thats_wild (2008-03)

Beneath a Muleâ's Hoof County

That's wild

Commissionâ’s God resolution smears a sacred line

by Rikki Hall

Henry Morris was a hydraulics engineer with a flood fetish. Defiance of the devil evolution gave him fevers of Biblical literalism. He tolerated none of the hedges and compromises of intelligent-design theory or even old-earth creationism. He was a young-earth purist, righteous enough to cudgel aside geology, boot isotope dating into a rip in uniformity, and burst biology beneath his mighty hoof. Few mortals can sustain disbelief like young-earth creationists, but few mortals were as mulish as Morris. Tireless in Biblical inerrancy, his rims stopped sparking in 2006. The Henry Morris Center for Christian Leadership in Dallas has been dedicated in his memory.

Whether a person is Christian or not, the great truths and lessons of the Bible are clear and cherished. Even atheists see truth and beauty in the Bible. Men like Henry Morris see a fragile tower of truth ready to crumble to ruins if any verse is doubted. For them, Biblical authority depends on the book being absolutely right about every detail, exhaustively complete about Earthâ’s history. Idols do the devilâ’s work, according to the Bible, but if you make an idol of the Bible, you vanish into a worm hole where the planet is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs went extinct because Noah couldnâ’t fit them on his ark.

Henry Morris started the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in 1970 as an academic effort, but it grew into a publishing house, a graduate school, and an online resource for home schoolers and churches. He established the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools in 1979. His son Henry sits on its accreditation commission, which certifies dozens of Christian graduate and undergraduate institutions around the country, including the graduate school ICR established in California and a graduate school on Lone Mountain near Dayton, Tenn. Another son, John, is the ICR president.

ICR offers classes in geology, biology, and astrophysics, but in their classrooms, fossils are the residue of the Biblical flood, and geology and biology are taught so the notion of stashing two of each animal on a boat for a month while the world floods seems plausible. In the course catalog, the geochronology instructor promises to explore a catastrophic rip in space-time that makes Earth appear older than she is. The six-day creation sequence in Genesis and Noahâ’s flood are an institutional fetish.

The staff is stocked with doctoral- and medical-degree holders, but the ICR school produces teachers and administrators, not scientists. Their mission and publications are overtly anti-science. Creationists envy the legitimacy of science and feel excluded, but science journals do not accept Bible verses as evidence. Peer review weeds out mistakes and misunderstandings and forces authors to consider explanations they may have overlooked. That intimidates creationists. Rather than raising their game to the level of science, men like Henry Morris made their own peer group.

The Morris boys decided to move ICR to Texas after their fatherâ’s death, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board meets Jan. 24 to decide whether ICR can issue masterâ’s degrees in science education. Commissioner Raymund Paredes has suggested it might be preferable to certify the school in creation studies instead of science education. He is right.

Whether itâ’s Knox County passing a grammatically tortured resolution about God or Texas certifying teacher training, the government shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. The countyâ’s God resolution is low-stakes grandstanding, but it is part of the same fetish for authority that drives creationists. Government has no business in such foolishness, and religion offers better ways to earn respect than by borrowing it from government. Surely there are better paths to fulfillment than obsessing over Biblical inerrancy or forcing fellow commissioners to confront the line between state and church for the sake of a pointless resolution.

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