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
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
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
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)."
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
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
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.
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
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
". . . 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
"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.
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
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.