Texas Creationism: Big Shootout Tomorrow

Last week we posted Texas Creationism: Big Shootout Next Week. Tomorrow is the big day. The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) will vote on 22 November to decide which new science textbooks and online instructional materials can be adopted by Texas public schools for the next decade.

The consensus of opinion is that things will go well for science education, and the creationists will be unable to force textbook publishers to alter their books to include creationist nonsense. For example, the Dallas Morning News has this story: State education board unlikely to add evolution disclaimers to science books, which says:

Coverage of evolution in new high school science books in Texas appears likely to escape the major disclaimers that social conservatives and other critics seek.

[…]

So far, major publishers have resisted social conservatives’ efforts to add questions about key elements of the theory of evolution.

“I don’t see any major changes coming,” said board Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant. “I believe the books will get approved without incident.”

Then they give a bit of historical context:

Four years ago, when it adopted standards for what must be taught in Texas science classes, the board stripped out a requirement to teach “weaknesses” of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution but had a heated debate, driven by a bloc of seven social conservatives. The following year, they [the creationists] won inclusion of several conservative political figures and issues in the state’s social studies curriculum.

We remember that. In Texas Education Chainsaw Massacre: Part 3, we referred to that ploy as the creationists’ Plan B. The newly-added creationist code words were “analyze and evaluate” instead of “strengths and weaknesses.” Also, Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist, pushed through an amendment that directs science teachers and students to “describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.” As a result, we predicted that there would be revised textbooks designed to confuse students. That’s the battle which is being played out now.

Nevertheless, advocates of sane science education are optimistic. The National Center for Science Education posted Creationism’s last stand in Texas?, which says: “[T]he signs are that the publishers are not willing to capitulate …”

Even the Discoveroids appear to be depressed. A few days ago they posted Texas Set to Adopt Textbooks that Disregard State Science Standards Requiring Critical Evaluation of Evolutionary Theory. Appearing to concede the inevitable defeat, they wrote, with our bold font added for emphasis:

The Texas State Board of Education looks set to approve science textbooks this week that fail to comply with state science standards requiring students to “analyze and evaluate” core evolutionary claims, according to a Discovery Institute scholar who advised the Board before it adopted the standards.

Who was that “Discovery Institute scholar”? They tell us:

Dr. Stephen Meyer, author of the New York Times bestselling book Darwin’s Doubt, served as a Board-appointed expert reviewer of the Texas science standards when the standards were originally developed in 2009.

Ah, he may have been the architect of Plan B. Let’s read on:

Meyer expressed concerns that proposed textbooks would “leave students in the dark about contemporary mainstream scientific controversies over Darwinian evolution. Students should be trained to think independently, rather than be drilled in rote fashion. Unfortunately, because Texas is a major purchaser of textbooks, the Board’s action may have an adverse impact on science education across America for years to come.”

So is the game over? Has science won? Will the Board’s decision tomorrow be a victory for sanity and a defeat for the creationists? Everyone seems to think so, but your Curmudgeon isn’t so sure. We haven’t forgotten their Plan B from four years ago, and how it took everyone by surprise. We’re expecting them have something cooked up for tomorrow — a new Plan B — designed to throw Texas science education into chaos for years to come.

If we’re wrong about this, we’ll be delighted. But we don’t trust those people, and neither should you. So we’ll be watching how things turn out tomorrow, and we caution everyone involved: Beware of Plan B!

Further, we repeat the Curmudgeon’s Dictum which is universally applicable when dealing with creationists: Don’t bring a slide rule to a knife fight!

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “Texas Creationism: Big Shootout Tomorrow

  1. Zack posted McLeroy’s testimony from yesterday: Prepared Testimony for the Texas State Board of Education. It’s very strange.

  2. Nobody should be complacent until the voting is over. The board has pulled dishonest tactics in the past and there’s no reason it won’t do so tomorrow.

  3. I’d be more worried about those “online instructional materials” than the textbooks. That was one of the DI’s tricks in Ohio. They got creationist and ID web sites approved for use in schools.

  4. The IDiots say something sensible! Look at this:

    “contemporary mainstream scientific controversies over Darwinian evolution.”
    Yup, evolutionary biologists continue to debate and research them. Of course DI is not one of them as it’s not even fringe science.

    “Students should be trained to think independently, rather than be drilled in rote fashion”
    Spot on! Thus they initially should avoid ID like the plague, which has been proven to induce brain death.

  5. docbill1351: “The board has pulled dishonest tactics in the past and there’s no reason it won’t do so tomorrow.”

    You mean the “nucular” option? 🙂

  6. Ceteris Paribus

    SC says re McLeroy’s testimony, linked by Zack: “It’s very strange.”

    Strange but profound. When I visit Texas I will never again order Cajun roasted baby Panda for lunch.

  7. Well, this is the deal. The creationist faction of the board is totally dishonest. They will lie, cheat, steal, prevaricate and so forth to make their pitiful ideological gains. The moderate part of the board, call them “rational” will often go with the creationists just to keep things moving along.

    This is the weakness of the board. The moderates have NEVER learned to hold fast against the conservatives. Giving in always leads to regrets.

  8. Don McLeroy declares:

    “In my heart, I believe the evolutionists also know the difference [between what his intelligent designer/creator god and evolution can accomplish]. But, they have been so blinded by ideology and swept away by group-think that they have lost the ability to see what is staring them right in the face. Despite all the gloating and celebrating of the evolutionists here today, they do not seem to realize that there is NO evidence for evolution in these books; there is only dogma.”

    Oh my, you could start a foundry with all that irony!

    That is, you could, were Don McLeroy’s intelligent designer/creator god actually capable of doing more than precisely nothing.

  9. Too early to clliam victory: http://www.usnews.com/science/news/articles/2013/11/22/evolution-debate-again-engulfs-texas-board-of-ed

    ‘The concerns raised included how long it took Earth to cool and objection to lessons about natural selection because “selection operates as a selective but not a creative force,” according to reviewers.’

  10. “Don’t bring a slide rule to a knife fight!”

    Great saying. But can someone suggest a version that will make sense to a generation of students who have never even seen a slide rule?

  11. McLeroy’s testimony is not so much strange as it is asinine. All he’s got is the standard cretinist misunderstanding of the second law of thermodynamics (with pictures!), and abject–willful?–ignorance of the fact that one of the basic requirements for evolution is a reproducing population. No one with a measurable IQ should take him seriously, but it is the Texas SBoE, after all.

  12. Paul Braterman asks: “But can someone suggest a version that will make sense to a generation of students who have never even seen a slide rule?”

    I’m a Curmudgeon, not a wet-nurse. If you can communicate with those whipper snappers, I’ll leave it to you.

  13. John Pieret: “I’d be more worried about those “online instructional materials” than the textbooks. That was one of the DI’s tricks in Ohio. They got creationist and ID web sites approved for use in schools.”

    If they really wanted students to learn all the “weaknesses” of evolution, then this must be their overwhelming favorite online resource.

    So is that the case? Or is there a “slim chance” that they have something to hide?

  14. Seriously, if one wants to see a comprehensive survey of the alternatives, there is Korthof’s web page, wasdarwinwrong.com . I don’t think that the evolution-deniers would recommend this, however.

  15. @Paul Braterman:

    How about: “Don’t bring a smartphone to a knife fight.”?

    Unfortunately, the detailed refutations of those misrepresentations of science, however necessary, are the proverbial smartphone. It’s a Catch-22, but it need not be. What worries me far more than a few thousand snake oil peddlers or the ~25% of adult Americans who won’t accept evolution under any circumstances is the fact that it’s very rare to hear anyone, even science majors, in the bluest of states, say:

    “The fact that anti-evolution activists obsess over alleged ‘weaknesses’ in evolution instead of on the ‘strengths’ of their ‘theory’ is in itself a significant argument in evolution’s favor.”

    If that sounds a bit familiar, I paraphrased Pope John Paul II, who almost certainly knew that when he said:

    ”The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of [evolution].”

    Catchy sound bites like those are no substitute for the overwhelming evidence, of course, but they’re the proverbial “knife” that can win the fight.

  16. TomS: “I don’t think that the evolution-deniers would recommend this, however.”

    Nor would they recommend the site I noted. But how many people understand the intense irony of that? I’d be shocked if it’s more than 0.1%, even in the bluest of states. So….

    When the scam artists have the mind-boggling chutzpah to accuse “Darwinists” of “censorship,” and all we do is make a case, however strong, that we do nothing of the sort, we have merely brought another “smartphone to a knife fight.”