Dallas Morning News against creationism program


The lead editorial in Thursday’s edition of The Dallas Morning News endorsed science and questioned why a graduate program in creation science should be tolerated by Texas, and specifically by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). It’s an issue discussed here earlier.

In the first part, “Be vigilant on how they intersect in our schools,” the paper’s editorial board is clear that the application from the Institute for Creation Research to teach graduate education courses in creationism is vexing, and should be rejected:

It’s troubling, then, that the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, which professes Genesis as scientifically reliable, recently won a state advisory panel’s approval for its online master’s degree program in science education. Investigators found that despite its creationism component – which is not the same thing as “intelligent design” – the institute’s graduate program offered enough real science to pass academic muster. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will vote on the recommendation in January.

We hate to second-guess the three academic investigators – including Gloria White, managing director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Dana Research Center for Mathematics and Science Education – but, still, the coordinating board had better give this case a long, hard look.

The board’s job is to certify institutions as competent to teach science in Texas schools. Despite the institute including mainstream science in its programs, it’s hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state’s curriculum.

Keven Ann Willey, the editorial page editor at the News, herds a lot of conservative cats on a strong editorial board that probably reflects the business community in Dallas; several members of that board probably argued that there must be recognition and condemnation of the “persecution of Christians” who are required to learn evolution and other science ideas that conflict with various Christian cults. And so the editorial has an odd, second part, “Faith is, by nature, based on the unprovable,” which calls for respect for religious views by science — without saying how that might possibly apply to a science class in a public school.

Faith maintains its unique quality because it is based on things we cannot prove in this life. By reducing it to an empirical science, it ceases to be faith. Yet, no matter how many linkages scientists uncover to show that man evolved from pond slime, they will never do better than those who rely on faith in answering the ultimate question about a greater being behind our existence.

As the debate rages, it’s worth noting that the world’s great religions agree on the need for science. And even the agnostic Albert Einstein conceded that science can’t answer everything: “My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality.”

It’s demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.

So, the Dallas Morning News supports the rational view that the ICR’s application to train teachers to violate the Constitution is a bad idea. But they warn scientists to play nice.

Remember, scientists in Texas this year published great research and supported a bond issue to put $3 billion into research to fight cancer. In contrast, IDists and creationists tried to sneak a creationist graduate school into existence, fired the science curriculum director at the state agency charged by law with defending evolution in the curriculum for defending evolution in the curriculum (Gov. Perry is still missing in action, so no word from any Republican to slow this war on science), tried to sneak Baylor University’s name onto an intelligence design public relations site (in the engineering school, of course, not in biology), and tried to pass off a religious rally at Southern Methodist University as a science conference.

Play nice? Sure. But this is politics, not playground, and since the game is hardball, we’re going to play hardball. DMN, you are right in the first half of your editorial: When you’re right, don’t back down. Our children and our economy need your support.

Science and Faith

Be vigilant on how they intersect in our schools

Dallas Morning News, print, page 16A;
internet, 08:32 AM CST on Thursday, December 27, 2007

Creationism institute should stay out of science education

Did God create the universe? Did he do so according to the six-day schedule set out in the Book of Genesis?

On the first question, science must be agnostic; the scientific method of knowing cannot answer a question like that any more than theology can discover the specific gravity of mercury. On the second question, science is rather definitive: No. A literal reading of Genesis is scientifically unsupportable. If one wishes to believe the Genesis version over the scientific account, one may. But it’s not science.

It’s troubling, then, that the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, which professes Genesis as scientifically reliable, recently won a state advisory panel’s approval for its online master’s degree program in science education. Investigators found that despite its creationism component – which is not the same thing as “intelligent design” – the institute’s graduate program offered enough real science to pass academic muster. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will vote on the recommendation in January.

We hate to second-guess the three academic investigators – including Gloria White, managing director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Dana Research Center for Mathematics and Science Education – but, still, the coordinating board had better give this case a long, hard look.

The board’s job is to certify institutions as competent to teach science in Texas schools. Despite the institute including mainstream science in its programs, it’s hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state’s curriculum.

Faith is, by nature, based on the unprovable

Some people regard science as a religion, finding comfort in what’s provable and undeniable. For others, the only true source of religion is faith in God. Faith is based on the unprovable, and because it’s a personal conviction, it is equally undeniable.

These two absolutes increasingly are at odds in Texas schools, where evolution is the basis for science instruction. The theory of evolution holds that humans resulted from billions of years of adaptation and refinement.

Many devout Christians and Jews are offended that, to study science, students must disregard the biblical account of God creating all existence in six days. Some demand the teaching of faith as a science, called “intelligent design,” to counter the notion that evolution is the only answer.

Faith maintains its unique quality because it is based on things we cannot prove in this life. By reducing it to an empirical science, it ceases to be faith. Yet, no matter how many linkages scientists uncover to show that man evolved from pond slime, they will never do better than those who rely on faith in answering the ultimate question about a greater being behind our existence.

As the debate rages, it’s worth noting that the world’s great religions agree on the need for science. And even the agnostic Albert Einstein conceded that science can’t answer everything: “My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality.”

It’s demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.

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3 Responses to Dallas Morning News against creationism program

  1. [...] Dallas Morning News editorialized against the degree program’s approval, Bathtub’s coverage [...]

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  2. Ed Darrell says:

    The Houston Chronicle came through in better style — see next post.

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  3. tuibguy says:

    Texas has other problems with science in addition creationism. When I lived in Dallas a particle accelerator project was nearly complete when Texans allowed the funding to dry up. The attitude among most of the conservatives was that if a particle accelerator is so great and leads to so many advances then industry should fund it.

    I think you are right on the mark when you say “Children and our economy depend on science.” Dallas and Fort Worth were riding a good technology boom in the early 1990′s, and I haven’t kept track of how that is working now, but I knew quite a few yankees from the Northeast who had moved to the Metroplex for high-tech work. Made them rich it did. Of course, once they had money they realized how much they missed hockey and stole my North Stars. But that’s another story.

    My impression of the Dallas Morning News was that it was a journalistically solid newspaper (and slickly packaged, to boot.) Dallas is one of those places where people were always soliciting me to go to their church. “It’s way different than that stuffy church you went to when you were growing up. Truly, all 5000 of us feel just like family and Pastor is deeply concerned about each of us.” It was a place in which the first question people would ask when introduced to someone was “What Church do y’all go to? Atheist? What’s that church believe?”

    So, honestly, in the interest of maintaining the support of their advertisers, I would bet that they fubar’d the last half of the editorial just to keep the peace.

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