Texas Creationism: Plan B at the Big Shootout

This is the day after the big Texas textbook shootout — which we last wrote about here: Texas Creationism: Big Shootout Tomorrow. We warned:

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!

Okay, the big shootout is over now, so what happened? Our friends at the National Center for Science Education seem to be celebrating. They posted this: Victory in Texas, in which they say:

The integrity of science education triumphed in Texas when the state board of education gave its final approval to all of the proposed textbooks for high school biology and environmental science courses at its November 22, 2013, meeting.

Well, yes … however, they also say:

But the triumph was slightly tainted by two attacks, launched late in the board’s November 21, 2013, meeting, against one biology textbook and one environmental science textbook.

“Slightly stained”? Let’s see what happened with that “one biology textbook”:

The biology textbook, by Kenneth R. Miller and Joseph Levine, was previously criticized by creationists on a state review panel for twenty supposed errors in its treatment of evolution. In response, the publisher denied that the passages contained errors and declined to make the suggested changes to the textbook.

Yes, yes … and then what? Oooops, we’re told this:

At the November 21, 2013, meeting, the board quarreled about whether to heed the panel’s criticisms of the textbook (which Ron Wetherington already thoroughly debunked). Eventually the board voted to adopt it contingent on the outcome of a further review by a panel of three outside experts. The vice chair of the board Thomas Ratliff was not happy with the idea, quoted by the Associated Press (November 22, 2013) as saying, “I believe this process is being hijacked, this book is being held hostage to make political changes,” and adding that the book is already used in “over half of the classrooms in the United States.” [Emphasis supplied.]

The board agreed to the further review? They actually agreed to that? We’re talking here about Miller & Levine — a standard text. But of more importance, we’re also talking about Kenneth R. Miller. Wikipedia reminds us that: “Miller was also the plaintiff’s lead expert witness in the [sic] Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, challenging the school board’s mandate to incorporate intelligent design into the curriculum.”

That’s right, dear reader, we’re talking about the Kenneth Miller. The creationists know who he is, and they haven’t forgotten about the thrashing they suffered in the Kitzmiller case.

It’s supposed to be tasteless to say “We told you so!,” but even if it is tasteless, your Curmudgeon’s warning was correct. The creationists did have a Plan B. Given the political reality of the votes available to them on the board, they focused all their hate, all their insanity, and all their malevolence against a single and very symbolic target — Biology: Discovering Life, by Miller & Levine (Amazon listing). And we’re told that they did it late in the hearing, just before midnight, when everyone was tired and wanting to go home. They knew just what they were doing.

So we ask you: Is this as big a victory as NCSE and a number of others are claiming? In a way, yes, because so many other texts were approved, and we agree with NCSE when they applaud the efforts of:

the Texas Freedom Network, Texas Citizens for Science, NCSE members and allies in Texas, and the various scientific, scholarly, and education societies that urged the board to adopt the textbooks.

However, in spite of their fine work — which we all appreciate — your Curmudgeon is troubled. Look at it this way: Suppose a madman in your town held an entire school full of teachers and students as his hostages. Suppose further that the police arranged for: (a) the release of all the hostages — except for one; and (b) not only was the madman allowed to keep that one hostage, but he was then allowed to go free. Would you congratulate the police on their victory? You would, of course, join with the whole town in rejoicing that so many innocent victims survived unharmed, but the fate of one is still in doubt. Is this really a victory?

Please, don’t misunderstand us. Texas certainly wasn’t a loss, but it wasn’t a total victory either. The victory was limited, and the adversaries of science, of reason, and of all the gains we’ve made since the Enlightenment can accurately claim that they achieved something. They accomplished the best they could do under the circumstances, and it was far more than had been expected.

That’s how it is with creationists. If they can’t get in through the front door, they don’t go away. They’ll use Plan B and bite you in the behind when you’re not looking.

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

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15 responses to “Texas Creationism: Plan B at the Big Shootout

  1. So just who are the 3 outside “experts?” Perhaps Stephen Meyer, Bill Dembski, and Casey Luskin? I wouldn’t put it past the board.

  2. With all of the many complications it entails, the crucial question is, who gets to appoint the three experts?

  3. Con-Tester asks: “With all of the many complications it entails, the crucial question is, who gets to appoint the three experts?”

    Associated Press reports that the board voted to have three of its members (names not given) pick three outside experts to study the alleged errors in the book.

  4. Whoever those “experts” are, remember that McLeroy himself demanded that we stand up to them. 🙂

  5. This is also the book from Pearson publishing, who also does the state standardized assessment. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a subtle way to get some concessions from Pearson.

  6. For the benefit of those who don’t get my sarcasm about McLeroy:

    Probably the best acid test to spot an agenda-driven pseudoscience peddler is the clear double-standard on which “experts” to “stand up to,” which ones to cheer, and which ones to “distance oneself from” (e.g. Discoveroids toward YECs). Real scientists constantly and publicly challenge all experts, including themselves, even when they are perceived as cheering.

    Keep that in mind when the identities of the “experts” is revealed.

  7. The three board members are Barbara Cargill, Sue Melton and Martha Dominguez. Cargill, a creationist, will probably appoint a creationist, like Bohlin. It’s a game. The publisher says it won’t change the book. However, it may highlight how idiotic the objections are.

  8. p.s. The Tooters were a no show. Cowards.

  9. From the NY Times:

    Three members of the state school board — Barbara Cargill, the Republican chairwoman appointed by Gov. Rick Perry; Martha Dominguez, a Democrat from El Paso; and Sue Melton-Malone, a Republican from Waco — will select experts for the final review panel for the Pearson textbook. The board voted that the experts must have at least a Ph.D. in a “related field of study” and could not have served on the original review panel for the book.

    So, no Bohlin. They’ll have to find another creationist.

  10. @docbill1351 (or anyone else who knows):

    Is it known whether the other 2 are anti-evolution or not? In other words if we assume that the board members will select like-minded reviewers, is a mix of pro- and anti-evolution reviewers expected?

    As I suggest in the previous comment, what the 3 reviewers say about the book must be judged on its own content, of course, not on the reviewer’s previously demonstrated ideology (as anti-evolution activists invariably do). But of course anyone with a PhD and anti-evolution ideology, whether or not previously demonstrated, will use very predictable tactics (quote mining, defining terms to suit the argument, etc.) to misrepresent the book. Then all it would take is one pro-science reviewer to expose those tactics, as Ron W. did the last time.

  11. Only Cargill is the avowed creationist. The other two are moderates and pro-science. Doesn’t matter, though. The publisher said they’re not changing anything and they don’t care if they get approved or not. Districts are not required to buy Board approved books. So, the Miller book can still be sold and used in Texas. Not having Bohlin or Trotter on the secondary review panel will be a plus.

    Yes, the process is “more” transparent and subject to critique and open review, as opposed to articles published in The Swamp by the Disco Tute. Quote mining won’t fly in this case.

  12. Thanks, DocBill,

    I just hope the rebuttals of any “creationist” reviewers focuses on their tactics, and not any apparent or unnecessarily assumed beliefs. Only after that is established, should there be “icing on the cake” mention of how they signed some bogus “dissent” statement, and how their relevant peer-reviewed publications decreased as their activism increased. IOW how they only “expelled” themselves.

    Quote mining and other classic pseudoscience tactics might not help them discourage local districts from approving the book, but the sound bites will trickle down to the rest of the country. So if all most people hear are “‘Darwinists’ promote censorship” and “Creationists sneak in God” then the anti-evolution activists will win the “demand” battle if not the “supply” one.

  13. Frank J says:

    So if all most people hear are “‘Darwinists’ promote censorship” and “Creationists sneak in God” then the anti-evolution activists will win the “demand” battle if not the “supply” one.

    They may be hot stuff at some revival meeting, but I doubt that they’ll ever “win” any serious debate. They only way they’ll ever win anything is if enough idiots are elected to legislatures (as in Louisiana), and that will endure only if judges are too ignorant to make proper rulings when creationist laws are challenged.

  14. @SC:

    You heard this before, but for any new readers: As long as ~70% of adult Americans say everything from “I hear the jury’s still out about evolution” to “I guess something like evolution is true but it’s only fair to teach the strengths and weaknesses” to “what’s the harm, let them believe” I consider that a win for the anti-evolution activists, and thus 100% unacceptable. Even if they lose ever court case as miserably as they lost Dover.

    I focus on the “demand” if only because everyone else focuses only on controlling the “supply,” but that does not mean that I’m any less interested in the latter than anyone else. Using taxpayer $ to mislead students and spread common misconceptions is a dependency-breeding handout is also 100% unacceptable. Whether or not it’s illegal (which it is).

  15. @DocBill:

    I just read the NY times article, and found another example of the outrageous chutzpah of these activists. Ide Trotter, one of first reviewers, had the audacity to say that the book “gives a misleading impression that we have a fairly close understanding of how random processes could lead to us.” Where to begin?! “Random processes” are his words, used deliberately in hopes that fence-sitters infer a connotation that the book clearly avoids. Furthermore, given his background and interest in the “debate” he knows darn well that “RM” may be “random” with respect to “NS,” NS itself is not random by any connotation.

    And what does he mean by “us” – H. sapiens? All life? And by “lead to” does he mean from nonliving matter or other species? Any reviewer who dares to play such word games must be forced to elaborate. As for the “icing on the cake” I mention above, Trotter is not only in the “Creation Science Hall of Fame” but has also signed the DI’s “dissent” statement. Given that the great majority of “dissent”-signing biologists concede common descent (there’s a neat survey on YouTube) it’s clear that he’ll side with anyone who will misrepresent evolution, regardless of which of the discredited other “theories” they might favor.