Texas Turmoil About Science Standards

You’re probably aware that Texas is going through one if its periodic spasms about science education. Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) wrote about it a month ago — see Shenanigans in Texas. They said:

A panel of educators and scientists is currently working on streamlining the science standards for biology, and a staff member from the Texas department of education was scheduled to deliver a routine report on the panel’s progress at the board’s meeting. But a member of the panel — Raymond Bohlin, associated with Probe Ministries and the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture — appeared at the meeting, criticizing the majority of the panel for a preliminary vote to remove certain standards.

The standards that the panel voted to remove were aimed at undermining the treatment of evolution. They were inserted, without input from scientists or educators, by members of the state board during the last revision of the standards in 2009. The objectionable standards called for students to analyze “all sides of scientific evidence” and to evaluate “sudden appearance, stasis” in the fossil record, “the complexity of the cell,” and “the DNA molecule for self-replicating life.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We wrote about the 2009 standards revision at the time — see Texas Science Chainsaw Massacre: It’s Over, and then Discovery Institute: Their Victory in Texas. Yeah, the Discoveroids were delighted.

Now, as NCSE reported, the Texas science standards are under review again. It’s the usual bureaucratic series of hearings so we haven’t been writing about it, but today we’ll step in. Look what we found in the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, Texas — their headline is Stop the crusade to teach Darwinism as dogma, and they have a comments section.

The headline screams creationism, but the best part is the author — it’s Jonathan Witt, described as being “a senior fellow of Discovery Institute-Dallas.” You know this is going to be fun. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Texas’ State Board of Education has initiated an effort to streamline our state standards for science education. Some members of the committee charged with the revision — along with various lobbyists — are using this process as a pretext to strip from the science standards any evidence against evolution. That would be bad for Texas, bad for science and bad for our kids.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Stripping out the parts that the Discoveroids like would be bad! Then he says:

Our current science standards, the best in the nation [Hee hee!], were adopted overwhelmingly by the State Board of Education, and they call for students to analyze and evaluate the actual evidence for and against Darwin’s theory rather than to ingest it as unquestioned dogma. That’s too even-handed for some.

Yeah, leaving out the creationist nonsense wouldn’t be even-handed. After that he tells us:

In a letter to the state board, pro-Darwin Kathy Miller of the misnamed Texas Freedom Network insists that the revision committee just wants to get rid of the “junk science.”

She wrote a great letter; it drives the creationists crazy. You can read it here. The rant against Kathy Miller isn’t over yet. The Discoveroid adds:

In reality, the evidence she wants to airbrush away comes from leading scientists, much of it in peer-reviewed science journals. But Miller doesn’t want Darwinism criticized, so she calls the evidence junk.

Then, inspired by the word “junk,” he tosses in a rant about junk DNA, which Discoveroids hate because it insults their intelligent designer. After that he dances the micro-macro mambo (which we debunk in Common Creationist Claims Confuted). This is a bit of it:

Keep in mind, the sources that the revision committee members wish to exclude aren’t questioning the idea of microevolution, change within species as when bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. That kind of evolution is uncontroversial. And they’re not questioning the idea of change over time in the history of life. They’re questioning the much more sweeping claim that all the diversity of life evolved by a blind process of natural selection working on random genetic mutations.

Good, huh? It’s just what we’d expect from a Discoveroid. He continues with more examples of what he thinks is evidence against evolution, and finally finishes up with this:

Offering students only an airbrushed view of evolution isn’t good science, and it doesn’t help our students develop the questioning and curious minds that drive progress in science.

That’s how the battle in Texas is going. We’ll look in on it from time to time, but Texas is probably hopeless, so we’re not expecting any actual progress. But we’ve been wrong before.

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7 responses to “Texas Turmoil About Science Standards

  1. Everyone here should read that letter by Kathy Miller, if only for the header the Texas Freedom Network gives it.

    “which Discoveroids hate because it insults their intelligent designer”
    Just today Flemish newspaper gave a summary of the sloppy way the (not so) Intelligent Designer did his work. Unfortunately it’s in Dutch:

    http://www.demorgen.be/wetenschap/die-fatale-meteorietinslag-viel-wel-mee-b9ed1505/

    A short summary:

    1. 444 million years ago Earth froze over entirely because due to geological processes too much CO2 was removed from the atmosphere. At least 45% of all specied died out.
    2. 375 million years ago landplants caused the release of toxics – at least 16% died out.
    3. 251 million years ago volcanism poisoned the atmosphere – at least 81% of sea life was terminated.
    4. The Intelligent Designer (blessed be Him/She/It) liked that so much that He/She/It repeated the volcanism on a somewhat smaller scale – at least 30% of all life went down.
    5. The Intelligent Designer decided to try His/Her/Hand at some cosmic baseball, with glorious success: the famous meteorite of 66 million years ago marked the end of the dinosaurs.

    Three strikes out doesn’t apply to Intelligent Designers, so it seems.

  2. The standards that the panel voted to remove were aimed at undermining the treatment of evolution. They were inserted, without input from scientists or educators, by members of the state board during the last revision of the standards in 2009. The objectionable standards called for students to analyze “all sides of scientific evidence” and to evaluate “sudden appearance, stasis” in the fossil record, “the complexity of the cell,” and “the DNA molecule for self-replicating life.”

    There’s nothing wrong with analyzing all sides of scientific evidence (er, I suppose that would be “all sides of a scientific controversy“; evidence doesn’t take sides), provided it’s done honestly. that, however, is the last thing ID’ers want.

    I suspect that significant numbers of them know ID is horse manure in terms of the facts. However, they’ve persuaded themselves that “materialistic” evolution is morally corrupting and therefore must be discredited by any means available. That, of course, is moral corruption in itself, but they don’t see it that way.

  3. michaelfugate

    What’s great is Witt is an English major and clearly hasn’t a clue about either evolution or science.

  4. Here is a quotation from Witt’s bio: “Witt was an English professor at Lubbock Christian University in Texas before a midlife crisis plunged him into the think tank world, first as a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, and then as a research fellow at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan.” Obviously highly qualified to write on science!

  5. We found another response to Kathy Miller’s letter. This one is in The Monitor of McAllen, Texas. It’s the third letter at this link. It’s much too short for our collection, but it fits in here. The fun part responds to Miller’s reference to creationism as “junk science.” It says:

    Well, a lot of this “junk science” is believed and taught by some highly-educated scientific minds, past and present, including: Henry Morris, Ph.D., in hydraulic engineering; Duane Gish, Ph.D., in biochemistry; Georgia Purdom, Ph.D., in molecular genetics; Andrew Snelling, Ph.D., in geology; David Menton, Ph.D., in cell biology, and Danny Faulkner, Ph.D., in astronomy.

    You will recognize those names from their work at either the Institute for Creation Research or Answers in Genesis.

  6. Edna probably also hires a lumberjack when her kitchen sink is leaking.

  7. Witt is getting his [edited out] kicked in the comments. He picked one knuckledragging “I ain’t kin to no monkey” creationist in support.