March 1990 BASIS, newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics Bay Area Skeptics Information Sheet
March 1990 BASIS, newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics
Bay Area Skeptics Information Sheet
Vol. 9, No. 3
Editor: Kent Harker
CROCODILE ABDUCTEE: CHASING UFOS DOWN UNDER
by Robert Sheaffer
[Robert Sheaffer, former chair and co-founder of BAS, has traveled
worldwide in searching the solution to UFO reports. Years of travel
and careful study of the more prominent UFO stories led to his
book, "UFO Verdict". Robert is an internationally recognized expert
who now spends less time investigating and more time explaining. He
has appeared on every major radio and TV station in the Bay Area
when those media want to hear the skeptical side. His travels as a
guest lecturer are not, however, limited to the Bay Area, as we see
in this article.]
As winter's chill settles in upon us, you can warm yourself with
thoughts of sunny Australia, which is now basking in summer heat.
Last year, as the warmth of summer was moving in to California, I
spent two chilly weeks "down under," on a five-city UFO lecture
tour courtesy of The Australian Skeptics. In each city, I was
greeted at the airport by one or more skeptics, who drove me where
I needed to go, and I stayed in private homes the whole time.
That's the secret of the no-frills travel that CSICOP arranges:
rock-bottom airfares, and no hotels. We at BAS hosted the Indian
skeptic Premanand in a similar manner when he spoke in the Bay
After a nine-hour flight from Honolulu, and an hour stopover in
Cairns, two more hours in the air brought us to Brisbane,
Queensland, my first destination. It's pronounced BRIZZ-bin, no
matter what you call that little town near San Bruno. (Australians
will twitter when Yanks can't pronounce the names of their cities!
And Cairns is pronounced almost identically like the name of that
other exotic foreign city, Cannes. Or is it "Quinze"?)
The Queensland branch of the Australian Skeptics in Brisbane is
small but energetic. There I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of
skeptic John Lapworth. There was no public event or lecture
scheduled in Brisbane, so we met at the home of the president of
that chapter. I spoke to an audience of about fifteen skeptics, who
were most interested to hear what I had to say. Queensland has the
reputation of being a conservative religious area, like the
American South, so creationism is a big concern. There is an
ongoing battle to keep religion out of the public schools.
Communications between the Queenslanders and the American critics
of creationism didn't seem as good as they should be.
The next stop was Sydney, the largest Australian city, and the
national center of the Australian Skeptics, and home of its
president Barry Williams. Unfortunately, a work slowdown by Air
Traffic Controllers had air travel tied in knots both in and out of
Sydney. Barry had made arrangements for me to be on the top-rated
morning radio talk show there, but the controllers made me about
two hours late.
After the tranquil, down-home atmosphere of Brisbane, when I
finally arrived in Sydney, Barry grabbed me (and my luggage) and we
dashed off to his car, racing through the traffic to the very
center of downtown Sydney. Pulling up to the door of the radio
studio, he directed me to jump out, go up in the elevator (excuse
me, "lift"), and announce my arrival, while he drove off to hunt
The station was expecting me, and I soon was ushered into the
studio. The two hosts were flippant -- I felt like I was in a Monty
Python skit -- but the brief interview went well, and we plugged my
forthcoming public talk in Sydney. There were other radio and TV
appearances arranged, including the local ABC (Australian
Broadcasting Corp.) radio station, and the nationwide Today Show,
which might be thought of as "Good Morning, Australia," or,
perhaps, the "G'Day Show." A good crowd turned out for my talk,
including a few very colorful eccentrics.
The following day we drove to Newcastle, the town that was recently
hit so hard by an earthquake. Standing on the cliffs overlooking
the ocean, I could not help but imagine I was seeing the Marin or
Mendocino headlands, and I remarked to Barry how much the region
looked like California. A wine-growing region, with California-like
weather and California-like ocean cliffs, it didn't surprise me to
learn that it has earthquakes as well.
Professor Colin Keay, an astronomer at the University of Newcastle,
had previously scheduled a UFO lecture of his own that very
evening, so when he learned I would be coming, we divided the time
equally between us. Prof. Keay told the Newcastle Skeptics the
results of some of his own UFO investigations, including some
hoaxers' hot air balloons.
My flight to Canberra, the Australian capital, was so early on a
Sunday morning that the Air Traffic Controllers in Sydney didn't
even have enough traffic to congest, so I arrived on time. I was
interviewed on ABC Radio station 2CN, at 666 on the A.M. dial. I
imagine they use the line, "This is 2CN, the Number of the Beast,
in Canberra." I also appeared on the local TV news.
My host in there was Professor Colin Groves, an anthropologist at
the Australian National University, who arranged for me to speak on
campus. My talk drew only about 25 people, but they were quite
receptive. Prof. Groves also took me for a tour of the countryside,
to see kangaroos, koalas, and emu, and to visit the Deep Space
Network station at Tidbinbilla, the prime site for receiving
Voyager's images of Neptune.
To get from Canberra to Adelaide required changing planes at
Sydney, allowing the Air Traffic Controllers to extract another
pound of flesh. I finally arrived in Adelaide, a genteel and
unhurried city, to find a frazzled skeptic, Allan Lang, wondering
where I could possibly be, and how he could get me to the radio
interview for which I was already late. Well, he got me there as
best he possibly could, and the hostess simply juggled things
around to get me on the air.
Two hours later I did another interview, both times plugging my
talk. This was followed up by a splendid, even elegant, dinner with
about fifteen skeptics, in a private dining room at a fine
restaurant. Those Adelaide skeptics certainly have class! I stayed
in the large home of Ron Evans, another unfailingly polite and
gracious host. My talk in Adelaide was once again on University
premises, and drew a good crowd.
Flying from Adelaide to Melbourne (pronounced MEL-burn), I was at
last out of reach of the Sydney Air Traffic Controllers. However,
their counterparts in Melbourne were up to the same tricks, so I
arrived late once again. My host in that city was Steve Roberts, a
computer programmer and avid amateur astronomer. We hurried around
that very cosmopolitan city to two radio studios and two newspaper
offices, and I rode briefly on the famous trams.
I gave two different talks in Melbourne. One was on UFOs, hosted by
the director of the large public planetarium there. My talk had
been selected as the "best pick of the day" by a major newspaper,
so it was well-attended. A second talk had been arranged by the
Victoria Humanists on the subject of my other book, "Resentment
Against Achievement." Upon departure, I was pleased to find that
only domestic flights were being gummed up, so (with assistance
from the International Date Line) I arrived in San Francisco just
four hours later than my departure from Melbourne!
Australian skeptics, I found, encounter most of the same irrational
beliefs we see here: creationism, UFO encounters, crystal energy (I
learned that the price of "healing" crystals in Sydney had been
rising sharply), psychic readings, and the like. There are some
differences, too: here in the U.S. we do not yet properly
appreciate "aroma therapy" (curing ills by sniffing "natural
oils"), and the Aussies have not yet read enough wild books from
the likes of Whitley Strieber and Budd Hopkins to know that UFOs
are supposed to not merely fly around, but to stop and abduct
people and undress them.
However, as books, magazines, movies, and TV programs cross the
vast Pacific at an ever-increasing pace, their silliness and our
silliness will no doubt creep ever closer together. What impressed
me the most was how much the Australian Skeptics, spread out in the
widely-scattered cities that are like little islands, have been
able to accomplish. They have published books, produced T-shirts
and other merchandise for sale, arranged international lecture
tours, regularly placed guests on network TV, sponsored an annual
conference, and established an annual award for journalists: all
this in a country whose population is far less than that of
California! The example of the Australian Skeptics is telling us
that, while Bay Area Skeptics can be proud of what we have done
thus far, it is possible to do much more.
DEGREES OF FOLLY: PART X
by William Bennetta
Parts I through IX of this article ran in earlier issues of
"BASIS", starting in February 1989. Here is a summary:
By law, no unaccredited school in California can issue degrees
unless the school has been assessed and formally approved by the
superintendent of public instruction -- the chief of the State
Department of Education.
In August l988, the Department's Private Postsecondary Education
Division (PPED) staged an assessment of the ICR Graduate School
(ICRGS). 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.
The Department's assessment of Morris's school was made by a
five-man committee that had been chosen by, and was managed by, a
PPED officer named Roy W. Steeves. The committee's report was
bogus: It hid the real nature of the ICR, promoted the ICR's
scientific pretensions, and said that the superintendent of public
instruction, Bill Honig, should approve the ICR as a source of
masters' degrees in science and in science education.
Two of the committee's members then sent separate reports to Honig,
telling the truth about the ICR. But Roy Steeves, in memoranda to
the PPED's director, Joseph P. Barankin, endorsed the ICR and urged
that it should be approved. Honig, in statements given to the press
in December 1988, refused the approval; but in January 1989 the
Department drew back from that decision and began to negotiate with
the ICR. The ICR was represented by Wendell R. Bird, a lawyer from
Atlanta. On 3 March, Bird and Joseph Barankin agreed that the ICR
would revise its curriculum, purging "ICRGS's interpretations" from
courses counting toward degrees. To learn whether the ICR had made
the revisions, the Department would send a new committee; one
member would be chosen by the ICR.
The new committee examined the ICR in August 1989. It was managed
not by Steeves but by Jeanne Bird, who had joined the PPED in the
spring of 1989 and had become an assistant director a few months
later. The committee comprised Christopher J. Wills, a geneticist
from the Department of Biology, University of California at San
Diego; Richard E. Dickerson, chief of the Molecular Biology
Institute, University of California at Los Angeles; Everett C.
Olson, a paleontologist from UCLA's Department of Biology; Lawrence
S. Lerner, a physicist from the Department of Physics-Astronomy,
California State University at Long Beach; and Leroy E. Eimers,
from the Department of Science and Mathematics, Cedarville College.
Eimers was the member who had been chosen by the ICR, in accordance
with the agreement reached in March. Cedarville College is a Bible
school in Cedarville, Ohio.
After the committee's visit, Henry Morris and the other ICR men
feared that the committee would declare the ICRGS to be defective
and unworthy of approval, and that Honig would follow the
committee's judgment. On 31 August, in an effort to win sympathy
from the press and the public, the ICR men held a "news conference"
to denounce Honig and to distribute a fiercely misleading account
of their transactions with his Department.
The committee has now submitted its report. I shall describe the
report here, and I shall present excerpts on pages 4 through 7.
-- W.B., 12 February
The report of the committee that examined the ICR in August 1989 is
dated on 12 January 1990 and has 48 single-spaced pages. It is
divided into six major sections; the longest (called "Findings")
spans some 40 pages and has many subsections.
As a whole, the report is admirably done. As a whole, it is candid,
precise, readable and rich in examples showing the bases for the
committee's signal conclusions: The ICR, despite its name, is not
a scientific-research institution and does not offer proper
graduate education or training in science.
In only two significant instances does the report hide or distort
important facts, depriving the reader of information that is
necessary to an understanding of the ICR case and of the report
The first instance of obfuscation is the entire section titled
"Background." It starts on page 1 of the report, has only four
paragraphs, and is worthless. It mentions an anonymous "visiting
team" that reviewed the ICR in August 1988, and then it says:
The visiting team initially had been split 3-2 in favor
of approval. However, on December 5, 1988, one of the
visiting team members officially notified the
[Department] that he wished to change his vote from
approve to disapprove. . . . [Later,] legal counsel for
the ICR contacted the [Department] and requested that the
Superintendent reach an agreement with ICR regarding
corrective measures that were to be instituted by ICR in
response to the visiting team's report. . . . As a part
of the negotiations for reaching agreement, the
Superintendent determined that . . . there would be a
need to bring together another appropriate group for an
But how did that vote-changing come about? Did the member in
question have any REASON for changing his vote? And why did the
superintendent need to convene "ANOTHER appropriate group" for a
new review, instead of sending the original "visiting team" again?
If the original team's report was the basis for the ICR's
"corrective measures," would not that team be the best group for
judging whether proper corrections had been carried out? And just
who WERE the members of that team anyway? I infer that the writer
of the "Background" text was guided not by a desire to inform but
by a need to write some sentences while hiding the mess that had
been made in 1988 by Roy Steeves, Joseph Barankin and their
The other defective passage is the report's very last paragraph. In
stilted, legalistic prose, it tells that one member of the
committee, Leroy Eimers, did not agree with many of the conclusions
drawn in the report. (I have quoted the whole paragraph in the last
of the excerpts that accompany this article.) On its face, it is
extraneous and silly: It fails to suggest that Eimers had any
evidence to support his position, or that he tried to challenge
even ONE of the specific, detailed findings that the report sets
Still, a less-than-alert reader may be tempted to take it
seriously; and an alert reader surely will wonder why so rigorous
a report ends with such vapid fluff. Both readers, if they are to
appreciate what they are looking at, need to know that Eimers was
the ICR's man. The report omits this fact, however, and I see no
legitimate excuse for the omission.
NOT EVEN TRYING
At about the same time when the committee was finishing its report,
the ICR men mailed the January issue of "Impact", one of the ICR's
monthly bulletins about creationism. That issue included the ICR's
"1989 Annual Report," which had only four paragraphs and said
nothing about any scientific work or any scientific publication by
any of the ICR's employees.
The text began: "This past year (except for the attacks on our
Graduate School) has been by far the best year of the past decade."
It then told that "amazingly successful Back-to-Genesis
conferences" had been held in several states, that the ICR men had
participated in debates and had lectured "to audiences totaling
about 300,000 people, not including radio and television
audiences," and that the ICR's weekly radio program, "Science,
Scripture and Salvation", was being broadcast by "over 350 outlets
in over 40 states and around the world."
Recent publications were listed in the annual report's last
Important books published in late 1988 or during 1989
included "Noah's Ark and the Lost World" (by John D.
Morris), an enlarged edition of "Science, Scripture, and
the Young Earth" (by Henry M. Morris and John D. Morris),
"The Genesis Solution" (by Ken Ham), and finally, "The
Long War Against God" (by Dr. Henry Morris). Dr. [Steven]
Austin's "Mount St. Helens" video also was released.
I have not seen that video. A flyer that the ICR distributed in
August 1989 said only that Austin's product provided "explosive
evidence for catastrophism" and a "SPECTACULAR collection of
pictures." The ICR's current mail-order catalog lists the video but
provides no description. The catalog also offers an audiotape
called "Mount St. Helens -- Explosive Evidence for Creation". It is
part of a series of tapes labeled "Back to Genesis."
On 17 January the ICR issued a "news release" headlined "ICR Under
Continued Attack by Bill Honig." It said that the ICR had not yet
seen the visiting committee's report but had learned of "the
panel's findings" from the news media. Then it gave another
misleading account of the ICR case and of the ICR itself, including
this: "ICR's graduate programs are strictly scientific with courses
taught by scientists who have doctorate degrees. . . ."
That false claim, viewed in the light of the committee's report,
was ludicrous. The report had shown how "scientific" the ICR's
programs were, and it had demolished the pretension that the ICR's
teachers were "scientists." Reading the release, I wondered whether
the ICR men really had not seen the report when the release was
printed. When had the Department sent a copy of the report to them?
On 9 February I talked with William Rukeyser, a Department
spokesman. He told me that Jeanne Bird had sent the report to the
ICR, evidently by first-class mail, on 12 January.
[Excerpts from the report follow.]
ITEMS FROM THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE THAT EXAMINED THE ICR IN
In all that follows, the use of italic or boldface type reflects
the use of underscoring or boldface (respectively) in the text of
the report. I have not added any emphasis during editing, though I
have made some interpolations that, I think, will clarify certain
passages. Each of my interpolations is enclosed in square brackets.
[Note for the electronic edition: Italics and boldface have been
rendered here as capital letters.]
=> [On page 2, under "Background," the report tells the new
committee's "charge," which has been adapted (with some minor
typographic alterations) from a passage in the letter that Wendell
Bird sent to Joseph Barankin on 10 January 1989. Here is the
The Institute for Creation Research Graduate School's science
degree courses that count toward a [sic] M.S. degree will be
consistent with, and comparable to, similar science courses of
California-approved graduate schools. Specifically, ICR will have
a "curriculum consistent in quality with curricula offered by
appropriate established accredited institutions which are
recognized by the U.S. Department of Education," and its courses
will be "consistent in quality with curricula offered by
appropriate established accredited institutions," and will be
"comparable to the courses required of graduates of other
recognized schools accredited by an appropriate accrediting
commission recognized by the U.S. Department of Education." [All
the quotation marks had appeared in Wendell Bird's letter.]
=> [On page 3, the report names the accredited schools that the ICR
(in a revised application for reapproval, submitted in July 1989)
listed as "comparables" -- that is, as schools that offered
programs and degrees like the ICR's programs and degrees. For
"astro/geophysics," the "comparable" was Abilene Christian
University, in Texas; for biology and for geology, it was Loma
Linda University, a Seventh-Day Adventist school in Loma Linda,
California; and for science education, it was Biola University, a
fundamentalist school in La Mirada, California. The report then
offers this curious paragraph:]
ICR later submitted other comparable institution[s] to be
considered, without specifying degree areas. These included the
University of California at San Diego, California State University
at Long Beach (CSULB), San Diego State University, San Jose State
University, University of Colorado, Colorado State University,
University of Texas at El Paso, University of Toronto, and
University of Wisconsin.
=> [On page 9, in the committee's comments about an ICR course
called Human Anatomy and Comparative Mammalian Anatomy Lab:]
The text used in this course is "Gray's Anatomy". . . . In the
syllabus, four out of twelve days of actual lectures were devoted
to vestigial organs in man, [which are] of only minor anatomical
importance. One day was devoted to comparative anatomy of muscles,
and one apparently to a survey of the evolution of the kidney. No
mention was made in the syllabus of comparative skeletal anatomy.
The highly descriptive exam that was provided showed a commendable
degree of rigor, but dealt entirely with human anatomy. Despite the
title of the course, comparative anatomy was not mentioned in the
exam; neither were vestigial organs. . . . This course shows a
remarkable degree of discordance between what is claimed to be
presented, and what is actually presented.
=> [On page 10, in the committee's remarks about the ICR's course
The overview in the syllabus says, "Because this is not a lab
course, cultivation, identification, and disease-prevention
techniques are not practiced." In contrast, at Abilene Christian
University, Biology 553, Microbiology, is accompanied by
Microbiology Laboratory (3 hours per week), and the lecture course
description carries the warning, "Not credited without the
laboratory." Hence Abilene Christian University would give no
credit for the course as taught at the ICR.
=> [On pages 14 and 15, in remarks about the ICR's course
Theoretical Physics II -- Thermodynamics:]
A serious question is raised by what appears to be [a term-paper
In recent years there has been a surge of interest among
the non-creationists in the combination of
quantum-mechanical uncertainty and the role of the
observer, irreversibility, non-equilibrium processes, and
mathematical chaos as a possible way to overcome the
difficulty to evolution posed by the Second Law. Has the
intellectual difficulty been solved? Can ordered
complexity such as that which is characteristic of the
biosphere arise spontaneously by chaos?
This is undeniably a leading question, telegraphing the desired
"No" answer. In popular lectures, creationists often assure
audiences that the Second Law of Thermodynamics categorically
excludes the evolutionary process -- at least at the biological
level, and perhaps the cosmological and geological levels as well.
This assertion is based on a misinterpretation of the Second Law
that is so elementary that few undergraduate physical science
majors would be misled. If such a conflict actually existed between
the Second Law and the processes of evolution, the conflict would
have been noted by the scientific community at large more than a
century ago, and would have assumed a central place in scientific
When this Second Law issue was raised at the ICR site visit, the
faculty member most concerned responded that he considered
interpretation of the Second Law to be a philosophical rather than
a scientific matter. But this simply is not so. Whatever its
philosophical overtones, the Second Law is as much a physical law
as any other, and must be interpreted properly in a physical
context. To teach otherwise is a breach of scientific integrity. .
. . The issue really is one of comparability: Is the curriculum
aimed at teaching the basic science of physics as it is taught in
comparable institutions? The answer is "No." What would be only a
deplorable rhetorical device in popular lectures becomes a serious
issue of scientific professionalism in the classroom.
=> [On page 19, in remarks about the ICR's "science-education"
course called Curriculum Design in Science:] In spite of its stated
objectives, this course does not appear to take into consideration
current trends in science curriculum design and implementation.
This may reflect the background of the instructor, an educational
psychologist who has no specific preparation in science education,
and who has never taught science.
=> [On pages 21 and 22:] The Institute for Creation Research, by
its very name, implies that it is the site of original scientific
research. Yet not one of the resident faculty members can be said
to have an active, ongoing research program. In fact, those faculty
who did have research programs prior to arrival at ICR seem to have
dropped out of research entirely. . . .
GERALD AARDSMA (Astro/Geophysics) published five peer-reviewed
scientific papers and one internal report in the period 1979-87,
all prior to his arrival at ICR in 1988.
STEVEN AUSTIN (Geology) has only a single peer-reviewed scientific
paper, published in the American Association of Petroleum
Geologists Bulletin in 1978, and one book, published [for] ICR. .
. . He became a full-time resident faculty member of the ICR in
RICHARD BLISS (Science Education) lists six articles in journals or
newsletters, but none of these are more recent than 1975. He joined
the ICR in 1976.
KENNETH CUMMING (Biology) has a respectable list of 18 publications
in fisheries research, but the most recent is [from] 1977. He came
to Christian Heritage College in 1979, and to the Institute for
Creation Research in 1982. [My readers will recall that Christian
Heritage is a Bible school in El Cajon, and that the ICR had been
a division of that school until 1980.]
ROBERT FRANKS (Biology) lists no scientific publications.
DUANE GISH (Not currently teaching) had a respectable scientific
publication record in biochemistry prior to 1976, being first
author on 12 papers and a subsidiary author on an equal number. But
his active research seems to have come to a halt a decade and a
half ago. He was first author on a paper for the last time in 1971,
and subsidiary author for the last time in 1976. He came to the ICR
HENRY MORRIS (Not currently teaching) has a considerable
publication record in civil and hydraulic engineering, but his last
peer-reviewed scientific paper appeared in 1971. He founded the
Institute for Creation Research in 1970.
JOHN MORRIS (Geology) has had three papers and one patent, the most
recent paper being in 1983. He joined the ICR in 1984.
ANDREW PETERSON (Science Education) lists no scientific
LARRY VARDIMAN (Astro/Geophysics) lists seven peer-reviewed
scientific papers and 2 reports between 1971 and 1983. He came to
Christian Heritage College in 1982 and to ICR in 1987, and has
published nothing since then.
The pattern is clear. Although some of the younger faculty profess
their intention to maintain research activity, no member of the
resident faculty of the Institute for Creation Research has
continued an active and published research program since arrival at
the ICR. The Institute for Creation Research can therefore not be
considered to be a scientific research institution.
=> [On pages 28 and 29:] The Biology laboratory contains a small
amount of equipment of the sort found in a very modestly equipped
high school. There is no equipment of any sort for carrying out
experiments in biochemistry or molecular biology. . . .
The laboratories for geology are directed toward rock analysis and
serving as an adjunct to field studies. They are somewhat less
satisfactory than those in comparison schools such as [California
State University at Long Beach], but in view of the restricted
coverage of topics in coursework, they serve their purpose fairly
well. . . . [Despite the use of plurals here, the report tells
elsewhere that the ICR has only a single, one-room lab for
Experimental work in the Astro/Geophysics laboratory seems to be
aimed entirely at radiocarbon dating, a very minute fraction of the
field of physics. Professor Aardsma currently is involved in the
building and refinement of a radiocarbon dating apparatus. . . .
However, the [acquiring and assembling of equipment] is slow and
irregular, and no firm projection can be made for an
"up-and-running" date. . . .
[Aardsma intends] to carry out several projects, one of which is to
detect significant radiocarbon in an uncontaminated, freshly mined
sample of coal, thereby demonstrating that the sample is much
younger than the age assigned by mainstream geologists. This goal
illustrates the weakness of much of the "research" carried out at
ICR: the object of the research is to defend a prior viewpoint
rather than to determine the best interpretation of the
The Science Education laboratory appeared to be the only one of the
four laboratories that is suited to its function. It is
well-equipped with displays, demonstrations, small animals, and
small equipment of a sort suitable for high-school or
elementary-school teacher training. The site visit team was told
that classes from the local schools regularly come to the room for
special lectures on weekends.
=> [On page 30:] [The committee talked with a student in the ICR's
biology program] about his plans following completion of the M.S.
The student speculated that he might remain with ICR as their
librarian for a while, and after that, he would see. When he was
asked whether he might consider continuing on elsewhere for a
Ph.D., he commented, "Who would take me, with THIS degree?"
=> [On page 34:] The M.S. theses produced since the ICR graduate
program commenced in 1981 are the measurable "product" of this
program, and the best witness to its quality. . . . As far as [the
committee] could determine, none of the [17 graduates who have
written theses] is presently engaged in mainstream, peer-reviewed
scientific research, and fewer than half are involved in scientific
education or teaching. In the absence of evidence about subsequent
achievements of ICR graduates, the four M.S. programs must stand or
fall on the quality of the Masters theses produced.
=> [On page 35:] In general, the quality of the theses was low, as
compared with M.S. theses from the comparison institutions. They
tended to be little more than extended term papers, based on
library research rather than true independent research. While a
library research M.S. thesis is permitted by the rules of the ICR,
the issue of quality of that research remains. [Nearly all theses]
were works of advocacy rather than investigation. They set out, not
to find out something, but to prove something -- one or another of
the creationist tenets. . . .
As far as the [committee] could determine, not one of the seventeen
M.S. theses has ever been published in a peer-reviewed scientific
journal, or has led to an article that was published there.
Examination of the theses shows why this should be so. The
standards of scholarship, and even of understanding of the subject
matter, are very low.
=> [On page 36, in the committee's comments on a thesis called "A
Survey of Heavy Metal Pollution in the Tijuana River . . .":] This
thesis is a thorough investigation of consequences of pollution of
various kinds in the Tijuana Valley, and includes an interesting
approach to sewage treatment. . . . The graduate student worked at
the Santee Sewage Treatment Facility prior to coming to ICR, and
continued to work there during and after his M.S. program. The
experiments seem all to have been carried out at that Facility in
the course of the student's regular job. The thesis is essentially
a job-related industrial report in bioengineering, and a good one.
Its status as representing an original piece of work in biology is
less clear. With revision, this thesis might be acceptable at
=> [On page 37, in comments on the thesis "A Critique of Molecular
Homology":] [The author says] that similarities between molecules
in different species could be explained by convergence in similar
environments, rather than by common ancestry. [When] the thesis was
written, no such examples were known and there were plenty of
counter-examples. Since then, one possible example of molecular
convergence has been found, but the two molecules . . . most
certainly had a common ancestor.
The author also makes other blunders of scholarship in citing the
scientific literature. The most egregious is a case in which he
quotes a prominent English paleontologist, Dr. Colin Patterson, as
admitting that evidence for common ancestry in evolution has been
"precisely falsified." A standard literature citation number
appears in the text of the thesis. But when one turns to the
bibliography of references, one finds that the citation is not to
a paper by Patterson, but to a June 1982 issue of "Impact," the
four-page essay insert that accompanies every issue of the monthly
ICR newsletter "Acts & Facts".
The supposed Patterson "confession" has been thoroughly
discredited, not least by Patterson himself. But it keeps cropping
up in the creationist literature, and it is discouraging to see the
writer of this thesis accept it so uncritically. This thesis, with
its many errors of fact and interpretation, would not be acceptable
at any university or college of which the committee is aware.
=> [On pages 38 and 39, in comments on the thesis "A Determination
of the Time of the Flood from the Geologic Ages of River Deltas":]
The terms "uniformity" and "uniformitarianism" [quotation marks
added], which have quite different meanings to a geologist, are
used interchangeably in the rhetoric of this work. On page 7 the
author argues that the age of a river system can be found by
dividing the volume of the delta by the annual deposition rate.
While the author professes to know better than to take the
deposition rate as a constant, he asserts that, after all,
uniformitarians surely won't object to setting the annual flow of
a river equal to a constant. He distorts the meaning of the term
"uniformitarian" [quotation marks added], apparently for the
purpose of reaching the conclusion that he desires, and mocking an
This is followed on pages 9-10 by a nonsensical interpretation of
uniformitarian arguments. However, the author still is confronted
by the need to represent the volume of the Mississippi Delta (the
delta on which he concentrates most attention) as far smaller than
it is known to be. To this end, he denies the validity of the
principle of isostasy, so as to be able to neglect the depression
of the crust under the weight of deltaic deposition. He dismisses
the principle of isostasy as a mere "model or suggestion," in spite
of the fact that it is a simple application of Archimedes'
Principle, and has been amply documented all over the world. Having
done all this violence and more to scientific principles, he then
obtains an age of exactly 4563 years for the Mississippi River. .
. . This thesis is the antithesis of true scientific investigation.
=> [On page 41, the committee tells of a thesis called "A Classical
Field Theory for the Propagation of Light", which originated from
the antipathy shown by Thomas G. Barnes -- a "creation-scientist"
who is no longer at the ICR -- toward 20th-century physics. As for
While there are some references in the thesis to standard
scientific literature, the key references are to such
"mystifications" of science as that by (nonscientist) Gary Zukav
("The Dancing Wu Li Masters"), and to unpublished works by other
students of the same thesis supervisor. These latter works are
cited as proving things which, if true, would have excited
widespread interest [within] the physics community. . . .
[The student] demonstrates gross ignorance of special relativity,
a theory that he proposes to invalidate or supersede. He treats the
famous "twin paradox" (p. 7) as though it were a real, unresolvable
paradox rather than an exercise for lower-division undergraduate
physics students. . . . Having thus demonstrated his inability to
do so, he then invents an ether for the propagation of light, and
carries out some impressive looking but totally worthless
calculations. The thesis is without scientific value.
=> [On page 42, the committee looks at "Theories of Origins: Do
They Persist Despite Contrary Evidence?", which the ICR had
accepted as thesis in "science education":]
A thoroughly discredited limitation on the age of the Earth is
cited, based on the heat liberated through the decay of the Earth's
magnetic field. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is misquoted and
misused (p. 105). On the subsequent page is the nonsensical
comment, ". . . it is inappropriate to classify [the phenomenon of
crystallization] as increasing order and thus being contrary to the
Second Law." This is followed by [more nonsense] concerning a
"lowest energy state."
Of course, crystallization does increase the order of the system
that consists of the molecules taking part in the crystallization,
and decreases the entropy of [that] system at the expense of the
entropy of the surroundings. Thus crystallization does not violate
the Second Law. The comments on the energy of the system betray a
misunderstanding of the roles of energy and entropy in
=> [On page 43, the committee dispatches another thesis in "science
education" -- one that deals with the creationists' "two-model"
doctrine and has a subliterate, 25-word title. The document is
invalidated, the committee observes, by a fundamental error in
applying a common statistical manipulation called the Student
[T]he T-test is applicable only to two statistically independent
sets of data. The author applies it to two sets of results
involving use of the same items in jumbled order. Clearly the
T-test is inapplicable in this setting and the conclusions of the
thesis are invalid. The "analysis" at the end of the thesis is not
an analysis but an assertion. It sets forth the common creationist
view that creation and evolution both have opponents, and concludes
that one is as good as the other, so both should therefore be
taught in the schools.
=> [On page 46:] It was noted earlier that the Institute for
Creation Research is not, in fact, an institution for scientific
research. Based upon the foregoing, it now must be acknowledged
that, by the standards of comparable institutions, the ICR also is
not an institution for proper graduate scientific education and
=> [The final section of the report, "Conclusions and
Recommendation," begins on page 46 and has four paragraphs. Here
they are, in full:]
The [committee] focused specifically on an assessment of ICR's
science degree courses and curricula in order to determine whether
the State Department of Education can assure students that the four
M.S. degrees offered by ICR do not deviate substantially from
similar science degrees offered at comparable accredited
The conclusion of the [committee], based on the findings specified
in this report, is that students of the ICR cannot be provided with
that assurance. Specifically, the ICR curriculum is not "consistent
in quality with curricula offered by appropriate established
accredited institutions," and its courses are not "comparable to
the courses required of graduates of other recognized accredited
schools." The issue is one of quality control, and of maintaining
uniform and recognized standards for the M.S. degree in science and
science education throughout the state and nation. The ICR programs
do not meet these standards. The recommendation to the
Superintendent is therefore to deny reapproval.
It should be noted in closing that the [committee] did not feel it
necessary to address any issues of scientific integrity (not
"academic freedom" as ICR has argued) that might be posed by the
creationist orientation of the ICR; it became clear that the
[committee] would be fully occupied with issues of academic
quality. The questions raised by creationism, however, are far from
trivial. They involve the issue of scientific integrity because of
the fact that the unamendable bylaws of the ICR require each
faculty member annually to reaffirm his adherence to a particular
set of beliefs (the tenets of "scientific creationism") as a
condition for continued employment.
Inasmuch as these beliefs or tenets directly overlap the areas of
presumed free scientific investigation [by] the faculty, the issues
of scientific integrity and unfettered intellectual enquiry would
have arisen of necessity, had the low quality of the graduate
programs not made those superfluous. To be specific, unless these
questions of scientific integrity are adequately addressed, no
remediation of the problems addressed in this report will render
this program acceptable under [California's education code].
Although all members of the committee were in agreement that there
were problems and deficiencies in the ICR programs, one member, Dr.
Eimers, did not agree with the estimation of the severity of those
problems as they are communicated in this report, nor did he concur
with many of the conclusions drawn. Also, he felt that
consideration should be given to the positive attitude of the ICR
in seeking to implement the suggestions of the previous committee,
including the "minority reports."
It was the conclusion of this member that at least [the ICR's
programs in geology, in science education, and in
"astro/geophysics," with the last renamed and called simply
"physics"] were of sufficient quality to meet the minimum standards
of comparability and that the problems discovered were not severe
enough to constitute sufficient grounds for denial of reapproval by
The report's last page shows the signatures of the members of the
committee. In each case, a signature block tells the university or
college, and the department, with which the member is affiliated.
This is strikingly different from the signature page of the bogus
report that was produced in 1988. That earlier report gave no hint
of who its signatories were, or where they might be found.
BAS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chair: Larry Loebig
Vice Chair: Yves Barbero
Secretary: Rick Moen
Treasurer: Kent Harker
Kent Harker, editor; Sharon Crawford, assoc. editor;
Kate Talbot, distribution; Rick Moen, circulation
William J. Bennetta, Scientific Consultant
Dean Edell, M.D., ABC Medical Reporter
Donald Goldsmith, Ph.D., Astronomer and Attorney
Earl Hautala, Research Chemist
Alexander Jason, Investigative Consultant
Thomas H. Jukes, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
John E. McCosker, Ph.D., Director, Steinhart Aquarium
Diane Moser, Science writer
Richard J. Ofshe, Ph.D.,U. C. Berkeley
Bernard Oliver, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center
Kevin Padian, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
James Randi, Magician, Author, Lecturer
Francis Rigney, M.D., Pacific Presbyterian Med. Center
Wallace I. Sampson, M.D., Stanford University
Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D., Anthropologist
Robert Sheaffer, Technical Writer, UFO expert
Robert A. Steiner, CPA, Magician, Lecturer, Writer
Ray Spangenburg, Science writer
Jill C. Tarter, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
CANCER AND THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING
Wallace I. Sampson, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at
Stanford University, a founder of Bay Area Skeptics and a long-time
student of the fads and fancies of American health care notions,
will explore the latest popular ideas about preventing and curing
cancer. These notions will be compared with research done by -
scientists: they are very different, Dr. Sampson assures us. While
researchers study "psychoneuroimmunology", oat brand is advertised
on the tube.
Though Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, was not
the first to posit non-medical healing methods, she had a profound
affect on modern ideas of "mind healing." This American notion
survives despite scientific research showing that the brain is
merely another organ that works with the rest of the body.
Confidence schemers have long exploited this American belief to
bring false hope to the ailing. Dr. Sampson, by showing how this
quasi-medical belief system operates in our society, will add to
the significant contributions he has made over the years in health
Bring your questions.
The above are selected articles from the March, 1990 issue of
"BASIS", the monthly publication of Bay Area Skeptics. You can
obtain a free sample copy by sending your name and address to BAY
AREA SKEPTICS, 4030 Moraga, San Francisco, CA 94122-3928 or by
leaving a message on "The Skeptic's Board" BBS (415-648-8944) or
on the 415-LA-TRUTH (voice) hotline.
Copyright (C) 1990 BAY AREA SKEPTICS. Reprints must credit "BASIS,
newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, 4030 Moraga, San Francisco,
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank