News Articles and Editorials about the Institute for Creation Research and
Its Quest To Obtain Official Texas Certification from the
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Creation college seeks state's OK to train teachers

Dallas school plans master's in science education, fueling debate over teaching evolution


By Holly K. Hacker
hhacker@dallasnews.com
The Dallas Morning News
Saturday, December 15, 2007
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/121507dnmetcreation.2b0d011.html

Texas' debate over teaching evolution is going to college.

The nonprofit Institute for Creation Research in Dallas wants to train future science teachers in Texas and elsewhere using an online curriculum. A state advisory group gave its approval Friday; now the final say rests with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which will consider the request next month.

The institute's proposal comes amid a fierce debate over how to teach evolution Š the theory that humans and other species evolved from lower forms of life Š in Texas public schools.

Some advocacy groups are attacking the creation institute's plan, saying it's an attempt to undermine the teaching of science in public schools.

"They teach distorted science," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, which opposes teaching creationism in public schools. "Any student coming out from the ICR with a degree in science would not be competent to teach in Texas public schools."

The institute was created in 1970 by the late Henry M. Morris, a Dallas native known as the father of "creation science," the view that science Š not just religion Š indicates that a divine being created the Earth and all living things.

Patricia Nason, chairwoman of the institute's science education department, said that, despite the institute's name, students learn evolution along with creationism.

"Our students are given both sides," said Dr. Nason, who has a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University. "They need to know both sides, and they can draw their own conclusion."

The institute, through its graduate school, wants to offer an online master's degree in science education.

According to the school's Web site, it offers typical education classes, teaching such fundamentals as how to use lab equipment, the Internet and PowerPoint in the classroom. But it also offers a class called "Advanced studies in creationism."

And the course Web page for "Curriculum design in science" gives this scenario: "The school board has asked you to serve on a committee that is examining grades 6-12 science goals. ... Both evolutionist and creationist teachers serve on the curriculum committee. How will you convince them to include creation science as well as evolution in the new scope and sequence?"

The school has offered science degrees in California for years. It offered its first graduate courses in 1981, and its first online courses about two years ago.

The institute began moving its headquarters from the San Diego area to Dallas last year, making it necessary to get approval from the state of Texas to offer degrees here.

The school now has more than 50 students taking online classes all over the world, school officials say.

Private schools

Most graduates have gone on to teach in private schools, Dr. Nason said, though some may want to teach in public schools.

That's what scares people like Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, which also opposes teaching creationism in public schools.

"It just seems odd to license an organization to offer a degree in science when they're not teaching science," Mr. Quinn said.

"What we're seeing here is another example of how Texas is becoming the central state in efforts by creationists to undermine science education, especially the teaching of evolution."

A group of educators and officials from the state Coordinating Board visited the campus in November and met with faculty members. The group found that the institute offered a standard science education curriculum that would prepare them to take state licensure exams, said Glenda Barron, an associate commissioner of the board.

Dr. Barron said the program was held to the same standards that any other college would have to meet.

"The master's in science education, we see those frequently," she said. "What's different--and what's got everybody's attention--is the name of the institution."

The advisory group that approved the plan Friday includes professors and administrators from six colleges Š two public and four affiliated with religious institutions.

One member of the team that visited the school has a background in math and science education. But no one on the team or the panel that gave approval Friday has a background in pure science, records show.

That's a problem, said Dr. Scott of the National Center for Science Education.

"It sounds like the committee may have just taken at face value what the ICR claims," she said.

In California, the institute is recognized by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, a group that Dr. Morris helped form.

But Texas doesn't recognize that accrediting agency. So the institute needs state approval to offer degrees while it pursues accreditation from a recognized agency, most likely the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Dr. Scott predicts that won't be easy.

"There's a huge gulf between what the ICR is doing and what they're doing at legitimate institutions like ... [the University of Texas] or Baylor," she said.

The institute says the purpose of its graduate school is to prepare science teachers "to understand the universe within the integrating framework of Biblical creationism using proven scientific data."

In 1988, California education officials tried to remove the institute's authority to grant master's of science degrees, arguing that the program didn't pass academic muster. The institute sued the state, arguing that the decision violated its constitutional rights. The school received $225,000 in a 1992 settlement. By then, a new state panel was in charge of evaluating such private schools.

Time zone considered

The institute's founder, Dr. Morris, who was an engineer by training, died last year. His son Henry Morris III is the institute's chief executive officer. He told The Dallas Morning News last year that the institute moved to Dallas because "it's in the Central time zone, with a good airport." But he also noted that Dallas is a "strong Christian center" that would support teaching from a creationist perspective.

The institute's search for approval in Texas comes just weeks after the science director of the Texas Education Agency resigned under pressure over allegations that she had inappropriately endorsed evolution. She had forwarded an e-mail about a talk in Austin by a professor and author who opposes teaching creationism in public schools.

The state Board of Education is set to revise its science curriculum in the coming year. Current regulations require the teaching of evolution, but many conservatives in Texas want teachers to address what they see as weaknesses of evolution. Some scientists say, for instance, that cells are so complicated they can't be fully explained by evolution.

Dr. Nason said the institute wants to help schoolchildren perform better in science, and to encourage them to go into math and science fields.

Dr. Scott sees other motives. Institute officials, she said, "very much want to get these views in the public schools. They believe that evolution is an evil idea that students should reject because they believe if students learn and accept evolution, they'll give up their faith."

THE SCHOOL AND ITS BELIEFS

INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH

Offices: In Dallas and Santee, Calif.
Annual budget: $7 million
Faculty members: four full time
Students: more than 50

Degrees: master of science degree in science education with minors in astro/geophysics, biology, geology and general science.

School: The institute runs its own graduate school that offers master's of science education degrees. Its stated mission: to "research, educate and communicate Truth involving the study and promotion of scientific creationism, Biblical creationism, and related fields."

The Institute for Creation Research Graduate School sets out its educational philosophy and beliefs on its Web site, www.icr.org.

On its philosophy: The institute says its administration and faculty are "committed to the tenets of both scientific creationism and Biblical creationism." It says the two "are compatible ... and all genuine facts of science support the Bible."

On public schools: The institute "maintains that scientific creationism should be taught along with the scientific aspects of evolutionism in tax-supported institutions."

SOME TENETS OF SCIENTIFIC CREATIONISM

- The physical universe "was supernaturally created by a transcendent personal Creator who alone has existed from eternity."

- Life "was specially and supernaturally created by the Creator."

- All plants and animals were "created functionally complete from the beginning and did not evolve from some other kind of organism."

- Evolution since creation is "limited to 'horizontal' changes (variations) within the kinds, or 'downward' changes (e.g., harmful mutations, extinctions).

- Humans "were specially created in fully human form from the start."

SOME TENETS OF BIBLICAL CREATIONISM

- The creator of the universe is a triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

- The universe was created "in the six literal days of the Creation Week" described in Genesis.

- All human beings descended from Adam and Eve.

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EDUCATION

Creationist institute seeks certificate to operate master's program in Texas

Christian facility teaches science from biblical perspective


By Eileen E. Flynn
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Saturday, December 15, 2007
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/12/15/1215creationism.html

A California-based Christian research institute cleared a hurdle Friday in its bid to obtain approval from the state to operate its master's degree program in Texas when a committee recommended that it be allowed to seek accreditation.

The Institute for Creation Research offers online degrees in science education. Its courses are taught from a literal biblical worldview for students who plan to teach biology and other science classes. It is run by so-called young earth creationists, who promote a literal reading of the Bible and believe that God created the earth in six days between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Patricia Nason, the institute's department chairwoman for science education, said most of the institute's students end up teaching at private Christian schools. But, she said, they learn about evolution and are qualified to teach in public schools.

That worries education watchdog groups, which say the institute's graduates might promote creationism over evolution in public school classrooms.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will make a final decision next month on whether to issue a certificate of authority, which would give the institute two years to obtain accreditation. An advisory committee voted unanimously Friday to recommend the board grant the certificate.

The institute is moving its operations from Santee, Calif., to its new Dallas facility and plans to seek accreditation from a state-approved regional body such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, officials said.

It has about 30 students from around the world, most of them teachers or aspiring teachers, and four full-time faculty members. It requires students to minor in subjects such as biology, and Nason said the faculty use "current literature in the sciences and also in science education."

"The bottom line is we're teaching science and we're teaching teachers how to teach science," Nason said.

The institute's curriculum is bad science, said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif., nonprofit group that monitors the debate over the teaching of evolution in schools.

"The danger is the miseducation of Texas students should these teachers end up in public schools," Scott said.

Henry Morris, considered by many to be the father of the creation science movement, founded the institute in California in the early 1970s. In 1981, the research facility began offering graduate courses in science education, biology, geology and other disciplines.

The State of California yanked the institute's license to offer master's degrees in the late 1980s but restored it when the institute prevailed in a lawsuit in 1992.

After Morris' death in February 2006, the board of directors decided to open the Henry M. Morris Center for Christian Leadership in Dallas.

Texas higher education officials said the board sent a team of independent consultants to visit the institute and examine curriculum, administration, finances and other aspects.

The team gave an overall favorable report, though it noted an exception written into the institute's academic freedom policy: "It is ... expected that faculty members as teachers, scholars, and citizens, will further the ministry of the Institute through their life example and commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. Acceptance to this limitation of academic freedom is reaffirmed with each annual contract."

However, the report said, the institute offered a "plausible" scientific program.

If the board grants the certificate of authority next month, the institute will continue to receive site visits by independent consultants.

eflynn@statesman.com; 445-3812

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Readin', Writin' 'n Creatin' Science

by Melissa del Bosque
The Texas Observer Blog
December 17th, 2007
http://www.texasobserver.org/blog/index.php/2007/12/17/readin-writin-n-creatin-science/

Sci·ence /noun/ def: knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.

We had to go to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary to make sure the definition for science had not changed in the past year, whew!

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) might want to check Webster's too. Last Friday, the Board's Certification Advisory Committee recommended that the Institute for Creation Research be given the power to grant Master's degrees in science education.

Dominic Chavez, director of external relations for the coordinating board, says that the Board- appointed panel would give its positive recommendation to Commissioner Raymund Paredes and the Board for consideration at its next meeting January 24th.

"If it were granted it would be an interim step," says Chavez of the authorization. "It's a two year window where the the school can work in Texas, but they have to meet a number of criteria."

Criteria? That might be tough when the Institute teaches that dinosaurs are only centuries old instead of millennia. Were our great great grandfathers dodging flesh-eating theropods in their Model Ts?

The folks that comprise the committee that made the recommendation include: Dr. Judith G. Loredo of Huston-Tillotson University, Dr. Helen Sullivan of Arlington Baptist College, Dr. Robert C. Cloud of Baylor University, Dr. Johanne Thomas of Texas A&M Prairie View, Dr. James P. Duran of UT Austin and Dr. Theodore J. Wardlow of the Austin Presbyterian Seminary.

They are appointed to two-year terms by the coordinating board to make recommendations on whether private institutions should be authorized to issue degrees in Texas.

The Creation Institute has spun off some interesting offspring, including, Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. At Ham's museum, you can see a naked Adam, his naughty bits covered with a lily pad, reaching out to pet what looks like a mountain lion in the Garden of Eden. Smiling humans are also pictured alongside their dino friends. On the political front, Tim LaHaye, co-author of the apocalyptic "Left Behind" novels and one of the founders of the institute, is stumping for Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign in Iowa.

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Creationist College Advances in Texas

by Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Ed
Dec 17, 2007
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/12/17/texas

Texas is fast becoming a key state not only in debates over evolution but over what kind of government scrutiny is important and legitimate when reviewing colleges with particular ideologies.

On Friday, an advisory committee to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommended that the state allow the Institute for Creation Research to start offering online master's degrees in science education. The institute, which has been based in California, where it operates a museum and many programs for people who don't believe in evolution, is relocating to Dallas, where it hopes to expand its online education offerings.

In Texas, the institute needs either regional accreditation (for which is applying, but which will take some time) or state approval to offer degrees. Some science groups are aghast by the idea that Texas would authorize master's degrees in science education that are based on complete opposition to evolution and literal acceptance of the Bible. And these groups are particularly concerned because the students in these programs would be people who are or want to be school teachers.

Complicating matters, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will be taking up the issue in the wake of an August ruling by the Texas Supreme Court questioning the grounds on which the board had evaluated seminaries and warning the board not to impose secular values on seminaries. The ruling was seen at the time as making it harder for the state to deny licenses to religious institutions.

Raymund A. Paredes, commissioner of higher education for Texas, stressed in an interview Sunday that the advisory panel's vote was just that: advisory. But he noted that the board's decision next month would be "sensitive" and said he would be asking the board's general counsel to study the impact of the August Supreme Court decision on the issue.

Officials of the Institute for Creation Research could not be reached for comment, but there is extensive information about the institute's programs on its Web site. The list of courses required for the master of science education includes a number that are fairly standard ("Advanced Educational Psychology" and "Instructional Design," for example), but also some that are not.

"Advanced Studies in Creationism" features this description: "Scientific study of the creationist and evolutionist cosmologies; origin and history of the universe, of the solar systems, of life, of the various forms of life, and of man and his cultures. Critical analysis of both creation and evolutionary theory using data from paleontology, astronomy, biochemistry, genetics, thermodynamics, statistics, and other sciences. Study of geologic principles and earth history in the light of Creation and the Flood; scientific comparative studies of recent creation; application of principles of Biblical creationism in various fields."

That language, and other comments made by institute officials, suggest that students would be exposed to the science of evolution. But other material on the institute's Web site suggests that one could not teach or study at the institute while accepting the overwhelmingly broad scientific consensus about evolution.

The statement of faith for everyone at the institute requires support for both "scientific creationism" and "Biblical creationism." The former includes the belief that humans were created "in fully human form from the start" and that the universe was created "perfect" by the "creator." The latter includes the beliefs that the Bible is literally true and "free from error of any sort, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological." Specifically, the statement requires belief in the literal creation of the earth in six days, that Adam and Eve were the first humans, and in the virgin birth of Jesus.

Paredes, the commissioner of higher education, said it was "way too early to get worked up" about the prospect of creationism degrees being awarded. He said he would be making a recommendation to the coordinating board based ultimately on "what is in the best interests of college students in Texas" and that since this program would train teachers, he would take an even broader perspective of what is best for all students.

Asked for his views on evolution, Paredes said "I accept the conventions of science' and "I believe evolution has a legitimate place in the teaching of science." But he declined to say that evolution should be taught as the science.

"A lot of people believe creationism is a legitimate point of view. I respect them," Paredes said. "I'm an advocate of the principle that when there is a controversy and there are legitimate arguments on both sides of the conflict, my pedagogical principle is ‘teach the conflict.' Maybe that's a possibility here."

In taking that view, Paredes is following the lead of many successful Texas politicians, including one in the White House, who have argued that anti-evolution theories that have been discredited should be taught alongside evolution.

Paredes also raised the possibility that the board might approve the program with a name other than "science education." If there isn't "sufficient conventional content," he said, "maybe it's a matter of locating this program in its proper disciplinary realm." For now, Paredes stressed that no final decisions have been made.

Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, which describes itself as a "mainstream voice to counter the religious right," said he was worried that Texas statutes may not give the coordinating board enough power to block the awarding of creationist science education degrees.

Quinn said that the issue should not be framed around religious freedom, but protecting students and their parents. "The state is going to end up licensing degrees as science that aren't science. What makes it worse is that the degrees are advanced degrees to teach science," he said. "We don't want anybody to be fooled that someone is getting a degree in real science when it's not what would be happening."

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Green Light for Institute on Creation in Texas

By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
Published: December 19, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/education/19texas.html

HOUSTON -- A Texas higher education panel has recommended allowing a Bible-based group called the Institute for Creation Research to offer online master's degrees in science education.

The action comes weeks after the Texas Education Agency's director of science, Christine Castillo Comer, lost her job after superiors accused her of displaying bias against creationism and failing to be "neutral" over the teaching of evolution.

The state's commissioner of higher education, Raymund A. Paredes, said late Monday that he was aware of the institute's opposition to evolution but was withholding judgment until the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board meets Jan. 24 to rule on the recommendation, made last Friday, by the board's certification advisory council.

Henry Morris III, the chief executive of the Institute for Creation Research, said Tuesday that the proposed curriculum, taught in California, used faculty and textbooks "from all the top schools" along with, he said, the "value added" of challenges to standard teachings of evolution.

"Where the difference is, we provide both sides of the story," Mr. Morris said. On its Web site, the institute declares, "All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week" and says it "equips believers with evidences of the Bible's accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework."

It also says "the harmful consequences of evolutionary thinking on families and society (abortion, promiscuity, drug abuse, homosexuality and many others) are evident all around us."

Asked how the institute could educate students to teach science, Dr. Paredes, who holds a doctorate in American civilization from the University of Texas and served 10 years as vice chancellor for academic development at the University of California, said, "I don't know. I'm not a scientist."

He said he had no ready explanation for the panel's recommendation. "I asked about the decision," Dr. Paredes said Monday in a phone interview from Austin. "I got a three-inch-thick folder an hour ago. We're going to give it a full review." But, he said, "If it's approved, we'll make sure it's of high quality."

Approval would allow the institute, which moved to Dallas this year from near San Diego, to offer the online graduate program almost immediately while seeking accreditation from national academic authorities like the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges within two years.

In California, the only other state where Mr. Morris said the institute was offering degrees, it won recognition from the state superintendent of public instruction in 1981 but was denied license renewal in 1988. The institute sued and in 1992 won a $225,000 settlement that allowed it to continue offering degrees; it now operates under the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Dr. Morris said his program was accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, which is not recognized by Texas.

Last month, in a sign that Texas was being drawn deeper into creationism controversy, Ms. Comer, 57, was put under pressure to resign as science director after forwarding an e-mail message about a talk by a creationism critic, Barbara Forrest, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana State University.

Lizzette Reynolds, a deputy commissioner who called for Ms. Comer's dismissal, later told The Austin American-Statesman she was surprised she resigned. Ms. Reynolds did not respond to a message left at her office.

The Texas Education commissioner, Robert Scott, told The Dallas Morning News that Ms. Comer was not forced out over the message, adding, "You can be in favor of science without bashing people's faith." He did not return phone calls to his office.

Ms. Comer said the commissioner should show her where she was bashing anyone's faith. "He just doesn't get it," she said.

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Considering a Creation Institute in Texas

Letter
Published: December 22, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/22/opinion/lweb23texas.html

To the Editor:

Re "Green Light for Institute on Creation in Texas" (news article, Dec. 19):

I would like to be clear that there is no "green light." There is a process for considering applications for authorization that the state follows with all applicants, and we are in the early stages of considering the Institute for Creation Research’s effort to offer online master’s degrees in science education.

The advisory panel's report is just that--advisory--and as commissioner of higher education, I have the authority to accept, reject or modify its recommendations. I am reviewing the report and seeking more information and advice from scientists to evaluate the program and make recommendations to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Jan. 24.

The board has the authority to accept, reject or modify my recommendations. So we are a long way from making a final determination in giving a green light.

The primary goal in reviewing the application is to consider whether the program will contribute to helping high-school students be successful in rigorous college science courses. In evaluating it, we will make certain Texas remains hospitable to high-quality science education and scientific research.

[Dr.] Raymund Paredes
[Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board]
Austin, Tex., Dec. 19, 2007

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Institute proposes online degrees in creationism

Melissa Ludwig
mludwig@express-news.net
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted: 12/19/2007
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA121907.01A.Creationism.2951a43.html

Science teachers are not allowed to teach creationism alongside evolution in Texas public schools, the courts have ruled. But that's exactly what the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research wants them to do.

The institute is seeking state approval to grant online master's degrees in science education to prepare teachers to "understand the universe within the integrating framework of Biblical creationism," according to the school's mission statement.

Last week, an advisory council made up of university educators voted to recommend the program for approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in January, sparking an outcry among science advocates who have fended off repeated attempts by religious groups to insert creationism into Texas science classrooms.

"It's just the latest trick," said James Bower, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has publicly debated creationists. "They have no interest in teaching science. They are hostile to science and fundamentally have a religious objective."

Critics of evolution -- the theory that life-forms morphed slowly over time into their present forms -- have ignited heated debates over the teaching of science in K-12 public schools, in recent years turning Texas' textbook adoption process into a national media circus.

The Institute for Creation Research, which recently moved to Dallas from Santee, Calif., claims to teach its graduate students "more typical secular perspectives" alongside creationism.

But students and faculty must profess faith in a literal translation of Biblical creation -- that God created the world in six days and made humans and animals in their current life forms; that the earth is only thousands of years old; and the fossil record is the result of a global flood described in the Bible, according to the Web site.

The majority of the school's 54 students are teachers at private Christian schools or home-schoolers, but some are public school teachers looking to advance their careers or pass the Texas teacher licensing examination in science.

In a statement released Tuesday, institute officials said their goal is to turn out "scientifically literate graduates." They use current scientific literature and professors have doctoral degrees from well-regarded universities, as noted by team of experts who conducted a site visit in November.

Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes, who must study the degree application and give his opinion to the board next month, said he plans to treat the issue with care.

"Because this controversy is so potentially hot, we owe it to both sides to be absolutely fair in evaluating it," Paredes said. "Obviously, we are going to take into account the view of scientists. But we are also going to listen to people from the (institute).

"Maybe the real issue here is to put this proposal in the right category. Maybe it's not a program in science education. Maybe it's a program in creation studies. Then we have to decide whether that is a legitimate field or not," Paredes said.

Henry M. Morris, a Dallas native who taught hydraulic engineering at Virginia Tech University, founded the Institute for Creation Research in 1970. He spent his life trying to prove the accuracy of Biblical events, and was hailed as the father of creation science upon his death last year.

His son, John D. Morris, holds a doctorate in geological engineering and is president of the institute. Another son, Henry Morris III, sits on the board of trustees.

The institute has been offering master's degrees in California since 1981 and was accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, an agency co-founded by the senior Morris. Son Henry currently sits on the commission, according to its Web site.

In 1988, California's education department tried to revoke the school's ability to grant degrees. The institute sued and won.

In Texas, ICR plans to seek accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional agency that accredits Trinity University and all the University of Texas campuses. A certificate of authority from the Coordinating Board would allow ICR to operate until it can earn accreditation.

In November, a team of three independent experts visited the Dallas campus and issued a report calling the degree program "generally comparable to an initial master's degree in science education from one of the smaller, regional universities in the state."

The trio consisted of two scholars at Texas A&M University-Commerce, reference librarian David Rankin and educational leadership professor Lee "Rusty" Waller, and Gloria White, managing director of the Dana Research Center for Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Texas at Austin.

Waller declined to comment, and Rankin and White did not return calls for comment. The trio forwarded their report to the larger Certification Advisory Council, which approved the report Friday and sent it to Paredes.

According to the institute's Web site, the degree requires some standard classes such as educational psychology and instructional design. But course descriptions are peppered with references to biblical creation. A course called research in science education, for instance, requires students to "apply the basic principles of science education research to issues relating to the study of creation science in a class setting."

Bower, the UTSA scientist, balked at the mix of science and religion.

"The difference between science and religion is that in religion you already know the truth and in science you are trying to discover the truth. If you believe you already know the truth, there is no role for science," Bower said.

The advisory team seemed comfortable with the combination.

"It is fair to say that the proposed master's degree in science education, while carrying an embedded component of creationist perspectives/views, is nevertheless a plausible program," they wrote in a report.

The report did cite other shortcomings, such as an inadequate library, inadequate evaluation of the institution's effectiveness and the fact that the university's president, John D. Morris, also sits on the board of directors.

But no matter what scientists say, the decision makers in Texas are politicians and their appointees, said Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, an organization that bills itself as a "mainstream voice to counter the religious right."

The application follows last month's ouster of Chris Comer, the science curriculum director at the Texas Education Agency, after she forwarded an e-mail about a talk being given Barbara Forrest, a critic of the creationist movement.

"Texas is becoming a central battleground now in efforts to undermine science education," Quinn said. "I think that's a reputation you really don't want your state to get."

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ICR seeks to grant degrees in Texas

National Center for Science Education
December 21, 2007
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/TX/430_icr_seeks_to_grant_degrees_in__12_21_2007.asp

The Institute for Creation Research, a young-earth creationist organization, has cleared the first hurdle in its quest for authorization to issue master's degrees in science education in Texas. "The nonprofit Institute for Creation Research in Dallas wants to train future science teachers in Texas and elsewhere using an online curriculum. A state advisory group gave its approval Friday; now the final say rests with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which will consider the request next month," reported the Dallas Morning News (December 15, 2007). According to a December 17, 2007, report by Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science, THECB will meet on January 24, 2008, to consider the ICR's application. If approved, the ICR will have two years to obtain accreditation for its graduate school from an independent accreditation agency.

ICR recently moved its headquarters from the San Diego, California, area to Dallas. In the October issue of ICR's publication Acts & Facts, its president John Morris explained, "The possibility of moving to Dallas surfaced when my brother, Dr. Henry Morris III, discerned that a central location would be beneficial for ICR, with several possibilities for student services at nearby affiliated colleges. The many good churches and large numbers of ICR supporters living in North Texas made it a natural fit for the ministry. When my father [Henry Morris] was still alive he approved the move to Dallas, especially as a way to strengthen the graduate school. In 2006, ICR opened a distance education effort in Dallas, as well as the hub of ICR's internet ministries. ... As additional operational functions were assigned to the new Dallas office, the Board concluded that it was in ICR's best interests to move the entire ministry."

The ICR's graduate school was previously accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), a group founded by Henry Morris; Henry Morris III presently serves on its commission. Texas does not recognize accreditation by TRACS, forcing the ICR to seek temporary state certification while it applies for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). As a first step toward certification, a committee of Texas educators visited the ICR's facilities in Dallas to evaluate whether the ICR meets the legal requirements for state certification. The report (PDF) described the educational program as "plausible," adding, "The proposed degree would be generally comparable to an initial master's degree in science education from one of the smaller, regional universities in the state."

NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott disagreed, telling the Dallas Morning News, "It sounds like the committee may have just taken at face value what the ICR claims ... There's a huge gulf between what the ICR is doing and what they're doing at legitimate institutions like ... [the University of Texas] or Baylor." (The committee members were a librarian, an educational administrator, and a mathematician; none was professionally trained in biology, geology, or physics.) Inside Higher Ed reported (December 17, 2007), "Some science groups are aghast by the idea that Texas would authorize master's degrees in science education that are based on complete opposition to evolution and literal acceptance of the Bible. And these groups are particularly concerned because the students in these programs would be people who are or want to be school teachers."

Although Patricia Nason, chair of the ICR's science education department, told the Dallas Morning News, "Our students are given both sides. They need to know both sides, and they can draw their own conclusion," the ICR's statement of faith includes the tenet, "All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week described in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and confirmed in Exodus 20:8-11. The creation record is factual, historical and perspicuous; thus all theories of origins or development which involve evolution in any form are false." Similarly, applicants to the ICR's graduate school are explicitly told that their answers to the essay questions on the application help to determine "your dedication to the Lord, the Word, and teaching creation science."

According to the Dallas Morning News's article, the ICR's graduate program "offers typical education classes, teaching such fundamentals as how to use lab equipment, the Internet and PowerPoint in the classroom. But it also offers a class called 'Advanced studies in creationism.' And the course Web page for 'Curriculum design in science' gives this scenario: 'The school board has asked you to serve on a committee that is examining grades 6-12 science goals. ... Both evolutionist and creationist teachers serve on the curriculum committee. How will you convince them to include creation science as well as evolution in the new scope and sequence?'" The ICR's graduate school's website repeatedly declares, "ICR maintains that scientific creationism should be taught along with the scientific aspects of evolutionism in tax-supported institutions."

The Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, Raymund Paredes, is to study the ICR's application and offer his opinion to THECB. He told the San Antonio Express-News (December 19, 2007), "Because this controversy is so potentially hot, we owe it to both sides to be absolutely fair in evaluating it. ... Maybe the real issue here is to put this proposal in the right category. Maybe it's not a program in science education. Maybe it's a program in creation studies. Then we have to decide whether that is a legitimate field or not." The New York Times (December 19, 2007) reported, "Asked how the institute could educate students to teach science, Dr. Paredes, who holds a doctorate in American civilization from the University of Texas and served 10 years as vice chancellor for academic development at the University of California, said, 'I don't know. I'm not a scientist.'"

===========

Evolution fight threatens Texas

By The Editorial Board
Austin American-Statesman
Sunday, December 23, 2007
http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/editorial/entries/2007/12/23/evolution_fight_threatens_texa.html

Is Texas destined to become the next Kansas, where bitter evolution politics produced three changes in the science curriculum standards in six years? At one point, religious conservatives forced the study of evolution out of Kansas public schools. Outrage, ridicule and state school board elections got evolution back into the curriculum, but the fight continues.

Texas can ill afford that kind of high-profile battle over established science. But there is a good chance it will happen here because Texas is now ground zero in the battle over teaching evolution in public school science classes.

Now is the time for Gov. Rick Perry to step up and halt the bloodletting before it does serious harm to the state’s reputation, economy and future.

Last month, the science curriculum director for the Texas Education Agency, Chris Comer, was ousted after she passed along an e-mail about a lecture criticizing intelligent design, the latest assault on evolution. It was an unmistakable signal of the clash looming for Education Commissioner Robert Scott, a Perry appointee.

This month, an institute that teaches -- we should rightly say preaches -- the biblical account of the creation is seeking state approval to offer master’s degrees in science education. The Bible-based Institute for Creation Research moved to Dallas last year from California and is seeking approval from the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Raymund Paredes, Texas’ higher education commissioner, said he is evaluating the report from the team that recommended approving the science course. He’s not happy with it and is actively gathering more information ahead of next month’s board meeting.

Paredes wants the head of the institute’s science program to reconcile the appropriate teaching of science with the institute’s mission to teach the creation account revealed in Genesis.

The solution, Paredes said, is to have the institute call the course what it is -- creation studies -- not science. There would be little objection to that, he said. All this is happening as teams from Scott’s Texas Education Agency prepare to update the science curriculum for public schools. That review begins next month, though a final decision on curriculum won’t be made by the State Board of Education until the summer or later.

That leaves a lot of time to fight over how to present evolution in science classes. Unfortunately for Texas, the chairman of the state board, Bryan dentist Don McLeroy, is a creationist who wants evolution challenged in science classes. Perry named him chairman of the board earlier this year.

Challenges to teaching evolution themselves have evolved. Intelligent design, not the biblical account, is now the accepted alternative.

But intelligent design is based in religion, too.

Ever since Kansas reaped such a whirlwind when it banned the teaching of evolution, the new tactic is to push for criticism of evolution to be taught alongside the accepted theory.

That’s a clever move to get intelligent design into science classes. Anti-Darwinists label evolution as “dogma” and argue that there should be alternative viewpoints. The problem is that intelligent design is a religious belief, not science.

As the debate unfolds, there is a lot at stake for Texas. Texas is investing billions of dollars in high-tech and biotech ventures, and state voters last month agreed to spend $3 billion on a cancer research program designed to make Texas a leader in that field.

If Texas becomes the new Kansas and is viewed as retreating from teaching evolution as science, top scientists will not want to live and work here. Major companies will not want to invest in a state where religious doctrine is inculcated into public school science classes.

A curriculum that uses religious doctrine to criticize evolution would ruin this state’s efforts to provide quality education. And it could wreck the drive to make Texas a leader in scientific and medical research.

Perry should not sit idly by while this potentially devastating issue unfolds in national headlines. He appointed Scott and McLeroy, and he should derail any efforts to downgrade evolution in Texas schools.

Americans who recoiled at Kansas’ decision to go backward in education will be watching how Perry and Texas manage the crisis here.

===========

Faith-based science

State recognition of a creationist institute's degree would undermine science teacher credentials.


Editorial
Houston Chronicle
Dec. 27, 2007
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/5407699.html

Visitors to the Institute for Creation Research Web page can quickly deduce that the organization, founded in California and recently transplanted to Dallas, is a Christian group dedicated to spreading the doctrine of divine creation of the world and challenging the teaching of evolution as fact in public schools.

An advisory committee to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommends that the group be allowed to confer master's degrees in science education for teacher candidates. This indefensible action would be the equivalent of allowing an institute of faith-healers to issue advanced medical degrees. It would devalue the credentials of all science teachers and misrepresent to the public the capabilities of teachers with questionable diplomas.

The institute's statement of purpose leaves no doubt about its mission. According to its founders, it was formed "to equip believers with evidences of the Bible's accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework."

A sampling of its graduate online course offerings confirms that instead of real science education, the institute is training followers to challenge science curricula and influence young minds with a blatantly religious message. Students and faculty at the institute must accept the biblical account that God created the world in six days a few thousand years ago and that fossils are the remnant of a global deluge as described in the saga of Noah.

Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes expressed discomfort with the recommendation to sanction the institute's graduate degrees but wants a thorough review. He told the Houston Chronicle that "because this controversy is so potentially hot, we owe it to both sides to be absolutely fair in evaluating it."

His caution is admirable, but the creationist battle has already been fought in other states in which science has been the decisive victor. Paredes makes the sensible observation that a degree issued by the institute should be labeled creation studies rather than science education.

Unfortunately, those espousing the teaching of creationism, or a variant called intelligent design, as alternative theories to evolution have been gaining ground in recent years in Texas' educational bureaucracy. The chairman of the Texas Board of Education, dentist Don McLeroy, is a self-described creationist who supports the teaching of the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a theory in science classes.

The state's director of science curriculum, Chris Castillo Comer, was forced to resign after circulating an e-mail announcing a talk by an author of a book criticizing intelligent design. The State Board of Education will consider new public school science curricula in the coming year. Some ideologues on the board are sure to pressure the state to include creationist doctrine in science classes.

Texas schools must have the best science and technology instruction possible to make the state competitive in a 21st century economy. A science class that teaches children that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that species did not evolve from species now extinct is not worthy of the name.

Churches and other private institutions are proper places for the discussion of religious beliefs. Public school science classes are not.

============

Science and Faith

Be vigilant on how they intersect in our schools


Editorial
Dallas Morning News
Thursday, December 27, 2007
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/editorials/stories/DN-creationism_27edi.ART.State.Edition1.36a2de6.html

Creationism institute should stay out of science education

Did God create the universe? Did he do so according to the six-day schedule set out in the Book of Genesis?

On the first question, science must be agnostic; the scientific method of knowing cannot answer a question like that any more than theology can discover the specific gravity of mercury. On the second question, science is rather definitive: No. A literal reading of Genesis is scientifically unsupportable. If one wishes to believe the Genesis version over the scientific account, one may. But it's not science.

It's troubling, then, that the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, which professes Genesis as scientifically reliable, recently won a state advisory panel's approval for its online master's degree program in science education. Investigators found that despite its creationism component – which is not the same thing as "intelligent design" – the institute's graduate program offered enough real science to pass academic muster. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will vote on the recommendation in January.

We hate to second-guess the three academic investigators – including Gloria White, managing director of the University of Texas at Austin's Dana Research Center for Mathematics and Science Education – but, still, the coordinating board had better give this case a long, hard look.

The board's job is to certify institutions as competent to teach science in Texas schools. Despite the institute including mainstream science in its programs, it's hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state's curriculum.

Faith is, by nature, based on the unprovable

Some people regard science as a religion, finding comfort in what's provable and undeniable. For others, the only true source of religion is faith in God. Faith is based on the unprovable, and because it's a personal conviction, it is equally undeniable.

These two absolutes increasingly are at odds in Texas schools, where evolution is the basis for science instruction. The theory of evolution holds that humans resulted from billions of years of adaptation and refinement.

Many devout Christians and Jews are offended that, to study science, students must disregard the biblical account of God creating all existence in six days. Some demand the teaching of faith as a science, called "intelligent design," to counter the notion that evolution is the only answer.

Faith maintains its unique quality because it is based on things we cannot prove in this life. By reducing it to an empirical science, it ceases to be faith. Yet, no matter how many linkages scientists uncover to show that man evolved from pond slime, they will never do better than those who rely on faith in answering the ultimate question about a greater being behind our existence.

As the debate rages, it's worth noting that the world's great religions agree on the need for science. And even the agnostic Albert Einstein conceded that science can't answer everything: "My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality."

It's demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.

---------------

ICR disputes editorial

Letters for Tuesday
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/letters/stories/DN-tuesletters_0101edi.ART.State.Edition1.36ea0dd.html

Re: "Science and Faith – Be vigilant on how they intersect in our schools," Thursday Editorials.

It came as a surprise to both faculty and administration when the editorial stated that the Institute for Creation Research "rejects so many fundamental principles of science."

ICR would like to know which "principles of science" are supposedly rejected by our school. Surely not Newton's gravitational theory. Nor Mendel's laws of heredity. Nor do we deny natural selection, suggested by Edward Blyth 24 years before Charles Darwin's writings. All were creationists.

What ICR scientists openly question is Darwin's "descent with modification" or macroevolution. Even renowned evolutionary biologist L. Harrison Matthews wrote that "evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an unproved theory."

Despite what The News implies, ICR is a science-oriented institution, employing experts since 1970 whose credentials meet or exceed the qualifications of numerous secular universities and who conduct research across various disciplines. Many researchers bring extensive experience from such recognized facilities as Los Alamos, Sandia Labs, Cornell, UCLA and Texas A&M.

The graduate programs of ICR, while similar in factual content to those of other graduate colleges, are distinctive in one major respect: ICR bases its educational philosophy on the foundational truth of a personal Creator-God, as opposed to the naturalistic, atheistic presuppositions of evolution.

Perhaps before suggesting that men and women of faith have no place in teaching science, The News should verify the credentials and scientific contributions of those it impugns who are both committed Christians and recognized, productive scientists.

Dr. Henry M. Morris III, CEO, Institute for Creation Research, Dallas

============

http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20071228_aibs_letter_to_5.html

AIBS Letter to Texas Commissioner of Higher Education

December 28, 2007

Dr. Raymund Paredes, Commissioner
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
P.O. Box 12788
Austin, TX 78711-2788

Dear Commissioner Paredes:

On behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, I write to express sincere concern with the request submitted by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) for certification from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to grant master's degrees in science education. The American Institute of Biological Sciences, a professional organization with nearly 200 member scientific societies and organizations with a combined membership of more than 250,000 scientists and science educators, has serious concerns with this request and encourages the THECB to deny certification.

In recent years, national business leaders, politicians, and scientists have joined together in recognition of our need to reinvigorate science education and our nation's innovation enterprise. Various reports have warned that students in the United States are not being properly educated in science and mathematics. International assessments of student performance in science continue to show that U.S. students lag behind their international peers. Corporate leaders continue to express concern about their ability to hire scientifically and technically skilled U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, our international competitors have recognized that scientific research is the key to their economic well-being and are making significant investments in research and education.

A report from the National Center for Educational Statistics, which evaluates student achievement in the states, indicates that in 2005 the average science score for Texas public school eighth-grade students was below the national average and lower than the average of 29 other states. The Fordham Institute, evaluating state science standards in 2005, awarded the 1998 Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Science a grade of 'F'. Texas should strive to ensure it has the most highly qualified science teachers in the nation. It is through a modern science curriculum and highly qualified educators that Texas will be able to prepare students to be national and international leaders.

ICR is committed to advancing Young Earth Creationism, a literal view of the Bible that contends the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Young Earth Creationism has repeatedly been shown, legally and scientifically, to be a religious belief system and not a credible scientific explanation for the history of Earth or the diversity of biological systems that have evolved on Earth.

Discounting and ignoring scientific evidence that one finds counter to their personal belief system is an individual choice. It is unacceptable for the state to sanction the training of science educators committed to the practice of advancing their religious beliefs in a science classroom. Advocates for creationism, including Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design, often make the spurious argument that there is scientific controversy surrounding evolution and they simply want to teach children this controversy. This, quite simply, is the most recent strategy to attempt to side-step the United State Constitution, Federal Court decisions, and scientific integrity. There is no scientific controversy surrounding the theory of evolution or the age of Earth.

The Young Earth Creationism world-view permeates the ICR graduate program in Science Teacher Education. Scientists and educators are deeply concerned that a state body might sanction a science teacher training program intended to "assist the learner in developing creation apologetics in his/her science classroom" and "teach the learner how to develop curriculum, instructional strategies, and classroom activities related to creation science thus helping the science teacher equip his/her students with truth."

The THECB will ill-serve science students if it certifies a science teacher education program based on a religious world-view rather than modern science.

Sincerely,
Douglas J. Futuyma, Ph.D.
2007 AIBS President

============

Creationism in Texas science classes

Editorial
Waco Tribune-Herald
Monday, December 31, 2007
http://www.wacotrib.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2007/12/31/12312007wacedit.html

Texas education officials should be wary of efforts to insert faith-based religious beliefs into science classrooms.

Unfortunately, people with religious agendas continue in their efforts to gain leadership positions in state education while other people continue their efforts to get schools to teach their religious beliefs in Texas public schools.

Now, the Institute for Creation Research is seeking state approval to offer online master degrees in science education, which would allow graduates to teach science in both public and private schools in Texas.

The institute teaches from the belief in a literal reading of the Bible that the earth and everything on it were created in six days by God, approximately 6,000 years ago.

The institute teaches that all plants and animals were “created functionally complete from the beginning and did not evolve from some other kind of organism.”

Surprisingly, a state advisory panel has recommended approval of the institute. Next month, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will decide whether graduates of the online institute will be certified to teach science in Texas public schools.

There is nothing wrong with teaching religion in public schools. But religion should be taught in religion classes that do not give preference to any one faith. Religion should not be slipped into the curriculum in science classes.

A few weeks ago, the state’s director of science curriculum, Chris Castillo Comer, was forced out of her Texas Education Agency job for forwarding an e-mail that announced an upcoming speech by the author of a book criticizing intelligent design.

A TEA deputy commissioner circulated Comer’s e-mail while calling it an “offense that calls for termination.” Days later, Comer said she was forced to leave her job.

TEA officials said they expected the agency’s science director to remain neutral on the issues of creationism, intelligent design and evolution.

Neither science nor evolution precludes a belief in God, but religion is not science and should not be taught in science classrooms.

============

Bible-Based Science Ed. Degree Awaits Texas Board Action

By Bess Keller
Education Week
Published Online: January 2, 2008
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2008/01/09/17creation.h27.html

The head of the Texas agency responsible for deciding whether to approve a Bible-based master's degree in science education says the review, though favorable so far, has miles to go.

Interim approval for the degree is being sought by the Institute for Creation Research's graduate school, which has been offering science and science education degrees online under California law. But the nonprofit group is moving to Dallas, where new rules apply.

Raymund A. Paredes, the commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said that the review of the institute's request has thus far focused on whether the ICR graduate school is a credible institution of higher education with adequate resources.

Now, he said, the focus shifts to the merits of the science education program itself.

"Our primary objective in looking at this program is to make sure any master's degree in science education will prepare teachers who can get students in high school ready to do college-level work in science," Mr. Paredes said.

Alarm was raised among scientists and science educators when the higher education board's advisory panel in November recommended approval of the master's-degree program. The advisory panel's recommendation was based on the report of a three-person site-visit team, one member of which works in the field of science education.

The team found that "the proposed master's degree, while carrying an embedded component of creationist perspectives/views, is nevertheless a plausible program … comparable to an initial master's degree in science education from one of the smaller, regional universities in the state."

‘Nonscience' Seen

Courts nationwide have consistently rejected attempts to include creationism in school science lessons. Creationism is the belief that God created the universe as outlined in the Bible. The vast majority of leading scientists and major groups of science teachers say that creationism and intelligent design, which posits an unspecified creator behind living things, are not part of science and have no place in the science classroom.

Joshua Guthrie Rosenau, a spokesman for the Oakland, Calif.-based National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, said that presenting a creationist perspective on a par with the evolutionary framework of mainstream science is, in effect, "presenting nonscience."

"What teachers should be teaching in high schools should be the consensus reached by the scientific process of testing ideas," he said. Teaching creationism in the context of biology would be akin, he said, to teaching astrology as part of astronomy.

Gerald F. Wheeler, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, a membership group of 55,000 in Arlington, Va., said the objectives of the ICR program in science education clearly are antithetical to "good science." Mr. Wheeler pointed, for example, to a program objective that calls for students, in part, to "implement a variety of methods to convey successfully scientific knowledge as it relates to a purpose and a destiny." Purpose and destiny are not scientific topics, Mr. Wheeler said.

"The [Texas] coordinating board should refuse this request," Mr. Wheeler said. "It's totally outrageous."

While indicating that the decision on the ICR program should be made on its own merits, Mr. Wheeler and others are concerned that Texas may be going the way of other states in allowing science teaching to include creationism or intelligent design.

The Texas board of education is scheduled to revise its science standards this year, and some religious conservatives are pressing for teachers to be able to point to what those opponents see as flaws in the evolutionary framework.

In what some scholars took as an ominous sign, the science director of the Texas Education Agency resigned late last year under what she said was pressure to be private about her criticisms of intelligent design. She had forwarded an e-mail announcing a talk by an opponent of creationism in public schools.

Henry M. Morris III, the chief executive officer of the Institute for Creation Research, said he believes his school has gotten embroiled in Texas' war over the science curriculum. "We're all about education, not legislation," he said.

Phase II of Review

According to Mr. Morris, the ICR's graduate school has been operating at least since the early 1980s and had been accredited in California by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, a group that Mr. Morris' father, also Henry M. Morris, helped found.

Texas, however, requires accreditation mainly from the standard regional accrediting bodies, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities. State law further requires that up until such endorsement can be obtained, private institutions in Texas must get approval from the higher education board to offer programs and grant degrees.

Mr. Morris said that most of the graduates of the master's program in science education, which now has about 50 students, teach in Christian schools. Few teach in public schools.

"We teach the same science as in any university," Mr. Morris said about the program. "You get the same education as with the other side, but with value added, if you want to put it like that."

Mr. Paredes of the higher education board said that in the second phase of his review, he would call in "top scientists from around the state," including those from religiously affiliated universities, such as Texas Christian University, to help assess "the quality and rigor" of the ICR program.

The board is scheduled to meet to vote on his recommendation Jan. 24, but Mr. Paredes said that the recommendation might not be ready by that date.

"We're more interested in doing this right than doing it quickly," he said.

===========

The Masters of Pseudoscience

by Forrest Wilder
The Texas Observer
January 4th, 2008
http://www.texasobserver.org/blog/index.php/2008/01/04/the-masters-of-pseudoscience/

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board asked a team of academics to keep an open mind about creationism, according to emails obtained by the Observer. In an October 8th email to four people recruited for a "site evaluation team" slated to visit the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas, Linda McDonough of the Coordinating Board, wrote:

As you all know, creationism is a controversial issue with strong feelings on both sides. I'm sorry to have to put this bluntly, but, would you, as an evaluator, be able to put aside any opinions you may have on the issue and give an unbiased report on the education side of the degree program and how it meets the standards set by the [Coordinating Board]? Please respond by email as soon as possible.

The ICR, which wants permission from the coordinating board to offer a master's in science education, believes, contrary to a mountain of indisputable scientific evidence and God-given common sense, that a few thousand years ago the good Lord took six literal days to create the sun, moon, plants, people, dinosaurs and the apes we didn't evolve from.

(For those now wondering if dinosaurs coexisted with humans - yes, ICR says, Noah had compact baby dinos on the Ark and after the Flood people hunted them into extinction. This explanation, IMO, is an improvement over the one I heard as a kid - that dinosaur fossils were planted by God to test our faith.)

Evolutionary thinking is not only a falsehood, according to ICR, but also causes abortion, promiscuity, drug abuse, and homosexuality, according to their irony-free Web site. The Institute requires all faculty members and students to accept a "limitation to academic freedom" - an oath to Biblical Literalism and a pledge of allegiance to Jesus. Let's just say these folks aren't just evolution skeptics, but hardcore creationists.

The evaluation team's job was to issue a report on whether ICR deserves state accreditation based on 21 criteria. The report was submitted to the six-member Certification Advisory Council, which recommended on December 14 that the Coordinating Board approve ICR's application. What happens next is largely up to Higher Ed Commissioner Raymund Paredes, who has wisely convened a panel of renowned scientists and educators to advise him. Sources say the panel held its first meeting Monday.

Two of the four email recipients - Rusty Waller, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Texas A&M-Commerce and Baptist preacher, and Gloria White, managing director of the Dana Center for Mathematics and Science Education at UT-Austin - ended up serving on the four-person team.

Waller readily agreed to McDonough's request. "Certainly! I will only consider the standards," he wrote in a reply email.

However, Cathy Loving, an associate professor of teaching, learning and culture at Texas A&M-College Station, agreed to serve on the team but took issue with McDonough's request to remain neutral on pseudoscience. Loving fired back at McDonough:

Of course I have opinions--based on many years of research and writing. These opinions are very much on the "education side of the degree program and how it meets the standards of THECB." I assume part of the education requirements of the Board's standards involves the content of the courses. That is the controversial part--and the Institute will have to convince evaluators that the content is about science and about education--and that science and religion are taught with adequate distinctions. If they cannot do that, then there is no way I can support a program that calls itself "science education."

"Creation science" is more than controversial. It has been ruled illegal to teach in public schools, according to decisions in Dover, Pennsylvania and then in the Supreme Court. But beyond that, even if private institutions are allowed to teach creationism--they must show the evaluators how their theory is presented in such a manner that "science education" meets a reasonable definition of science and not religious belief. Surely the Board has a reasonable definition of science.

In the end, Loving withdrew from the site evaluation team because her husband was scheduled for surgery that day. She is unsure whether McDonough would have accepted her response because she never received more than a cursory reply. But Loving told the Observer that she was "disappointed"" in the evaluation team's report. Apparently, McDonough found a group of academics who could manage to suspend disbelief remain "unbiased" about the ICR's pseudoscience. The report found, in a section evaluating ICR's curriculum, that the school's "embedded component of creationist perspectives/views, is nevertheless a plausible program" and "generally comparable to an initial master's degree in science education from one of the smaller, regional universities in the state." (Gloria White, who authored the section on curriculum, did not return our calls to her office.)

"To suggest that [ICR's degree] would be equivalent to a degree from one of the smaller, regional universities was a huge insult to scientists and science educators at regional universities," said Loving, who has reviewed the school's curriculum. "The big issue is they're calling it a master's of science education. If you're going to use the word 'science' then you've got to abide by certain standards that are across the board."

McDonough defends her request of the evaluators. "We just wanted to make sure the site review team was going to go in and look at the material presented to us by ICR according to the coordinating board's standards," she told the Observer today. "They couldn't look at the library and say ‘oh they have all these books but they're creationism books' or something like that. Their charge was to look at the 21 standards and look at the information ICR had given the site team and meet those standards."

McDonough refused to directly address whether her request to remain unbiased was a condition of being an evaluator. "You're putting me on the spot there my dear. I don't have to explain to you how emotional this whole thing has gotten." When pressed, McDonough said she didn't know because she "didn't have to cross that bridge" with Loving or the others.

Unfortunately, scientists do have a bias against creationism, as Loving points out. And rightfully so. Science is biased towards empirical reality and testable hypotheses; creationism is biased towards the diktats of religion. It seems unfair - if not a little Orwellian - to ask professionals with scientific training to set aside the cornerstone, time-tested theory of modern biology in order to give pseudoscience a fair shake.

What if I wanted to offer a science degree and my school largely consisted of teaching credulous students that the earth is flat, the sun is really God's flashlight, and - what the heck - gravity is a trick played on us by the Devil? Under McDonough's logic, the coordinating board would check to make sure my campus had working smoke detectors and a good student-to-faculty ratio but not bother to see if what I taught made any sense whatsoever.

McDonough wouldn't take the bait on that one, reiterating that evaluators must look to the standards alone for guidance.

But in another email obtained by the Observer, Dr. Robert Cloud of Baylor, a member of the Certification Advisory Council, explains in greater detail the reasoning behind supporting ICR's application. ICR "is a private, sectarian institution that by its own admission offers a narrowly-tailored curriculum to a very small student population. If approved by the [Coordinating Board] the ICR Masters program in Science Education will reflect that narrow mission - no more, no less." Cloud writes that ICR will still need to seek accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to establish credibility.

This reasoning is "obnoxious," says Steven Schafersman, of Texas Citizens for Science. "He is passing off the problem to SACS rather than making the principled and correct decision now to refuse to grant ICR certification to give science education graduate degrees. This is cowardly and irresponsible."

============

Creation institute's degree plan questioned

State regulators ask scientists to weigh in.


By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, January 10, 2008
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/01/10/0110creation.html

The state's commissioner of higher education isn't exactly saying he's opposed to a Bible-oriented group's proposal to offer a master's degree in science education, but some of his recent actions and words could suggest a certain amount of skepticism.

Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes is expected to meet with representatives of the Institute for Creation Research today to discuss, among other things, his suggestion that the group offer a degree in creation studies instead.

In addition, Paredes has asked an informal panel of scientists and science educators to comment on the institute's curriculum, which is flavored with a Christian worldview.

The developments come after two other panels that advise the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and its commissioner recommended approval of the institute's proposal to offer the online degree. One panel stated that, despite its "embedded component" of creationist views, the degree plan "is nevertheless a plausible program."

That drew criticism from advocacy groups that say religion has no place in science classes. Institute officials declined to comment for this story. Patricia Nason, the institute's department chairwoman for science education, said last month that most students wind up teaching at Christian schools but that they learn about evolution and are qualified to teach in public schools.

"We have to go back and make sure we have a very strong review of this proposed program from science educators as well as scientists themselves," Paredes said. "Right now, I'm focusing not on my personal views but making sure both ICR and the scientific and science education community have a full opportunity to express their views on this proposal."

Paredes said he would make a recommendation Jan. 23, when a committee of the coordinating board is scheduled to consider the matter.

The nine-member board, which has final authority as part of its oversight of certain aspects of private and public postsecondary education, is to take up the matter the next day.

Steven Schafersman, president of the Midland-based group Texas Citizens for Science, which has criticized the institute's proposal, said the commissioner's suggestion to recast the degree is "a fine idea."

"It would be churlish to deny ICR the ability to grant a graduate degree when we allow theology schools and Bible colleges to grant graduate degrees," Schafersman said. "What we object to is letting them grant a degree in science education. That is a prevarication."

The proposal by the nonprofit Institute for Creation Research, which is based in Dallas, comes at a time of intense debate about the teaching of evolution in public schools and about whether creationism and intelligent design should be part of the science curriculum.

Chris Comer, who had been head of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency, has said she was forced to resign in November after forwarding an e-mail message that her superiors felt was biased against intelligent design, a belief that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause. Creationism ascribes the origin of matter and species to God.

Most scientists and science educators say the curriculum should stick to evolution, the theory that plants and animals developed from earlier forms by the transmission of slight variations through successive generations.

Documents from the Institute for Creation Research on file at the coordinating board show that creationism permeates its curriculum. For example, the documents say students graduating from the program would be able to "design science lesson plans from the creationist worldview" and "refute evolution."

In addition, the institute's bylaws, tenets and other records show that students and faculty members are required to believe that humans did not evolve from animals but were created in fully human form from the start, that God created all physical and living things in the universe in six days, and that anyone who rejects Jesus Christ will be consigned to "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

In addition to limiting admission to Christian students, the institute prohibits adultery, fornication and homosexual behavior by students on pain of dismissal.

"We're going to take a look at those issues," Paredes said. "We're inviting representatives of ICR to respond to those kinds of questions."

The informal panel of scientists and science educators met earlier this week with coordinating board officials. Members of the panel have been asked not to comment to the media for the time being, said James Kinsey, a chemistry professor at Rice University who participated.

"Once the commissioner has made his recommendation and the process plays out a little more, I'd be happy to talk to you," Kinsey said.

It's likely that panelists favor a curriculum free of creationist views.

One member of the panel, Andrew Ellington, a professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department at the University of Texas, was among scores of faculty members across the state who signed a letter protesting the Texas Education Agency's treatment of its science director.

Ellington's laboratory specializes in harnessing the principles of evolution to create novel organisms, including bacteria that can "see" light.

A couple of years ago, graduate students in the lab printed T-shirts depicting the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a spaghetti-and-meatballs deity of a fake religion, with the wording, "Real intelligent designers use evolution."

rhaurwitz@statesman.com; 445-3604

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Commissioner watching his legal P’s and Q’s

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
Austin American-Statesman
Thursday, January 10, 2008
http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/highereducation/index.html

A story in today's paper by yours truly examines a proposal by a Christian-oriented group to offer a master's degree in science through a Bible-flavored curriculum.

Here's a postscript on the ongoing review by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board:

The board's commissioner of higher education, Raymund Paredes, is treading carefully, for three reasons.

One, to be fair on an issue that is steeped in religion, politics and science, a potent mix.

Two, to avoid a court right.

Three, to win a court fight if one should ensue.

Paredes has asked the coordinating board’s general counsel to examine a court case that the board lost last year to see if it has any bearing on the proposal by the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research.

In that case, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the coordinating board and a 1997 state law overstepped constitutional authority in setting standards for seminary degrees.

"On the face of it, you would think a proposed master of science wouldn't be connected to the court decision," Paredes said.

Nevertheless, he said, the religious content of the curriculum proposed by the Institute for Creation Research has prompted the coordinating board to take a close look at the matter.

============

Degree proposal discussed

State's higher education chief meets with Dallas creationism institute


By HOLLY K. HACKER / The Dallas Morning News
hhacker@dallasnews.com
Friday, January 11, 2008
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/DN-icrmeet_11met.ART.North.Edition1.37b3bac.html

The state's higher education chief met Thursday with officials from the Dallas-based Institution for Creation Research to discuss their plans to offer a master's degree in science education, but a final decision won't be made until later this month.

Commissioner Raymund Paredes wanted to make sure the institute's plan is fairly evaluated, and he "is still weighing all options," said De Juana Lozada, a spokeswoman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He will make a recommendation to a board committee on Jan. 23, the day before the full board meets and votes on the institute's request.

Dr. Paredes met with institute representatives for about 90 minutes in Austin. "As far as I know, it was the commissioner wanting just out of fairness to have ICR respond to some of the questions that have been raised by different groups," Ms. Lozada said.

Institute officials say they teach evolution along with creationism. But critics believe the Bible-based group wants to undermine the teaching of science in public schools.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Dr. Paredes had suggested the institute offer a degree in creation studies instead. Asked to confirm that, Ms. Lozada said only that "no specific recommendations" have been made, and that Dr. Paredes will not comment until he makes up his mind.

==============

Texas delays decision on offering science degree at creation college

Dallas: School needs state OK to offer master's in science education

By HOLLY K. HACKER / The Dallas Morning News
hhacker@dallasnews.com
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Bible-based group that wants to train science teachers in Texas has been given more time to prepare its proposal so it can tackle concerns raised by state education officials.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board said Tuesday that it will wait until April to decide whether the Institute for Creation Research can offer an online master's degree in science education. The board was supposed to take up the issue next week.

In November, a team of educators and coordinating board officials visited the institute's graduate school in Dallas and concluded that it offered a standard science education curriculum. In December, an advisory council recommended that the board approve the institute's application.

Since then, some science advocates have blasted the institute's plan, saying it's an attempt to teach creationism (the theory that a supreme being created the Earth and forms of life) over evolution (the theory that humans evolved from lower forms of life) in Texas schools.

Last week, the state's higher education commissioner, Raymund Paredes, met with institute officials. He asked for more information about the institute's science and education coursework "to ensure that the ... [institute] is indeed teaching at a graduate level," the institute said Tuesday in a written statement. So, school officials asked for more time to address the concerns.

Dr. Paredes has declined to comment on what was discussed at the meeting or on his views on the matter. A spokeswoman said he is reviewing the proposal.

The institute's graduate school has granted degrees in California since 1981. It moved to Dallas last year.
According to its Web site, "ICR maintains that scientific creationism should be taught along with the scientific aspects of evolutionism in tax-supported institutions, and that both scientific and Biblical creationism should be taught in Christian schools."

==============

Questions Delay Creationist Master's Degrees

by Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Ed
January 16, 2008
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/01/16/icr

Scientists fearful that Texas was about to approve a program to offer online master's degrees in science education -- from a creationist perspective -- received some good news Tuesday.

The Institute for Creation Research, which received preliminary approval last month from an advisory committee to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, asked the commission not to consider the matter at this month's meeting. The institute acted after the commissioner of higher education sent the institute a series of questions about its program -- questions that weren't considered in the initial review.

The commissioner stressed in an interview Tuesday that he is open minded about the creationists' request for degree approval and that the authorization could still be granted. But with the matter off the agenda of this month's meeting, the creationist group will have to wait until the coordinating board's next meeting, in April, for approval. And some of the questions to which the commissioner is seeking answers -- such as why the master's program based on creation science is so different from every other science education program in the state -- may be difficult to answer.

News that Texas might approve the master's program by the institute became public in December and quickly alarmed many scientists and other educators in Texas. So-called creation science is viewed as non-science by a wide consensus of researchers -- but is also viewed as dangerous, given how little most Americans know about science.

The idea that the state might give its OK to a new program to train teachers to instruct children in creation science set off alarm bells and calls for the commission to hold off on approving the institute. At the same time, the issue is delicate politically -- many Texas lawmakers (not to mention President Bush, a former governor) have argued that discredited theories such as intelligent design should be given equal billing with evolution in science courses.

Raymund A. Paredes, commissioner of higher education for Texas, said he has received numerous e-mail messages from politicians and others offering advice on handling the institute. He said that the office of Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who has also argued for teaching evolution and creationist ideas at the same time in schools, has been informed of the process being used, and has encouraged the coordinating board to follow its normal procedures.

The institute has been offering degrees from a base in California, but is shifting many operations -- including the master's degree program -- to a Texas base. Because the institute is not regionally accredited, it needs state coordinating board approval to offer the degrees. While the institute says that its courses teach evolutionary theory as well as creationism, the institute makes no effort to suggest that it is open to traditional scientific views.

The statement of faith for everyone at the institute requires support for both "scientific creationism" and "Biblical creationism." The former includes the belief that humans were created "in fully human form from the start" and that the universe was created "perfect" by the "creator." The latter includes the beliefs that the Bible is literally true and "free from error of any sort, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological." Specifically, the statement requires belief in the literal creation of the earth in six days, that Adam and Eve were the first humans, and in the virgin birth of Jesus.

Paredes said that he has raised three "concerns" with the institute, asking for more information for coordinating board review:

* Online learning. "Given all the research that demonstrates that science is best learned by actually doing it, how are you going to give students the proper exposure to the experimentation side of science online?" Parades said that this question is one he would ask of any online science program and wasn't related specifically to creationism.

* Curriculum. "Their curriculum doesn't line up very well with the curriculum available in conventional master of science programs here in Texas," he said. "I wanted them to either revise the curriculum or explain why it departed from the norm."

* Research. Paredes said that the institute "claims that their faculty do actual research," so he asked for "material that documented the research activities under way" and that show the research to be "based on solid scientific research."

Until the institute answers those questions, Paredes said, he is not making up his mind about whether to recommend approval to the coordinating board. He said it was "not unusual" for him to raise questions after an initial review and approval, and that people should not assume that the proposal is dead just because of the questions and the request for a delay.

"Because this is an issue that's controversial to a lot of people, we want to make sure we look at this matter thoroughly and fairly," he said.

Officials for the Institute for Creation Research declined to be interviewed for this article, but issued a press release noting the initial approval received from the advisory committee and pledging to provide the additional material requested by Paredes.

The press release said that the institute was "pleased" to "demonstrate its compliance and its competency in the fields that it teaches." The release also said that the goal of its graduate programs was "to provide teachers with the scientific knowledge and teaching skills necessary to actively engage their students and to prepare scientifically literate graduates."

===========

Judgment Day Postponed

by Melissa del Bosque
Texas Observer Blog
January 16th, 2008
http://www.texasobserver.org/blog/index.php/2008/01/16/judgment-day-postponed/

Looks like the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board won't be considering the Institute for Creation Research's application next week after all. A Board spokesperson says THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes has continuing concerns about ICR's request for accreditation to grant master's degrees in science education.

For more backstory on the ICR's request to grant degrees see this previous Observer blog post.

The spokesperson, De J. Lozada, says concerns were raised after THECB consulted with a wide variety of individuals, and include questions about how students might expect to gain exposure to scientific experimentation in an online-only environment. Paredes has also asked for documentation of current ICR research projects and either a revision of the ICR curriculum or, alternately, an explanation as to why the current curriculum departs from the norm for a master of science degree program in Texas.

Complying may prove a tall order, considering that ICR teaches the universe was created in six days by God, who also cooked up humankind from scratch in the form of Adam and Eve. In an e-mail sent to THECB, Dr. Eddy Miller, dean of ICR's graduate school, wrote, "It has become obvious to us that in order to do justice to the concerns you raised, we would need more time than is available to us if our Application is to be considered at the January meeting of the THECB. Thus we would like for you to delay consideration of our Application until the April meeting."

Lozada is quick to clarify that ICR's request hasn't been rejected, just delayed. God may have created the universe in little more than a standard work week (though the geologic record suggests otherwise), but then Rome was hardly built in a day. For the time being, at least, ICR's version of academic heaven will just have to wait.

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Decision on ICR's graduate school deferred

National Center for Science Education
January 17, 2008
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2008/TX/369_decision_on_icr39s_graduate_1_17_2008.asp

The Institute for Creation Research's quest for Texas certification of its graduate school, which would offer a master's degree in science education, is on hold, at the ICR's request. A preliminary assessment of the ICR's facilities described the educational program as "plausible," adding, "The proposed degree would be generally comparable to an initial master's degree in science education from one of the smaller, regional universities in the state," but a subsequent outcry from the scientific and educational communities apparently prompted the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to review the assessment and to request further documentation from the ICR. Its application is now expected to be considered at the THECB's next meeting, on April 24, 2008.

The THECB's commissioner, Raymund A. Paredes, explained to Education Week (January 2, 2008) that the preliminary assessment focused on whether the ICR's graduate school is a stable institution with adequate resources. Now, however, the THECB is considering the merits of the program itself. "Our primary objective in looking at this program is to make sure any master's degree in science education will prepare teachers who can get students in high school ready to do college-level work in science," he said. NCSE's Joshua Rosenau was dubious about whether the ICR's program qualified, noting that presenting a creationist perspective as a rival to evolution is "presenting nonscience."

Subsequently, the Austin American-Statesman (January 10, 2008) reported, "Paredes has asked an informal panel of scientists and science educators to comment on the institute's curriculum, which is flavored with a Christian worldview." Although members of the panel were asked not to talk to the press, the newspaper inferred, "It's likely that panelists favor a curriculum free of creationist views," citing the fact that one panelist signed a letter protesting the Texas Education Agency's treatment of Chris Comer. Paredes stressed, however, that his goal was "making sure both ICR and the scientific and science education community have a full opportunity to express their views on this proposal."

Paredes also reportedly floated the idea that the ICR offer a degree not in science education but in creation studies, a proposal that Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science applauded, telling the American-Statesman, "It would be churlish to deny ICR the ability to grant a graduate degree when we allow theology schools and Bible colleges to grant graduate degrees ... What we object to is letting them grant a degree in science education. That is a prevarication." However, a spokesperson for the THECB would not confirm that the idea of a degree in creation studies was suggested, telling the Dallas Morning News (January 11, 2008) that "no specific recommendations" have been made.

Interviewed by Inside Higher Ed (January 16, 2008), Paredes said that he asked the ICR for further information regarding three specific areas of concern. He wanted to know how the ICR planned to ensure that students in the on-line program would be exposed to the experimental side of science. He also expressed concern about the ICR's curriculum -- "Their curriculum doesn't line up very well with the curriculum available in conventional master of science programs here in Texas," he said. "I wanted them to either revise the curriculum or explain why it departed from the norm" -- and its claims about the research conducted by its faculty members.

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Lamar prof is right to uphold standards

Editorial
The Beaumont Enterprise
01/23/2008
http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19221847&BRD=2287&PAG=461&dept_id=512562&rfi=6

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board should listen to people like Lamar University Professor Jim Westgate and others who know something about science. It should not approve a proposal from the California-based Institute for Creation Research for authorization to grant master's degrees in science education.

Creationism is a religious belief, not a scientific discipline, and not even a widely held belief. The two should not be confused in higher education in Texas. Westgate, a professor of Earth and Space Sciences, and the Texas Academy of Science are firmly opposed to this proposal to water down state standards.

It's unfortunate that some in this debate try to force people to choose one or the other - their faith or modern knowledge. Many deeply devout people accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that supports evolution and the vast age of the earth and universe.

Students attending Texas colleges need the best science education possible. Political or religious beliefs should not be allowed to interfere with this goal.

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Creationist institute's master's science degree proposal creates debate

In hundreds of e-mails, science education training blasted, backed


By HOLLY K. HACKER / The Dallas Morning News
hhacker@dallasnews.com
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/012408dnmetcreation.2bd704c.html

A Dallas creationist group's proposal to train science teachers has unleashed a flurry of mixed opinions from Nobel laureates, high school teachers, ministers and scientific researchers.

Last month, a state advisory group gave the Institute for Creation Research preliminary approval to offer an online master's degree in science education. Since then, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board -- which has the final say -- has received more than 200 e-mails on the subject.

The coordinating board provided 286 pages of e-mails in response to an open-records request from The Dallas Morning News. Many of the notes are from Texas. But others come from all corners of the U.S. and the world -- from Florida to the Philippines, Nevada to Nigeria.

The letters show how heated the debate has become, as Texas and other states try to figure out the best way to teach students science.

"The latest round of so-called creation science truly scares me and all of my colleagues here at UT Southwestern Medical Center," wrote Alfred Gilman, dean of UT Southwestern's medical school and a Nobel Prize winner in medicine. "Approval of this sort of nonsense as science in Texas will have a significant negative impact on our ability to attract the best minds to the state.

"How can Texas simultaneously launch a war on cancer and approve educational platforms that submit that the universe is 10,000 years old?"

Just as many people, if not more, wrote to defend the institute's proposal.

Kent Davey, senior research scientist at UT-Austin's Center for Electromechanics, asked that the institute be given a fair review. "I am persuaded that the creation worldview has a firm place in science," he wrote.

One college student at a Christian college in California said institute officials are "a rare and bold voice" that needs to be heard.

But Joel Goodman, a UT Southwestern cell biologist and pharmacology professor, wrote, "I hope you realize that approving such an application would make Texas the laughing stock of the rest of the scientific world. Creation science is an oxymoron."

Steven Weinberg, a physics professor at UT-Austin and a Nobel laureate in physics, agreed.

"In my opinion, it would be a blow to science education in Texas, and an embarrassment for Texas," he wrote.

A reply from the state's higher education commissioner, Raymund Paredes, shows how explosive the issue has become.

"We will not do anything either to jeopardize science education in Texas or to weaken the state's ability to attract distinguished researchers," he wrote. "As you can imagine, because of the political sensitivity of this issue, my colleagues and I must do everything possible to conduct a fair evaluation."

Dr. Paredes added that the main criterion is how the proposed program would prepare high school students for rigorous science.

Jan Wilson, an elementary science facilitator in Mesquite schools, said that while she supports the institute's right to teach creationism, it doesn't belong in a science degree.

"At a time when the scientific literacy of our nation lags behind other developed countries, we do not need to produce science educators that don't understand the basis of science," Ms. Wilson wrote.

School officials have said they plan to teach both evolution -- the theory that human life evolved from other species -- along with scientific creationism, which holds that science, not just religion, indicates that a divine being created Earth and all living things.

C. Craig Campbell, who teaches science at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Minnesota, said he earned a master's degree from the institute in 1994.

"The classes I had while there showed me a much more balanced view of science than I ever got at other schools I had attended, one of those being a large university in Ohio. I learned more about evolution at ICR than in any other institutions or courses."

Robert Bashaw, a doctor who sits on the Stephenville school board, wrote: "I think that presenting all sides to theories of origin and other matters is healthy. What better way to encourage critical thinking and evidence-based evaluation of controversial topics?"

The Institute for Creation Research moved to Dallas from California last year. Some advocacy groups have criticized the institute's proposal, calling it an effort to undermine the teaching of science in public classrooms.

A team of educators and officials from the state coordinating board visited the campus in November. The group decided that the institute offered a standard science education curriculum. In December, an advisory group -- comprising officials from two public colleges and four affiliated with religious institutions -- approved the plan.

The full coordinating board has the final say. It was supposed to vote today, but after all the public comments, the institute asked for and received an extension. The board is now scheduled to take up the issue in April.

De J. Lozada, a spokeswoman for the coordinating board, said the agency was impressed by the number of comments from people representing all sides of the issue. Every comment was read by someone at the agency, she said.

"The commissioner is looking at all information and weighing all aspects of the application," she said.

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HIGHER EDUCATION

Leading scientists oppose creation institute's degree plan

Texas higher education commissioner receives dozens of e-mails from critics, proponents of master's degree proposal.


By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, January 24, 2008
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/01/24/0124creation.html

MORE ON THIS STORY -- E-mails from the public about the Institute for Creation Research's plans to offer graduate science degrees. Note: These emails were acquired from state officials through the Texas Public Information Act; the identities of the senders were not verified.

A Bible-oriented group's proposal to offer a degree in science education has drawn opposition from some of the state's leading physicians and scientists, including a Nobel laureate who warned that Texas is at risk of becoming "the laughingstock of the nation."

Critics of the proposal by the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research have peppered the state's commissioner of higher education with e-mails in recent weeks. Dozens of the institute's supporters, including some scientists and physicians, also have e-mailed Commissioner Raymund Paredes, in some cases apparently prompted by a plea from the institute's chief executive.

The American-Statesman, under the Texas Public Information Act, obtained printouts of the e-mails, which fill nearly 300 pages. Paredes' recommendation on the proposal for an online master's degree program is expected to carry considerable weight, but the final decision is up to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which oversees certain aspects of public and private postsecondary education.

In an e-mail responding to one critic of the proposal, the commissioner said he mentioned the issue to Gov. Rick Perry in mid-December and has been in regular contact with the governor's office about the matter. The governor appoints the members of the coordinating board, who, in turn, hire and fire the commissioner.

Perry has not taken a position on the proposal and is confident that the board will ensure that any program is as rigorous academically as all other master's programs in the state, said Krista Piferrer, a spokeswoman for the governor.

In his e-mail, Robert Curl, a professor emeritus at Rice University who won a Nobel Prize in chemistry, compared Texas to Kansas, a state whose science standards were regarded as the most aggressive in the nation in challenging Darwin's theory of evolution.

"If this program wins approval ... Texas will replace Kansas as the laughingstock of the nation," he wrote.

Alfred Gilman, who won a Nobel in physiology or medicine, said approval of the institute's proposal would hamper efforts to recruit top researchers to Texas and implement a $3 billion cancer research initiative approved last year.

"How can Texas simultaneously launch a war on cancer and approve educational platforms that submit that the universe is 10,000 years old?" wrote Gilman, executive vice president, provost and dean at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

Daniel Foster, a professor at UT Southwestern and president of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, wrote that "pseudoscience" has no place in Texas schools and universities. The academy's roster includes Nobel laureates and more than 200 people who have been elected to the National Academies of science, engineering and medicine.

The institute's curriculum for the proposed science degree is heavily flavored with Christian references and creationism, which ascribes the origin of matter and species to God. Institute documents on file at the coordinating board say graduates of the program would be able to "design science lesson plans from the creationist worldview" and "refute evolution."

The e-mails show that the institute's CEO, Henry Morris III, urged supporters to send "a kind note of encouragement to Dr. Paredes thanking him for his attempt to be fair in our evaluation, and also expressing your support for the Christian perspective of origins (a better word than creation)."

One correspondent who identified herself as Danna Watkins, a Texas middle school teacher, told Paredes that the "Christian view of creation" should be taught in science classes. "I strongly believe that our students have the right to consider that an option along with the evolution theory that is taught," Watkins wrote.

And R. Steven Pappas, a research biochemist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said competing views should be tolerated. "As a scientist," Pappas wrote, "I urge you to be among those who are truly open-minded and who do not fear information from research, without regard to whether the source has an atheistic perspective or a Christian perspective of origins."

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Intelligent design is not science

J. Tinsley Oden, Daniel W. Foster, and David Daniel
THE ACADEMY OF MEDICINE, ENGINEERING AND SCIENCE OF TEXAS
Op-Ed, Austin American-Statesman
Thursday, January 24, 2008
http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/01/24/0125science_edit.html

There are storm clouds gathering in the educational environment of Texas. At a time when the nation has declared that there is a crisis in education that threatens our future as a country, Texas may take a turn in the opposite direction. There are active forces that wish to move away from science to religion in our schools. The concern of leading scientists and engineers of the state has been activated by two recent events.

The first of these events is that the Texas Education Agency recently took actions that led to the resignation of a science educator, ostensibly because she did not show impartiality between the teaching of "intelligent design" and evolution. The other is the recent request by the Institute for Creation Research, a proponent of "intelligent design" to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, for certification to grant graduate degrees in science education in Texas.

"Intelligent design" is not science and should not masquerade as such. Our country is founded on the concept of separation of church and state. Education is within the province of the State, but religious matters are not and, thus, do not belong within our educational system. Science is the systematic acquisition of knowledge through hypothesis and observations that are repeatedly tested, validated, and revised as new evidence emerges. Faith is based upon what one believes and often stems from one's cultural background or upbringing. The resolution of the teachings of science with religious beliefs should remain within the realm of the individual's experience and not taught as science by any institution approved or accredited by the State.

The opinions expressed here represent the unanimous views of the Board of Directors of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, a non-profit organization formed in 2004, The membership of TAMEST consists of Texas members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The goals of TAMEST include fostering interactions among the various research institutions within the State of Texas and promoting science and science education in the State. We recently embarked on a project to determine how Texas should respond to the report of the National Academies entitled "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Future". The report describes crises in the educational system in the United States, particularly pertaining to science, and their effect on our national competitiveness. Our project involves researching the actions through which Texas can improve K-12 education in the state, especially in science. It is our intent to establish a model for other states to follow in addressing this critical issue.

The future of the world, our nation and the State of Texas hinges on continued breakthroughs in science, engineering and medicine as we face challenges in providing adequate supplies of energy and water, a clean environment, health care, and economic competitiveness. To meet these challenges, it is necessary to continue to attract the best minds to Texas and to provide our children with rigorous and challenging scientific training. Anything that diminishes the rigor of the education of the youth of Texas or our ability to recruit the best talent creates a great risk to the State and limits our contribution to protecting the nation from the "Gathering Storm".

TAMEST is not anti-religion and many of its members are active in religious organizations, but they support the belief that religious faith is not science. "Intelligent design" is a belief and is not subject to testing or validation; thus, it has no place in our educational system. The aim of TAMEST and, we believe, all scientists, is to enhance teaching of true science and to make our public schools and universities excel in science, math and technology.

Submitted on behalf of the Board of Directors of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas by Dr. J. Tinsley Oden, president; Dr. Daniel W. Foster, past president; and Dr. David Daniel, vice-president and president-elect. For more information about the organization, visit www.tamest.org.

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Scientists oppose ICR certification in Texas

National Center for Science Education
January 24, 2008
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2008/TX/964_scientists_oppose_icr_certific_1_24_2008.asp

Now that the Institute for Creation Research's application for Texas certification of its graduate school is on hold until April 2008, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is being inundated by e-mails from "some of the state's leading physicians and scientists" critical of the ICR's proposal to offer degrees in science education, the Austin American-Statesman (January 24, 2008) reports, "including a Nobel laureate who warned that Texas is at risk of becoming 'the laughingstock of the nation.'" Using the Texas Public Information Act, both the American-Statesman and the Dallas Morning News received almost three hundred pages of e-mails to the THECB, supporting and opposing the ICR's application. "Many of the notes are from Texas," the Morning News (January 23, 2008) observed. "But others come from all corners of the U.S. and the world -- from Florida to the Philippines, Nevada to Nigeria."

Among the critics were three Nobel laureates. Alfred G. Gilman -- a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1994; executive vice president, provost, and dean at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School; and a Supporter of NCSE -- asked, "How can Texas simultaneously launch a war on cancer and approve educational platforms that submit that the universe is 10,000 years old?" Robert F. Curl Jr. of Rice University, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996, alluded to the history of antievolution efforts in Kansas, writing, "If this program wins approval ... Texas will replace Kansas as the laughingstock of the nation." And Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin, who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979, concurred, writing, "it would be a blow to science education in Texas, and an embarrassment for Texas."

Also weighing in was Daniel W. Foster of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the president of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas, which seeks "to provide broader recognition of the state's top achievers in medicine, engineering and science, and to build a stronger identity for Texas as an important destination and center of achievement in these fields"; its members include over 200 Texas members of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering. "We should only teach true science in Texas schools and universities, not pseudoscience," Foster wrote to the THECB. "It is crucially important for our students and for the state. [I]t will be a very negative thing if our state becomes labeled as anti-science."

Back in December 2007, the American Institute for Biological Sciences also took a stand. Its president, Douglas Futuyma of SUNY Stony Brook, wrote in a December 28, 2007, letter to the THECB, "ICR is committed to advancing Young Earth Creationism, a literal view of the Bible that contends the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Young Earth Creationism has repeatedly been shown, legally and scientifically, to be a religious belief system and not a credible scientific explanation for the history of Earth or the diversity of biological systems that have evolved on Earth. ... It is unacceptable for the state to sanction the training of science educators committed to the practice of advancing their religious beliefs in a science classroom. ... The THECB will ill-serve science students if it certifies a science teacher education program based on a religious world-view rather than modern science."

The THECB is currently expected to consider the ICR's application for certification for its graduate school at its April 24, 2008, meeting. Members of the THECB are appointed by the governor; a spokesperson for Governor Rick Perry told the American-Statesman that he took no position on the ICR's application. In the meantime, as NCSE previously reported, the THECB's commissioner, Raymund A. Paredes, is seeking further information about the ICR's curriculum, both from the ICR itself and from a panel of scientists and science educators. According to the American-Statesman, "Paredes'[s] recommendation on the proposal for an online master's degree program is expected to carry considerable weight, but the final decision is up to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board."

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Lone Star vs creationism

The battle against anti-scientific literalism continues. Next stop Texas.


Editorial
Nature, v. 451, p. 1030
28 February 2008
Published online 27 February 2008
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7182/full/4511030a.html

The creation–evolution debate in the United States is ever-changing: any given week might bring good news for science advocates in some states, but bad news in others. At the moment, the good news is coming from Florida, which on 19 February voted to adopt new science standards that significantly strengthen the role of evolution in the state's biology curriculum (see page 1041.

But the next round of news will undoubtedly come from Texas, where a state agency faces a decision whose ramifications could resonate across the United States for years to come. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is considering an application by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) to grant online master's degrees in science education. And an advisory panel to the board has recommended that Texas should accept the application.

The ICR accepts the Bible as literal truth on all topics. According to its website, the palaeoclimatology class covers "climates before and after the Genesis Flood". Anatomy lab includes "limited discussion of embryology and accompanying histology, specifically in regards to evolutionary theory and its alternative — the creation of fully functional major groups of animals".

For most of its existence the ICR was ensconced in the San Diego area, but in 2007 it relocated to Dallas, in an apparent move to expand its national reach. California may have been glad to see it go; the state had been battling the ICR over accreditation since 1981, when, under a sympathetic official, the institute first got the go-ahead to offer degrees. But in Texas the ICR must win approval from the state board to continue setting up its graduate programmes before seeking permanent accreditation.

The decision falls to the nine-member higher-education board. It had been expected to vote on the issue in January, but instead asked the ICR for more information — about the research done by its faculty members, about how an online course would teach experimental science, and about why its curriculum is so different from other degree-granting institutions in science education. A vote is expected at the board's 24 April meeting.

High-powered scientists in Texas are already weighing in, asking board commissioner Raymund Paredes to deny accreditation. And there are signs that the board is listening. In a response to Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, Paredes wrote that "our primary criterion will be how the proposed program will contribute to preparing high school students to do rigorous science in higher education". One can only hope such rational approaches will outweigh the primary ICR reaction, which has been to send out a call for prayer.

Scientists in Texas and the rest of the country must continue to make it clear to Paredes why the board should deny accreditation to this organization. The ICR has managed to con its way into the California educational system for decades. Texas must not succumb as well.


Texas Citizens for Science
Last updated: 2008 March 4