WSJ: A Compromise on Creationism

Should secular institutions recognize courses on scientific creationism at Bob Jones? Please see this OpEd published in the WSJ today (in print tomorrow).

@patrons can download a private copy of the OpEd here:


Should mainstream institutions recognize courses on alchemy? Phrenology? Geocentrism? Please see this OpEd:


As a friend is fond of saying, YEC is flat earth except better at geography. Real institutions of higher ed shouldn’t be obligated to act as though that isn’t the case.


The question is not clear.

I don’t have a problem with a varied mixture of courses. But a course in scientific creationism does not give a student any sort of background is science. If anything, such courses tend to miseducate about science.


Great editorial Joshua. I can’t comment at WSJ without subscribing, but if I could it would be …:

For those demanding academic freedom, the first of those is freedom to dissent.
For degrees in science, that must be science that produces results.
For other degrees, if not science, let’s not pretend otherwise.


You wrote:

Institutional tolerance of dissenting views ought to be a two-way street. If Tracs is recognized, it should also give more space to students and faculty who disagree over key issues. Tracs member institutions operate by belief or faith statements, with varying levels of tolerance for dissent. A reasonable process would not require creationist institutions to modify their faith statements. But to align with national norms, Tracs should defend the academic freedom of those who dissent from scientific creationism.

What odds would you need/offer to bet that something even vaguely resembling that will happen in the next 5 years?

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Well, if CHEA puts TRACS on roadmap now, delaying their recognition, the odds go way in my favor. And would that not be a good thing? Even if it is a long shot, you should be rooting for me here.

Register to participate in the public hearing here, and make a comment in support of it:

Wednesday, March 10, 2021, 9:40 a.m. –1:30 p.m. Recognition Discussion (Public)

I’m not talking about rooting for anything. What odds?

Well, currently courses on scientific creationism is recognize by CHEA as legitimate science courses. If you want that to change, you should make a public comment at the upcoming meeting.

First time poster, here. Thanks Dr. Swamidass and all the forum contributors for engaging with us non-experts.

Regarding this article…

My immediate reaction to the OP was “no”". My reaction to the bridge building, space creating proposal in the article was, “brilliant!” This would be a healthy compromise.

Whether what the article proposes happens now, or not, I believe that it’s only a matter of time before schools with stances like Bob Jones University begin to change. Future students have more access to high quality scholarship than ever. I think less people over time are going to buy what places like Bob Jones is selling.


Good article, and congratulations on being published in such prestigious publication!

Bob Jones dropping its previous policy on racial segregation might be an example of how such change occurs.


In About CHEA, the word “quality”, particularly “academic quality” and “quality assurance”, is used repeatedly. To what extent (if at all) does a science degree containing ‘Creation Science’ compromise the quality of the degree? This, I think, is the question CHEA should be asking itself. (Also, does this depend on the scientific field that the major is taken in?)

But a 2019 Gallup poll showed that 40% of American adults “ascribe to a strictly creationist view of human origins, believing that God created them in their present form within roughly the past 10,000 years.” As much as the scientific community disagrees, creationism is not going away.

I would suggest that this is an irrelevant non sequitor. The popularity of a viewpoint among the general public is irrelevant to the question of whether acceptance of, or indoctrination in, it degrades the quality of education. Even if 90% of Americans accept that demonic possession is the real cause of mental illness, it would still adversely affect mental health treatment for psychiatrists and psychologists to be taught to accept it.

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I think the step in the right direction represented by the proposal would be that the YEC class would not be an accredited science class, and that the university would have to allow classes that teach actual science.

And the point of acknowledging what American’s believe is relevant to the bridge building nature of the proposal, in my opinion.

Of course, you may not see the attempt to build a bridge as worthwhile, or a good idea, but that’s the context in which the curriculum comprimise makes sense and the beliefs of the parents of potential students is relevant…


I don’t see that “build[ing] a bridge” is within CHEA’s remit – which is to maintain educational quality, rather than to attempt to heal the Culture Wars.

I also suspect that CHEA’s leverage over TRACS universities may be very limited. The Conservative bubble (be it tertiary education, the media, or whatever) seems to be largely unconcerned about mainstream acceptance. It is only the almighty greenback that seems to have the power to influence it. It was after all only loss of tax-exempt status that forced Bob Jones University to drop its ban on interracial dating. Unless CHEA recognition holds similar levels of funding hostage (e.g. to eligibility for federal funding – but that seems to be NACIQI’s remit, not CHEA’s), I do not see the threat of it withdrawing recognition to have much influence.

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That makes sense. I became aware of the Culture Wars in the mid 90’s and decided not to participate. I’ve been happy on the outside but have been infected at times with hope that more folks are getting out. That’s what drew me to this place and that’s why I apprecieate the article. But your comments are more realistic than my hope.

I don’t care at all about a place like Bob Jones University. It can hang on to it’s bad reading of scripture and out of date “scientific” views, and dwindle in size as the generations turn over. But the article made me happy at the thought that Bob Jones students, brought up by parents in the Culture War, could find a path out through one of their classes.

Something that would really help a school like Bob Jones: offer some theology classes that are outside of their echo chamber!


I rather suspect that one of the main selling points of universities like Bob Jones is the assurance that parents have that their children will not be exposed to ideas from outside the conservative echo chamber, be it on science, theology, or politics.


I’m sure you’re right. But not everything has to exist on the progressive ->-> conservative continuim, especially if you don’t have to live inside the Culture Wars. Someone like John Walton (I mention him because of his high quallity work with passages that some mistake for science texts) is theologically conservative but might be labeled differently by a closed minded culture warrior.

Folks like John Walton (and lots of others), who affirm the authority of scripture while presenting good scholarship that prioritizes authorial intent (among other things) offer a path out of the echo chamber. I say this not because it’s my theory, but because I see it happening. I’m witnessing a bit of a Bible revolution among some folks who hold “conservative” views of scripture. And I’m not even saying that they’re becoming less conservative. They’re just reading the Bible better because of access to better scholarship. And this is moving them out of their echo chamber.

These may be long winded responses to questions you’re not asking. But in my mind it’s all realated to the article.


…good scholarship building bridges

and better Bible reading freeing folks from the imagined war between Science and Religion

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I’m not saying that it’s CHEA’s job to burn bridges, nor that teaching cannot be both quality and bridge-building, rather that it is their remit to focus on the former, rather than the latter.

Likewise, I think that Climate Change is important, but would suggest that it is not CHEA’s remit to evaluate universities on their carbon footprint.


Fore sure. You’re right. I think I’m riffing on what I want to see hapen in the world rather than what CHEA, or any other organization is responsible for.