Larry Moran takes apart the Marcus Ross case in some detail. Ross is the young earth creationist who recently received his Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island.
In this situation we have an example of someone who carefully hid his true belief from the thesis committee, or at least went out of his way to give them an excuse to avoid facing up to the main problem. This is deceptive and antithetical to how science is supposed to operate. It opens a whole other can of worms. While most of us would agree that openly advocating a young Earth in your thesis would be grounds for failure, we couldn’t fail someone who effectively lied about his “scientific” opinion. We put our faith in honesty and scientific integrity whenever possible. It’s the default assumption.
But here’s the rub. Although there wasn’t anything in his thesis about a 10,000 year old Earth it wasn’t the case that his examining committee was completely ignorant of Ross’ true views on paleontology. In fact, they were aware of the history. They knew Ross was a Young Earth Creationist when they admitted him to graduate school and they had no reason to suspect that he had changed his mind.
The bottom line is that faculty of Rhode Island University gave a Ph.D. degree in geology to someone they knew to be a “scientist” who believed that the Earth is only 10,000 years old. Furthermore, they gave a Ph.D. to someone who they knew was deliberately misrepresenting his “scientific” views in his thesis. They had every reason to suspect that this misrepresentation was for the sole purpose of getting the Ph.D. since Ross knew that by being honest about his rejection of a old Earth, he would not graduate. This is a double whammy since not only was Ross ignorant of the basic principles in his field but also ignorant of the principles of scientific integrity.
Some people are spinning this as scientists demanding a litmus test for irrelevant religious beliefs, and insisting that we can’t judge a student for his beliefs. It’s true that we shouldn’t and I don’t evaluate my students now or my grad students in the past on the basis of their beliefs. But that’s not what’s being said here. Ross was a two-faced liar who would say one thing to his committee, and another to the public. I might be able to forgive that if he were lying about personal matters that are not part of his committee’s purview—but he was lying about the science he was doing. That isn’t forgivable.
If I’d been on his committee, I would have directly asked him to defend his public statements about the age of the material he was studying—not his statements to his committee alone, but to the public at large. I would have insisted that he defend those comments scientifically. And when he failed to do so, I would have voted to deny him his degree.
Although, more realistically, if I’d been in that department, the rejection would have occurred at the admission step, or in the preliminary exam. Apparently, the university knew he was a young earth creationist at the time he admitted him, which is simply appalling. I would expect new grad students to have some basic knowledge of the discipline—professing something so stupidly at odds with the science ought to disqualify him immediately, and his slot in the graduate program given to someone more deserving and more teachable.
Ross obtained a degree by lying about it’s content. I don’t consider him deserving of the doctorate, any more than Kent Hovind and his fake degree.