Should employers be blind to private beliefs?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Lyle, Jan 26, 2011.

  1. Lyle macrumors 68000

    Lyle

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    #1
    I came across this article on Hacker News, where there's already a great discussion of its subject matter underway. It's a piece by Richard Dawkins about a case involving the University of Kentucky, where an apparently "superbly qualified" candidate was rejected the position of Director of a new university observatory due to his creationist beliefs.

    Dawkins' position, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that the University was right to discriminate against this candidate for this particular position, and I understand his reasoning (i.e. I understand how someone who believes as Dawkins does would come to that conclusion). Nevertheless, it seems worth considering how many scientific contributions have been made by men and women of faith in the past, and where we'd be if those ideas and contributions were rejected due to the scientists religious beliefs.

    Anyways, it's a good article and I found it thought-provoking, so I thought I'd share.

    Link
     
  2. mcrain macrumors 68000

    mcrain

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    #2
    How can you hire someone to work a position in which part of your job description is to research the beginnings of the universe, the big bang, and other scientifically observable things?

    If your belief structure potentially prevents you from doing your job, you shouldn't be the one in charge of a department in the field.

    If this, however, was not done because of the conflict between his beliefs and his work, then it's a pretty solid case of discrimination.
     
  3. Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #3
    The only time I could imagine that personal beliefs might come into play is if they have a direct correlation to do your job. In other words, if your job is to prove the mechanics of evolution, it would not really be effective, if that person was a Christian fundamentalist who does not believe in evolution.

    I don't see being the director of a University to be a problem unless this person has hard core beliefs and is going to use their position to push efforts to reinforce their beliefs and squelch those against their beliefs. If they can approach their job in a neutral manner, I don't see a problem there. The big word in that sentence is "if". ;)
     
  4. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #4
    I'm sorry - I think to be a scientist you have to personally believe in the whole of the Scientific process. Creationism from a scientific perspective is basically nonsense (unless he can prove his theories on the matter follow scientific rigour).

    It'd be like expecting a non-Catholic to become the pope just because he met the other criteria, or expecting someone claustrophobic to be allowed to become a tube driver.
     
  5. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    #5
    Its not discrimination if your belief interferes with your ability to do your job. No one would hire me to be a Rabbi with my views and I would be a fool to call that discrimination.
     
  6. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #6
    But then again if the person had those beliefs they never would of made it threw school to earn the respective degrees so a non issue.
    For the most part employers should be blind and should not be allowed to ask those question. It should only be able to find out if employee gives out the information during hiring. I have been warned depending on the place that I am applying for if I should remove anything regarding religion from my resume. Some places it is fine to leave it on there and can help you. Other times it is better to remove it. For example leadership position in a religious group. It can go both ways. It is a leadership spot and looks good but some places the religious part can cost you the job so it is better to leave it off and not talk about during the interview.

    A employer can not ask you about religion during the interview. I also think they should not be allowed to ask you your political beliefs. They can talk about their companies beliefs and people there but should not be able to ask you that question.

    You can easily believe in science and be a believe in creationism. Remember science and engineering is a huge field. Over all creationism and evolution is a relatively small part that many people get hung up over. If your field of study is in metallurgy and making new alloys for why the hell would your belief in creationism have any effect on it. It wouldn't. Creationism and evolution is defined to a small area of biology.
     
  7. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #7
    Not really no. Because as far as I am aware there is no scientific basis for creationism.

    Thus you'd be ignoring the processes that make science reliable for your own beliefs. This doesn't make you a very good scientist.
     
  8. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #8
    then you are closed minded in that case. It is called faith for a reason. Faith does not have to line up with science end of story.

    Like I pointed out it is going to fall in a relatively small area of science were it will be an issue. I honestly know some great engineers who are strong creationist and very well respected in their field. They are great in the areas they work but have no interest in the areas where it would run into an issue. Hell they where on the comities that wrote some of our standards and manuals used in industry today and the requirements to meet code. PhDs in all.
    but like I said those fields of study have nothing to do with where it would be an issue.
     
  9. mcrain macrumors 68000

    mcrain

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    #9
    The position is director of an observatory. Looking into space is looking back in time to the beginnings of our universe. Much of that work is directly centered on the creation and destruction of stars, galaxies and of course our entire universe. The big bang and all of the theories surrounding it.

    The position is directly one in which the subject matter of the job could be directly in conflict with his religious beliefs. Then again, some people are able to believe in both religion and science.

    This is a case where discrimination based on religion may have been justified.
     
  10. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #10
    and I would say that it would still be discriminating if the religion views. Reason being is a person who made it that far would of never complete there degrees and become respective enough in the field of study if those beliefs were an issue.

    The requirements to get said job in terms of experience and qualification have nothing to do with religion and if those beliefs were a problem they never would of made it that far and would not have the respect to get there.
     
  11. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #11
    I find it hard to believe that anyone who so firmly believes in creationism could be objective in such a hard science as astronomy. The idea that extremist religious beliefs should play NO role in the hiring of a scientist seems absurd. Would you hire someone to run the US treasury if that person believed very strongly that fiat money was illegal and dollars should only be backed by gold?

    Why do you believe that religion should be exempt from scrutiny? Religious groups are able to discriminate against gay people? Shouldn't the religious extremists also be discriminated against by scientific institutions?
     
  12. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    #12
    There is a difference in discriminating against someone and coming to the conclusion that a person can't do a job properly because of their belief system. I wouldn't agree with not hiring a religious person for most jobs but if the job calls for someone to teach evolution and they don't believe in evolution and show you lesson plans for how they would teach creationism.. .then they clearly can't do the job you need them to do.
     
  13. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #13
    Or you could just search for information on the man's positions. From skimming over this (assuming this is the correct person), rejecting him appears to be based solely on his religious beliefs, with no consideration toward his qualifications.
     
  14. VideoFreek macrumors 6502

    VideoFreek

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    #14
    Doubtful. Actually, if you click through Dawkins's predictable drivel, you will find this article, which gives a more complete account of what happened (scroll down a bit the section titled "Lawsuit Filed After Internet Search Resulted in Religious Inquiry of Job Candidate"). Long story short, Gaskell's scientific credentials for the astronomy job were impeccable; his creationist views seem to be limited to biology. He was in fact railroaded by the University's Biology Department, which issued a direct threat to the search committee:
    The extended quote from the chairman of the search committee leaves little doubt that Gaskell was, in fact, fully qualified for the job:
    The bolded emphasis was added by me.

    The University settled with Gaskell because they knew they'd be clobbered in court, especially given the "smoking gun" in the above quote; this is clearly a case of religious discrimination. It should give us all pause that the University learned of Gaskell's religious views by investigating his online social media activity. Regardless of one's beliefs, we are all vulnerable to this sort of thing as the private space around our lives steadily shrinks.
     
  15. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #15
    yeah that pretty much says it. His views were limited to the small area of biology. Something he had no interested and clearly his field of study had nothing to do with. If anything he would see the science theory in evolution but we still have not figure out nor proven life created from well nothing. There is a theory but he was not teaching it.

    This would be screwed for the University. He met all the other qualification and clearly his view had not effected him being respect and earing the qualification for his field of study. He did not attack biology. Religion should not be a reason to higher or not hirer someone. There are plenty of other factor out there to base things on if they are qualified for that one job. Religion is not one of them.
     
  16. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #16
    Looking a little closer at Gaskell's specific web page on the topic (see my previous post), doubts arise (emphases mine):

    These quotes show that Martin Gaskell is influenced by his religion to further a research agenda that would favor his beliefs. That is simply not acceptable.
     
  17. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #17
    And going threw it I could easy say I see nothing that his religion is really effecting the science there. I see you trying to bend stuff but at the same time most of that information and research from those paper is so far over our heads that we could not hope to understand it.

    This guy as a case and end of the day employers should be blind to our private beliefs if we meet the requirements for the job we get it. religion is can not be one of them. Just like sex and race should not be one of them. Religions discrimination. is just as wrong as race or sex discrimination.

    This was religions discrimination no matter how you slice it. Big time when the attack for not hiring him was based on that. They failed to find another reason so yeah the college should loose it big time and they were in the wrong.
     
  18. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #18
    Sorry, but you are painting "us" with a broad brush. "We" are a large and diverse group, some of whom are fully capable of understanding astrophysics.
     
  19. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #19
    ok safe to say that to most of us (you include in that group of most) that his research is so far over our head that we do not fully understand it and you are picking and choosing phases out of it but has nothing to your argument since they are taken massively out of context.

    Understanding astrophysics is the basic part but the finer points that much of his research is based off of at were you are trying to make your case is going to be based on information that most of us (you included in the most) do not fully understand and instead choose to take your own beliefs and twist it to say he wrong.
     
  20. Rt&Dzine macrumors 6502a

    Rt&Dzine

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    #20
    Would it also be discrimination if an atheist wasn't hired to teach a course on Christianity, but was more qualified than any other candidate? Or if a black person didn't get the acting part of a white character, because he was black?
     
  21. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #21
    acting I can accept as looks and race often times factor into the part. If race was not a factor either way for the part then yes I would call it discrimination.

    But the on the course one as long as the teach the material the better candidate should get it end of story.

    In this guys case it was discrimination as the department had no issue with it. Turns out a unrelated department had issue with it and made it a big deal. People who had very little expertise in the field he was hired for. Nothing about his expertise and experience was an issue for the people in the field. Turns out someone in another department had an issue.
    As long as they do not violate stuff in their studies I see religion as a non factor.
     
  22. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #22
    In this case, Martin Gaskell was not the better candidate. All the skill and learning in the world account for nothing if you are likely pursue an agenda that could yield less-than-stellar results due to bias. This is the case with Gaskell, end of story, Richard Dawkins was entirely correct.

    Running the observatory is a management position that may not be the best use of Gaskell's abilities in the first place. He can still access data from them if he needs it and probably request a tracking if appropriate to their facilities and alignment. The job is just a sinecure for him, with a nice title, a stipend, and something for the resumé.

    A much bigger deal is being made of this than it deserves.
     
  23. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #23
    I see since I did not give you the answer you were trying to trap me in instead you go into religious bias. It pretty clear that you are anti religion and some how think if you have a religions belief then you can not be a scientist but since he only object to evolution which had no effect on what he was studying. One could go about attacking his views with science n the field but clearly no one has that to discredit his studies. He not in to biology or evolution so how would it effect his results.

    If you want that argument everyone is going to be bias to any results. Go look back at what someone else posted. It was the BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT who caused him not to be hired and their objection was on a religious belief. The fact that the physic department though he was the best choice says a lot. They got caught in discrimination.

    Employers should be blind to your religious beliefs end of story and in this time they went out and found it and that was their reason for not hiring him. That is and should be illegal.
     
  24. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #24
    While we don't know what specifically the director of the observatory is tasked to do, that information is key to the hiring committee, and the fact that they found him qualified well beyond any of the other candidates leads me to believe that the committee indeed thought the job fit Gaskell's abilities.

    I'm going to guess that the observatory's director is far less involved in science and far more involved in administering to the needs of the observatory and the scientists who use it.

    As someone who works for a California State University and having sat on numerous hiring committees, I'm surprised the question of religion arose at all. It certainly isn't information that should be actively sought out by the committee.

    From the information I've seen I think he should have been given the job. The directors I've dealt with are usually attending meetings with other directors and working to administer and secure funding for their department. So long as those were his primary duties, I don't see why it matters what he believes.
     
  25. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    #25
    Yes. No.
     

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