School Won’t Mix Science With Bible
A Fundamentalist Christian school that specializes in anti-Darwinism will separate its creationist teachings about the origins of life from its science courses, according to a compromise reached with the state Department of Education.
As a result, the Institute for Creation Research hopes to keep its right to grant master’s of science degrees.
The school, situated in Santee near San Diego, was barred last month by State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig from enrolling new students in science master’s programs. Honig contended that the school was teaching religion, not science.
Leaders of the institute said Honig’s decision violated their academic freedom and rights to free speech. They began an appeal within the state Department of Education and threatened a lawsuit.
Under an agreement aimed at avoiding a court battle, the school reluctantly has decided to offer its instruction about strict biblical interpretations of creation in 10-minute classes that follow the regular hour-long science courses. In the past, it has mixed the two topics. Under the plan, the anti-evolution classes would be required.
“I’m not happy with it. I think it’s a poor way to teach, but I think I would rather do this than go through a long lawsuit,” said Henry Morris, president of the school, which was founded in 1972 and offers classes only in the summer.
A leader in the national creationist movement, Morris described the change as “silly” and stressed that it in no way lessens the school’s belief that creationism is science.
Joseph Barankin, director of the state’s Private Postsecondary Education Division, said a team of experts will visit the school this summer to determine whether the change makes the science degree valid.
“The heart of the matter is whether a student has the same science course work as a person taking a master’s degree at an accredited institution,” Barankin said. “That will depend on how the visiting team views it.” He said there could be problems if the creationist instruction is aimed at debunking most of what is taught in the science courses.
The state offered the school the chance to keep its current curriculum if it stopped calling its degrees a master’s in science, state officials said. The institute refused.
‘Truth in Advertising’
“It boils down to a truth-in-advertising matter,” said William Rukeyser, an aide to Honig. “We said, ‘If you want to call it a master of something degree, like creationism or belief, we will entertain your application.’ They said no.”
The school offers degrees in biology, geology, astro-geophysics and science education. One of its main teachings is that the Earth is 6,000 years old. Mainstream scientists, basing their estimates on a wealth of tested evidence, generally agree that the planet is about 4.5 billion years old.
Officials at the institute contend that a five-person committee from the state Department of Education initially voted 3 to 2 in favor of the school last year but that Honig coerced one of the members to change his vote. Honig said there was no coercion involved, but he has acknowledged discussing the matter with committee members in an effort to persuade them that the institute was not teaching science.