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← [Update Jan 22] PZ Myers - Gaskell confirms he's a crank - Jan Settlement in the Gaskell case

[Update Jan 22] PZ Myers - Gaskell confirms he's a crank - Jan Settlement in the Gaskell case - Comments

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 1 by Neodarwinian

I am not so sure a settlement of $125,000 was the correct thing to do, except financially and legally. You would think a university has the right to set sound scientific standards as a prerequisite of employment. This may set a pseudo-scholarly precedent in that those holding certain wackoloon views may attempt to extort settlement money from universities in the future.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 05:27:19 UTC | #581862

sbrogdon's Avatar Comment 2 by sbrogdon

I don't get it. Why would a University "pay off" someone in this manner. They basically paid the guy to shut up.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 05:27:53 UTC | #581863

sbrogdon's Avatar Comment 3 by sbrogdon

Comment 1 by Neodarwinian :

I am not so sure a settlement of $125,000 was the correct thing to do, except financially and legally. You would think a university has the right to set sound scientific standards as a prerequisite of employment. This may set a pseudo-scholarly precedent in that those holding certain wackoloon views may attempt to extort settlement money from universities in the future.

I agree. To me, this just opens the doorway for creationists to cry and moan about not being able to infiltrate the scientific arena. And when they do moan, they will cite this case and expect payoff.

I see this as a bad move on the part of the university.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 05:32:10 UTC | #581865

Quine's Avatar Comment 4 by Quine

Going to court is expensive. The university may have seen it as a better bet v. the risk of a jury of local religious types. Doesn't really mean anything.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 05:39:24 UTC | #581868

sbrogdon's Avatar Comment 5 by sbrogdon

Comment 4 by Quine :

Going to court is expensive. The university may have seen it as a better bet v. the risk of a jury of local religious types. Doesn't really mean anything.

Many people will see it as an admission of guilt on the part of the university. Most people would never read the fine print...

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 05:43:17 UTC | #581870

Monkey Man's Avatar Comment 6 by Monkey Man

The system is broken, obviously. It needs to be fixed by all of us together. It's not really the job of the university to sacrifice the needs of its students and employees just to do the right thing in this case. If we collectively decide to change the system the pressure will be on all of us together and we'll enact judicial reform through better channels than fighting case by case by case. Really, I wouldn't know where to start. I just know that science can help judicial reform which is needed desperately. (Shocking article on Project Innocence)

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 06:18:54 UTC | #581879

Monkey Man's Avatar Comment 7 by Monkey Man

Comment Removed by Author

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 06:19:47 UTC | #581880

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 8 by Richard Dawkins

What a farce. It isn't as though he already had the job and they sacked him (although a good case could have been made for sacking him). He was a candidate for a job, and they preferred somebody else. It happens every time a university advertises a job. Let's hope every penny of that $125,000 is soaked up in lawyers' fees.

Richard

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 06:47:18 UTC | #581885

JuJu's Avatar Comment 9 by JuJu

Comment 9 by Richard Dawkins

Let's hope every penny of that $125,000 is soaked up in lawyers' fees.

That in its self is a farce, but I guess that's a whole other story.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 07:01:35 UTC | #581888

sbooder's Avatar Comment 10 by sbooder

Watch the landslide of idiots queuing for Science jobs at Universities, I will let Jesus guide my test-tube...Amen.

Silly UK, should have seen it through.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 07:03:05 UTC | #581889

turbozed's Avatar Comment 11 by turbozed

This is not good news. I can't imagine that this will be seen as anything other than a victory for the creationists. I guess if you can't win the scientific debate, at least you have recourse to legal extortion.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 07:26:23 UTC | #581891

mirandaceleste's Avatar Comment 12 by mirandaceleste

I can't see how this possibly qualifies as religious discrimination as it is defined in the Civil Rights Act (which was the basis of his lawsuit). And, on a related note, it's important to remember that, while public universities (such as UK) are required to comply with the CRA, religious schools and universities often are not. Here's the part of the CRA that is relevant to this case:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin

And here's the section regarding religious schools and universities:

It shall not be an unlawful employment practice for a school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning to hire and employ employees of a particular religion if such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is, in whole or in substantial part, owned, supported, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society, or if the curriculum of such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.
(Both quotes can be found here)

Extremely frustrating, to say the least.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 07:42:31 UTC | #581895

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 13 by Peter Grant

$125,000 is ridiculous, they shouldn't have paid this IDiot a single cent. They should have taken him to court and made him pay their legal costs as well, as an example to the rest.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 07:46:48 UTC | #581897

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 14 by Vorlund

It is curious that one of the most concrete of scientific facts (evolution) has to be constantly defended against attacks from the 'theory of the talking snake' brigade.

All the evidence stacks up irrevocably for evolution but hey you can't prove there ain't no Spaghedeity/teapot so you have to make way for the possibility even though the only evidence we have is a book of utter bolocks from our scientific pre-history. FFS!

I can't think of a single incident where a university had to compensate a promulgating phlogistonist/alchemist for not getting an academic post in chemistry or material science.

Mind you while univerisities and colleges teach divinity in all seriousness, there is hope even for Thetans.

It looks like its batshit for brains time in Kentucky.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 08:23:44 UTC | #581911

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 15 by Stevehill

What a farce. It isn't as though he already had the job and they sacked him (although a good case could have been made for sacking him). He was a candidate for a job, and they preferred somebody else. It happens every time a university advertises a job. Let's hope every penny of that $125,000 is soaked up in lawyers' fees.

Richard - the problem is the university were stupid. Their own emails (see previous discussion) made clear he was the leading candidate and they turned him down solely because of concerns about his Christianity.

I'm probably as strident an atheist as you are but there is no doubt in my mind he was discriminated against on grounds which have nothing to do with his qualifications or ability to do the job. It's really no different to say a Catholic school refusing to hire an atheist teacher.

Let's at least take the high ground and say all forms of discrimination on grounds of a person's beliefs, or lack of them, are wrong.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 08:41:08 UTC | #581918

Rene Boxem's Avatar Comment 16 by Rene Boxem

Cent. Let's hope every cent is soaked up in lawyers' fees... On a more serious note: he should not have strayed from his personal non-overlapping magisterium...

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 08:52:56 UTC | #581920

goatboy75's Avatar Comment 17 by goatboy75

I must say that I fail completely to see the reason for this case at all. Never mind the private emails of other staff members, it seems that this non-issue should have fallen at the first hurdle.

Consider the quote from the Courier-Journal, which does not seem to be in dispute:

Gaskell had given lectures to campus religious groups around the country in which he said that while he has no problem reconciling the Bible with the theory of evolution, he believes the theory has major flaws. And he recommended students read ... critics [of evolution] in the intelligent-design movement.

This seems to be a clear cut example of a man who is not really very interested in things like science or evidence or clear, rational thinking. And, not only is he uninterested in those things for himself, he is also prepared to encourage students to explore the weird and 'wonderful' world of pseudoscience as well.

How then can this man claim that he was not appointed "because of his religious beliefs and his expression of these beliefs"?

We have just established that he could "reconcile the Bible with evolution". It is not his religious beliefs that are the problem here, it is his scientific ones.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 09:55:18 UTC | #581934

Southpaw's Avatar Comment 18 by Southpaw

All this time I've been looking for a new job, and I've been barking up entirely the wrong tree.

All I need to do is go for an interview, during which I make it clear that my heart and soul belongs to Jumbaloomba, god of Purple Ferrets, and then sue them for large amounts of money when I fail to get the job.

Lather, rinse and repeat ad opulentia!

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 10:00:53 UTC | #581935

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 19 by AtheistEgbert

$125,000 for being an idiot. I'm in the wrong business.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 10:36:16 UTC | #581943

Sample's Avatar Comment 20 by Sample

In November 2010, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky denied the defendant's and the plaintiff's separate requests for summary judgment

Does anyone have a link to the original Summons with the Complaint, Answer and requests for summary judgments? I'd like to understand why the judge denied summary judgment in favor of the University, or I should say I know in theory why a judge should deny summary judgement but I'd like to see how the legal team presented the facts.

Thanks,

Mike

EDIT: BELAY THAT REQUEST, FOUND IT. here

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 10:49:09 UTC | #581949

Sample's Avatar Comment 21 by Sample

This may set a pseudo-scholarly precedent in that those holding certain wackoloon views may attempt to extort settlement money from universities in the future. Neodarwinian

I find that possible, but I find it unlikely that the UK will make such a costly mistake again. The precedent of the Plaintiff's motion isn't really what's troublesome. The UK was sloppy and much can be learned here. The Plaintiff could have been passed on for non-discriminatory reasons and this judgment will force, hopefully, other employers to tighten up their protocols. It's a good teaching moment, and perhaps a very economical one.

I agree that the Plaintiff was discriminated by his employer in violation of law, after reading the Opinion and Order of the Court. I don't like the Plaintiff's religious views, but I fully support the outcome, the system worked properly, and doesn't need fixing. Employers simply need to follow the law and applicants like the Plaintiff will be in the gutter drinking out of brown paper bags in short order.

Richard - the problem is the university were stupid. Stevehill

Bingo.

Mike

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 11:22:25 UTC | #581966

Sample's Avatar Comment 22 by Sample

by his employer in violation of law (comment 22)

Correction: should read, "an employer" or "prospective employer."

Mike

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 11:40:32 UTC | #581974

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 23 by Bernard Hurley

If I were paid $125,000 for every job I failed to get I wouldn't need to work!

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 11:47:58 UTC | #581977

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 24 by Stevehill

It's probably worth quoting a bit from the court Opinion, especially two emails written by Professor Toland, chair of the Search Committee (tasked with finding a Director for the observatory) who was clearly uneasy about the way things were going:-

The record contains substantial evidence that Gaskell was a leading candidate for the position until the issue of his religion (as Gaskell calls it) or his scientific position (as UK calls it) became an issue. Specifically, he points to the email written by Troland, the Search Committee Chair, to Cavagnero, the Physics and Astronomy Department Chair, just days prior to the Search Committee’s vote to recommend Knauer for the position and thereby reject Gaskell. The email, with the subject line “The Gaskell Affair,” states:

It has become clear to me that there is virtually no way Gaskell will be offered the job despite his qualifications that stand far above those of any other applicant. Other reasons will be given for this choice when we meet Tuesday. In the end, however, the real reason why we will not offer him the job is because of his religious beliefs in matters that are unrelated to astronomy or to any of the duties specified for this position. (For example, the job does not involve outreach in biology.). . . If Martin were not so superbly qualified, so breathtakingly above the other applicants in background and experience, then our decision would be much simpler. We could easily choose another applicant, and we could content ourselves with the idea that Martin’s religious beliefs played little role in our decision. However, this is not the case. As it is, no objective observer could possibly believe that we excluded Martin on any basis other than religious. . . .

Certainly, Troland, who was chair of the Search Committee, participated in the interviews of the candidates, discussions of the committee, email exchanges involving the process played an obvious and important role in the decisionmaking process. As he explained to Patty Bender, the University Equal Employment Officer who investigated the complaint of religious discrimination submitted by Professor Kovash:

I was part of the entire process that led to this decision. I know what observatory committee members said in meetings and privately, not just their e-mail comments. I know that the university (not your office!) chose an applicant with almost no relevant experience over one with immense experience in virtually every aspect of the observatory director’s duties. And I know that this choice was made (to a significant extent) on grounds that have nothing to do with the job as advertised nor with the job as envisioned by our department.

His comments, if true, are direct evidence of religious discrimination.

Turn it around: if a religious establishment rejected an atheist candidate in these circumstances, would the atheist be an "idiot" for alleging discrimination?

Laws are (or ought to be) for everyone.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 11:49:49 UTC | #581978

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 25 by Peter Grant

@Stevehill

All UK had to do was show that they already have some Christians on their staff. No employer is allowed discriminate against people just because of their religious beliefs, but if a person's particular flavour of religious belief causes them to behave in a way that makes them unsuitable for the job then one can discriminate against them for that reason.

Epistemic liberties do not serve as a basis for claims, powers or immunities in the realm of conduct, there cannot be any exceptions to this rule.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 12:21:49 UTC | #581985

mlgatheist's Avatar Comment 26 by mlgatheist

They paid him $125,000 to avoid trial. Too often cases are settled to avoid trial and so the person bringing the trial wins money, even when they had no real case. The judge should have thrown the case out.

I think that we will see where more and more "IDers" will apply for jobs that they are not well suited for and when they do not get them will start lawsuits, to make news and money for their idiotic cause.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 12:52:51 UTC | #581995

Sample's Avatar Comment 27 by Sample

Turn it around: if a religious establishment rejected an atheist candidate in these circumstances, would the atheist be an "idiot" for alleging discrimination? Stevehill

I have to think about that.

Possibly, if the atheist was looking for damages and had no means to pursue his case all the way to the Supreme Court! I doubt any lower court would rule in his favor.

In principle, I concede your point, Stevehill. I'm just not optimistic that atheists (who were explicitly excluded from protection in the 1964 CRA House debates [fortunately the Senate disagreed]), would be successful unless they made it to the SCOTUS. But that is neither here nor there. Good point.

Laws are (or ought to be) for everyone. Stevehill

Yes.

but if a person's particular flavour of religious belief causes them to behave in a way that makes them unsuitable for the job then one can discriminate against them for that reason -Peter Grant

How is that not a violation in light of the CRA prohibion on religious discrimination? Are you not, in a sense, convicting the applicant of a "pre-crime?" Afterall, he is an applicant at that point, no behavior has taken place on the job.

The point I took away from the UK decision was that there were extant valid reasons to exlude the applicant, they just chose the wrong one: religion.

Mike

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 12:53:42 UTC | #581997

TheRationalizer's Avatar Comment 28 by TheRationalizer

If his bronze age superstitions were not something which would have affected his job then there is no reason he should have been eliminated from the selection.

I don't think someone with religious beliefs should be de-selected for their belief any more than an atheist should be de-selected for their lack of belief. Equality goes both ways.

Maybe I am missing something? I can't see how religious beliefs would affect the management of an observatory.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 13:06:59 UTC | #582003

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 29 by Stevehill

@PeterGrant

All UK had to do was show that they already have some Christians on their staff

Er, no - that doesn't work. I was an employer when I was a partner at PwC. We had over 100,000 employees worldwide, no doubt of any and all imaginable faiths (and none).

I could not reject someone at interview on the grounds that "you're a Christian and we've already got plenty of those".

Not did I have a right to say "you're a creationist so you must be a bad accountant". And the same goes for astronomy (even if Gaskell is a creationist, which is by no means clear).

Britain has shamefully legislated to allow religious institutions to discriminate on religious grounds. My reading of the second quote of MirandaCeleste's post above is that the US has done much the same. I agree with you that we should all be subject to the same laws.

@mlgatheist

Too often cases are settled to avoid trial and so the person bringing the trial wins money, even when they had no real case. The judge should have thrown the case out.

How can he throw a case out before he's heard it? It is (rarely) possible to get a case struck out on the grounds that it is frivolous or completely hopeless, but in this case there was, clearly, a case to argue.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 13:10:03 UTC | #582006

Sample's Avatar Comment 30 by Sample

The elephant in the room for me is this:

There were valid reasons other than religious belief to dismiss this applicant. But were they respectable, right reasons? I'm leaning toward no, they are not.

I don't like your religious beliefs (and I don't) but I'm not going to say that, I am instead going to say you were tardy at the interview or didn't answer some mundane detail to my satisfaction, so...goodbye.

I applaud Richard Dawkins and others like him who really are ahead of their times and display 22nd century idealism. But in the 21st century, it's a game we must play and while it isn't perfect, it's the best one right now, imo.

Mike

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 13:10:07 UTC | #582008