DEGREES OF FOLLY: PART IV by William Bennetta The first three parts of this article ran

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DEGREES OF FOLLY: PART IV by William Bennetta The first three parts of this article ran in "BASIS" in February, March and April, respectively. Part III ended with a promise: In May I would tell of a plan calling for the State Department of Education to make a new examination of the ICR Graduate School (ICRGS), an arm of the Institute for Creation Research. I must renege. There is indeed a plan, and it evidently revolves around a formal agreement between the Department and the ICR. The agreement is embodied in two documents: a letter sent to the Department by Wendell R. Bird, the ICR's lawyer, on 10 January; and a reply sent to Bird by Joseph P. Barankin, director of the Department's Private Postsecondary Education Division (PPED), on 3 March. Not until 27 March, however, did Barankin respond to my several requests for a copy of the second letter; and so I have not had time to analyze the agreement or to get Baranakin's answers to my questions about it. I shall delay my account of the agreement, and I shall consider here some other aspects of the ICR case. One aspect is this: The committee that the PPED sent to the ICR last August included TWO ringers -- not just one. Another aspect is this. The Department has begun an effort to obscure the PPED's fiasco and to justify the conduct of Roy W. Steeves, the PPED's man who chose and managed the committee. This cover-up includes the dissemination of foolish, false or misleading statements in the name of the Department's chief, Bill Honig. In writing here, I assume that my readers have seen the earlier parts of this article. -- W.B., 8 April NO DEAL In its issue for the winter of 1986, the "California Science Teacher's Journal" printed a fine analysis of creationism and "creation-science" by the paleontologist Richard Cowen, of the University of California at Davis. One of Cowen's best points was in his annotated bibliography. Commenting on a creationist tract, he stated the grand rationalization that all "creation-scientists" seem to revere: "Telling a lie for Jesus is presumably OK!" Cowen's insight is valuable, for nobody can understand the antics of creationists and "creation-scientists" without understanding that their endeavors revolve around continual misrepresentation. Their need to misrepresent themselves and their enterprise is inevitable and quite irreducible because the very core of "creation-science" is a sham -- an illusion in which Bible stories are not Bible stories but are something else. Misrepresentation is certainly the central theme of the ICR case, for the entire affair sprang from the ICR preachers' deciding to issue degrees in fields for which they had no qualifications -- fields for which, in fact, they had only hostility and contempt. In principle, they might have chosen to distribute degrees in fundamentalist religion, the thing to which they and the ICR were quite explicitly devoted. Instead, they picked geology, biology, "astro/geophysics" and science education. Why? Did they think that mining companies were desperate for geologists whose work would be guided by stories of the Flood? That biotechnology labs were crying for biologists who could declare the mysterious biblical doctrine of "kinds"? That universities were clamoring for professors of education who could show young teachers how to count a beetle's feet and find only four? Probably not. A more credible explanation lies in Henry Morris's repeated declarations that creationism and "creation-science" had to be injected into public schools. The ICR had even published a model resolution that state legislatures could use for that purpose.* It seems likely that all four of the ICRGS's programs - - the three named after branches of science, as well as the one in science education -- were aimed at that objective. They would equip fundamentalists with diplomas that would be useful in securing certification and employment as public-school science teachers. This view, in which the degrees are seen as political devices, provides the only evident explanation for the ICR's rejecting the deal that Bill Honig offered last autumn: The Department would expedite approval of the ICR if the ICR would stop misrepresenting its programs and would retitle its degrees to reflect the fact that it teaches religious doctrines, not science. As the "New York Times" told on 8 December, the ICR said no. NONSENSE FROM THE START Because my article has focused on events during and after the three days when the PPED's committee visited the ICR, I may not have made clear that the PPED's exercise was nonsense from the start. Even before Roy Steeves chose the committee, the PPED had accepted, and so had dignified, the ICR's application; and that document was patently defective, sometimes self-contradictory and often absurd. It did not give information that it purported to give, nor did it provide a comprehensible picture of curricula, courses or faculty. Instead of academic resumes of the ICR men, it offered baseball- card sketches. It included a dummy catalog that had been assembled and edited by hand, but (according to my reading) it did not explain why the ICR was not submitting a REAL catalog. And so forth. There were only three things, I think, that the application really made clear. First: The ICR's "science" was taught by men who had to swear, each year, that "science" was the business of believing ancient religious scriptures. Second: If only for that reason, the ICR was being absurd in claiming that its programs were comparable to those at state universities. Third: The ICR was mocking the Department of Education to its face. Did anyone in the PPED really read the application? If yes, then the PPED -- from the time when it accepted and began to process the application -- was derelict. If no, then the same conclusion follows. THE SECOND RINGER Part III of this article told that George F. Howe, a member of the committee that the PPED sent to assess the ICR last August, was an old pal of the ICR's president, Henry Morris, and was allied with Morris in an organization that seeks to "blow evolution out of the public schools". (The lCR's lawyer, Wendell Bird, serves the same organization. See the box on page 5.) It now is clear that another committee member, G. Edwin Miller, was another of Morris's buddies. From 1973 to 1985, Miller had held a series of administrative posts at Christian Heritage College, a Bible school in El Cajon. During most of that time -- specifically, from 1973 to 1980 -- the ICR had been a part of the college; and from 1978 to l980, the college's president had been Morris. In his book "A History of Modern Creationism", Morris tells explicitly of his close association with Christian Heritage College and with Miller, whom he sometimes denotes by a nickname. On page 227 he says: "[The fundamentalist preacher Tim] LaHaye was president of the College until 1978. I then served as president for two years, then Art Peters for two years. Dr. Eddy Miller, who originally came as Dean in 1973, is now president (as of 1984)." MILLER'S RESUME About two weeks ago, in response to a written request, Roy Steeves sent to me copies of the resumes that had been submitted to him by the five men whom he eventually named to the committee. When I looked at the resume furnished by Miller, I saw that he had not declared his association with Henry Morris and the ICR. I was not surprised. A RETRACTION In Part III, I called Miller "an expert in finance and administration". That was naive. I had not finished looking into Miller, and I was taking him (and some statements by Roy Steeves) at face value. Now I say: I myself do not know Miller to be an expert in anything. On his resume, he claims a doctorate in "human behavior" and lists some job-titles, but he describes no work or publications. WHAT DID STEEVES KNOW? Although Miller had failed to declare his association with the ICR, Roy Steeves may have known about it. The dummy catalog submitted with the ICR's application mentioned (on its page 10) the years when the ICR had been a division of Christian Heritage. And Miller's resume showed HIS years at Christian Heritage. Taken together, the two documents could have told Steeves the story --if Steeves looked at them. THE COVER-UP As soon as I learned (in February) that George Howe was a crony of Henry Morris, I informed several people who are following the ICR case; and some of them sent queries to Bill Honig. The Department has replied with a form-letter that ends with a typewritten "Best regards, BILL HONIG" but is signed by "Shirley A. Thornton, Deputy Superintendent for Specialized Programs". I assume that it was composed by Thornton. Her essential message seems to be: The Department is committed to an attempt at obscuring and rationalizing what the PPED did. Her rationale seems to be: Folly and dereliction are quite alright if they are STANDARD folly and dereliction, and we do not need brains if we have lists. Here is her whole text: This responds to your recent letter regarding the Education code Section (ECS) 94310.2 reapproval application of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). You had expressed concerns regarding one of the members of the qualitative review and assessment committee. Standard Policy allows the nomination of one committee member by the school undergoing the committee visitation. Dr. Howe was ICR's nomination. The Department does not inquire into the political or religious beliefs of any educator who serves on a review committee, although the Department facilitator, Roy Steeves, did inquire of each member by telephone in advance as to their [sic] willingness to set aside personal religious beliefs in carrying out the duties of a committee member. Dr. Howe is listed in the catalog of an accredited institution [The Master's College] as the person responsible for science education in that accredited institution. That school, accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, also is recognized by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing for the preparation of teachers for the public school system. We were not aware that Dr. Howe was affiliated with the Creation Science Legal Defense Fund. However, Dr. Howe's duties as a committee member were confined to the review of the teaching of science and science education in that institution, and he was not required or expected to defend or deny the religious beliefs of the faculty or the administrators of the school. Thank you for your continuing interest in private postsecondary education. I comment on Thornton's effort: "Standard policy allows the nomination . . ." That is bafflegab. "Nomination" can mean the mere recommending or proposing of a person for a post, or it can mean the definitive choosing or appointment of that person. Which meaning applies here? "Dr. Howe was ICR's nomination." Does that mean that the other ringer, Miller, was NOT "ICR's nomination"? Did Steeves -- by a stupefying coincidence, and with no prompting by the ICR or its agents -- just happen to name a second pal of Henry Morris to the committee? Or did Steeves perhaps let the ICR make two "nominations", even though "standard policy allows only "one"? ". . . the Department facilitator, Roy Steeves did inquire of each member. . . ." Stuart Hurlbert and James Woodhead deny that. Each man, after I recited Thornton's text to him, said that Steeves had not inquired, by telephone or otherwise, about "willingness to set aside personal religious beliefs". "Dr. Howe is listed . . ." My friend Tom Jukes, who teaches biochemistry at Berkeley and is an eminent quack-watcher, had a basset hound -- Bellman by name -- who for many years was listed as an expert by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. I must ask Tom whether the Department ever sought Bellman's advice. ". . . as the person responsible for science education. . . ." That is false. In the context of the ICR case, a program in "science education" means a program for preparing teachers of science. As I told in Part III, the catalog of The Master's College does not show that Howe or his Division of Natural Sciences is responsible for any such function. The school's only acknowledgment of science education seems to be a course called Elementary Curriculum II, which deals with "teaching science and social studies in the elementary school." It is given in the Division of Social Sciences. "That school . . . also is recognized by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. . . ." If Howe's Bible school is certifying teachers for public classrooms, then the Commission has an error to correct. But alleged attributes of the school are irrelevant to the matter at hand: Steeves named Howe, not the school, to the committee. If Thornton thinks that attributes of the school are important, let her notice: The committee was impaneled to examine master's-degree programs in science and science education, but Howe's school does not offer master's degrees in any of those fields or in any others but one. That one is religion, the very thing that the ICRGS stridently professes not to be teaching. Let her note too that the "Statement of Faith" in the catalog of Howe's school precludes the school's offering legitimate instruction in science. "We were not aware that Dr. Howe was. . . ." That seems odd. Howe is listed -- yes, Thornton, LISTED -- on the Defense Fund's letterhead. "However, Dr. Howe's duties . . . he was not required or expected. . . ." But a "creation-scientist" is still a "creation-scientist", and "creation-science" is still quackery, and the notion of sending George Howe to make a "review of the teaching of science and science education" is still as absurd as it was last August. And an imposture is still an imposture, no matter what may have been "expected" by the people who fostered it, and no matter how desperate those people now may be to hide what they did. --------- *The model ran in issue 26 of "Impact", one of the ICR's monthly bulletins about creationism. Issue 26 was undated but probably was printed in 1975. Appended to the model was "documentation" that included stuff like this: "It can be documented that the evolutionary philosophy has served as the pseudo-scientific basis and justification for racism, modern imperialism, nazism, anarchism, communism, behaviorism, animalistic amoralism, humanism and practically all other anti-Christian and anti-theistic social philosophies and movements of the past century and more." SIDEBAR: WHO IS THIS BIRD? The ICR, in its recent negotiations with the Department of Education, has been represented by Wendell R. Bird, a lawyer from Atlanta. Bird has been prominent in creationist causes during the past decade or so, but his record does not seem enviable. In December l98l, during the trial that led to the nullification of the Arkansas "creation-science" law, Bird tried to dissuade several witnesses from testifying. (In at least one case, he succeeded.) According to an article in "Christianity Today" for 22 January 1982, Bird admitted doing this; and Steven Clark, the state's attorney general at the time of the trial, said that Bird's efforts were "tantamount to tampering with justice. Bird also made a marginal appearance in the opinion that Judge William Overton issued when he found the Arkansas law unconstitutional: "The defendants argue that the teaching of evolution alone presents both a free exercise problem and an establishment problem which can only be redressed by giving balanced treatment to creation science, which is admittedly consistent with some religious beliefs. This argument appears to have its genesis in a student note written by Mr. Wendell Bird. . . . The argument has no legal merit." Despite this, Bird's student note (which had appeared in a l978 issue of the "Yale Law Journal") has been glorified, reprinted and sold by creationist organizations (including the ICR) as if it were a benchmark in jurisprudence. From the summer of l98l through the spring of l987, Bird led the defense of the Louisiana "creation-science" law as it was ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court, a court of appeals, and the Supreme Court. In that campaign, he acted as a "special assistant attorney general" of Louisiana and also as counsel to the Creation Science Legal Defense Fund -- the private group of fundamentalists, headquartered in Shreveport, that supplied nearly all the money for the defense. The Fund's Board of Reference included Henry Morris and Duane Gish (of the ICR) and George F. Howe. Bird's strategy in the Louisiana case was futile but amusing. The defense lawyers knew that any description or documentation of "creation-science" would show it to be fundamentalist religion; so, while asking court after court to uphold the teaching of "creation-science" in public schools, they refused to say what "creation-science" was. (See my article in the July/August l988 issue of "Terra", published by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.) Bird, Morris, Gish and Howe still serve that group in Shreveport, but the group now is called the ACADEMIC FREEDOM Legal Defense Fund. Its idea of academic freedom was shown in a solicitation that its president issued in August l987. "Our best and most victorious days are still in the future!" he wrote. "We're still going to blow evolution out of the public schools!" -- W.B.


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