Texas Board of Education to Vote on Evolution

Later this week, the Texas Board of Education will consider a new science curriculum designed to challenge the teaching of evolution in Texas high schools but the decision could influence what is taught in biology classes across the nation because Texas is the nation's second largest textbook market.

The Chairman of the Texas Board of Education is Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist by profession. He's also a creationist. The story in the Wall Street Journal:

Dr. McLeroy believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. If the new curriculum passes, he says he will insist that high-school biology textbooks point out specific aspects of the fossil record that, in his view, undermine the theory that all life on Earth is descended from primitive scraps of genetic material that first emerged in the primordial muck about 3.9 billion years ago.

He also wants the texts to make the case that individual cells are far too complex to have evolved by chance mutation and natural selection, an argument popular with those who believe an intelligent designer created the universe.

The textbooks will "have to say that there's a problem with evolution -- because there is," said Dr. McLeroy, a dentist. "We need to be honest with the kids."

Funny that because his views on sex education are what's the word, well, the exact opposite. Texas law requires school districts to emphasize abstinence in sex education classes. Asked in 2007 about the possibility that Texas' emphasis on abstinence in sex education might be a factor in the state's relatively high teen pregnancy rate (the fifth highest in the nation) Dr. McLeroy had this to say:

The idea that just giving them a lot of information is going to solve it, I think, is kind of naive. Certainly, it's more of a societal problem than it is a school problem."

So much for honesty.

This is really getting old. Here's more from the story in the Journal.

The Texas school board will vote after taking public testimony in a three-day meeting that starts Wednesday. Dr. McLeroy leads a group of seven social conservatives on the 15-member board. They are opposed by a bipartisan group of seven, often joined by an eighth board member considered a swing vote, that support teaching evolution without caveats.

Neither side is confident of victory. All members of the board have come under enormous pressure in recent months, especially three Republicans who support teaching evolution without references to "weaknesses." The state Republican Party passed a resolution urging the three to back Dr. McLeroy's preferred curriculum. A conservative activist group put out a news release suggesting all three were in the pocket of "militant Darwinists."

One of the three, former social-studies teacher Pat Hardy, said she has received thousands of impassioned calls and emails.

Ms. Hardy says she intends to stand firm for evolution, but she has learned not to predict what her colleagues might do. Curriculum standards critical of evolution won preliminary approval in January, but several board members said later that they hadn't understood the issues.

"Anything can happen," Ms. Hardy said.

For the life of me, this country just befuddles me at times.

Tags: Evolution, Science, texas (all tags)

Comments

28 Comments

HAHAHHAA What utter stupidity

I look at it this way.  At least Texas students will be absolutely noncompetitive in science.  They will be relegated to, well, Texas.

WHAT a laughing stock.

by scytherius 2009-03-23 07:53AM | 0 recs
Re: HAHAHHAA What utter stupidity

And pregnant. A blessed combination I'm sure.

by Charles Lemos 2009-03-23 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: HAHAHHAA What utter stupidity

Hey, I live in Texas. I don't appreciate the mockery. Many of us in Texas are fighting to change things here. I used to live in California which also has very high teen pregnancy rates.

by Lolis 2009-03-23 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: HAHAHHAA What utter stupidity

If you're a Christian I find it hard to see how you can disagree with the notion that Texas is the beta version of hell.

by MNPundit 2009-03-23 12:01PM | 0 recs
More slots in good schools for my kids

If the lord almighty came down and said to these simpletons, "You know, evolution exists and I had nothing to do with it", they'd still try to foist this ridiculous LIE on these poor kids.

Fucking morons making more morons.

by mydailydrunk 2009-03-23 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: HAHAHHAA What utter stupidity

Wow you guys are just as judgmental as the conservatives.  Pathetic.

by agpc 2009-03-23 05:15PM | 0 recs
Flock of Dodos

Watch this documentary. I think it does a better job promoting evolution than what Inconvenient Truth does for global warming.

It also gives us a good picture why supporters of science haven't won this debate once and for all. We have highly qualified proponents of evolution theory unwilling to take the trouble to show up and explain with great clarity why there is no debate about evolution. And even if they are willing, some of them just lack the communication skills to explain why.

I think the academia needs to step up and rise to the challenge. The ID proponents are slick and come up with points that fool the common person.

by Pravin 2009-03-23 08:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Texas Board of Education to Vote on Evolution

This is terrifying.  The changes these morons may make to their textbooks will infect the entire country.

by rfahey22 2009-03-23 08:30AM | 0 recs
These guys NEVER give up....

They are like rabid dogs.

Sigh...at a time we are getting creamed in in our own graduate schools by foreign nationals, these RR nuts want to march back to the 1800s.

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-23 08:39AM | 0 recs
The ridiculous thing

People like this guy say that life is too complex to have evolved, but also believe that God is omnipotent.

Couldn't God have created life as we know it using evolution?  Would life be too complicated for even God to make over millions of years by coaxing microrganisms to mutate and DNA sequences to form, as opposed to simply creating the entire ecosystem out of whole cloth (which seems like it would be far more complicated than taking the gradual route)?

When it comes down to it, Creation and Evolution are NOT mutually exclusive unless you are one of these flat-earthers that think that the world was created in 4004 BC and that Adam & Eve were created on the literal sixth day as really the first humans.  There is nothing in the fossil record that suggests this.  Full stop.

I'm a bit ashamed that this guy is a dentist and, therefore, at least hopefully bases his work on science.

by Dracomicron 2009-03-23 08:43AM | 0 recs
That is the Catholic Religions take on this...

or WAS, until we had a run of Old Conservative Middle European Popes....

NOW they are tacidly for "intelligent design" or at least the Vatican is, sort of.

The Jesuit schools, the biology deparments cringe when they read that sort of idiocy coming out of Rome, I am sure.

Culture war crap-ola trumps science with all these goons.

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-23 08:50AM | 0 recs
The poor Jesuits

Man they don't deserve that.  Jesuits are pretty cool.

by Dracomicron 2009-03-23 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: The ridiculous thing

I'm a bit ashamed that this guy is a dentist and, therefore, at least hopefully bases his work on science.

I wouldn't let this guy near my teeth. I'll bet he is as good a dentist as Frist is as a doctor.

by antiHyde 2009-03-23 02:26PM | 0 recs
Not much honesty in this post-or comments

No wonder proponents of evolution have a hard time sealing the deal--you folks are sloppy and arrogant.

McLeroy says it's naive to think that giving students a lot of information is going to solve the high rate of teen pregnancy, and that it's more of a societal problem than school problem.

And you laugh at that?  He's right, and his position would be endorsed by most of those who work to reduce unwanted pregnancies among teens.  Unemployment, lack of available jobs, single parent families, lack of access to contraceptive care, media, etc. all play a part in producing high rates of teen pregnancy.

The comments reflect an ongoing refusal, or inability, to see the difference between intelligent design and creationism.   As an alumnus of a Jesuit university and a former professor of sociology at a Jesuit college, I can tell you that Jesuits don't cringe at the Vatican's position on intelligent design--birth control and celibacy, yes, but not ID.  It would be hard to find any theist who doesn't believe in intelligent design.

Evolution?  Of course.  Obvious.  And despite WashStateBlue's misinformation, the Vatican still supports evolution and plays an important role in trying to explain how evolution is consistent with theism, as Dracomicron suggests.

One of the things I like about Obama is his refusal to view religious conservatives with contempt.  Laughing at people for deeply held beliefs just makes them dig in further and view the mockers as true enemies.

by Thaddeus 2009-03-23 09:29AM | 0 recs
no wonder Jesuits are known for sophism

You are deliberating confusing two different "intelligent design:"

Intelligent Design is a specific claim pretending to be scientific, which is absolutely false, that biological process require a intelligent design.

Theists may, of course, have some belief God is important as a matter of faith.

by John DE 2009-03-23 09:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Not much honesty in this post-or comments

There are at least two different flavors of intelligent design - 1) the kind that would exist in a universe where God acted as watchmaker or through processes that were readily observable and quantifiable - no one takes issue with this view; and 2) the pseudo-creationist theory that God intervenes to fill-in evolutionary "gaps," which is mainly intended to cast doubt on evolutionary theory itself and thereby cause a return to creationist beliefs.    

by rfahey22 2009-03-23 10:14AM | 0 recs
You are defending this idiot?

He knows or cares NOTHING about what actually will stop teenage pregnancy, he is simply fighting the culture wars:

According to Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, since his election, McLeroy has dragged the Texas State Board of Education into a series of "divisive and unnecessary culture-war battles"[7]:

He voted in 2001 to reject the only advanced placement environmental science textbook proposed for Texas high schools even though panels of experts - including one panel from Texas A&M - found the textbook free of errors. Baylor University in Waco used the same textbook.

In 2003 McLeroy led efforts by proponents of creationism and intelligent design to de-emphasize discussion of evolution in proposed new biology textbooks.

He was one of only four board members who voted against biology textbooks that year that included a full account of evolution.

In 2004, McLeroy voted to approve health textbooks that stress "abstinence-only" in regard to instruction about pregnancy and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

According to a 2008 article in The New York Times, "Dr. McLeroy believes that Earth's appearance is a recent geologic event -- thousands of years old, not 4.5 billion. 'I believe a lot of incredible things,' he said, 'The most incredible thing I believe is the Christmas story. That little baby born in the manger was the god that created the universe.'"[8] McLeroy's statements has been met with criticism from scientists.[9]

You're kidding, right? He believes the earth is 6000 years old, and you want HIM deciding what is in text books.

He is ONLY on the board for one thing, to fight the culture wars.

And, stop with the sophistry about abstenance only, and societal causes of teen-age pregnancy.

My GF works for a NGO that has fought for training in sex education and sexually transmitted disease for a decade, and these people are the enemy, pure and simple.

If you think he is SOMEHOW on the side of actually STOPPING teenage pregnancy or dealing with serious health issues or IS SOMEHOW an ally of those trying to do, you are really selling to the wrong audience. That may sell on Red State or Town Hall, but I hardly think anyone is going to see this guy as anything other then a culture warrior, would like to see Planned Parenthood run out of town and the Bible taught in school.

They lie about condom effectivity, they would rather see THOUSANDS dies from Aids then let go of their precious culture war agenda.

And, thanks for the lecture on the Catholic Church, but no thanks.

It has SOOOOO gone of the rails, I barely recognize it.

I am a product of Catholics schools through Jr. High, and when I grew up the Catholic Church STOOD from something I agreed with.

Why, it was the church of the left, with priest fighting repressive regimes in South American and fighting for the poor and with the unions in the US?

Now, it's the Church of CYA in the Priest Pedodphila scandals, and mostly seems focused on Abortion, Stem Cell and Anti-gay rights.

It's a disgrace.

Its the church of conservative old white men, anti-sex, anti-gay, anti the poor.

Hell, except for the quality if the Catholic University System, I don't see much daylight between them and the Southern Babtists.

So, why do YOU spend your time getting the church to stop pouring money into keeping a class of Americans Seperate But Equal?

Their help in getting their splinter groups to fund Prop 8 was morally reprehensible.

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-23 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: You are defending this idiot?

Good to know your girlfriend worked for a related NGO.  Even so, I hope you'll permit me to respond.

In addition to teaching at a Jesuit college, I was also the director of a Planned Parenthood Center-in Rutland, Vermont.  A strange combination of careers, but true.  And I was also an active member of the Catholic Left that you remember with nostalgia.  And I am also the father of two post-teen daughters.  Neither has been pregnant.

Hysterical condemnations of idiots and me (you might consider that an overlap) doesn't address the sloppiness of your post.  It's a result of preaching to the choir-you don't think you need to make a good argument.  But it's clear to most observers that teen pregnancy is a complicated societal problem that is not reducible to an "enlightened" school system.  And it's not just a matter of predatory boys.  Many teenage girls who can't envision a different life path think of pregnancy and motherhood as a desirable achievement--it confers adult status, is likely to get them out of their parents' home, and assures them of someone who will need and love them.

I believe in full sex education programs in schools--with opt out for students who object, or whose parents object.  I think abstinence only sex eduation is a form of educational malpractice.  But I agree that is not primarily a matter of education about contraception.  It is about owning one's life and a set of values, gender roles, and  life aspirations that is not congruent with early pregnancy.    

To say "it" tracks income doesn't really address this point--or any, really.  Arguing that sex education is the clearest determinant of reduced pregnancy rates actually ignores income, and other factors.  Sex education is more comprehensive in states that are culturally more "progressive" in regard to gender roles than states that are more conservative in regard sex ed.  So there's a problem of colinearity in tracing the effects of sex education on pregnancy rates.

As to how I spend my time (relevance unclear), I am no longer a Catholic and I don't support any of their anti-gay campaigns.  I was involved in social justice and sanctuary work with the Church in the '70s and early '80s and I was disgusted then, and now, with the clericalism and the CYA politics of the hierarchy.  But to describe the Church as anti-poor seems a big stretch given their work in some of the poorest communities in the nation (and world).  It's a sign of your sloppiness that you can roll anti-gay and CYA into anti-poor.  As in I don't like the Church and I don't like x, y, and z, so the Church must be pro x, pro-y and pro-z.  Bad syllogism.

by Thaddeus 2009-03-23 11:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Not much honesty in this post-or comments

Actually a decent sized chunk of un-intended pregnancies occur to people who are on birth control but aren't using it right.

How can that be solved by anything BUT more education?

by MNPundit 2009-03-23 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Not much honesty in this post-or comments

Whoever gets on birth control, wouldn't they be told how to use it? It is just plain recklessness that makes them not use it right.

by Pravin 2009-03-23 01:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Not much honesty in this post-or comments

I agree on the sex ed part. They teach sex ed in many schools in England, don';t they and they still have a terrible epidemic of teen pregnancies. When a guy wants to take advantage of a female's insecurity and neediness and convinces her to just let it happen "naturally" one time, or they do not bother to plan, logically they know that a condom should be used, but in the heat of the moment, they are in denial and hope that they can be the lucky ones who do not concieve after one instance.

Didn't Bristol Palin know about condoms? i doubt it was Palin's opposition to sex ed that got Bristol into a situation where she got pregnant. It was just personal irresponsibility.

by Pravin 2009-03-23 01:48PM | 0 recs
Yes, but the culture she is in makes condom usage

a sin.

So, you can't let her parents off the hook, we had discussions with our teenage daughter early and often, we didn't demonize her, and we were clear, IF she was going to have sex, she was to use birth control.

That makes a big difference.

Again, I am no expert, but my GF is somewhat, and people in her company wrote the fricking text books they use to teach teachers of Sex Education.

One of them died recently, and I went to her wake where literally sex-ed teachers from all over the country flew in and were crying as if Lincoln had passed.  

So, again, I know just a little, but I hang with people whose job this is.

An enlightned school system AND elightened parents is a CLEAR measureable way of stemming teen pregnancy.

This is not propaganda, it is measureable.

It also tracks income, where the poor are more likely to have teen age pregnancy.

Again, the issues is access and education.

It's not for nothing Massachussets has less Teen Age Pregancy then any state, and Texas has the most.

A lot of Texas is unfortunately immigrants, our friend Thaddeus would like to know, most experts believe the impact of the Catholic Churches ban on birth control is one of the primary factors in the large number of Teenage hispanic pregnancies.

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-23 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Not much honesty in this post-or comments

Watch Flock of Dodos. ID is nothing but a slick repackaging of anti evolutionary theories.

by Pravin 2009-03-23 01:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Not much honesty in this post-or comments

Loved that movie.

Great stuff.

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-23 01:57PM | 0 recs
Sloppy and Arrogant?

Is it sloppy and arrogant to laugh at the idea that illness is due to invisible demons or elfshot? ID makes just as much sense as that.

by antiHyde 2009-03-23 02:28PM | 0 recs
that is a remarkably bad argument

for so many reasons.  

1. Science is capable of producing theories and practices that are simply inaccurate and/or tremendously dangerous.  Consider medicine--and the number of physician-caused eaths in the U.S> in one year.  Consider the sceintific breakthrough of thalidomide, wonderful medication for preventing miscarriages BUT unfortunately gneerative of horrendous birth defects.  Now consider the Christian Science family that wants to avoid surgical internvention for a sick child--the courts can take their parental rights away; the familt that opts for elective surgery for tonsilitis?  Fine, because science says it's good.  Too bad a certain number of surgeries result in death, to say nothing of childhood trauma.

2. Invisible demons.  Do you consider depression an illness?  Do you think science really understands the etiology of depression?  I can assure you--we don't even know how anti-depressants work.  Shock therapy?  Science.  And today, often very effective.  How and why does it work?  We don't know.

3. Intelligent design is not the minority opinion  of a few right-wing Americans.  There are many natural scientists who consider the implicate order of the universe to be evidence of an inconceivable intelligence--as counter to the idea of a series of unintended mutations that just happen to produce conscious beings who can study the origins of life.  

I think it is sloppy and arrogant to laugh at the ideas of a previous time and to think that your very incomplete knowledge of a universe of knowledge is the final flowering of human knowledge and that hundreds of years from now people will look back on this time and place and on antiHyde as full possession of understanding of the nature of the universe.  

by Thaddeus 2009-03-24 12:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Texas Board of Education to Vote on Evolution

Thaddeus:

It isn't the fact that they're religious conservatives that brings on the mockery.  It's the fact that they won't keep it to themselves and insist on foisting it on the rest of us "for our own good".  Lots of us don't want our children's science education polluted with creationist nonsense because it confuses them with somewhat plausible-sounding BS.  We're behind the eight ball economically because we've gone from a country that innovates and manufactures to one that just pushes money around (largely), and our one real way out of that hole is to bear down hard on science and math education and kick creationism to the curb as quickly as we can.

by beerwulf 2009-03-23 10:19AM | 0 recs
Oh, please

We are not hurting economically because of creationism in some school systems.  We've had a lack of any consistent planning in the national economy, the trans-national corporations have acted as nation-states, and we've had too much of our resources directed to defense spending that is like building a hole and pouring money in it.  And we could go on and on.  Russia got behind the 8-ball economically too (and much of the rest of the world) and I don't think it's because of creationism!

This is the kind of straw man argument that rightly leads some of the sincere members of the Christian Right to dismiss critics as insincere culture warriors of the left--the anti-religion crowd.  If this is the best you can do, I don't blame them.  The secular Left likes to pride itself on being smarter and views religious people as naive and foolish.  But the quality of their analysis is often so weak and loose with the facts that they undermine their own arrogance.

The content of educational programs is often contested terrain, and probably should be more often.  I reviewed my kids' social studies texts to see whether they were being presented a nationalistic view of American history.  I would check coverage of the Vietnam War for starters, to see if the text addressed the wholesale slaughter of SE Asians and the lies on which the U.S.invasion was based.  In my liberal town in Massachusetts, the books were pretty "good," from  my standpoint.  And I was glad that Conservatives weren't monitoring too closely.

The problem that many religious folks have with science education could be called Saganism.  Carl Sagan is a hero among the secularists but he really made a lot of faith statements in the guise of science.  To say that the material world is all there is and that there is no reason to posit a creator is beyond science.  To say that current theories of evolution explain everything in the fossil record is also not true.  I believe in evolution, of course, and do not find it incompatible with theism, but many people do  use evolution to imply a completely materialistic  explanation for life.  That is beyond science.

       

by Thaddeus 2009-03-23 11:51PM | 0 recs

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