(Perhaps the plural is “ignorami”?)
As you may know, the Texas State Board of Education is holding hearings this week for new biology textbooks. This is always a farce, enlivened not only by the testimony of religious creationists (an obvious tautology), some of who approach frothing lunacy in their testimony, but also by the sympathetic questions of school board members, who have often been creationists.
In the last four years, the Texas State Board of Education has asked biology textbook publishers to adhere to a “show-the-strengths-and-weaknesses-of-evolution” standard (see here), so that proposed books are supposed to highlight these “problems” with evolution.
- Stasis and “sudden appearance’ in the fossil record (supposedly not explained by evolution)
- Uncertainties about the origin of life and self-replicating molecules
- Inability to explain “biochemical complexity” (the pet love of “cdesign proponentsists”
(You can read more about the latest creationist textbook madness here.)
The Texas Freedom Network (TFN), an activist pro-evolution group, has also had doctoral candidates from Texas Universities analyze some of the proposed books. Their report, which you can find here, shows that textbook publishers, thank Ceiling Cat, have not watered down the proposed biology books to meet the creationist guidelines. The main conclusion is this:
Our reviews reveal that creationists on the State Board of Education have failed to pressure publishers into including “junk science” that questions evolutionary theory in the new high school biology materials. Indeed, all of the publishers have submitted biology instructional materials that honestly address and support the science of evolution and that do not include pseudoscience intended to water down or “disprove” evolution.
But that’s not the end of it, of course. I’m a bit worried this round because, as I reported last May, the school board asked eleven reviewers to look over the proposed biology texts. Six of these were creationists or had creationist sympathies! This is absurd in a supposedly advanced scientific nation, and a shameful blot on the intelligence of those who set the science standards for one of our largest states. I’m sure my friends at the University of Texas are gnashing their teeth.
Perhaps the most farcical bit of testimony this week is shown in the video below. It gives the testimony by Don McLeroy, a dentist who was once head of the Texas State Board of Education. He’s a dentist and a creationist, apparently lacking any understanding of science, though he seems well versed in scripture. McLeroy played hob with Texas science standards for years: he was on the Board for 13 years and its chairman for two.
The issue with Texas as a benighted state vis-à-vis textbooks is that publishers are loath to issue separate editions of public-school texts, as that costs money, and they don’t want to publish “Texas editions” purged of evolutionary biology.
At any rate, it appears that McLeroy has gone off the rails, for in this video he argues that the state should go ahead and adopt all the evolution-filled texts, because that will show students how pathetically weak the case for evolution is! In other words, he’s arguing the pro-evolution case in the misguided hopes that students, by reading the good textbooks, will somehow discern the truth of Genesis amidst the truths of evolution.
Yesterday’s report from the Texas Freedom Network notes this bizarre ploy, adding that (as you’ll see in the video), McLeroy clearly flaunts his religious agenda in his testimony, something that will make a good First Amendment issue:
Speaking at the SBOE’s public hearing on the proposed new science textbooks publishers submitted for approval in April, McLeroy — who lost a re-election bid in 2010 — launched into one of the most bizarre arguments we heard throughout the day. Before and after he spoke, creationists sharply criticized the textbooks for failing to include their discredited arguments attacking evolution. But not McLeroy. The College Station dentist insisted that the SBOE should actually adopt the textbooks because, he said repeatedly and emphatically, the evidence supporting evolution in those books is “weak”:
“Ironically, evolutionists argue that creationists want to force their religious views on the texts. But just the teaching of biology does that, and teaching evolution demonstrates that’s not how God did it. Since true, testable science trumps dogmatism, strike the final blow to the teaching of evolution. Support the Bible, and adopt these books.”
. . . But McLeroy’s testimony was valuable in the sense that it exposed, once and for all, just how disingenuous he and other anti-evolution activists were during the debate over the science curriculum standards in 2009. At the time, McLeroy and his allies on the state board insisted they weren’t trying to insert their religious beliefs into the standards and the new textbooks that would follow. On Tuesday, McLeroy said this about his (inaccurate) contention that the new textbooks fail to show how the fossil record and the complexity of the cell support evolution:
“I’m just hoping that a young creationist … will sit there and say, ‘Look, is this all the evidence they have? Well, maybe God didn’t use evolution to do it.’”
Here’s the video. McLeroy testifies for 3.5 minutes, going all over the map about stasis and biochemical complexity, and then fields questions from Board of Education members.
His shtick is apparently the usual one: we need to see evolution in real time, and historical evidence simply doesn’t count. (Presumably McLeroy wouldn’t accept the existence of Jesus, then.) Further, evolutionary biologists haven’t yet produced every tiny bit of evidence we need to “prove” evolution. Look at McLeroy’s statement from the video:
“Well, how many facts do you need to show evolution? Well it’s in the billions and billions and trillions.”
That would make for a very long book!
I’m pleased to see that WEIT makes an appearance at 5:30, where I’m faulted for not going deep enough into the origin of biochemical complexity (note that my book refers the reader to Ken Miller’s and other people’s excellent discussion of this topic). I take this to mean that McLeroy wants my book used so that students can see for themselves that biochemical complexity—I presume he means “irreducible complexity”, in which biochemical pathways supposedly couldn’t have evolved by natural selection since the intermediate stages could not have been adaptive—is a severe problem for evolution.
Well, McLeroy, bring it on! Let’s adopt all those pro-evolution books, and see if Texas students are so brainwashed by religion that they’ll buy the creationist/ID arguments without even having heard them!
Texas will decide in November which textbooks to adopt.