I didn’t report on the Dr. Gaskell case initially, at least not at Examiner. I commented on it in a forum at Gamespot, however, noting that:
That last concern [that Dr. Gaskell, being an “evangelical”, would post evangelical material to the university website] is nothing more than patent bollocks, mind you; there is no way that the university would allow individual professors to make unvetted website content submissions. Or, at least, one would hope that is the case; the alternative would be positively amateurish from both a public relations and security policy standpoint.
Regardless: it would appear that the good Dr. Gaskell was denied the position at least in part due to his religious views. That is against the law in the United States, regardless of how any of us might feel about the man’s exact views. (Full disclosure: I don’t think much of his concordist writings, but I agree with him in accepting evolutionary theory and in pointing out that said theory still has problems here and there). And while I might wonder what business an astronomer has speaking out on matters that pertain to the biological sciences, I might also point out that an astronomer’s views on biology in no way impair his ability to do astronomy excellently.
This smacks of the same secular conceit for religious scientists and academics that Sam Harris displayed when me derided (in the Wall Street Journal and his book The Moral Landscape) Francis Collins — former head of the Human Genome Project — as being incapable of performing proper science due to his Christianity.
Today, the case came to a somewhat happy conclusion: Dr. Gaskell accepted a $125,000 settlement (modest, as these things go) and, in return, dropped the discrimination suit he had filed against the university.
Left unresolved by all of this, of course, is whether the university was in the right to bar the man from a senior academic position apparently because of his religious views, which could basically be described as “theistic evolutionist”. Indeed, reading Dr. Gaskell’s written works on theology, I don’t find his views that much different from my own. He has no issues with science or evolutionary theory, though he has observed that neither is perfect and that both have their limitations and “blind spots” (if you will). He’s not a Young Earth Creationist, and doesn’t even particularly come across as an Intelligent Design proponent; like myself, he believes that creation begins (and will end) with God, but that God effected creation through many means…including (and perhaps especially) what we might call “natural” means.
Discuss, if you will: is a university or other educational institution operating within its rights to deny a seasoned, qualified researcher a senior academic position because that person is a person of faith and admits to the belief in a creator God that effected creation gradually, over billions of years, through natural processes and means like the laws of physics and the evolutionary process?