By Hilary White

WOODS HOLE, Massachusetts, December 10, 2007 ( – A Christian post-doctoral biology researcher is suing Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution saying he was fired after he told his employer he did not believe that the theory of evolution was a scientific fact. 

Dr. Nathaniel Abraham, who was a postdoctoral researcher at the prestigious Cape Cod research institute, has launched the suit in US District Court in Boston saying he was fired in 2004 for his religious beliefs. Abraham is seeking US $500,000 compensation.

Dr. Abraham is being represented by the Christian Law Association (CLA) of Seminole, Florida, that represents without charge “Bible-believing churches and Christians who are experiencing legal difficulty in practicing their religious faith”. David C. Gibbs, Jr. President of CLA, said Abraham “truly believes there was no conflict between religion and his job”.

The Woods Hole Institute released a statement saying it did not discriminate on the basis of religious belief. “The Institution firmly believes that its actions and those of its employees concerning Dr. Abraham were entirely lawful”.

Dr. Abraham, who now works at Liberty University, a Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, said he would work on other, non-evolutionary aspects of the work, but his supervisor, Woods Hole senior scientist Mark E. Hahn, told him that would account for only 7 to 10 per cent of the work.

In a letter published by the Boston Globe, Hahn wrote, “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. This position is incompatible with the work as proposed to NIH and with my own vision of how it should be carried out and interpreted.”
Hahn’s lab investigates the “biochemical and molecular mechanisms that underlie the interactions of marine animals with their chemical environment”. The approach is “to examine these mechanisms from a comparative/evolutionary perspective.”

The Boston Globe, in their coverage of the story, unwittingly revealed the crux of the argument, asserting that “evolution is a fundamental tenet of biology.” But some scientists point out that empirical sciences are not supposed to have “tenets”; they have theories and proposals that are open to questioning and investigation under rigorous conditions.

The Globe repeats the assertion that evolution is a “tenet” or dogma, saying, “Can people work in a scientific field if they don’t believe in its basic tenets?” Responsible scientists, however, still refer to the “theory” of evolution, a word that means the idea has not yet been proved.

Many in the scientific community are beginning to question whether the “tenet” of Darwinian evolution is an expression of an unscientific belief more appropriate to religion. William Dembski, an American mathematician, philosopher and writer disagreed with the Globe.

Dembski, a senior fellow with Seattle’s Discovery Institute and the author of ten books on mathematics and philosophy, wrote that despite the Globe’s assertion, the real question is not whether scientists may disbelieve in the “tenets” of evolution, but, “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.”

Read related coverage:

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