A Press Release from Texas Citizens for Science

2008 April 29

Contact:
Steven Schafersman, Ph.D.
President, Texas Citizens for Science
6202 Driftwood Drive
Midland, TX 79707
432/352-2265
tcs@texscience.org
http://www.texscience.org/

[Update 2008 May 11: ICR's May Acts & Facts did not have its Graduate School advertisement on its back cover, so by this act, at least, ICR is no longer advertising the availability of a legitimate Masters Degree in Science Education. TCS does not know what ICR is telling prospective ICRGS students about the legitimacy and transferability of the degree it awards graduates.]

The Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS) Continues to Advertise the Availability of a Masters Degree in Science Education

The following statement can be found today at http://www.icr.edu/home/ and http://www.icr.edu/apply/:

Pursuant to California and Federal law, ICRGS currently offers an M.S. in Science Education, mostly online, to qualified students who are not Texas residents. ICR is currently examining its legal options regarding how it can best serve the educational "gaps" of Texas residents.

Texas Citizens for Science (TCS) continues to believe--as it stated during public testimony on 2008 April 23--that ICR is engaged in fraudulent advertising. If one goes to http://www.tracs.org/DOE_Nov07.pdf, the report of the Accreditation Commission Meeting of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, November 5-6, 2007, one finds this statement on page 3:

The following Institution's letter of withdrawal was accepted and accredited status terminated: Institute of Creation Research, Dallas, TX, formerly El Cahon, CA, a former Category III institution approved to offer the Masters degree, was removed from TRACS membership.

Thus, under California and Federal law, ICRGS currently does not offer a legitimate "M.S. in Science Education" degree, because ICRGS currently has no accreditation from a recognized regional or national accrediting association (such as TRACS) and no Texas certification, and thus cannot legally advertise the availability of a legitimate and accredited M.S. degree in science education. An important legal qualification is that TCS assumes that the legitimacy of ICR's graduate degree is implied in its ad. If ICR does not intend that its graduate degree be considered legitimate and accredited, then TCS's opinion about it being "fraudulent" would be incorrect. In this case, the ad would merely be misleading, and the ICR Masters Degree in Science Education would be bogus, such as a graduate degree advertised by a degree mill (which unfortunately are legal in many states). In the past, ICR has never been a degree mill; during last week's testimony before the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board ICR explicitly denied that it was a degree mill; and TCS has never claimed that ICR is a degree mill. But it looks now as if this is the path ICR is taking unless it can either win Texas certification or regain TRACS accreditation by keeping its graduate school in California.

It is possible that ICR retains its legal authorization in California to grant certified or authorized (but not accredited) masters degrees in science education. In a March 4 press release at http://www.icr.org/article/3869/, ICR states that, "... ICRGS was in good standing with the state of California, a situation that remains true today." This implies that the ICR Graduate School still has some sort of legal educational authorization in California, and that its M.S. Degree in Science Education is valid in all states except Texas, despite the fact that ICR is no longer located in California. Whether this is true or not is not clear to TCS. But obviously an allegation of "fraudulent" or "misleading" advertising on the part of ICR would depend on the specific legal status of its graduate degree program in California. TCS speculates that since ICR has moved its Graduate School from California to Texas, any previous degree-granting authority it had from the State of California has been abandoned, in the same way that ICR abandoned its TRACS accreditation when it moved from California. Perhaps ICR intends to move its Graduate School back to California and reapply for TRACS accreditation. After all, since it will be solely an online curriculum, the legal residence of the ICRGS can be anywhere where the law is most favorable.

Continuing to advertise the availability of a masters degree in science education without official authority is a desperate move, but ICR now has few options. Also, the lack of legitimate accreditation or certification means that ICR students cannot apply for federal student loans or government financial aid, which puts a considerable damper on ICR's recruitment of potential students who want to become Creation Science educators.

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On another matter, ICR has just posted its official response to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's (THECB) decision at http://www.icr.org/article/3855/ (and in a press release at http://www.icr.org/article/3864/):

Texas Education Officials Strike Blow to Academic Freedom

THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes bars ICR Graduate School degrees in Texas. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Commissioner Raymund Paredes on Wednesday, April 23, 2008, recommended that the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS) be denied a Certificate of Authority to grant degrees in the state. On Thursday, the Board voted unanimously to accept Paredes' recommendation.

Paredes issued his recommendation, formulated in advance, despite the approval of both the THECB Site Team, which evaluated the ICRGS in November 2007, and the THECB Advisory Committee that affirmed the Site Team's approval in December 2007. He rejected both reports as "flawed" and instead convened a separate panel of scientists and science educators that advised him not to approve the ICRGS application. ICRGS scientists and faculty were not included in or allowed to respond to this panel.

On Thursday, Joe Stafford, Assistant Commissioner for Academic Affairs and Research, read into record a Texas Education Code statute about preventing public deception in the face of "fraudulent" or "substandard" college and university degrees. ICRGS representatives present at the meeting were not allowed to respond to this mischaracterization of the graduate program.

THECB committee chairperson Lyn Bracewell Phillips voted to deny ICR Graduate School permission to grant degrees in Texas. The manner in which the hearing was conducted was characterized by viewpoint discrimination. Prior to Wednesday's consideration of the ICRGS application, THECB committee chairperson Lyn Bracewell Phillips allowed public testimony for 30 minutes on the ICRGS application. Several political activists, including Steven Schafersman--who had evidently not reviewed the ICRGS application materials--launched ad hominem attacks against the credibility and reputation of the ICRGS and its faculty.

Critics have attempted to draw false associations between the ICRGS program and attempts to introduce religion into taxpayer-funded public schools, even though the ICRGS is a private postgraduate institution seeking to train science educators for private schools.

Questions have surfaced concerning the treatment of the ICRGS application by THECB officials and whether Commissioner Paredes and his agency altered the normal process of application review because of external pressures based on ideological biases against the ICRGS.

Under Texas law, the ICRGS may appeal the decision of the Commission or seek other remedies as appropriate.

The following is Texas Citizens for Science's response to ICR's "Texas Education Officials Strike Blow to Academic Freedom."

Texas Citizens for Science rejects Henry Morris's mischaracterization of its president, Steven Schafersman, that (1) he had not reviewed the ICR Graduate School's application materials, and (2) that he (and others) had "launched ad hominem attacks against the credibility and reputation" of the ICR school and its faculty. Schafersman writes,

I most certainly did review the ICR's application materials, as did the professional scientists and science educators used by the THECB to evaluate the ICR proposal, and we all found them grossly deficient. As for the "ad hominem" label, I had no need for that rhetorical device, since I had ample evidence--which I supplied to the Coordinating Board--for the scientifically incompetent and fraudulent nature of the ICR's graduate program and faculty credentials. I presented evidence to the THECB that ICR had been fraudulently advertising their graduate program that would enable a student to "earn the M.S. degree in Science Education" despite having no accreditation to justify this statement. I also provided evidence that ICR recognized itself as primarily a "Christian ministry" and a "creation-science research group," not a science education institution. I also provided evidence that the ICR faculty, despite possessing legitimate science Ph.D.'s, are not real scientists, since they do not teach real science, conduct real scientific research, publish in real scientific journals, or have a true scientific attitude about how to study nature by adopting methodological naturalism, as do all real scientists. Instead, they must annually sign a Statement of Faith that precludes them from acting as legitimate scientists, since they must affirm things they are required to believe about nature but will not test. Finally and most importantly, I and many others provided ample evidence that ICR's graduate curriculum was quite dissimilar to every other graduate science education curriculum in Texas, and did not meet even minimal standards of laboratory instruction, rigor, completeness, honesty, accuracy, and most of all, competence.

Commissioner Paredes recommendation had been formulated several days in advance of April 23, but only after careful study by himself and his staff of two evaluations by panels of professional scientists and science educators and of the factual information about ICR that I and others had sent him. His recommendation was the correct decision. ICR's appeal to the unanimous positive decisions of the initial Site Evaluation Team and the Certification Advisory Council won't do them any good, since now everyone--including Commissioner Paredes and members of the Coordinating Board--knows that the membership of these two panels was "flawed," since neither one contained a scientist or science educator. ICR claims that due process was not being followed in the evaluation of their proposal, and this was true but opposite to the sense that ICR believes. The actual lack of due process occurred early in the evaluation process, and was not corrected and followed until after attention by the press and scientific community alerted the THECB of the problem.

ICR's Special Counsel, James Johnson, strongly suggested that litigation would ensue if ICR's appeal of the negative and unanimous Coordinating Board vote failed. He mentioned several First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds that ICR might use for a case: due process, equal protection of the law, discriminatory treatment, minority rights, academic freedom, freedom of speech, and viewpoint discrimination. Fourteenth Amendment due process is what ICR used in California to sue Bill Honig and the California Department of Education. The sequence of events in both California and Texas is eerily similar, so this might be their first choice. However, as explained above, using due process would require that ICR prove that the THECB's process was unfair or biased, and this would ultimately require that the professional evaluators utilized by the four panels be questioned in court. Their status as scientists and science educators will be of primary concern, and the knowledge we have now about these individuals does not bode well for ICR in a potential trial. The first two panels that approved ICR's graduate program in science education had no scientists or science educators, and the final two that disapproved the program consisted of only scientists and science educators.

Using Fourteenth Amendment minority rights--preventing discriminatory treatment and promising "equal protection of the laws"--may be a stretch for ICR, when 45% of Americans are Creationists and their message is available 24 hours a day on every Christian radio station and in every Christian bookstore. ICR means, of course, that its minority "public viewpoints" within science have become the subject of unequal "discriminatory treatment" during the THECB evaluation process and should therefore receive legal protection. ICR faculty member Larry Vardiman said that ICR has "a minority definition of science," and C.E.O. Henry Morris III said that "We do understand very thoroughly that we represent a minority viewpoint in the scientific community." The problem with these statements, however, is that they are both false. ICR does not have a minority definition of science: its definition is not science at all, but pseudoscience. ICR does not have a minority viewpoint within the scientific community: it is not part of the scientific community in any way now and never has been. Morris's statement is similar to someone claiming that "Faith healing is a minority practice within the medical community" or "Belief in a flat Earth is a minority viewpoint within the geographic community" or "Geocentricity is a minority belief within the astronomical community." Biblical Creationism and Scientific Creationism are not "minority science"--they are not science...period. As a consequence, ICR's graduate education program is not science education, but pseudoscience education.

A similar argument can be used against Vardiman and Morris's claims that "evolution uses the naturalistic definition of science," and ICR doesn't use that definition, having its own "minority definition of science" that often includes supernaturalism (in the form of a supernatural Being acting in nature). Unfortunately for ICR, science is based on methodological naturalism, so supernaturalism cannot be part of science. If a Creation scientist uses reasoning or "evidence" that violate methodological naturalism, his or her method just isn't science. Contrary to Morris's claim that "both sides have presuppositions that can't be tested"--evolutionary science its commitment to naturalism and ICR's "science" its commitment to its statements of unalterable faith--within legitimate science even methodological naturalism is subject to testing and skepticism. It is not presupposed, but is a higher-level working hypothesis that is tested whenever empirical observations and experiments are conducted. Methodological naturalism is a working strategy or method, not a metaphysical description of the universe (that's the purpose of ontological naturalism, which in fact many scientists don't accept). Supernaturalism has no place in science, and ICR's attempt to force it in fails.

As for the THECB evaluation process that ICR criticizes, it was open and fair as described above; it was especially fair to citizens and taxpayers after Commissioner Paredes made sure that due process was being followed and the earlier flawed charade had ended. ICR complained about the public testimony allowed by the Academic Excellence and Research Committee, but four of the ten speakers testified in favor of ICR, and ICR had the opportunity to present plenty of uninterrupted testimony soon after when their agenda item came up. ICR claims it is a private institution that only wants to train science teachers for "private schools." But this is also a poor argument, since even students in private religious schools deserve accurate, reliable, and honest science instruction, something they won't get from ICR-trained "science" educators. In addition, the argument works against ICR, since the justification for earning an accredited masters degree in science education is to qualify for Texas teacher certification (and to qualify for federal education loans and grants). ICR can freely train Creation Science teachers now for private religious schools if they wish, since such schools are not required to hire certified teachers as are public and charter schools whose faculty are paid with state funds. Therefore, if it's true that ICR's graduates are to be science teachers only in "private schools," there is no compelling reason for ICR to want accreditation of its program except to qualify its students for federal student loans and state scholarships.

The remaining three rationales all depend on the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, but this will be the least likely grounds for courtroom litigation. ICR has been exercising its freedom of speech to promote Young-Earth Creationism since it was founded four decades ago, and nobody has tried to stop it. ICR exercises its free speech today, and has the right and freedom now to teach any student who wishes to pay for the opportunity to receive instruction at their facility. What ICR does not have, however, is the right to insist that a Texas state agency tasked with the responsibility to protect citizens and institutions of higher education in the state must give ICR official certification to legitimatize their graduate program. This is not a right protected by the First Amendment, but is an administrative and legal recognition or certification governed by statutory obligations under State law ("It is the policy and purpose of the State of Texas to prevent deception of the public resulting from the conferring and use of fraudulent or substandard college and university degrees." TEC 61.301). There exists no Constitutional right that compels a public agency to approve a degree program that is grossly deficient in so many ways. Indeed, quite the opposite is true according to the law: the THECB is obliged to reject ICR's graduate program proposal if its design--as a "science education" program--is fraudulent and substandard. An effort was made by the THECB to accommodate ICR--which was offered the option to apply for a Certificate of Authority to award a Masters of Theology degree in Creation Studies, a perfectly appropriate and legitimate degree in its case--but ICR refused. ICR's freedom of speech argument is so weak that no one is frightened.