Evolution vs Creationism in Texas BoE

Final draft on science standards pleases scientists, watch groups

First, I would like to thank YouTube user AronRa for much of the background information that appears in this blog.

Creationists appear to have had limited  success with injecting their agenda into the current curriculum of the public school system in the State of Texas. But, that was only after a long and difficult road to arrive at our final situation.

The chief issue was what creationists refer to as the “weaknesses” and “limitations” of scientific evidence for evolution. Naturally, they are often unable to specifically state what those “weaknesses and limitations” really are, beyond that they disagree with their religious beliefs. When the religious Right attempted to put such wording into the cirriculum, it was removed, then put back in after a public hearing that attracted over 200 speakers and then removed in the final draft. Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based nonprofit group that opposes religious influence on public education, states that with the references to any supposed weaknesses removed, supernatural explanations will have no place in public school education in Texas.

One problem with even getting the Texas BoE to come up with a curriculum for science education is that the Board is essentially controlled by the Religious Right.

Two of its members – David Bradley and Cynthia Noland Dunbar, both Republicans – are college drop-outs who homeschool their children, thus their children are not covered by the BoE’s guidelines. You have to wonder why they even ran for a seat on the Board, other than to inject their personal religious beliefs into the school curriculum. Mr Bradley, who is actuallly the vice-chairman, considers critical thinking to be nothing more that “gobbledy-gook”, which is quite revealing as the nature of the inner workings of his own mind.

Another member, Gail Lowe, has openly stated that she will oppose any textbook that attributes global warming to human activity. Not because of any scientific evidence, but because of the fact that she has openly stated that she will oppose any measure that is not supported by social conservatives.

One person who can be credited with achieving conservative Republic control of the BoE is Texas multi-millionare Joseph Leininger. He injected hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign with the stated goal of putting conservatives on the Board and succeeded in getting the two top slots occupied with such people, especially the chairman, Don McLeroy, who considers evolution to be vital to understanding the social sciences, but not the biological sciences, which naturally contradicts what evolution is, being that it is all about the biological sciences and that over 800 Texas scientists signed a document stating that teaching evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences. Mr McLeroy considers evolution as only an opinion, not as scientific concensus, and that “opinions” (i.e. evolution) should not be taught as fact.

This is what happens when people who are not scientists and have limited knowledge of science try to tell the rest of us what science even is.

Think it couldn’t get any worse? Think again.

Back in October, the conservatives on the BoE nominated three people to sit to the six-member panel of professional scientists that later reviewed the draft Texas science standards that had been written by workgroups of Texas science teachers and scientists. That first group had taken references to “weaknesses” out of the curriculum. Two of the people selected by the conservative-controlled Board were Stephen Meyer and Ralph Seelke, who had previously co-authored a textbook of their own, called “Exploring Evolution“, which itself contained four known scientific falsehoods in its introduction. Neither of these men are from Texas and Meyer is the vice chairman of the creationist Discovery Institute and Seelke os a professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin who travels around the USA testifying in front of government bodies in the attempt to have creationism/intelligent design taught in America’s public school system.

Is there any reason, beyond a blatantly political and religious agenda, why these two non-Texans would be selected to be on a panel discussing the science curriculum for the Texas public school system? Obviously not, especially when Texas has an ample supply of fully-qualified scientists of its own?

Meyer and Seelke are the kind of people Southerners would refer to as “carpet-baggers”, individuals from out-of-state who come there to take control, in whole or in part, of a Southern government to attain some sort of financial or political power for themselves at the expense of the people of that State.

However, the final proposal has been shown to be more science-friendly and references to any sort of scientific “debate” over the validity of the Theory of Evolution have been watered-down or removed.

The current situation in Texas regarding the teaching of evolution isn’t unique. It happened before in Kansas, where religious conservatives took control of a school system, molded it to conform to their own agenda and beliefs, being backed by wealthy conservatives and Christian money-generating machines whose only goal is not to advance the quality of education in America, but to further their own agenda and remove any and all references to scientific findings which their religious opinions do not agree with. The voters in Kansas removed the anti-science Board members, but the voters in Texas don’t seem to mind having a bunch of scientific illiterates deciding what science is and what it is not.

Things may be looking up in the Lone Star State. But, I’m willing to be good money that this won’t be the last controversy to come out of the current school board.

After all, despite this final draft being  put together, there is no guarantee that the Board will even accept it.

Yeah, you read that right. After all meetings, committees, hearings, public input, etc. the Texas Board of Education could simply frakking ignore the final report and put forward an agenda of their own devising.  After all, they did it once before back in May 2008 with a teacher-recommended language arts curriculum that they discarded in favor of one where some of the Board members say that they had an hour to read it before they had to vote on it.

What you have in Texas is a Board of Education who takes their marching orders from a small group of conservative policy-makers, both from within and outside Texas.  The Texas Board of Education is only one battlefield in the USA, where religious conservatives fight for their agenda, both openly and covertly, in their struggle to remold America in their image.

I’m going to post a blog on the topic of the Religious Right’s war on America in the next few days.

This is going to get uglier before it gets prettier. Believe me.

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