By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
And on the seventh day, God cemented Texas's reputation as the home of ignorant yokels who don't need no book-larnin'.
In case you haven't heard, an advisory panel to the Texas Higher Education Committee — an advisory panel made up of educators from places like UT-Austin and Texas A&M-Commerce — urged the THEC to approve the granting of online degrees by a "university" that teaches creationism.
The Institution for Creation Research (its football team: the Fightin' Anti-Intellectualists) was based in California, but is moving to Dallas. So they had to apply for THEC approval to grant degrees.
The ICR's catalog notes that its graduate school, "while similar in factual content to those of other graduate colleges, [is] distinctive in one major respect: ICR bases its educational philosophy on the foundational truth of a personal Creator-God and His authoritative and unique revelation of truth in the Bible, both Old and New Testament."
Which is kind of like saying, "Our graduate school is similar in factual content to those of other graduate schools, except for the part where we base everything on utterly nonscientific stuff." (ICR's "tenets," which all teachers adhere to, state that "all theories of origins or development which involve evolution in any form are false.")
How did a place that teaches the world was created in literally six days get recommended for approval to award degrees? The three panel members aren't talking to the media, but Raymund Paredes, Texas's commissioner of higher education, tells Hair Balls, "Many universities and colleges in Texas are religious. SMU, TCU, Baylor — they all have a religious component."
Maybe, but we think even SMU allows for the possibility that dinosaurs actually existed.
Paredes says the panel produced a report "three inches thick" for the THEC members to study. The commission will also hear from outside experts.
So — what if someone wanted to award degrees for studying UFOs and alien abductions? Would the THEC grant that?
"That seems like it might be a legitimate field of inquiry," Paredes says, chuckling. "Is there enough literature in the field to discuss it? Are there outside experts to address its legitimacy?"
He says the THEC often gets requests to approve degrees that some might consider odd.
"We get requests all the time that are at the cutting edge of academia, to put it diplomatically," he says. "Acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Some people don't think they're legitimate. We have plenty of people we can draw on to assess those fields."
But if a state's higher-education commission comes down against evolution, won't that maybe — just maybe — hurt its reputation among actual scientists, the kind who use labs and study fossils and crazy stuff like that?
"We want to recruit the best scientists to Texas and make them feel like this is a hospitable environment for research," he says. "If a very large number of scientists felt this was a repudiation of scientific practices, we'd take that into consideration."
We can only be thankful for the Hollywood writers' strike, so The Daily Show and The Colbert Report aren't blasting this all over the country. Maybe God does work in mysterious ways.
Books Not Food
It's tough serving vegan food to the homeless, and not only because the homeless have taste buds too. Finding a place to do it can be tricky, as the group Food Not Bombs has discovered.
They got tossed out of a site under the Pierce Elevated, to make way for a Metro parking lot. So they went to the downtown public library, which is undergoing an extensive renovation.
But, says the group's Nick Cooper, library officials have also told them to move. The new library will include a fancy cafe, and they apparently don't want the atmosphere disturbed.
"Their attitude was like, 'We don't even know what law you're breaking, but we're going to figure out something,'" Cooper says.
Library spokeswoman Sandra Fernandez says the whole thing is a misunderstanding. A library employee did speak with the group, she says, but only to find out what they were up to.
"Maybe something that [Food Not Bombs] thought was going to be said next was never said," she says.
Fernandez said the group is not being asked to leave the site, but makes no promises about what will happen when the refurbished library opens.
We're gonna go out on a big limb here and guess that Food Not Bombs will be on the move again.
The Student Becomes the Master
Internet entrepreneur Brent Oxley moved his business to Houston from Florida recently, and soon discovered one of our town's little charms: panhandlers.
He noticed an unending string of them outside his office building at Highway 290 and West 34th. His philosophy is similar to Mayor Bill White's: people who give to individual panhandlers, as opposed to charity organizations, aren't really helping the problem.
Still, he was intrigued. So he and his employees went out with a series of signs, trying to discover what works best.
The findings: "We need our flea shots, anything helps" netted $26.40 in two hours. "My ex-wife had a better lawyer, now homeless" got only $6.60 in two hours. "Ninjas killed my family, need money for kung fu lessons" got $22.75.