Notebook > Science

Abraham's test

"Abraham's test" Continued...

Issue: "The plots thicken," Jan. 12, 2008

Abraham followed that explanation with an email assuring his boss that were the issue of evolution ever to arise in a research paper, he would willingly discuss implications of zebrafish behavior and anatomy according to Darwinian theory. Hahn was not satisfied: In a Nov. 17, 2004, letter asking Abraham to resign, Hahn explained that a lack of belief in evolution "is incompatible with the work" for which Woods Hole received its federal grant from the National Institutes of Health. Hahn further contended in the letter that Abraham should have known that acceptance of evolution was central to the position before he ever applied.

Hahn communicated that if Abraham could not accept the reality of evolution, he should step down from his position. When Abraham refused, Woods Hole fired him.

Such academic intolerance toward skeptics of Darwinism is nothing new. Iowa State University denied tenure to noted astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez last spring due to his support for intelligent design. The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History launched a smear campaign against biologist Richard Sternberg in 2004 after he agreed to publish an ID-supporting paper in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal.

But in both of those instances, and most others where Darwin doubters have faced opposition, the discriminating organizations trumped up performance criticisms or procedural violations in an effort to conceal their bias. This case is different in that Woods Hole has made no attempt to hide the motives for its decision. At Abraham's hearing before MCAD, Woods Hole publicly defended its right to require belief in evolution from all of its employees.

Such absence of obfuscation renders Abraham's lawsuit a pure test of the legal balance between religious liberty and employer prerogative. Churches and religious organizations have long defended their exemption from anti-discrimination laws, which ban employers from considering such factors as race, gender, or religion in hiring decisions. But Woods Hole is no religious institution. It is a government-funded research lab required to maintain a policy of equal opportunity employment.

Woods Hole public information manager Stephanie Murphy responded to WORLD's request for comment on the case with the institution's prepared statement, which contends that its actions against Abraham "were entirely lawful" and that it remains committed "to make reasonable accommodation for religious observance and practices."

In the wake of Abraham's lawsuit, Darwinists have rushed to Woods Hole's defense. P.Z. Meyers, author of the popular pro-evolution blog Pharyngula, called Abraham a "slack-jawed creationist" and wrote that his denial of evolution is akin "to showing up in a fish lab and announcing that he didn't like to get his hands wet." Meyers and other Darwinists argue that biological science is impossible without evolution.

But Abraham contends that the matter never came up in his application for the job for the same reason it never came up over the course of his Woods Hole duties: "The project had nothing to do with evolution."

"He was ready to continue doing exactly what he'd been hired to do," Gibbs told WORLD. "But he ran into this religious-like passion where you're not even a scientist if you don't believe in evolution."

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