Discovery Institute Discovers Martin Gaskell

It took a while for them to get around to it, but they’ve finally learned about the case of Martin Gaskell, about which we wrote: Creationist Astronomer Sues Univ. of Kentucky.

We’re speaking, of course, about the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

The Discoveroid blog has this new article, Astronomer Denied Job at University of Kentucky Due to Perceived Sympathy for “Creationism”. It’s written by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. Casey says, with bold font added by us:

Martin Gaskell is an astronomer who is originally from the United Kingdom. He came to the U.S. in 1975 and later received his M.S. and Ph.D. at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He’s not a creationist.

He’s not? Well, that depends on who’s defining the word. The Discoveroids are famous for denying that they are creationists, but we doubt that anyone believes them. Let’s read on:

As we’ll see below, he’s generally a theistic evolutionist, who has at times expressed minor criticisms of some aspects of evolution (he accepts common ancestry) and an openness to the possibility of intelligent design.

Gaskell has gone a bit farther than “at times” expressing “an openness to the possibility of intelligent design.” According to this article in the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, Job candidate sues UK, claiming religion cost him the post, Gaskell told his students that there were problems with the theory of evolution, and he had recommend that they learn about intelligent design.

Back to Casey’s article:

The hiring search committee at UK [the University of Kentucky] confused intelligent design (ID) with theistic evolution, and both with creationism, ending up with Gaskell filing a religious discrimination lawsuit against UK. His case shows that if academia merely thinks you’re an ID-sympathizer — regardless of whether you actually are — then you’re a “creationist” who should have no role in public outreach at the university.

ID certainly isn’t theistic evolution; the Discoveroids are ID’s promoters and they oppose theistic evolution — because it supports the theory of evolution (see Discovery Institute Battles BioLogos). But despite Casey’s endless protestations to the contrary, ID most definitely is a form of creationism. Hey — Casey may not realize it, but he makes quite an admission as he discusses Gaskell’s lecture notes:

While Gaskell does not specifically identify with the ID position, he notes that it is a position that ought to be taken seriously as a criticism of evolution, and in fact recommends the writings of Phillip Johnson and Michael Behe

Then he quotes Gaskell’s own lecture notes:

A discussion of the current controversies over evolutionary theory and how Christians view these controversies, is beyond the scope of this handout, but the now extensive literature discussing and reviewing books such as those of Phillip E. Johnson (“Darwin on Trial”) and of biochemist Michael J. Behe (“Darwin’s Black Box”) will give you some of the flavor of the diversity of opinion of Christian biologists (and geologists).

Yet Casey claims Gaskell isn’t a creationist. His long article concludes with this:

Apparently, it was Gaskell’s willingness to take ID seriously and his recognition that there are problems with evolutionary biology and the origins of life that were too much for the search committee at UK. In their view, unless Gaskell fully toed the line on materialist explanations of life, he was a “creationist,” and as will be seen in the next post, they believed he therefore did not deserve the job at UK.

We have no idea how Gaskell’s trial will go. It’s a jury trial, so almost anything can happen. But although Gaskell is very skilled at cloaking his views and hedging his opinions, it’s apparent — at least to your Curmudgeon — that there was more than enough evidence to warn the University of Kentucky that he’s a closeted creationist. It looks like they made the right decision.

No matter how Gaskell’s court case works out (he’ll either be an Expelled! martyr or an academic mole), we suspect that he’ll soon be honored with the title of Discovery Institute “fellow.” He’s earned it.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Discovery Institute Discovers Martin Gaskell

  1. Gaskell is something of a modern renaissance man. Astronomer (actively publishing), Musician, Composer, Religious Philosopher, Runner, Telescope Maker, … Dancer. Martin Gaskell Homepage

    Here’s an interesting bit:

    We’re a pretty scientific family. Barbara is a micropaleontologist by training (likes to look at little dead critters from millions of years ago). Our eldest son is a sophomore honors computer science major, our middle son is applying to universities to study geosciences, and our daughter wants to be a biological researcher (interested in critters that are still alive!).

    From the brief skim I gave his “handout” on Modern Astronomy, the Bible, and Creation, it seems he wants to reconcile his views on science and religion. He has no troubles with the contradictions between Genesis and Astronomy anyway.

    As for jobs in Astronomy, I think it’s a tough market right for them now. There might be any number of reason he didn’t get the job.

  2. You know, the nice thing about “intelligent design” creationism is that its so flexible! You can believe that the Designer ™ acted once or occasionally or every day. You can pick what is designed and what isn’t. You can even make up your own definitions that don’t have a definition like “specified complexity” (Hint: that’s complexity that’s specified) and “irreducible complexity” (Hint: that’s complexity that’s irreducible) You don’t need to measure anything.

    Also, best yet, is that you don’t have to know ANYTHING about “intelligent design” creation, just be *sympathetic* Awwwww, doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy! Yes, anyone who listens to Luskin and doesn’t guffaw a pint of milk through their nose is “ID friendly” and that’s what the DI wants, lots and lots of friends, especially the donating kind.

    Does anyone wonder what “generally a theistic evolutionist” means? Generally? Like generally I wake up at 8am, but occasionally I wake up at 9, so that means that generally I think that speciation occurs via random mutation and natural selection, except on every other Tuesday where I think Thor did it. Does Luskin actually read what he writes or does the Stupid Pill he takes every morning provide a kind of beer goggles that makes everything look pretty.

    I’ll put 100 quatloos on Gaskell (poor sod) and the creationists getting reamed in court again.

  3. The Sensuous Curmudgeon has gifted us all with a wonderful gift during this blessed Kitzmas Season!

    I too was in great anxiety over the Discoveroids having apparently not found the Gaskell lawsuit.

    But now, as you so often do, you have eased my anxiety with your little report that the Great Casey Luskin is on the case. I’m tranquil and at rest now, knowing that there is much hilarity in the coming year as we are treated to Casey’s howling and whining and sniveling. Don’t it make a body warm and fuzzy just to contemplate?

    Thank you, Your Curmudeonlyness, for this wonderful Kitzmas gift.

  4. Now Nature — at least their blog — has picked up on the case: In the heavens, science. But on earth….

  5. It will be an interesting case for the university. The position is involved in public outreach – per the observatory page on the university’s website, they have open evenings at least once a month with talks on various topics and a visit to the observatory, and presumably they have other activities not necessarily on the webpage. Having someone representing the university to the public who, per his own personal website, creates and distributes evangelical pamphlets about science and genesis, would be problematic to say the least. Even if he made no mention of ID or evolution at all, I think the UK would have chosen to extend the offer to someone else.

  6. I don’t think the discoveroids have really thought this one through. If they were, they would be screaming at Gaskell to drop the suit.

    What basis is Gaskell suing on?

    Religious discrimination. Oops. If he wins, then ID will forever be branded as religious based and therefore cannot be taught in public schools or supported by government, etc. As soon as Gaskell starts promoting ID, then he’ll be fired for first ammendment violations… and that’s if he WINS the discrimination suit.

    If he loses, well, that’s just another nail in the coffin of ID.

    Either way, they lose.

  7. Benjamin Franklin

    It is interesting that in UK’s response to Gaskell’s motion to dismiss, they rather prominently referred to Kitzmiller v Dover, stating that the Federal Court in PA found that ID was nothing more than religious creationsim.

    As was mentioned in the previous Gaskell thread, it seems that the main decision to be reached in the trial was whether or not religion was “a” notivating factor in the hiring decision.

    It appears that sufficient evidence has been produced that supports Gaskell’s claim. UK’s biggest problem is too much was documented about the wrong things during the hiring process.

    One thing that in reading the various motions and pleadings struck me, was that members of the UK staff are full of bulls**t when they say that they couldn’t determine anything about Gaskell’s religion after they had read his notes on the lecture specifically referring to Genesis, and was referred to as “evangelical” and “fundamentalist”.

  8. Benjamin Franklin says:

    It appears that sufficient evidence has been produced that supports Gaskell’s claim.

    Legally, he had enough evidence to survive the university’s motion for summary judgment. But the university has enough to survive Gaskell’s motion. So it’s going to be up to a jury to weigh the evidence. I think the university was legally correct to reject someone who was clearly a closeted creationist, but they were terribly sloppy in how they discussed the matter.

  9. ogremkv: What basis is Gaskell suing on? Religious discrimination. Oops.

    I think in the past these folks have argued that the plaintiffs believe ID to be religious, so even if it isn’t, what they are doing is a form of religious discrimination. Its sort of like this: if you refused to hire me because you thought I was Jewish (maybe my last name is Schwartz or something), it wouldn’t matter if I was actually Jewish or not, what you’re doing is a form of religious discrimination.
    Of course, pretty much every ID case falls apart for other reasons, but I think this particular flaw in their argument is not the killer you think it is.

  10. Curmudgeon: “He’s not? Well, that depends on who’s defining the word. The Discoveroids are famous for denying that they are creationists, but we doubt that anyone believes them.”

    No one who follows their antics believes them. But I bet they fool a majority of people, including a substantial % of those who would call themselves “evolutionists.” Technically, they are not “creationists” as most people would define it. But most people don’t know the only definition that makes sense, or how the DI fakes “amnesia” of it. Gaskell may believe TE or something close to it – as do many (most?) Discoveroids, but so far his allegiance appears to be with the DI, which has admitted that TEs are the “evolutionists” that they despise the most. So they either Gaskell is a TE or someone they can support. They can’t have it both ways. So they resort to word games.

  11. Gaskell may concede common descent, but in one article he raves about Hugh Ross, who explicitly denies it. Ross is an OEC who is not a fan of the DI or the “big tent” strategy, and even spoke negatively of “Expelled.” So it seems that Gaskell is looking for his own anti-science “big tent.”

  12. Frank J says:

    So it seems that Gaskell is looking for his own anti-science “big tent.”

    My guess is that Gaskell is an original. He’s read some of the less outrageous creationists, and he likes some of their thinking, but he’s not a blind follower of any one group. Although he doesn’t really accept the theory of evolution — which is a serious problem — his “go it alone” approach makes him difficult to classify. He’s probably never going to fit in with the Discoveroids — they’re just too anti-science for him. But they’ll support him, at least with their blog, as long as they can comfortably do so — that is, until he publicly rejects them.

  13. ogremkv-

    You hit the nail on the head – the DI better be careful of what it wishes for. The ID coffin is running out of room for all those nails. This is not a case of religious discrimination, but one of “discrimination” against an anti-science position. If you can’t be trusted to be an advocate for science, then the job isn’t for you. I have a feeling that more stuff is going to come out about his views, and it will dramatically weaken his case. There are a lot of skeletons in closets throughout the internet.