Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Texas SBOE creationists in denial

The evidence for evolution goes way beyond the fossils, but this poster summarizes the fossil evidence quite well. One of the things creationists are always claiming is that there are “no transitional fossils!” Well you’re staring right at one!

There are seven creationists on the Texas State Board of Education. They are David Bradley, Barbara Cargill, Cynthia Dunbar, Terri Leo, Gail Lowe, Ken Mercer, and Don McLeroy, the Chairman.

These far-right hardliners want unscientific "weaknesses" to be taught in public school science classes order to try to undermine the teaching of biological evolution and to open the door for teaching the discredited Intelligent Design Theory of the Discovery Institute.

Unfortunately for them, the vote to keep the "strengths and weaknesses" language around did not pass in January. The creationists Leo, Cargill, and McLeroy did, however, manage to pass other amendments which could weaken the science standards.

Mr. Mercer has pointed out that some of the Republicans on Board voted against the Texas Republican party platform which includes the teaching of ID, saying "I pray for my three friends, Pat Hardy of Ft. Worth , Bob Craig of Lubbock, and Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas." I say more power to Pat Hardy, Bob Craig, and Geraldine Miller for standing up for the children of Texas.

I sincerely hope that the Board can continue to muster enough votes to ensure that children attending the public schools of Texas will receive educations which will be among the best in the nation in the 21st century.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Don McLeroy, leading the SBOE and subverting science

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) last month finally voted to get rid of the controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language which was a vestige of a bygone time from the new science curriculum standards. The creationists on the SBOE (a near majority) and elsewhere implied that the language had served Texas well for 20 years, when it had done no such thing. A common attack on the removal was to claim censorship or a reduction in academic freedom, in line with the current Wedge strategy being promulgated by the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Washington. The fact is that these words have nothing to do with the questions students can ask in the science classroom, and were being subverted into a trojan horse for the introduction of creationist arguments into science classes.

In a last-ditch attempt to corrupt the new 21st Century science standards, the creationist bloc on the board proposed a series of amendments and succeeded in getting some of them passed. The tactic used by Dr. McLeroy (pronounced mackle-roy), a dentist from College Station, Texas, and chairman of the SBOE, to advance one of his amendments was to claim that he had read up on evolution "as a hobby" and he then proceeded to read a lot of out of context quotations (he admitted he was quote mining) distorting the positions of scientists and creating confusion among the board members. See "The collapse of a quote mine" for an analysis of Dr. McLeroy's quote mining effort and the true source of his information.

The amendment “makes no sense to me,” said David M. Hillis, a prominent professor of biology at the University of Texas, adding, “It’s a clear indication that the chairman of the state school board doesn’t understand the science.” He also said, "This new proposed language is absurd. It shows very clearly why the board should not be rewriting the science standards, especially when they introduce new language that has not even been reviewed by a single science expert."

George W. Bush's scientific legacy

Some may sneer at President Bush's actions, but at least one thing he did worked out well for science -- he appointed Judge John E. Jones III to the federal bench.

Thanks to Judge Jones, the Discovery Institute's Intelligent Design Theory was shown to be the sham that it is in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board decision in December, 2005