Yay! WEIT in Texas school board hearings! Well, maybe not yay. . .

September 21, 2009 • 7:31 am

An alert reader sent me this video from the recent Texas school-board hearings on state science standards (read about the outcome here).   The pro-evolution guy testifying is Dr. James Westgate from the Texas Academy of Science, explaining how the fossil record documents evolution.  But the interlocutor uses WEIT as evidence that evolution isn’t true!

The madness begins at about 3:00. The unseen interlocutor (identified as “Miss Cargill”, apparently Barbara Cargill of the Texas Board of Education) brings up a point from my book (incorrectly pronouncing my name “Coin-ee”) that the vast majority of species that ever lived are not known to us as fossils. (She cites page 23 of WEIT, but that figure is on p. 22.  There is some confusion in  the video about whether the figure is the proportion of all species that have become extinct, or the proportion of all species that we know as fossils.)  This, of course, reflects the rarity of conditions for fossilization, preservation, and of finding a fossil once it is formed.  But for some reason Cargill thinks that this invalidates using the fossil record as evidence for evolution.  Westgate soldiers on gamely, and he’s good, but it’s clear the deck is stacked against him!  She says, “I’m just kind of questioning,” but what she’s doing is trying to hide her ignorance while dumping on evolution.

After seeing who’s in charge of their education, I feel even sorrier for the schoolchildren of Texas, one of my favorite states.

Kudos to the National Center for Science Education for putting up these videos, and for their tenacious defense of evolution in Texas.  The NCSE has a website for the Texas videos and many others bearing on the evolution/creation debate.

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Fig. 1.  We have the fossils: WE WIN!

h/t: Scott

20 thoughts on “Yay! WEIT in Texas school board hearings! Well, maybe not yay. . .

  1. I suppose we should feel sorry for more than the children of Texas, since that state drives the process of textbook editing and publication for the entire country.

  2. I enjoyed his comment a the end that every gap filled in the fossil record creates two new gaps, I guess I had never thought of it that way.

    I agree with Ray that it is obvious that she has never read the book. One of the best parts of the book for me was reading how well predictions can be made based on current fossils to attempt to find transitional fossils.

    I also enjoyed her mathematical ignorance. She stated that 99.9% of species remained unknown but kept insisting only 1% of species have ever been found as fossils.

  3. Tut tut – that’s no good – what they should be doing is pointing to say page 46 where Dr Coyne comes right out and admits that “we don’t know” what feathers were for if they weren’t adaptations for flying, and then saying triumphantly “they were for stuffing pillows and duvets and that’s why God put them there!”

    [irony alert]

  4. Oh, and Rosenau’s SEED article was very illuminating. But it is somewhat dated – 8 days later McLeroy’s reappointment for Chair of the Board of Education failed Senate approval.

  5. JD:
    “I also enjoyed her mathematical ignorance. She stated that 99.9% of species remained unknown but kept insisting only 1% of species have ever been found as fossils.”

    That must be part of the wedge strategy. First, get rid of evolution. Second, geology. Third, mathematics!

  6. I too liked the math lesson.

    Miss Cargrill, what part of one-tenth percent is one percent? Slightly smaller or slightly larger, maybe? I’m just wondering which christian god-idea maths you are working from.

    Oh and, could you give a short summary of the qualifications you have for being on a board that sets science education policy? Is (simple) math important to science education? Would you be in favor of showing the video to all the students you are charged with setting policy for?

  7. seriously, why was it not OK for James Westgate, to castigate Cargill?

    This question should not be answered, it should be used to point out the mendacity and ignorance behind the question – and it should be used to state without equivocation that the questioners “feelings” have no standing.

    The question was an an attack on the foundations of evidence itself.

    This man, Dr. Westgate, is not in a classroom, he is not talking to a naive freshman who is in his care, he is not here as a professor to “teach” this woman the nature of evidence and how the fact that she can imagine some alternative is not grounds for respecting that alternative.

    Dr. Westgate should have said, “Madame, if you need to ask me that question, you have no business adjudicating the standards for science education, the fossil record is profound, and the strongest possible argument for evolution it is the work of countless lifetimes of study, it contains no evidence that contravenes the unifying principle of evolution as the central theme in all life sciences. When science finds a rabbit in the Cretaceous I assure you, we will let you know.”

    My question in short, is why was Dr. Westgate polite, why did he feel it wise to be patient and understanding when asked that question in this forum?

    1. Because the people he was talking to were in a position to make educational policy for one of the largest states in the US, and showing them how abysmally stupid they are won’t change that.

      Kind of the same reason I didn’t tell a cop who had pulled me over (whom I had misunderstood) that I don’t speak Redneck.

  8. Westgate opens the video by waving the Journal of Paleontology and saying “this book is full of fossils”, he even says that “people who say we don’t have fossils are ignorant of what is in the museums” … then, a minute later, what he just called ignorance, is manifest, in the form of Barbara Cargill quoting to him out of Coin-ee’s book …

    I have to give him credit for his self control.

  9. here is the prequel to Cargill’s question, this one to a creationist friendly “scientist”


    her bit starts at 9:00 … but the guy she is talking to says “the problems is clams!”

    Then he says, Customer:


    What have you got?

    Well, there’s egg and bacon,
    egg sausage and bacon
    Egg and clam
    Egg, bacon and clam
    Egg, bacon, sausage and clam
    Clam, bacon, sausage and clam
    Clam, egg, clam, clam, bacon and clam
    Clam, sausage, clam, clam, clam, bacon, clam tomato and clam
    Clam, clam, clam, egg and clam
    Clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, baked beans, clam, clam, clam and clam.

    (Choir: Clam! Clam! Clam! Clam! Lovely Clam! Lovely Clam!)

    Or Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a mornay sauce
    served in a provencale manner with shallots and aubergines
    garnished with truffle pate, brandy and a fried egg on top and clam.

    Have you got anything without clam?

    Well, the clam, eggs, sausage and clam
    That’s not got much clam in it

    I don’t want any clam!

    Why can’t she have eggs, bacon, clam and sausage?

    That’s got clam in it!

    Hasn’t got much clam in it as clam, eggs, sausage and clam has it?

    (Choir: Clam! Clam! Clam!…)

    Could you do me eggs, bacon, clam and sausage without the clam, then?


    What do you mean ‘Iiiiiiiiiich’? I don’t like clam!

    (Choir: Lovely clam! Wonderful clam!)

    Waitress (to choir):
    Shut up!

    (Choir: Lovely clam! Wonderful clam!)

    Shut Up! Bloody Creationists!
    You can’t have egg, bacon, clam and sausage without the clam.

    I don’t like clam!

    Shush dear, don’t have a fuss. I’ll have your clam. I love it,
    I’m having clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, baked beans,
    clam, clam, clam, and clam!

    (Choir: Clam! Clam! Clam! Clam! Lovely clam! Wonderful clam!)

    Shut Up!! Baked beans are off.

    Well, could I have her clam instead of the baked beans then?

    You mean clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam, clam,
    clam and clam?

    Choir (intervening):
    Clam! Clam! Clam! Clam!
    Lovely clam! Wonderful clam!
    Clam cla-a-a-a-a-am clam cla-a-a-a-a-am clam.
    Lovely clam! Lovely clam! Lovely clam! Lovely clam!
    Clam clam clam clam!

  10. I’ve been trying to find what proportion of holocaust victims have been identified. Best as I can see it is somewhere around 10%.

    Seems like that would be a good counter-question to this kind of thing. “We know the identity of only a tiny proportion of the victims of the holocaust, ma’am, and have remains from an even smaller proportion. Would you suggest that is grounds for doubting the holocaust happened?”

      1. Sometimes I do wonder if I just have a complete disconnect between my brain and my ability to communicate.

        I mean _identified_, as in, what is their name, their family, who were they. As a proportion of the estimated total number of victims (as per the page you link to), it is small. The proportion for which we actually have the identified physical remains is must smaller still.

        The analogy I am making is that you don’t need to know specific details to see a pattern.

        You don’t need to have a fossil of a particular animal to know it existed, you don’t need the biography of a holocaust victim to know that they died.

    1. From Bob’s link, “We estimate that Yad Vashem currently has somewhat more than four million names of victims that are accessible”.

      So it appears that most (though certainly nowhere near all) victims have been identified by name with some degree of certainty. I didn’t know that.

      But even with the multiple lines of evidence that substantiate it, some people still dismiss the Holocaust as a hoax, greatly exaggerated, etc. Some people are just perversely stupid.

      1. I didn’t know that either.

        “I’ve been trying to find what proportion of holocaust victims have been identified. Best as I can see it is somewhere around 10%.”

        That figure came from a Ukranian document talking about their specific efforts to find family histories of victims. I guess from the information posted that my sample was deeply unrepresentative.

        So *pft* goes my crafty question in a puff of evidence. Hey ho.

        Still, it is interesting to learn new stuff. I am not a holocaust skeptic in any way shape or form, but it shaming how little about it I really know.

        I worry that I know just enough badly remembered information about the holocaust to be taken apart thoroughly by a vehement holocaust denier.

  11. I’ve met too many Jewish colleagues with NO aunts nor uncles, because both their parents were the only survivors in their families, ever to doubt the reality of the Holocaust no matter how sketchy my grasp of the details.

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