The Next Episode of the Evolution Wars in South Carolina

| 49 Comments

In our last episode, the South Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) had elected a creationist as chairperson-elect and was beginning the process of trying to deny the use of textbooks that contained… you guessed it, evolution. One of the textbooks under scrutiny was coauthored by Ken Miller, and Miller was gracious enough to speak at the SBE meeting held yesterday in which the adoption (or rejection) of the books was to take place. Also attending were numerous members of the SCSE to speak on behalf of the books. These were books, by the way, that were strongly approved by the Department of Education’s evaluation committee and are very popular among teachers in the state. Members of the evaluating committee and teachers were also on hand to express their disapproval with the Board’s shenanigans.

The main instigator of these shenanigans, aside from certain members of the board, is a retired Clemson professor by the name of Horace Skipper. Skipper apparently makes no bones about his young-earth views, and the objections he has are your standard, badly misleading anti-evolution nonsense. But lest anyone allow their opinion of Clemson to be tarred by the likes of Skipper, biologist Jerry Waldvogel was on hand to present a list of 130 signatures from Clemson faculty rejecting Skipper’s claims and supporting Miller. Go Tigers!

Thankfully the board voted 10-6 to adopt the Miller-Levine text. It’s sad that there are even that many board members who voted against what is widely regarded as an excellent textbook simply because it incorporates evolution, as does every other legitimate biology text. But at least for now, we have textbooks that were adopted on the recommendation of competent professionals. That’s far better than having them rejected due to the hangups of religious extremists.

The full story on all of this is at the SCSE website in two parts, plus – and this is really cool – videos of the whole meeting. These include Ken Miller’s presentation and various wacky stuff from the creationists. Well worth watching.

So that apparently does it for this episode. Until the next one.

49 Comments

Eternal vigilance…

I skipped around in those video clips. Man, school board meetings are dull. I guess the slow, drawling Southern speaking style doesn’t help any in this regard, pleasant as it can be to listen to.

In the middle of the 3rd clip, I landed on an older gentleman calmly engaging in some character assassination of Darwin - for example, accusing him obliquely of plagiarizing from Wallace and from Spencer (in classic disingenuous, equivocating “could he perhaps have done so?” fashion). #5 has one board member warning of the re-emergence of Social Darwinism if we keep teaching evolution, in the process, of course, pulling a Godwin on the meeting. I love how these right wingers are suddenly all concerned about Social Darwinism when it comes to teaching evolution - where there’s hardly any of that philosophy left, if any - but are fine with the somewhat milder versions of it still put into practice by the political and social traditions they support.

Any bets that this will be another drawn-out back and forth over the years, like in Kansas?

Man, that generates flashbacks to Ohio State Board of Education meetings. Gack!

The first guy in clip #3 is just depressing. “There are only two options: either it was spontaneous generation or it was intelligent design”. And since “Louis Pasteur disproved spontaneous generation”, “Darwinian evolution” is not science.

I don’t enjoy being pessimistic, I relly don’t. But is it even possible to fight this kind of shameless, knuckle-dragging stupidity?

Look, I know that the official “big tent” position is “If you won’t teach my misrepresentations of evolution along with evolution, then I don’t want you teaching evolution either.” But few if any activists are stupid enough to admit all that in the same place. But the rubes are another story. So can’t anyone force them to explain why they want to not teach evolution while the activist group that is their biggest backer no longer publicly advocates that, but rather prefers the “evolution plus (misrepresentation)” approach? At the very least they’ll try to dodge the question, which only makes it more obvious that they’re trying to hide something.

CW:

The first guy in clip #3 is just depressing. “There are only two options: either it was spontaneous generation or it was intelligent design”. And since “Louis Pasteur disproved spontaneous generation”, “Darwinian evolution” is not science.

I don’t enjoy being pessimistic, I relly don’t. But is it even possible to fight this kind of shameless, knuckle-dragging stupidity?

He claims a MS degree in zoology from Clemson. My first guess is that if he didn’t drag around a lot of religious baggage that he would have no problem understanding where his arguments fall on their faces, but some form of mental incompetence that seems to be ubiquitous in cases like this keeps these people from evaluating what they are claiming on the same level as how they usually evaluate some problem. It is obvious that the guy can’t use the same level of scrutiny on his own views or he wouldn’t have even stood up to open his mouth.

Evolution is Bad therefore my option is worse based on the same analytical techniques, never occurs to them.

Ron Okimoto

CW,

Don’t be pessimistic. The stupid knuckle-draggers were fought and defeated! Once again, as in Kansas, Dover, Pa., and Ohio, when concerned, intelligent citizens stood up and made a stand for good science against the creationists, good science won! Its makes me very optimistic that our first line of defense is not the courts, but informed citizens involved in the democratic process.

We stepped into that room on Wednesday as a minority. Mr. Blackwell, in video 6 and 7, was against us. Videos 1-4 were of Dr. Miller and mostly SCSE members and acquaintances supporting the texts.

Videos 5-7 are of the board’s responses including the drama of Charles McKinney comparing evolution and the people who accept it, Nazis, basically. All through the meeting I continually focus on the lady sitting at the far end of the arch, Kristen Maguire, creationist and chair-elect of the board. She started all of this.Notice her huge smile throughout… she is the devil, I swear.

Video 7 is where Charles McKinney is caught fabricating a falsehood against the book. In his review of the book (video 5) he accuses Dr. Miller of including a passage about the “law of evolution” which caused Mr. Blackwell to vote against the book the first time. Notice how Dr. Miller responds to the question and then McKinney desperately searches to find the passage. Beside McKinney, Mr. Moore throws up his hands because he cannot fine the passage in question.. McKinney just gives up and look back up at Miller like a puppy who was found to have torn up the shoe.

Busted. Classic. On Video. Dr. Miller then says, “Apparently it’s not in the book.”

Mr. Blackwell changes his vote, science wins.

Not quite related (or maybe it is), but isn’t this naughty?

“2006 South Carolina Constitution

SECTION 2. Person denying existence of Supreme Being not to hold office.

No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.”

http://www.scstatehouse.net/scconst[…]tion/a06.htm

Reference Darth’s post # 139900

If this is not a joke it is really scary.

Tardis, it’s true. But that is in many state’s constitutions and would probably not hold up in a federal court.

I, like I suspect many other, am admittedly pay little attention to State constitutions. It would be interesting (at some level) to review the 50 state constitutions to see how many times they violate our national one.

Tardis: Reference Darth’s post # 139900 - If this is not a joke it is really scary.

Oh, it’s true - follow the official South Carolina State Legislature link in Darth’s post.

Here’s a quote from the Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution (Article I, Section 4): “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” (emphasis added) - http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/txconst[…]-000400.html

It doesn’t say which Supreme Being, so possibly “acknowledging the existence” of Cthulhu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster wouldn’t disqualify one from holding office in Texas.

Ok - I hit the submit button before I could edit my typing - sorry all.

From the Texas Constitution - The “no religious test” obviously comes from Article 6 Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, but I love how it goes on.

Though I would argue that even asking constitutes a test.

Talk about the next “don’t ask - don’t tell” paradigm.

That requirement is definitely unconstitutional, not that an avowed atheist would be able to win election to public office in S.C., anyway.

OMG! (gosh) - If there are 2, then there are probably more. How did you find those? I’ll check Florida, but I wouldn’t know where to begin?

I just reviewed Article I of the Indiana Constitution (my current state of residence), which covers those holding office.

Though there are (expectantly) highly religious (specifically Christian - Duh)overtones, there was nothing that I could see as overtly unconstitutional on the federal level.

According to religioustolerance.org, seven states have this sort of institutionalized bigotry written into their constitutions. These clauses are invalid since they’re trumped by the rights protected in our federal Constitution, as decided in the SCOTUS case Torcaso v Watkins. link. Also mentions attempts by Creationists to call evolution “religious” in a footnote.

Side Note: The site has generally been useful to me, but unfortunately I found it somewhat dishonest in regards to Scientology (repeating the 10 million members claim, dismissing out-of-hand the evidence that it is a dangerous, criminal cult, et cetera). The page on Scientology lists Al Buttnor, from Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs, as one of the authors.

Stacy S. : OMG! (gosh) - If there are 2, then there are probably more. How did you find those? I’ll check Florida, but I wouldn’t know where to begin?

Here’s more:

Arkansas’ Constitution of 1874 (Article 19, Section 1): “No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.”

North Carolina’s Constitution of 1971 (Article 6, Section 8) states: “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.…” (This was challenged and overturned by Voswinkel v. Hunt (1979).)

Tennessee’s Constitution/Bill of Rights (Article 9, Section 2): “No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.”

Maryland’s Bill of Rights: Article 37: “That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God…” (Overturned by SCOTUS in Torcaso v. Watkins)

- excerpted via Google from http://richarddawkins.net/forum/vie[…]amp;p=613337

OK - I’ve been TRYING to read the FL Constitution. I’ts very long (lots of articles and sections and stuff…) I gave up on that - made phone calls etc… “Lo and Behold”! I did a google search (hind sight is 20/20 right?) This is what I got off of Wikipedia … All current U.S. state constitutions include guarantees of religious liberty parallel to the First Amendment, but eight (Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) also contain clauses that prohibit atheists from holding public office.[1][2] However, these clauses have been held by the United States Supreme Court to be unenforceable in the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, where the court ruled unanimously that such clauses constituted a religious test incompatible with First and Fourteenth Amendment protections. I have to go take a nap. LOL.…

Darth Robo:

“2006 South Carolina Constitution SECTION 2. Person denying existence of Supreme Being not to hold office. No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.”

Why on earth (water, wind and fire…) would anyone deny the existence of Milla Jovovich?

Rodney,

It is heartening to hear that at least one member of the SBE, Mr. Blackwell, was open-minded enough to listen to the presentations and change his vote accordingly.

If the ACLU will represent me I’d love to challenge the law in Texas :-)

Maybe I could run for dog catcher or something. Or a school board seat.

Chris

Mr_Christopher:

If the ACLU will represent me I’d love to challenge the law in Texas :-)

Maybe I could run for dog catcher or something. Or a school board seat.

Chris

It says “occupy” not “run for.” You’d have to win first.

In this school district, we have some difficulty finding (competent) people who are willing to serve. I doubt we are unique.

So please do consider running for a seat on your school board.

Check out the YouTube videos entitled “Listen to the Scientists by Allison Hoffman.

Very interesting stuff.….…

Check out the YouTube videos of Allison Hoffman.…there are 24 in the series including some with Barbara Forrest.

The first guy in clip #3 is just depressing. “There are only two options: either it was spontaneous generation or it was intelligent design”.

It’s sad that everybody forgets about Ploink Ploink, the invisible space bat who unthinkingly pooped out life and many deities as well.

Probably OT, but I cannot resist…

Wheels said: “Side Note: The site has generally been useful to me, but unfortunately I found it somewhat dishonest in regards to Scientology (repeating the 10 million members claim, dismissing out-of-hand the evidence that it is a dangerous, criminal cult, et cetera). The page on Scientology lists Al Buttnor, from Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs, as one of the authors.”

The Church of Scientology (CoS) is a very scary bunch. What the Disco Institute is to evolutionary biology, etc the CoS is to psychiatry, psychology, and anything having to neuroscience. In addition, they are very adept at flying under the radar and infiltrating various groups they wish to use to push their agenda.

For example, there was once a group called the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) that would regularly dish the dirt on the CoS and its activities. The CoS was able to file a lawsuit against the CAN and basically shut them down completely, bankrupting the CAN in the process. Then, in a really sick twist, the CoS started up their own “anti-cult” organization under the same name as CAN.

Imagine how scary that would be… the Disco Institute sues the National Center for Science Education, bankrupts the NCSE, and then starts up a front group run by the DI that puts itself out as the NCSE. And they’d also have high-profile, media-friendly and attractive celebrities pushing their agenda. Spooky…

Here’s more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_A[…]ness_Network

And for general information on the CoS, one of the best websites out there is:

Operation Clambake http://www.xenu.net

If you want to read the real story behind the core beliefs of the CoS, check this out…

Who is Xenu? http://www.xenu.net/archive/leaflet/xenuleaf.htm

I think that, in some ways, these folks are more scary than creationists and the Disco Institute. It tends to be easy to see creationists coming with their religious agenda, but the operatives in the CoS have mastered the art of dressing up their beliefs into a kind of New Age, self-help blather of psychobabble to which many people (both religious and secular) are very susceptible.

I’m surprised that PZ hasn’t picked this up from the Huff:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/[…]n_73469.html

Wasn’t one of the audience members who spoke against the Miller text Skipper? I had trouble hearing some of them – what with the shakey audio and the regional dialect. The one I took to be Skipper was particularly … well … not very articulate.

Does anyone here know where this phraseology may have originated? … “Evolution being taught with a dogmatic approach …” Several school boards here are drafting resolutions to send up to the BoE before their final vote on the new science standards. They all seem to have this same statement in them. I was hoping to find out where the “guidance” came from. I’m sure it was from the DI somewhere but can’t locate it.

Stacy S. Wrote:

Does anyone here know where this phraseology may have originated? … “Evolution being taught with a dogmatic approach …”

Someone paraphrasing a 4-year old: Parent: “You’re a spoiled brat!” 4-Year-old: “No, you are!”

Seriously, long before the “don’t ask, don’t tell” strategy, creationist accounts were taught dogmatically - no one was allowed to question them. Now the anti-evolution activists have gone the other extreme. Anything in science that dares to make a conclusion is considered “dogmatic.” Of course, if you ask an IDer if YEC and OEC claims are/were taught dogmatically, they’ll usually weasel out with something like “It doesn’t matter, we don’t want to teach that.”

MPW (Comment #139870) said: I love how these right wingers are suddenly all concerned about Social Darwinism when it comes to teaching evolution - where there’s hardly any of that philosophy left, if any - but are fine with the somewhat milder versions of it still put into practice by the political and social traditions they support.

Glad to see that others have noticed the irony that creationists tend to be Social Darwinists at heart.

@ Matthew Lowry:

Thanks for the rundown, I haven’t really followed the details of that particular specie of AUC (Another US Cult).

I think that, in some ways, these folks are more scary than creationists and the Disco Institute.

I, for one, completely agree. Some of the reasons to concentrate on creationists are that they consist an older and more pervasive movement where the pure cults have their roots in major religions, and that they affect policy and politics of some nations (US and Turkey, for example).

But CoS is better posed as you note, it has taken the opportunity of being free from earlier dogma to cloak itself in a modern dress. It could very well become a contender to the position as anti-scientific movement of choice.

Matthew Lowry Wrote:

..the Disco Institute sues the National Center for Science Education, bankrupts the NCSE, and then starts up a front group run by the DI that puts itself out as the NCSE. And they’d also have high-profile, media-friendly and attractive celebrities pushing their agenda. Spooky…

I wouldn’t put it past the DI to do something like that, but they wouldn’t dare call it NCSE. That’s because they are on record as calling NCSE “the pretentiously named” NCSE (BTW, I too wished NCSE had used a less general name - anti-evolution may be tht biggest threat to science education, but it’s not the only one) and alternately referring to it as the “National Center for Selling Evolution.”

Frank - Thanks for answering. I was just wondering if there were some document (like wedge doc.) that is available for school boards, etc … that want to challenge evolution. I guess if we can’t find it- we can claim “conspiracy” and show our BoE how strange it is that all of the resolutions have the same wording.

Stacy S. :

Frank - Thanks for answering. I was just wondering if there were some document (like wedge doc.) that is available for school boards, etc … that want to challenge evolution. I guess if we can’t find it- we can claim “conspiracy” and show our BoE how strange it is that all of the resolutions have the same wording.

Stacy, you can forward to the Florida State BoE members this info on the Wedge Strategy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

Or, if you want to give them an actual copy of the Wedge, try these…

Scan of the Original Wedge Document http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.pdf

Another Copy of the Wedge (easier to read) http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.html

@ Matthew Lowry - Thanks. I sent it to them several weks ago . Whether or not they read it is a different story. I’m sure they have been overwhelmed with e mails, etc… for the past couple of weeks. Personally, I think that only the national media getting involved might make a difference.

Of course, sending some of these school boards a copy of the wedge document is like sending the Bush administration a copy of 1984.

instead of taking it as a warning, they will take it as an instruction manual.

Stacy S. :

@ Matthew Lowry - Thanks. I sent it to them several weks ago . Whether or not they read it is a different story. I’m sure they have been overwhelmed with e mails, etc… for the past couple of weeks. Personally, I think that only the national media getting involved might make a difference.

You could always send a copy of the Wedge to the local media, as well. That might get somebody’s attention ;)

Hiring a school board member who is obviously for creationism being taught is clearly a statement of fact that this nation’s schools are being bullied by the religious right and their leaders the pope and the evangelicals who obviously want to take over the world. True informed citizens are the first line of defense for us, but our next line of conquest to ensure creationism is never taught is to get several secular humanists and atheists like myself elected to congress and the other government bodies. This is also another sign that serious plans to infiltrate and destroy church and state separation are getting stronger because for every informed person there are two uninformed persons and that is real unfair to us all of us.

Ichthyic:

Of course, sending some of these school boards a copy of the wedge document is like sending the Bush administration a copy of 1984.

instead of taking it as a warning, they will take it as an instruction manual.

LMAO!!

JOHN WRIGHT:

Hiring a school board member who is obviously for creationism being taught is clearly a statement of fact that this nation’s schools are being bullied by the religious right and their leaders the pope and the evangelicals who obviously want to take over the world. True informed citizens are the first line of defense for us, but our next line of conquest to ensure creationism is never taught is to get several secular humanists and atheists like myself elected to congress and the other government bodies. This is also another sign that serious plans to infiltrate and destroy church and state separation are getting stronger because for every informed person there are two uninformed persons and that is real unfair to us all of us.

Are you running for office??

@ Matthew - “ You could always send a copy of the Wedge to the local media, as well. That might get somebody’s attention ;) “ - another good idea! You Rock!!

Stacy-

It’s only partly meant as humor; I’m not the first one to notice that irony is lost on creationists, and they may indeed look at the Wedge Document as some sort of rallying point.

they will NOT see the dishonesty or misinformation inherent in it at all.

sad, but true.

you’re far better off getting copies of it into the hands of the local newsmedia within each district, and even then you should also include a carefully worded letter explaining what each part of the document means wrt to the strategy being adopted by so many school boards there.

seriously.

Stacy S. : @ Matthew - “ You could always send a copy of the Wedge to the local media, as well. That might get somebody’s attention ;) “ - another good idea! You Rock!!

Yeah, and sometimes I also roll at the same time ;)

Btw, I think Ichthyic had some good add-on advice about writing an appropriate letter.

Ichthyic Wrote:

Of course, sending some of these school boards a copy of the wedge document is like sending the Bush administration a copy of 1984.

instead of taking it as a warning, they will take it as an instruction manual.

A few weeks ago, I would have taken issue with you there - you were obviously referring to the Blair administration of the UK.

However, in a recent New Scientist feature, it was pointed out that both the US and the UK routinely surveil their citizens going about their day-to-day business, to approximately the same extent as China or Cambodia. The UK has more CCTV cameras per head of population than any other nation on Earth, and no independent organisations exist to watch the watchers.

But don’t worry, Big Brother will look after us …

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve Reuland published on January 10, 2008 5:51 PM.

Why Should People Care What Candidates Think About Evolution? was the previous entry in this blog.

Scientific Integrity: Science, Evolution, and Intelligent Design 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