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Religion no excuse for promoting scientific ignorance

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The US constitution allows people to believe what they want. However, it does not require universities to promote ignorance.

Last month, the University of Kentucky in Lexington paid $125,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by astrophysicist Martin Gaskell. Gaskell claimed the university did not appoint him director of their student observatory because of his Christian faith, despite him being the best candidate.

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Whether or not Gaskell's views were inspired by his belief is irrelevant. The important question is whether, as a potential science educator, he has a firm grasp of the science and an ability to communicate it accurately. Given the evidence at hand there is reason to believe not.

In the notes for a lecture he gave at the university in 1997, Gaskell claimed, in clear disagreement with scientific facts, that evolution has "significant scientific problems" and includes "unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations". This suggests a lack of understanding of the nature of scientific theory in general, and evolution in particular.

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Teachers of science need to understand and convey concepts that are in accord with our understanding of nature, and the University of Kentucky had a responsibility to ensure this was the case. The US Constitution rightly allows people to believe what they want, even if others think they are wrong. However, it does not require universities to promote ignorance.

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TAGGED: EVOLUTION


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