Scientists to Texas BOE: Teach Evolution Right!

| 280 Comments

Below is a letter from over 50 scientific societies urging the Texas Board of Education to promote the modern science education curriculum developed by its own committees of educational and scientific experts. Right now the board is considering replacing the curriculum developed by its experts with one developed by anti-science culture warriors. The quack in charge of the process recently advocated lying to Texas students about evolution and has endorsed a book that “calls Christians who accept evolution ‘morons’ and parents that teach their children evolution ‘monsters.’”

As Texas is one of the two largest textbook markets, any decision they make to promote quackery is likely to adversely affect other states and the capacity of our nation to be scientifically competitive in the future.


A Message to the Texas State Board of Education

The undersigned scientific and educational societies call on the Texas State Board of Education to support accurate science education for all students by adopting the science standards (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS) as recommended to you by the scientists and educators on your writing committees.

Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is also crucial in fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology, and medicine. We oppose any efforts to undermine the teaching of biological evolution and related topics in the earth and space sciences, whether by misrepresenting those subjects, or by inaccurately and misleadingly describing them as controversial and in need of special scrutiny.

At its January 2009 meeting, the Texas Board of Education rightly rejected attempts to add language to the TEKS about “strengths and weaknesses” – used in past efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in Texas. We urge the Board to stand firm in rejecting any such attempts to compromise the teaching of evolution.

At its January 2009 meeting, the Board also adopted a series of amendments to the TEKS that misrepresent biological evolution and related topics in the earth and space sciences. We urge the Board to heed the advice of the scientific community and the experienced scientists and educators who drafted the TEKS: reject these and any other amendments which single out evolution for scrutiny beyond that applied to other scientific theories.

By adopting the TEKS crafted by your expert writing committees, the Board will serve the best educational interests of students in Texas’s public schools.


American Anthropological Association
American Association of Physical Anthropologists
American Association of Physicists in Medicine
American Association of Physics Teachers
American Astronomical Society
American Geological Institute
American Institute for Biological Sciences
American Institute of Physics
American Physiological Society
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
American Society for Cell Biology
American Society for Investigative Pathology
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
American Society of Human Genetics
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Naturalists
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Society of Plant Taxonomists
Association for Women Geoscientists
Association of American Geographers
Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neurobiology Chairs
Association of College & University Biology Educators
Association of Earth Science Editors
Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
Biotechnology Institute
Botanical Society of America
Clay Minerals Society
Council on Undergraduate Research
Ecological Society of America
Federation for American Societies for Experimental Biology
Federation of American Scientists
Human Biology Association
Institute of Human Origins
National Association of Biology Teachers
National Association of Geoscience Teachers
National Earth Science Teachers Association
National Science Teachers Association
Natural Science Collection Alliance
Paleontological Society
Scientists and Engineers for America
Society for American Archaeology
Society for Developmental Biology
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Society for Sedimentary Geology
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Society for the Study of Evolution
Society of Economic Geologists
Society of Systematic Biologists
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Southwestern Association of Naturalists
The Biophysical Society
The Helminthological Society of Washington
The Herpetologists’ League

280 Comments

Meanwhile, Don McLeroy, everybody’s favorite creationist-dentist-turned-state-board-head, is tending to a little pump priming in anticipation of tomorrow’s SBOE hearings on the subject.

He’s got a guest columnist today in the Austin Statesman editorial pages, “Enlisting in the culture war”

http://www.statesman.com/opinion/co[…]oy_edit.html

Enjoy, all.

Is anyone else disappointed so far? I basically have only heard Luskin, and a few real scientists, and I’m sad to admit it, but Luskin is a GOOD SPEAKER. Of course he’s demonstrably a liar, but good speakers might matter more to some of these people. Has the NCSE gone yet?

Also, I basically did a spit-take when one of the creationist “witnesses” used the flagellum as “proof” of irreducible complexity. Haven’t we been down that road before?

Ames said:

Also, I basically did a spit-take when one of the creationist “witnesses” used the flagellum as “proof” of irreducible complexity. Haven’t we been down that road before?

Aw, geez, they cheerfully recycle far older bogus arguments than that. After all, if they gave up arguments simply because they had been shot full of holes, they wouldn’t have much left to say.

If these guys get their way there will be a lot of law suits and they will lose them all. I recommend holding each and every one of them personally responsible for the financial consequences. Will they never learn?

DS said:

If these guys get their way there will be a lot of law suits and they will lose them all. I recommend holding each and every one of them personally responsible for the financial consequences. Will they never learn?

Sadly, I don’t think that’ll happen. Not to say it shouldn’t.

McLeroy said:

With the new definition, both the naturalist and the supernaturalist are free to make “testable” explanations.

Now, what in the world would a testable (oh, pardon me, “testable” in quotations) supernatural explanation look like? Interesting about those quotation marks; does that mean literary comparisons with the teacher’s favorite authority?

The only way “testable” could be preferable to “natural” is that it’s easier to twist the meaning.

Have heard from a Texas scientist that NCSE is actively involved in behind-the-scenes activity. He forwarded an e-mail which NCSE has sent to Texas scientists about the Texas BOE meeting.

Ames said:

Is anyone else disappointed so far? I basically have only heard Luskin, and a few real scientists, and I’m sad to admit it, but Luskin is a GOOD SPEAKER. Of course he’s demonstrably a liar, but good speakers might matter more to some of these people. Has the NCSE gone yet?

Yes, NCSE has been involved. Duh. Who do you think collected those statements from science and education societies! http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/03/tex[…]right-004695 As John reports, we also solicited societies to pass on information to their TX members and encourage them to express their opinions to the SB members. We got a good response.

Josh testified today, and did a good job. I assumed I wouldn’t testify because I was way down the list of testifiers; I had testified in January. But one of the SB members asked me to speak during the final session, when the SB members can nominate speakers as a point of personal privilege. So both of us got to speak.

There’s live blogging going on variously.

http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/ reports that yet another person at the hearing claims the New Scientist article on Darwin is a weakness of evolution. It would be funny if it weren’t so outrageously lame.

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Genie,

My new friend from Texas forwarded an NCSE e-mail to me. Made for some intriguing reading, though I’ve seen the links to the board members before, and I’ve been tempted, as a Republican, to give them a piece of my mind with regards to their woeful understanding of science (IMHO they could start by reading Judge Jones’s decision again.).

Best,

John

PS OOPS, am repeating myself here (see above). Am keeping my fingers crossed that the Texas Board of Education might consider too what has transpired recently in Iowa.

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This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Am striking out twice tonight. I meant New Mexico, not Iowa, as noted here:

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/200[…]ve.html#more

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Don McLeroy Wrote:

The controversy exists because evolutionists, led by academia’s far-left, along with the secular elite opinion-makers, have decreed that questioning of evolution is not allowed, that it is only an attempt to inject religion or creationism into the classroom.

There goes another irony meter.

I’m in a charitable mood, so I’ll help McLeroy rephrase that self-incriminating statement:

“The ‘controversy’ exists because mainstream science, led by researchers and educators spanning the entire political spectrum (though relatively underrepresented by radical authoritarians), along with supporters of all religions (though relatively underrepresented by radical fundamentalists) dedicated to religious and academic freedom, have decreed that questioning of evolution is allowed, and does occur in the research arena and at college level education, and that current attempts by activists to mislead public high school students about evolution and the nature of science are indeed attempts to inject fundamentalist religion and creationist pseudoscience into the class.

Ames said:

Is anyone else disappointed so far? I basically have only heard Luskin, and a few real scientists, and I’m sad to admit it, but Luskin is a GOOD SPEAKER. Of course he’s demonstrably a liar, but good speakers might matter more to some of these people.

That right there is the single biggest problem we have fighting creationists: most of their leaders are good public speakers, and too many of ours aren’t. Our guys do very well in the controlled environment of a classroom or a courtroom, where it’s more important to be accurate than convincing. But in the rough-and-tumble of public speaking, where speaking skill is more important than truth, the creos will almost always win.

Where does he advocate lying to students? When he says “it shouldn’t raise any objections from those who say evolution has no weaknesses” as a reason not to be terrified of letting students look at the fossil record?

novparl Wrote:

.…terrified of letting students look at the fossil record?

If anyone is “terrified of letting students look at the fossil record” (or other the independent lines of evidence, particularly molecular evidence) it’s the anti-evolution activists like McLeroy. Students are already free to examine the evidence on their own time. But the activists want to mislead them by peddling many long-refuted, but persuasive sound bites before most of them get a chance to examine the evidence - or those sound bites - in context.

Novparl,

Just like you are terrified of actually reading any scientific literature?

If science were trying to hide the truth they wouldn’t have journals and textbooks with references from journals. That’s why creationists don’t publish in journals, because then everyone could see that they had absolutely nothing of substance.

Meanwhile, Don McLeroy, everybody’s favorite creationist-dentist-turned-state-board-head, … He’s got a guest columnist today in the Austin Statesman editorial pages, “Enlisting in the culture war”

http://www.statesman.com/opinion/co[…]oy_edit.html

Has anyone stopped to think that McLeroy, DI, et al., are getting exactly what they want and need from this? They probably (hopefully) won’t get their equal time standard, but, unlike in Ohio for instance, in this case there’s an outspoken head administrator who isn’t just tolerant of the scientific creationists, he’s the chief ideolog. They are getting a huge amount of publicity, and the message to parents, teachers, and admins is that you have every right to teach this “science”. (Pointing out for those to whom its not already obvious) You don’t need legislation, or state standards, to destroy science education with pseudoscience. The courts can’t take care of the problem by themselves, not enough of them. The general public has to be persuaded that genuine science education is in their best interest.

There has to be a message from pro-science advocates that works as well as the message McLeroy is getting out. Basically, his message is that the pro-science advocates have a hidden agenda other than promoting science education. (Gee, now where could they have gotten that idea? http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/[…]ng_again.php) Therefore, the obvious conclusion is, its necessary to counter with a hidden agenda of their own.

Now, if there was a teacher on this playground we could just point and say “He started it!”, but that won’t be doing us any good here. Most of the excellent folks on the front line of opposing the anti-evolution education campaign are focused on science education. That’s why their doing what they’re doing. There are others though who are safely behind the front lines who are more interested in the evolution controversy for the culture war than for promoting education. They do not speak for the majority of the scientific community, thank God, even though they claim to.

Militant atheists should be free to pursue their social agenda, and no one is telling them to shut up, even though this is always the overly defensive response. But people implicitly, or explicitly, claiming to be speaking for the scientific community should not be trying to confuse the culture wars with science education, and thereby bolster McLerory, et al.’s message. The general public needs to understand that, for the majority of the scientific and education communities, there is no hidden social agenda in science education. Anyone who claims differently is in the minority, and should acknowledge that fact. There’s a huge difference between telling someone to shut up and telling them to be truthful and responsible.

Steve Schafersman is liveblogging today’s SBOE meeting. I noticed that he paraphrases Ken Mercer as saying:

He says there used to be 700 but now 1000 scientists who signed the DI Darwinism statement that say there are problems, weaknesses, and controversies.

Did Mercer just confuse the DfD list with Project Steve, which broke 1000 prior to Darwin’s birthday (and is now at 1078)? I can’t imagine there was that much of a spike in the DfD list since the beginning of the year, or the DI would be crowing about it. Nothing like adding more misinformation to the pile.…

Mike Wrote:

Has anyone stopped to think that McLeroy, DI, et al., are getting exactly what they want and need from this?

I certainly do. It’s hard to tell with anyone else though, because 99% of the discussion involves controlling the “supply” of anti-evolution pseudoscience, with court cases, voting out anti-science school boards, etc. I’m much more concerned with controlling the “demand.” From the data I have seen, for every one hopeless fundamentalist (~25% of the population) who won’t admit evolution under any circumstances, there are about 2 others who have bought into at least some part of anti-evolution scams.

WooT to Texans for Freedom - and Texas today: (from the live blog) http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/2009/0[…]te/#comments

10:09 - Board member Ken Mercer of San Antonio moves to add “strengths and weaknesses” back into the science standards.

11:13 - Mr. Mercer’s motion fails 7-7!!!

in between - a counter proposal was offered “add to the expectation that students analyze and evaluate scientific explanations: “including discussing what is not fully understood so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”

this was also voted down- but discussion over the counter proposal reveals that the change in the standards isn’t about academic freedom or about students’ ability to ask questions - the ID advocates on the BOE want (IMO) the ‘weaknesses’ language in the standards specifically to smuggle in creationism/ID

there is still hope for Texas!

lissa said:

Stanton said:

And if psychic healing really works, then how come none of these psychic healers have thought to present their work to James Randi and claim the $1 million prize he’s offering to anyone with irrefutable proof of psychic ability?

Basically because like the article said it’s ALREADY proven, and PERSONAL proof of the ability CAN’T be demonstrated to morons who misconstrue the physical principles behind them.

Bullshit.

If it is already proven, then how come we’re not seeing widespread usage of psychic healing in hospitals?

Reed A. Cartwright said:

I’m tired of this thread. I’m closing tomorrow morning, so hurry up and say your piece.

Thank you.

Would it be possible to put a muzzle on lissa’s IP so she can’t move to another thread to repeat the accursed process?

Stanton said:

You said some “nosy atheist in the 50’s” or 60’s screwed up the whole separation of Church and State.

And when asked to name who it was for the 3rd or 4th time, you finally said it was the principal of your “cousin’s school.”

Around 2000, you claim.

So, can you please get your facts straight?

Madalyn Murray O’Hare, and the CHURCH wasn’t RUNNING THE SCHOOL, They simply had an OPTIONAL bible reading or prayer. and it was the ’60s.

Stanton said:

lissa said:

Stanton said:

And if psychic healing really works, then how come none of these psychic healers have thought to present their work to James Randi and claim the $1 million prize he’s offering to anyone with irrefutable proof of psychic ability?

Basically because like the article said it’s ALREADY proven, and PERSONAL proof of the ability CAN’T be demonstrated to morons who misconstrue the physical principles behind them.

Bullshit.

If it is already proven, then how come we’re not seeing widespread usage of psychic healing in hospitals?

Oh for god’s sake, they use all kinds of things in hospitals to make patients comfortable during surgeries and such, because SOUNDS have an effect on the BRAIN also. So they play soothing music and stuff like that. If you want to keep making statements that are impertent to what I’ve said about it and calling me a bullshit liar then I’m afraid YOU are the ONE whose IP should be muzzled.

Stanton said:

Thank you.

Would it be possible to put a muzzle on lissa’s IP so she can’t move to another thread to repeat the accursed process?

It takes two to tango.

lissa said:

Oh for god’s sake, they use all kinds of things in hospitals to make patients comfortable during surgeries and such, because SOUNDS have an effect on the BRAIN also. So they play soothing music and stuff like that. If you want to keep making statements that are impertent to what I’ve said about it and calling me a bullshit liar then I’m afraid YOU are the ONE whose IP should be muzzled.

a) Playing soothing music and presenting a calming atmosphere is not “psychic healing.” That you constantly confuse and coopt things in order to support your New Age psychobabble, then get angry when we point out that the reality of the situation is contrary to what you claim is the primary reason why I consider you to be a bullshitting liar.

b) I’m not the one who went on for 220+ tediously boring and off-topic posts about how you and your ex’s family were victimized by alleged laws and medical care providers.

Stanton said:

lissa said:

Oh for god’s sake, they use all kinds of things in hospitals to make patients comfortable during surgeries and such, because SOUNDS have an effect on the BRAIN also. So they play soothing music and stuff like that. If you want to keep making statements that are impertent to what I’ve said about it and calling me a bullshit liar then I’m afraid YOU are the ONE whose IP should be muzzled.

a) Playing soothing music and presenting a calming atmosphere is not “psychic healing.” That you constantly confuse and coopt things in order to support your New Age psychobabble, then get angry when we point out that the reality of the situation is contrary to what you claim is the primary reason why I consider you to be a bullshitting liar.

b) I’m not the one who went on for 220+ tediously boring and off-topic posts about how you and your ex’s family were victimized by alleged laws and medical care providers.

uh-huh. RE-READ http://parapsych.org/faq_file3.html#20 or did you read it in the first place?

what makes you think I am ANGRY? Are you a mind-reader? LOL

I’m pretty good at that art myself, it’s not exactly hard unless you simply READING a MESSAGE in PRINT, in that case it’s hard to pick up a vibration from someone.

ps said:

what makes you think I am ANGRY? Are you a mind-reader? LOL

Like when you kept insisting that Intelligent Design was actually a “healing method” utilizing the lifeforce of the Universe, and not a sham concocted by Creationists, or when we kept pointing out that if we did cave into your “DEMAND” that we “respect” other people’s religious beliefs, then, those people with the belief that they must ram their religion down everyone’s throats will do so without interference?

I’m pretty good at that art myself, it’s not exactly hard unless you simply READING a MESSAGE in PRINT, in that case it’s hard to pick up a vibration from someone.

Again, nothing but bullshit and excuses.

lissa said:

SOUNDS have an effect on the BRAIN also.

If sounds didn’t have an effect on the brain, we’d all be deaf.

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on March 25, 2009 3:57 PM.

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