Should a Science Museum Hire You if Your College Taught Young Earth Creationism?

Alison Green runs a website called Ask a Manager. It’s pretty self-explanatory — she gets a lot of questions from all sorts of employers and employees and she answers them as best she can.

She recently responded to this dilemma from someone looking for a job:

I’m a job-hunting recent grad, and I’m applying for jobs all over the place. One of the more interesting openings I’ve seen is at a science museum working as an educator. I’m a communications major, not a scientist, but I think I’d do well at the job and I’m hoping I’ll get an interview.

The problem comes from my educational background. I’m a graduate of a decently-sized Christian university that puts heavy emphasis on a literal 6-day creation week. These are the sorts of folks who believe that the earth is no more than 8,000 years old, that fossils are the result of a catastrophic world-wide flood, and that evolution only happened on a small scale — like wolves and dogs, but no further than that. The fact that all their professors agree to teach this is a big selling point for the school, and it’s advertised quite prominently. Anyone who googles my university will realize this within about three minutes. My high school and elementary school (the application asked for those as well) are much the same.

The letter-writer explains that s/he’s no longer a Creationist — more of a theistic evolutionist who thinks “both sides of the issue” should be taught — but s/he’s worried about the college’s name on her resume and what that’ll mean for job prospects.

What should s/he do?

Think about it, and check out Alison’s response here.

I think her advice is pretty good, though she skips over the part that was most disturbing to me: Anyone who thinks we should be discussing “both sides” of the evolution issue doesn’t understand evolution. That’s a bigger red flag to me than the name of the college.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Lauren for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    There are many sides in science. Creationism is not one of them.

    If I were in a similar situation, I would make it clear that I’m not a scientist, and will present in the most effective way the science I’m asked to present. I’d trust that the scientists know what they’re doing and that the content of a museum exhibit would be mainstream settled science.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Sorry, his degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. If he really wants a job as a science educator, then he needs to go to an accredited university.

  • ZeldasCrown

    Reading the comments, the original author writes in to clarify what she meant by “both sides of the issue”, which I’ll just quote for you here (it’s probably a little over a quarter down the page, with the user name OP Science):

    “I’m the OP on the science question here – and I should clarify. When I said that students should be exposed to both sides, I was referring to students in schools like mine where creationism is taught. I heard a lot of horrible “evolution is just silly!” arguments, and it was only on our field trips to science museums that I started to realize that “those silly evolutionists” were actually reasonable, smart, well-informed people.

    I had one science professor in college who did this really well. I suspect he was a secret believer in theistic evolution or otherwise “compromised,” because he did a really good job of explaining the overwhelming evidence for evolution. He kept his job by repeating things like “we don’t believe this, but you need to know” – and it convinced me! While religious schools are entitled to teach their religious beliefs, if they really think that creationism is absolutely true, than they shouldn’t be afraid to present “the other side” rigorously and accurately.

    I believe that science museums can serve a really valuable purpose in homes and schools like mine – they can reach those outside the public school system with a well-reasoned defense for evolution. That’s what they did for me, and I’d be honored to do the same. I do not believe that creationism has any place in a science museum.”

    • Semipermeable

      This is relevant and should possibly be added to the blog post.

      Though she does need to realize what people actually hear when she refers to ‘teaching both sides’ to communicate effectively.

      She does sound like a possible candidate, but there are a lot of job-seeking science, education and curation majors out there competing for similar jobs.

      Her communications degree could help her stand out, but she has to be able to express her understanding of the terms used, and the fact that she tripped into mentioning teaching both sides isn’t a great sign.

      • Donalbain

        A communications major who doesn’t realise what they are communicating with the phrase “teach both sides” does not have a degree worth the paper it is printed on.

  • Art_Vandelay

    more of a theistic evolutionist

    “Old Earth creationist.”

    Beyond that…it’s a capitalist world. Why not just let the museum decide if they should hire you?

  • Spuddie

    As long as the job has nothing to do with science or its education.

    A YEC accountant, janitor, receptionist or ticket person isn’t going to be trying to apply their beliefs or “education” to the job.

  • Edmond

    I think the school should consider hiring her… provided there aren’t better qualified applicants ahead of her. Which there almost certainly are.

    I’m amused by her own quote, quietly tucked into the middle of her complaint:

    “For the record, I went to this school because my parents agreed to pay for a significant portion of my tuition — which was a big sacrifice for them and a great help to me.”
    Was it? A great help? Was it really? It sure doesn’t sound like it, or you wouldn’t be so worried that a science organization might not hire you due to your poor scientific background. It sounds more like you’re on the first steps of the road to discovering that it was actually a great hindrance.

  • C Peterson

    I most certainly would not hire into a science education position anybody who claimed to be a theistic evolutionist, or who remotely suggested that there were multiple sides to the issue. That right there is a deal killer… they lack the necessary job qualification, and it has nothing to do with where they went to school.

    • Art_Vandelay

      Yeah but Ken Miller and Francis Collins claim to be theistic evolutionists.

      • C Peterson

        And I have no respect for either one. I certainly wouldn’t hire them for an education position. They are what I consider more-or-less idiot savants: very good at a narrow area of science, but only because they choose to deliberately ignore the discordance between their religious beliefs and their science. That’s a bad thing.

        • WoodyTanaka

          Not a smart position to take. If they are will to keep their religion out of it and teach the subject secularly, refusing to hire them because of their religious beliefs is likely actionable and unlawful discrimination.

          • C Peterson

            I would never knowingly hire a theist. Indeed, I have avoided doing so in the past. I care not about the legality of it, because when hiring decisions are made it is very easy to formally base the decision on something that isn’t actionable. With a small enough company, it’s pretty much impossible do demonstrate any sort of pattern. That works for me.

            (I probably wouldn’t worry about it if hiring a janitor or secretary, but all my hiring has involved technical and scientific positions, and I consider theism to be a disqualifying belief system for these.)

            • WoodyTanaka

              That’s an evil and bigoted thing. I hope you are sued into bankruptcy.

              • C Peterson

                Why is it either evil or bigoted? I consider theism to objectively indicate a high probability of mental illness. There is a good chance that somebody willing to base a key part of their worldview on such a thing will have serious deficiencies that limit their ability to deal with a scientific job.

                You may certainly disagree about my ethical choice, but it really devalues “evil” or “bigoted” to use them in this way.

                In any case, it was never an issue. With the sort of jobs I hired for, there were always many things that decided who got hired.

                • Art_Vandelay

                  It’s like the Sam Harris thing…If someone thinks their cornflakes turn into the flesh of Elvis, they’re insane. If someone thinks a cracker turns into the flesh of 2000 year old Palestinian carpenter, they qualify to be president.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  Well, criminal, your fellow bigots used similar excuses to justify their bigotry against black people, gays, atheists, Jews, you name it. It was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now.

                  You alao give justification for all those who think the worst about atheists and morality. So fuck you very much for that.

                  And your concern for the integrity of language is touching, if a bit sociopathic, given your criminal treatment of human beings.

                • C Peterson

                  It’s civil, not criminal.

                  I don’t find rationally based discrimination to be morally objectionable. If I have good reason to think a person will be unable to do the job I require of them, I’m justified in not hiring them.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  Yes, you’re right. You’re a lawbreaker, not a criminal. And if you think the horseshit excuse for your bigotry you gave earlier, about mental illness, is rational, then you’re a fucking idiot, too.

        • Art_Vandelay

          I agree with you and I know this is the second day in a row we’ve touched upon this but at the end of the day you have a guy that unmasked the human genome and a guy that’s basically this century’s Clarence Darrow. I don’t understand how they found a place for magic in the evolutionary process but they are at the very least very good at what they do. That deserves some respect, right?

          • C Peterson

            Fair enough. I respect them for their accomplishments. But that’s all. Their belief systems demonstrate that they are fundamentally broken.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      Yeah, it’s that the LW thinks there are two sides to the issue at all that’s the problem. S/he doesn’t have enough education to understand even that little about the ToE, so I’d wonder what else s/he lacks.

  • CJ Klok

    If the applicant has her mind set on getting employment with a science museum, or any other legitimate research institution for that matter, I would strongly advise her to stick it out and get an additional graduate qualification (science communication, or a similar – with an emphasis on evolutionary biology) from a reputable university. She should top this off with at least one peer reviewed publication on some aspect of evolutionary biology, or the teaching thereof, and a few popular publications where she specifically repudiates the scientific disinformation dished out by her undergrad religious college. That way she can galvanize her revised and corrected viewpoints with potential employers.

    Although her undergrad education has been lacking in academic rigour it does place her in the unique position of having first hand experience of the counterproductive effects an education based on magical thinking can have on a new job seeker. Her subsequent studies will also allow her the to address these issues with better insight, and hopefully well reasoned empathy, when she is confronted with museum visitors similarly affected by religious based miseducation.

    If, on the other hand, the museum job was just one of many she looked into she might want to consider finding employment elsewhere. While still maintaining a clear view of the academic handicap her religious college inflicted on her.

    Good luck.

  • Mick

    You’ve probably missed your chance. Don’t make the same mistake as your parents. Send your own children to a proper school.

  • Dorothy

    my question would be – how did this school get to be ‘fully accredited’?

    • Thin-ice

      The Christian world has it’s own parochial and self-contained system for accrediting colleges and universities. It can be “fully accredited” within the evangelical educational system, but completely unrecognized by the secular system.

      • Lurker111

        “but completely unrecognized by the secular system.”

        Thank God!

  • rovinrockhound

    Regardless of what her beliefs are she simply does not have enough science training to be an educator at a science museum. If her elementary school, high school, AND college all taught creationism and she “converted” due to one science class in college it’s highly unlikely that she has read and thought about evolution enough to fully overwrite her previous ideas. Sure, as an educator she will mostly just have to regurgitate the official speech but she’s also going to be expected to answer questions on the fly. That’s really tough to do even when you know your stuff. Some smart-ass kid will chew her up within a week. It’s bad PR for the museum.

  • kanehau

    Sneak her into the Creation Museum… sort of a wedge-in-the-door… a double-agent.

  • James_Jarvis

    The problem is not what the college this person attended taught, but what it didn’t teach. If this persons knowledge of evolution and science comes only from what they were taught in college they don’t have the necessary background to work in a science museum. If this person were to get the necessary science background then apply for the job that would make a big difference. The other problem is whether or not this person would be able to teach what the museum wants to be taught. A persons religious beliefs should not be brought into the work place unless they are working for a religious institution.

  • Ray

    Saying that there are a sorts of creationists just demonstrates a poor understanding of numbers.

  • Lee Miller

    It amazes me that people do the “I have no education/talent/background/skills/experience in X, but I want really really bad to work in X.”
    People! Wake up. Get the right qualifications, or go do something else. Whiney ass.

  • Cake

    If you think both sides should be taught, you’ve already demonstrated a complete lack of understanding what science is and an inability to perform your job as an educator.

  • TychaBrahe

    I might hire her, if her communication skills were solid and she could convince me she accepted evolution.

    When I was an explainer at the California Museum of Science and Industry, we ran a multimedia production by Ray Bradbury. It was a poem that covered the Universe, from birth to the Viking Lander. It was full of metaphor and power.

    “It was the before time. The hour before life. The hour before the Universe gave birth to itself. Then, it was born.”

    “There is life here. There’s life on Mars and IT IS US. And someday soon we’ll land and live and be the Martians.”

    One day, after running it for a group of school children, a girl came up to me and showed me her Bible and said, “This is how the universe was made.” And I had no idea what to say to her.

    • Cake

      I would say, there are two different genesis stories in there, why do they say different things?

    • Bill P. Godfrey

      Ask her “Were you there?”

      (Joke. Please don’t do this.)

  • A3Kr0n

    A communications major as a science educator? I don’t even know what a communications major is. Having been to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry many times growing up, I always fantasized working their, and building all those cool exhibits they have. That would be the interesting job to me!

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    A communications major used “decent” to describe the size of a school. Yeah, it’s pedantic, off-topic, and trivial. Just something I noticed.

  • Erp

    As mentioned she will have to show that she has acquired an appreciation for real science and she should address that up front. Whether she has a chance at getting the job depends on whether her communication skills (oral and written and aimed at different groups [e.g., young children and well-informed adults]) are good enough to outweigh her lack of formal education in science. It may also depend on the job level; at some low levels, she would be expected to learn on the job.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    And here is the prime example of why religion needs to stay in its proper places and out of schools.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Xe didn’t go to an actual school, she went to a diploma mill. That alone should be a disqualification, as hir dishonesty — presenting it as an actual university education — is quite apparent.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

      Xe, she, hir

      Is this something I should know about?

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        I missed one (“she”), and the rest are gender-neutral pronouns, the equivalents of “he” or “she” (“xe”) and “him” or “her” (“hir”).

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          i use a different set. “per” as the universal him/her/it/his/hers/its. from an old sci fi book i sort of like. also: instead of starting an argumentative or declarative sentence with, “Look, …” i say, “Perceive, …” another book.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            If it works for you… *shrug* Who am I to tell you different?

  • Ibis3

    Read the headline, my immediate answer was no. Read the post and was ambivalent. But after reading the extra info ZeldasCrown related, I think she’d actually be an asset as a communicator for the museum. She might be able to reach those people who were indoctrinated the way she was.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

    I wouldn’t hire her for an educator position on any subject simply because she was a Comm major. Maybe it was just my school but they were the ones who took all the PoMo gibberish seriously. The only thing they were good at is bullshitting, piling on the verbiage to give an intended perception, while leaving themselves an ‘out’ to claim that didn’t actually say what they were trying to lead people to believe.


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