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C. Martin Gaskell, a Ph.D astronomer has a keen interest in music. But reports of his keen interest in disproving evolution were grossly exaggerated.  (Source: In Color: Nebraska)
Apparently the published information on Dr. Gaskell's viewpoints is very misleading

Background:

Whenever we do a story -- particularly a controversial one -- we always try to get as many voices and perspectives as possible.  Yesterday we wrote on the story of C. Martin Gaskell, a Ph.D astronomer who sued after being passed over for promotion and accused of being a creationist.  He had just secured an out-of-court victory -- a small settlement from the University of Kentucky, the university that passed him over.

A blog from the organization responsible for the prestigious peer reviewed journal Nature attempts to sum up the story, writing:

Should the University of Kentucky have hired a qualified astronomer to lead their new observatory, despite his strong religious views and his public doubts about evolution? Or was their decision to pass him over discrimination?

Many other publications published similar accounts.  There was only one problem -- Dr. Gaskell is a firm believer in evolution and to say he has "public doubts" about it, is stretching reality.  For our readers who were hoping him to be the great scientific savior for creationists, sorry to disappoint -- Dr. Gaskell is a religious man, but he doesn't abandon logic.

We were fortunate enough to interview him about his beliefs and the experience he went through, being accused of believing in intelligent design or creationism by the University of Kentucky staff, who clearly misunderstood his viewpoint.

The Interview:

Jason Mick, Senior News Editor, DailyTech:
When I first wrote my article, I was primarily referencing the settlement document, the university press release, and some additional items referenced by the Nature article on your lawsuit's outcome. All of these made it sound like your viewpoint was creationism (or left ambiguity to what exactly it was).

C. Martin Gaskell, Ph.D, University of Texas Astronomy Department:
I'm afraid that the University of Kentucky has been putting out a number of false or misleading things! I complained to their spokesman about this but didn't get any response.
 
The ACLJ press release is at: http://www.aclj.org/News/Read.aspx?ID=4074" rel="nofollow

[Note: American Center for Law and Justice is a legal advocacy similar to the ACLU, which supported Dr. Gaskell in his case.]

JM@DT
You believe in an old earth (in line with current scientific consensus) right?

Dr. Gaskell:
Yes. Very much so.

JM@DT:
How do you believe life originated?

Dr. Gaskell:
I don't work in this area and those who do have wildly divergent opinions.

JM@DT:
From your perspective, could life have originated from abiogenesis, [perhaps by divine intervention]?

Dr. Gaskell:
That's a very reasonable description, but some people who work in the area thing that that is difficult so they postulate that life came from space.

[Note: Abiogenesis is the theory that life originated on earth from naturally occurring non-living building blocks, such as amino acids and ribonucleic acids.]

JM@DT:
When you say that there are problems with evolutionary theory, but that creationists' theories are poorly formed, did you mean that you think the current consensus on evolution is wrong?

Dr. Gaskell:
No.

[Note: I'm referring to a quote from the professor included in our prior piece, linked above, pointing out that evolutionary theory has "significant" unanswered issues.]

JM@DT
Or [did you mean] merely that certain aspects of it (e.g. natural selection v. cataclysmic events/random drift) aren't fully understood at this time, due to lack of direct observation?

Dr. Gaskell:
Right. The debate over neutral evolution, for example, something that is has been a topic of heated in the field. The wide range of views on the origin of life is another example.

JM@DT
What are your thoughts on the paradox between public universities needing to teach scientific fact and the fact that they receive government funding and thus are likely not allowed to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs, which may contradict scientific fact (e.g. believers in the young earth premise)? (And I mean this in the sense that this debate could come up for a biology faculty position, in which your beliefs might actually affect what you are teaching.)

Dr. Gaskell:
This HAS come up multiple times with biology positions. There is a good book covering this in great detail. It is called "Slaughter of the Dissidents" by Jerry Bergman. I'd highly recommend getting a copy to understand what goes on. The recurrent problem you'll find if you look at the cases documented in the book is that Christian biologists get fired or demoted not because of what they actually teach or do in their research, but because of who they are.

This is a major problem in the life sciences. One recent major survey showed that 51% of scientists in the life sciences believe in some sort of "higher power" (which most of them identify as "God"). Half of all scientists also claim a religious affiliation. There is an enormous problem if one disqualifies one half of biologists because of religious
affiliation or beliefs!

My brother-in-law, Richard Norris, is a famous geologist at UCSD. He is not a Christian. He takes his evolution class to the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego. All hell would break loose if I did that! Interestingly the most famous astronomer at the University of Kentucky, Gary Ferland, has invited a young-earth creationist to give a lecture to his introductory astronomy class. I would never dare do that (I wouldn't want to anyhow).

Teachers are not required to personally believe what they teach. Bergman makes a very good point that probably the majority of religious studies courses at state universities are taught by non-believers. Nobody in the administration at such universities thinks there is anything wrong with a non-Christian teaching New Testament studies yet they would object to a highly-qualified biologist teaching a biology class because he or she is a Christian!

JM@DT
(Unlike your case in which your evolutionary views are outside your field of work.)

Dr. Gaskell:
The University of Kentucky made various mistakes. One was in not troubling to find out what my actual views were, and then the second mistake was using their perceived views, that even if true, were unrelated to the job in hand, and taking them into account as a factor as a factor in the hiring decision.

....

Well, we're glad we DID take the time to find out what Dr. Gaskell's actual views are.  After all, they are more interesting than the garbled version that's floating around on many outlets.

We would like to thank Dr. Gaskell for taking the time to share his views with our readers and answer our questions.


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By deputc26 on 1/21/2011 8:03:21 PM , Rating: 5
"Dr. Gaskell is a religious man, but he doesn't abandon logic."

Is this supposed to be an inference that it is standard for religious people to abandon logic?

If so I don't think it belongs on Daily Tech any more than the statement "Jason Mick is an atheist, but he doesn't shoot people in Tucson"

Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, if so I'll apologize.




By Jcfili on 1/21/2011 8:15:55 PM , Rating: 2
I'm the kind of person that is open to ideas, being catholic I grew up with the idea that God created the world in 7 days.. as the bible stated. Later on I learned that this 7 days could be a metaphor of 7 stages and not 7 (24hours) days. I also believe that the scientific explanation of the creation of the world might have some kind of correlation with what the bible or any sacred book says.

There are many people that believe on what they read (literally) and even if you put proof in front of them or try to explain something to them they close their eyes and won't listen anything or give chance to explanation.

That's what he means with "doesn't abandon logic"


By retrospooty on 1/24/2011 7:11:19 AM , Rating: 1
"being catholic I grew up with the idea that God created the world in 7 days.. as the bible stated. Later on I learned that this 7 days could be a metaphor of 7 stages and not 7 (24hours) days."

Bible: The earth was created in 6 days (not 7)
Church: so it is so
Science: We have disproven everythng the bible says about creation with thousands of proof points
Church: (backtracking) well that not what it "meant". It "meant" stages

You do have to admire the church and the faithful for grasping at straws desperately trying to hold on to some sort of relevance in the face of all logic.


By bigboxes on 1/21/2011 8:28:36 PM , Rating: 5
He was being a little condescending there. No need for that passage to make his overall point. It's a visable bias in the article. Nonetheless, I appreciate the follow up Jason.


By JasonMick (blog) on 1/21/2011 8:34:10 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
"Dr. Gaskell is a religious man, but he doesn't abandon logic."

Is this supposed to be an inference that it is standard for religious people to abandon logic?


No, absolutely not...

Most religious people who work in the field of science are quiet logical -- Mr. Gaskell is an outstanding example.

That, said those who believe in a young Earth hypothesis have clearly abandoned scientific logic. Almost any scientist would agree with that statement. Dr. Gaskell even practically said as much if you read his critique on creationist "theory" in the previous article I link to.

It's not meant as an afront to say that someone has abandoned logic, just a statement of fact.


By aegisofrime on 1/21/2011 9:23:26 PM , Rating: 2
He seems very overly cautious,don't you think? He doesn't express his views when you asked him about them, either stating a flat yes or no without elaboration, or at best quoting "others", like "Others believe so and so".

I guess it's understandable, given what he has been through.


By zmatt on 1/22/2011 1:17:11 AM , Rating: 5
Actually the generalized response is what you would expect form a scientist. If you read interviews with scientists they will often say things like "some think" or "there is evidence to support" etc. This goes back to one of the pillars of science regarding an ever evolving base of knowledge and paradigms.


By Targon on 1/23/2011 7:40:37 AM , Rating: 3
Many people are very sensitive if their religious views are directly challenged, so it makes sense to avoid that. The basic idea that he was trying to convey is that belief in evolution, and science does not preclude a belief in God.


By mcnabney on 1/23/2011 2:04:20 PM , Rating: 1
What you are talking about is Cognitive Disonance.

It is characterized by holding two opposing viewpoints at the same time.


By Solandri on 1/22/2011 2:52:06 PM , Rating: 2
Note: I don't believe in the young Earth hypothesis.
quote:
That, said those who believe in a young Earth hypothesis have clearly abandoned scientific logic.

While that statement is technically correct, it's the basis of another flawed assumption - that scientific logic can explain everything.

For the sake of argument, say the universe was a computer program running a simulation. Instead of running the simulation from t=0 with the big bang, say the programmer started it with an initial state taken from a snapshot of a previous run at t=13 billion years (or if you prefer, a hand-crafted snapshot made to appear as if t=13 billion years). Within the confines of the program, scientific logic would say the universe was 13 billion years old, while in reality it may have only been running a few seconds.

In other words, "scientific logic" is a merely a subset of all logic - the subset which can be proven true/false through measurements confined to the observable universe. One can leave the realm of scientific logic without abandoning logic (which is not saying that everyone who abandons scientific logic is being logical).

It's like the analogy physicists love of the man who lost his house keys while walking home drunk at night. He looks for the keys only under the streetlamps because that's where the light is best. Science is that light, and is great for showing us what it illuminates. But just because it does such a good job at showing us what it illuminates, does not mean one can assume that nothing exists in the regions it can't illuminate. To do so would be a logical error.


By foolsgambit11 on 1/23/2011 3:08:56 AM , Rating: 2
To argue that there are things (real, actual, factual things) which scientific logic cannot explain is equally a flawed assumption. It hasn't been proven one way or the other whether the scientific method can explain everything. It is certainly true that, at the moment, the light of science doesn't fully illuminate all the musty corners of this amazing universe (to wax poetic for one brief moment), but that is not proof that it hasn't the power to do so. It is, at best, an undecided proposition. It may even have the power to reach into some sort of meta-universe, if such a thing exists.

Additionally, your arguments, while they are valid philosophical arguments, are not constructive philosophical arguments. You essentially argue that we cannot trust what we observe to be true, but you do not give us a substitute for the premise of observation. You, tantalizingly, claim that you have some knowledge of a more powerful, more complete set of logic, but you give no clue as to what that knowledge might be or where it comes from.

The facts (in a pragmatic, unscientific and unphilosophical sense) are that science has a demonstrated track record of success - unlike any other system, it is able to make predictions based on a logical chain, and then see that prediction come to fruition, and the subset of the universe over which it claims the power of prediction is constantly expanding, and with every expansion, the streetlights grow brighter and more numerous, pushing out the darkness that lives in the unenlightened mind.


By PaterPelligrino on 1/24/2011 10:15:49 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
For the sake of argument, say the universe was a computer program running a simulation. Instead of running the simulation from t=0 with the big bang, say the programmer started it with an initial state taken from a snapshot of a previous run at t=13 billion years (or if you prefer, a hand-crafted snapshot made to appear as if t=13 billion years). Within the confines of the program, scientific logic would say the universe was 13 billion years old, while in reality it may have only been running a few seconds. etc....

Tho perhaps speculatively interesting, and like many similar scenarios, not disprovable, the inevitable result of such a fruitless way of thinking is that nothing can ever be known about anything. It is no different than saying that all of reality is just a dream. It may be a dream, but you still don't step in front of speeding cars. .

In the 18th century, Western philosophy was preoccupied with the origin of human knowledge. On one hand, you had the Empiricists who claimed that all knowledge derived from the senses; on the other side, there were the Rationalists who thought knowledge was innate to the human mind. Basically this was just the modern working out of the conflict between Plato's and Aristotle's theories of knowledge. (Kant resolved the dispute by demonstrating that "Stop, you're both right")

At the time, there was an Irish Bishop - Bishop Berkeley - who claimed that we are all just elements in God's dream. Dr Johnson, who attended one of Berkeley's lectures, remarked that his theory had the great advantage of being unfalsifiable. The same is true of your computer program thing, and religion for that matter.
quote:
While that statement is technically correct, it's the basis of another flawed assumption - that scientific logic can explain everything.

Tho it is true that science can't explain everything, the more relevant observation here is that religion can't explain anything. In fact, religion does not produce knowledge, it produces nothing stronger than opinion. Religious dogma has no predictive force whatsoever, and while some of it's tenants are not presently disprovable, neither are they provable; i.e., they are both unfalsifiable and unverifiable, which means they are without practical utility other than that of satisfying the emotional need to give life some kind of human sense.

It is for this reason that there can exist so many mutually-contradictory religions - there is no way to say which, if any, are correct. I could invent any number of new religions that would be just as valid as Christianity or Islam or whatever the flavor of the month is. It is precisely because religious dogma has no logical force that science ignores it.

Science may be a dim light in a large dark room, but it's the only light we possess, and it has proven itself in the power it has given us to regulate nature in predictable ways. Religion, on the other hand, is pure narrative; there is no logical difference between the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and Alice in Wonderland - other than the fact that Lewis Carrol never claimed that his story was factual.

Joseph Smith claimed that he was visited by an angel who brought him the Book of Mormon written on golden tablets that were subsequently lost. If you're a Mormon, that makes sense, if you're a Hindu, it's the Bhagavad Gita that supplies a narrative structure to your existence, for the Biblical Literalist its the OT.

The vast majority of the people who reject evolution or the Big Bang do so not because they think the science flawed, they think the science flawed because it contradicts the emotionally paramount Biblical narrative. It is no coincidence that the only science these people refuse to accept is that which threatens their faith .


By ltgrunt on 1/24/2011 10:16:46 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
For the sake of argument, say the universe was a computer program running a simulation. Instead of running the simulation from t=0 with the big bang, say the programmer started it with an initial state taken from a snapshot of a previous run at t=13 billion years (or if you prefer, a hand-crafted snapshot made to appear as if t=13 billion years). Within the confines of the program, scientific logic would say the universe was 13 billion years old, while in reality it may have only been running a few seconds.


I've seen this argument before, but without the computer program analogy. Essentially, the argument goes that we can't trust what scientific observation and measurement tell us about the age and development of the world around us. Supposedly, even when things like Carbon dating tell us that the world is much older than Young Earth zealots claim, those findings are inaccurate because in their view, God created the world to look old, but it isn't really.

The inherent problem with this argument is that God then becomes a liar who deceives his creations in a twisted game specifically designed to make them antagonize each other in an endless debate over science versus faith. Religion tends to lose its moral authority when you start to portray the perfect being who created all that is and whose existence and behavior defines "good" as a cruel sociopath who likes to toy with his creations.

Also, in your computer program analogy, where is the coding and cached data for all program behavior for t = 0Y to t = 13BY?


By tbcpp on 1/24/2011 4:51:18 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The inherent problem with this argument is that God then becomes a liar who deceives his creations in a twisted game specifically designed to make them antagonize each other in an endless debate over science versus faith.


It does not make God a liar. To be a liar He would have specifically have to have said "the earth is 13 bil years old". He didn't say that. In fact he specifically stated that the earth is 10k-ish years old. And He also stated that although man was created to look 20-30 ish, he was really only a few moments old.

I don't think you will find anyone who believes that the world was created without some sort of implied age.

So you can believe what you wish about creation/evolution. But to call God a liar because he didn't make a "full disclosure" isn't doing justice to the argument.

Your 2nd fallacy is that God actually would actually care what people would think about him. If God really is powerful enough to create an entire world, do you think he would care if half his creation didn't believe in Him? Why would he lower Himself to even justify His existence to mortals? Where would the logic be in that?

If I created a sentient group of robots, and half of them suddenly decided that I didn't exist. I would probably be just as likely to destroy them with a snap of my fingers as I would to walk up to them and say "hey! I'm your creator, just FYI, I exist".


By Skywalker123 on 1/25/2011 3:13:29 AM , Rating: 2
God doesn't care if you don't believe in Him? According to Christians he will kill you and set you on fire if you don't.


By ltgrunt on 1/25/2011 10:10:08 AM , Rating: 1
Claiming that the Earth is very young, then artificially making it look much, much older is inherently deceptive. Also, you are making two untenable assumptions - the first being that everything in the Bible accurately represents statements made by God, and the second being that the claims presented in the Bible are true.

quote:
I don't think you will find anyone who believes that the world was created without some sort of implied age.


Plenty of people don't believe that the world was created with any sort of implied age. Specifically, everyone who understands how the Earth was formed billions of years ago. But then we're getting back into understanding of scientific explanations of natural occurrences as opposed to belief in magical rationalizations. The inherent difference that many others have already pointed out being that magic demands unquestioning belief, scientific understanding requires skepticism and constant reevaluation.

As far as my second supposed fallacy, if God didn't care, why would we have any religion at all? Why supposedly send his son to be sacrificed on our behalf? The Biblical narrative makes it quite clear that he cares a great deal. Your "why would he lower himself to even justify his existence to mortals" is an actual logical fallacy designed to draw attention away from the unfalsifiable nature of religion.


By GTVic on 1/22/2011 7:31:38 PM , Rating: 2
You don't appear to have learned from your mistakes.

You correct one blunder but still go on to lump people into your preconceived groups (religious people, creationists, religious people who work in the field of science). Not to mention that apparently you are now the "decider" of who is logical and who is not.

There are in fact many people (scientists included) who believe that the universe is created and don't see a conflict with that belief and man's endeavour to achieve a scientific understanding of how the universe works. To these people, creation and science are separate issues.

I don't know what to think of this article, it is a mess of opinion and fact, logic and illogic, and numerous spelling mistakes (their/there, neutral/natural, quite/quiet etc.).


By MastermindX on 1/22/2011 12:26:48 PM , Rating: 2
Faith
Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

By definition...


By Solandri on 1/22/2011 3:17:05 PM , Rating: 4
You're making the logical error of assuming that there are only two logical conclusions - true or false. In reality, there are three - true, false, and undefined/cannot be determined. The Liar ("This statement is false") is the classic logical example of the third type.

Science only concerns itself with the subset of logic which deals with things that are provably true or false. It cannot deal with the third type and does not purport to. And in fact, those who believe that everything can be proven by science are merely demonstrating faith (not proof) that nothing consequential of the third type exists.


By AssBall on 1/23/2011 2:40:33 AM , Rating: 2
You're a bit off, there. Scientific "proof" is under constant and rigorous scrutiny by scientists themselves.

If you want to split hairs like that, the statement-

Scientists have "faith" in the scientific method.

-would be more accurate.


By zixin on 1/24/2011 1:11:20 PM , Rating: 2
What else do you call believing in something that has absolutely no evidence to support it but illogical.


"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard














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