Texas Creationism: Strengths and Weaknesses

BY NOW you know that this is the first day of the final hearings on the Texas science education standards. Presiding over this show-trial is Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist whom Governor Rick Perry has just re-appointed to another term as chairman of the Texas Board of Education (BOE), and who seems determined to draft a science curriculum that will assure the teaching of creationism in Texas science classes. The hearings should conclude on 27 March.

You also know that the BOE will consider — or pretend to consider — whether the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” should remain deleted from the state’s science standards regarding evolution, and whether the recently added requirement that students should “analyze and evaluate” the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of evolution should remain.

Further, most of you know that the theory of evolution is massively supported by mountains of evidence, has led to testable predictions (like what rock strata to search for fossils like Tiktaalik), has passed every test, has been observed to occur, and has never been contradicted by any verifiable evidence.

So what’s this “strengths and weaknesses” business all about? Relax, your Curmudgeon is here to help.

Back in July of last year we wrote Texas Dentist’s Jihad Against Evolution, in which we quoted the Austin Chronicle on what Don McLeroy believed to be the “weaknesses” of the theory of evolution. The article is still available: Texas Fiction Science — The State Board of Education does its part to fantasize biology. It’s well worth clicking over to the Austin Chronicle to read it all. Regarding evolution’s “weaknesses,” it says:

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.

First weakness: the fossil record. “There are gaps,” said McLeroy, that do not include enough transitional forms of life to support evolution. Second, McLeroy says there has simply not been enough time on Earth for the minute changes required by evolution to have taken place. Thirdly, McLeroy says the incredible complexity of cells proves divine design. Information contained in the genetic code is just too mind-blowing to have come from anywhere but an intelligent creator. “Where did this information come from?” McLeroy mused. McLeroy would like to see these assertions and more taught in Texas biology classrooms.

The article then quotes professor David Hillis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, who responds to McLeroy’s list of “weaknesses,” and dismisses them with ease.

So there you are. It’s all about McLeroy’s unconquerable ignorance. For that, the Texas school system is being turned upside down, and the education of Texas children will be degraded.

Okay, it’s prediction time! What will be the result when the curtain comes down on this farce of a hearing? From all that we’ve read, here’s the likely voting lineup for the fifteen members of the BOE — although one of the creationists may be an undecided vote.

There are five Democrats, and one is a creationist:
Pro-evolution: Rene Nuñez, Mary Helen Berlanga, Lawrence A. Allen, Jr., and Mavis B. Knight.
Creationist: Rick Agosto.

There are ten Republicans, and seven are creationists:
Pro-evolution: Patricia Hardy, Geraldine Miller, and Bob Craig.
Creationist: Don McLeroy, Cynthia Noland Dunbar, Ken Mercer, Terri Leo, Gail Lowe, David Bradley, and Barbara Cargill.

So it looks like the creationists will win, eight votes to seven.

What will the final wording look like? We have some suggestions for Don McLeroy.

Hey Don! If you’re getting too much heat over that “strengths and weaknesses” phrase, or your new “sufficiency or insufficiency” phrase, why not consider some of these: (1) adequacies and inadequacies; (2) advantages and disadvantages; (3) successes and failures; (4) pros and cons; or (5) our personal favorite — yin and yang. Any of those will do the job.

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

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6 responses to “Texas Creationism: Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. Hang on, wasn’t Rick Agosto part of the eight that tossed out S&W on the first vote? IIRC, board members other than Agosto were taken in by the last-minute amendments, so perhaps the final vote will mirror the original anti-S&W vote. At least we can hope!

  2. James says: “Hang on, wasn’t Rick Agosto part of the eight that tossed out S&W on the first vote?”

    I donno. What I posted is a guess, but it’s my best guess. I searched a load of the old articles on the 21 January hearing, and I never could get a straight account of how everyone voted. And they don’t give the members’ votes on the BOE website either. Somebody ping-ponged at the 21 January hearing, because “strengths and weaknesses” got tossed out, but McLeroy’s other changes got approved.

  3. I think Steve Schafersman had the tally, I’d have to check.

    Another outcome that I can see is that, by poisoning the new S&W-free standards with the bogus amendments, McLeroy et al. toss the entire thing out in favor of the old standards, right back to square one. A colossal waste of time.

  4. Should McLeroy succeed in having Creationism taught as “science” in Texas schools, let’s push to introduce a bill requiring Texas Churches to teach evolution in every Sunday school in Texas–or lose their Federal tax-exempt status.

  5. This debate is ridiculous. I agree with b.j.

    Anyone living in Texas should file this chapter in history under ‘Why I should have my head examined.’ The rest of us should kiss the first archaeologist we see. Jesus didn’t write a memoir and call it The Flintstones. But not everyone is as sure of that as I am.

    I have a lot more to say about this, if anyone’s interested: http://www.pimpmywry.com/2009/03/evolution-ann-margrock-and-me.html

  6. mightyfrijoles

    What an idiot.

    It’s not his willful ignorance that supports his blind faith, but his blind faith that supports his willful ignorance.