How the Texas Board of Ed. misrepresented a Nobel Prize winner

| 76 Comments

By Josh Rosenau

In November, the Texas Board of Education met to consider their new science standards. As I’ve mentioned a major point of contention is a reference in the current standards to “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific explanations, a concept only ever applied to evolution, and without any clear explanation of what it means.

In the course of 6 hours of testimony, witnesses constantly asked what these “weaknesses” were, and got no clarity. Finally, at an ungodly hour, Cynthia Dunbar (the one who thinks public schools are evil and that President Obama is a s3kr1t Mussulman) gave her explanation. In the course of doing so, she perpetuated blatant falsehoods about a Nobel Prize-winning doctor.

76 Comments

Fascinating article. Pity that no one at the meeting knew that her statements were bunk at the time.

Wouldn’t it be rich if this Werner Arber were to actually show up at the hearing?

If that letter is read at the hearings, that would be one of the biggest “pwned”’s ever

akg41470,

Looking at the Texas Freedom Network blog, it sounds like that’s exactly what Josh did! They’re liveblogging the SBOE hearing, I have to read it later.

It should not be surprising that someone who thinks Obama is a Muslim can’t understand basic biography and interpretation of persons. It’s interesting how this intellectual flaw (more common in women, as confirmed here) permeates ones engagements.

Do you think that any of Cynthia’s work is of value?

NS

notedscholar said:

It’s interesting how this intellectual flaw (more common in women, as confirmed here) permeates ones engagements. NS

Cite, please.

Cynthia Dunbar thinks that public schools are unconstitutional and LITERALLY Satanic, that you shouldn’t be a politician unless you’re a Christian (of her stripe, implicitly), and compares Obama to Adolf Hitler in all seriousness. It’s not surprising that she would misrepresent the work of others so drastically. It still feels like a kick in the gut to me, though, when these people get elected to positions of authority where they not only have severe conflicts of interest, but also demonstrate a frightening inability to think rationally, and that they get there by popular vote.

Audio files for all but the first hour of today’s first 4+ hours of hearings are posted now at http://curricublog.wordpress.com/20[…]ce-hearings/ I will add the first hour later, and files for the remaining session this afternoon.

Does anyone know whether Judge Jones’ ruling at the end of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial was presented as evidence? I hope it was, since he does rule that evolution is indeed a valid scientific theory.

I swear; there’s a “disturbance in the Force.”

We recently got a letter to the editor of our local newspaper from a creationist who resides in Texas. It was full of the same crap and mischaracterizations of science that all ID/Creationists spew.

After a couple of good rebuttals, we now see another blast of the same misconceptions and mischaracterizations from another bunch of ID/creationists.

If the alarm and paranoia on some of our local religion TV channels are any indication, I would say that these fundamentalists are gearing up for war. They are terrified by the election of Obama (“the Muslim”) and the “liberals”, and by the anticipation that they are going to be subjected to persecution and being spied upon, and that their money is going to be taken away from them.

And the new emphasis on returning science to a place of respect and usefulness in government seems to have them in a state of screaming hysteria.

On the other hand, I would be pleased if we finally as a nation started going after these charlatans who have been exploiting fundamentalist religion and spreading all these lies about science, and about evolution especially. This ID/creationist crap has gone beyond any more need for patience and tolerance. These idiots have been messing with our kid’s education for almost a century; and it needs to stop.

Mike Elzinga said:

If the alarm and paranoia on some of our local religion TV channels are any indication, I would say that these fundamentalists are gearing up for war.

For a long time, the politico-religionists were in ascendancy, and their influence in politics, which is more important to them than spiritual matters was a matter of fact.

One reason Caribou Barbie attracted such a following is because the politico-religionists are afraid of being disenfranchised. So of course they are going to scream louder, and since all they have left is money and lawyers, you will see a lot more bogus “persecution” lawsuits, and, of course, a lot more of these attempts to co-opt boards of education, introduce “academic freedom” bills, and put warning labels on textbooks.

The richest irony to me, however, is that this political movement is manifestly anti-religious freedom.

The richest irony to me, however, is that this political movement is manifestly anti-religious freedom.

My reading is that the dominant religion in any society has never espoused religious freedom. That’s a notion put forth either by those who are religiously neutral, or those who are members of minority religions (often genuinely persecuted by the dominant flavor) - UNTIL they get the upper hand. The Puritans didn’t leave Europe to practice religious freedom, they left to impose Puritan discipline on their followers and everyone else even more draconian than had been imposed on them.

The Devout aren’t after freedom, they are after power. Power can be used to enforce Right Thought And Action as (their custom) god intended. Creationists want religious freedom just exactly as much as they want academic freedom - and for exactly the same reasons.

(Chinese courts have consistently interpreted the Chinese Constitution’s guarantee of free speech as the freedom to praise the Party in the words of your choice - or else! This aptly describes the kind of freedom creationists dream of imposing.)

Dunbar’s misrepresentation of Arber sounds more like incompetence than malice to me. She trusted a source that turned out to be horribly bad. OTOH Josh’s point that she blatantly ignored advice from Texas’ own Nobel laureates as well as multiple National and State teachers’ and science organizations supports the malice hypothesis.

We’ll probably get a real-life test of the competing ‘incompetence vs. malice’ hypotheses soon. If she’s disabused of the notion thar Arber’s research supports ID, and she stops misrepresenting him, we can conclude that it was probably incompetence. If she keeps misinterpreting his work after being told - by him - that ICR misinterpreted his work, we can conclude malice.

”…was that the genetic code, and genetic mutations are actually built in to a limitation that they can only go so far, which is contrary to the ultimate result of natural selection and all of that.”

Clearly someone who doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about. There is no point being made here, it is just gibberish, technical sounding word salad. I doubt that this person could even define the term “genetic code” let alone “mutation”.

As for “built in to a limitation” what does that even mean? Aren’t these the same yahoos who are always claiming that the genetic code is perfect and so that proves that God created it? If it’s so perfect, why does it have a built in limitation?

Of course everyone knows what “natural selection and all of that” means. It’s code for “stuff I don’t understand and don’t want to believe”.

If you want to misrepresent a nobel prize winner, you should at least know what the words mean. Maybe we should ask her if Obama is an American. That might be good for a laugh.

eric said: Dunbar’s misrepresentation of Arber sounds more like incompetence than malice to me. She trusted a source that turned out to be horribly bad. OTOH Josh’s point that she blatantly ignored advice from Texas’ own Nobel laureates as well as multiple National and State teachers’ and science organizations supports the malice hypothesis.

While I know Hanlon’s Razor says to favor incompetence as an explanation, Dunbar’s lengthy record of anti-science and anti-education statements leads me to believe that it is sheer malice. Backing away from the ICR article would not be evidence of incompetence, but rather mere unstated acknowledgement that she cannot get away with that particular malicious lie any longer.

It doesn’t make any difference to me whether it was malice or incompetence on Dunbar’s part. Someone in her position has a responsibility to check the accuracy of her sources before citing them. In this circumstance, incompetence is as bad as, if not worse than, malice.

DS said:

Maybe we should ask her if Obama is an American. That might be good for a laugh.

Ah … that idea hit me in the face in a nonlaughable way. I have this boggled expression on my face just trying to imagine the answer. All I know for sure is that, though I would expect the worst, I would still be staggered: “I just CAN’T make this stuff up!”

Cheers – MrG / http://gvgpd.proboards.com

ndt said: It doesn’t make any difference to me whether it was malice or incompetence on Dunbar’s part. Someone in her position has a responsibility to check the accuracy of her sources before citing them. In this circumstance, incompetence is as bad as, if not worse than, malice.

I’d argue the opposite; the malicious school board member would never step aside if called on her wrongness, the merely incompetent one might step aside if she were to be informed of the breadth of her ignorance. Perhaps this is merely a thought experiment, because my experience is that large amounts of either incompetence or malice don’t usually exist without a fair portion of the other quality.

Did Dunbar innocently misinterpret Arber, or was it deliberate misrepresentation? If it’s the former, we should expect a retraction soon.

Instead of embarrassing herself with ICR she should have just consulted the Discovery Institute. Except:

NCSE sent a questionnaire to the authors of every publication listed in the Bibliography, asking them whether they considered their work to provide scientific evidence for “intelligent design.”[5] None of the 26 respondents (representing 34 of the the 44 publications in the Bibliography) did; many were indignant at the suggestion.

Everyone reading this needs to remember why the science standards in Texas are so important to everyone else in the US. The state of Texas buys it’s textbooks in mass, meaning the history or English or science series decided on is bought for every school district in the state. Because publishers stand to gain VERY large orders, these textbook publishers try to write their books to please the Texas Board of Education. This is the main reason we have had watered down science textbooks in high schools for many years. So do not think this does not effect you, IT DOES!

Whose law is this, again?: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice”?

*listening to 4th mp3 of the hearing* Argh, dino soft tissue. “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

ARGH ARGH ARGH.

David Hillis read the concluding paragraph of Arber’s letter during his testimony at the hearing. The audio of Hillis is now posted at

http://curricublog.wordpress.com/20[…]ce-hearings/

(I’m still working on some of the others.)

Speaking of misrepresenting: Check out Academic Freedom day.

They should be honest enough to tell their supporters that any “controvery” around evolution is manufactured, and is based on them lying in various forms.

Where was their stand for “academic freedom” during the original scopes trial?

Stupid me, I forgot this info:

C:\>whois academicfreedomday.com

Whois v1.01 - Domain information lookup utility Sysinternals - www.sysinternals.com Copyright (C) 2005 Mark Russinovich

Connecting to COM.whois-servers.net… Connecting to whois.dotster.com…

Discovery Institute 208 Columbia Street Seattle, WA 98104 US

Registrar: DOTSTER Domain Name: ACADEMICFREEDOMDAY.COM Created on: 04-SEP-08 Expires on: 04-SEP-09 Last Updated on: 09-NOV-08

Administrative, Technical Contact: Scholz, Matthew [Enable javascript to see this email address.] Discovery Institute 208 Columbia Street Seattle, WA 98104 US 206-292-0401

Domain servers in listed order: NS18.ZONEEDIT.COM NS17.ZONEEDIT.COM

End of Whois Information

Reynold said:

Speaking of misrepresenting: Check out Academic Freedom day.

They should be honest enough to tell their supporters that any “controvery” around evolution is manufactured, and is based on them lying in various forms.

Where was their stand for “academic freedom” during the original scopes trial?

You know it’s quality when the bottom of the page reads Copyright Discovery Institute 2008-2009.
In the interest of teaching the controversy and demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of everything, why not disclose the Creation Science origins of ID, the fact that ID has failed to even attempt peer-reviewed research in support of its claims (leaving the “evolutionists” with nothing to thwart), the legitimate research which has undermined all their claims about irreducible complexity, the fact that they have to lie about evolution, the scientific community, and history in order to make themselves look good, and the sectarian motives of those involved with the ID movement?

Since they’re all for critical thinking and whatnot…

Maybe they’re afraid because they keep losing in court, but “Academic Freedom Day” does not go nearly far enough to combat the “tyranny” of “Darwinists.” Academic Free-For-All Day” is much better. ;-)

Dave Luckett said:

Whose law is this, again?: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice”?

There is an entry in WIkipedia for “Hanlon’s razor”.

I like it as an example of how the appearance of design can come about without intelligent design.

Frank J said:

Did Dunbar innocently misinterpret Arber, or was it deliberate misrepresentation? If it’s the former, we should expect a retraction soon.

Instead of embarrassing herself with ICR she should have just consulted the Discovery Institute. Except:

NCSE sent a questionnaire to the authors of every publication listed in the Bibliography, asking them whether they considered their work to provide scientific evidence for “intelligent design.”[5] None of the 26 respondents (representing 34 of the the 44 publications in the Bibliography) did; many were indignant at the suggestion.

Just quote the Dover court transcripts where Behe and Minnich both testify under oath that no scientific paper that they know of supports the intelligent design “science” including their own papers. My bet is that they were among the authors that did not respond so you can take several more publications off the list.

Wheels said: In the interest of teaching the controversy and demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of everything, why not disclose the Creation Science origins of ID

Ah, but remember, according to IDers, ID did not evolve from Creationism. According to them its the product of a separate creation, ex nihilo, on about June 19 1987. This correlates with the Edwards vs Aguillard decision, but of course we all know that correlation is not causation. :)

chuck Wrote:

A scientist who could prove the existence of God by some scientific study such a biological proof of ID would be up there with Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein. Possibly above them!

Sure, and so would a scientist who finds a better explanation than Darwinian evolution without invoking God, design, etc. Even a return to Lamarckian evolution would do the trick.

Unless I missed it from earlier comments, I have no clue as to what Silver Fox believes other than the popular myth that scientists are covering up flaws in the current explanation to protect their careers. SF is free to answer my questions above, however.

Thanks, John,

I was just thinking of Coyne, whom I hope to see at Penn on Feb. 12, when I read Chuck’s statement “A scientist who could prove the existence of God by some scientific study such a biological proof of ID would be up there with Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein.” It was Coyne, who, over a decade ago, made me realize that those who proclaim themselves to rank with the legends are never the ones who earn that reputation. Yet they are the ones who are inclined to quote mine instead of conducting original research to support their extraordinary claims.

Well, it turns out that the creationists pulled of a last minute win yesterday with the following amendment to the curricula:

7B: Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.

It was introduced by creato-dentist McLeroy, and passed.

Read more at Tony Whitson’s blog

Frank J said:

Sure, and so would a scientist who finds a better explanation than Darwinian evolution without invoking God, design, etc. Even a return to Lamarckian evolution would do the trick.

ID people say and point to quotes all the time, as SF did, that scientists “suppress” ID because they can’t let go of evolution, or worship Darwin in some way. The word “Darwinism” is itself and example of that.

My poorly expressed point was that there is simply no motivation for scientists to suppress ID. In fact just the opposite, unprecedented scientific glory would await anyone who could really prove “God Did It”.

I just think creationists who complain about ID’s supposed victimhood and the motives behind it should think a bit about that.

Frank - I think many creationists reject your line of reasoning because they think scientists are mirror images of themselves. I.e. more concerned with promoting an ideology than exploring nature. There is no motivation for scientists acting like scientists to suppress ID, but if you start with the (wrong) assumption that scientists are an opposing group of religious extremists merely with a different religion, it makes perfect sense.

Gary - that is sad to see. I guess I will have to daydream about Texas Bio teachers using this amendment to teach their classes how common descent is fully and completely sufficient to describe the appearance of life, legally protected from the complaints of creationist students and parents alike.

Oops, I said Frank where I meant to say Chuck. Sorry about the misattribution. And Chuck, your point was not poorly expressed at all.

Well, I guess they won’t be ordering copies of Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” since he lists “common descent” as one of the six fundamental principles of evolution in it:

Gary Hurd said:

Well, it turns out that the creationists pulled of a last minute win yesterday with the following amendment to the curricula:

7B: Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.

It was introduced by creato-dentist McLeroy, and passed.

Read more at Tony Whitson’s blog

Gary Hurd Wrote:

It was introduced by creato-dentist McLeroy, and passed.

Read more at Tony Whitson’s blog.

I hope everyone notices how Whitson emphasizes that Michael Behe, “the one prominent ID advocate who was once an actual biological researcher,” accepts common descent. McLeroy is certainly aware of that, and yet he even publicly admitted that anti-evolutionists should not debate their own differences for the sake of the big tent (yes, he used that phrase).

So common descent is OK with McLeroy too, as long as it’s claimed by a person like him who deliberately promotes unreasonable doubt about evolution. That alone shows that these people know that they are perpetrating one big scam.

7B: Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.

How could you do both? Do you just get to choose whether it is sufficient or not? Do the experts claim that it is sufficient? How are grade school teachers supposed to decide? Can they base their decision on their religious views?

By the way, common descent doesn’t really explain the rate of evolution, so the question is nonsensical in the first place. And sudden appearance of what, the fossil record? This is like saying, explain how gravity can be different on two different planets. Just because it isn’t the same everywhere at all times doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Common descent does explain the “sequential” nature of the fossil record and students should be taught why.

It’s almost as if the person who wrote this doesn’t understand even the first thing about evolution and just wanted to try to give teachers the freedom to display the same ignorance. Of course we all know what will happen if they try to do that. Can you say Dover II?

7B: Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.

Apart from the questionable reference to ‘the sudden appearance… of the fossil record’ I do not understand why they feel that the question of common descent has any bearing on stasis in the fossil record. I would like to see a sample paragraph clarifying what was going on in their minds when they wrote this.

Richard Simons Wrote:

I would like to see a sample paragraph clarifying what was going on in their minds when they wrote this.

I’m quite surprised that they even addressed common descent directly, because it seems to be politically incorrect to do so since the “big tent” scam took over. You won’t see any clarification, only more obfuscation. But if I may speculate what went on in their minds, one possibility is: “Our goal is to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution in general and of the fact that humans share common ancestors with other species, so sooner or later we’ll have to confront ‘common descent’; let’s see if we can get away with it now.”

I slightly disagree with Dave Luckett on this. Yeah, Ms. Begley’s opinion is merely her opinion. But the opinion that individual scientists have a hard time letting go of their pet beliefs is an old one, and not particularly unusual. Sometimes its true, sometimes it isn’t. Where Silver Fox completely misses the boat is in taking a comment about scientists and thinking it applies to science. That individual scientists have typical human foibles does not indict science as a discipline. Individual scientists may be stubborn, petty, self-centered, whatever. Its still true that science as a discipline is constantly embracing new ideas and revising old ones. Silver Fox, even a cursory, simpleton’s review of the last couple of hundred years of scientific advancement shows this. How could you miss it?

I think we are in agreement, eric, in fact. We agree that my opinion and Ms Begley’s are not evidence. Our opinions are immaterial. Only the actual evidence is material. SF, clearly, thinks that the mere assertion is material. It is this inability to distinguish between authoritative assertion and evidence that characterises the worldview of creationists.

As far as the reference to the fossil record and common descent, I believe the problem is that the anti-evolutionists believe that the fossil record is the only evidence that there is for anything relating to evolution.

TomS Wrote:

As far as the reference to the fossil record and common descent, I believe the problem is that the anti-evolutionists believe that the fossil record is the only evidence that there is for anything relating to evolution.

That may be true for nearly all the rank & file (if only because the molecular evidence is way above their heads) and most YEC and OEC leaders, but as you probably know, Michael Behe (in “Darwin’s Black Box”) claimed the opposite - that the fossil record is “irrelevant” and that molecular evidence falsifies “Darwinism”. But (continuing my reply on the other thread), it’s highly unlikely that creationists would openly challenge Behe on that either. Gotta love the big tent.

7B: Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.

Translation: When did Darwin stop beating his wife.

Speaking of the science standards, the TFN live blog also mentioned another stealth-creationist standard that passed. Here’s the quote:

2:47 - Cargill wants what she calls “some qualifying language” in the ESS standards: - She wants students to learn “differing theories” about “the structure, scale, composition, origin and history of the universe.” This is a stealth effort to allow “intelligent design” into classrooms. Craig, Miller and others don’t seem to be buying into it.

3:06 - Cargill’s amendment passes 8-7, with Hardy voting in favor.

[From http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/ ESS is Earth and Space Science, I think.]

Does anyone have the exact language?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Guest Contributor published on January 21, 2009 12:00 PM.

Mammillaria grahamii was the previous entry in this blog.

The Trouble With Science Journalism 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