Antievolutionists Messin’ with Texas Textbooks… Again

| 19 Comments

Houston Chronicle article

10 of the 15 Texas state board of education members told the Houston Chronicle that they did not favor requiring “intelligent design” in science classes.

That sounds good, but there are a couple of problems.

First off, there’s the “requiring” language. The Discovery Institute Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture has made it a talking point not to ask for IDC to be required in public school science classes, but that teachers should be “permitted” to teach IDC if the Lord so moves them if they want to. So the Chronicle article, useful as it is, doesn’t take us past rhetoric the DI has already deployed.

Second, there’s too much fixation on labels, and not enough on content. We know that the antievolutionists are adept at picking out new labels for the same old tired, bogus, narrowly sectarian arguments they’ve been trying to keep or put back in schools for many decades. We’ve seen “creationism”, “scientific creationism”, “creation science”, “intelligent design”, “critical analysis”, and now it seems to be time for “strengths and weaknesses”, or even just “weaknesses”.

[Original post on the Austringer]

Speaking of which, here is Texas SBOE chair Don McLeroy:

“Creationism and intelligent design don’t belong in our science classes,” said Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, who described himself as a creationist. “Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community and intelligent design does not.”

McLeroy, R-College Station, said he doesn’t want to change the existing requirement that evolution be taught in high school biology classes. But he joined several of his colleagues in arguing that biology textbooks should cover the weaknesses of the theory of evolution.

McLeroy and three other socially conservative board members voted against the current biology texts in 2003 over the evolution issue. The textbook debate comes up again in 2011.

Well, the thing is that the “weaknesses” that McLeroy is itching to require teachers to introduce into their classrooms turn out to be exactly the same old tired, bogus, narrowly sectarian arguments that they used to pitch as “intelligent design”. Yeah, keep that ID stuff out, but put in this stuff here… They are betting that the citizens of Texas, having rejected a wheelbarrow load of manure, will be dumb enough to accept the same wheelbarrow load of manure if they drape a different sign over it.

19 Comments

I just had a visual flash of DaveScot Springer and Dr. Dr. Dembski in a wheelbarrow.

Damn this acid reflux!

“McLeroy, R-College Station, said he doesn’t want to change the existing requirement that evolution be taught in high school biology classes. But he joined several of his colleagues in arguing that biology textbooks should cover the weaknesses of the theory of evolution.”

thus laying the groundwork to adopt the DI’s new “Explore Evolution” textbook

“Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community…” Hold him to his word every time he makes a statement, every time he attends a meeting, every time he appears in public. Pin him down on what his idea of scientific consensus really is. Then tell him, and all who would listen to him, agian at every opportunity, what it means for the science of evolution. Make him deal with what scientific consensus does for the “controversy”. Put a bulldog on him. Thank you. I feel better now. David

Since when do those supposed “weaknesses of the theory of evolution” “have consensus in the science community”?

This is the same guy who, after his failed attempt to reject mainstream biology textbooks, said this:

I want to tell you all the arguments made by all the intelligent design group, all the creationist intelligent design people, I can guarantee the other side heard exactly nothing. They did not hear one single fact, they were not swayed by one argument. It was just amazing. I mean all the, my fellow board members who were really not even the scientists in the group, they were not impressed by any of this. They said, “Oh well, it’s just two opinions. And there were only the four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board were the only ones who were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say that they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution. Amazing.

But ID isn’t creationism … nosiree Bob!

So now we can expect another round of the “teach the controversy” ploy where “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean?” will be proposed as valid pedagogical policy.

I’m pleasantly surprised to hear on a pretty regular basis that the manure rolls down hill. It seems that most of the time it’s being pushed from the top and people are rejecting it. There are the bad apples, like Kansas, but even these half-victories, where the creationists are only slowed down, are a step in the right direction.

Reminds me of that line in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”:

“Mendacity is a system we live in…”

Re “And there were only the four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board were the only ones who were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say that they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution.”

I have to wonder - do physics textbooks present the “weaknesses” of quantum theory and general relativity? Do chemistry textbooks present the “weaknesses” of atomic theory and the periodic table?

Course, that depends I guess on what one means by “weakness” - all those theories have unresolved details, and it seems likely that the textbooks probably do mention those.

Henry

Bill and Henry,

Of course there are “weaknesses” in modern evolutionary theory. Of course there are unanswered questions and unresolved details. There is even pretty broad agreement among scientists about what those issues are. But, in general, none of these topics are appropriate for a K-12 curriculum. Some should be mentioned in college level textbooks. Many should be discussed in depth in graduate level textbooks. Most should be discussed in graduate level seminars and researched by graduate students and post doctoral students in research laboratories. These are the topics of doctoral theses and long-term research projects at universities.

Only after one has acquired the basic learning skills in grade school can one move on to a more detailed study of modern evolutionary theory. And only after mastering the basics in the field can one move on to detailed study of the minute details at the cutting edge. If teaching the “weaknesses” of modern evolutionary theory were done properly, every school child would be well versed in the basics of evolutionary by the time they graduated from high school. Sounds pretty good to me. Now what are the odds of that ever happening?

For me the major unknowns in the development of life is that there are no consensus explanations, how the genetic code originated and at what stage how the lipid membranes first time encapsulated replicating molecules. Still, I do not believe the alternative theories on these topics should be presented in the textbook for Biology 101.

…and no current textbook explains why there are still PIGMIES+DWARVES !

My question is, given the reality that the textbook publishers comply with the wishes of the Texas School Board on shaping the books that they publish, is whether those of us in the other states would have standing in an actionable case against the publishers (and indeed the Board itself) for passing on the recommendation that non-scientific attacks on the TOE are included in future Biology books?

I only know that if our local school board curriculum committee is forced to choose between books that contain such tripe I will be very upset. Even moreso that Michael Newdow was.

Just askin’.

Mike Haubrich– Is there any proof they intend to doctor the textbooks? Could it be, instead, that McLeroy is already starting the push to get the Disco Institute’s “Explore Evolution” in Texas public schools? “Explore Evolution” was specifically doctored to be so religion-free that it can be weaseled into public school classrooms. The defense may have to be that it’s bad science and a waste of taxpayer money.

Wesley R. Elsberry Wrote:

We’ve seen “creationism”, “scientific creationism”, “creation science”, “intelligent design”, “critical analysis”, and now it seems to be time for “strengths and weaknesses”, or even just “weaknesses”.

For >5 years I have been trying to find the right way to say this, and am never quite satisfied with what I say, or with how seldom it is said by others. But I’ll try again:

Note carefully Wesley’s words “’strengths and weaknesses’, or even just ‘weaknesses’.” As Wesley noted in so many words, the “weaknesses” are actually deliberately crafted misrepresentations that reinforce students’ pre-existing misconceptions. Even if some activists truly want “equal time” for “strengths,” in reality the misrepresentations would invariably displace some of the “strengths” that would otherwise be taught. High school biology barely scratches the surface on the “strengths” to begin with, let alone has the time to show how the true weaknesses do not detract from the robustness of the theory or the solidness of the conclusion of ~4 billion years of common descent with modification. Once a teacher brings up the misrepresentations – all nice, feel-good sound bites that students are unlikely to forget like the normal bio-jargon – then true fairness dictates that a whole new level of strengths – rebuttals to the misrepresentations – also be taught. Unfortunately there simply isn’t enough time to teach those rebuttals in a way that’s understandable to most high school students, at least to the degree of clearing up the reinforced misconceptions.

If I can make just one request for my fellow defenders of science it’s this: Every time you hear ID activists or their cheerleaders whine about “Darwinist censorship,” don’t just defend yourself, go on offense. First of all, interested students can always learn the misrepresentations on their own (they’re easier to find on the web than the rebuttals), so in the strictest sense no one is censoring anything. That alone shows that, while the cheerleaders may be just mindlessly parroting a falsehood, the activists who know better are flat-out lying. If, however, one defines “censorship” more loosely, in the sense of simply making it harder for students to find and understand the relevant material, then it is they who are promoting censorship – on top of their lies.

Arthur,

The reason that pigmies and dwarfs “still” exist is that the genotypes that produce these phenotypes are not lethal. If, for example, the dominant allele that causes achondroplasia were lethal early in development then there would soon be no more individuals of this phenotype (assuming complete penetrance).

Your question implies that you assume that these phenotypes should no longer exist. Why do you think this? Do you believe that only “optimal” phenotypes should exist? What is the optimal height for a human being?

Many textbooks on population genetics and human heredity contain the equations that allow one to estimate and predict allele frequencies for these phenotypes. So, have you never read these books or are you just lying? Are you trying to say that no current biology textbooks are good enough to be used in schools, or are you just posting off-topic nonsense?

David, sweetie, I think the PIGMIES+DWARVES thing is an in-joke about really, really dumb creationist claims. You demonstrated admirably that it is, in fact, a really really dumb claim. But I suspect Arthur already knew that.

Is there any proof they intend to doctor the textbooks?

Do decades of past revisionism of that sort count? How about that that was exactly what they were after in the very last textbook selection process, back in 2003-2004?

In 1997, the publisher of Ken Miller’s high school biology textbook had to stand in front of the Texas SBOE and take the rantings from the antievolution lead spokesman on the board at the time. Eventually, the publisher was given the chance to make a response. And what a response it was: “I yield the floor to Ken Miller.” You can imagine the rest.

Unfortunately, we can’t have Ken Miller on tap for every place where an ignorant antievolution blowhard has found themselves a little (or a lot of) power.

Hoary,

Sorry, I hadn’t heard that one before. Thanks for the info. Thanks also for calling me sweetie (assuming you have the XX karyotype).

David– Absolutely XX. My daughters are, too.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on August 27, 2007 8:00 AM.

Expelled: No Intelligence Evident was the previous entry in this blog.

Peppered Moths: We Told You So is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.361

Site Meter