A federal judge in Kentucky has denied the University of Kentucky’s motion for summary judgment, paving the way for a jury trial on the merits of astronomer C. Martin Gaskell’s claim that the University engaged in religious discrimination when it did not offer him the postion of Founding Director of its observatory.

There appears to be no dispute about the quality of Gaskell’s scholarly work, nor about his record of already having done what the University of Kentucky needed done.  But—gasp!—he has lectured on “Modern Astronomy, the Bible, and Creation” in a way that some biologists regard as creationist.  Given these passages from his lecture notes, how they could do so with any intellectual integrity is beyond me:

“God made everything pretty much as it is now in six 24-hour days about 6000 years ago” - the so-called “Creationist” position (a bad name! – I, and many writers on the subject prefer the name “Young-Earth Creationist” for this position). This is the position of the Creation Research Society (CRS), the San Diego based Institute for Creation Research (ICR), and a number of other “Creation Science” organizations. I have a lot of respect for people who hold this view because they are strongly committed to the Bible, but I don’t believe it is the interpretation the Bible requires of itself, and it certainly clashes head-on with science.

“The Answers are not in yet”. This is part of my own viewpoint. I believe that God has not yet revealed everything to us in the Bible (see Deuteronomy 29:29 and I Corinthians 13:9-10,12 ) and I know that we don’t know all the answers in science yet.

The main controversy has been between people at the two extremes (young earth creationists and humanistic evolutionists). “Creationists” attack the science of “evolutionists”. I believe that this sort of attack is very bad both scientifically and theologically. The “scientific” explanations offered by “creationists” are mostly very poor science and I believe this sort of thing actually hinders some (many?) scientists becoming Christians. It is true that there are significant scientific problems in evolutionary theory (a good thing or else many biologists and geologists would be out of a job) and that these problems are bigger than is usually made out in introductory geology/biology courses, but the real problem with humanistic evolution is in the unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations. It is the latter that “creationists” should really be attacking (many books do, in fact, attack these unwarranted assumptions and extrapolations).While discussing controversies and interpretations of Genesis I should mention something that has been much debated in recent years but is not an interpretation of Genesis: what is called “Intelligent Design”. This movement, which is often erroneously confused with young-earth creationism, is just exploring the question of what evidence there is in the universe for design by an intelligence. This is really a general, non-religious question (although with obvious religious implications), and there is no opinion on the interpretation of Genesis.


The University contends in part that because the position for which he was applying involved public outreach, there was legitimate concern that he would use his affiliation with the University to promote his private religious views.  If this position stands, then woe be unto any of us who teach at public institutions, have private religious opinions that somehow find their way into our work (perhaps even for good reasons), and are identified by our institutional affiliation.  Wouldn’t that be a kind of viewpoint discrimination?

The case goes to trial in February and bears watching.

Articles by Joseph Knippenberg

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