by David G. Carta
A recent article in Nature proclaimed, "Creationist Victory....'It's a shocking and puzzling decision.... The state lawyers gave away the store. "'1 A Science article had a kinder title, "Creationism Compromise," but continued in a negative tone.2 The commentary referred to the recent out-of-court settlement of a suit brought to the Federal District Court by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR).
The ostensible purpose of the suit was to reinstate the right of the ICR to award non-accredited master's degrees in science. The settlement actually went much farther. As a result of the agreement, the Declaratory judgment effectively stipulated that the state has no control over the curricula of private schools, including Christian schools.
This could be a powerful statement of freedom of opinion, in general, and of freedom of religion, in particular, especially since it was formulated by a federal court and may be used as case law in future freedom-of-religion actions. But why would a state so insistent on the teaching of evolution as fact "give away the store"?
A third article, appearing in Science, may reveal the answer. It was entitled "California Evolution Defender Indicted."3 After along and not-so-secret investigation, California Superintendent of Schools, Bill Honig, was indicted on March 31, 1992, on criminal conflict-of-interest charges. Honig was charged with improperly channeling federal funds to an organization that paid his wife more than $100,000. The ICR settlement took place on January 24, 1992, while the investigation was visibly in progress.
A key portion of the federal suit was based on improper intervention by Honig in the state approval process for the ICR's master's degree programs. The initial investigative committee granted approval by a 3-2 vote. Honig then intervened, persuading one committee member to change his vote, which led to the rejection of the ICR's degree-granting ability. An appeal by the ICR led to the formation of a second committee to perform an in-depth review of ICR programs.
I have personally reviewed the report of this second committee. Although it shows several severe short comings in ICR programs, it also proposes "requirements" for acceptability that even some accredited institutions would not meet. Remember that all this was for allowing the ICR to grant non-accredited degrees.
In my opinion the report was just a premeditated hatchet job. Honig and the state would tolerate no opposition to the teaching of evolution as scientific certainty, and the intent was to put the ICR graduate school out of business.
Enter Honig's indictment. It is possible that Honig saw the indictment coming and wanted no additional unfavorable information on his improper interventions surfacing. Perhaps through discrete disclosure by sympathetic state employees or through attorneys' astute observation, it became clear that Honig needed a quiet settlement at any cost. ICR attorneys took full advantage of the situation and pulled off an incredible coup.
- Nature, Vol. 355, No. 6363 (February 27, 1992), P. 757.
- Science, Vol. 255 (February 21, 1992), p. 927.
- Science, Vol. 256 (April 10, 1992), p. 9;173.
David has a bachelor's degree in Physics from Caltech and a Ph.D. in computer sciences from Washington University, St. Louis. He is currently a consultant for personal computer applications