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.,
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
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
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.
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
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.