Texas Creationism — Boycott Brewing?

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.

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14 responses to “Texas Creationism — Boycott Brewing?

  1. 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.

    Let’s be brutally honest and call these hearings what they really are: Show Trials.

    The purpose of the hearings is to stage-manage a public spectacle, the predetermined purpose of which is to purge the body politic of ideas that do not conform to the desires of those in power.

    In Hitler’s and Stalin’s era, Show Trials were used to prosecute (persecute) people who didn’t want to go along with the authoritarian regimes’ way of doing things. The verdict was preordained, and the trials themselves were merely Public Relations exercises, carefully crafted and stage-managed for maximum effect.

    In the extant case, the hearings in Texas are similarly carefully crafted and stage-managed, in order to initiate the long process of purging the public school system in Texas of an inconvenient scientific theory.

    A tyrant is a tyrant is a tyrant — and and it doesn’t matter if it’s done in Nazi Germany, in the Stalinist Soviet Union, or at a Board of Education hearing in Texas — if the fix is in, and it is carefully crafted and stage managed by those seeking to purge the body politic, it is a Show Trial (in this case, it might be more specifically classified as an Intellectual Kangaroo Court), and to the extent the victims willfully participate in the manifestly unjust proceedings, they sanction their own preordained victimhood.

    I stand proudly with my fellow Curmudgeons in advocating a boycott by the scientific community of this farcical madness.

  2. Longie says: “I stand proudly with my fellow Curmudgeons in advocating a boycott by the scientific community of this farcical madness.”

    It could happen. Kansas is a precedent, and the Discoveroids are showing concern. This humble blog isn’t dominant in such matters, but we’re not lost in the blogosphere. I have good reason to believe that our opinions are seen by those who matter in such things. I’m hopping for a boycott, but I’ve been disappointed before. Too many times, really.

    (By the way, Longie, your comment got hung up in the spam catcher. I have no idea why.)

  3. Curmudgeon,
    A quibble. Your last bolded quote makes it sound like DI is questioning whether the creationists will show up, not whether the legit scientists will show up. After all creationists are the only “experts” who would be ” invited to explain why students should learn about both strengths and weaknesses.”

    Is this a misquote or is DI having trouble remembering who is for ‘strengths and weaknesses’ and who is against it? 🙂

  4. P.S. Your title made me think you were commanding your readers to boycott the brewing of beer. Perish the thought!!! You might want to change that…

  5. retiredsciguy

    Eric is correct. The DI got it wrong in the article.
    Nonetheless, the bigger point is true — the outcome of the hearings is pre-ordained. The legit scientists should avoid the sham, rather than lend legitimacy to it.

  6. Eric, I quoted them accurately. They intended to say “only strengths and none of the weaknesses.” They’re not too swift over there.

  7. Eric, I’m not “commanding” anything, just recommending that the real scientists shouldn’t participate. I think it’s clear enough.

  8. The thought of these frauds gong unopposed turns my stomach. Haven’t they already been granted false authority by being appointed to an SBOE advisory board in the first place? Shouldn’t their false arguments be publicly denounced? I think the last public hearing brought a lot of positive coverage for the pro-science side. Talk me down, Curmudgeon!

  9. James says: “Talk me down, Curmudgeon!”

    I don’t recommend silence. The scientists could, in my humble opinion, send a letter to the BOE, explaining why they’ve decided not to appear. That should also be released to the press, and put on the internet. And they should call their own press conference, at which they explain exactly what’s going on. That ought to be of some benefit. More, at least, than trying to change the mind of Don McLeroy.

  10. The TFN blog says:

    In 2005, creationists on the Kansas State Board of Education attempted to attack evolution in a similar stunt, but scientists refused to participate in the charade. The Texas panel, however, is part of the formal curriculum revision process. As a result, the Discovery Institute will finally get the public “debate” it has tried so hard to bring about elsewhere.

    which leads me to think that there will not be a boycott.

    Meanwhile, for the deceitful antics of the other side, see
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/fmf-lies/

  11. Thanks, Tony. Another excellent post. But they still could boycott. And I think they should.

  12. The Curmudeon wrote:

    I don’t recommend silence. The scientists could, in my humble opinion, send a letter to the BOE, explaining why they’ve decided not to appear. That should also be released to the press, and put on the internet. And they should call their own press conference, at which they explain exactly what’s going on. That ought to be of some benefit. More, at least, than trying to change the mind of Don McLeroy.

    Exactly so. And if I may take this opportunity to expound on why this is the correct strategy, I should point out that we have long since established that the SBOE hearings are nothing more than an elaborate Public Relations exercise, much like a Show Trial, choreographed by the knuckleheads on the board who are doing the bidding of DI to help foster the false impression that there is a controversey within the scientific community over the validity of Evolutionary theory, in order to provide political cover for implementing the already pre-ordained outcome of jamming the “strengths & weaknesses” language into the science standards, paving the way for cdesign proponentsists materials to be offered to addled school students. It makes no sense to try to wage the battle as though it were an academic argument. To do so is to agree with the false premise that the DI and their Fellow Travelers on the SBOE want everyone to swallow — that there is a genuine scientific disagreement about Evolutionary theory.

    Worse still, to try to wage the battle at the SBOE hearings is to enter into what is ultimately a Public Relations exercise on the home turf of the opposing team. Doing so implicitly betokens that the Creationoids are in the same league as most biological scientists, while concurrently trying to oppose them on their PR turf and on their PR terms.

    Strategically, it makes more sense for scientists to wage the battle in the court of Public Opinion on their OWN terms, without tacitly granting the opposition credibility they have not earned, nor do they deserve.

    Let the press releases, op eds, and press conferences begin. Let science speak out in its own defense, on its own terms.

  13. Longie says: “Let science speak out in its own defense, on its own terms.”

    Maybe the three science guys should go to the hearing and simultaneously moon McLeroy. Then walk out.

  14. Maybe the three science guys should go to the hearing and simultaneously moon McLeroy. Then walk out.

    McLeroy and his Creationoid Fellow Travelers don’t deserve the free publicity that would arise from the mooning, regardless of how personally satisfying it would be to see them do it.

    Besides, McLeroy would probably misinterpret the gesture as an admission of scientific “weakness” in current lunar theory.

    😉