Unclear on the concept…

by alphamonkey on February 1, 2008 · 9 comments

in Uncategorized

I’ve been sitting on this for awhile, so why not go ahead and clear out the bookmark?

Nathaniel Abraham is suing the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for discriminatory termination. Okay, sounds normal so far. The civil rights violation in question? Abraham is suing because he was let go from the institute because he doesn’t believe in the theory of Evolution, which as a biologist who was hired specifically to work on a project that dealt with ‘mechanisms from a comparative/evolutionary perspective.”

One would think that raising the whole ‘I don’t believe in evolution’ thing might have been one of those ‘Maybe that’s not the job for me’ moments.


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  • David Bruce Murray

    By your logic, a bartender should be fired for mentioning he’s a teetotaler.

    It sounds like the guy was doing his job to everyone’s satisfaction until he happened to mention his personal belief about how it all came down. If it wasn’t affecting his work, that’s wrongful termination pure and simple.

    I look forward to your review of Ben Stein’s _Expelled_.

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    If the bartender refuses to serve a drink, then absolutely.

    According to the news item, one key point was Abrahm’s refusal to participate in a central point of the work’s findings:

    “. . . 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,”

  • David Bruce Murray

    Um…no. According to the story, his request to be re-assigned to a different part of the project came after he had been under constant pressure to resign from the position and his supervisor threatened to reduce his pay by something to the tune of 90%. It didn’t start with him refusing to do his job. It started with him expressing a personal opinion, followed by a series of issues that had nothing to do with his job performance up until the point he messed up by stating that opinion…

    Assuming, of course, the story is accurate, which is all I have to go on.

    If this was a closet Muslim being fired from teaching New Testament at a Christian university after mentioning that he didn’t actually believe anything in the New Testament, the response would be the opposite.

  • David Bruce Murray

    Sorry…I didn’t intend to come off sounding condescending in my last response.

    If he had refused to do his job from the beginning, I would be in full agreement with you.

    My point is that his initial confession ultimately resulted in him being fired after the issue escalated. It’s entirely possible the escalation could have been his fault…maybe he even schemed to do this from the beginning. On the other hand, it could have been the fault of his superiors painting him into a corner by encouraging him to resign and reducing his pay.

    If it was the latter, then he should have a case.

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    If you’re culling your point from another article, I’d like to see it, but otherwise we seem to be reaching two different conclusions as to how things progressed in this. Nowhere does it state Abraham was being threatened with reduced pay, just that Hahn was illustrating that Abraham’s refusal to fully complete the tasks he’d been hired to perform meant that the Institute was giving him full pay for a project he had no intention of completing as he was tasked with.

    I think at the heart this comes down to my thought that, as an individual who does not believe in Evolutions (which is boggling in itself for a biologist), he shouldn’t have even applied for a job that specifically stated that a portion of the work would require evolutionary discussion.

    In my mind, that’s akin to a Christian Scientist who takes a job as a pharmacist, and then refuses to give out medication due to his belief.

  • Kevin

    “In my mind, that’s akin to a Christian Scientist who takes a job as a pharmacist, and then refuses to give out medication due to his belief.”

  • Kevin

    Let the blood-letting commence!

    (the comment submitter wen wonky on me for some reason)

  • David Bruce Murray

    “My supervisor and I had a follow up meeting during which my supervisor informed me that if I do not believe in evolution, then he was paying me for only 7 to 10 percent of the work I was doing under the grant.”

    That doesn’t illustrate that he was only doing 10 percent of the work he was hired to do. This is from Abraham’s version of what the supervisor said. It would be disingenuous of Abraham to implicate himself in his written complaint. It’s a simple “if/then” statement. He claims his supervisor said, in essence, “If you don’t believe in evolution, then your pay is going to be adjusted accordingly.”

    Regarding your example of the Christian Scientist accepting a job and then refusing to do it, I agree with you.

    The difference in this case is that it’s a research project. Scientists are supposed to be more interested in the truth than their personal convictions. Abraham shouldn’t have allowed his personal opinion of evolution to get in the way of his research, but he shouldn’t have been fired from a research project simply for questioning some of the basic assumptions of the project either.

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    I still don’t get that he was being threatened with an actual pay reduction. That’s a turn of phrase I myself have used when trying to illustrate work load vs. pay with employees, so mayhap I’m reading my own experience into that, but it really does seem to me that it was said as a kind of ‘hey, if you don’t believe in evolution (and won’t fufill the duties you were hired to complete), then you’re getting paid 100% pay for only 10% of the work, while other researchers are going to have to do your work for you’.

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