The bad news about evolution: every Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Texas supports teaching creationism in public schools. Of course.

January 30, 2014 • 9:13 am

Professing belief in creationism (or rejection of evolution) is becoming a litmus test for Republican candidates for office. Do you remember the 2007 Republican presidential debates, when the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they didn’t accept evolution? Here’s the clip showing the three out of eleven who raise their hands, effectively swearing that they’re either idiots or lying panderers. At least John McCain had the guts to affirm that he accepted evolution.

But it’s getting worse. From the Houston Chronicle we get this bit of depressing—but unsurprising—news about evolution. All four Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor have come out in favor of teaching creationism in the public schools.  And this after Texas has just rejected any incursion of creationism into public-school textbooks! I’m told that in Texas, unlike other states, the lieutenant governor has extraordinary power, but I haven’t checked this out.

You can see the debate here, which includes other issues, but the Chronicle has handily summarized the candidates’ answers to the question posed by Texas Public Radio:

Does creationism belong in schools? Would you like to see creationism in textbooks?

The answers. Prepare to weep (my emphases):

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson: Creationism, intelligent design, evolution should be taught in school. Our students should be armed with knowledge about creationism, intelligent design, evolution. Let the parents and ministers decide what should prevail in child’s life. … Comparative religion – kids ought to learn about other religions. So they feel more comfortable with their own. … Should be tolerant.

Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples: Don’t need to apologize for being a Christian. Creationism can be taught in our schools. It is something most Texans believe in. … Pay good teachers more. Lt. Gov Dewhurst is the first lieutenant governor to have a personal security detail. … We should expose kids to creationism. … We have many needs in our schools. We should end culture of teaching to the test. … Shouldn’t just throw money at education. To Dewhurst, he said: Your loss to Ted Cruz says you’re out of touch.

State Sen. Dan Patrick: We teach kids in church on Sunday about Jesus. On school, on Monday, they can’t talk about Jesus. They must be confused. We have yielded to secular left. I believe we’ve been blessed by God as a nation. When it comes to creationism, not only should it be taught, it should be triumphed, it should be heralded. Brought Christmas back into school; tired of “winter holidays.” … We have a crisis in our inner-city with dropout rates. We must have school choice. It is the hub of the wheel. We have no future in Texas if we don’t have an educated workforce. School choice would improve inner-city education.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: I believe in creationism but I understand it alone cannot be taught. And I am fine with teaching creationism, intelligent design, evolution. Let students, with advice and counsel, decide for themselves which one they believe in. All three should be taught. As far as public education system, I am proud of improving public education over the years. Proud of passing a landmark school finance bill in 2006 – we put a record amount of new funds in. … I want to see merit pay. … Intelligent design, creationism and evolution should all be taught. We reduced teaching to the test.

In other words, since teaching creationism—whether Biblical or in the form of intelligent design—is illegal everywhere it has been contested in the U.S., all four candidates are advocating that their state violate our Constitution. Come on, Texas, why do you breed people like this?

The proper answer, even if you are a creationist, is “Well, I personally believe in creationism, but I also believe in good science, and the courts have declared that teaching religious theories of origins in the public schools is illegal. I believe in enforcing the law, not my personal religious beliefs.” But you won’t see these panderers saying that.

The Four Stooges:

Picture 1
Republican Texas lieutenant governor candidates, from left, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Sen. Dan Patrick, Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. (AP)

h/t: Michael

71 thoughts on “The bad news about evolution: every Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Texas supports teaching creationism in public schools. Of course.

  1. This country is too big. The northeast and west coast seem just as different from the south, or more so, as Mongolia or Tazbekistan is. (Not comparing either to the southern states).
    But this country gets more and more ungovernable. Can one country survive while supporting the non-science, stone-age beliefs, Religiosity, of one part while the other part advances and relies on science, evidence, and humanism?
    And yes, there are fine southerners – but as a group of states…..

    Vermont every now and then throws the succession idea into the fray. Maybe more states should.

    1. The divide is at least as much demographic as it is geographical. Urban areas tend to be much more liberal than rural. There’re lots of places in California and the Pacific Northwest redder than the average of the Bible Belt; Austin, the Texas state capital, is blue enough to fit right in the Northeast Corridor. My own Senators are McCain and Flake; my Representative, on the other hand, is Kyrsten Sinema, an out lesbian and an almost-but-not-quite-out atheist.

      There’re other practical concerns, too. Without the Federal redistribution of wealth that pumps huge sums of money and other resources from Illinois and Californa and New York and California to Virginia and Texas and Florida. Believe me, you don’t want to see that flow cut off, or else those states at the receiving end will collapse as spectacularly as Somalia — and that would be very, very, very bad for everybody.

      Cheers,

      b&

      1. Agreed. As much as I despise Texas, nothing in our country is discrete anymore. I spent six years in Austin…a delta function of liberalism in a sea of fundamentalism. And El Paso, where I grew up…some Texans would like to think that it as part of Mexico…¡qué demonios!

        It is very likely over a million residents of Texas are atheists and even more who are religious but reasonable, hard working, good people who are not aligned with the ignorance spouted by their government officials.

      2. As a Californian, I can attest to this. We have some of the largest churches in the country right here in my back yard. Sacramento itself has a church on almost every street. If it’s not Baptist, it’s Catholic – especially with our large immigrant population. We aren’t as liberal as the rest of the country assumes – which is why gay marriage was voted down initially. This article makes me feel defeated. Aren’t they embarrassed that our students regularly feature near the bottom of the industrialized world when it comes to the sciences? Don’t they realize what that means for the future of our country? These people who claim to be patriotic – yet want to hinder us from progress. I just can’t wrap my head around it.

  2. TX…where they took possession of a corpse to turn it into an incubator to show how prolife and small govt they are. Where they want creationism to get ‘all sides’ then take Jefferson out of the textbooks because he authored the phrase ‘separation of church and state’.

    They have an Orwellian view of freedom. I lived there for 2 years. Couldn’t take the hypocrisy, lies and duplicitous delusions of Christianity.

  3. If only we could trust school teachers to accurately summarize the merits of creationism and ID in our schools. I cover evolution in a college general education class, and then I spend a lecture summarizing the 8 flavors of creationism and I.D. following the basic outline of this classic website: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wic.html

    The internal contradictions are so obvious, and it is so clear that which flavor of creationist you are is a religious choice, that I never feel the need to explain why any particular creationist claim is wrong.

    The icing on the cake comes later in the class when I get to point repeatedly to particular anatomical features (vestiges or otherwise) as prime examples of intelligent design. I don’t like to mock while lecturing, but the question raised is obvious: Is the designer incompetent, malicious, or in cahoots with Evil?

    Directly covering creationism is a great way to show how vacuous it really is.

    1. Agree. Just as explaining why pseudoscience is wrong is a very good way to introduce students to an understanding of how science works. Give them a concrete example of a mistake, and how we correct it. Kudos to you.

      But you’re right: most teachers wouldn’t do this.

    2. It is a good practice to outline basic concepts of creationism, especially when so many people might be interested. And at a college age such an examination of one’s beliefs can go along way to making people think about what it means to understand the universe we live, rather than fix answers which are neither justified nor aesthetically pleasant.

  4. It’s a bad story not only because people in power are letting their religion/ideology inform their decisions rather than science/facts but also because it further divides Americans into separate ideologies that share little common ground and that just can’t be good.

    The up side is that Democrats most likely see atheists as the growing group they need to win over. Atheists are most likely as important to Democrats as Fundamentalists/Evangelicals are to Republicans.

    1. I agree in general that atheists are now or are becoming an important demographic and that most lean liberal and therefore Democratic. But I am not as sure as you that we are as important to Democrats as Fundamentals/Evangelicals are to Republicans. I don’t know what the numbers are, but there are conservative, Republican-voting atheists. I know of a few locally. Have been engaging them the past week on a local Freethinker’s website. But are there any Fundamentalists or Evangelicals who vote Democrat? I suspect this voting block is more dedicated to Republicans than atheists are to Democrats.

      1. Most of the Black and Hispanic populations in the US vote Democrat and are overwhelmingly Protestant and Catholic, respectively.

      2. Even if the numbers of atheists in the Democratic party were the same as evangelicals in the Republican I doubt their influence would be the same. There are probably few issues that unite atheists like, say, abortion unites evangelicals. Even more important is motivation. Evangelicals have a terror of the tack of the modern world and terror is highly motivating, motivation that gets them to the polls, opens their wallets, and generally amplifies their influence. In short, it takes a LOT of moderates to combat a handful of extremists.

    2. The Democratic Party is a firm believer in not running after the bus its already caught – so atheists trending liberal just means they’re more likely to trend religious to try and get the voters they don’t have, rather than working to keep the ones they do.

  5. Speaking of internal contradictions, I love the disconnect between Dan Patrick’s celebration of creationism and his comment “We have no future in Texas if we don’t have an educated workforce.”

    1. That was the only statement, made by any of the four candidates, with which I could agree. If only Mr. Patrick had stopped there.

    2. Yes, I was going to highlight that inconsistancy, but then I saw you had already noted it. A workforce that doesn’t know anything about modern science… how does he suppose that will work!

  6. I have to live in this state. I have friends who are Christians. Their argument is that science is a religion too. Most of them have never read a book about evolution — and refuse to do so. My friends have college degrees, are fairly intelligent, and either have their own businesses or are high-level executives. I just don’t get it.

    1. @10: “Their argument is that science is a religion too.”

      A whole lotta cognitive dissonance going on here. Also an example of justification type thinking. Can’t accept that there is something wrong with their belief system. So call science a belief system as well. Makes it easer for them to hold on to their nonsense.

  7. We teach kids in church on Sunday about Jesus. On school, on Monday, they can’t talk about Jesus. They must be confused.

    This statement here is a great example of what is behind Austin Dacey’s reasoning in The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life. By “belief” belonging in public life Dacey doesn’t mean church-state violations where we teach creationism in science class or bring religion into law. He means that the existence of God and the truths of religion must be debated in the marketplace of ideas. Atheists must be outspoken. Accomodationism isn’t going to work.

    There’s simply too much internal inherent conflict in the “proper answer” of “Well, I personally believe in creationism, but I also believe in good science … I believe in enforcing the law, not my personal religious beliefs.”

    Are there two kinds of “truths?”

    Religious beliefs are not really “personal” beliefs. Saying “I personally believe God exists” is not like saying “I personally enjoy smooth jazz” or “I personally collect rocks” or “I personally prefer the country to the city.” The existence of God or other religious beliefs are supposed to be objective facts which are true regardless of whether someone believes them or not. They involve truths which you, as a person, have enthusiastically decided to accept and which other people, due to their personal flaws, have sadly and to their eventual doom decided to reject.

    Jerry might as well say “I personally believe in evolution” and turn it into the same argument against letting his personal beliefs “intrude” into what children are taught or what the laws allow. Note that this is exactly what the creationists WANT scientists to say — right before they ram their “personal beliefs” into competition. Personal my ass.

    I personally believe that the people who are confused by having to believe one thing in their “faith world” and its opposite in the “secular world” are right to be confused. Compartmentalization won’t work as long as religion is supposed to be not just important, but the most important thing. Something’s got to give.

    And it’s not going to be the common ground.

    1. Is the idea of “personal belief” perhaps a sort of compromise between religious factions themselves to live and let live? Everyone thinks the other guys religious views are full of crap, of course, and that theirs is objective reality, but as a matter of not having to exterminate the other guy (or failing to and tiring of the effort), everyone decided to engage in this absurd fiction that religious views were ‘personal’ as a way to get on with doing other things. It seems a fruitful compromise given that the sword is the only known way to resolve religious questions. At least, that’s one impression I’ve gotten of this attitude.

      Of course, part of the implicit pact was that we’d all acknowledge God or some basic common beliefs so that we could pretend that more people agree with us on all the sect-specific bits than actually do. This is where it breaks down for atheists. Atheists are perceived as violating this old pact of non-aggression between sects when, of course, they have no choice since they can’t assent to the lowest common denominator of religion.

      1. I’m reminded of this:

        The humanist philosopher Simon Blackburn recounts a wonderful anecdote told to him by a colleague about a high-powered interfaith panel discussion. Each speaker took turns to explain some key ideas of their faith – Buddhist, Hindu and so on – and the response from other panel members was always along the lines of: “Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great.” The same response greeted the Catholic priest who talked of Christ and salvation, but instead of being pleased with their enthusiasm “he thumped the table and shouted: ‘No! It’s not a question of if it works for me! It’s the true word of the living God, and if you don’t believe it you’re all damned to hell!'”

        “And they all said, ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great.'”

        /@

  8. I’d like to believe that science/culture are stronger than a few idiots. When I was a boy my mother told me that if the wind blew while I was making faces my face would get stuck with that expression. I soon tested her hypothesis and discovered it wasn’t true. Hopefully students will be able to move past creationist ridiculousness.

    1. Sadly, creationists don’t test their hypotheses because they see their beliefs as absolute truths because….revelation. This means many will never question their beliefs and the few that dare to be different will be shamed into silence. Still, a tiny fraction make it out

  9. This is odd. I live in Alberta – lots of Xian fundies compared to the rest of Canada. However the Oil & Gas industry brings so many geologists & geophysics to the Province that I think it helps to keep creationism in check. Besides we have the awesome Royal Tyrrel Museum which is funded by the Province. I would imagine that in similar fashion Texans would understand that the science involved with one of the largest wealth sources in their state is incompatible to creationism. Classical example of cognitive dissonance – I guess.

    1. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is wonderful, it’s worth going to Alberta just for that. Because of the Royal Tyrrell, I ended up taking a wonderful guided hike up to the Burgess Shale. A spectacular, never to be forgotten experience!

  10. I happened to be tuned into NPR while the live debate was occurring as I drove away from a restaurant. It was disgusting and I turned it off after just after listening to these idiotic esponses to the teaching of creationism question. It just isn’t safe to drive under such conditions.

    It is easy to blame Texas, by the way. But remember, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, and Sarah Palin all hail from places outside the South. The numbers tip further towards the knuckle-draggers in the
    South, but you only need to shift about 15% of the public to convert Texas into Wisconsin or vice versa.

    1. “Texas into Wisconsin or vice versa”

      Rub it in, why doncha? Ruin my day with the reminder.

      Thanks.

      Grump grump grump.

  11. Does this mean that the Democratic candidate has a chance, or does this mean that Texas is hopeless? Is it possible to be too much a conservative loon for the state electorate?

  12. From birth, some 72 years ago, I’ve lived mostly in Texas. Old time religion is as basic here as breathing. I’ts preached continuously from cradle to grave and it has the effect the “religious”, mostly fundamentalists, desire. People are made to be afraid of going to hell beginning early in sunday school and I’m sure most have had nightmares about it. Religion is part of “family” and it’s with you seven days a week.I’m sure that if most of these religious people believed that their god wanted them to fly a plane into a building, they would stand in line to get the chance. That’s why reason, critical thinking,ect. in the area of religion, is so difficult to promote. They just don’t want to actually think about it. Even the possibility that their faith could be based on false and/or nonsensical information is hateful to them. I guess there are many of us that have broken the spell, but it’s a hard row to hoe down here. The internet has helped immensely and I’m sure our numbers are steadily increasing daily. But, as these politicos obviously believe, you won’t get elected down here by saying anything against creationism.

    1. The row, I hope, will get easier and easier to hoe as time goes by. A religion which is “as basic as breathing” can only be maintained in isolation. The fact that the Christians in Texas really, truly believe that their religious beliefs are true and can withstand any fair scrutiny may make them a pain in the ass now but will hurt them in the end. Texas is big — but it’s not that big.

      Watch for the evolution of “personal belief” in creationism. Not sure how long, but soon. And then it goes faster, till the only religious faith which is as basic as breathing is knowing that the gnu atheists are not subtle or nuanced enough in their understanding of religion.

      1. Well, I heard a JW say something very much like that a few years ago – “I personally believe God created the universe. I don’t know how long ago, but He did create it.”

  13. This — all of this woo in Texas ( and, of course, elsewhere as well ) — is bloody well frightening to me: I have one of my grandchildren now there for, so far, four of his elementary, middle and high school years, age 14 just last week, that is.

    He was with me ( in central Iowa ) over last academic year’s spring break and, as is usually to be welcomed by me, queried me on .’this’. Repeatedly.

    One parent is ( of course, she is ) of these candidates’ ilk.

    My son just ignores .‘this’. altogether and heads off to work.

    Leaving me, M.O.S.T. unwelcomed by my in – law, to say a thing, let alone, THE truth. To GrandKiddo.

    .’THIS’. is not the only aspect responsible for the dissing o’Grandma Blue, but I am certain that: .’this’. is one of THE most massive reasons responsible for it.

    With four years down and four more to go until his majority age and with such muck in schools and in his mama’s brain, I personally, and truly, do not believe GrandKiddo stands a chance.

    Blue

  14. And I betcha if you asked every one of them fellers if they considered themselves mainstream Xtians, they’d be indignant at the suggestion that they might be otherwise.

  15. I personally would like to see more taught about Odin, or Poseidon. What is the difference? One is an extinct belief system, the other may be extinct in time…. (one can hope). If you are going to teach the words of “god”, “Jesus” then the rest of the panteon should follow…

  16. State Sen. Dan Patrick: We teach kids in church on Sunday about Jesus. On school, on Monday, they can’t talk about Jesus. They must be confused.

    I actually have some sympathy for that perspective. It speaks somewhat to the confusion of accommodation.

    Here you are, believing that the very Creator Of The Universe has spoken to mankind, made his will clear, outlined our peril should we ignore God’s will…and then you are supposed to sort of only broach this incredible state of affairs in the enclosed walls of your Church, on Sundays.
    If I REALLY believed all that, I’d want to be shouting it to the world. It would form the focus of my life and it would be entirely rational to do so.

    Instead of just meeting these beliefs head on and pointing out why they *don’t deserve* a place in the public forum, and why they are bad ideas in general, Religious Accommodationism says, essentially says “there, there…it’s ok to go believing in your bible…but don’t believe TOO MUCH of it and not TOO STRONGLY, and don’t bother anyone else with those beliefs.”

    Think the Creator Of The Universe has spoken his will to mankind? Keep that to yourself, in your church. Got an opinion on whether that new highway ought to be built? THAT’S important let’s hear your beliefs on that.

    It has to be a very, very strange, discomfiting situation for those Christians who really do take their religion seriously and who are unwilling to reduce it to the nebulous pablum of less convinced, or more liberal Christians.

    Vaal

    1. Bart Ehrman reports that he asks his bible studies classes at the beginning of the year, “Who has read all the Harry Potter books?” Almost all hands go up.
      “Who has read the entire Bible?” Very few hands go up. ” Who believes the Bible was written by God?” Almost all hands go up. He then comments that if he thought the creator of the universe had written a book, he’d be thrilled to read every word! Which of course he did, and now he’s an atheist, though a very conflicted one.

      Christians are used to cognitive dissonance.

      1. Cognitive dissonace of many varieties. They know very well that most of the book by the creator of the universe of is boring! And he contradicts himself constantly. And he’s kinda stupid. And he really is an asshole. But we love him with all our hearts.

        1. I think the boredom of the Bible is a feature. It shields it from scrutiny. Imagine if it were written as clearly and engagingly as Harry Potter. Well then, what it is saying would be obvious and obviously nonsensical and people would abandon it. It is such a terrible read, however, that very few people actually read it. And on those occasions when they do take a peek it it’s incomprehensibility is taken as a sign of depth rather than bad writing.

  17. I read the article linked to below well after this Texas Lt. Gov WEIT topic was posted today.

    I wonder if any of the 4 candidates supports the curriculum that is the subject of the story (curriculum developed in the state of Texas in 1970), and I wonder if the coursework in taught in any schools in the state which receive taxpayer support.

    http://www.alternet.org/education/shocking-lessons-christian-educational-cartoons?akid=11458.156328.YYx5cP&rd=1&src=newsletter952818&t=14

  18. The main job for prospective lieutenant governors right now is getting elected. They know the voters in Texas; a very large number of them are Hispanic, and most of those are very religious. Most Hispanics in Texas routinely vote Democratic. As you are very aware, there have been several kafuffles concerning religion(s) in the media lately. A stance against ‘God’ in any form will not go over well with most Texas voters right now. As you noted, Texas kicked any ‘intimations of creationism’ out of public-school textbooks. This is the normal routine here; the review board flaps their feathers a bit and some of them squawk about ‘keeping God alive in Texas’ for the media. But when it comes down to it they always approve the text books that teach as close to the ‘facts’ as we currently know them. I have said before that I have a very large family that all live in Texas; about half of them are teachers. None of them teach or know anyone who does teach creationism or ID. No one in my family, in four generations is now or ever has been taught Creationism or ID in Texas schools, not even the parochial Catholic or Lutheran schools. The population of Texas is predominately Christian, made up chiefly of Roman Catholic (lots of Irish and Hispanic backgrounds here), Southern Baptists, Methodists, Fundamental Pentecostals, Non-denominational Fundamental Christianss and in the larger cities we have a fair spattering of Muslims and Buddhists. Do you really think any politician and/or public figure could stay around for more than ten minutes if they pledged or actually tried to pass any legislation that actually had to decide which Christian church’s beliefs to favor? Can you name even one public official that ever did what s/he ranted about in order to get elected?
    Because you sort of asked, the Texas lieutenant governor as President of the Senate has more real power than the governor, but no elected office in Texas has ‘extraordinary power’, with the possible exception of the RR commission. Just because it seems so important to you, Texas, along with most of the South, was considered to be ‘yellow dog Democrats.’ Two Republican governors were elected in the 19th century and held office from 1857 to 1876. In 1978 Bill Clements was the first Republican to be elected governor in over 100 years; however, he had some difficulty working with the largely Democratic legislature. He served 2 nonconsecutive terms. It was not until George W. Bush was elected in 1995 that Republicans had much political power in Texas. Besides, Texas governors are famous for their ability to “Do a Little Side Step.”

    1. There was no creationism or ID taught in my rural high school biology class in ~1980. Not one tiny bit. Of course, there was no evolution taught either. It was on the syllabus, at the end, and we conveniently ran out of time.

      1. I very much doubt that any school teaching biology and/or biochemistry left out genetics, evolution and other advanced science and mathematics because it intentionally ‘ran out of time.’ There are many schools, however, that cannot finish everything on their syllabus because the student body, for many different reasons, have not learned the basics like “This is a cell. All living things are made up of cells. In the more complex multi-celled organisms, as they develop have cells that have specific functions. Plant and animal cells are, for the most part are very different from each other. There are a few organisms that are sometimes difficult to classify because they have properties of both animal and plant cell characteristics.” Needless to say, all students must master things like basic mathematics, history, geography, grammar, writing, reading and comprehension, other language studies and basic physical science before they start more advanced subjects. In many rural schools there is not sufficient funding to have separate classes for the bright, enthusiastic students and the slower learning and/or apathetic ones. Right now, in both rural and urban schools, fighting student apathy and parental noncooperation hobble schools tremendously. Although most of the difficulty with parental participation is their long working hours necessary to bring home a living wage combined with the most basic household duties which lead to exhaustion. This greatly inhibits participation and/or policing their children’s school work. Most of the rest will simply tell you that their brilliant, angelic child has never had competent teachers or school administrations who have had the wit to see or appreciate their babies. The class work, homework, projects and tests never turned in must be caused by incompetent teachers that are so unorganized that they always loose this one child’s work, whether or not they’ve managed to keep up with the other students work. Spend just one hour teaching or observing any elementary or high school class anywhere in the US and you will very likely begin to better understand the problem. None of them have time to teach religious beliefs outside of any theology class, especially those espoused by one particular religion.

            1. It is great if the state of Texas is not funding religion in schools of any sort.

              Here’s an example of a negative outcome when a state enables religious ideology in publicly funded schools:

              Subject: FFRF Blog: Vouchers Fund Incompetent Schools
              Reply-To: “FFRF News”

  19. How do atheists in Texas who hold right wing political views decide who to vote for?

    I say this knowing full well that the Democrats would be considered in my country and almost any other as right wing.

    1. Yes, many Canadians don’t realize that the Democratic Party in the US is right of our more left major party.

    2. It isn’t necessary to vote for any party line. There are intelligent, dedicated people (at least they start out that way.) running for both major parties and the few independent or small parties. I prefer to vote for a candidate rather than a party.

Leave a Reply