Court Smacks Down Creationist Institute Suit

by Dan Quinn

An effort by an anti-evolution “institute” to dumb-down science education in Texas hit a brick wall in federal court last week. On June 18 federal district Judge Sam Sparks refused to force Texas to grant authority to the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS) to offer master of science degrees in science education.

In 2009 the ICRGS filed a lawsuit against the Texas commissioner of higher education, Raymund Paredes, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board after the coordinating board refused to approve an application for authority to grant the degrees. The ICRGS claimed that the coordinating board had engaged in “viewpoint discrimination” and thereby violated the “institute’s” constitutional rights to free exercise of religion, free speech and equal protection. Judge Sparks disagreed:

“(T)he Court finds ICRGS has not put forth evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact with respect to any claim it brings.”

Actually, Judge Sparks used much sharper language throughout his ruling, noting the rambling and confusing complaint filed by the ICRGS:

“It appears that although the Court has twice required Plaintiff to re-plead and set forth a short and plain statement of the relief requested, Plaintiff is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information.”

Judge Sparks’ ruling vindicates the opinions of expert reviewers appointed by Paredes to examine the ICRGS application before the coordinating board voted on the issue in 2008. Prof. David Hillis, a widely respected scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, was one of the reviewers. Hillis said in his review (which was noted in Judge Sparks’ ruling):

“[T]he evidence in this application clearly indicates this proposed program is not about science education. Science education emphasizes that science is learning about the unknown from a neutral perspective, relying on observable evidence and experimentation. In contrast, this program is about religion, not science[.]… The [ICRGS] program clearly does not meet the standards of the [Board]. In particular the proposed course of study in no way ‘adequately cover[s] the breadth of knowledge of the discipline taught.’ The vast majority of the proposed science courses do not resemble any offered for graduate credit by other Texas colleges and universities in breadth, depth, or content, and they would not be acceptable for transfer or credit as a result. The proposed program of study in no way would adequately prepare students in the field of science education, at any level, and certainly not at the graduate level.”

The ICRGS lawsuit has helped further expose the efforts of anti-science pressure groups to promote ideology over real science and sound scholarship in education. Judge Sparks’ noted in his ruling this passage from the ICRGS program catalog:

  1. It is the position of the institute that…all genuine facts of science support the Bible.
  2. The phenomenon of biological life did not develop by natural processes from
    inanimate systems but was specially and supernaturally created by the creator.
  3. All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the
    Creation Week described in Genesis…[.] The creation record is factual, historical, and
    perspicuous; thus all theories of origin and development that involve evolution in any
    form are false.

Even so, Judge Sparks wrote that he had seen nothing to indicate that the coordinating board’s decision in 2008 was motivated by an alleged anti-religion bias on the part of board members, Paredes or their reviewers:

“ICRGS has set forth no actual evidence of any animus toward it because of its religious viewpoint by any Defendant (although ICRGS’s filings contain no shortage of speculation on this subject).”

We don’t know whether the ICRGS will appeal, but the ruling is clearly a huge setback for anti-science extremists. The full ruling is here. The National Center for Science Education has more information here.