DEGREES OF FOLLY: PART VIII by William Bennetta Parts I through VII of this article have d

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DEGREES OF FOLLY: PART VIII by William Bennetta Parts I through VII of this article have described the continuing effort by the ICR Graduate School (ICRGS) to gain reapproval, from the California State Department of Education, as a source of advanced degrees in science and in science education. The ICRGS is an arm of the Institute for Creation Research, a fundamentalist ministry that promotes the religious pseudoscience called "creation-science." The founder and president of the ICR is Henry Morris, a preacher and former engineer who poses as an expert in geology, biology, paleontology and various other fields in which he has no detectable credentials. In Part VI, I told that the Department had sent a committee of examiners to the ICR, in early August, to make a new assessment of the ICR's operations. Four of the committee's five members are scientists from campuses of the University of California or the California State University. The fifth, evidently selected by the ICR, is from a Bible college in Ohio. In Part VII, I told of the reaction by Henry Morris and his associates to the committee's visit: Foreseeing that the committee would declare the ICRGS defective and unworthy of approval, and that the chief of the Department, Bill Honig, would follow the committee's judgment, the ICR men tried to win sympathy from the press and the public. On 31 August they held a "news conference" to denounce Honig and to distribute a fiercely misleading account of their transactions with his Department, but they achieved only modest success. Most news organizations apparently recognized that the ICR men's only "news" was their own desperation. The examining committee has not yet submitted its report, nor has there been any other substantive development, during the month since I wrote Part VII, in the ICR case per se. The ICR men have not been idle, however, and in September they mailed a new batch of religious pamphlets to their followers. One of those pamphlets merits special attention from anyone who is interested in the ICR case or in creationism, and I shall tell about it here. W.B., 13 October NOAH'S STAND-IN By definition, creationism is a fundamentalist political movement that seeks to impose onto the population at large, by political means, a body of religious beliefs that revolve around the creation stories in the King James version of the Holy Bible. The creationists' most conspicuous efforts today are directed against science: They strive to suppress science education in the public schools, to undermine the public's understanding and appreciation of science, and to censor science itself. Their ultimate goal is to abolish science altogether and to replace it with a pseudoscientific system for affirming biblical narratives and beliefs. That system is "creation-science." Because the creationists' campaign against science and science education is so prominent, and is so large a part of their current program, the implications of creationism in other realms are often overlooked. Yet those implications are strong and clear -- and nowhere clearer than in the creationists' assiduous denigration of all religious traditions and supernatural beliefs but their own: Any other beliefs are denounced as an evil frauds or are patronized as degenerate vestiges of biblical truths that are known, in proper form, to fundamentalists only. For an example of how creationists scorn other religious traditions as mere corruptions of biblical lore, consider this: They have announced that the Australian aborigines' Dreamtime stories are simply defective recollections of events recounted in the Book of Genesis, and that the aborigines colonized Australia after the time of Noah's flood. (The announcement was made in l986 in "Ex Nihilo", a creationist magazine. A year later, it was properly noted in "The Bumbling, Stumbling, Crumbling Theory of Creation Science", a booklet issued by the Catholic Education Office in Sydney. The booklet's author, Barry Price, commented: "Surely it must be close to blasphemy to dismiss the aspirations, hopes and religious history of a proud people as `racial memories of Creation and the Tower of Babel'!") Or consider an unsigned article in the September 1989 issue of "Back to Genesis", one of the monthly bulletins published by the ICR. Here is the whole article, verbatim; the ellipses appear in the original: DID YOU KNOW . . . that the Havasupai Indians living in the Grand Canyon believe this Canyon originated as a result of a flood? . . . "Before there were many people on earth there were two gods: Tochapa of goodness, and Hokomata of evil. Tochapa had a daughter named Pu-keh-eh, whom he hoped would become the mother of all living. Hokomata, the evil, was determined that no such thing should take place, and he covered the world with a great flood. Tochopa [sic], the good, felled a great tree and hollowed out the trunk. He placed Pu-keh-eh in the hollowed trunk, and when the water rose and flooded the earth, she was secure in her improvised boat. "Finally the flood waters receded and mountain peaks emerged. Rivers were created; and one of them cut the great gushing fissure which became the Grand Canyon. "Pu-keh-eh, in her log, came to rest on the new earth. She stepped forth and beheld an empty world. "When the land became dry, a great golden sun rose in the east and warmed the earth, and caused her to conceive. In time, she gave birth to a male child. Later, a waterfall caused her to conceive, and she gave birth to a girl. From the union of these two mortal children came all the people on the earth. The first were the Havasupai, and the voice of Tochopa [sic] spoke to them and told them to live forever in peace in their canyon of good earth and pure water where there would always be plenty for all. . . ." This is, of course, a recognizable (albeit distorted) version of the worldwide Flood of Noah's day. It adds more evidence to support the fact that all peoples are descended from Noah and have a common cultural background. The "creation-scientists" promulgate such absurd stuff in the service of their "two-model" doctrine, which starts with the declaration that there are only two possible views of "origins." One view comes from literal readings of the Bible; the other comes from natural science; and the two are opposed in a kind of zero- sum contest, so that any evidence supporting the first must be an indictment of the second. To sustain that nonsense, creationists must ignore, twist or trivialize all the other views of "origins" that exist now or ever have existed. If they were to admit that there are more than two views, their "two-model approach" would collapse, and all their arguments for teaching biblical beliefs in public-school science classrooms would become arguments for teaching religious ideas from countless other sources as well. That is not what the creationists want. They want the schools to propagate fundamentalist beliefs only, as the only ones that deserve to be taken seriously. So they disdain the aborigines' Dreamtime lore as an ersatz Genesis, and they represent the aborigines themselves as unfortunates who cannot recall what really happened back at Babel. They turn Pu-keh-eh into an ersatz Noah, turn her hollowed tree into an ersatz ark, and turn the Havasupai into people whose faulty memories have substituted a matriarch for a nautical patriarch. In the same way, they dismiss any number of other myths as debased versions of biblical tales -- false versions that are unworthy of inclusion in any consideration of "origins" but that somehow, while being false, show that the Bible is true. When we see that creationism and "creation-science" entail the systematic denial or denigration of most of the world's religions, cultures and cultural history, we see how broad the social implications of creationism really are. Those implications must be publicized and apprehended more widely, especially among public- school officials and teachers. Far too many educators -- misled by too many mindless newspaper stories about "evolution" -- imagine that the creationists despise science alone, and that teachers of history or social studies or literature have nothing to worry about. That is wrong. MOSES'S GENES The September "Back to Genesis" also offered a revelatory one-page piece by Henry Morris's son John, who is the ICR's administrative vice-president and "full professor of geology." Prof. John's headline asked: "Do The Difficult Questions Have Answers?" His text said that they surely did, and he gave ten examples. Here, in full, are the five that I found most engaging: 2) Where did God come from? The Bible reveals God as self-existent. This is a basic assumption of Christianity, but all the facts of nature support the validity of this assumption. 3) Where did Cain get his wife? Adam and Eve had "sons and daughters" (Genesis 5). Such unions were a genetic problem by the time of Moses, but were not a problem so soon after Creation. 4) Human color differences? Genetic studies have shown that all humans have the same color, although some have more of the skin-coloring agent than others. 5) Where did the races come from? All humans are descended from Noah's family. Isolation of language groups following the dispersion at the Tower of Babel caused certain characteristics to be expressed which best fit the local environment. 6) What about the dinosaurs? The Bible reveals that land animals were created on Day Six of Creation Week. There is much evidence that humans and dinosaurs have lived at the same time. I read Prof. John's Q-and-A effort in several ways. It is a reliable sample of the breezy pronouncements that pass for "science" at the ICR. It is a compelling index to the intellectual condition of the ICR's audience. And most importantly, it is a declaration about the fate of the ICR's "graduate school": To me, it says that the ICR men have decided against making any serious attempt to save that "ministry," and that they already have written the school off. Let me explain: If Bill Honig denies the school's application for reapproval -- as the ICR men, by their own accounts, expect him to do -- then their only real hope will lie in a lawsuit. I have speculated, in Part VII of this article, that the ICR men will not go to court; and Prof. John's most recent performance has convinced me that my speculation was right. I cannot imagine that anyone who expected to sit on a witness stand and pose as a "scientist," and who expected to be questioned by well prepared adversaries, would today be publishing claims about Moses's genes and Fred Flintstone's pets. S.B.190 BECOMES LAW S.B.190, State Senator Becky Morgan's bill for reforming the regulation of unaccredited schools that operate in California, was signed into law by Governor George Deukmejian on 1 October. A summary of the law's provisions will accompany the next installment of "Degrees of Folly." THE BIBLE BELT BECKONS If the ICR men fail to obtain Bill Honig's reapproval of their "graduate school," and if they want to remain in the science-degree business, they may move their operation to another state. On 8 September, I called Donald Drake, who is the acting vice- president of Tennessee Temple University, a Bible college in Chattanooga. Rumor had it, I said, that Tennessee Temple already had offered the ICR a new home. Was the rumor right? "There has been interaction about it," Drake replied,"but I can't define it any more than that. My understanding now is that [the ICR men] are going to stand and fight it out in California. But if that doesn't work, I'd be very excited to see them come here. I think they would have a much more cooperative relation with our state than they've had in California. -- W.B.


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