CREATIONISTS have no sense of humor, so prudence requires that we post this disclaimer:
That’s not Charles Darwin in the dentist’s chair, it’s Dustin Hoffman; and the dentist isn’t Don McLeroy; it’s Laurence Olivier. The picture is from the 1976 thriller, Marathon Man, in which Hoffman is tortured by the sadistic Nazi dentist, Christian Szell. That picture is used here as satire — got that? — to illustrate the abuse that science education is taking at the hands of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) chairman, Don McLeroy, a dentist from Bryan, Texas.
Now that we have the legalities out of the way, in the Austin Chronicle we read: The State Board of Education does its part to fantasize biology. Excerpts:
The Texas State Board of Education … favors teaching the “weaknesses” of biological evolutionary theory and, by implication, the strengths of the latest pseudo-scholarly variation on creationism: “intelligent design.” Last fall, in the latest episode of that eternal Texas struggle, the Texas Education Agency, which is regulated by the SBOE, fired its science director for distributing information about a pro-evolution seminar. And now, the SBOE is beginning hearings on updated science curricula that teaches the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory.
We’ve reported on this before: Texas “Strengths and Weaknesses” News Roundup. Continuing with the Chronicle‘s article:
“I don’t think the evidence supports [evolution],” said McLeroy, a self-described creationist who believes that because “science is always trying to find problems with stuff,” evolution should not be presented as absolute fact. In McLeroy’s opinion, there are three major weaknesses of evolutionary theory that schoolchildren should be made aware of. He arrived at these conclusions by “reading everything [he] could get [his] hands on” and listening to podcasts.
You want a list of McLeroy’s “weaknesses” with the theory of evolution? Okay, but you’ve heard all this nonsense before. He complains that there aren’t enough transitional fossils, the earth isn’t old enough for evolution to have happened, and DNA is too complicated to be the result of anything other than a supernatural designer. Surely, that’s sufficient reason for the state to teach Noah’s Ark to the kiddies in science class, right?
We know what you’re thinking: This dentist’s personal confusion isn’t going to destroy science education in Texas, is it? Well, it might. The article reminds us:
The board’s dominance [the Texas State Board of Education] by anti-evolution sentiment, coupled with conservative Republican rule at the Capitol, has had a direct effect on agency policy. Last November, TEA Director of Science Chris Comer was forced to resign after she forwarded an e-mail to academic groups containing information about an anti-creationism seminar. The e-mail, which contained a one-line “FYI” from Comer and a forwarded event listing, was considered an inappropriate endorsement of evolution by TEA officials. [TEA is the Texas Education Agency, which is regulated by McLeroy’s board.]
It doesn’t look good, does it? Near the end of the article, we are told:
It’s worth noting that part of the TEA and SBOE’s duty statement includes a goal to “prepare today’s schoolchildren for a successful future.” If the weak-evolution curricula passes, Texas schoolchildren will be able to achieve that success in one of two ways: fly out of state for biology class and be back in time for lunch or set their sights on excelling at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.
So the great game goes on. Perhaps it will never end.