Outcome in Texas: Mixed but not that great. Lunacy spreads to Florida

March 28, 2009 • 6:07 am

The school board hearings have ended in Texas, and the outcome is mixed. In other words, we’ll all have to keep watching and fighting the benighted hordes who keep trying to insert scripture into the school curriculum. According to Gordy Slack’s report over at Salon, the motion to include teaching about the “strengths and weaknesses” of science (read: evolution) was rejected by an 8-7 vote, but Don McLeroy (the creationist head of the board) and his minions retreated, dug in, and won some stuff by proposing a variety of amendments:

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.”

And they succeeded. Casey Luskin, a Discovery Institute lawyer, and its guy on the Austin scene, was psyched by the outcome. “These are the strongest standards in the country now,” he says. “The language adapted requires students to have critical thinking about all of science, including evolution, and it urges them to look at all sides of the issue.”

Here is what they voted in:

1). A requirement that students “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data on sudden appearance and stasis and the sequential groups in the fossil record.” In other words, McLeroy succeeded in getting his “stasis is God” position officially adopted (see yesterday’s post).

2). A requirement that teachers and textbooks compel students to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanation concerning the complexity of the cell.” This is, as we all know, part of the intelligent design claim that cells are too complex to have evolved.

Now how in the world are public school students going to meet these requirements without having to be taught intelligent-design/creationist positions? I can see it now: textbooks will have to say, “Some scientists think that cells are too complex to have evolved by natural selection,” and “Some scientists think that the Cambrian Explosion and the existence of living fossils implies that A Great Designer created the world in an instant, calling all species into being.”

What really worries me is that textbook publishers are going to have to include nonsense like this to satisfy the Texas standards. I have been criticized for using the Holocaust analogy, but I think it’s an apt one: imagine a history class (which, after all, depends on assertions of empirical fact) being subject to the same standards. After reading about the Holocaust, students are then given the disclaimer, “Some people think that the Holocaust never happened, and that this story was fabricated by the Jews out of self-pity.” That’s what the Texas shenanigans really amount to. Remember, the Wedge Document of intelligent design is aimed not just at science, but at expelling ALL materialistic ways of investigating nature from the schools.

We’re in trouble.

And down in Florida, Tampa Bay Online reports that creationists have filed another bill in the state senate requiring “A thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” (Thanks to PZ over at Pharyngula for this link.)

NOTE:  Florida Citizens for Science says that this bill is dead for the year.  But given what has happened down there, I suspect that it– or something like it– will be back soon.

Clearly, this is the next-generation strategy of creationists. It has the merit of not looking explicitly religious, although of course its motivation is precisely that. It’s a clever strategy. Let’s see how the courts deal with it.

9 thoughts on “Outcome in Texas: Mixed but not that great. Lunacy spreads to Florida

  1. Medieval theology? Actually its roots go back far earlier than that. And it’s very much alive and well in 21st century academia. But calling it medieval does score you rhetorical points, even if it’s inaccurate–I’ll grant you that much.

    I’m sure you’re more careful with your facts than this when it comes to science. If I were you, though, I wouldn’t want to write anything so inaccurate about anything–even if it scores rhetorical points.

  2. Tom; I agree with Gerry. It is appropriate and accurate to call it a medieval theology. What you would like to call “rhetorical points” is instead CLEAR MEANING. Yes, all the emotional baggage called to mind when pointing out its roots in more barbaric time periods is valid, and explaining that the origins of the metaphysical philosophy is even older is moot. Unless we want to point out that it is not merely a medieval theology, it is a stone-age theology. Rather than proudly point out that it is still “alive and well” you should be ashamed that the corpse keeps kicking and you are dumb enough not to notice it died centuries ago.

  3. The creationists may get their point of view into some textbooks; but, there is another line of defense that I’m aware of. There is at least one group that looks at textbooks and tries to weed out the ones containing nonsense including cases, for example, where history books may seamlessly switch to biblical history stories. The group is well aware of Id. So, schools that want to avoid ID, still have some help. The group is named “The Textbook League” and it’s based in Sausalito, California. They publish a newsletter for teachers. I found out about this group accidentally several years ago and was rather impressed with some reports they’ve posted online. Anyway, I sent them an email about a book that was being used by one of the “Bible Literacy” trojan horses. The reply was that the book was an “outrageous fraud” as I would suspect from checking out its authors.

    TTL site:

    TTL view of ID: The “Intelligent Design” Hoax
    William J. Bennetta:
    (page down for a cute cartoon)

    The head guy:
    “William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false “science” and false “history” in schoolbooks.”
    (He is a fellow of the CAS–I checked.) From what limited view I have, the TTL looks legit.

  4. Enezio: Why bother analysing and evaluating gravity, aerodynamics, astronomy, relativity, medicine, electricity, elements or anything else?

    Why bother with science at all?

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