Texas: not so doomed?

By Phil Plait | January 8, 2009 9:15 am

Some good news from Texas for a change: the final proposed science standards for the state actually strengthen science, and creationist weasel-words (about the weaknesses of science) were removed.

How good is this news?

But with the “weaknesses” requirement removed and a new definition for science, the new plan makes it clear that supernatural explanations like creationism and intelligent design have no place in public classrooms, said Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based nonprofit group that opposes religious influence on public education.

I’d say pretty darn good! Especially since it’s neighbor to the north is busily trying to destroy children’s minds.

How bad could it have been? Don McLeroy is a full-blown creationist, and head of the Texas State Board of Education!

Don McLeroy, the state board’s chairman, has said that science should admit the possibly [sic] of the supernatural when natural explanations fail. But he has also said that he is not trying to put creationism in public schools.

I think that after saying that last part, his pants burst into flame.

Now, before we celebrate too much, this final standards proposal has to be put to a vote by the board in March, and that board is still packed with creationists who will no doubt object to a lot of this language. This isn’t over yet. Texas took a strong step back from the brink with this, but there are plenty of people still trying to push it over. If you live in Texas, I strongly urge you to contact the Texas Freedom Network and see what you can do to support reality and keep the antiscience forces at bay in the Lone Star State.

Hmmm. I need a "not doomed" picture. I’ll have to dig around for one. It’s a pity I rarely ever need one.

Update (Jan 9, 2009): Et voila.

Texas: NOT Doomed

Thanks to Douglas Gogerty for the mouse template!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Politics, Religion, Science

Comments (52)

  1. gsson

    I like this strip for its not doomedness: http://www.kiwisbybeat.com/minus37.html

  2. Bobcloclimar

    Not doomed = the prairie dog with a bazooka.

  3. You are right to be cautious. The board is known for last minute changes and modifications. Remember what they did with the English/Arts standards last year. Introducing a new version with less than an hour before the vote, basically ignoring the version presented by the educators.

    I would leave Texas on the doomed list until the vote is over and the results known.

  4. Michelle
  5. But…but…supernatural explanations ALWAYS fail…

  6. Doc

    “… when natural explanations fail.”

    Since a lack of an explanation is not the failure of natural explanations in general, then I think this should equate to “never”. I’d be happy with science never admitting the possibility of supernatural explanations.

  7. Jason Heldenbrand

    For the sake of humanity any public school system that allows the teaching of intelligent design or creationism should immediately be disqualified for any and all federal funding.

    If they insist upon teaching the supernatural then I must contest that supermassive black holes are really Gods who have shaped our galaxy and seeded life. After all, I have a fact that is wildly distorted. Teach my hairbrained theory alongside intelligent design and creationism. I have as much proof.

  8. Chris A.

    @Phil:

    I think you meant “its” in “its neighbor to the north,” not “it’s.”

  9. Honestly, I’m surprised. I fully expected my state to make the wrong decision.

  10. B.C.

    I know there are literally all kinds of crazy things “out there.” Let me try to put your minds at ease a little. I am a Christian for starters, so you can erase fears about New Age, cults and crazy stuff. I have twelve years of higher education and three degrees, a BS Ed, MS Ed, and a DMD (doctor of medical dentistry). I taught first and second year physics, chemistry, first and second year biology and general science for five years, and I have been a dentist for twenty-six years. I have attended many, many, many religious seminars and many, many, many dental seminars in my day. I can be fooled, but not easily!

    For instance, I was taught and believed the theory of evolution until I started working on my MS Ed with a National Science Foundation grant through the biology department at the University of Georgia in 1971. In one biology course, I realized that everything I had learned in physics, chemistry and mathematics totally negated what they were trying to tell me in biology about supposed evolutionary theory. I realized that evolution never had and never could have happened. I pondered the alternatives and realized that the only alternative that made any sense was that the Bible was true from Genesis to Revelation, no exceptions. So believe me, I have a rational faith in a rational God, and I do not like funny stuff.

  11. rob

    B.C.

    what in particular in physics, chemistry and mathematics did you learn that supposedly negated what you learned in the one biology course? i never learned anything in physics grad school that negated anything about biology. in fact, all that i learned explained so very much about how the natural world operates.

  12. Mattand

    B.C. is either pulling our leg or is sitting too close to the computer screen.

  13. Quiet Desperation

    If they insist upon teaching the supernatural then I must contest that supermassive black holes are really Gods who have shaped our galaxy and seeded life.

    Confess. You’re Stephen Baxter in disguise.

  14. Hey Phil! Paul from Texas Citizens for Science here. Yes, the battle is far from over. Of the fifteen members of the TX SBOE, seven–that’s right–seven are young earth, biblical literalist creationists. If they get one more vote, they can throw out all the good science standards written by the workgroups of teachers and scientists and replace them with whatever they want, which is precisely what happened last year with the English standards.

  15. Mick

    “I am a Christian for starters, so you can erase fears about New Age, cults and crazy stuff.”

    Sure. You just believe in a talking snake, a giant boat that could fit two of every kind of animal, and a guy who could walk on water, turn water to wine, and rise from the dead.

    Not at all crazy, then.

  16. IVAN3MAN

    Texas is “not so doomed” if the majority are rational like:

    The North Texas Skeptics
    .

  17. B.C.

    It boggles my mind that you can be that smart about some things and so superstitious about others.

    According to your understanding of the world, if biology doesn’t make sense to you, then instead of trying to understand it better, or just realize we may not be advanced enough to answer SOME questions, you take the easy way out and say some supernatural deity created by cave dwellers answers ALL questions.

    I will never understand that way of thinking.

    And it’s disturbing that you began your post claiming your Christian background by saying , “so you can erase fears about New Age, cults and crazy stuff.” So your belief in your god is a better belief that those that believe in the magic of crystals, or horoscope, or the other stuff?

    ANYWAY
    I’m in Texas-and it’s tough to overcome the religious and superstitious that live here, but I’d rather show by example than leave this state to these crazies.

    My kids are taught that gods are make-believe. Even though they get harassed by other children sometimes their behavior is at all times rational when dealing with those that would beat them down. When the next door neighbor kids at 5 years old tell my kids they are going to hell, I know that it’s important to befriend those kids and show them that people can be moral without gods.

    NOT SO DOOMED LOGO
    It should be an Armadillo that DIDN’T get run over! The only time you see those critters in Texas are when they are dead. :P

    GO science!

  18. Brett Moore

    Having attending the last meeting, I agree with Paul. A sneaky last-minute move would not surprise me. For the record, McLeroy is an idiot of the highest (lowest?) caliber. Listening to him babble is painful.

    As I stated to them: science is the study of the natural world by the board’s own definition. In accordance with this definition, the _super_natural has no place in science. I don’t believe Don appreciated that viewpoint ;)

  19. This is yet another of the millions of data points showing that our country is doomed unless we jettison this idiot idea of ‘one size fits all’ government schools and go to some kind of school choice system that puts parents, rather than bureaucrats, in charge of our kids education.

    I have no use for Creationism, but I’d rather have a Texas creationist in charge of the nation’s eduction than a Chicago politician.

    On an unrelated note, I’ve seen Dr Phil on the History channel a bunch this week, keep up the good work!

  20. B.C. said:

    I pondered the alternatives and realized that the only alternative that made any sense was that the Bible was true from Genesis to Revelation, no exceptions.

    So, then, the physics, chemistry and mathematics you learned should have told you that the Flood story as outlined in Genesis (just one example) is absurd and downright impossible. But since you believe the Flood myth, you rejected all the science you learned, not just the biology/evolution parts.

    That tells me you are consciously disregarding what you learned in order to preserve the false notion that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, or as you put it, that the Bible was true from Genesis to Revelation, no exceptions.

    Fundamentalist Christianity depends heavily on rejecting God’s gifts of intellect and reason in order to maintain the illusion of infallibility of a book God didn’t even write.

    I have my religious faith as well, but reality is reality, and I accept that as well. The only thing I had to do to reconcile scientific descriptions of the natural universe and my faith was to realize that the Bible, while some of it imo was indeed inspired by God, is in no way an accurate description of physical reality. Therefore, since the Bible is indeed fallible, it was not the literal word-for-word transcription of God’s thoughts. It was written by, and endlessly revised by, people… many of whom had agendas.

    The Bible, like countless sacred texts from thousands of years ago, is a fallible book written by fallible humans who were trying to figure out the world around them based on the level of scientific expertise they possessed at the time.

    Do a comparative study of some of the creation myths of various cultures around the world. They have different algorithms, but are all based on the primitive understandings of the day. By today’s standards, they are scientifically laughable and totally unrealistic. But by the standards of the times they were written, creation myths were a reasonable stab at explaining the existence of everything. For all intents and purposes, religion and science were the same thing thousands of years ago. Trying to understand the natural world was the same thing as worshiping a god back then, because we knew so little about the workings of things that it was natural to assign the cause of everything we didn’t understand to some deity.

    However, now we have a considerable understanding of the mechanics of Creation. While science doesn’t claim to know it all, and never will, its understanding of reality is much better than that of the technologically primitive people who came up with creation myths et al. Evolution is a fact that the theory of evolution explains quite well.

  21. DEAR PHIL:

    In addition to your delightfully hair-raising book Death from the Skies, I also recently read Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This astounding book concludes with the following observation:

    “To deny or erase the rich, colorful history of scientists and other thinkers who have invoked divinity in their work would be intellectually dishonest. Surely there’s an appropriate place for intelligent design to live in the academic landscape. How about the history of religion? How about philosophy or psychology? The one place it doesn’t belong is the science classroom.

    “If you’re not swayed by academic arguments, consider the financial consequences. Allow intelligent design into science textbooks, lecture halls, and laboratories, and the cost to the frontier of scientific discovery-the frontier that drives the economies of the future-would be incalculable. I don’t want students who could make the next major breakthrough in renewable energy sources or space travel to have been taught that anything they don’t understand, and that nobody yet understands, is divinely constructed and therefore beyond their intellectual capacity. The day that happens, Americans will just sit in awe of what we don’t understand, while we watch the rest of the world boldly go where no mortal has gone before.”

    It just can’t be said any better than that, can it?

  22. Phil, Google image search “mouse attacks cat” turns up plenty of hits.

  23. You could use a picture of a rabbit defending itself against a coyote with a whip.

    Nah, that would be silly.

  24. Todd W.

    Maybe a picture of Alfred E. Newman? “What, me worry?”

  25. James

    Those fools on the board can pass whatever they want…it won’t get taught in MY science classroom for sure! Only good science will be allowed, and that is it. I dare them to fire me.

  26. “science should admit the possibly [sic] of the supernatural when natural explanations fail”

    When I read that my first words out of my mouth were “oh good god”- then I laughed, I amuse myself to no ends.

  27. Forrest

    “…science should admit the possibly [sic] of the supernatural when natural explanations fail.”

    Right, so instead of my doctor trying a different drug or treatment they’ll just tell me “Its the will of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, blessed be her hoofs, that you be ill.”

  28. Geek Goddess

    The Houston Skeptics Society meeting (January 14, link: http://www.meetup.com/HoustonSkeptics/calendar/9435463/) will be discussing the school board and science education. We will also have Richard Sucgang, PhD from Columbia and current Asst. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine, who will give a talk on the evidence for evolution in genome sequences, tailored to the lay audience.

    By the way, they teach evolution at Baylor University and at their medical school, not creationism.

  29. tamar

    I agree with James. Whatever the board decides, I will NOT give any credence to intelligent design in my classroom. I honestly don’t see how they could make any argument that it belongs there, but this IS Texas.

  30. Luke

    The real problem is lack of quality teachers in city schools. (suburbs tend to be very good) It isn’t lack of pay or benefits that is the problem (at least in Wisconsin where a teacher can make $45,000.00 per year and that includes teaching two study halls, along with 2 personal periods, making only 5 45 minute classes per day) The problem is bigger and parents need to demand their kids do well, and I beleive that teachers at the high school level should have to pass basic competency exams on a regular basis (This could be as easy as a 101 final in the subjects they teach)

  31. Grand Lunar

    “Don McLeroy, the state board’s chairman, has said that science should admit the possibly [sic] of the supernatural when natural explanations fail. ”

    This reminds me of what was read about Newton, when he worked on planetary motions. Over long periods of time, it seemed the system would come apart. So, he felt a supernatural intervention was needed.

    Later, another individual (have to look up the name) refined the work, and saw the problem was self correcting. No need for the supernatural.

    McLeroy should take heed of this lesson.

  32. Winter Solstice Man

    Texas is slowly getting smarter because the Village Idiot hasn’t been ruling there since 2001.

    Of course in a few days they will get him back, so watch out.

    A new President who is smart, articulate, and makes good choices – I don’t know if I can deal with the shock after 8 years of the Dark Ages.

  33. ByeByeTexas

    @Jim Howard

    False choice: there are no Chicago politicians looking to be in charge of Texas education.

    What we do have are a lot of supersitious, ignorant people here who would rather teach those superstitions in the schools instead of actual science.

    Sorry, there are still enough stupid, rude, phony-religious people in Texas. I don’t really know how less-doomed it is, but it may be easier to see once we leave. That cannot happen too soon.

  34. Cat lover

    Hey! Poor cat! :-(

    Personally, I think we’re doomed only if the cat loses – mice carry bubonic plague remember! ;-)

  35. Cat lover

    … As well as miniature missile launchers apparently ..

    Mee- OWWW!! :-( No fair!

    Incidentally, why three dogs inthe sky – theBig (Canis Major) the little (CanisMinor and theobscure (Huntinmg dogs -Canes Venatici) yet no Fe;lis the cat!

    Lalande (i think?) tried to introduce a constellation cat butfailed .. pity & again no fair! Sigh.

    Oh as for the Creationist fools – go get ‘em tiger Phil! ;-)

  36. Cat lover - second swipe!

    Taking a second swipe to pounce on those nasty typos ..Yeck, I’d rather have furballs than typos! ;-)
    —–

    Cat lover Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    January 10th, 2009 at 8:33 am

    … As well as miniature missile launchers apparently .. Mee- OWWW!! No fair!

    Incidentally, why are there 3 dogs in the sky – the Big (Canis Major) the little (Canis Minor) and the obscure (Hunting dogs – Canes Venatici) yet no Felis the cat!

    Lalande (I think?) tried to introduce that one cat constellation but failed .. pity & again no fair! Sigh.

    Still we’ve always got Leo and Lynx .. Purr. ;-)

    Oh as for the Creationist fools – go get ‘em tiger Phil!

  37. Will of people = Faith!

    The majority of the American people belive in God and in the Biblical Creation.

    America is a Democracy.

    Evolutionists are a minority – and that this small athiest evvolutionist elite look down their noses at ordinary people doesn’t make the evolutionists right or give them ther right to enforce their views.

    If the majority of people have faith in God – to be precise in Jesus Christ and the Christian faith – doesn’t that tell you something in itself?

    Apart from merely and pertinantly here that you’re outvoted?

    Instead of jumping up and down and trying to deny and insult what most people (and these are good, decent, Amercian people who work and play hard & generally live pretty well and wisely ) think and strongly believe in; why not think about why they belive and accept that they may have good reasons exceeding the vain logic (& logic can “prove” anything if twisted enough) and limited understanding of the god-hating, often America-hating, atheist liberal minority?

    If the majority will of the people is to teach God’s Word as well as – or even instead of – that of the evolutionist theoreticans then that’s how it _should_ be in our Democracy!

    If the athiests don’t like it then they can either just lump it or move somewhere where their ideology is in power. Funnily enough few if any of those athiest countries are Democracies and most are totalitarian dictatorships.

    Russia, I beleive was atheist – why not move there? No, wait it failed under fanatically atheist Communism and converted back to Christianity again.

    Lets see – China – yeah that’s still athiest – so’s Cuba and North Korea. Rather live there athiests? If so, then move!

    Rather not? Then accept you’re an out-voted minority and that in a Democracy where most people are God fearing Christians then the God-Fearing Christians have the ultimate say & not you.

    Then maybe, just maybe, you might try asking them or reading the Bible and searching your own hearts as to why they’re so “common” and “popular” and you’re such a small unpopular, unhappy group.

  38. Asimov Fan

    Quiet Desperation Said on Jan 8th, 2009 at 11:56 am :

    “If they insist upon teaching the supernatural then I must contest that supermassive black holes are really Gods who have shaped our galaxy and seeded life.

    Confess. You’re Stephen Baxter in disguise.”

    Awesome! Stephen Baxter reading and posting on this blog? Now that’d be superluminous -ie. beyond mere brilliance! 8)

  39. Todd W.

    Just gotta say, one of the things I love about the U.S. is the separation of church/religion and state/secular society that is erected by the First Amendment. It helps to ensure both good government and good religion. Any mixing of the two dooms both.

    Here’s hoping that Texas uses some common sense and avoids any costly and preventable lawsuits down the road.

  40. Darth Robo

    @Will of people = Faith!,

    What does evolution have to do with atheism?

    What does God have to do with science?

    What does Liberalism or atheism have to do with hating America?

    Since America has the First Amendment, if you don’t like it, why don’t YOU move?

    If “God-fearing Christians” have the “ultimate say” then how can you call America, a place where last I heard that EVERYONE is free to believe in ANY religion they wish (or not), a democracy?

    If you are so “happy” then why do you fear your God?

    And finally, (quite a pertinent question I might add) many “God-fearing” Christians quite happily accept evolution and indeed all science has to offer. Is there any reason why one cannot both accept modern science AND believe in God, aside from a literal interpretation of ancient superstitious texts? Many people do. In fact, “evolutionists” may not necessarily be as much of a minority as you think…

  41. Darth Robo asked me :

    @Will of people = Faith!,

    1. What does evolution have to do with atheism?

    A lot! Evolution is athiests means of attacking religion specifically Christanity. All of the outspoken atheists put their faith in their dubious theory of evolution and evolution is used as a wedge by our Adversary to try and convince people the Bible is false. Evolution denies any place for the Creator God and the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. More importantly, the Bible, the literal Gospel Truth utterly denies evolution!

    2. What does God have to do with science?

    Aha -you make it very clear here that you wish the answer to be ‘nothing’ that you like other evolutionists reject any role for the Almighty. In truth, God is in all things and the answer for everything.

    3. What does Liberalism or atheism have to do with hating America?

    It is common knowledge that liberals are anti-American and that Liberalism and its fellow ideology of socilaism are against patriotism, nationalism, capitalism and the American way. Many, if not all prominent liberals speak very badly about their country and display no pride in it or its conduct around the world. The same far-left liberals that made excuses for and cheered on the Communists are now cheering on our terrorist Jihadist enmeies again. And we all know it.

    4. Since America has the First Amendment, if you don’t like it, why don’t YOU move?

    I never said I disliked the First Amendment. I love our constitution as much if not more than you do. If you mean the part about “Congress making no law respecting religion” you need to note atheism too is a religion – the irrational and false belief that there is no God. Compelling students to belive atheism – and evolutionism – is, in fact, violating the Constitution! What the First Amendment was made for was ensuring no religious hatred and warfare within the framework of a Christian nation – under and before God – NOT denying Christianity altogether and substituting Dawkinism in His place.

    Atheists and Dawkinists suppose themselves to be without God(s) when in fact the false idols they worship are those they see reflected in a mirror -themsleves. They think they are smarter than the Creator Himself -and of course, are entirely wrong in this godlessness delusion.

    Oh and I’m a patriotic American, one of the silent majority who loves his country and knows it to still be (for all its flaws & atheist liberal white-anters) a good Christian land.

    5. If “God-fearing Christians” have the “ultimate say” then how can you call America, a place where last I heard that EVERYONE is free to believe in ANY religion they wish (or not), a democracy? If you are so “happy” then why do you fear your God?

    Because the Almighty is the Almighty; All-powerful and All-knowing. If you do not fear God then you are a fool. If you do not Love God with all your heart – you are lost.

    6. And finally, (quite a pertinent question I might add) many “God-fearing” Christians quite happily accept evolution and indeed all science has to offer. Is there any reason why one cannot both accept modern science AND believe in God, aside from a literal interpretation of ancient superstitious texts? Many people do. In fact, “evolutionists” may not necessarily be as much of a minority as you think…

    The polls, statistics and Reality outside says otherwise!

    Incidentally, click on my name for linking to a website FAQ that utterly and comprehensively demolishes Evolutionism. It will answer all your other questions – I’m going to bed!

  42. Darth Robo

    Perhaps you’ve never heard of the Clergy Letter Project? There are many religious people who accept evolution, and, as you’ve just pointed out, the ONLY reason to reject the scientific evidence for evolution is a literal interpretation of the Bible. So a very important question I have to ask is: Why do you insist on placing limits on the Almighty?

    There are NUMEROUS problems with your site which supposedly “demoslishes Darwinism”; first thing I noticed was it thinks the Earth is a mere 6,000 years old. Which means you are not only denying evolution, but also geology, archaeology, astrophysics, pretty much all of science to be honest. The OTHER problem is this:

    http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/43/61/

    In other words, their conclusion comes first. Not very scientific. But then, you’re not here to argue about science, are you? Neither are they.

    And if you truly believe that evolution is a violation of the Constitution, then why do you not take that to court? In the end, no-one is telling you what you can or cannot believe, but unfortunately whether you like it or not, evolution is part of the scientific curriculum. It also makes NO claims as to whether or not there is a “God”, in the same way the rest of science makes no religious claims. You are free to not believe in evolution (or any other scientific discipline, but public school science classes are for science. Not for religious apologetics, which is all you’re promoting here.

  43. Darth Robo

    Ah well, I guess I’m not gonna get all my questions answered after all, since creationontheweb didn’t answer them for me.

    :(

  44. Todd W.

    @Darth Robo

    There, there…just suspend your “logic” and “research” and you’ll be happier.

  45. Gynophile

    I’m currently enrolled in a Texas high school, in a city, which is also a public school and, actually, I haven’t had any science teachers who vehemently argue that evolution doesn’t exist and that the Earth was made by a “creator” merely 6,000 year ago or any of that ludicrous junk. I have had devout Christian teachers, but they never push their religion into their lessons or try to favor their own opinions over the required course teachings.

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