Creation institute's proposal rejected by panel

Creation institute's proposal rejected by panel
Master's curriculum is not science, higher education commissioner says.
By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz - AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN - 4/24/2008 - original
A Bible-oriented group's proposal to offer an online master's degree in science education was unanimously rejected Wednesday by a panel of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The action by the board's Academic Excellence and Research Committee came after Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes recommended against the proposal, submitted by the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research. The full coordinating board is scheduled to consider the matter today.

Paredes said the institute's plan is infused with creationism and runs counter to conventions of science, which hold that claims of supernatural intervention are not testable and therefore lie outside the realm of science. He also said that the institute, by insisting on a literal interpretation of biblical creation, would fail to prepare students adequately for the field of science education.

"Hence, the program cannot be properly designated either as 'science' or 'science education,' " Paredes said.

Based on the committee's vote, it appears likely that the board will also reject the proposal.

Henry Morris III, CEO of the Institute for Creation Research, said Wednesday's ruling was not a surprise. He conceded that his organization is biased in favor of a creationist worldview but said that shouldn't be a disqualifying factor.

"We do understand very thoroughly that we represent a minority viewpoint in the scientific community," Morris said. "We still feel we teach good science."

If the full board rejects the proposal, Morris said, the institute's options include appealing, submitting a new proposal or going to court.

Steve Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, an advocacy group, praised Paredes for a recommendation that was "very strong and courageous." Schafersman said the institute's proposal amounts to religion masquerading as science.

The issue comes before the coordinating board, which oversees higher education, at a time when the state is reviewing the science curriculum, including that involving evolution, for primary and secondary public schools. The State Board of Education is expected to take up the matter later this year.

The proposal by the Institute for Creation Research has been a difficult one for the coordinating board, in part because of what Paredes described as a flawed review process. The coordinating board's staff and an advisory committee recommended approval of the proposal last year, but Paredes ordered a fresh review after an outcry from scientists and science educators, including some of the state's leading university researchers.

Paredes said the institute's catalog and other records portray as unshakable fact that the Earth is about 6,000 years old, that God created all things in the universe in six days as described in Genesis, that theories of origin and development involving evolution are false, and that most biblical miracles require a temporary suspension of basic natural laws.

"Whatever the ultimate merit of such views, they clearly stand at odds with the most basic tenets of scientific work such as observation, testing and analysis," Paredes said.

Believers of many faiths might well attribute to a creator the beginning of life on Earth and the formation of the universe billions of years ago, Paredes said. "But religious belief is not science. Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing."