UPDATE: See the first comment below: reader SES notes that one can watch the film “The Revisionists” online here (it’s free until February 27), and some PBS stations in America are broadcasting it tonight. The schedule is also at the link.
If you’ve followed the attempts of American creationists to get evolution of ouf the school classroom, you’ll remember Don McLeroy from Texas. A dentist with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. McLeroy was a member of the Texas State Board of Education [TSBOE] from 1998-2011, and served as chairman of the Board from 2007-2009. His reappointment as chair was blocked by the Texas State Senate, so you can imagine how dire he was.
McLeroy is infamous because of his strenuous efforts to get evolution out of Texas public schools. Because that state has to approve textbooks, and it’s a huge consumer of them, publishers sometimes tailor nationally-distributed books to Texas standards to avoid publishing multiple editions. That’s why McLeroy’s efforts, which ultimately failed, were so pernicious. They could have given evolution a serious hit throughout America.
But it wasn’t just evolution he fought. As Wikipedia notes:
In 2005, McLeroy conducted a sermon in his church, talking about the Board of Education, saying naturalism is “the enemy” and he said: “Why is Intelligent Design the big tent? Because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of Intelligent Design.” An mp3 of the sermon remains online, as well as McLeroy’s powerpoint and notes. [JAC: they're all gone]
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.'” McLeroy’s statements regarding science have been criticized. McLeroy and other Board members who want to challenge evolution have received criticism from more than fifty scientific organizations over an attempt to weaken the currently-accepted science standards on evolution. In particular, biologist Kenneth R. Millercalled McLeroy’s statements on science “breathtakingly” incorrect.
In March 2008, McLeroy was criticized for racially and culturally insensitive remarks saying: “What good does it do to put a Chinese story in an English book?” he said. “So you really don’t want Chinese books with a bunch of crazy Chinese words in them.” He later apologized.
In 2009, McLeroy spoke at a board meeting using several quotes from scientists in an attempt to discredit evolution. A biology teacher later found the quotes to be incomplete, out of context, and/or incorrectly taken from a creationist website. McLeroy said that while “some of the material was taken from the creationist site […] a lot of the quotes I did get on my own.” McLeroy appeared on the Comedy Central program the Colbert Report in April 2012 wherein he said “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and when I looked at the evidence for evolution, I found it unconvincing so I don’t think he used evolution to do it, that’s my big deal.”
. . . In an interview in October 2009 he explained his approach to public school history textbook evaluation: “. . . .we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.”
This is the man who, in his breathtaking ignorance, and driven by a religious and hyper-conservative agenda, almost drove Texas education back into the Dark Ages. Can you imagine a man like this heading up a state school board, one with the responsibility of choosing the books to educate children? Welcome to America. (He was appointed, by the way, by Texas governor Rick Perry.)
Although McLeroy is no longer on the TSBOE, he will not go gentle into that good night. According to the Houston Press, McLeroy, the ant-ihero of a prize-winning new film about the Texas school fracas, “The Revisionaries“, is stepping up his antievolution campaign. It intensified after he read the pro-evolution books that Dawkins and I wrote. As Press reporter Casey Michel wrote yesterday:
“This past Christmas holiday I read both Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne and The Greatest Show on earth by Richard Dawkins,” McLeroy told me. “I read them, studied them, on my Kindle, on my Nook. And the evidence is not compelling. And how many people have read those books in the last month?”
(“Not me,” I informed him, hesitating to share that my time had instead been taken with going through Christopher Hitchens’s anti-religion screeds.)
His research, his church, his work – all of it has only reaffirmed his convictions, has only led him to the same conclusion. God made the Earth in six days, he said. We were made in his image. Velociraptors may have been the original beasts hunting Little Red Riding Hood. We don’t yet have all the answers, but these are things we know.
Was there any doubt that the arguments of Richard and myself would fail to move a man like this? Faith is a padlock of the mind, and few keys can open it.
As part of his rehabilitation campaign, I suspect, McLeroy tried to leave the comment below on my website under a post showing a Non Sequitur cartoon (I guess it had to go someplace). won’t try to dissect McLeroy’s critique of evolution, as I’m busy preparing for my southern peregrinations, and I think my readers are qualified to do so anyway. I’ll just say that there is indeed evidence that evolution has created not just morphological complexity, but biochemical complexity (which of course must underlie morphological complexity); that evidence includes the data on gene duplication and divergence, and Rich Lenski’s observations of the appearance of new biochemical pathways in bacteria. But there’s much more; try your hand, if you will. Voilà—the lucubrations of Don McLeroy, D.D.S. He’ll be reading this site, I’m sure, so you can address comments to him as well (be polite, people!):
Evolution’s Achilles Heel (comment by Don McLeroy)
The great mystery of our time is why so many people, especially enlightened intellectuals, believe in evolution. Ultimately, the evidence for evolution—the idea that all life has descended from a common ancestor—is simply not compelling; evolutionists have failed to account for the development of today’s complex cell. Since first life could not have possessed all the amazing biochemistry we find today, evolutionists must demonstrate evidence for how natural selection—evolution’s primary mechanism—created it. All other evidence for evolution, from rocks, microscopes and the imaginations of man depends upon evolution proceeding at this microscopic level. What evidence do they provide?
Jerry Coyne, one of the world’s leading evolutionists, in his highly acclaimed book Why Evolution Is True, 2009, argues that it is impossible to provide every detail of evidence concerning biochemical complexity. He also admits evolutionary development of “complex biochemical… pathways is not easy, since they leave no trace in the fossil record.” Okay. How many details does he provide to demonstrate the evolution of life’s complex chemistry?
Amazingly, considering the foundational nature of cell biology to drive all evolutionary adaptations, the only “detail” Coyne provides in his book is speculation about an imaginary gene. He states that “the common ancestor of sea cucumbers and vertebrates had a gene that was later co-opted in vertebrates…” as fibrinogen. Anyone who has studied high school biology realizes that if this is all the evidence he can provide for the development of the myriad of biochemical pathways like the Krebs’s cycle or protein synthesis or other cell complexities, his evidence is embarrassingly nonexistent. Evidently, it is not only impossible to provide every detail; it is impossible to provide a single detail. And, since all other explanations in his book depend on this fundamental foundation, his arguments collapse.
Similarly, prominent evolutionist Kenneth Miller, textbook author and plaintiffs lead expert witness in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design trial, fails to provide compelling evidence for the development of cellular complexity. Texas’s 2009 high school biology standards require explanations; his new textbook presents only two details. First, a single cell organism engulfs an alga and then acquires the photosynthetic ability of the alga. Second, two distinct classes of bacteria share similar enzymes. Like Coyne, he provides no evidence for how these enzymes and foundational processes developed from first life. In conclusion, Miller waves the magic wand of his imagination and confidently declares “that complex cellular structures and pathways were produced by the process of evolution.”
Ironically, even famous evolutionist Richard Dawkins, in his book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, 2009, fails to present evidence—at least for the development of biochemical complexity. The only detail he cites is a double mutation in E. coli that allows it to digest citrate. Like Coyne and Miller, he offers no evidence for how the process developed initially. He describes the cell as “breathtakingly complicated,” and states “the key to understand how such complexity is put together is that it is all done locally, by small entities obeying local rules.” He also states that some of the features of the cell descended from different bacteria, that built up their “chemical wizardries billions of years before.” These statements are not evidence; they are vain imaginations.
The only indisputable fact is: leading evolutionists have no evidence that natural selection created today’s biochemical complexity. Therefore, skepticism is the best response. Evolutionary dogmatism—the insistence that evolution is true—is a serious issue. Science is not threatened by evolutionary skepticism; science is threatened by the quasi-science of the evolutionist.
Have at it!