Thursday, April 24, 2008

Institute's plea for creationist degree dealt blow

AUSTIN — Saying that a belief in creationism — the theory that Supreme Being created the World in six actual days, as recounted in the Book — falls outside the kingdom of science, the state's commissioner for higher instruction have recommended that a Dallas-based organization not be authorized to offer a master's grade in scientific discipline education.

A commission of the Higher Education Coordinating Board unanimously backed the recommendation by Commissioner Raymund Paredes on Wednesday. The full board ballots today.

Paredes said his determination wasn't an onslaught on creationism or religion, but an effort to support scientific discipline education.

"Religious belief is not science," he said. "Science and spiritual belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing."

Henry Esther Morris III, chief executive officer of the Institute for Creation Research, said the programme learns creationism and evolution. But he and others at the institute believe creationism is the right explanation. He said there is no cogent evidence for evolution.

If the full board holds with Paredes, Esther Morris said, the institute may appeal or register a new proposal, perhaps changing the projected master's grade from scientific discipline instruction to a more than general "teaching" degree. It could also register a lawsuit, he said.

Without the approval, the institute can offer only an unaccredited degree.


Scholarly splitParedes' recommendation and the ballot by members of the Academician Excellence and Research Committee followed a 30-minute public hearing, during which 10 people — most of whom said they held doctorial grades in a scientific field — split over the issue.

"What they are calling scientific discipline instruction have as much to make with scientific discipline as world telecasting have to make with reality," said Alice Paul Murray, a geophysicist from Austin.

Chris Krosschell, a former Air Military Unit pilot, played a tape of Phoebus 8 commanding officer Frank Borman, speaking as he looked back at the Earth.

"In the beginning, Supreme Being created the celestial sphere and the earth," Borman said, quoting the gap transitions of Genesis.

Several recommended that the institute was targeted because of its beliefs.

Not true, Paredes countered. He and Joe Stafford, helper commissioner for academic personal business and research, said their concern, backed by a panel of men of scientific discipline and scientific discipline teachers, was that the institute's online social classes would not set up alumni to learn science in center and high schools.


Issue of free speech"They clearly stand up at likelihood with the most basic plant of science," Paredes said. "Evolution is such as a cardinal rule of modern science, it's hard to conceive of how you could" learn scientific discipline without it.

Morris and other representatives of the institute, which moved to Dallas from Golden State last year, said they simply throw a minority position in a scientific human race dominated by following of "naturalism," which espouses a belief in evolution.

The institute's lawyer, Jesse James Johnson, told the commission that the issue was one of free address and academic freedom.

"The board necessitates to be very careful that the determination isn't, 'Do we hold with creative activity science?' " he said. "That is not the issue."

Stafford agreed, saying the issue was whether the institute's alumni would be qualified to learn science.

"If this were a programme in accounting, it would be an outlook that when a pupil finished, they would be qualified to be an accountant," he said.


Looking for accreditationThe institute asked for authorization to offer an online master's grade in scientific discipline instruction last year, sparking an contiguous and intense reaction.

Partly that had to make with timing: The Lone-Star State Education Agency's scientific discipline director, Christine Comer, discontinue last autumn after being criticized for allegedly showing prejudice against creationism.

The institute had been accredited by the Multinational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools in California, but the grouping isn't recognized in Texas. Blessing from the Higher Education Coordinating Board is considered an interim measure to give new programmes clip to derive accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools or a similar group. Esther Morris said that 27 pupils are enrolled in the institute program.

An consultative council at the Higher Education Coordinating Board recommended blessing in December, and a board ballot was put for January. That was pushed back to April after Paredes asked the institute for more than information and visited the programme with men of science in January.

jeannie.kever@chron.com

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