Texas: fight for science

By Phil Plait | January 18, 2009 7:00 am

When I last wrote about Texas, things were improving. A set of science standards for schools had been drafted that removed creationist weasel words about academic freedom (creationist code for letting them teach religion in the classroom).

I said then that these standards were up for a vote in March, but I was just told the actual vote is next week! The Texas State Board of Education will vote on these standards during their meeting from January 21 – 23, so we need to take action NOW. Creationists hold 7 out of 15 seats on the BOE (and some of them are, how do I phrase this? Rabid), so they basically need to sway one member to further destroy science and allow religious teachings in the classroom.

What can you do? If you live in Texas, go to the Teach Them Science website. There is a lot of info there to help you and guide you on what to do. You can also go to the Texas Freedom Network site where there are people who want to help fight the good fight. They have a special section called Take Action that will help.

You can also educate yourself on who sits on the BOE.

Again, if you live in Texas, do something. Because you are definitely not out of the woods yet. Your state could easily go the way Kansas did a few years ago, making them the laughing stock of the world. But this is no laughing matter: Texas has a HUGE influence on textbook publishing across the entire country, and if they adopt creationist standards — which would be in force for the next decade — other states could fall as well.

Do something. Or else you know what happens:

Texas: doomed

Tip o’ the ten gallon hat to BAbloggee John Kingman.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Politics, Religion, Science

Comments (38)

  1. Yesterday, a probable meteorite was sighted over south of Sweden.

    Youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX6KXsdGsR0

  2. complex field

    There is a reason for non-Texans to be concerned: The BOE spends so much on books that they actually influence, directly, what goes into our textbooks at large.

    Texas doomed = USA doomed.

  3. Tinaa

    I live in Texas and I’m going to sit down and contact my legislators and BOE members. I think this is a violation of the First Amendment. Can you imagine the stink that would be raised if any of the other world religions wanted their creation myths taught in science class? If parents want their kids to have religion they can teach it at home. Public school is for science.

  4. holastefan

    @Tinaa:
    “Public school is for science.”

    Is that kinda like “public” pledges: “one nation under god,” or maybe like public money: “in god we trust”?

    The Judeo-Christian belief system is splattered (yes, splattered) all over government-funded, public entities. I’m not surprised these school boards are trying this stuff, and I expect to see more and more “(Region): Doomed” images on this blog in the future. Religious dogma and evidence-based science may not be able to coexist, unfortunately.

  5. IVAN3MAN

    While I was searching the web for a topical cartoon, I stumbled upon a web-site in Texas at webspace.utexas.edu, that debunks Creationism and “Intelligent Design”, where I found the cartoon that I’ve posted below:

    Creationism & Intelligent Design!

    Creationism & Intelligent Design!
    (Click on the image for link to web-site.)

  6. TigerHunter

    I assume that those who don’t live in Texas are also eligible?

  7. Jayne in Germany

    Just want to say that the Texas Freedom Network is AWESOME and I’ve donated to them for many years. They do great work AND they work closely and regularly with “people of faith” who very much want to see science, rather than religious beliefs, taught in schools.

  8. When my family moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta my mother was amazed that this debate was still going on in the deep south. Sadly, in the nearly two decades since, the argument has spread.

    There are times when I wish stupidity could be outlawed but I’m much to fond of free speech to actually advocate something so foolish.

    We once thought that the Earth was the center of the universe and those that said otherwise could be imprisoned by religious authorities. Luckily, the trend of the last few centuries has been an, aggregately consistent, move away from religious tomfoolerly and towards evidence backed rationalism.

    Waiting for it to actually happen in micro, a little disheartening.

  9. Ad Hominid

    If I were a diabolical Marxist media conspirator,* I couldn’t think of a better way to sabotage the conservative opposition than to divert their energy into religious fantasy crusades like creationism.

    Right now, the Obama birth certificate troofers seem to have the upper hand in destroying conservative brains, but that will fade and something will have to take its place.

    *(and how sure are you that I am not? Buwaahaahaa!)

  10. Ted

    The question is not IF there will be an interdiction of Obama’s Presidency by the Supreme Court, the questions are WHEN and HOW that interdiction will transpire — that is, if the USA is to continue as the Constitutional Republic that now exists

  11. Quiet Desperation

    I’ll fight for science, but only in a cage match setting.

  12. SLC

    Re Ted

    Gee, Dr. Plait has been visited by a birther, namely Mr. Ted. Why doesn’t Mr. Ted go on over to Ed Braytons’ blog where there is a thread on the topic of President Elect Obamas’ birth certificate which now has over 400 comments. Needless to say, the birthers’ claims have been totally annihilated. The Supreme Court will vote to declare Mr. Obama ineligible about the time that Mr. Ted sees the back of his own ear and the shrimps learn to whistle.

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/01/supremes_reject_another_obama.php#c1326546

  13. Ad Hominid

    Ted, the question is really whether we can expel enough kooks to rebuild the Republican Party.

  14. EricM

    Phil,
    What about your own backyard. We have a new chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education, Bob Schaffer. What do we know about him? Does he have a view on ‘Academic Freedom’?

  15. RickK

    YAY! Another state whose children will be ill equipped to compete with my kids in the future economy. So scratch off Louisiana and Texas. Which state is next to become a punch line?

  16. Matthew Miller

    Are people not living in Texas allowed write in to the Texas School Board in this issue, or is it strictly reserved for people living in Texas?

  17. Gary Ansorge

    When we were living in Texas in the late ’70s, all three of my children were attending Public school. In 1979, we relocated to Phoenix, Az. All three children tested two grades ahead of the school in Phoenix(Glendale, to be precise).

    I expect Arizona should be considered lost, dead, and buried,,,

    See, Texas, THAT’S what you can expect to become. A fat version of Arizona.

    GAry 7

  18. fred edison

    Just say no to this happening in your schools. Twisted facts are not the truth, nor are they an education of lasting value. Let your dissenting voices be heard to stop this, or be silent and let them think you agree. Keep church out of the schools. Last but not least, don’t be a Kansas. Stay the great state of Texas.

  19. Nigel Depledge

    Gary Ansorge said:

    When we were living in Texas in the late ’70s, all three of my children were attending Public school. In 1979, we relocated to Phoenix, Az. All three children tested two grades ahead of the school in Phoenix(Glendale, to be precise).

    This probably tells us more about the type of parent you are than about the school your kids attended in Texas. After all, you are intelligent enough to be a regular reader of the BA Blog, aren’t you …? ;-)

  20. Gary Ansorge

    Nigel:
    Thanks for the insightful flattery however, the schools in Plano, Texas (at that time) were rated among the best in the nation. I have no idea where they rank today. Still, Jeri, Sean and Sharla are all extremely bright but I have to give credit where due: It’s all their Moms responsibility,,,she was much smarter than me. After all, she had great taste in men,,,

    Gary 7

  21. Gary Ansorge

    Dang: That last line implies,,,oh well, never mind,,,

    GAry 7

  22. Randy T

    I understand the need for you to raise alarm and to ridicule; you have nothing to back up you position. Here’s a thought, what if God did create the universe…of strongly influenced the creation of it? Is that remotely possible? Your position is based on the initial premise that you are certain this is not true.

    How could you know such a thing with absolute certainty? I suppose you also think believers arrogant?

  23. We have nothing to back up *our* position? Claiming that it is “remotely possible” that your god created the universe isn’t much backing.

    Evolution has 150 years of testing and hard evidence in many different scientific fields. Creationism has…the Bible. There is a reason that movies like Expelled just attack evolution and scientists without presenting any real case for creationism, and that is because the only things that creationists have to back up their claims are easily disproven nonsense from such great minds as Kent Hovind and Ken Ham.

    Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research do not do good science. The vast majority of their claims have already been torn to shreds by people who actually know what they’re talking about, but they continue to spew out the same nonsense that they must already know is wrong.

    Even worse are people like Ray Comfort with his “atheist’s nightmare” banana. We already know that bananas as we see them today have been very heavily influenced by artificial human selection. Bananas, like many of the plants we use for food, are very different from their wild ancestors, and the aspects of these plants which we find desirable are generally magnified by human intervention. In the unlikely event that there are creator gods out there, they did not make bananas the way they are today.

    We could go on all day about these subjects. What exactly do you have to back up creationism? I have yet to see a shred of real evidence for any god, let alone anything to make me believe in a literal interpretation of the creation of the world as laid out in the Bible.

    When you have as much evidence for creation as we have for evolution, then I will consider this a real debate. Until then, “creation scientists” had better get to work on coming up with their first piece of evidence.

    We don’t need to have “absolute certainty” that something is wrong before teaching it to children. We don’t know with absolute certainty that there are not Martians living under the ground of the red planet just waiting and building an army to conquer the Earth, but we have no evidence to suggest that this is happening, so we do not teach it in science classes.

  24. Darth Robo

    Randy T, unfortunately you have missed the point entirely. As there are many religious people who do accept modern science, including evolution, that shows it is not religion itself which is ridiculed, but it’s younger crazier cousin – creationism. Creationists who are the ones who are denying science in order to teach religious apologetics in public school science classes. The simple fact of the matter is, that the creation story, while it may make a great parable, taken literally it is ludicrous. God did not make Adam and Eve out of dirt and a spare-rib and didn’t create the universe in 6 days.

    Well, it’s POSSIBLE, but then it’s also possible that God created everything as is, including our memories, last Thursday. The problem is, this is not falsifiable. Nor is it testable. Nor can any useful predictions can be made from this. Therefore, it is not scientific.

    Perhaps God DID create the universe. But for certain, if He exists at all, He took longer than 6 days, AND He used evolution as a tool for the development of life on this planet. These things are science. But God is not. It is also illegal to teach religious apologetics in public schools. It would also be foolish. The only way it could be taught would be in a comparitive religions class, where all religions are given equal time. But it has no place in a public school science class. I hope this answers all of your questions.

  25. Nigel Depledge

    Randy T said:

    I understand the need for you to raise alarm and to ridicule; you have nothing to back up you position. Here’s a thought, what if God did create the universe…of strongly influenced the creation of it? Is that remotely possible? Your position is based on the initial premise that you are certain this is not true.

    How could you know such a thing with absolute certainty? I suppose you also think believers arrogant?

    Leaving aside the issue of “backing up” any kind of creationist viewpoint (which Kazz addressed above), let’s take a look at what you propose:

    Accepting for the sake of argument that God created (in some fashion) the universe, what can we tell about this extraordinary event? We know that it occurred a long time ago, orders or magnitude beyond anything that a YECist can imagine. The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the Universe is about 13.7 byo. We know most of the processes involved in planet formation – perhaps not down to the last tiny detail, but enough to say with some confidence that we have a good grasp of the principles. We know that the universe was initially very hot and very dense, and has subsequently expanded. We have some reasonable ideas about how life began, and a very good one about how life has changed over time since then. Certainly, we know enough to say that natural processes that occur today are a satisfactory explanation for the diversity and interrelationships we observe in the biosphere. Thus, overall, we know of a set of natural processes that account for the present state of Earth and the universe.

    The key question is: how, in principal, could we tell the difference between a universe that has been created by a god and one which has not? The answer depends on what you mean by god. If you consider god to be exactly as described in the Old Testament, then the evidence refutes this – the events described in Genesis did not occur as stated. If, on the other hand, you consider god to be rather more nebulous, and the events in Genesis to be some kind of metaphor or allegory, you enter a grey area where we can be certain of very little. If you consider god to be the first cause and no more than that, then there will never be any way to refute this, because there will be no difference between a “created” universe and a “natural” universe.

    So, to answer your question, yes it is remotely possible that a god did create the universe, but there is no evidence of any subsequent intervention. Believers, as you call them, become arrogant when they insist that their viewpoint receives a respect it has not earned, and which they do not accord to other viewpoints. By contrast, scientific theories (such as big bang theory, evolution, and so on) have earned the respect accorded them by scientists. They have earned the respect of everyone, by surviving the rigorous testing of the scientific process.

    From a logical standpoint, there is no rationale for believing in god, but the existence of a non-physical entity that can bend the laws of physics at will can never be disproven.

    When a bunch of religious zealots try to get their irrational viewpoint imposed on other people, and when they do so by picking out pretend “weaknesses” in one of humanity’s greatest intellectual achievements, that they have not taken the trouble to understand, is it arrogance to call them ignorant, irresponsible, foolish, insane or whatever? Surely the arrogance is in their actions?

    Incidentally, I have no problem at all with people believing whatever they want. Provided they accept that science offers our best bet for exploring how the universe works, and that beliefs with neither logical basis nor evidentiary support are irrational.

  26. Nigel Depledge

    Kazz said:

    Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research do not do good science.

    This gets my vote for “Understatement of the year 2009″!

  27. Jim

    I live in the Dallas area. I called Gail Lowe, my local BoE rep and voiced my concern. I am little shocked, embarrassed, and dismayed. She actually thought there was room for both ‘theories’. She started with ‘so you are in the evolution camp’. So, we have labels now. Those who expect science as science are the exception, on the defensive? This is just wrong. It’s bad enough G.W. Bush pretended to be from Texas, now this [He is from Maine].

  28. Nigel Depledge

    I said:

    The key question is: how, in principal, could we tell the difference between a universe that has been created by a god and one which has not?

    D’oh! I meant, of course, “principle”.

  29. Nigel Depledge

    Jim said:

    I live in the Dallas area. I called Gail Lowe, my local BoE rep and voiced my concern. I am little shocked, embarrassed, and dismayed. She actually thought there was room for both ‘theories’. She started with ’so you are in the evolution camp’.

    Jim, this illustrates the success of the anti-evolution tactics. First they spread the lie that there is some kind of controversy about evolution. Then, they spread the lie that there is an alternative “scientific” theory. People in positions of authority who have not taken their responsibilities seriously (and have therefore not become as informed as they ought) see a debate with two sides. The third stroke of the anti-evolutionist lobby is to claim that “both sides” of the “controversy” should be taught.

    From one perspective, it would be amusing to compile a text book about evolution versus ID (perhaps edited and published by those excellent people at the NCSE). On the one hand, a nice overview of evolutionary theory could be presented, along with a very brief precis of the evidence that supports it. This would occupy the first 28 chapters.

    Then, you could look at the claims of ID, and examine each one critically. This would be the shortest chapter, since, aside from strawman attacks on evolutionary theory and arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity, there is no theory of ID. Unless “someone intelligent somehow created some biological things, at some time,” counts as a theory.

  30. Darth Robo

    “so you are in the evolution camp.”

    Not a good sign.

    :(

  31. Greg in Austin

    I couldn’t make it to the hearing yesterday because of work. However, there is a great blog online thru the Houston Chronicle’s SciGuy, a science blog with Eric Berger His article Debate over evolution in Texas schools heats up also includes a link to Steve Schafersman’s blog, with great photos and summaries of the various speakers from yesterday.

    I don’t think I’ll be able to get to go today or tomorrow, either. *dangit*

    What’s interesting is that the wording of the current science standards has included the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” for the past 10 years. So it would seem that Texas has been doomed for some time, and now these people are trying to help un-doom Texas.

    Stand up for Science!

    8)

  32. I just posted links to a blogger named Steve Schafersman, who is attending the hearings with the SBOE here in Austin. A very funny thing Steve says is,

    “David Bradley just made the remark that he tried to get Ben Stein to come to Austin and speak in front of the SBOE, but they couldn’t afford his fees! This comment is just priceless, since Ben Stein has absolutely no scientific or educational qualifications whatsoever, except his brief appearance as a public school teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). His pseudodocumentary, Expelled, has been justly decried as a fascist, ignorant diatribe against evolution. The movie producer used every dirty trick to fool the scientists who were asked to appear in it on camera. Stein himself indulges in despicable tactics to mislead and deceive his audience about the truth. David Bradley wants to do the same. “

    That’s funny!

    Click my name for a link to the SciGuy’s blog, and follow it to Steve’s blog & updates.

    8)

  33. Darth Robo

    Of course.

    “We only want to teach both the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ of evolution! We aren’t trying to insert IDCreationism!”

    Okay. So who is it who wants this taught?

    “Uh… the same people who promote Creationism… ”

    Hmmmmmmm…

    8)

    Thanks for teh links.

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