SANTEE — While working to obtain a master's degree in geophysics, Bill Hoesch is studying such things as the Earth's structure and the origin and age of the cosmos. But unlike most graduate students in earth sciences, Hoesch is learning that mountain ranges can be built in a day, fossils were buried in a worldwide flood, and the universe was created recently--perhaps as recently as 6,000 years ago.
Hoesch attends graduate school at the Institute for Creation Research, a private organization that advocates a theory of divine creation and actively tries to shoot down the theory of evolution.
The school--which is approved to issue master of science degrees by the California State Board of Education's division of private post-secondary education--is the only place in the country where students can obtain a graduate degree in science taught from a creationist point of view.
"I don't separate my physical life from my spiritual life," said Hoesch, 32, a tall, lean, square-jawed, soft-spoken man. "It's important to me to reconcile my scientific beliefs with the Bible, but that doesn't prevent me from being a scientist.
"I can't prove that the Earth is 6,000 years old, but (evolutionists) can't prove it's 4.5 billion years old. . . . Sure, I'm biased, but don't tell me (scientists) on the other side of the fence are not biased."
The Institute for Creation Research is the brainchild of Henry Morris, a longtime leader in the nationwide creationist movement. Morris, a former university professor with a doctorate in hydraulics, founded the nonprofit institute in 1972 to publish creationist literature and work toward getting creationist theory taught in public schools.
The institute's graduate school came into being in 1981. It offers master's degrees in astrophysics, geophysics, biology, geology and science education.
Two months ago, Morris moved his institute from the campus of Christian Heritage College in El Cajon to a 21,000-square-foot building in Santee. The spacious new building with wood furnishings and carpeted hallways also houses a creationist museum, which has displays that question the generally accepted theory of evolution and present arguments in favor of supernatural creation.
Morris called the museum "an educational tool, sort of like the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater on a small scale. . . . We'd like to make as many people as possible aware that there is scientific as well as biblical evidence of creation."
The school's current catalogue explains the philosophy of "scientific creationism" in part: "Each of the major kinds of plants and animals was created functionally complete from the beginning and did not evolve from some other kind of organism. . . . The first human beings did not evolve from an animal ancestry, but were specially created in fully human form from the start."
Given B Rating
Morris Krear, a consultant to the state board of education's private post-secondary education division, said the board has given the Institute for Creation Research a B rating, meaning the school "has the facilities, teachers and resources to provide a sound education, and a curriculum that is consistent in quality with other recognized and accredited schools" and is allowed to grant master's degrees. (In the board's rating system, an A is given to only fully accredited schools; a C means that the quality of a school's teachers and classes has not been reviewed thoroughly or compared with accredited institutions.)
The institute is not accredited by the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges, the primary accrediting agency for 300 private and public colleges and universities in California, Hawaii and Guam--meaning that most accredited schools and institutions will not accept its degrees or class credits.
Krear explained that a committee authorized by the board visited the school in 1981 and determined that it met those criteria. He said the committee looked at such things as whether "the body of knowledge presented is sufficiently challenging, and whether the methodology used allows (students) to make discoveries.
"They have some fine teachers at that school," he added. "The law says a master's degree (from the institute) is supposed to be the same as any other master's degree."
Morris said he has no plans to apply for accreditation through the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges, which he described as a "secular organization . . . pretty firmly committed to evolutionary theory."
Public schoolteachers seeking to qualify for higher salaries would also find it difficult--but not necessarily impossible--to get credit for classes taken at the institute. Each school district sets its own policy; thus, the San Diego Unified School District accepts only classes from accredited colleges, while the Los Angeles Unified School District sometimes accepts classes from unaccredited institutions. (A spokeswoman said such classes are reviewed closely by district officials.)