More Crazy Legislation — This Time in Texas

It’s amazing, but once again our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have posted another wild news item. It’s titled “Strengths and weaknesses” bill in Texas, and it was written by Glenn Branch, their Deputy Director. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look like this]:

Texas’s House Bill 1804 would, if enacted, amend the state education code to require that instructional material adopted by the state board of education “present a scientific theory in an objective educational manner that: (i) clearly distinguishes the theory from fact; and (ii) includes evidence for both the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory.”

Ah yes, another Texas bill about evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses.” It’s been a while — 14 years! — since we blogged about that flaming nonsense — see Texas Creationism: Strengths and Weaknesses. Let’s see what Glenn says about the new Texas bill:

Clause (i) appears to reflect a common misconception about facts and theories. “In scientific terms, ‘theory’ does not mean ‘guess’ or ‘hunch’ as it does in everyday usage,” as the National Academy of Science explained in its publication Science and Creationism, second edition (1999). “Scientific theories are explanations of natural phenomena built up logically from testable observations and hypotheses. Biological evolution is the best scientific explanation we have for the enormous range of observations about the living world. … [S]cientists can also use [“fact”] to mean something that has been tested or observed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing or looking for examples. The occurrence of evolution in this sense is a fact.”

Well, Texas is a little bit behind in such matters — at least that’s true of some of its legislators. Glenn tells us:

Clause (ii) betrays the intention of the bill. As The New York Times editorialized of the phrase “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” in 2008, “This is code for teaching creationism.” Employed by proponents of “creation science” and “intelligent design” alike, the phrase appears in antievolution laws enacted in Louisiana in 2008 and Tennessee in 2012.

Glenn continue with some more history:

In 2017, Texas’s House Bill 1485 would ostensibly have provided Texas science teachers with the academic freedom to teach “the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of scientific theories discussed in the state science standards; after receiving a public hearing, during which a member of the state board of education testified that the bill would allow the teaching of creationism, the bill died in committee, as NCSE previously reported.

We wrote about that one — see Texas Creationism Bill for 2017, and More. Ya gotta give those Texans credit for perseverance! And now we come to the end:

House Bill 1804 was introduced on January 30, 2023, by Terri Leo-Wilson (R-District 23). Before her election to the legislature, Leo-Wilson served (as Terri Leo) for three terms on the state board of education [Hee hee!], where she continually sought to undermine the treatment of evolution in the state science standards and in textbooks submitted for state adoption.

This one should be fun, so stay tuned to this blog!

Copyright © 2023. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

15 responses to “More Crazy Legislation — This Time in Texas

  1. Better watch the sneaking around, creationists. You’re supposed to “proclaim the faith”, not sneak around like that. I know your god is as dumb as a turnip so you don’t follow its advice, but still.

  2. Let me risk rating myself unpopular, if I am not already.

    The word “theory” can perfectly well mean unproven explanatory suggestion, and indeed Darwin repeatedly uses the expression “my theory” in Origin. There is a continuum between this use, and the alternative meaning of intellectual construction, as in “ideal gas theory”. Calling something a theory tells us nothing about whether or not it is well established, whatever the National Academy said, and I regard the positioning took at that time as self-serving and indefensible. Ideal gas theory never claimed to correctly describe the behaviour of real gases. And at one extreme, phlogiston theory is flat out wrong, while at the other extreme the theory of conic sections is as certain a truth as anything ever can be.

    And, if I can annoy readers here further, there is one sense of the word “theory” in which “theory” can eventually be replaced by “fact”. As I understand it, Darwin’s theory involved two kinds of component. One was common ancestry, which we now regard as fact. The other was, that evolution was driven by natural selection operating on variability, which we now regard as only a small part of the truth described by population statistics.

    None of which changes the fact that language like this legislation is designed to obstruct the teaching of the fact of evolution, and its naturalistic theoretical explanations.

  3. @Paul Braterman
    I’m on your side.
    That may not be great news.
    But one thing, to take your example, “the theory of conic sections”, it is the theory *about* conic sections. Conic sections are not a theory. Are they a fact?
    The really unhelpful word in this discussion is “fact”.
    As I recall, the Montana bill referred to stuff which is observed and is repeatable. Evolution, as the change of inheritable traits in populations of living things, is observable in the wild, and repeatable on demand in experiments. Common descent is different.
    How about conic sections? They are mathematical abstractions.
    It doesn’t make sense to talk about observing them or repeating them.

  4. @TomS, I chose conic sections as an example of a theory that is as certain as anything can be. It is a theory within geometry, which is not affected by Goedel’s incompleteness theorem, and is therefore more certain than any theory in arithmetic. As to the ontological status of mathematical objects, I was for a long time an unwiling Platonist, and was delighted I came across Lee Smolin’s analysis of them as evoked by the axioms, in the same way that theorems in chess (K + R can checkmate an isolated K, but K + N can’t) are evoked by the rules of chess.

    The argument that the study of the past isn’t really science on the same level as laboratory science, because it involves things that can no longer be observed, goes back at least as far as Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood. I don’t know (I should really find out) if it was already therein McCready Price, as was so much of what Whitcomb and Morris presented as their own.

  5. Unfortunately, Leo-Wilson isn’t an ignorant, flea-brained whack-a-loon like the Montana Moron. She has a master’s in education and has worked as a teacher and administrator, and has served on the State BOE. She is, rather, a dangerous Liar for Jesus ™. She knows for sure that the “teach both sides” is creationist nonsense, but no matter; her personal religious agenda is more important than teaching science.

  6. @Docbill1351, You don’t understand, and I think it matters. She and people like her believe that social stability, right and wrong, and the own souls’ eternal salvation depend on a God’s-word caricature of religion. So this must, absolutely must, be true, and whatever else needs to be true to keep it true, must be true, and everything that disagrees with this must be inspired by Satan. Such beliefs are explicit in Henry Morris,and apparent to the point of self-parody in Answers in Genesis, but can be traced back much further, arguably to how people like John Bunyan viewed Catholicism. And it’s not good enough to point out that this involves deep contradictions, because for example to embrace general relativity at the same time as quantum theory, involves deep contradictions.

  7. Charley Horse X

    Someone has to stand up to the experts!

  8. @Paul the B

    What! WHAT! YOU are telling me “I” don’t understand! I am an Eternal and have no need for the opinion of a mortal. I take my leave of you, sir! **

    Oh, no, mon Capitan le Brat, I understand “these people” all to well. They are as tribal as any Cargo Cult. Leo-Wilson doesn’t care one whit about philosophy, only that she gets a Gold Star from the Pastors ‘R’ Us. I live amongst these people and they are honest and caring in most regards and bat $H1T crazy in others.

    I stand by my bottom line that Leo-Wilson is dangerous and before this is over we may see the Attack Gerbil and the NCSE in Texas for a showdown at the Not So OK corral.

    **Sandman reference, Dream’s conversation with Hob.

  9. @Paul Braterman
    I am not granting any lesser role to science which deals in stuff which is not observable or not repeatable because of time. Actually, the real power of science is how it deals with stuff that is separated from us by barriers of time or space, or is too small or too large, too fast or too slow, too dangerous, etc. it doesn’t take science to see an apple fall from a tree.
    About the history of the fundamentalist philosophy of science, it may date back to the influence of Scottish Common Sense Reaiism on the early 19th entity Princeton Theology. There was the idea that one could do science in Francis Bacon’s understanding to the data in the Bible.

  10. At least with cargo cults you get free cargo. Other religions defend their missing cargo with endless words. Lots of words but no cargo.

  11. Is it not possible that this person is chiroptera-guano crazy AND a knowing liar whose purpose is to destroy science and bring on a new dark age in which her insane cult can rule in the name of their demented god; or possibly cause that rage-addled deity to step out from behind the curtain, which in either case would destroy the Constitution.

    That is, she’s a fraud, a fanatic and a traitor, all three.

  12. Well since this is a living language and the christANALs can change word definitions at a whim then so can we. Drop the word theory and use FACT. And use the code FACT as any proven fact, and use fact as any normal fact based on present evidence. Or just use the word fact as that would not be that confusing to any that go to a real school.

  13. In Texas they have a saying. All hat and no cattle. If you were in a cargo cult you would say all talk and no cargo. Instead of where’s the beef, where’s the cargo.

  14. While other religions long for their various raptures and the death of all life on Earth, the cargo cults’ greatest desire they could ever hope for is a set Louis Vuitton vintage luggage. You tell me which is the most ridiculous religion.