Nathaniel Abraham got a job as a biology post-doc at Woods Hole and then chose to disclose that he wasn't necessarily hip to every little aspect of evolutionary biology - like the whole evolution part.

You all know me pretty well. I am middle of the road about anything not to do with the science aspects and the culture hoopie is way off my radar. Clearly the guy got a Ph.D. with his religious beliefs so they were not an impediment to him academically and that's where I would let it lay. Only the true atheist crazies can find a way to complain about Francis Collins because of his religion.

But I think Woods Hole may lose $500,000 here and articles like this one in the Boston Globe don't clear much up because they actually muddy the issue. Woods Hole says, according to this article anyway, that they don't discriminate based on religion but that Abraham
did not want to work on "evolutionary aspects" of the National Institutes of Health grant for which he was hired, even though the project clearly required scientists to use the principles of evolution in their analyses and writing.
according to his boss, Mark E. Hahn. Well, that's a slam dunk issue if that were the extent of it. In the software industry, I do not much care what religion you are but if you tell me you can't work on some aspects of the code because of your religious beliefs - when I told you what the job is in advance - you are gone, and I'll pay the attorneys to defend that principle.

On the other hand, let's hope people like this do not try too hard to defend Woods Hole in this issue:
"I have a cleaning woman who is a Seventh-day Adventist and neither of us feel any tension," said Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University who has written extensively on creationism and evolutionary biology.
If that's the general mentality Abraham was facing - you can be my cleaning lady but not a post-doc in biology - there is a real problem. Culture wars or not, we have to see individuals at face value and not through a political or cultural prism.

I say this Boston Globe article muddies the issue because the reporter introduces odd sentences like He did not tell anyone his creationist views before being hired. Well why would he? They hired him because of his expertise with zebra fish and in toxicology and developmental biology. They didn't ask and it would have been a violation of every employment law in the land to do so and he didn't volunteer it (did the Boston Globe reporter disclose his religious beliefs in his job interview?) thus the odd chill that must have run down Hahn's spine when he found out his new post-doc only wanted to work on about 10% of the things the grant money was actually funding.

I would loved to have been holding a milk when Abraham said he "was willing to discuss evolution as a theory" so I could have shot it out my nose. In that sense, what Hahn did next was the right choice. Two months after this all started Abraham was out. It should be pretty cut and dried. The guy didn't want to work on 90% of the projects they have and that were in the job description. He had to go.

But that's not the sole issue. He says he was subjected to a hostile work environment after his disclosure. A much tougher claim to disprove. Especially over a two months period after the disclosure. A hostile work environment about religion is not going to resonate well with the 70% of the population that are religious if they are on the jury deciding the case. Worse, they may be witness to some of the manufactured hysteria over the "Expelled" movie that our more angry atheist brethren are using to add traffic to their websites and dollars and publicity for the producers of that film.

A court date on a subjective issue like 'hostile work environment' could be a very bad thing. Woods Hole is saying that religion is not the issue. I believe that. But, after the fact, if at any time he was treated the way Ruse refers to his cleaning woman - fit for menial labor but not science because of her religious beliefs - then they are going to lose some money and some credibility.

As an aside, in the private sector, we would have avoided this 'hostile work environment' claim and kept it to the facts by escorting him to the door the minute after he refused to work on the projects he was hired to work on.

But my question remains; is developmental biology so different from evolutionary that you can get a whole PhD from Johns Hopkins and never have evolution come up?