Texas is closed

By Phil Plait | April 30, 2009 5:51 pm

Texas is confusing. I guess when you get a state that big, you get conflicting news from it:

1) The bad news: First it was science, and now the state Board of Education is attacking social studies. What do these doofi have against people who are actually knowledgeable and trained in their fields of study?

2) The good news: The Texas legislature is on the verge of doing the right thing: canning creationist Don McLeroy as the head of the state Board of Education. Let’s hope that’s one door that does in fact hit him on the derriere.

So which is it? Good news or bad? I guess, like many things in reality, it’s both. But given the past few months, it’s not too far-fetched to guess that even if McLeroy is given the (cowboy) boot, the Lone Star creationists will find some other aspect of life to screw up miserably for the rest of us.

So, with that — and not to tick off any reality-based Texan BABloggees out there — I hope you take this in the light intended: making fun of those among you who want to snuff out the candle of science.

I still think there’s hope for Texas, and for the rest of us, or else I wouldn’t be writing about this. But the price for that hope is to continue the fight. And we will, for as long as it’s needed.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Humor, Religion, Science

Comments (44)

  1. gila

    My spouse and I have always maintained that the proper plural of “doofus” is “doofera.” Rather like genus and genera, or opus and opera.

  2. Since Texas is on the border with Mexico and all the swine flu fears, may I suggest a Poe for the deniers of reality there:

    Note to real Christians: PLEASE do NOT take Tamiflu or any of those demon drugs developed by strict Evolutionists!

    If you:
    1) …believe evolution should not be taught in school…
    2) …believe that evolution is still a theory without strong support…
    3) …believe that Darwin was a nut and ‘Origin of Species’ is an evil book…

    …I urge you NOT to take Tamiflu under any circumstances. Taking this anti-viral drug is tantamount to admitting that evolutionary science (and those scientists who received the ‘origin’ of their education in public schools) is useful and helpful to sick people. Clearly viruses were CREATED, and these damn evolutionist whackos are trying to mess with the Creator’s plan.

    Viruses evolve and adapt at such a rapid pace that it takes evolutionary scientists (you know, those ones that conservative religious types rail against) tons of hard work to stay one step ahead of the mutations.

    If you believe evolution is an unproven theory, taking anti-viral drugs is clearly an admission that you believe, when the chips are down and your health is at risk, that you believe that science has a better chance of saving you than prayer.

    Risking your life to save people from a rapidly ‘evolving’ virus is a sure way to land yourself in Satan’s brimstone swimming pool.

    Yeah, I sorta felt bad putting that there….

  3. You know that things are really screwed up when a creationist is the head of a State Board of INDOCTRINATION AND LABOR TRAINING!

    ‘Religion is the opium of the people!’

    Karl Marx

    opium Pictures, Images and Photos

  4. mus

    Hmm… if Texas DID become its own country, I would imagine that pretty much all future elections would go to Democrats no? Without Texas’ whopping 34 electoral votes, it would be a whole LOT easier for liberals to win the elections. Furthermore, without Texas’ representatives and senators, I imagine both branches of congress would become a little more liberal, wouldn’t they?

    Wouldn’t the rest of the country would have better science text books? Well, I guess I don’t really know…

    what other effects would Texas seceding have?

    I guess the wildlife in Texas and all other environmental issues would suffer because of it… but then again, wouldn’t that provide just more incentive for the US to find alternative fuels to oil?

  5. Geomaniac

    It looks like Texas and my home state of Louisiana are in a race for who can do the most damage to reality based education. Pity. The only thing good about hearing what Texas is up to is that the spotlight is off of the shenanigans of the “leaders” of Louisiana. Such as:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/04/catholic_geezers_deny_biology.php or http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/02/14/jindal-dooms-louisiana/
    Sigh. We must fight, fight, fight because these people NEVER give up

  6. Mark Wilcox

    Again, as long as you deny school choice – then you will have governmental fights like this.

    While none of this is science and anyone who sends their kids to schools who teach this nonsense likely won’t go far, the fact is that their tax money shouldn’t have to fund schools they don’t agree with either.

    Ultimately it’s about liberty. And we’ve denied it to parents for too long.

  7. Texan

    For the record,

    McCain won Texas with 55% of the popular vote, wherea Bush had 62% in ’04.

    Texas produces more wind power than any other state in the country, and has the largest wind farm on Earth. Sustainable architecture, solar power, and biomass energy are being actively pursued throughout the state.

    etc… So there’s a bright side of something to the backwards oil capital of America?

    Don’t forget Dell, HP, Texas Instruments, and NASA too. And the nonexistence of a state personal income tax. It’s not all bad.

  8. Rodney

    Door nothing,

    I hope the it’s the door knob that catches him on the way out, AND I hope it gets stuck.

    (Though he may actually like that…)


  9. Crudely Wrott

    I still think there’s hope for Texas, and for the rest of us, or else I wouldn’t be writing about this. But the price for that hope is to continue the fight. And we will, for as long as it’s needed.

    And the best way is to be ready to point out the errors, the frantically grasping errors of the anti-human trolls who have squatted long in the Lone Star State. Point and laugh, intelligently and with requisite respect (simple golden rule procedure).

    The accumulating amount of damage, embarrassment and intellectual fail must surely reach a tipping point. (I was going to write, “reach a tipping point soon,” but thought that might sound like the gospel according to the evangelical. All things in their own time.)

    The troubles of Texas seem not to be rooted in any earnest and pious deference to an Invisible Supernatural Spook. Rather, the efforts to rewrite science, and now history and current events seem to spring from a genuine distaste for what people really do.

    It is as though the best that human civilization has to offer is not acceptable. How is it then that so many people are warm and dry and well fed and healthy and conversant in diverse areas, aware of world wide trends almost as soon as they are spotted?

    I think that in the near future Texas will cease to be a rally state for the ID crowd and become widely regarded as an example of what happens when ideology trumps reason. It could turn into a most educational and amusing flustercluck.

    *oh, the embarrassment. all are shamed. all eyes are lowered. all go hide. many die.*

  10. it’s a good thing there are no crackpots in other states.

  11. Daniel J. Andrews

    When it comes to things like science I prefer to get my information from a reliable source and not some ideologue’s website. I also prefer to try and get other information from reliable sources, and the link provided by Phil does not strike me as a reliable source. It ‘smells’ a bit too much like an ideologue’s website and it set off my b.s. detectors. Not saying it is b.s. and not saying it has misinterpreted things or taken them out of context, but I certainly don’t trust it without more verification from other sources. Maybe I’m too much of a skeptic that I don’t even trust the stuff I like to hear. :)

    btw, Quasar (and anyone else) you might want to check the context of the Karl Marx quote and see what it is actually saying. D.J. Grothe had a point of inquiry episode with an author whose name I can’t remember just now, and this quote came up, and the author praised D.J. for getting the context right.

  12. Phil,

    I don’t remember if you’ve posted this on your blog before, but the NCSE has a YouTube channel where they’re posting videos of the Texas BOE meetings.


  13. Daniel J. – even if the sources aren’t reliable, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were right. I live in Texas, and while I’m in the city, I know a couple of folks here and there(including my dad) who believe in alternate versions of history and wouldn’t mind evolution being ousted.

    I don’t think anything like this would become a reality, though; we have NASA, for heaven’s sake. In the urban areas, where I live, people can be just as scientifically-minded and liberal as California or Massachusetts. There may be groups of people dedicated to the type of reformation mentioned in the article, but there are bigger groups who aren’t.

    I don’t suspect anyone serious about education in America would let a fundementalist minority push religiously-tinted curiculae in a public school.

  14. (and I say this as a christian)

  15. Ad Hominid

    In the spirit of modesty for which we Texans are so justly famous, I would like to take a bow here.
    I have been personally lobbying the state senate on this issue but, since many thousands of other reality-based Texans have been involved in the same campaign, the bow must be a collective one from all of us. It must also be brief since the creationist lobby is like the Hydra of mythology, and there is much work still to be done.

  16. Pieter Kok

    “the fact is that their tax money shouldn’t have to fund schools they don’t agree with”

    You seem to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the tax system. We have taxes because we can do some things much better collectively than individually (e.g., infrastructure, defense, hospitals, schools, etc.). This means that the tax revenue must be allocated in a democratic way, by Congress, and it is therefore inevitable that some (if not most) tax payers are unhappy about some of the choices that are made in the budget. The appropriate way to influence the budget is via elections and free speech. That’s your Liberty.

  17. I know this is slighly off topic, but the Texas of Canada, Alberta, wants to make evolution optional in schools. They’re bowing down to the minority creationists. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2009/04/30/cgy-bill-evolution-law-alberta-classes-teachers.html

  18. Ray

    Why is the title of this entry “Texas is Closed”? There isn’t any reference to it in the article itself.

  19. Ryan Brown

    I actually received an e-mail from my local GOP party on behalf of one of the creationist BOE members the other day. Apparently the state Legislature is trying to strip the Texas BOE of a lot of their power including funding and textbook decisions. They’re also trying to make the BOE an appointed position as opposed to an elected one. I’m torn because I believe that an elected body is generally fairer, but the current BOE has proven itself malicious and incompetent. We’ll see if this all goes anywhere.

  20. Nigel Depledge

    Ryan – maybe the answer is to propose that the BOE should be elected from a pool of competent individuals (such as education professionals)?

  21. mike

    Texan wrote:

    Don’t forget Dell, HP, Texas Instruments, and NASA too.

    Oh cripes. HP is a CALIFORNIA company, with headquarters in Palo Alto. It’s the very first Silicon Valley company. NASA has sites in nearly 20 states, and doing away with Johnson and moving its operations to Kennedy would be a really, really good thing. It never made sense to split the operations of the manned space program like that, except as pork barrel politics (we mustn’t forget JSC was opened during the Johnson Administration, and Johnson was a Texan — it is far favorable to launch from a southern latitude to the East to take advantage of Earth rotation, so Florida is virtually required). As for Dell, there are lots of alternatives to them.

    And of course we mustn’t forget Enron.

    Yet another bit of inflated Texas importance. I seem to hear something provably wrong like that every time I run into a Texan (which is frequently). Like that highly incorrect old saw that Texas was the only state that was once an independent country (I guess California and Hawaii aren’t states).

  22. Wayne

    Yeah, and Texas is on the verge of financial collapse… oh wait, that’s California. Personally, I can’t see another state I’d rather be in during a recession. I think we’d do pretty good by ourselves, not that I’m advocating that (yet). Everyone else just see’s and hears the yahoos, and I’ve done my share to counter them, actually talking to McLeroy about how wrong he is, but as “Texan” says things aren’t so bad here: No income tax, my house is worth more than it was a year ago, I can see a wind farm from my house, and I’m not worried about loosing my job. Besides, Washington would never let us leave, they need our tax revenue.

  23. Ad Hominid

    Gee, Mike, maybe it’s our tendency to generalize………. or perhaps our celebrated lack of subtlety.

  24. Winter Solstice Man

    We should have just let the South become its own country in 1861. It practically is anyway and we wouldn’t give two figs about their ignorance as a result.

  25. Wes

    # Mark Wilcox Says:
    April 30th, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Again, as long as you deny school choice – then you will have governmental fights like this.

    While none of this is science and anyone who sends their kids to schools who teach this nonsense likely won’t go far, the fact is that their tax money shouldn’t have to fund schools they don’t agree with either.

    Ultimately it’s about liberty. And we’ve denied it to parents for too long.

    If we defined “liberty” as “your tax dollars will never fund something you disagree with”, we would have to abolish government entirely and just descend into anarchy. If you pay taxes, then at least some of the things funded with those taxes will be things you disagree with. That cannot be avoided. Even if parents don’t agree with what’s taught in school, that is not a violation of their liberty.

  26. ccpetersen

    Oh, boy, another school choicer checks in with flappy arguments about “Not supportin’ crap I don’t believe in…” Yet, yet… all of us pay higher taxes because churches and private schools get TAX-FREE status. They don’t pay taxes on those expensive properties that, if they were businesses or homes, would get taxed. That money has to come from somewhere, so it comes from all of us. How fair is that?


    So, don’t pay yer taxes and we won’t have to bail out your state any more. Nor fight the fires at your house. Or keep your water supply clean. Or provide standard education to ALL students, not just the ones whose parents can afford slick private schools where the standards could be variable depending on which version of reality the faculty bleebs in. Or, we won’t have to admit you and your spawn to the state-funded colleges or hospital emergency rooms or …well, the list goes on and on.

    See, the whole problem with any argument that states “I don’t wanna fund stuff I don’t bleeb in” falls apart when selfish interest conflicts with the common good.

    I don’t want to pay for schools period. I don’t have any kids and I don’t use them. But, I realize that an educated population is in society’s interest, and so I pay taxes to support decent schools. When I hear right wingers whine about paying for schools that teach stuff they don’t personally bleeb in, I want to shake these jerks until their teeth rattle. Don’t wanna pay for stuff? Then don’t expect society’s benefits, freeloaders.

  27. patrick

    We need more robots and less people, then we wouldn’t be discussing this because we’d be so busy servicing the robots. All of our problems ultimately stem from overpopulation. So, I believe we need more smart robots and less ignorant people.

    The discussions always come down to fuel. Well, we wouldn’t have an energy crisis if the people would organize themselves instead of waiting to see what the gov. does next. Who cares what they teach in public schools, because its revised anyway.

    I went to school in Texas and, probably, like in most other states, I spent my entire high school career preparing for a standardized test I could have passed in 8th grade and science is taught in such a way that it turns many students away from from scientific study. The only subjects taught effectively and honestly are English and Spanish.

    They want us to be ignorant. So, if you feel your kids should learn about evolution, put in the Cosmos and maybe even give the little guys some books on the matter.

    Terminator: Rise of the Machines will be in theaters soon. If that doesn’t prove evolution is real, I don’t know what does. The machines will rise……

  28. @ Patrick:

    I spent my entire high school career preparing for a standardized test I could have passed in 8th grade and science is taught in such a way that it turns many students away from from scientific study.

    Sad to say, I think this is spot on. While I predate the modern era of standardized test mania, I can count on one hand the number of inspiring science classes I had throughout elementary and high school.

    And elementary school is where our science education is most criminal. That’s when kids must be first and foremost excited about science, not bored to death with minutia that will probably change by the time they get to college — if they get to college.

    I can remember seeing my classmates staring dumbfounded at the periodic table while Mr. L__, the so-called science teacher (he of the “I think it’s a bunch of baloney” evolution lesson) droned on and on about…what? I can’t recall. But I do recall that huge cabinet of chemistry lab supplies behind his desk, the one that hadn’t been cracked open since Eisenhower was president, and the one that could have been used to actually do experiments and demonstrations and, oh, I don’t know, things that would get kids pumped up and interested.

    It’s a good thing there are a large number of students who learn despite our schools, because otherwise, we’d be up the creek nothing but a number 2 pencil and a bubble sheet.

  29. The trick to getting a good education in Texas is taking as many honors and Advanced Placements courses as possible.

    But it really is horrible how some of the regular classes are taught- some lazy kids I know take regulars courses because they can do nothing, study nothing, and still get an A.

  30. RL

    @ patrick

    Terminator: Rise of the Machines came out years ago. I think you mean Terminator: Salvation?

    And to your point, is that story line an example of evolution or intelligent design (with a different creator than most IDers have in mind)? I’m not so sure. Those terminators evolved but by the designs of their creator, Skynet.

  31. Malachi Constant

    I know it’s fun to bash Texas as being full of pickup driving rednecks, but let me tell you what I’ve seen growing up here.

    I went to public school in Austin and had wonderful science teachers. Our Chemistry teacher showed us a video where she tossed a lump of Sodium in a lake to show how explosively it reacted with water. I was taught evolution, and there were no objections from parents. My Physics teacher was the best teacher of anything in my school. He put me on the road to skepticism.

    African-Americans and Hispanics make up a large portion of our population and are well represented in our local and state governments.

    This is, once again, a extremely vocal minority shouting over a passive majority. Texas has more religious extremists than most other states, but it certainly isn’t a majority. It’s a big state and has a great diversity of opinions.

    It looks like McLeroy will be given the boot, much like what happened to the Kansas board when people realized what that group was trying to do. There are Texans who are atheists and skeptics, I meet with them several times a month.

    I love ya, Phil, and I know you’re just joking, but Texas is a big place with the full spectrum of beliefs. There are fundamentalists, black separatists, and people who think forcing kids to learn English is racist here. There are also biologists, physicists, rocket and computer scientists here.

    Don’t let the whackjobs color your opinion of our state as a whole.

    (P.S. Us Houston skeptics would love to see you. Stop by for a visit if you’re ever in the area.)

  32. @ Ryan

    I’m torn because I believe that an elected body is generally fairer, but the current BOE has proven itself malicious and incompetent.

    In Pennsylvania, where I live, the district school boards are elected and have the power to levy property taxes in order to fund the school districts. What I have seen all too often is school boards getting packed with people who are neither educators nor parents of school children, but rather tax protesters (or worse in the case of the Dover area school board). These people get elected by making promises to cut taxes and telling lies about how the schools waste money on worthless programs.

    As an American, I have a natural inclination towards democracy, but I have seen it fail the students too many times to believe that elections are the best way to select school boards.

  33. Sir Eccles

    Technically, there is a whole predestination paradox or three involved with the development of the terminators and it gets very complicated very quickly. I think in the second film, they only get developed because they find the remains of the one from the first film. Then in the third film Skynet is actually a computer virus from the future that is spread by the lady terminator.

  34. Steve

    @Malachi Constant

    “Our Chemistry teacher showed us a video where she tossed a lump of Sodium in a lake to show how explosively it reacted with water.”

    There you go. Won’t someone please think about the fish!?

  35. Malachi Constant

    That’s how we roll in Texas. It just ain’t science if there’s no explosions and dead wildlife at the end of it.

  36. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Then in the third film Skynet is actually a computer virus from the future that is spread by the lady terminator.

    That would have been awesome. (Instead that movie jumped the shark, if not #2 already did.)

    For some reason Terminator doesn’t dabble in causal loops with the future changing the past. (Except in backhand way in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, where they seem to have started a less forceful “changing a timeline isn’t easy but (sh)it happens/alternate timeline” theme.)

    Perhaps because these things de-empower the predestination/salvation religious theme.

  37. Greg C

    Malachi Constant! You go Boy! I was raised in West Texas, buckle of the bible belt and had the same experience. Our friends from out of state cannot fathom how large and diverse the state is.
    I still like to do a little physics out on the lease, small projectiles flying through the air, stopping suddenly in the body of a feral hog. I love gods creatures, especially with mashed potatoes.

  38. Wow, way to generalize and stereotype. Thanks, I love this country.

    Yes, Texas has its flaws, but what state doesn’t? I mean, I could go on about those yankee governors who recently got in trouble for prostitution and trying to sell a senate seat, but I won’t go there.

    It’s easy to make fun of a place you know only the worst about.

  39. WayneF

    Texas bashing is easy. This is because Texas is full of a bunch of over enthusiastic folks who believe their state is the best ever, and will proclaim that to anyone who will listen.

    Which, of course, is no different than what I hear from people from New York and California.

    Texas has a lot of intellectual people here. In Houston, we have Rice University, where the roots of NASA were first laid. Then of course the Johnson space center. I don’t give a damn it was put here by pork barrel projects either. If Houston was that awful a spot, it would have been moved a long time ago. The government is constantly moving stuff. Then there is the plethora of high tech companies we have, who others have mentioned. Then there is the Texas medical center.

    And this is just Houston, and I am not mentioning things. There is also the simple fact that our state and local governments are not broke.

    So while there are some knuckleheads, they are going away, as evident by Phil’s own post. If you look at any state, you are going to see wacky stuff get proposed. The only thing that matters to me is if that wacky stuff passes, and so far, it has not.

  40. WayneF’s defense of Texas is fact-free, which makes sense, since he is from Texas.

    Oh. Texas has a medical center. Whoopee !!! And if not for the U.S. Supreme Court, it would not allow abortions. And probably doesn’t anyways.

    Wayne F forgets that he lives in a state where a plurality still believes in slavery and dragging black people around back roads tied to pick-up trucks is not a bad thing. A state where New Orleans hurricane refugees were treated as criminals solely because of their skin color.

    Wayne F: you are the problem.

  41. The people here “defending” Texas simply confirm why the U.S. needs to secede from it. Texas lowers the national IQ by 50 points. Be stupid and racist on your own time. The rest of the U.S. is trying to move out of the 19th century, not toward it.

  42. Yes, Texas has some unfortunate and moronic types – as outlined by our host on several occasions. But the people here wanting us to secede because we’re stupid/backward/hillbilly/racist/etc. are equally as unfortunate and moronic, to be frank.

    Every state has problems, and every state has great points. Texas is no different. There is a *lot* of good stuff in Texas. A lot of progressive attitudes – it’s not all rednecks and pickup trucks.

    The amount of Texas bashing I see on science blogs and such is staggering, and it’s mostly irrational and hateful beyond all reason. Such as the two posts above. Texas is a great place – there’s bad, but there’s a lot of good as well. If some people really think it’s nothing but racism and stupidity, well, they’re not only wrong, they’re pretty darn stupid themselves.

  43. John

    I hope Doug Watts is not over 15 years old.


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