A Ruse By Any Other Name: Texas Fundamentalists Want State To Honor Religion As Science

At least some people in Texas are standing up for sound science education. And hopefully, they won't back down, despite a new lawsuit challenging their decision.

According to The Dallas Morning News, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has sued the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for failing to approve its master's degree in creationism-based science education.

All of ICR's coursework reflects the fundamentalist religious belief that Earth is only 6,000 years old. According to the group's Web site, the institute "equips believers with evidence of the Bible's accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework."

For years, ICR offered "science" degrees in California but moved from San Diego to Dallas in 2006, hoping to offer similar degrees in Texas. In Texas, however, the Higher Education Coordinating Board must grant approval for every degree issued in the state.

After receiving advice from scientists and science educators, the board said ICR's program did not meet state science standards. Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes said the proposed master's program would not prepare future instructors to teach science in Texas public schools.

To compromise, the board told ICR it would approve the degree under another name, such as Creation Studies, Christian Apologetics, Genesis Studies, Creation Apologetics or Origins Theology. The degree would then be comparable to those offered at similar Christian institutions of higher learning, according to Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science.

But ICR insisted on a Science Education degree. In its complaint, the Dallas-based group argues that "[t]he monopolistic realities of the science education market in Texas (and in America generally) would limit creationist learners to science education opportunities from evolutionist graduate schools."

It's not surprising that ICR thought Texas would be a slam dunk for pushing its pseudo-science. Texas public schools have become a well-known battleground for fundamentalists trying to force their beliefs on the rest of the state.

Just last month, the Texas State Board of Education finally revised its science curriculum. For months, the board was engrossed in a debate between its Religious Right members who wanted to insert religion into the science classroom and the members who wanted to follow the advice of scientists and respect the constitutional separation of church and state.

In the end, the 15-member board removed some dangerous creationist code language, but ended up approving new amendments that could pose additional threats to sound science education.

We hope Commissioner Paredes stays firm and does not allow this lawsuit to dissuade his good judgment. State-approved Religious Right science teachers are the last thing Texas public schools need.