Evolution cost me my job

The following is one of my many biography posts. I am recording them in part for my kids in the distant future. But I try to make them relevant to my blog. This one discusses my commitment to the teaching of Evolution and how some aspects of religion have a stranglehold on America.

I am a huge, non-apologetic, evangelical evolutionist and have paid the price for my outspoken nature. I use to be a professor in a graduate school Physician Assistant program where evolution helped me loose my job.

One day I was called into the program director’s office. He said, “Sabio, we have some complaints about you teaching evolution.” “Wow,” I thought, “that was an abrupt opening. I wonder what he is talking about.” So I responded, “Sorry, who complained and what was their complaint?”

“Well, Sabio,” he said in a serious tone, “we have many Christian students and they say you often emphatically push the lecture unnecessarily into discussing the evolutionary mechanisms involved in physiology and disease states.”

I thought for a second and said, “Well, I don’t talk about evolution unless it is pertinent to the lecture but the thing is, evolution is often very pertinent to medicine. To truly understand disease, you need to understand evolution. Why did you have me teach the genetics course if you didn’t want me to discuss evolution?”

“Yes, I agree that evolution happens, but the head of the biology department has been a professor here for 30 years and he is a creationist Christian. Students have been going to him complaining about your course. He says you can teach genetics without pushing the theory of evolution.”

I was startled! I thought for a while. Our department head was a very political animal and cared far more about his status than he cared about truth, so I knew I had to weigh my words. But alas, I didn’t. “I will be judicious in my discussion about evolution, but I am sorry, I will continue to speak about evolution when appropriate unless you outright forbid me to, in which case I will make a complaint to the Dean of the school.”

My boss looked at me with surprise and anger — I guess he had not anticipated that response.

Four months later, I caught my boss [the department head] and other faculty helping students cheat on tests and would not support the cover-up. In retaliation, my boss asked the Dean to fire me. The Dean called me in to his office and said, “Sabio, your chairman wants me to fire you and he is making up reasons to make it happen.” He showed me, in confidentiality, the letter he received from my boss. It charged me with not being a team player, confusing the students in the way I taught alternative medicine and turning students against the faculty. After I read it, he said, “I know these are all lies, the students tell me they love you and you reviews to date are impecable. You are an incredibly good teacher and a huge asslet to the school. I will not fire you. But I must tell you that you will never get tenure in that department — they will obstruct you the whole way. So I’d like to offer you a job in the philosophy department.”

I was surprised. He was right, when it came to a tenure vote. But I had never finished my Ph.D. in philosophy and I did not want to be resented by teachers in the Philosophy department if I was brought in under these circumstances. Besides, I liked teaching medicine. So I thanked him for his kindness and support and told him I had actually already realized that tenure would not happen and had been looking for another teaching job and had found one. He asked if I could finish out the school year (another 6 months) and I agreed to. He said he was sorry to see me go.

Funny thing was, the Dean was a Mormon and all three Mormon students I had over the last three years in my classes had spoken very well of me to him.  I guess they never minded the evolution issues and weren’t “confused” by the way I presented alternative medicine.

BTW, not only did I teach “Medical Genetics” in our program, but I also taught “Medical Research” and “Alternative Medicine” — all of these at the request of the department.

Other related posts:  My Alternative Medicine Posts


Filed under Events, Personal

24 responses to “Evolution cost me my job

  1. Wow, that’s amazing. The alternate medicine buffs and evolutionary biologists are almost entirely disjoint communities, but you caught discrimination as a member of both.

    OTOH, evolution is considered to be scientific fact at most universities, and discrimination by evolutionists against creationists is vastly more common than the reverse. Of course, I think that the YEC position is invalid and worthy of ridicule, so I support the teaching of evolution. But I don’t think you can complain about being the victim of some systemic discrimination.

    Speaking of Mormons, I’ve worked with quite a few of them over the years, and find them to be some of the best colleagues. They’re level-headed and hardworking, even if they don’t drink at parties. And, in my experience, they tend to treat females and minorities more fairly.

  2. Hey JS
    (1) Yes, I am not sure what it is, bu I have often been disliked by groups who are enemies of each other.
    (2) Yes, I realize that YEC are usually treated poorly at universities — as it should be. And I never did feel systemic discrimination at all. Mine was the perfect storm of \ of a dinosaur YEC who was “worthy of ridicule”, controlling a power hungry, corrupt director.
    (3) I have had the same experiences with Mormons as you. But my mormon friends laughingly confess that Utah is ugly and that I wouldn’t like the Mormons there — the good one leave, they say.
    (4) One last note: two years after I left, the upright, thoughtful Mormon Dean quit after going through severe personal problems. When I probe to find out what happened. Apparently they discovered that one of their 5 children declared to the family that he was gay. That ripped their family apart. Ah, the complexity of life.

  3. BTW, JS, the reason I wrote this post is that I am anticipating needing it as evidence in a coming post. Stories like these give people a better understanding of the complex tension which people hold opinions. — Don’t you think?

  4. Ed

    Hi Sabio… another great post. It is amazing that this happened to you. I want to zone in on evolution. I am not one that believes in the old man, white beard, making it all in 7 days as we see it. Disclaimer…

    On the other hand, I can readily accept the principle of adaptation, while evolution is much more problematic. I most often see intelligent folks using the word evolution when more accurately they mean adaptation. Examples: there are more white rabbits in the sub-arctic zones than brown ones. They have adapted to the environment and the brown ones, more easily seen in the snow have been eaten out of existence. Humans that can store fat effectively out-number skinny people who burn all the calories they eat with very little storage. Why? Humans adapted to feast and famine fluctuations in food supplies and now roughly 75% of us can store our extra calories. This is not evolution.

    Evolution, by definition, includes something coming out of nothing, life coming from dead matter and consciousness spontaneously arising from the dead matter. Further there are not the millions of transitional evolutionary forms Darwin said we must find to prove his theory. In observing this universe we see life only coming from life, not from dead things or things that never were alive. This is the Law of Bio-genesis. Also, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the universe is moving towards greater and greater disorganization. Meaning it’s dying. Organic life on earth is subject to this law. This means that we, humans and all animals, are winding down. Not evolving. We can still adapt over time. But like the rest of the universe we all are moving towards greater and greater disorganization. Death.

    Further, evolution requires long periods of time – millions of years. Evolution is always looking for the best, most efficient and most dominating characteristics that will advance the animal. So what good would 1% or 2% or even 50% of sight be? Am I supposed to believe that evolution hung on to the concept of sight for millions and millions of years when it obviously was of no value?

    I don’t believe that some fairytale god waved his wand and poof here we are. But evolution is unproven at best. Adaptation is solid. We can see it. OK, now… show me where I am wrong. I will listen.

  5. Agreed; these posts are useful in forming a picture of who you are. I’m getting the impression that you’re fiercely independent and enjoy bucking convention, even when it costs you 🙂

  6. @ Ed

    Don’t take this personally, Ed, but…

    Do not trust the crap that has ended up on your other hand. Wash, rinse, and repeat until the stain of answersingenesis has been removed. This cleansing process can be accelerated (if you want to, that is) by this amazing new product called knowledge A very liberal dose of it can be yours for FREE at talkorigins. It slices. It dices. It purees the tired old trivial points you raise.

    But Wait! There’s more!

    Once you appreciate why evolution is true – by understanding how all the evidence overwhelmingly supports this explanation – you will feel like a new man. If you order now, you can help others rid themselves of such burrowing doubts, usually enunciated by such keen observations as “I ain’t no kin to no damn monkey” and “If evolution were true, then why are there still monkeys?”

    But this is a limited time offer (the rapture, we must remember, is due back in October for another round of spiritual accounting) so act now. Act fast. And tell your friends.

    Imagine how good you’ll feel when you can finally remove that adhesion of abiogenesis and cancerous cosmological origin from the well used drawer in your mind labeled ‘B’… for Believing whatever the theocrats of the Discovery Institute tell me evolution means… and file them properly under ‘I’… for I don’t know and you don’t, either. This unshackling from the unknown will then allow your inquisitiveness mind to marvel at how modern medicine provides you with reliable life-saving applications that work based solely on the THEORY of evolution and IN SPITE OF your doubts about its veracity.

    I know!

    How cool is that?!

    And yet so unlikely, so random, so full of chanci-ness!

    So swing on by and check out the deals. Your brain will thank you and your hands can go back to doing what they do best, or if you’re alone, perhaps even grasping at other theologically inspired straws.

  7. Hey JS Allen,
    But you know, the funny thing, is I am not a habitual rebel — there is indeed much that is very normal that I embrace with vigor. But I think you are doing a good job and narrowing in on the creature that I am! 🙂

    Hey Ed,
    Good to see you, mate. Do me a favor, I am sure your experience with many types of patients and people in life allows your to realize the futility of taking tildeb’s emotional bait. The link he supplied, though, is valuable. The brazen chap actually has a little gem amidst all the dung he spreads about if you have the patience or tolerance to look.

    First, I really have no ambition to argue evolution on this page. Others do it elsewhere very nicely. Below are answers to a few of your concerns, for instance. Perhaps you will disagree with these answers, but again, I am not taking on that conversation here.

    * Concerning “Eye Evolution“: see Talk Origins here

    * Concerning “Biogenesis” : see Talk Origins here

    * Concerning “The Laws of Thermodynamics“: see Talk Origins here

    So instead of arguing evolution, I am curious what sort of investment and experiences you have with it. Can we do a meta-conversation on the issue?

  8. @ Sabio

    Well, I waited for a response to Ed’s comment, then I waited some more, then I thought I’d best be getting to it if no one else would. And I think it’s important to respond to such comments because they are wrong and misguided and harmful.

    My tongue-in-cheek Ginsu comment is a whole lot less confrontational than many biologists would exercise in this age of the internet… you know, the same people who have dedicated their lives to working with it but whose subject of expertise is under attack again and again and again from people who can’t be bothered to learn anything about it – but who assume that their religious beliefs prepares them for appropriate commentary in this science.

    Well, it doesn’t. It’s very arrogant and very frustrating and very unnecessary.

    So I took the time to comment and offered the link to show that what I was saying was backed up by knowledge, by what is true. Glad to know that you consider that final effort as dung.

    I am unclear – wading about in my own little cesspool as I am – how you fail to see Ed’s points exactly this way (maybe you don’t read enough dung to recognize them for the standard creationist talking points they are), which fails to elicit at least the same broad condemnation of its shit quotient you so easily assign to my comments. In your mind he gets to spout absolute nonsense and promote lies (I’m not a creationist like those ignorant folk, but I will re-introduce their main talking points as if they were not adequately addressed by biologists a hundred thousand times over….) and this is perfectly acceptable to you. In fact, you’re you think I’m the brazen one, even though feels quite comfortable telling us what evolution is and isn’t and misses the mark by a country mile! You’re okay with this spouting of willful ignorance.

    Oh right! I forgot. It’s not about what you say; it’s how you say it that really matters. Funny that you don’t seem afflicted with this principle regarding me and my comments. You read Ed’s assertions that you know are complete bullshit, which truly shows a brazen attitude of arrogance, and this tone is fine and dandy. But you know and I know that what I’m saying is not shit. And that’s the truth you don’t seem to want to respect first and foremost. Why is that, Sabio? Does what’s true not serve your purpose when dealing with others? Sure, you’ll take my link and pretend it’s somehow separate from my criticism, yet you know better: my criticism is not based on dung but on respecting what’s true, which comes from knowledge – widely available to everyone – except those who reject it a priori because of the conflict it presents to certain faith-based beliefs. Tough. It’s time for creationist folk to get over themselves and their arrogance and start dealing with what is true regardless if they find the tone unpleasant. After all, I didn’t make Ed post what he did nor call him out on its arrogant tone; I merely responded to it with far less arrogance and yet you feel it offensive enough to call it emotional baiting and dung that just so happens to possess a useful link.

    How is that not duplicitous of you, Sabio?

  9. Ed

    Just to be clear again: I am not a creationist; I have over 10 years of college mostly in the hard sciences; I have no idea what the religious talking points are; I am just not convinced. By the intensity and tone of the response to my comment it appears I have struck a nerve. Such emotional responses are like the ones religious freaks have when you challenge their faith. I did not mean to step on anyone’s toes. I have read articles and been to websites that address those issues. And much of it sounds like insider back-slapping. As John Lennon said, “just give me some Truth”.

  10. @tildeb

    Not to put words into Sabio’s mouth, but if I may be so bold as to express my interpretation of where he’s coming from… well, essentially, you’re coming off as a bit of an ************ [edited], tildeb.

    I understand your frustration. I myself am as atheist as they come, and have on a very personal level experienced a number of limitations and downright injustices at the hands of Christian willful ignorance. I too am highly frustrated when something like evolution, that more or less can be factually supported, is written off as unlikely or impossible based on a subjective belief system.

    However, Ed was pretty damn polite in his post. I see nothing in his tone that suggests a “brazen attitude of arrogance,” nor do I think he’s rejecting evolution a priori. He just hasn’t found personal resonance with what you or I may have already accepted as fact. That’s human, and I think the fact that he ended his first post with “OK, now… show me where I am wrong. I will listen.” puts him miles ahead of most people who question the veracity of evolution or modern science in general.

    You, on the other hand, swooped in with a post positively dripping in sarcasm and, by extension, condescension. And it was uncalled for. I’m inclined to belief that a lifetime of defending your work against naysayers has made you rather sensitive to any sort of opposition, but for someone so inclined to dig up truth, you overlooked the simple fact that Ed wasn’t antagonizing you at all. Rather, he was expressing a healthy degree of personal doubt that I think a scientist such as yourself ought to appreciate. Doubt, after all, is the catalyst of searching for better truths.

    You won’t win people to your side by questioning their intelligence and beliefs right out of the box, especially if you don’t pay them common courtesy: namely, treating “intellectual adversaries” as people. Without that very basic form of respect, you’ll come off as no more reputable than fundamental religious folk. Even though my beliefs are pretty much in line with your own, even I’m inclined to stop reading your posts halfway through because they’re downright rude.

    Sabio was trying to support your ideas while politely rejecting your chosen means of expression. He handled it well. And you’d do well to learn a few people skills from him.

  11. @ Zach

    Thank you for your advice, but I’m not asking people to come over to my side, my position, my ideas. I’m demanding that they respect what’s true and we’ll let egos fall where they may in this light.

    There is one reason and one reason only why someone ‘decides’ that evolutionary theory is not true: some form of belief in creationism. That’s it. That’s the whole counter criticism. Ed, for example, will utilize medicine based entirely on evolutionary theory if his life depends on it and he will not think for moment how that makes him a hypocrite. Sticking to this contrary position in spite of what’s true and what works consistently well here, there, yesterday, and tomorrow, Ed will continue to maintain his creationist position of unenlightened doubt until someone challenges it effectively enough for him to decide to actually look into it. Mockery is sometimes the best tool to use because most people don’t like being called hypocritical and foolish. So, yes, it can certainly be rather impolite to use such a tool but consider… does it work?

    Let’s find out, shall we? Is it worthy of respect if an intentional stance of elevating what is believed to be true over and above what is true is held against overwhelming contrary evidence? Is that what I’m supposed to do? If one respects what is true, then one can inquire into evolutionary theory honestly and I won’t say squat in a negative and condescending tone. There is no good reason for doing so. But this is not what Ed has done, in spite of the bookend lies he adds to his creationism beliefs. Because he is willing to claim he is NOT a creationist, that he really DOES want to inquire about evolution, then he can do so without spouting these creationist talking points that have been thoroughly – and I mean thoroughly – debunked in the nicest and calmest and most respectful of ways… apparently to no avail when it comes to educating Ed. In fact, I suspect this prior niceness, this willingness to respect what is NOT true, has been counter-productive, for he still retains some weird notion that his beliefs determine what is true. This tells me he does NOT want to learn or he would, he would respect what’s true, but he doesn’t, and he would inquire honestly into this area of knowledge he self-admittedly lacks, which he is more than capable of doing if he so wished. But he has not. I would respect that inquiry, and in fact do so most days. But this creationist position of merely pretending to inquire while spouting tired creationist counter-arguments is like attaching a label to the explosives vest of a suicide bomber saying “Please note that the wearer of this vest should not be considered a terrorist and we should be very nice and respectful of his tolerant position towards others that he holds in the highest esteem.” Saying something and doing something are actually connected Zach, and this reveals consistency of mind. An inquiring mind I respect, but one lying for some religious belief I cannot. And that’s honest.

  12. * Tip-Toeing thru a Minefield *

    @ Ed,
    Science, as you know, is in largely in the details. Any progress on this issue will only be made in discussing the details — though we won’t do that here.

    I will have to assume that you looked at those links and are familiar with the counter arguments offered. If so, speaking to a crowd off evolutionists, if you are interested in dialogue, it is important to show you have read the best stuff. Otherwise, it sounds like you have read only one side. I am sure you have read both, but as a matter of technique, it is good to state the other sides’ best arguments to establish connection. Otherwise the conversation can degrade into everyone merely waving their team’s own flags and yelling at each other while throwing rocks from a distance. This results in changing no one, or learning anything.

    I imagine you would agree that there are plenty of people on BOTH sides who swallow their side’s story in the simplest of ways (and actually often mistakenly). Likewise, on BOTH sides there are those who have really only read their sides literature.

    As you said, this happens in theist-atheist debates too. Thus, perhaps this is part of what you were alluding to when you said this religious aspect can sometimes be seen in shallow discussions on Evolution. And as you know, this happens between alternative and orthodox medicine debates. Rare is the person who knows both sides.

    @ Zachary
    Thanks for understanding. Sorry, but I had to edit your comment to keep it within the guidelines. 🙂 I am sure that because you belong to a fine translation company, you guys understand very practically how communication is far more than just words. Influence, persuasion and deep communication are complex art.

  13. Ed

    Probably about time to put this one to bed. It was, however, lively and entertaining and a bit informative. After all isn’t that why we are all drawn to Sabio’s blog?
    @Zach… thanks for your comment. I appreciate the understanding. You are correct. I am not a man-in-the-sky creationist.(I don’t even believe in a Man in the sky) Nor am I a full-on evolutionist. I know more than one Ph.D. and some of them, if caught in complete privacy will admit that one can believe in evolution but that it is far from proven. I am very curious about Tildeb’s highly emotional reaction. There is something wrong there…
    @Tildeb… sorry we have gotten off to such a rough start. You are reacting to something inside of you… not to me or what I said.

  14. Soren

    Speaking as a former student of Sabio (I was a graduate student at the aforementioned University while he was a professor)–I can verify that his post is unfortunately accurate. While I was not present for the second half of the post (where he was fired), I kept in close touch with several students who were who have confirmed the story. I am sad to say that this story is one of about four reasons that I refuse to endorse my alma mater as an adequate school for medical education.

    Excellent post, friend.

    I also attended this University as an undergraduate and was at the time a Creationist. Actually it was the head of the Chemistry dept that was a strong Christian. I attended several of his “Creation is truth, Evolution is a lie” lectures while as an undergrad.

  15. @ Soren,
    Thank you for popping in! So you say you were a Creationist back then — could you tell our readers what you are today? Wait, why don’t you do a guest post on that. Just give us the conclusion right here, if you will?

  16. @ Hey Ed,
    Thank you for remaining civil.
    Concerning your comment about Ph.D.’s confessing that evolution can not be proven:
    This is another classic argument. The TalkOrigins link tildeb kindly gave us has a fine post which address this contention fairly well.
    Since you keep throwing out objections, I though I must supply material which addresses the objection ! 🙂

    BTW, I just read a fun article discussing the stubbornness of our beliefs.

    No matter whether you are a theist or a pantheist or a panentheist, I don’t care as long as you don’t obstruct knowledge with belief in gnomes! 🙂

  17. @Sabio – No problems! I’m sorry for not having read your guidelines closer beforehand. Also, please note that I didn’t mean that word as an ad hominem attack. Rather, I was just stating that tildeb was giving others that impression. Regardless, I’ll be more careful in the future.

    @tildeb – I need to think and respond to you later on today.

  18. when two or more are gathered, politics is in the midst. when dealing with people we’re usually dealing with that strange mix of feeling, fact, and (dys)function. sorry to see you got caught up in feelings and the dysfunction and that caused fact to be tossed out the window. so it goes.

    interesting post and interesting conversation.

    *said while skirting the minefield

  19. rburke202

    That’s the first time I’ve heard this story, always wondered what the fall out was all about. Never thought it would be over teaching evolution to GRADUATE students!

  20. FYI Readers: rburke worked in my Dept. at that time (though not faculty and thus not in on that kind of stuff)

    @ rburke:
    Wow, I forgot you would know this stuff. Actually evolution was only 1/3 the picture. As the post said, I caught them cheating (the biggest) — perhaps another post sometime. Lastly was envy — but that was probably the smallest, as you know, several other teachers did not win ‘prof of the year’ awards. 😉

  21. rburke202

    I imagine you’d have to get away from reading directly from power point slides to get anywhere close to prof of the year honors. Didn’t know about the cheating thing. Was anyone removed for that? I wasn’t terribly plugged in to the political and social atmosphere when I worked there, way to much other personal stuff going on at the time to worry about work!

    Anyway if this is to off topic I understand if you don’t want to elaborate.

  22. Earnest

    @ Ed: Evolution can be accelerated in an abrupt and often unhelpful manner by something called the “founder effect”. I don’t have any links right now for you but there’s got to be stuff about it online. In a sense it’s a way to “create” (!) a species by random chance.

  23. jezibelle

    Disheartening to see a passionate teacher suffer for helping students expand their knoweldge and explore thier world. Whether evolution is theoretical, fantasy or fact in someone’s mind notwithstanding.

  24. rautakyy

    An old and well respected Finnish professor of economy was lecturing in a highly respected seat of learning in the US. His Dean told him not to go further in the theory of Karl Marx as the students were complaining that he was spouting socialist propaganda. Apparently, many of the students were not even showing up in his lectures. The old rather conservative professor was shocked. Never mind, if the predictions or even the theory of Marx is correct, but students not willing to know what has been thought and theorized about a subject they are trying to understand was an abomination to him.

    The theory of evolution is not an absolute truth. As the creationists say, it is “just” a theory. But scientific theories are the best possible interpretations of the reality around us. They surely beat the guesses of any religious scripture as likeliest truths. What can be said about religious truths is that the fact that they are offered to us as contradictory absolute truths is quite revealing as to their true relationship with any objective truth.

    It is quite strange that in a western country in the 21st century and within the educational institutions, personal beliefs might still hold more value than the scientific research of generations to this issue. Giving up on evolution, demands to throw out of the window almost all other scientific research as well. Questioning it is good, that is how science evolves, but if one offers superstition as a replacement, we are in dangerous terrain.

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