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← Should employers be blind to private beliefs?

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by Stephen of Wimbledon

My response will probably display my ignorance of academia but ... hey ho.

It seems to me that those of us without faith often complain that the religious expect special treatment without having earned it. However, in this instance, a religious person is saying he has simply not been treated equally.

I only mention the specific case to note: We should be careful to construct a response that does not mirror the religious folk's claim to exceptionalism.

Which begs the question: Is a scientific post - or a post that requires scientific literacy (like the Professor's doctor example) - different enough to require the employer to filter out those who may hold private beliefs that contradict the scientific consensus, even though they have demonstrated that their beliefs have no discernible effect on their performance?

Put this way the answer seems to suggest itself: No, of course not. Because it will make no technical difference to the quantity or quality of work they produce. To refuse this post to a religious believer would simply be bigoted.

However the above also begs another question which, while it looks similar, is profoundly different: Is an academic post - like a Science Professor's chair - different enough to require the employer to filter out those who may hold private beliefs that contradict the scientific consensus, even though they have demonstrated that their beliefs have no discernible effect on their teaching performance?

This case is not so easy. A Professor must be a mentor, researcher, moderator and creative thinker. Does a candidate who reveals ties to a religious dogma suggest that they are likely to be strong in these areas. This is obviously a rhetorical question - such a candidate would ring alarm bells for many reasons:

  • How can someone who daily lives with a dichotomy of truths ever be a good mentor?

  • How can someone who lives a lie ever command the respect of students and colleagues?

  • Even if the candidate has a history of research, how can we be sure that they will not (once in post) revert to the religious norm and rest on their laurels?

  • Can we be sure that the candidate will not renounce science and be 'born again' - embarrassing the institution and severely damaging its reputation?

  • How can we ever trust the judgement of such a person?

  • The above list is just a taste of something that is endless. It is not established science that is the most important element here - clearly religious people can be good administrators, technicians and lecturers. Millions of them are every day - many in a scientific context.

    The really important parts are the subtle side to teaching and research - engaging young minds in a long term love of learning - and the advantage of an open mind. Open minds produce the best research, the most creative ideas, progress. There is plenty of creativity in scripture, but does the resulting dogma drive new ideas.

    All of which is not very practical. All jobs are awarded according to highly subjective criteria. The trick is to not let the losing candidates know. The Kentucky e-mail made the huge mistake of spelling this out, besides also laying the foundation for charges of discrimination. Way to go.

    Tue, 25 Jan 2011 01:52:41 UTC | #583772