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Martin Gaskell, the Darwin lobby’s astronomer target, supports Texas anti-discrimination bill


Here, Aman Batheja reports that an “Arlington lawmaker’s bill would protect questioners of evolution” (Star-Telegram, Mar. 17, 2011):

The measure from Republican state Rep. Bill Zedler would block higher education institutions from discriminating against or penalizing teachers or students based on their research into intelligent design or other theories that disagree with evolution.

The really surprising thing about this story is that it is fair and Batheja did his homework. (I am ashamed to admit what a rarity that is on these sorts of subjects these days, so he deserves a great deal of credit.)

Yes, we hear (as expected) that

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that opposes religious influence in public education, described the bill as an effort to push an ideological agenda into colleges by suggesting that intelligent design theorists are subject to persecution.”It’s kind of a broad and cynical strategy to undermine sound science at a time when our state and nation’s economy depends on science to thrive,” Miller said.

But Batheja also contacted astronomer Martin Gaskell, who had been the victim of precisely such discrimination:

In January, the University of Kentucky paid $125,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit with Martin Gaskell, an astronomy professor who claimed that he was passed over for an observatory director job in part because of statements he made that were perceived as critical of evolution.Gaskell, who recently worked in the University of Texas at Austin’s astronomy program, wrote in an e-mail Thursday that he is now an astrophysics professor at Valparaiso University in Chile. Although he doesn’t study intelligent design, he said those who do deserve to be protected.

“I think that it is important that the state of Texas stands firmly behind academic freedom,” Gaskell said.

I should say so.

More: Going after Gaskell was endorsed by no less an authority than former scientist and all-star atheist agitator Richard Dawkins.

And part of the origin of Gaskell’s unjust treatment at the University of Kentucky – for which the U paid the $125,000 settlement to avoid a trial* – was … the Darwin lobby.

* Which suggests that the problem was more than just something Gaskell “claimed”. But then there wasn’t a trial, right? I wonder, will Dawkins offer to reimburse the University of Kentucky for the bill for the fun of indulging beliefs like his in a still-free society?

Just think: One incentive to pass the bill would be to get the Darwin lobby out of the system of, for example, qualifying astronomers, thus saving universities a whack of cash lost to legal settlements in these strapped times.

To learn more about the Texas Darwin’s lobby’s remarkable views and influence on the Texas school system there go here and here.


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