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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


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:" rel="nofollow

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

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

Dr. Gaskell:
Yes. Very much so.

How do you believe life originated?

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

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.]

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:

[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.]

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.

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!

(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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Going a little off-topic.....
By DKantUno on 1/22/2011 1:56:16 AM , Rating: 1
..."they postulate that life came from space"

That idea is such a cop-out; you can't imagine random chemicals joining together over millions of years to eventually generate self-contained, self-sustaining units, so you transfer the blame to another planet or solar system. Fine, but ultimately life _had_ to come from some place, and some place consistent with the laws of physics. That is, once again, from random chemicals joining together over millions of years (or maybe in a lightning zap or at the edge of a black hole).

And I also don't get why creationists are SO insecure about their beliefs? The 7-day genesis thing, or any genesis theory from any religion is just a story told by people for thousands of years. When the simplest of facts get twisted in transference from one person to another, just think what could have happened over the process of a thousand years?! Why do they take their texts SO seriously? What is important is whether or not they believe in the notion of an infinite power/God, and if they really DO believe, I feel it ought to be disconnected from all other facts. Because, theoretically, God can do anything. So why don't they just believe that an infinite power could have even _designed_ the big bang to lead to life on earth! (Hey you wanted a god-centric theory, I'm giving you one) And since we don't know anything about what happened "before" the Big Bang, (or "outside" of it? I don't know) you can populate that area with whatever ideas comfort you. If they believe so strongly in God, why do they look for God, and try to find physical evidence of a divine existence. There's one awesome Hindu saying (coming from sort-of-an-ex-Hindu, or I prefer the term non-Hindu) that the one that hides himself best is God. Is that such a difficult notion to wrap your head around?

My problem is not with anybody's faith, but most people's complete inconsistency with it. I've known very VERY religious people and have a huge amount of respect for those who really DO believe. What I don't like and only have a little disdain and lots of pity for is those that want it to be PROVEN that their belief is right! And they just don't see the contradiction between belief (which, by religious standards, must be pure and unwavering) and fact (which can instantly displace any notions or ideas you live with).


RE: Going a little off-topic.....
By Zoridon on 1/22/11, Rating: -1
RE: Going a little off-topic.....
By jamesjwb on 1/22/2011 10:38:40 AM , Rating: 3
I'm sure the question was read more as how life may have started on Earth , and if so it's not really a cop out to suggest life on Earth may have originated from space.

To assume his given answer was that life in general just came "from outer space" doesn't even make sense or have any logic attached to it, so I don't see the point in entertaining it as anything but a life on Earth question/answer.

No cop out to me.

RE: Going a little off-topic.....
By mircea on 1/22/2011 10:32:30 AM , Rating: 2
Because, theoretically, God can do anything. So why don't they [creationists] just believe that an infinite power could have even _designed_ the big bang to lead to life on earth! (Hey you wanted a god-centric theory, I'm giving you one)

Well I think most believers in God just as most believers in evolution (and it is mostly belief in a theory and logically based assumptions on the fossil record and other observations made in nature in all different fields of science) just state what they have learned from reading, listening to teachers, mentors, TV shows, etc without truly understanding it.

But I as a believer in God cannot accept that evolution can be the origin of man. And am against any "evolutionary creationist" based on simple logic.
While I can't claim against/for the way God created earth. And could even go as far that God could have used evolution to the creation of everything but man.

See I believe that man at death will leave this physical body and go in one of the two places that are prepared for all. And all religious believers do.
My question then is:
How can anyone claim that trough evolution we got form a physical chemical reaction to a consciousness being that can move out of physical dimension and go into eternity.

So then if my logic doesn't let me accept that man came from apes or lower the evolution chain, then accepting that God created everything in a different way than evolution is more easily as accepting that evolution was His way up until but excepting man, especially taking in the account all other problems evolution theory has to find a way past.

See, now that I know man can't be here by evolution, knowing all the detail of how God created everything else isn't that important to me and my faith as is where I am going.

RE: Going a little off-topic.....
By ThePooBurner on 1/22/2011 12:53:37 PM , Rating: 2
Because, theoretically, God can do anything. So why don't they just believe that an infinite power could have even _designed_ the big bang to lead to life on earth! (Hey you wanted a god-centric theory, I'm giving you one)

Wow. You do know that the big bang theory was invented by a catholic priest, right? As a suggestion of how God could have created everything, right? You science types might want to RTFM about your own science before you go spouting crap like this. Feel free to keep working on proving the big bang. All it does is further the work of showing how God created the universe, as per the origin of the theory.

RE: Going a little off-topic.....
By AssBall on 1/23/2011 3:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
Feel free to keep working on proving the big bang.

We will. Feel free to keep working on proving God.

RE: Going a little off-topic.....
By ThePooBurner on 1/24/2011 5:34:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think you totally missed the point.

RE: Going a little off-topic.....
By AssBall on 1/24/2011 8:51:18 PM , Rating: 1
Oh, did you have a point in your anti-science rant? Sorry I missed it, Poo Burner.

RE: Going a little off-topic.....
By nafhan on 1/24/2011 9:51:36 AM , Rating: 2
I think the "life started in space" argument is a little less ridiculous than you seem to think. The thoughts on it I've seen are generally something along the lines of: comets/space dust/other celestial bodies can and do contain complex organic chemicals. A comet or something may have crashed into the earth providing the building blocks and possibly energy for yet more complex organic molecules to form. The more reasonable theories generally don't contain actual "life" being carried to earth on a meteor, etc.

As to why creationists are so insecure/easily upset by someone questioning their belief system: they're people and those topics are important to them. That's all it takes. I'm sure you've seen someone get spitting mad over an insult to their favorite football team....

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