Religion in fake mustache

Religion in fake mustache
By JOHN YOUNG - Waco Tribune-Herald - 4/2/2008 - original
WACO, Texas — Reading about the complaint by the Institute for Creation Research reminded me of one of my favorite children's books — Hubert: The Caterpillar Who Thought He Was a Mustache.

Oh, it's a real book, all right.

It's about a worm with an identity problem. Hubert thinks he is facial hair. He seeks to plant himself where caterpillars don't go.

Such is the case with the Institute for Creation Research. It wants to give out graduate degrees in science.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has said no. The institute has threatened to sue. The board, carrying out its function of not certifying bunkum as education, signaled that it will be up to that challenge.

Item 1 in the state's exhibits, should this go to court, will be this statement in the institute's general catalog: "All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week described in Genesis. The creation record is factual, historical and perspicuous; thus all theories of origin and development that involve evolution in any form are false."

Now, understand: You can set up a Bible school on any prairie and teach this as the Gospel truth. But a unanimous Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has said you can't teach it as science.

Not that their functions intersect, but this development signals a clash of intentions between the coordinating board and some members of the State Board of Education.

With state science standards coming up for approval, some members of the board want to make room in them for intelligent design or outright creation theory.

The coordinating board's resolute statement on behalf of not treating religion as science is predicated on the fact that Texas has yet to water down the teaching of science with "ifs," "buts" and "howevers" predicated on religious assertions.

Intelligent design, a philosophical construct that imputes the role of a creator in all things, is most legitimate fodder for philosophy class.

Some of the thinkers who carry its banner scrupulously avoid the use of the word "God" to convey that they are academicians and not theologians.

It doesn't take long, however, for intelligent design's promoters to shed the pretenses and start flipping through the Old Testament.

The movie Expelled is billed as an exposé of higher education. Humorist Ben Stein is supposed to give the documentary pop-culture street cred. The problem: Expelled can't just make the case for the legitimacy of intelligent design without a religious perspective. It tries to broad-brush pro-evolution scientists as anti-God.

In other words, like a lot of people driven by zeal, Expelled is a little breathless. Science does not hyperventilate. You may interpret science and hyperventilate when you see what's happening to polar ice. But science is dispassionate. At least that's what we should hope.

Despite the college board's actions, all signs are not as encouraging in Texas.

Recently, the head of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency was fired for the crime of treating intelligent design as something other than science.

Actually, the crime was only imputed. What Chris Comer did was forward an e-mail containing information about a speech by Barbara Forrest, author of Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse.

"Trojan horse" is a most appropriate term for intelligent design. Though a legitimate philosophical exercise, it is pure subterfuge when offered as science-class fodder.

The Institute for Creation Research says the First Amendment gives it the right to say what it believes in is science.

That's true. But nothing says the state of Texas has to put its seal on it.

A caterpillar can believe whatever it wishes. But believing so doesn't make it a mustache.

John Young is opinion editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald.