Texas Science Standards Battle Continues

The state of Texas has long been at the center of the battle over creationism in state schools. That’s not only because they keep electing creationists to the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), but also because the state is so large that its education standards tend to ripple through the textook publishing industry.

As you may recall, back in 2009 the Discoveroids actively lobbied to get their creationist nonsense into the Texas science standards — see Texas Science Chainsaw Massacre: It’s Over — and now they’re fighting to keep things that way. A couple of months ago, in Texas Science Standards Battle Update, we reported:

The Texas Board of Education has preliminarily voted to ease — but not completely eliminate — state high school science curriculum requirements that experts argued cast doubt on the theory of evolution. The Republican-controlled board on Wednesday modified language that had asked biology students to consider “all sides” of scientific theory. … But the board opted to keep other lessons on the origin of life and scrutinizing fossil record gaps, which some conservatives say suggests the influence of a higher power.

The battle over the state’s standards is approaching a climax. At the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog they just posted Texas Board of Education Under Pressure to Make It Harder for Teachers and Students to Evaluate the Evidence for Biological and Chemical Evolution, written by Sarah Chaffee — whom we call “Savvy Sarah.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

As we’ve mentioned on EN before [“EN” is Evolution News — the Discoveroids’ creationist blog], Texas is in the middle of its science standards streamlining process. Over the past year, committees have reviewed the standards. Amid much media and Darwin lobby [Hee hee!] pressure, the biology committee presented draft streamlined science standards in the fall. These streamlined standards removed good language [Hee hee!] from the 2009 standards that protected examination of evidence both for and against major origins issues – the fossil record and abrupt appearance, the origins of life, and the complexity of the cell.

In order to read the Discoveroids’ prose, it’s essential to recognize their Orwellian terminology. The “Darwin lobby” refers to sane people who want science taught without creationist pollution, and the Discoveroids regard such pollution as “good.” Then Savvy Sarah says:

The good news [Hee hee!] is that despite intense pressure, the Board of Education tentatively adopted changes to the standards that preserved teachers’ ability to critically analyze scientific evidence regarding biological and chemical evolution.

The “good news” is that Texas teachers can still babble in science class about the “scientific evidence” for intelligent design. After discussing one minor and rather technical change that was proposed, she tells us:

The proposed change is a bad idea. Learning how to evaluate scientific explanations is a key skill needed by future scientists and citizens alike; and students are certainly capable of evaluating scientific claims under the guidance of a teacher. … Furthermore, it misrepresents the science to act as if one can give pat and easy “scientific explanations.” for cellular complexity as if it is a resolved issue. Indeed, the origin of eukaryotic cells remains a great scientific mystery, and students need to know this fact.

Yes, and where there’s a “a great scientific mystery,” the kiddies must be exposed to the possibility of supernatural explanations.

Savvy Sarah then babbles about the famous Miller-Urey experiment of 1953, which synthesized organic compounds from inorganic precursors, and which definitely belongs in science textbooks. The Discoveroids have been trying to dilute its significance in Texas for years — see Casey and the Miller-Urey Experiment, #2. The battle over that is continuing. She says:

What? Teach mainly about Miller-Urey and brush over questions regarding early earth atmospheres? This is right out of Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution. Texas students deserve better than this kind of dogmatic teaching.

“Dogmatic teaching” means teaching science without reference to Oogity Boogity! She concludes her post with this:

The Board of Education will be voting on final adoption of standards at its April 18-21 meeting. They should keep the wording adopted at their January/February meeting, and preserve evaluation of key concepts regarding the evolution and the origin of life. If you are a Texas resident, please weigh in and contact board members!

This shabby affair will be concluded about ten days from now. Science education in Texas has been a mess for years — which thrills the Discoveroids — and it would be surprising if anything changed. But we shall see.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Texas Science Standards Battle Continues

  1. Michael Fugate

    I had missed that Casey wrote a ID curriculum (2013) with an aerospace engineer and a homeschool mom – what a team! You can sample all the moldy oldies of ID like Mt. Rushmore! in the sample first chapter “Design Decoded”. Too much fun.

  2. docbill1351

    I seem to recall that Luskin’s co-“authors” published some Bible tract nonsense, also. Par for the Tooter’s course.

    Unfortunately for Luskin, they opened too much of their book to Amazon’s “Look Inside” and I was able to read the entire chapter on metamorphosis. I was intrigued by an unattributed quote, allegedly from a biologist, but Google found the reference! It was from a blog written by an Australian biologist and the entry was, indeed, on the evolution of metamorphosis. Luskin plagiarized nearly the entire thing: the order of paragraphs, the discussion, many whole sentences with just a few words rearranged or substituted.

    The only thing that Luskin didn’t copy was the actual discussion of the evolution of metamorphosis. Yep, Luskin stopped just short of the conclusion and wrote in his little Bible tract that the evolution of metamorphosis “remained a mystery.” Of course, that was a total lie.

    I contacted the grad student who wrote the blog and sent him a transcript of Luskin’s chapter on metamorphosis. He had a good laugh over it, but felt that Luskin was too much of a miserable slug to raise a fuss. And the Tooters wonder why we call them the Dishonesty Institute!

  3. Michael Fugate

    You can take the online course taught by Casey here:
    Can you imagine how mind-numbing that would be?

  4. Christine Janis

    It looks like the “look inside” feature has been muted. But I encourage readers to look at something that *is* available, Appendix A, which details all the ways in which ID has influenced science. For example, did you realise that in the area of Bioinformatics “ID has led scientists to investigate the computer like properties of DNA”?

    The influence that ID has had on modern science is clearly phenomenal. At least, you’d think this if you knew nothing about science but what you read in this book.

  5. Michael Fugate

    If one were to believe ID, then anything having a purpose had to be intelligently designed. It is as if they never realized “Candide” is a parody.

  6. Richard Bond

    the origin of eukaryotic cells remains a great scientific mystery

    Perhaps a biologist might weigh in, but I thought that the symbiosis hypothesis popularised by Lynn Margulis was pretty well accepted. Of course, the IDiots would doubtless respond with Behe’s absurd tactic of demanding the details of every tiny step in the process.

  7. Nick Lane
    The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life
    WW Norton, 2015

    argues that there is a lot unknown about how all eukaryote life came to be from a common origin.

  8. Michael Fugate

    This article from this week’s Nature will no doubt get the DI excited – but alas it not what they want:
    The 100-year-old challenge to Darwin that is still making waves in research

  9. @docbill1351 I suspect the plagiarized bit can be found here (click on “Download excerpts”). Do you have a reference for the original source?

    @TomS Nick Lane argues that there is a lot unknown about how all eukaryote life came to be from a common origin. Of course there is a lot which is still unknown about the biggest questions in biology! But biologists are working on it and thinking about it, unlike ID with its “Darwinism will never work” mantra.

    Plus the case that eukaryotes arose from a fusion of an eubacterium and an archaea just got extended by discovery of the Lokiarchaeota (Nature, 14 May 2015, vol. 521, p. 173-9.) But you know all about that, of course.

  10. Michael Fugate

    Casey’s conclusion to metamorphosis is a classic case of assertion without evidence – exactly what he claims ID, unlike creationism, isn’t.

    But from an ID perspective, metamorphosis is easy to understand: it arose, evidently, by planning and foresight. An intelligent agent could produce the information to program the entire life cycle of such an organism, allowing it to undergo a radical transformation like this. Only a goal-oriented process like intelligent design can explain the mystery of holometabolism.

  11. That’s a case of denial without evidence. Planning and foresight are not enough to produce anything – even if there were description of what sort of activity in planning and foresight. The great Leonardo da Vinci designed flying machines without producing one. While the advocates of ID ask us to deny evolution in favor of empty design.