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Posted at 2:35 PM ET, 06/23/2010

Texas judge rejects creationist master's degree

By Valerie Strauss

Here’s education news from Texas that you can applaud: A federal judge has denied an effort by the Institute for Creation Research to issue master's degrees in science education from “a Biblical scientific creationist viewpoint,” instead siding with state officials who initially refused to allow the program to go forward.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled in a lawsuit filed against the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which in 2008 had denied an application by the institute for authority to award master's degrees, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

The institute rejects the theory of evolution and espouses what is called "Young Earth creationism," the belief that Earth and life were created by God between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago.

The institute filed a lawsuit last year, alleging that the state, in refusing its request, was violating the First Amendment and practicing religious discrimination. Sparks, in a 39-page decision, said that the institute had not proven any of its claims and that the state had the authority to prevent the master's degree program from going forward.

Actually the state’s Certification Advisory Council initially recommended conditional approval for the proposed program at its Dec. 14, 2007 meeting, according to the legal ruling.

But Raymund Paredes, the Texas commissioner of higher education, discovered flaws in the site visit team’s report, and recommended to the board that a group of scientists and science educators re-evaluate the proposed degree program.

As Commissioner Paredes later wrote, “It seemed clear to me upon reading the various evaluation documents that the central issue of whether the proposed program met appropriate standards of science education had been insufficiently addressed. As a result, I directed staff to conduct a fresh review.”

The state board ultimately recommended that the institute’s application for a certificate of authority be rejected.

“Essentially, the panel reasoned much of the course content was outside the realm of science and lacked potential to help students understand the nature of science and the history and nature of the natural world,” wrote the judge in Friday's ruling, which concurred with the state.

The last bit of education news to come out of Texas was the rewriting of social studies standards by right-wing ideologues. This is a welcome change.

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By Valerie Strauss  | June 23, 2010; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  Science  | Tags:  creationism, creationism vs. evolution, creationist science, earth science institute and texas, institute for creation research, judge rejects creationist masters degree, judge sam sparks and ruling, texas and creationist institute, texas higher education coordinating board  
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Comments

Isn't this bizarre? I once knew a science teacher who believed in creationism. The English teacher at that school was always scolding him for his beliefs. I don't know how a science person can want to study creationism seriously.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 23, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I think the judge showed sound judgement that the request was rejected since the program didn't meet the minimum common standards accepted accross the board as it pertains to higher education degrees.

@celestun100. Nothing bizare about it. Many schools have a certain political/cultural/social perspective, but all adhere to the common standards dictated to present higher education degrees. Further, people have their beliefs, which they are entitled to have under the US Constitution (believe me I have met them all when it comes to the question of evolution). YOUR english teacher showed piss poor judgement in deriding an individual for their personal beliefs, and it is quite apparant that you are more than happy to play the arrogant bouzma as well. I may not agree with such beliefs, but will always be respectful. My only issue is academia's inability to present all the "theories" and than TEACH students to think and point out the flaws of the less substatial theories (here's a clue- nothing has been proven in evolution; just the theory of evolution (Darwin) is far more scientifically sound than the other less substantive ones regardless of how bizare). Presenting kids with all the theories and teaching them to think, question, debate yields far better results and benefits our children far greater than teaching one idea only that they just nod their sleepy heads too. That said, academically speaking anything that tries to mold science with a personal world view belongs in the realm of philosophy/theology not biology and the the more quantitative sciences.

Posted by: devilsadvocate3 | June 24, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

@devilsadvocate

Thanks for replying to my post.Maybe I should explain a little more. The science teacher that I mentioned wanted to teach creationism alongside the other theories and wanted to emphasize that what was already in the Science books was just theory.

I think he has a right to his opinion, and at the time I didn't say anything, but I have always remembered the English teacher's response to him. Now I think I know why she reacted so strongly. It wasn't that he believed something different, it was that he wanted to also teach the students his views and emphasize that his religion's viewpoint was as likely as the scientific views to be true. (He was in a very small evangelical church, about 200 members) They took the Bible very literally. Part of this belief was that if you did believe that fossils were somewhat accurate records, for example it was a sin. The fact that you believed something different was a sin.

I too think it would be better handled in the realm of philosophy/theology and without the idea that one of the religious views is more correct than the others, at least not in a public school.

Personally, I understand his viewpoint, he is taking the Bible as his base and others prefer science. I am relgious and understand where he is coming from. I don't think I would want him to teach my children science, though. If I wanted my kids to get the Genesis version of science, I would go for a religious school or teach them my own theories at home. I would rather the science teacher stick to the curriculum.

I still think it is a bit strange that someone could study science and not want to accept any of the scientific viewpoints. Personally, I lean towards the religious side because I like it better. I wouldn't become an "expert" in something I really didn't buy into at least a little bit, but that's just me.


Posted by: celestun100 | June 24, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

@devilsadvocate

You are right that all schools have a political/ cultural / social perspective. you only have to work with different cultures within a school or change schools to see how true that is.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 24, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I knew of a situation--in the 1970s--in which an elementary school science teacher spent the summer going through the new science books with a marker, blacking out any passage his church disagreed with. When this was discovered, the woman who taught reading and spelling suggested that the two of them exchange subjects, since she loved science and the science teacher was really an excellent teacher apart from his insistence on his religious views. They were turned down; women's brains, the explanation was, were naturally unsuited for science and math! (The same school was still holding released time religious classes and instructing the teachers as to what to put in their lesson plans so the state Board of Education wouldn't discover this.) The school did, though, encourage the science teacher to quit the following year; he went to work for a church-operated school.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | June 24, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

devilsadvocate: Not only has evolution been proven through scientific investigation of fossils, etc., but we see it in medicine and nature. The reason so many bacteria and viruses are resistant to drugs is because they have evolved, with the ability to resist drugs having been passed on until it is the norm. What Darwin didn't anticipate was that humans could cause evolution as well as observing it! (By the way, Darwin didn't create the theory. Scientists were studying it for years, and Darwin merely came up with the best evidence for it through his observations. In fact, he published when he did because another scientist was about to publish his own evidence supporting evolution.)

Posted by: sideswiththekids | June 25, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Religion is best applied in churches, where there's plenty of room for it. It's divisive in schools since it's all best on faith, only on faith.

Posted by: bdunn1 | June 25, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how you can say ANY form of "earth beginnings" have been proven. There is more scientific proof for Biblical creationism than any other. The place where some contentions arise is because people fail to take into account the Biblical account of the flood which is critical to the "young earth" theories related to creationism. To say that creationism shouldn't be taught in school because it is based on faith is to remove a widely held theory. Evolution has never been proven through scientific observation. Evolution states that organisisms have improved throughout history (going from single-cell to current man). Where has anything ever been seen to improve through stress and time? Inter-species evolution, best described as adaptation, is the only form of evolution that has truly been observed. All theories of the beginnings of the world are based on faith, not observation. Perhaps you mean be "investigation of fossils" that they have found fossils in different layers of dirt which support the theory of evolution because of the different ages of the layers. However, how are the layers dated? Usually through the perceived age of the fossils found there. That is circular logic at its best. All theories of the beginnings of the world should be removed from the formal education facilities and be taught in the home like all other belief systems. To take one theory out because some don't believe it would be akin to teaching Mormonism in the science class but not allowing Christianity or Islam to be taught.

Posted by: allenmoore1 | June 28, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

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