BACKGROUND: 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 January 21.
As your Curmudgeon reported here, the January 21 hearing has been carefully staged to present a grotesquely distorted picture of things, with three of the six witnesses being creationists. This is in contrast to the field of biology, where virtually all competent scientists see no controversy about the validity of the theory of evolution.
It should be noted that one of the six “experts” on the BOE’s witness list is Stephen C. Meyer, a Vice President of the Discovery Institute, whose controversial career is described by Wikipedia here. Of particular interest is the role played by Meyer in the disgraceful peer review controversy. And in this section, political controversy, we learn that Meyer is the godfather of the “teach the controversy” strategy (or at least the phrase), which he used in a presentation to the Ohio State Board of Education in March 2002.
No one in the civilized world who is aware of this matter can be in doubt as to what the Texas BOE is doing. This is especially true considering that the chairman of the BOE is Don McLeroy, a creationist dentist; and perhaps half of the remaining board are of a similar mindset. See: Texas Creationism: Meet Ken Mercer, and see also: Texas Creationism: Meet Cynthia Dunbar. This being so, there must be some concern in creationist circles that the three knowledgeable witnesses presently scheduled to give testimony may decide to boycott the farce, as was done back in 2005 at the infamous Kansas evolution hearings.
A boycott would be a fine idea in your Curmudgeon’s humble opinion. As we’ve said before, we have misgivings about competent scientists’ sharing a live platform with creationists as a matter of strategic policy. The mere appearance of respected scientists at such events gives the creationists credibility and creates the illusion that there’s some kind of scientific controversy. It also generates press attention. Creationists are not deserving of this, and it should be denied them it as a matter of strategy.
As to tactics, creationists typically use their time to make numerous rapid-fire claims, often erroneous, all spewed out in a barrage that is impossible to rebut in a format where each side is given equal time. This technique is sometimes called the “Gish Gallop,” named after Duane Gish and mentioned in that Wikipedia article about him. Science disputes, where they actually exist, aren’t resolved like that. Also, when the dice are known to be loaded, it’s foolish to join in the game.
In anticipation of possible boycott, the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids), has a new article about the farcical hearing which is scheduled in Texas: Will Darwinists Defend Evolution’s Weaknesses This Time, in Texas? Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
In 2002, the Ohio State Board of Education (SBOE) invited in science experts to testify about teaching both evidence for and against Darwinian evolution. In 2005 it was the Kansas SBOE’s turn. The New York Times reported that the board’s hearing turned into “a forum on one of the most controversial questions in education and politics: How to teach about the origin of life?”
Note that the Times didn’t say it involved a question about science — just a question about education and politics. That was accurate, but we’re getting tired of always correcting journalists about that “origin of life” blunder. Here’s more:
The stunning thing about the Kansas SBOE meeting was that Darwinists refused to defend their theory, instead opting not to attend at all.
Yes, it must have stunned the creationists to realize that the big boys weren’t interested in playing childish games. Let’s read on:
Now it is 2009, and next week the Texas SBOE will host its own meeting on the matter of how best to teach evolution. This time the board will hear testimony from six experts, including three scientists who are recommending that students should learn about scientific evidence that challenges Darwin’s theory of evolution.
They’re going to talk about “scientific evidence that challenges Darwin’s theory of evolution”? That would be newsworthy, as we’re not aware of any. Here’s the end of the brief Discoveroid article:
The question is: will Texans hear Darwinists defend evolution? Will the experts invited to explain why students should learn about both strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution actually show up? I for one hope they do. Vigorous debate and civil discourse are good for science, good for education, and good for making wise policy decisions. Kudos to the Texas board for hosting an airing of such an important issue.
Good question. Will the three pro-science experts bother to waste their time at the upcoming hearing? We hope not, but we shall see.
Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.