The Two Faces of Dr. Ross
For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”
There are many concerns here. The first is whether or not such a student should be awarded a Ph.D. because of his religious views. The second is the integrity of his science. The third is whether or not he wanted to obtain his Ph.D. from a secular school under a well-known advisor in order to legitimize his young earth science. Here are my answers:
(1) Religious views should not be held against the student and especially one who completes the coursework required for the degree. Apparently Ross has completed the coursework and written the requisite papers necessary for the degree. Therefore, from a minimalist perspective he should have the degree.
Now, here's where I am troubled by this. First, most professionals will not place their name on a paper where the conclusions are so antithetical to their own viewpoint. To write a paper where millions of years of evolution are used when that position is complete anathema to your scientific viewpoint smacks of opportunism. Furthermore, it is apparent from the literature that Ross had no trouble talking out of both sides of his mouth. He has several abstracts in the literature on YEC'ism and Intelligent Design. He co-authored a paper with Discovery's Paul Nelson on the problems with the Cambrian Explosion, but which hides behind evolutionary verbiage. Here is the abstract:
Various attempts have been made to quantify the increase in biological complexity exhibited by metazoans across the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian boundary. These include such metrics as genome size, cell type (Valentine et al. 1994), and a variety of complexity measures (e.g., McShea 1996). Here we develop a measure of ontogenetic depth--i.e., the distance, in terms of cell division and differentiation, between a unicellular condition and a macroscopic adult metazoan capable of reproduction (generation of gametes). We then apply this metric to the radiative events which occurred during the Cambrian Explosion, and assess the evolutionary mechanisms that may explain the increases in ontogenetic depth at the origin of the phyla.
ref:Ontogenetic depth as a complexity metric for the Cambrian explosion
Ross, Marcus R; Nelson, Paul A South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Rapid City, SD, United States (USA) Discovery Institute, United States (USA)Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America, vol.34, no.6, pp.427, Oct 2002.
He has authored other papers (according to Georef) here is his publication list:
Trans-Atlantic correlations of Upper Cretaceous marine sediments; the Mid-Atlantic (USA) and Maastricht (Netherlands) regions Ross, Marcus R; Fastovsky, David E
Northeastern Geology and Environmental Sciences, vol.28, no.1, pp.34-44, Mar 2006.
Stratigraphy and analytic paleontology of the lower Pierre Shale at Brown Ranch, southwestern South Dakota Ross, Marcus R. Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, vol.83, pp.163-181, 2004.
Quantitative approaches to Late Cretaceous shallow-marine and shelf stratigraphy of marine vertebrates Ross, Marcus; Fastovsky, David
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol.24, no.3, Suppl., pp.105, 10 Sep 2004.
Intelligent design and young-Earth creationism; investigating nested hierarchies of philosophy and belief Ross, Marcus R. Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America, vol.35, no.6, pp.609, Nov 2003.
Chondrichthyan and reptilian fossils from the Upper Cretaceous Peedee Formation at Elizabethtown, southeastern North Carolina, and comparison to New Jersey faunas
Ross, Marcus R; Cuffey, Roger J Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America, vol.35, no.1, pp.66, Mar 2003.
It's not particularly impressive, but he may have several other papers in the pipeline. None of the articles are easily accessible as they are special issues or members only type documents, but it's clear enough that they are old earth articles written by a young earth creationist. So, in terms of answering the question "Did he do good science", I would answer "It looks like he did ok science". His advisor is top-notch and if his advisor claims that he did a good job, then I accept that as a valid answer. However, he did a good job by abandoning the core principles of his faith and his true 'creation-science' viewpoint. Cognitive dissonance positively bleeds out of this man.
Lastly, did he 'use' Rhode Island to give his degree legitimacy? The Institute for Creation Research has a graduate program in Geology. They offer a Ph.D. and Ross could have attended that school, written a dissertation in concert with his worldview and his twisted version of science and then trotted off to Liberty University or other young earth creation hotbed. It would seem to me the most logical thing to do. Instead, he chose a famous advisor and earned a respected degree. We'll have to see how often he is trotted forward as a Ph.D. from a secular university in an effort to legitimize his creationist work. From his new home at Liberty University he writes in his bio:
Marcus Ross has loved paleontology (especially dinosaurs) since he was a kid growing up in Rhode Island. He has continued pursuing this passion, currently researching about a group of extinct marine reptiles called mosasaurs. He is greatly interested in issues surrounding the creation-evolution controversy and the intersection of geology with the Biblical events of creation and Noah's Flood. He and his wife Corinna live in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Hey Dr. Ross, there was no global flood of Noah and if you had really paid attention in your classes and in the field, you would have noticed this.
PS: I found some other publications of Dr. Ross and thought I should include them for completeness sake:
Nelson PA, Ross MR
Understanding the Cambrian explosion by estimating ontogenetic depth.
DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY 259 (2): 65 JUL 15 2003
Interestingly, the DISCO Institute has a discussion with Paul Nelson on this subject:
This ISCID informal discussion material represents work in progress that I am undertaking in collaboration with Marcus Ross, a paleontology graduate student in the Department of Geosciences, University of Rhode Island (317 Woodward Hall, 9 East Alumni Avenue, Kingston, RI, 02881-2019; E-mail: email@example.com)
An interesting blog on this idea can be found at Panda's Thumb