I am so amused. A creationist lost his job at Woods Hole, and he was a zebrafish developmental biologist. Hey, I know a little bit about that!
The creationist, Nathaniel Abraham, briefly held a post-doctoral position under Mark Hahn at Woods Hole. Here’s the creationist’s side:
Nathaniel Abraham filed a lawsuit earlier this week in US District Court in Boston saying that the Cape Cod research center dismissed him in 2004 because of his Christian belief that the Bible presents a true account of human creation.
Abraham, who is seeking $500,000 in compensation for a violation of his civil rights, says in the suit that he lost his job as a postdoctoral researcher in a biology lab shortly after he told his superior that he did not accept evolution as scientific fact.
And here’s the scientist’s side:
But on Nov. 17, Hahn asked him to resign, pointing out in the letter that Abraham should have known of evolution’s centrality to the project because it was evident from the job advertisement and grant proposal.
“. . . You have indicated that you do not recognize the concept of biological evolution and you would not agree to include a full discussion of the evolutionary implications and interpretations of our research in any co-authored publications resulting from this work,” Hahn wrote in the letter, which the commission provided to the Globe. “This position is incompatible with the work as proposed to NIH and with my own vision of how it should be carried out and interpreted.”
The commission [the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination] dismissed his complaint earlier this year. The commission said Abraham was terminated because his request not to work on evolutionary aspects of the project would be challenging for Woods Hole because the research was based on evolutionary theories.
I would have fired the guy, too. Hahn studies a particular protein family in multiple species, not just zebrafish; he publishes papers with titles like “Unexpected diversity of aryl hydrocarbon receptors in non-mammalian vertebrates: insights from comparative genomics.” He does modern developmental biology, which is so tightly wrapped up in evolutionary theory they’re becoming indistinguishable. How do you go off to do a post-doc in a lab without first reading up on the work, getting excited about it all, and planning to invest yourself in it? Abraham had to have read and understood the prior work of the lab, or he shouldn’t have taken the job on. Announcing that he didn’t like evolution is comparable to showing up in a fish lab and announcing that he didn’t like to get his hands wet. It’s like taking a job as a stockbroker and denouncing capitalism and refusing to make a profit. It’s like wanting to work as a carpenter but declaring a deep-seated fear of hammers and saws.
If he thinks he can get a half-mil for wrongful termination on this, I’m going to march down to the local fundie church and demand a job as youth pastor, which I will prosecute by explaining the absurdity of god-belief to the little kids in Sunday School, and then I’ll sue when they fire me. This isn’t simply firing someone for incidental, private beliefs—it’s firing him for practices that actually conflict with the stated purpose of the job.
Abraham is now working at Liberty University, where all creationist poseurs who claim to be scientists go to die.
One other thing I have to point out about this article. It’s written by Beth Daley of the Boston Globe, and she gets it mostly right. I noticed these subtle little snippets that represent the scientific position; they are from perfect, but they at least get a simple message to the reader.
The battle between science and creationism has reached the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution…
We have to emphasize that point more. The creationists, both the outspoken biblical kind and the devious intelligent design kind, are eager to claim the mantle of science for their ideology. They don’t get to have it. This really is a battle between science and religious mythology.
Evolution is a fundamental tenet of biology that species emerge because of genetic changes to organisms that, over time, favor their survival.
Yes, evolution is fundamental to biology. You can’t do major areas of biological science without evolution; even those areas where you can grind away at a narrow problem without much consideration of theory are built on a foundation of evolutionary biology. I have to nitpick a little, though: “tenet” is not a particularly good word to use for a scientific theory (but scientists do use it in a casual way, so I can’t be too cranky about it), and speciation is almost certainly not a product of selection, as the passage implies, but of other, literally non-Darwinian processes. But Ms Daley’s heart is in the right place, so I’ll let that slide for now.