LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Christian astronomer who sued the University of Kentucky for religious discrimination says the perceived divide between faith and science is an “illusion.”

Martin Gaskell claimed he lost out on a top science job because of his professed faith and statements he made that were taken to be critical of evolution. The controversy fueled the long-running debate between scientists and Christians who believe the Bible refutes some scientific discoveries.

Gaskell said the two sides can find agreement. He has, as a devout Christian who uses the tools of science to study the universe.

“That’s one of the things that people like myself really want to counter, is this idea of some sort of incompatibility between religion and science,” Gaskell said.

The university reached a $125,000 settlement with Gaskell last month in exchange for dropping the civil action. He said professors who discussed his employment misunderstood his faith and his views on evolution in interoffice e-mails that later became court evidence.

Gaskell, who studies supermassive black holes at the University of Texas in Austin, said he considers himself a “theistic evolutionist”: a Christian who accepts Darwin’s theory along with evidence that the earth is billions of years old.

“We believe that God has done things through the mechanisms he’s revealing to us through science,” he said.

Gaskell has also written that evolution theory has “significant scientific problems” and includes “unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations.”

Some prominent scientists disagree with Gaskell.

“You can’t discriminate based upon religion,” said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, a science advocacy group in Oakland, Calif. “You can discriminate based upon scientific views. It’s perfectly legitimate to discriminate against a candidate based on whether that candidate’s scientific views are acceptable to the discipline.”

Gaskell, 57, brought impeccable credentials to Lexington in 2007 when he applied for the director position at UK’s new student planetarium.

Gaskell said he grew suspicious during the interview when he was asked about a lecture he gave that explores Christianity and science. After Gaskell learned he didn’t get the job, he was told that scientists in another department — biology — had been consulted.

Gaskell said since the case ended he has received about 400 e-mails with words of encouragement ranging from atheists to soldiers and other Christians who work in the sciences.

He said he wants to work to encourage more Christians to enter the sciences.