Don't call creationism science it isn't

Don't call creationism science it isn't
COMMENTARY: John Young, WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD - 1/21/2008 - original
I'm starting to long for the days when it was respectable enough for a Bible-believing American to say science was Satan's tool.

Things were simpler then.

Now we have more and more who want to say that the religion to which they ascribe is science respectable in a clinical sense, with physical evidence weighed and calculated on a gram scale.

The scary thing is that this form of respectability has come to influence and infect policymakers. Recently, the Texas Education Agency's chief science curriculum person was ousted for not adhering to a policy of neutrality toward the subject of intelligent design.

This would seem to be a tough standard for someone whose business is science. If Chris Comer's job was to oversee philosophy or religion curricula, she'd have deserved the old heave-ho for playing favorites. Say, purging Kant in favor of L. Ron Hubbard.

But something doesn't become science just because someone hopes to shoehorn it into studies where it shouldn't be.

Whether you call it intelligent design or creation science, it's philosophy. It's religion. In said contexts, have a ball. Expound away. Just don't call it science.

The other day, a certification advisory committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board made headlines when it endorsed a graduate degree a master of science in creation science for the Institute of Creation Research.

The board might have been snookered by a vague title of a "master's degree in science education" when in fact the subject was creation science.

After protests were lodged, Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said the institute might have to take the word "science" out of its proposal and make it a master's degree in creation studies.

Then the institute asked the commission not to consider the matter at this month's meeting.

Free speech being free, the Institute of Creation Research can call what it does anything it wants. But the state should take care that when affixing its seal to "science" it's scientific.

In recent years, the promotion of creation science has become a cottage industry, all in a quest to undermine Darwin and bolster Bible-based predispositions as a matter of state policy.

The General Motors of this new industry is the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. Backed by big money and hard-right philosophies, the center has plied a long-term strategy to replace "materialistic science" with intelligent design.

A reputed "wedge project" has pitted forces of biblical respectability against the scientists who continue to operate with Darwin on the brain and on their blackboards.

The Discovery Institute extended its tentacles when Baylor University for a time became a hive of intelligent design activity with the short-lived Polanyi Institute.

Those involved in preserving Baylor's independence and scholarly respectability know that this is a lever ever-ready to be applied and a wedge with which some individuals hope to tear away the underpinnings of Darwinism.

Admittedly, as a nation, we've let our standards sag about what constitutes science in the first place. We have a president for whom a favorite catch phrase is "sound science." What he's most interested in is politically profitable science, particularly that produced by industry to rationalize and justify its every impulse.

Man's role in global warming? Rank speculation.

Our president's type of "sound science" is that which authorized $2.3 million to study the power of prayer.

As I said, it was simpler when science was the professed enemy for these forces.

Now they say they've come to the table in the interests thereof.

Saying so doesn't mean it's so.

jyoung@wacotrib.com