in evolution, then he was paying me for only 7 to 10 percent of the work I was doing under the grant."

Abraham said he told Hahn he would do extra work to compensate and "was willing to discuss evolution as a theory."

But on Nov. 17, Hahn asked him to resign, pointing out in the letter that Abraham should have known of evolution's centrality to the project because it was evident from the job advertisement and grant proposal.

". . . You have indicated that you do not recognize the concept of biological evolution and you would not agree to include a full discussion of the evolutionary implications and interpretations of our research in any co-authored publications resulting from this work," Hahn wrote in the letter, which the commission provided to the Globe. "This position is incompatible with the work as proposed to NIH and with my own vision of how it should be carried out and interpreted."

Read the full story here.

3 comments:

Don said...

It's a little odd that the Wedge document doesn't mention firing lawsuits in every direction (even in its "Phase III: Cultural Confrontation & Renewal" section). The only mention of legal action seems to concern fighting school boards concerned with preserving science education.

Following the Dover defeat, I guess the new plan is to press lawsuits from every available avenue while simultaneously defending shmuck organizations like the Texas School Board. Hey- if they win those they instigate and lose those against them, the revenue from the lawsuits where they're the plaintiff will pay for the lawsuits where they're the defendant! A devious plan, to be sure...

Now to get back to that paper and include some requisite self-promotion: donescience.wordpress.com

Salman Hameed said...

It seems that their strategy is evolving (ha ha).

Phase I of the Wedge strategy does mention an emphasis on "research". So from that perspective, they have been able to get a number of PhDs in biology programs, and now the lawsuits are a result of that tension.

The geologist from University of Rhode Island, though was a different case. He is a Young-earth Creationist, so he is not directly linked with the Discovery Institute and its ilk (the Globe article lumped him in there also). However, both the RI geologist and the fired biologist are now teaching at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Now this would be a great place for a fair and balanced education.

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