Texas Creationism: Meet Ken Mercer

WE REMIND you again that the Texas Board of Education (BOE), guided by the Dark Ages thinking of their chairman (see: Don McLeroy: The Mind of a Creationist Dentist), is currently deciding whether it should keep the anti-science, anti-evolution, creationism-friendly “strengths and weaknesses” language in the state’s current standards for science education.

We’ve already told you quite a bit about the creationist dentist, and recently we wrote Texas Creationism: Meet Cynthia Dunbar. Today we’d like to introduce another board member, Ken Mercer, who is said to have “a bachelor’s in biology from The University of Texas at Austin.”

Mercer has written an article which appears in the San Antonio Express-News, provocatively titled: It’s right to ask questions about evolution. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

I want to present the other side of the State Board of Education’s debate on teaching scientific strengths and “weaknesses” of evolutionary theory in future textbooks.

By “other side” he means his side — the creationist side. In doing so, Mercer engages in a bit of character assassination, saying that the pro-science group, Texas Freedom Network (TFN), is “an ultra-liberal advocacy group,” Maybe they are, and maybe your Curmudgeon wouldn’t agree with them on anything else except this one item. But science isn’t liberal or conservative; it’s rational, so let’s stick with the issue at hand.

We read on:

TFN’s real agenda may be illustrated in this consistent, three-fold testimony to the State Board of Education: (1) Evolution is a fact; (2) there are no weaknesses to that theory; and (3) students are “unqualified” to ask questions.

Mercer continues to attack TFN and their “real agenda,” and doesn’t bother to defend his own creationism. Is he being intentionally slick, or is this mere incompetence? We report, you decide. Let’s continue:

Is evolution a fact? Most people of faith agree with what is commonly referred to as “micro” evolution,” small changes that are clearly visible. We see this in new vaccines and new strains of flu. You can witness evidence of microevolution downtown in any city via the thousands of varieties of stray dogs and cats.

We groan in anticipation. Is this guy really going to use the “micro-yes, macro-no” line of argument? Let’s see:

The controversial “macro” evolution was commonly understood as those major changes that could occur if one species jumped to another. For example, have you ever seen a dog-cat, or a cat-rat? The most famous example of macroevolution is the Darwinian “man from an ancestral primate.”

Realizing the weakness in macroevolution, Darwinists changed the meaning. Whatever their new definition, where is the evidence for one species changing to another?

Hey, Mercer, did the dog-cat eat your homework? Lookie here: List of transitional fossils.

Let’s read a bit more from the pen of this Texas genius:

The famous “missing link,” the Piltdown man, survived scientific method and peer review for almost 40 years. Finally someone was allowed to ask a question and found a weakness. This missing link was really the jawbone of an orangutan fused to a human skull. British Broadcasting called this the greatest scientific fraud of the 20th century.

No, no, no. Mercer’s creationist revision of history would have you believe that some brave creationist finally challenged the “Darwinist” orthodoxy and dared to “ask a question.” Sorry, Mercer. Like the entire creation-science enterprise, your 1984-ish version of history is all wrong.

Virtually no one accepted the authenticity of Piltdown man, because it contradicted the theory of evolution. Darwin thought that man’s ancestors would probably be found in Africa, because that’s where so many non-human primates are found. There are none in England, so it’s quite impossible for man to have evolved there without any ancestral candidates. If Piltdown man were real, Darwin would have been proven to be spectacularly wrong. Mercer understands nothing!

Some final thoughts from this great Texan:

The third part of the liberal agenda is most troubling. How can anyone state that students are “unqualified” to ask questions?

[..]

I stand for students who will always ask questions and search for truth. An agenda that opposes both freedom of speech and academic freedom is unpatriotic, un-American, and unscientific.

That’s quite an Ark-load of distortions there, Mercer. Certainly students are qualified to ask questions. After all, they’re students! It’s the answers that are the difficult part. Students are not qualified to do the heavy-duty research required to examine the entire body of evidence supporting evolution and then reach rational conclusions that can withstand peer-review and testing.

So where does that leave us? Students can ask questions. A competent teacher with a well-chosen text should answer their questions. It isn’t going to help the students at all if the BOE selects a text that presents Noah’s Ark as an alternative “scientific” theory, and then the teacher leaves it to the bewildered students to sort if all out.

If students, having learned the basics, want to become experts in the subject so they can examine things in depth, they can study the subject in college and then go on to do graduate work. At that point they’ll be qualified to do research. As high school students, all they can do is ask questions — not decide the answers. If Texas is going to teach science, its textbooks should provide the scientific community’s best information.

As for Mercer’s blather about patriotism (and what seems to be a primitive attempt to claim our flag solely for the creationists), let us say this: Mr. Mercer, there’s nothing patriotic about idiocy. Got it?

Copyright © 2008. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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30 responses to “Texas Creationism: Meet Ken Mercer

  1. you write:

    That’s quite an Ark-load of distortions there, Mercer. Certainly students are qualified to ask questions.

    It’s worse than that, actually — not just distortion, but “false witness.”

    During the Nov. 19 hearings, whenevr Mercer would ask a pro-science witness, “Do you mean to say that students should not be allowed to ask questions about evolution?”, the witness would always answer, “No, that is not at all what I am saying,” and then proceed to explain along the lines of what you’ve written here.

    Now Mercer continues flatly asserting, in print, to readers who haven’t listened to the testimony, that the advocates of science education are saying something that he knows full well that they are not saying, and that have clearly testified that they’re not saying.

    That’s not “academic freedom,” or defense thereof, by Mr. Mercer. That’s just plain old false witness.

  2. Tony, I’ve been following this issue for quite some time, in a variety of venues — the Dover case, the Kansas fiasco, various local school boards, and state legislatures. I’ve never yet seen even one creationist who would honestly declare his purpose. When pressed, they lie, distort, dissemble, etc. Politicians are generally low-grade individuals, but creationist politicians are certainly among the worst of the lot.

  3. Curmudgeon,

    I’m not even asking that they be truthful about their own motives. I’m just asking that they not broadcast that others are taking a position when they know full well, and have been told by those others directly, explicitly, and publicly, that the position is emphatically rejected by those to whom it is being ascribed.

  4. Misrepresenting the position of others is a time-honored tradition among anti-Evo warriors; does the art of “Quote-mining” ring any bells?

    If you take away the deceptions, dissembling, mis-representations, mendacities, quote-mined quotes, non-sequiturs, logical fallacies, and belligerent ignorance of the anti-Evos, all that’s left is is an angry mob barking at the moon as they rail against reality.

  5. Excellent post, Tony. I hadn’t gotten around to that one yet.

  6. “The controversial “macro” evolution was commonly understood as those major changes that could occur if one species jumped to another. For example, have you ever seen a dog-cat, or a cat-rat?”
    How badly are they teaching science in schools, that someone can graduate from high school (I assume that he made it that far) and believe that represents ToE? I assume that he meant the old “I’ll believe in evolution when I see species A give birth to species B”, but he messed it up (leading to a bizarre de-speciation/hybridization parody of evolution). That argument isn’t for evolution, it’s one argument against it. If parrots started giving birth to buffalo, I for one would have considerable trouble with ToE. Either that, or someone put acid in my coffee. Again.

  7. MO says: “If parrots started giving birth to buffalo, I for one would have considerable trouble with ToE.”

    Texas is fortunate indeed to have as guardians of their educational system men such as Ken Mercer, who will keep such false doctrines from being taught to the children.

  8. …but the DI would be all over it… Which would be okay, because they might actually have some evidence in their favour then.

  9. you people are nuts; evolution my ass. well, maybe…I could believe that your parents were apes (lol). what do you nimrods care anyway if kids learn about Creation? could it be that you’re simply afraid of the truth? or maybe you idiots fear that “the children” will see the true light and leave you bozo’s to your own devices. whatever…i stumbled across this dribble and i will stumble on. good riddance losers…enjoy hell (rotfl).

  10. chrisley asks: “could it be that you’re simply afraid of the truth?”

    Yes, we’re afraid. That’s why you’re banned.

  11. Your recently banned interlocutor’s comment provides yet another data point that amply confirms the long observed positive correlation between belligerent anti-Evo hysteria and ignorant substandard writing:

    Example:

    i stumbled across this dribble and i will stumble on

    [emphasis added]

    Ignoring for the moment the lower case personal pronoun as an Cumming-esque affectation, we see he uses the word “dribble” where we can only assume he meant “drivel.” It is a type of mistake that Mark Twain sometimes referred to as using the almost right word instead of the right word — which Twain characterized by the example of an author not knowing the subtle difference between “lightning” and a “lightning bug.”

    Sadly, we have learned from bitter experience this is the sort of drivel we expect from belligerently ignorant anti-evos.

  12. True, Longie, but you didn’t mention his calling us “you bozo’s”. I believe him when he says, “i will stumble on.”

  13. True, Longie, but you didn’t mention his calling us “you bozo’s”.

    So many errors; so little time….

  14. Tony, the article at your blog is very good, but I’ll have to pass on golden opportunity to hear the Mercer audio clips. I wallow in this stuff too much as it is, merely by reading press accounts.

  15. C writes:

    I wallow in this stuff too much as it is, merely by reading press accounts.

    I know the feeling. I reached the point of Texas fatigue by the end of the day Wednesday.

    Spider Joe wrote today asking if I could do the Thursday meeting. I am doing that now, but this sure is not fun.

    The Mercer clips are very short. Each time someone tells him that evolution doesn’t explain the origin of life, he says it’s the first time he’s ever heard anybody say such a thing. That’s just about all there is in the clips. I guess I just want people to be able to hear that I’m not making this up.

    Audio from the Thursday meeting will be up tonight (sigh)!

  16. I know Rep. Berlanga called on Gov. Perry to remove Chairman McLeroy, but can board members be impeached for incompetence? Wishful thinking, I know….

  17. James asks: “… can board members be impeached for incompetence?”

    I donno. I thought Gov. Perry appointed McLeroy. It won’t be easy to remove him. Besides, there’s not a whisper about that in the Texas press, so until there’s a clamor for his removal, it’s not worth thinking about.

  18. Yeah, unfortunately Perry is part of the problem. As my grandad, rest his soul, used to say, the fish rots from the head.

  19. James says: “As my grandad, rest his soul, used to say, the fish rots from the head.”

    Ben Franklin was your grandfather? Wow!

  20. Yeah, yeah. “Was fond of saying?” “Was fond of quoting?” Substitute your favorite grammatical clarification. Franklin quotes were apparently popular in Sicily.

  21. For your “meet Cargill,” now see also
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/cargills-science-pages-gone/

    As for Perry: word is that Kay Bailey Hutchison will be challenging him in the GOP primary, and SBOE member Miller is supporting her.

  22. Tony, if Cargill is cleaning up her act, it’s likely because the whole Texas BOE is being coached by the Discoveroids. The biggie is McLeroy’s website. He gives the whole game away.

  23. Thanks for the tip, Tony…here’s hoping Perry is defeated.

  24. On the “Science” Camp:

    Steven Schafersman commented there that the WOW! links were working. I checked, and now they are. I guess there was just a temporary server issue.

    I’ve learned a lesson about allowing time and checking again before jumping to conclusions.

  25. Here’s hoping that Ken Mercer is also defeated. Leininger–who funds Perry, Mercer, and anyone else whose stone-age “science” and vouchers (paid for by taxpayers) for schools that won’t have to meet public school standards—makes money from people’s ignorance and gullibility. I’m running for SBOE 5 to defeat Mercer. Check out my website voterebecca.com.

  26. Rebecca Bell-Metereau says: “I’m running for SBOE 5 to defeat Mercer.”

    Good to hear from you. I looked at your website. It doesn’t yet have any statements about your policy positions. As you probably figured out, we became interested in the Texas BOE because of their bone-headed opposition to evolution. The ignorance of several board members about other topics is also apparent. I’ve written often about McLeroy, Dunbar, Mercer, and Lowe. I’d be delighted to post an article about your campaign, but you’ve got to give us — and the voters — something to work with.

    I’m already hoping to see Mercer defeated, and frankly, if I lived in Mercer’s district I’d vote for a road-kill armadillo instead of him. However, what we’re looking for is some genuine support for science education, and some understanding of the constitutional requirement to keep religious doctrine (including all forms of creationism) out of public schools. So let us know your positions on the issues that have been a problem for the BOE. and I’d be delighted to write about your candidacy.

  27. Check out notes on my facebook page. Here is a longish statement of my platform. As for the issue of science, of course it should be taught as science, using scientific method to determine what can be proven and measured, not as religious opinion, which the creationists suggest. Some of my platform may not be relevant to this particular discussion, but here it is. Feel free to edit.
    My Platform: What the Texas State Board of Education Needs
    I’ve been speaking with groups and refining my platform for months, and now it’s crystal clear to me. I have three main points—simple to remember, yet with a great deal of thought, dialogue, research, and substance behind them: 1) community, 2) economy, 3) respect.
    The first concept of community is a refinement of earlier ideas that kept coming to me as I talked with teachers, parents, students, and community leaders. We needed to put students, teachers, and the local community back at the center of education. The State Board of Education has been micromanaging school curriculum for almost twenty years. The results have been disastrous, putting us in 51st place in high school graduation rates in the US. Teachers and students are tied to a grim routine of preparing for Texas-based (TAKS) tests for most of the year, under the threat of firing or loss of school accreditation. Teacher creativity and independence are stifled and students suffer the consequences. The goals for education have been transformed from an enriching growth experience to a crippling process of teaching to the test with dumbed-down texts personally edited by a group of eight extremists on the State Board of Education. We must put teachers, students, and local communities at the center of education.
    The second idea of economy has several parts. First, we must follow the money, how it’s being wasted, who’s paying for candidates and why, and how education should support the economy and higher education. While opponents nitpick current board members over failing to list a football game in their filing reports, an eight member majority of the fifteen-member board squanders millions of dollars on useless initiatives like abstinence-only education, which has been proven ineffective and even harmful. These extremists are in the pocket of private education advocates who don’t even believe public education is constitutional. Such campaign donors take taxpayer money for their private schools and make billions of dollars from them, while they quietly fund board members who destroy public schools in Texas and elsewhere around the country. We need a Texas State Board of Education that makes public schools an engine of the economy, coordinated with higher education and the real world of work and local communities.
    The final concept, respect, is an essential value for all people. Right now my opponent ignores this fundamental value, and the board’s oversight process is broken. A perfect example of this lack of respect is my opponent’s shocking comments about giving a “spanking” to people testifying before the language curriculum review committee. Saying that hard-working professionals trying to contribute their expertise to the education of our children should be spanked is a horrible insult. This nasty talk and disrespect for the women and men who testify before the board has to stop. To suggest that these dedicated citizens deserve to be spanked is beyond the pale, and we’re not going to allow that kind of talk in the future Board of Education. We must restore a reasoned, civil, deliberative process that coordinates legislative bodies, public schools, universities, and the world of work. Let’s stop the nonsense now!

  28. We made a stand-alone post about the comments of Rebecca Bell-Metereau here: Texas BOE: Rebecca Bell-Metereau vs Ken Mercer. Comments about that campaign should be posted in the new thread.