Texas Citizens for Science: Report on creationist certification

To provide a little greater access, below the fold I reproduce the complete report from the Texas Citizens for Science on the Institution for Creation Research’s bid to get approval from Texas to grant graduate degrees from the ICR’s Irving, Texas, campus.

If you are tracking this issue, you should also see these posts and sites:

The TCS report is also available at the TCS website.

The Institute for Creation Research and
It’s Quest for Official Texas Certification to Award
Master’s Degrees in Science Education

Steven Schafersman, TCS President
2007 December 17

The Institute for Creation Research and Young Earth Creationism

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) wants the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to give ICR official state certification to award Master’s Degrees in Science Education in Texas. Recent MSM news reports of this story are available.

The Institute for Creation Research is the oldest of two major Young Earth Creationist organizations in the United States (the other is Answers in Genesis of Northern Kentucky, which has the new, expensive Creation Museum that received so much attention during the past year). ICR recently moved its administrative and educational offices from San Diego, CA, to Dallas, TX, presumably because it is a more congenial location for their major activity: promoting Young Earth Creationism (YEC) in the United States. Young Earth Creationism–which combines the beliefs of Special Creationism of every species or “kind,” Adam and Eve were real people, Noah’s Flood actually occurred and created most geological features on Earth’s surface, and a young Earth 10,000 years old or less–is still the most popular variety of Creationism in the country, because it conforms to the views of Biblical Literalists. Although it is illegal to teach Creationism in public schools–because doing so in secular public institutions violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution–it is possible to teach it in homes, churches, Sunday schools, private schools, and home schools. This is where most American students learn their Creationism; as studies and surveys repeatedly reveal, about 40% of U.S. citizens believe in this traditional form of Creationism, so the ICR, AiG, and Fundamentalist churches have been extraordinarily successful at dumbing-down science literacy among our country’s students and citizens.

Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), as promoted by the Discovery Institute across the country and by seven members of the Texas State Board of Education, is the most recent version of Creationism. IDC does not promote the tenets of YEC listed above. Rather, IDC has two goals: the proximate goal is to corrupt and distort science education in public schools by convincing ignorant state education officials that modern biological evolution is “controversial” and has “weaknesses” that scientists know about but don’t want young people to learn, so these officials should require that science standards and textbooks must include the alleged but bogus “weaknesses” and “controversy” about evolution; the purpose is to damage evolution instruction so much that students will distrust science, science instruction, and science instructors. The ultimate goal of IDC is to convince a majority of Americans that IDC is a better explanation for origins and biological diversity than evolution and to distrust natural scientific explanations in favor of supernaturalistic explanations, i.e. to replace naturalism with supernaturalism as the dominant intellectual ontology in science and academia.

I mention IDC to contrast it with the YEC promoted by ICR. Both falsely claim to be devoted to science and to have scientific evidence that supports them, but YEC is a much more vulgar and incredible version of Creationism, one which requires the believer to ignore enormous amounts of evidence from all scientific disciplines and to willingly suspend disbelief and engage in monumental self-deception. ICR’s pretension to teach real science is baseless. For the THECB to give ICR certification to grant master’s degrees in science education would be a mockery of science and an injustice to students who work hard in legitimate science institutions to earn real master’s degrees in science education.

History of the ICR Graduate School

ICR is registered in Texas as a “private, not-for-profit corporation, for the purposes of research, writing, and education in both the standard curriculum of each scientific discipline and the Institute’s supplemental framework of scientific creationism and biblical authority in all disciplines.” ICR runs its own graduate school that offers M.S. degrees in science education. Its stated mission is to “research, educate and communicate Truth involving the study and promotion of scientific creationism, Biblical creationism, and related fields.” ICR claims its Graduate School program “provides graduate-level training in science education through an online environment, with minors in the natural sciences that are particularly relevant to the study of origins,” specifically biology, geology, and “astro/geophysics” (this specialty is in quotes because there is no such category in modern science education that I know of). In fact, the ICR Graduate School provides instruction primarily in Young Earth Creationism and teaches its grad students the skills to proselytize this religious doctrine to younger, innocent science students in supposed science classrooms. ICR does not teach students anything about legitimate biology, geology, “astro/geophysics,” or science education, but rather teaches them pseudoscience and pseudoscholarship. Basically, ICR teaches its graduate students how to fool future younger students about the true nature of science, a truly unethical practice by any moral standard. Most of ICR’s graduates teach in Protestant Christian private schools and home schools, but a few teach in public schools. Those who work there use their ICR M.S. degree to earn a higher salary than a teacher with only a B.S. or B.A. degree.

The Institute for Creation Research has long had permission to grant master’s degrees in science education in California. How ICR obtained this is quite a story. But it will be briefly retold here since events now in Texas are mimicking past events in California so closely. ICR was formed by Henry M. Morris in 1970 following an organizational split with the Creation Science Research Center (CSRC), an older YEC organization that Morris had originally helped to start. ICR was originally a creation science research division within the Christian Heritage College, a college founded by Morris and Tim LeHaye, the well-known fundamentalist preacher and Left Behind author. Christian Heritage College was devoted to YEC and Biblical Literalism (it is now known as San Diego Christian College). It is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. However, ICR was forced to split off from CHC in 1981 so that CHC could receive accreditation from the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Christian Heritage College could not receive mainstream accreditation with ICR as a research and teaching division. So ICR became an autonomous institution in 1981.

ICR still wanted to provide its students with Master’s of Science Education degrees. California statutes allowed academic institutions to award graduate degrees if they had formal accreditation from a recognized accrediting association or if it had been approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the chief of the State Department of Education. To gain the superintendent’s approval, the school would have to demonstrate, to a committee of examiners, that its academic resources and programs were comparable to those at accredited schools that offered the same degrees. In 1981 the superintendent was Wilson Riles, an individual sympathetic to the ideals and goals of ICR. After a peremptory examination that superficially complied with the law, an examination committee of equally sympathetic and apparently specially-chosen individuals approved allowing ICR to grant advanced degrees in science and in science education. No one doubts that the examination committee was composed of members we would call ringers, shills, or plants. In fact, this had to be the case, since one must realize what had just happened: a research institute that teaches Young Earth Creationism, Noah’s Flood, Adam and Eve, Special Creationism, and Biblical Literalism was just given legal State authority to award legitimate Masters of Science degrees in Astronomy, Biology, Geology, and Science Education to paying students. An informed rational person would consider this a con game or sham. (ICR is not a diploma mill; students had to attend, take courses, and study to earn their degree.)

What happens next is a story best related by William Bennetta in a series of ten articles titled Degrees of Folly. TCS has reformatted these papers into a single document and is making it available to readers in Texas. Degrees of Folly should be read since it describes a course of events that is being exactly duplicated now in Texas: the sham physical on-site visit and ludicrous report by the evaluation committee, the complicit public education officials, the urgency and secretiveness of the process, and the alarming public attention when the suspect program has been discovered and publicized. It really is true that what is fashionable in California does eventually reach Texas, but usually it doesn’t take two decades.

In 1986, the California Legislature tightened the requirements and review procedures for non-accredited schools, saying the institutes had to gain approval from the superintendent for granting degrees. The ICR Graduate School was thus obliged to renew its approval with the California Department of Education in 1987 under stricter requirements. California education statutes now provided that an unaccredited institution such as ICR could not receive state approval unless “The curriculum is consistent in quality with curricula offered by appropriate established accredited institutions” and that “The course for which the degree is granted achieves its professed or claimed academic objective for higher education, with verifiable evidence of academic achievement comparable to that required of graduates of other recognized schools accredited by an appropriate accrediting commission….” The new Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig wanted to make sure the law was followed. A new five-person examination committee was appointed in 1988; however, two members were plants or ringers for the ICR.

After a theatrical and acrimonious series of events, ably described by Bill Bennetta, the examination committee first voted 3-2 to give ICR approval to award graduate degrees in science, the a Stanford University geophysics professor switched his vote and the result was 3-2 against. The committee’s report was full of errors, omissions, and obfuscations. After more turmoil, Honig was forced to appoint a second committee of five in 1989, only one of whom was an ICR plant. ICR knew they were in trouble with this committee of qualified scientists. ICR tried to turn public opinion in its favor with misleading reports and news articles in order to prejudice the expected negative report. This committee eventually voted 4-1 against ICR, and its well-written report of January, 1990, revealed the scientific incompetence and ignorance of ICR in a manner that left no room to doubt the accuracy and correctness of the vote to deny ICR permission to grant graduate science degrees. Bill Bennetta’s report ends here.

But the story continues. Now barred from granting graduate degrees in science, ICR had a problem. It could still grant degrees, but they would not be legally recognized. Loss of state approval meant that students at ICR would not be able to obtain federal student loans and other educational benefits. The degrees could not be transferred to other institutions, and would not serve as recognized educational certificates that in many cases would result in higher salaries. If this continued, students would not attend and ICR would suffer a severe financial loss.

The ICR Lawsuit and TRACS Accreditation

ICR claimed it was experiencing State discrimination against Creationist Christians and filed a lawsuit against Superintendent Bill Honig. After a trial, ICR was awarded a settlement of $225,000 in 1992 and regained permission to continue its graduate science program until 1995 as long as ICR continued to teach evolution alongside creationism (ICR claims it does do this; in fact, its students may have more instruction about evolution than most Texas college students, but it doesn’t do them any good). TCS was not able to learn the logic of this decision or the arguments under which this decision was reached. The original agreement expired in 1995, and the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education granted the ICR religious exemption from postsecondary school requirements in California by finally recognizing ICR’s long-standing Christian College accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools or TRACS.

In 1979, nine years after being founded, ICR managed to pick up formal accreditation from a recognized accrediting association, the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). It was able to do this by creating the accrediting association itself. TRACS was founded in 1979 by Henry Morris and several other men. Morris’s son, Henry Morris III, is currently a member of the TRACS Commission, the division that evaluates and awards accreditation. However, until 1994, TRACS was not recognized in California as an acceptable accrediting association, so ICR was obligated to seek and obtain approval from the Superintendent of Instruction. Once TRACS was recognized by California, ICR approval from a state agency was unnecessary.

TRACS is a Fundamentalist and Biblical Literalist Christian accrediting association. Any accredited institution must agree to follow TRACS Foundational Standards, which are based on the inerrancy and literal interpretation of the Bible. Here are three pertinent Foundational Standards from the TRACS Accreditation Standards:

The Bible. The unique divine inspiration of all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as originally given, so that they are infallibly and uniquely authoritative and free from error of any sort in all matters with which they deal, scientific, historical, moral, and theological.

Historicity. The full historicity and perspicuity of the biblical record of primeval history, including the literal existence of Adam and Eve as the progenitors of all people, the literal fall and resultant divine curse on the creation, the worldwide cataclysmic deluge, and the origin of nations and languages at the tower of Babel.

Biblical Creation. Special creation of the existing space-time universe and all its systems and kinds of organisms in the six literal days of the creation week.

Only a select number of institutions of higher learning would qualify to be accredited under these stringent standards. Two such institutions accredited by TRACS are Bob Jones University and Liberty University. You may think that TRACS accreditation is practically useless, since it requires its accredited institutions to follow the fundamentals of Biblical Literalist Christianity, such as “non-evolutionary creation,” “literal existence of Adam and Eve,” “the worldwide cataclysmic deluge,” and similar theological tenets. But this is not true. Bible Colleges that teach theology and train ministers would have no problem with this accreditation; in fact, they desire it. Being accredited under such terms obviously removes all mainstream scientific legitimacy and academic acceptance, so you might think that any institution that has a vision of being recognized as teaching and researching “real science” would not want TRACS accreditation. But again, this is not true; even suboptimal accreditation that is recognized by a state allows students to obtain federal student loans and use the graduate degree for a credential. It is likely that ICR Graduate School Masters Degrees in Science Education have not been faring well in the mainstream academic marketplace, but TRACS accreditation was good enough for pseudoscience education and ICR would have been happy to keep it.

ICR Moves to Texas

In June 2006, ICR’s board of directors formally approved the establishment of the Henry M. Morris Center for Christian Leadership in Dallas, Texas. The goal of this new strategic initiative is to expand the impact of ICR’s various ministries through online distance education, leadership conferences and seminars, and the further development of ICR’s web site. Of course, ICR planned to keep it Graduate School going to properly train the next generation of Young Earth Creationists. ICR’s stated reasons for moving to Texas are a more central national location, proximity to a major airport, and a greater suitable population for their ministry. But ICR had a problem: Texas does not recognize TRACS accreditation. So ICR gave TRACS up. If one goes to the TRACS Commission Action Report for November 2007, page 3 reports the following:

The following Institution’s letter of withdrawal was accepted and accredited status terminated:

Institute of Creation Research, Dallas, TX, formerly El Cahon, CA, a former Category III institution approved to offer the Master’s degree, was removed from TRACS membership.

Texas accepts accreditation from only nine accrediting associations or commissions for bachelor and graduate degrees:

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA-CHE)
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE)
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA-HLC)
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Senior Colleges (WASC-ACSCU)
Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Junior Colleges (WASC-ACCJC)
Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) (NOTE: recognized at the undergraduate level only)
Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS

I learned from Linda McDonough of the THECB that ICR does not intend to apply for accreditation from the last two–the two religious associations. These really won’t work for them, because one is only good for undergraduate accreditation and the other is for theological schools, which the ICR Graduate School is not.

No government agency in the United States provides accreditation for the obvious reason of the potential for political abuse and corruption of higher education (the “approval” ICR had in California from 1981 to 1995 was not accreditation). I learned from several sources that ICR intends to seek and apply for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the standard accrediting association for Texas colleges and universities. The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M are accredited by SACS, for example. SACS is a legitimate, mainstream accrediting association and probably won’t accredit ICR, but you never know. Stranger things have happened. Additionally, intimidation works really well in Texas. ICR has sued state agencies that don’t give it what it wants, and they have succeeded. In a courtroom, scientific principles and integrity can fly out the window. The same can happen in a state agency hearing room.

The ICR website 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.” Henry Morris III, the chief executive of the Institute for Creation Research, claimed that the proposed curriculum, currently taught in California, used faculty and textbooks “from all the top schools” along with the “value added” of challenges to standard teachings of evolution. “Where the difference is, we provide both sides of the story.”

And some story it is! With a single global flood forming all Earth’s surface features, humans and dinosaurs living together, God directly acting to create every species or kind, a 6-10,000 year old Earth. And every student appreciates a “value added” curriculum, especially one in which you don’t have to think too hard for your money. That really is a great value.

The Henry Morris Center in Dallas offers the following description of ICR’s planned course offerings in distance education:

The graduate school of ICR also offers resident Master of Science degrees in astronomy and geophysics, biology, and geology. These degree programs are currently being developed for web-based, distance education platforms to accommodate a growing number of students who desire quality advanced science instruction from a thoroughly biblical perspective.

The only thing better than offering distance education courses for thousands of Protestant Fundamentalist students in India, China, Africa, and South America is being able to give them certified and legitimate Masters of Science degrees from the United States. And the only thing better than that is charging each of those thousands of Protestant Fundamentalist students all over the world many thousands of dollars for tuition. With a fat Texas-certified Master’s Degree in Science Education thrown in, every student will get super-extra “value added” for their money. Who could ask for anything more?

The financial aspect of this story has received no attention from the press or anyone else, but TCS is happy to break the story. ICR stands to earn tens of millions of dollars from tuition fees if they can award real Masters of Science degrees to thousands of distance students over the world. Likewise, they will lose those millions of dollars if THECB certification is not granted on January 24, 2008, in Austin. Distance education is the reason ICR has only one equipped classroom in Dallas. That’s all they need. ICR wants to be the University of Phoenix of Pseudoscience.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

For several months now, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has been shepherding ICR’s request for Certification to award master’s degrees in science education while it seeks permanent official accreditation from an accreditation association recognized by Texas. Certification is good for two years and allows the institution to prove itself before they receive a site visit and examination from the accrediting association. The THECB certification is temporary, but still vital for ICR to obtain, since it can start the buildup of its Creationist pseudoscience graduate school and leverage the official Texas approval and two years worth of work into something a mainstream accreditation association will be unwilling or intimidated to destroy. And even if SACS won’t accredit ICR, ICR has other options. The easiest is simply to convince a majority of Texas legislators and our Governor to tell the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to accept TRACS accreditation for graduate schools. When the multi-million dollar financial stakes are so high, anything is possible in Texas. Most Texas legislators will see the education of foreign nationals in Creationism–with their tuition money flowing into Texas–as the best of all possible worlds. We can get rich while we make other nations stupid. That’s what we mean by “value added” in Texas.

The entire certification process has been low-key and secretive. I believe that the THECB hoped that the entire process could be completed and ICR certification granted without any press, educational, or scientific attention. TCS has discovered that the individuals assigned to conduct the site evaluation were unqualified to perform this task. None of them had appropriate scientific training or credentials. The Certification Advisory Council was obviously unqualified to judge the site evaluation report. It rubber-stamped the report and voted unanimous approval for ICR’s certification. There needs to be an investigation of how these individuals were appointed to their two committees and why they were chosen. The entire process stinks of cronyism and favoritism. TCS would not be surprised if money was involved, but we know nothing yet. The press really needs to investigate the THECB.

The On-Site Evaluation Team

Texas Citizens for Science obtained and posted the Report of Evaluation of the ICR by the THECB Site Visit Team. This PDF document also contains ICR’s Initial Response to the Report of Evaluation. The latter Response contains ICR’s Strategic Plan and Budgeting Process Timeline for their new Dallas institution. These two documents contain passages that should make reasonable, educated, rational readers squirm. The on-site evaluation committee of the THECB visited ICR in Dallas on November 8, 2007. Press reports omitted their names. The on-site visiting committee consisted of

1. David Rankin, Ph.D., Social Sciences Reference/Government Documents Librarian, Texas A&M University-Commerce

2. Lee “Rusty” Waller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership, Texas A&M University-Commerce

3. Gloria White, Ed.D., Managing Director, Dana Research Center for Mathematics and Science Education, The University of Texas at Austin

4. Linda McDonough represented the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

TCS believes that these individuals are not qualified to judge the qualifications of a proposed “scientific” graduate school that plans to offer Masters Degrees in Science Education. None of the three academic evaluators are formally trained in science or even science education. Gloria White, who works for a math and science education center, is a mathematician. Also, if one reads their report, it is immediately obvious that all three were sympathetic to the aims and goals of Young Earth Creationism and wrote a biased report whose fairness and accuracy is highly suspect. An investigation should be made about how these three individuals were selected for the on-site visit. Were they recommended to the THECB by the ICR itself? Who on the Board staff selected these three for the site visit? TCS predicts that an investigation will reveal that cronyism and favoritism was involved (nothing new for Texas, admittedly, but somewhat unusual in science and science education).

The evaluation committee reported the following:

A review of the vita of the full-time teaching faculty by the site visit team indicated that the faculty’s credentials are appropriate….It is fair to say that the education, experience, and characteristics of the ICR faculty in higher education are such that one may reasonably conclude that students will receive an education consistent with the objectives of the proposed master’s degree from ICR. In addition, the ICR faculty consistently stressed to the site visit team that they always include in their courses multiple perspectives on the science topics presented. In particular, they explained in detail how they provide not only the “creationist” perspective but also the “more typical secular” perspectives on the science topics covered in their courses.

The institution also makes clear in the faculty handbook the expectation that faculty publications should promote a creationist point of view, and represent unequivocal commitment to the stated doctrinal positions in the institution’s Bylaws. The institution’s statement on academic freedom has been distributed to all the faculty….

The differing perspectives of the creation/evolution issue was addressed by the faculty member in each of the courses, so that students will know and understand current scientific information and research from non-creationist scientists. Obviously, the faculty member in each of the courses also provides the student with the creationist perspective, as well. When asked if students seemed reluctant to learn about the creationist view of scientific topics as part of the course, the faculty indicated that the students at ICR tend to self-select such that they already have views that closely match those of the faculty and administration of ICR.

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. The proposed degree would be generally comparable to an initial master’s degree in science education from on of the smaller, regional universities in the state.

It is difficult to believe that anyone could write these paragraphs without having absolutely no understanding or appreciation of irony. It should be obvious to anyone with the smallest amount of reliable scientific understanding that ICR does not plan to teach legitimate science and that the school is an enormous con job. The site visit team writes, “It is fair to say that the education, experience, and characteristics of the ICR faculty in higher education are such that one may reasonably conclude that students will receive an education consistent with the objectives of the proposed master’s degree from ICR.” This is double-talk or Newspeak. ICR could be teaching Geocentricism or Flying Pig Farming instead of Young Earth Creationism and the statement would still be true. Are there really no principled educational standards in Texas? Yes, students will receive an education consistent with the objectives of the proposed ICR master’s degree program, but what does that mean in terms of learning actual reliable knowledge about science? Nothing! Students will learn pseudoscience and be awarded a Mater’s Degree in Science Education in Texas. This is a travesty, not an accomplishment.

A scientific view of nature is described by the ICR as the “more typical secular” perspective and the site team accepts this! Both secular and religious scientists would object to this description of a scientific view of nature. Legitimate religious scientists, who make up about 40% of all scientists, often understand the scientific view of nature from a religious perspective, and that’s okay, since they are practicing real science. ICR does not practice real science; in fact, ICR has been criticized and condemned by every scientific authority in the United States.

The reference in the report to “non-creationist scientists” is priceless! Is this the new THECB term for what everyone else in the world would call a . . . scientist? The THECB site evaluation team believes it’s a good idea to be specific when using new terms!

The site teams writes, “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.” Plausible perhaps, but by what standards? If judged by typical science standards, the ICR master’s degree program fails miserably. It teaches Young Earth Creationism, for God’s sake! That is not science. Even the supposed legitimate science instruction is suspect, since the ICR professors have no enthusiasm for legitimate science. Their entire careers are devoted to arguing against, attempted refuting, misrepresenting, and mocking authentic science. If judged by YEC standards, then yes, the ICR graduate program is plausible. But the THECB is not in the business of certifying Creationist research centers for approved Texas graduate degrees. Or is it? TCS would have no objection if ICR was approved to award Master’s Degrees in Creationism or Master’s Degrees in Pseudoscience. But we do object if the word science is in the graduate degree title.

The site team writes, “The proposed degree would be generally comparable to an initial master’s degree in science education from on of the smaller, regional universities in the state.” This statement is just completely false. There is nothing comparable between a master’s degree in science education from a regional Texas university and one in pseudoscience education from ICR. Only individuals with (1) absolutely no scientific and educational competence or (2) are overwhelmingly biased and compromised in the professional conduct of their evaluation could write such a duplicitous sentence such as this. This is absolutely shameful and disgusting behavior. It is scandalous that such contempt for science education goes on in our state under the official purview of a state agency that is supposed to be dedicated to the goal “to achieve excellence for the college education of Texas students.”

TCS claims that the three members of the site evaluation team were chosen because they were expected to favor the goals of ICR, and to write a positive report about ICR that would encourage its approval for THECB certification. This they did. But the language in their report–and I only pulled out a few choice quotes; there is much, much more–clearly reveals the authors are hopelessly biased and scientifically unqualified. For this site evaluation, TCS claims the fix was in. This scandal needs to be investigated by an Inspector General or the Attorney General.

The Committee on Academic Excellence and Research

The next step occurred on December 12, 2008. The THECB’s Committee on Academic Excellence and Research (AER) met and, among other things, considered the following agenda item:


Discussion and consideration of adopting recommendations by the Committee to the Board for approval of requests from two private postsecondary education institutions for certificates of authority to grant degrees in Texas:

1. Galen Health Institute, San Antonio
2. Institute for Creation Research, Dallas

[Galen description snipped]


RECOMMENDATION: Pending Certification Advisory Council recommendation

Background Information:

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is a private, not-for-profit corporation, registered in the states of California and Texas for the purposes of research, writing, and education in both the standard curriculum of each scientific discipline and the Institute’s supplemental framework of scientific creationism and biblical authority in all disciplines.

The ICR Graduate School program provides graduate-level training in science education through an online environment, with minors in the natural sciences that are particularly relevant to the study of origins.

An on-site evaluation was conducted at ICR on November 8, 2007. The Board’s Certification Advisory Council will review the evaluation team’s report, and ICR’s response to the evaluation on December 14, 2007. The Commissioner will forward their recommendation to the Board with his endorsement or with his substitute recommendation.

A person who attended this meeting reported to me that the AER Committee barely considered the ICR agenda item. They mumbled and looked embarrassed. They did not discuss the item or make recommendations. They quickly tabled the item and passed it on for the Certification Advisory Council to consider in two days, on December 14. The members of this important committee, supposedly devoted to “Academic Excellence,” could have said something to stop this madness and safeguard academic excellence in Texas, but they didn’t. They ignored the issue and tried to hide. Press reports omitted their names. Here they are:

1. Lyn Phillips, Chair
2. Elaine Mendoza, Vice-Chair
3. Laurie Bricker
4. Joe B. Hinton
5. New Board Member (Vacant)
6. Robert Shepard, Ex-Officio

These five individuals should be ashamed of their behavior. They should have stood up for good science in Texas and given the ICR request a negative recommendation. Once again, TCS feels that something is rotten in Austin. Educated public officials that must have taken an oath to uphold the integrity of their offices allowed a religious, pseudoscientific organization to obtain a valuable Texas certification to award graduate degrees in science. What was their motivation?

The Certification Advisory Council

Finally, the THECB’s Certification Advisory Council reviewed their agency’s on-site evaluation of ICR in Austin on December 14, 2007. After the hearing and discussion, the Council voted unanimously to endorse the ICR’s request for certification. TCS knows little of what happened at this hearing. Once again, MSM (mainstream media) press reports omitted the names of the individuals on this advisory committee. Here they are thanks to Melissa Del Bosque of the Texas Observer:

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
Dr. Theodore J. Wardlow of the Austin Presbyterian Seminar

These individuals 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 authorization or certification is good for two years while the institution seeks formal accreditation from an accrediting association or commission recognized by Texas. Unlike other states, Texas recognizes only nine such associations, and they are all legitimate and respectable (i.e. unlike TRACS). Let’s be clear what these six people did. Although their credentials are not known yet, but obviously unfamiliar with and untrained in science, these six individuals unanimously approved a recommendation to the full THECB (which meets January 24, 2008) to allow ICR–a Young Earth Creationist organization–to obtain its desired certification to grant master’s degrees in science education. This is a travesty. These six public officials, supposedly pledged to uphold the integrity of their office, recommended that a anti-science Creationist organization be given the right in Texas to teach students about Creationism and award them real, authentic, legitimate Master’s Degrees in Science Education that are certified by the State of Texas. This is extraordinarily shameful and disgusting behavior, and makes a mockery of the THECB’s goal “to achieve excellence for the college education of Texas students.” In fact, it will do just the opposite. The citizens of Texas should be alarmed that our state’s highest public education officials want to corrupt and pervert science education in our state.


It is imperative that the Commissioner of the THECB, Dr. Raymund A. Paredes, be made aware that ICR (1) is not a scientific organization, but one that actively promotes pseudoscience and the corruption of legitimate science, (2) that ICR failed to legitimately obtain certification from California to grant graduate degrees but got it anyway by a lawsuit, and (3) that the THECB’s goal “to achieve excellence for the college education of Texas students” will be in jeopardy–in fact, Texas will become a laughingstock–if it grants ICR the official state certification it desires.

Some quotes from Dr. Paredes are not very reassuring. He seems to be unaware of the relationship between Creationism and science, perhaps believing that they are equivalent:

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.”

No, Dr. Paredes, that is not a possibility. There are not two legitimate arguments on both sides here. One side is honest and has two centuries of success in discovering reliable and accurate knowledge about nature. The other side is dishonest in every conceivable way and fails every possible test of its reliability and integrity. Dr. Paredes is obviously confused about intellectual categories and boundaries within the realm of science. But later Dr. Paredes said this:

“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.

Now this is a correct description, and an excellent one at that. TCS would endorse the THECB giving ICR certification to award graduate degrees in Creation Studies or Creation Education or Creationism. It is not a legitimate field, of course, but plenty of schools of higher education issue perfectly legitimate graduate degrees in weird, wacky, and obscure topics, even in Texas. Many religious institutions offer legitimate degrees in various aspects of theology, and ICR might find a place there. I would not begrudge giving ICR the approval to grant degrees in Theological Creationism. TCS would only object if the word Science was in the degree title, because this would be a prevarication.

If you are as appalled by the events described in this article as is the author, please write to Dr. Raymund A. Paredes, the Commissioner of the THECB to express your disgust at how this process has been handled so far, and to object to granting ICR the certification to award graduate science degrees it desires. The address is:

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

or by email at Raymund.Paredes@thecb.state.tx.us

Don’t let secrecy, favoritism, cronyism, and probably financial mischief win this one in Texas.

Research for this article was conducted by the author and one anonymous researcher whose excellent assistance is gratefully acknowledged. Other individual sources are cited with Web addresses. Several MSM reporters and bloggers used information contained in this report (that I sent out earlier over the past several days as email messages and press releases), and that use is graciously permitted even in the cases I received no attribution.

Texas Citizens for Science
Last updated: 2007 December 19

One Response to Texas Citizens for Science: Report on creationist certification

  1. John Frost says:

    Hey I saw you mentioned the Left Behind series by Tim LeHaye? I know they are trying to build a community of us fans of the series. If you want to join the group we are at http://www.foundthisbook.com


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