Texas Creationism Update (13 Jan 2009)

WE BEGIN by reminding you that the Texas Board of Education (BOE), which is dominated by creationists, 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. They’ve already had one hearing on this, and they have a second hearing scheduled for Jan 21.

Your Curmudgeon suspects they’ve paid no attention to anything the science experts told them at the last hearing, and the next hearing will be similarly farcical.

We’ve previously predicted that the witness list will be loaded up with people reciting talking-points from the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). Armed with a carefully scripted record claiming that there’s a scientific “controversy” over evolution, the BOE will take a final vote on the new science education standards in March. Then, under the leadership of BOE Chairman Don McLeroy, a creationist dentist, the board will complete their pre-ordained mission and rule that the “weaknesses” of evolution must be taught.

These hearings are worthless. They’re a farce. The outcome is as predictable as that of a Bolshevik show trial.

Why are they doing this? We explained what we think is going on here: Intelligent Design: It’s Not About Science. Most of the BOE are probably clueless, unaware that they are filling the role of useful idiots.

To demonstrate how our not-so-difficult prediction is coming true, and this utterly sordid affair is being played out according to plan, we present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Texas Board of Education Schedules Special Expert Hearing on Strengths and Weaknesses of Evolution, which appears at the website of something called PR Newswire.

It’s a press release, so we assume we can excerpt freely. At the end, they credit the source — it’s the Discovery Institute. The bold font was added by us:

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has scheduled a hearing of scientific experts, including three scientists who are recommending that students should learn about scientific evidence that challenges Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Surprised? So are we. We’re shocked. Shocked! Let’s read on:

On Wednesday, January 21st, six experts selected by the SBOE to review a proposed update of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science will give testimony to the board. Three of the scientists will recommend that the board retain long-standing language in the TEKS calling on students to examine the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories in order to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills. The other experts are on record supporting repeal of the language.

Isn’t that sweet? Over 99% of scientists in the relevant fields accept the theory of evolution, and don’t think there’s any scientific controversy about it, yet the BOE has stacked the deck with a 50-50 witness list. We continue:

We’re very pleased that in this Darwin bicentennial year Texas has invited scientists on both sides of the evolution debate to testify about the scientific status of Darwin’s theory,” said Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture.

Ah yes, John West — one of the chief Keepers of the Discoveroids’ Wedge Strategy, and the guru of the cdesign proponentsists (a term described here: Missing link: “cdesign proponentsists”). Moving along:

According to one of the experts, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, examining the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories is a core part of the scientific process, and abandoning such critical analysis merely to satisfy ideological demands of Darwinists harms students by giving them a false view of scientific inquiry.

Meyer, you may recall, disgraced himself when he bypassed the usual peer-review procedures with an ID article in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. You can read about that here: BSW repudiates Meyer. Another excerpt:

Meyer will be joined in recommending the preservation of the “strengths and weaknesses” language in the TEKS by Baylor University chemistry professor Dr. Charles Garner and University of Wisconsin-Superior biology professor Ralph W. Seelke, whose laboratory research investigates the ability of natural selection to produce new functions in bacteria.

So there you are. We know how this story ends. It’s the courtroom sequel that will be interesting.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Texas Creationism Update (13 Jan 2009)

  1. Stephen Meyer is a fraud and a disgrace, even by Discovery Institute standards. Wearing academic misconduct as a badge of honor is truly a higher level of paranoid delusion.

  2. James says: “Stephen Meyer is a fraud and a disgrace, even by Discovery Institute standards.”

    Yes, but you know the old saying: Creationism is never having to say you’re sorry.

  3. Meyer was the author of the article that the editor, Richard Sternberg, smuggled into the journal.

  4. Bob Carroll says: “Meyer was the author of the article …”

    Right. I mistakenly said in my post that he was editor. I’ve corrected it. Thanks.

  5. You write

    Your Curmudgeon suspects they’ve paid no attention to anything the science experts told them at the last hearing, and the next hearing will be similarly farcical.

    …. under the leadership of BOE Chairman Don McLeroy, a creationist dentist, the board will complete their pre-ordained mission and rule that the “weaknesses” of evolution must be taught.

    After listening through the Nov. 19 hearings (downloadable audios here:
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/texas-sboe-evolution-2008nov19/ ), I was suspecting the same thing.

    If the outcome of the SBOE process is preordained, then it seems to me this calls for a completely different strategy, one aimed at laying the groundwork for dealing with the situation that would result from the Board’s actions.

    Because it would make such a difference, I have asked people who are actively involved in this whether there really is a more favorable outcome that might come out of the hearings and the SBOE process. I’ve been told by people who should know, that there actually is that possibility. Apparently, there are seven members who will vote with McLeroy, and six or seven will support the writing teams of scientists and teachers, with one or two members who may be undecided, and whose vote might be swayed by the hearings or other input between now and March or April.

    Another wrinkle is that some members of the creationist block seemed interested in substituting other wording in place of “strengths and weaknesses” which they would see as having the same effect, but without the “taint” that they see as having been cast by those crazy radical mainstream newspapers in Texas. Under McLeroy, the board has a record of releasing their own substitute draft during the same week as the hearings — for the ELAR standards, their substitute was concocted overnight and slipped under the hotel room doors of board members the very morning of the hearings.

  6. Thanks for the info, Tony. I didn’t realize there were a couple of swing votes.

  7. The 6 “expert reviewers” reviewed an older draft of the TEKS. The third draft is much more pro-science than the previous. So we can expect the 3 creo reviewers (Meyer, Seelke, Garner) to urge the board not to adopt the final draft–which stands in contrast to their previous reviews, which urged the board to adopt the previous draft, due to its “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution language.

  8. I should have been more clear that the 7 includes McLeroy (not 7+McL); so the lineup now looks like 7-1-7 or 7-2-6.

  9. Tony says: “… the lineup now looks like 7-1-7 or 7-2-6.”

    It’s not possible for anyone of decent intelligence on the BOE to be truly undecided at this point. There’s been too much written and said about what’s involved in this decision. Either they get it, but they’re keeping quiet about it; or they’re hopeless. If hopeless, they’re probably going to vote with the creationists. Better get ready for Plan B.

  10. I’m not sure of that.

    There could, for example, be somebody who doesn’t “get it,” who has no commitment to teaching S&W but would be inclined to go along with that to make certain constituencies happy, but who might end up voting in support of science education out of concerns about the legislative threat to SBOE jurisdiction.

    BTW, the 5½-hour hearings by the Texas House Public Education Committee on July 16 ( RealVideo at
    http://www.house.state.tx.us/fx/av/committee80/80716a32.ram ) was very impressive. Committee members seemed to recognize that they need to do something about SBOE, although the chair said he wasn’t sure they would be able to do anything before January (i.e., this month).

  11. We need national standards – this is ridiculous.

  12. Stacy says: “We need national standards – this is ridiculous.”

    That’s really not constitutional (although these days nobody cares about details like that). But university entrance requirements impose some kind of standard.

  13. Here’s the breakdown of the SBOE membership:

    Here’s the breakdown of the SBOE membership:

    7 anti-evolutionists

    David Bradley — District 7
    Barbara Cargill — District 8
    Cynthia Dunbar — District 10
    Terri Leo — District 6
    Gail Lowe — District 14
    Don McLeroy — District 9
    Ken Mercer — District 5

    6 non-anti-evolutionists

    Lawrence Allen, Jr. — District 4
    Mary Helen Berlanga — District 2
    Bob Craig — District 15
    Patricia Hardy — District 11
    Mavis B. Knight — District 13
    Rene Nuñez — District 1

    2 unknowns

    Rick Agosto — District 3
    Geraldine Miller — District 12

  14. Thanks, txjak. I knew about Dunbar and Mercer. McLeroy too, of course. And I’ve been reading about a “creationist majority” (which is true of those whose positions are known), but I haven’t been paying close attention to everyone.