Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

University makes six-figure lawsuit settlement with creationist

with 2 comments

csunCalifornia State University, Northridge has settled a lawsuit with a former employee, who sued the university after claiming it fired him over his creationist beliefs.

In 2013, Mark Armitage was fired from his position as manager of the biology department’s electron and confocal microscopy suite at California State University Northridge (CSUN), after publishing a paper in in Acta Histochemica that he believed showed the horns dated to the time of a biblical flood. The following year, Armitage sued CSUN, arguing he was fired because he is a creationist.

A spokesperson for California State University Northridge (CSUN) told us Armitage was terminated for other reasons, and the university chose to settle to avoid a lengthy legal battle:

California State University, Northridge is firmly committed to upholding academic freedom, free speech and a respect for all religious beliefs. We have a long history of welcoming a diversity of perspectives and championing free thought and discovery within our academic environment, while ensuring that this environment is free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

The Superior Court did not rule on the merits of Mr. Armitage’s complaint, and this voluntary settlement is not an indication of any wrongdoing. The decision to not renew Mr. Armitage’s contract was based on budgetary considerations and a dwindling need for his services. The decision to settle was based on a desire to avoid the costs involved in a protracted legal battle, including manpower, time and state dollars.

She added that the settlement was “a six-figure amount,” and included attorney’s fees.

Nature reported on the case in 2014, noting:

The suit alleges that faculty members hostile to Armitage had him fired because they could not stand working with a creationist who had been published in a legitimate scientific journal.

Armitage co-authored the paper with Kevin Lee Anderson (then at Arkansas State University-Beebe, now director of the Van Andel Creation Research Center). According to Nature:

Armitage acknowledges that he did that by keeping his views on the age of the fossil out of the paper….the study simply reported that the horn was found in Hell Creek (which has a well-accepted age of 65 million to 70 million years).

However, “Soft sheets of fibrillar bone from a fossil of the supraorbital horn of the dinosaur Triceratops horridus” reports the fossil contained soft tissue, which Armitage said was approximately 4,000 years old, the time of the biblical flood. And he didn’t hide his views:

Armitage freely admits that he often engaged students in conversations, giving his opinion on issues such as the age of the remarkably well-preserved cells in the triceratops horn. “To me, the obvious conclusion is they’re young. They can’t be 68 million years old,” he says.

The paper has not been corrected nor retracted. We’ve contacted Armitage, and will update if he responds.

Hat tip: Proslogion

Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.

Written by Alison McCook

October 7th, 2016 at 9:30 am

Comments
  • Enezio E. de Almeida Filho October 7, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    The lawsuit contends that’s why Armitage’s employment at Cal State Northridge was terminated, with one professor allegedly storming into his office and shouting: “We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department!”

    http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/29337/

  • Narad October 9, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Legal complaints and supporting memoranda can contend anything at all.

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.