WSJ: A Compromise on Creationism

This is a very difficult issue to adjudicate on. I am not in the US and not really familiar with the politics surrounding this (i.e. what TRACS is).

I have changed my mind back forth several times. Here is a question I keep circling back to: What evidence is there that YEC belief impacts competence in scientific and medical fields besides (evo) biology itself? For that matter, is there any evidence that YECs fair worse than evo biologists in supplying the ‘mainstream’ answer?

I am disturbed that a young person may be - on this proposal - effectively barred from becoming a nurse. It could ruin her career. How many times a day does a healthcare professional consult their background knowledge of the dating of minerals and fossilised material? How many have suffered or died because a conservative Christian nurse holds these views? How often does a physicist or engineer developing a solution for today need to worry about gene frequencies? There are some highly competent YEC professionals out there, and this measure will just have the effect of artifically reducing their numbers, help no one and hurt some. Maybe.

I am not so concerned about winning an internet debate as I am protecting my kids and others’ kids from these sorts of needless interventions. They aren’t YEC (at least, I’m not, so they won’t hear it from me). But what about tomorrow? Mr Swamidass, you yourself have been on a journey of belief. What if you had encountered frequent ‘artificial’ obstacles in your path owing to ideological tests along the way (in addition to any others)? You would never become the person you are. It is because of the freedom to think that previous generations secured for you that you can make that transition peacefully. How many senior medical professionals say, “I was a YEC but now no longer am?” The patience afforded them allowed them to feed their families, read books and not be forced to either violate their consciences or become shelf-stackers working for Amazon.

I see this more and more. What percentage of the time do doctors need to kill their patients? What fraction of a nursing job need involve abortions? What fraction blood transfusions? What fraction contraception? I’m not mentioning these to open cans of worms, only to point out that we should try to accommodate people who get stuck on 1-5% of a job role, but would be highly effective in the remainder. A workforce which is at 95% capacity with conscientious opt-outs is more flexible and fosters a kinder society to live in. It would constitute a true inclusivity and diversity and probably go a long way to healing culture wars. Almost all conscientious carve-outs where these flashpoints arise could be accommodated with a little thought and effort, I suspect, but they are too useful as litmus tests.

Increasingly I observe that many of these “you need to do/be/believe this to do your job” pronouncements mask ideological tests. You should just be honest about your intent: “you need to do/be/believe this to deserve to participate in this echelon.”

All this reduces to a few questions: how do these measures promote the common good? How would it even be detectable? What harm has the policy as it stands realistically done that makes these measures so suddenly pressing? Or is it just that some sleep better at night knowing their professional ranks are intellectually purer? And what’s to stop this mentality leaking everywhere?

I apologise if this is covered in the article. I read down to the paywall.


Very excellent questions. I think it is also critical that we fixate on what will serve the common good, even what will serve YEC students a d YEC professors and YEC institutions.

To be clear, secular institutions don’t have belief tests, but YEC institutions do, and they are in conflict with the welfare of their own students and faculty. That is the issue to work through here.


Thanks. To be honest, I’m at complete odds with myself on this. I guess TRACS is free to accredit how they wish, hence the vote. My libertarian spiel above probably won’t work in practice. I guess there is the individual, the association and society at large. The freer all tiers the better. TRACS membership are free to vote as they see fit - that’s important too. I only know a few YEC. It’s not prevalent in the UK. But those I do know are flesh and blood, and generally really gentle people - funnily enough the opposite end of the spectrum from their internet counterparts in my experience. So I try to think what impact it would have on them personally. I also abstract to what’ll happen next. Overton window and all that. But you’re right, it’s tough. I guess in my own ideal world, there would be no creationism in schools or unis. But my world is inhabited by other people too!

Incidentally, thank you for your book. I also read Garvey’s: my grumpy fellow countryman. God bless, I’ll leave it at that.

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I’d like to synthesise @CultureCraftsman’s cogent comments with some of my own earlier comments.

CHEA’s stated purpose is ensuring quality in tertiary education. It is not, as I previously mentioned, to build bridges, but then nor is it take sides (or even act as a referee) in the culture wars.

Where the quality of the education is unaffected by YEC content, then CHEA should probably remain on the sidelines. This is probably true of fields such as Chemistry and Nursing. Medicine is likely to be more of a grey area, but I suspect that evolution is sufficiently peripheral to most specialisations that it is unlikely to be a significant issue (infectious diseases is an obvious potential exception that comes to mind). It is likely to an issue if the student is seeking to enter a postgraduate biology programme at a secular university – but I would expect that university to be capable of assessing the suitability of its postgrad candidates independently of CHEA’s intervention. This is not to say that there may not be circumstances where the quality is affected, but I’d suggest that (i) we would need to carefully demarcate what that circumstance is before suggesting a solution, and (ii) it is likely that a more granular solution would be more appropriate – likely through accreditation of individual courses, rather than on an institution-by-institution basis.

I would not argue that academic freedom is unrelated to educational quality. I would however argue that the relationship is sufficiently indirect that CHEA may not be the ideal means of enforcing it. The Department of Education would seem likely to be a better candidate.

Does this let TRACS off the hook? I suspect not. There has been sufficient distaste and unease expressed on this thread for me to suspect that TRACS has been less-than-rigorous in its enforcement of more basic standards of educational quality. This is definitely something that CHEA should be looking closely at.


Where does one delineate between which university belief statements are matters of academic freedom and which are necessary for a Christian university to maintain its identity in regards to which beliefs make its education distinctive? The faculty and students are making a choice by working at or attending the university. How is this in conflict with their welfare?

Basically it seemed that your suggestion in the WSJ article was that belief statements are fine, as long as they become meaningless in practice, so creationism can become easier to marginalize.

Perhaps that is not what you intended, but that is how it read to me. Perhaps to others.

No, that is not what I am saying. I’m actually writing up an article now to explain this in far more detail. So hang tight. More coming public soon.


Fair question. Academic freedom is in some tension with freedom of association here. But if an institution opts for identity, that does not confer the obligation for other universities to recognize creationist course work. If Ken Ham is satisfied with the program, that is a pretty good indication that it should not qualify as science credit.


And that’s true too.

I would draw the line between which beliefs are a condition for salvation and which aren’t. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is necessary for salvation; accepting young earth creationism is not.

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One problem is that many institutions have a doctrinal statement that says one thing, but the administration (often on a whim without due process) wants to move the goal post of “what’s in” and “what’s out.” For example (one I know far too well), a small school may respond to lowering admissions numbers by targeting a more conservative constituency (e.g., YEC). Even though the doctrinal statement is not YEC specific, the admin acts as if it is, and then removes or sidelines professors who don’t fit the new direction (even though they can faithfully sign the written statement of faith). This becomes an infringement on academic freedom because it circumscribes that freedom beyond the official documents of the institution and subjects it to the private interpretation and interests of a sitting president or board.


And that isn’t transparent, ethical, or allowed by accreditation rules.


Salvation from what? :rofl:



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