Discoveroids and the Texas Science Standards

This is the week the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) will decide on revisions to the state’s high school science curriculum standards. A week ago in Texas Science Standards Battle Continues we said that back in 2009 the Discovery Institute 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.

At the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog they just posted At Dallas Morning News a Senior Scientist Weighs In on Evolution and Texas Science Standards. [*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh — a senior scientist! [*End Drool Mode*]

It was written by Sarah Chaffee — whom we call “Savvy Sarah.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

This morning, the Texas Board of Education hears public comment on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) science standards, before considering adoption later this week. As we’ve mentioned before, there has been a concerted push to gut the science standards of provisions asking for students to learn the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution.

To the Discoveroids — as with all creationists — the “weaknesses” of evolution are that it explains the diversity of life without reference to supernatural causes. Savvy Sarah says:

Today, the Dallas Morning News features an op-ed endorsing objective standards on evolution from Dr. Robert Marks, a senior research scientist at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab and Distinguished Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Baylor University:

Before we get to what the “senior scientist” said, we need to know something about him. Who is Robert Marks? His name shows up in our humble blog back in 2010, when we wrote William Dembski’s Challenge to Ken Starr, in which we reported:

Marks’ research lab was expelled from Baylor because Baylor officials saw it as supporting Intelligent Design, a scientific theory that purports to dismantle Darwinian evolution … . The expulsion of Marks’ lab from Baylor was reported nationally from World Magazine to the Chronicle of Higher Education. It was also a centerpiece of Ben Stein’s film “Expelled,” documenting the persecution that proponents of Intelligent Design endure from the academy.

As you recall, Dembski’s intelligent design shop at Baylor was also shut down — see Intelligent Design’s Brief Shining Moment.

Marks shows up numerous times at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog. For example, see The Evolutionary Informatics Lab: Putting Intelligent Design Predictions to the Test by Casey Luskin in 2012, which says:

One of the brightest spots of the intelligent-design research program, highlighted in our newly updated listing of pro-ID peer-reviewed publications, is the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. The lab’s founders, William Dembski and Robert Marks, have some of the strongest credentials in the ID movement.

Okay, that’s who Marks is. Savvy Sarah tells us what he said in the Dallas Morning News:

There’s a battle over evolution education in Texas right now. The latest round is coming up soon in Austin, with the State Board of Education hearing testimony on both sides of the controversy. There is a tug-of-war between those who want to teach only their corner on truth and those who would prefer to include critical analysis and discuss developments that challenge neo-Darwinian dogma.

This is unfortunate, because at least in areas of my specialization, using computers and mathematics to model evolution, the problems are fascinating and would be both fun and instructive to teach.

Gregory Chaitin, arguably the greatest and most creative mathematician of my generation, lays out the stakes: “The honor of mathematics requires us to come up with a mathematical theory of evolution and either prove that Darwin was wrong or right!”

No math, no evolution! Savvy Sarah quotes some more:

Many attempts have been made to simulate evolution on a computer. None has truly succeeded.


Charles Darwin admitted the need for mathematical modeling in science. “Every new body of discovery is mathematical in form,” he wrote, “because there is no other guidance we can have.” Darwin also confessed his own lack of skill in this area. “I have deeply regretted that I did not proceed far enough to understand something of the great leading principles of mathematics, for men thus endowed seem to have an extra sense.”

I would agree, and I hope defenders of neo-Darwinian evolution respond to the challenges of mathematics and modeling with more than hand waving and anecdotes.

We can’t find that alleged Darwin quote at Darwin Online, which includes his publications and his private writings. If she has a craving for math, Savvy Sarah might want to look at Wikipedia’s article on Mathematical and theoretical biology.

Anyway, near the end of her post, Savvy Sarah says this:

We’ll see if objective evolution standards prevail this week.

Yes, we shall see. If the Discoveroids’ version of the science standards prevails, then we’ll know that truly objective standards don’t exist in Texas. But that’s been true for years.

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18 responses to “Discoveroids and the Texas Science Standards

  1. Michael Fugate

    Correlation is not causation.
    Assertion is not evidence.
    The DI tries to correlate Darwin’s agnosticism with evolution – with the dubious conclusion that the only reason one would accept evolution is that one wants to deny gods.
    They also love to assert that Darwin was not able to answer something – with the dubious conclusion that it hasn’t been answered since or it can’t be answered at all.

  2. Have you seen they made a trailer for their new creationist book “Zombie Science”, and it has absolutely nothing to do with science.

  3. But if it has to do with zombies, I might just buy it!

  4. Dr. Robert Marks, a senior research scientist at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab and Distinguished Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Baylor University

    Coming from a Discoveroid, this should be read in the same vein as A senior research scientist at Auric Healing Lab and distinguished professor of Hygiene at Heathrow Airport Sanitary Facilities.

  5. Ross Cameron

    Creos fail to realise the march of education of the great unwashed, especially the power of the internet. No more tugging at the forelock as peasants used to do in the face of appeal to authority. Now we can stand on our two feet and judge the veracity of statements by considering other authorities and their real standing. Evolution has moved on from the 19th century. Pity creos can`t move on from the 1st century.

  6. “The honor of mathematics requires us to come up with a mathematical theory of evolution and either prove that Darwin was wrong or right!”
    And this guy is supposed to be “the greatest and most creative mathematician of my generation”?
    I’ll buy this as soon as Savvy Sarah can prove mathematically and only mathematically whether Newton’s Classical Mechanics or Einstein’s Special Relativity is wrong or right.

  7. Okay – I’m not a scientist, but it seems to me that the normal scientific process is to gather observations / evidence first, and then try to deduce some mathematical pattern that fits the evidence and can be used to predict other evidence not yet observed. In other words, the mathematical description has to explain the existing observations before it can be considered legitimate and used to predict others.

    Marks seems to think that it is the other way around – math comes first, then observations of the natural world. The math is infallible, and if the natural world doesn’t match it, then the supernatural must be the answer.

    Ham starts with his book, Marks with his favorite math, and the Discoveroids with their “wedge document.” And these guys wonder why they are not accepted by actual scientists.

  8. Going on the reviews of Chaitin’s book, ISTM that Chaitin thinks that he has produced a mathematical model of Darwinian evolution. And there is nothing like a mathematics of “Intelligent Design” of biology being proposed.

  9. As so often, TomS has beaten me to it. Chaitin describes himself as a friend of Berlinsky, IMO the only Discoveroid who can be read for pleasure (other than the pleasure of ridicule). Chaitin’s conclusions are in his book called “Proving Darwin: Making Biology Mathematical”, so this must be the most egregious piece of quotemining since they discovered what Darwin said about the eye.

  10. Richard Bond

    Savvy Sarah is about ninety years behind the times. JBS Haldane, Sewell Wright, and especially RA Fisher were using maths to justify evolution theory around 1930.

  11. Just to make sure: as a math teacher I can convincingly prove Pythagoras’ Theorem. Just as easily I can disprove it; I only need to change one of Euclides’ axiomata (the fifth iIrc). And then there is also Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem.
    Using math to prove a scientific theory wrong or right doesn’t make any sense. What’s more, scientists don’t have the same approach to math as mathematicians.

    Give it to them – when it comes to lying, minequoting, strawmanning and other forms of twisting and distorting no pseudoscientist is as creative as the creacrapper.

  12. Doctor Stochastic

    Actually the gathering of evidence and the proposal of theories goes on simultaneously. A theory gives one some organization for seeking evidence; of course, the evidence sought is generally intended to refute a theory and indirectly to support the theory. Then the theory is revised in light of new evidence (from slight addenda to total abandonment). Then the cycle is repeated.

    Lots of “pure” mathematics hangs around for a while awaiting applications (group theory, number theory, topology come to mind.) Other times, physics phenomena and formulas devised to describe these await mathematical justification (and extension, a benefit of mathematical examination of new formulas.) An examples would be the theory of generalized functions which puts Heaviside’s Operational Calculus on a sound footing.

  13. One historical example which comes to mind is the formulation of calculus which underlies Newton’s mechanics. There is a complicated history to that.
    For example, the original formulation of calculus was flawed, not only by today’s standards, but was attacked by George Berkley (who was worried by its uses by “atheists”).

  14. Michael Fugate

    This is a pretty damning review of Chaitin’s book.

  15. I’m not competent to say whether that review is damning or not. But what the reviewer concedes that Chaitin did achieve is enough to explode ID, and what Chaitin claims to have achieved is enough to show that the Discoveroid quotation from him is fraudulent

  16. docbill1351

    Some years ago the “distinguished” professor and raving God-bot, Marks, used a pseudonym on discussion forums. Not uncommon. However, he was unmasked and his server was revealed. Surprisingly, Marks’ server was totally open; you could read every file. It was boring stuff except for one exchange between Marks and his department head in which Marks was “warned” to stop talking about Jesus in class. Some students (at Baylor!) had complained. You have to wonder how bad it was in that engineering class that students at this Baptist college, which once forbade dancing on campus and still requires students to attend chapel, were moved to complain.