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Honig Bars Creationists’ Degrees

Times Staff Writer

The state’s top education official has barred the Institute for Creation Research, based in Santee, from granting master’s degrees in science, saying the teachings of the school are religious and not scientific.

“Everyone agrees creationism is not science,” said Bill Honig, the state superintendent of public instruction. “The (U.S.) Supreme Court said two years ago it’s not science, so, if you want to call it creationism, fine, but you can’t call it a degree in physics or geology. It’s not science, it’s religion.”

Honig said Thursday that he based his decision on the findings of a five-member committee that reviewed the school several months ago. School officials argue that the committee ruled in their favor, 3 to 2, but that Honig coerced one of the members into changing his vote.

“We consider this to be a serious blow to academic freedom and also to good science,” said Mark Looy, a spokesman for the institute, which was founded in 1972 and opened its graduate school in a 21,000-square-foot building in Santee in 1981. “We do have the right of appeal, and we will exhaust those appeals.”

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Decision Politically Motivated

Kenneth Cumming, dean of the graduate school, which averages 22 students a year, said that Honig’s decision was politically motivated and that the institute will pursue a lawsuit if its appeals are denied through the the state Department of Education. Honig, however, has final say, regardless of the appeal board’s decision.

“We were reviewed by this committee in August,” Cumming said, “and for some unknown reason, Honig still hasn’t notified us of his decision, which he was obligated to do within 90 days. We had to hear from a reporter that one person reversed his vote after Honig persuaded him to do so. We don’t feel that that’s very just.”

Honig acknowledged that he had talked with each committee member, including the person who changed his vote, Dr. Robert Kovach, a geophysicist at Stanford University. (Kovach was unavailable for comment Thursday.)

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Asked about Kovach changing his vote, Honig laughed and said, “I had back-and-forth discussions with several committee members. I called the fellow at Stanford and said, ‘The issue seems to be, is it science or is it not?’ He said, ‘No, it isn’t.’ So that was that.”

The Institute for Creation Research was the brainchild of Dr. Henry Morris, a leader in the creationist movement. The fundamentalist Christian school offers master’s degrees in biology, geology, astro-geophysics and science education. One of its teachings is the anti-evolutionary idea, based on the Bible, that the Earth is 6,000 years old and not 4.5 billion years old as evolutionists believe.

Cumming, the dean of the graduate school, said it’s “absolutely wrong” that what the school teaches is not science. He said that he earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and that many of the school’s graduates had gone on to receive Ph.D.s from “reputable universities” across the United States.

“Mr. Honig is trying to push through a statement that evolution is fact, and it simply isn’t,” Cumming said. “To say it’s fact is a lie. One has to wonder about his agenda.”

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“The vast majority of people in the religious community see no conflict between evolution and their chosen belief,” Honig said. “God can work through the vehicle of evolution--that could have been the method he initiated. There are lots of ways of looking at the beginning of the Earth from a religious standpoint, but science doesn’t get into that. This school sees the process differently; therefore, we’re seeking to deny their license to teach.”


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