Creationist earns PhD

A man named Marcus Ross recently earned his PhD in geology from the University of Rhode Island. The unusual thing about this is that he is a young-earth creationist. With his views on the age of the earth, I was very surprised that the university awarded him his doctorate, and there are secularists out there who are howling.

His dissertation was about Mesozoic marine reptiles known as mosasaurs, and he wrote it using standard geological assumptions about the age of the earth and the nature of fossils and sedimentary rocks. His professors were fully aware of his young-earth viewpoint, but he was able to do the things that are expected of a successful PhD candidate: original research, depth of knowledge, breadth of knowledge, good communication skills.
The New York Times had an article on this yesterday, and here are a few quotes:

The work is “impeccable,” said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross’s dissertation adviser. “He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework.”

His creationism aroused “some concern by faculty members there, and disagreements,” he recalled, and there were those who argued that his religious beliefs should bar him from earning an advanced degree in paleontology.

“But in the end I had a decent thesis project and some people who, like the people at U.R.I., were kind to me, and I ended up going through,” Dr. Ross said.

Dr. Fastovsky and other members of the Rhode Island faculty said they knew about these disagreements, but admitted him anyway. Dr. Boothroyd, who was among those who considered the application, said they judged Dr. Ross on his academic record, his test scores and his master’s thesis, “and we said, ‘O.K., we can do this.’ ”

He added, “We did not know nearly as much about creationism and young earth and intelligent design as we do now.”

For his part, Dr. Ross says, “Dr. Fastovsky was liberal in the most generous and important sense of the term.”

Dr. Fastovsky said he had talked to Dr. Ross “lots of times” about his religious beliefs, but that depriving him of his doctorate because of them would be nothing more than religious discrimination. “We are not here to certify his religious beliefs,” he said. “All I can tell you is he came here and did science that was completely defensible.”

Though I might disagree with Dr. Ross on issues like the age of the earth and the relationship between science and Scripture, I am very pleased that he was awarded his doctorate. To deny him this would have been blatant anti-religious discrimination.

Grace and Peace

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