Let the Whining Begin!
by Kevin H. Wirth
ARN Director of Product Development and Media Relations
On Friday the Texas School Board voted 13-2 approving the language that will be used in Texas textbooks (and potentially other states - though not as strongly as in the past thanks to recent advances in publishing technology) for the next decade after 2011. I expect the standards will be posted online in the coming week, and it when they are, I will update this post to reference them.
I've noticed that the initial news reports generally tend to praise the vote as either a mixed bag or a victory for evolution. I'm seeing remarks like "split outcome", "compromise," and the state still has the creationist "Camel's nose under the tent." Few have called the vote a victory for advocates of academic freedom. Either way, I'm not seeing much in the way of a declaration of victory for our side. However, I expect in the coming days we're sure to see a spate of wonderful blog commentary decrying the loss of progress to science education because advocates of critical thinking managed to sway some influence. In fact, the whining has already begun with the post by Jerry Coyne and others (see the links under "COMMENTARIES..." below)
I won't be offering much in the way of opinion here, but I do want to refer my readers to an excellent summary post by David Coppedge over at "Creation Evolution Headlines." Here's a sampling:
"It is a sad measure of our cultural demise when getting a vote in favor of fairness and critical thinking requires a herculean effort against a dogmatic establishment. Much as we celebrate with those who won, consider what a small advance this is. The Darwinist totalitarian regime has imposed such thought control on the scientific and educational institutions they can hardly think straight. This should have been common sense. In what other branch of inquiry is it normal for students to have predigested conclusions poured down a funnel into their skulls? Of all subjects, science should be the most open to critical thinking. Not so with the Darwinism."
You can read the rest of his excellent post by going to his site:
TEXAS SCHOOL BOARD NEWS AND COMMENTARY
Also, the audio recordings of the Texas Board of Education Meetings can be reviewed here: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/audio_archived.html
Video of Eugenie Scott testifying before the Texas Board
Three weeks into his job as head of the White House Office of Science and Technology, presidential science adviser John Holdren has laid out clear positions on myriad issues facing the Obama Administration. He shared his views on the recent decision in Texas with ScienceInsider.
Evolution Debate Remains Vexing for Texas Board
Texas ed board approves science standards
Portraying the vote as a "compromise"
Quoting Eugenie Scott as saying ""I think we've seen some classic examples of politics interfering with science education"
Texas on evolution: Needs further study
".. in a compromise that alarms and dismays many science education advocates, the board did adopt language that attempts to cast a shadow of doubt over the validity of the central evolutionary concepts of natural selection and common ancestry."
Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization dedicated to protecting
the integrity of science education in the public schools, says that once McLeroy and his allies failed to pass the "strengths and weakness" language, "they had a fallback position, which was to continue amending the standards to achieve through the back door what they couldn't achieve upfront."
Texas board comes down on 2 sides of creationism debate
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Conservatives lose another battle over evolution
Read a critique of the DMN's report by the Discovery Institute
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Texas Opens Classroom Door for Evolution Doubts
"Critics of evolution said they were thrilled with Friday's move. "Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a
scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," said Dr. John West, a senior fellow at the
Kathy Miller, president of the pro-evolution Texas Freedom Network,said "The board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks."
Texas scraps school anti-evolution requirements
Texas Upholds Teaching Evolution
Supporters of evolution hailed the vote but were critical of amendments adopted by the board that they said could create new paths to teaching creationism and the similar notion of intelligent design in public schools.
Defeat and Some Success for Texas Evolution Foes
EL PASO TIMES
Board of Education OKs Science Change: State Curriculum to consider 'all sides'
Texas Deadlocks on evolution standards
The Texas-Size Debate Over Teaching Evolution
Sure, discuss Darwin's 'strengths and weaknesses.' Just not in biology textbooks.
Texas Wrapup: Yup. Doomed.
So the vote was made, the standards were set, and now the dust is settling. And what do we see? I see Texas being the laughing stock on a world stage, finally replacing the Kansas fiasco from the 1990s.
"...creationists are using this as a wedge to lie about evolution. And yes, I mean lie: they hammer away with old, outdated, and easily-disproven ideas in an attempt to make evolution look weak. But letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s be clear: evolutionary ideas are the very basis of modern biology, and are as solid a fact as gravity is. If you think otherwise, you are wrong. This is not just a theory. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fact."
THE CHRISTIAN POST
Texas Board approves new standards requiring critique of evolution
MY SA NEWS
Evolution Showdown pits critcs and supporters
Creationists Notch Win in Texas Showdown
According to NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott ..."What the creationists got was a bunch of heavily compromised standards that will allow them to go to textbook publishers and ask for content for teaching of intelligent design."
Texas education board approves science standards
TEXAS CITIZENS FOR SCIENCE
NSTA Comments before the vote
More News posts can be found at the Discovery Institute's web site:
NOTE: Some of these were published before and after Friday's vote:
A Setback for Science Education in Texas
This piece summarizes key commentary from many of the articles appearing in this post, lambasting the "flawed" standards, and offering quotes from many who oppose them.
"The board majority chose to satisfy creationist constituents and ignore the expertise of highly qualified Texas scientists and scientists across the country," Scott added. Among the organizations calling upon the board to adopt the standards as originally drafted by a panel of Texas scientists and educators were the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the Paleontological Society, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the Texas Association of Biology Teachers, as well as fifty-four scientific and education societies that endorsed a statement circulated by NCSE. The board's chair, avowed creationist Don McLeroy, responded by crying (video is available on NCSE's YouTube channel), during the meeting, "Somebody's got to stand up to experts!"
Talk of the Nation - featuring Eugenie Scott
April 10, 2009
Eugenie gives her impressions of what happened in Texas (audio)
Retooled Texas Standards Raise Unease Among Science Groups
By Sean Cavanagh
GO SAN ANGELO.COM
Charles Garner and David Klinghoffer
Texas has been the scene of a stirring illustration of democracy at work...Lobbyists for strict enforcement of Darwinian theory as sacred dogma fought hard. In testimony given before the vote, scientists in favor of strengthening the requirement of critical analysis kept their remarks focused on the relevant scientific issues. Darwinian activists, however, sought to scare everyone with hysterical warnings about Biblical literalist "creationism" run amok-a grossly dishonest red herring, often waved about in the Darwin debate, and one that the board as a whole saw through and dismissed. The new science standards are about science, not religion.
Reporting from the Front Lines of the Texas Evolution Debate
Science Setback for Texas Schools
"The final vote was a triumph of ideology and politics over science," says Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). "The board majority chose to satisfy creationist constituents and ignore the expertise of highly qualified Texas scientists and scientists across the country." NCSE presented the board with a petition from 54 scientific and educational societies, urging the board to reject language that misrepresents or undermines the teaching of evolution, which the board likewise ignored.
Evolutionary Semantics, Texas Style
The Texas Board of Education gave grudging support last week to teaching the mainstream theory of evolution without the most troubling encumbrances sought by religious and social conservatives. But the margins on crucial amendments were disturbingly close, typically a single vote on a 15-member board, and compromise language left ample room for the struggle to continue.
Creationism in the Classroom
By Jerry Coyne
No list of commentaries would be complete without reference to Jerry's invective...(KHW)
Enlisting in the Culture War
in the Austin American Statesman
By Don McLeroy
New Texas Science Standards saddled with incoherent changes
The Texas State Board of Education managed to keep the "strengths and weaknesses" language out of the science education standards, but passed a series of small amendments that provide guidance that is, at times, scientifically incoherent.
Science Setback for Texas Schools
After three all-day meetings and a blizzard of amendments and counter-amendments, the Texas Board of Education cast its final vote Friday on state science standards. The results weren't pretty. The board majority amended the Earth and Space Science, and Biology standards (TEKS) with loopholes and language that make it even easier for creationists to attack science textbooks.
"What we now have is Son of Strengths and Weaknesses," says Josh Rosenau, a project director for NCSE. "Having students 'analyze and evaluate all sides of scientific evidence' is code that gives creationists a green light to attack biology textbooks."
DISPATCHES FROM THE CULTURE WARS
Good news and bad news in texas
Ed Brayton's Blog
The Texas Board of Education passed the new science standards on Friday. The good news is that an amendment to add back in the "strengths and weaknesses" requirement failed. The bad news is that a more specific amendment with the same effect passed and was added to the standards, where it will now be used to shoehorn creationist propaganda into science classrooms.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Jarstfer and Coghlan: DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t censor questions of evolution
In January, the evolution lobby convinced a slim majority of the board to tentatively remove the required teaching of Ã¢â‚¬Å“weaknessesÃ¢â‚¬Â from the standard. Now the same activists are demanding that the board cut the words Ã¢â‚¬Å“analyze and evaluateÃ¢â‚¬Â from the high school biology standards dealing directly with evolution. It is the Darwinian activists who are picking the fight.
Evolution activists have raised a string of phony issues. They claim that board members are trying to insert creationism and a Ã¢â‚¬Å“young earthÃ¢â‚¬Â into the science standards. Completely false. Remember, it is the Darwinian extremists who are attempting to change the existing science directives. Under the existing standards there has not been a single reported case of a teacher using the standard as a pretext to teach religion, creationism, or anything other than science.
TEXAS Decides Evolution Needs More Study, I Decide I Need Less Texas
Board of Education Evolves into a Sideshow
The human brain seems not to have changed since homo sapiens first appeared 150,000 years ago. That means evolution is false. We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have every bone, so the fossil record undercuts the theory of evolution. A few scientists have fudged proof of evolution, so that calls into question all the other evidence.
Texas Science education debate over -- but the win is a loss
There is the possibility that all the text books in the nation will include information that fulfills Texas standards requirements. If this were to happen, the entire country would fall even further behind the rest of the world in certain areas of science education. Further, student would be woefully behind when entering college when the time came for them to take prerequisite science classes.
Texas Votes for Evolutionary
But scientists argue that the theory of creation or Intelligent Design would make kids question even well-established scientific truths, and could create a generation of citizens that is unable to tell real scientific facts from fiction.
They also pinpoint that creationists and ID adepts twist scientific facts to fit their claims, by questioning techniques such as carbon dating. Scientists tell that they are puzzled at this tactic that creationists employ in their actions, because even the Pope, the supreme ruler of the Catholic Church, has admitted that the theory of evolution is not incompatible with the Christian belief, as long as people accept that, at some point, God gave soul to our common ancestors.
Texas School Board Rejects Scientific Method
And So it Ends
TEXAS Fundamentalism bites a little dust
But I choose to look at this Texas school board decision the way God intended; the glass is indeed, half full. Enough, all ready, with the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific hypothesis. These are to be tested, proven or disproven and not debated. I always get a kick out of the question, "do you believe in evolution?" How can a person "believe" a fossil-based, scientific theory? It's like asking someone if they "believe" in gravity.
"Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks."
- Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network
"Somebody has got to stand up to these experts. Why does evolution have this lofty status? It's all about ideology."
- Texas Board of Education Chairman Don McElroy
Seattle area writer and Darwin skeptic Kevin Wirth is a founding member of ARN (formerly Students for Origins Research). He is also the Senior editor, contributor, and publisher of the book "Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth About Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters" by Dr. Jerry Bergman (2008). This is the most comprehensive book published to date documenting the extent and types of discrimination against Darwin Dissidents. He is also the publisher of Caroline Crocker's upcoming book "Free to Think," (Leafcutter Press) which addresses her critics and relates her experience as an Expelled University professor. Her book is currently scheduled for release sometime in June 2009.
To read more essays by Kevin Wirth, click here.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Kevin H. Wirth, all rights reserved. Quotes and links are permitted with attribution.
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