Texas higher education board rejects 'creation science' degree proposal

06:02 PM CDT on Wednesday, April 23, 2008

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN — A bid by the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research to train future science teachers — focusing on creationism instead of Darwin’s theory of evolution — was flatly rejected by Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board members on Wednesday.

The decision to turn down the proposal, subject to final action by the full board on Thursday, came despite arguments from ICR officials and faculty that teaching of creationism to students would not hurt their future effectiveness as science teachers.

A lawyer for the Bible-based group also warned that the coordinating board could eventually face legal action for suppressing the free-speech rights of the institute.

Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes paved the way for the board action by recommending rejection of the ICR request for a state certificate of authority to offer an online master’s degree in science education.

Citing the group’s teaching of creationism rather than evolution in its science curriculum, Dr. Paredes said it was clear the school would not adequately prepare its graduates to teach the scientific principles now required in Texas public schools.

“Evolution is such a fundamental principle of contemporary science it is hard to imagine how you could cover the various fields of science without giving it [evolution] the proper attention it deserves as a foundation of science,” he said.

“Religious belief is not science. Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing.”

Henry Morris III, chief executive officer of the institute, contended that the school would prepare students to “understand both sides of the scientific perspective, although we do favor the creationist view.”

After the adverse vote from several coordinating board members meeting as a committee, Mr. Morris said the institute may revise its application or take its case to court.

“We will pursue due process,” he told the board. “We will no doubt see you in the future.”

Texas public school biology classes teach evolution, the theory that humans evolved from lower forms of life. Creationists, including the ICR, advocate a literal, Bible-based theory that a supreme being created the earth and all life forms — including humans.

In explaining his recommendation, Dr. Paredes cited the institute’s general catalog, which states: “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.”

Therefore, the commissioner said, the proposed ICR program “in insisting on a literal interpretation of biblical creation, gives insufficient coverage to conventional science and does not adequately prepare students in the field of science education.”

Before the vote, the board heard comment from several persons, most of whom urged rejection of the proposal. Among them was Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, who said the ICR was a Christian ministry rather than a science organization that was primarily interested in promoting pseudoscience.

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