The case of Nathaniel Abraham — a biologist who does not “believe” in evolution, got fired for it, and is now suing his erstwhile employer — is getting some play in the press (see Boston Globe and Chronicle of Higher Education). The question this raises is whether it is legitimate to fire someone who knows all that he needs to know about evolution to successfully practice his discipline but still does not believe in evolution. More generally, to be a member of the guild, do you have to believe something that you are capable of successfully applying? One of the commenters at the Chronicle of Higher Education remarked that you can’t continue to employ a mathematician who believes 1 plus 1 equals 3. But what if the mathematician says, “In fact, I believe 1 plus 1 equals 3, but I realize that most of you think it equals 2, and I know why you think that, so, to keep peace in the family, I’ll just play along”? It seems that BELIEF and COMPETENCE are two separate things — one can be competent in handling an idea without believing in it.
Compare the case of Nathaniel Abraham with the case of a high school student reported a long time ago here.