Standing up to the experts

By Phil Plait | January 24, 2011 10:42 am

Over the past few years a majority of members of the Texas State Board of Education have done pretty much everything they can to destroy accurate standards of learning for Texas school children. They’ve been sabotaging science, history, and social studies, and doing a pretty thorough job of it.

At the helm for most of that time was Don McLeroy, an avowed young-Earth creationist who has been tireless in trying to insert his own narrow view of the world into the Texas textbooks. And this is no local problem; the books Texas chooses can affect other states as well.

I was contacted by Vijay Dewan, who is working on a documentary about this. He and his team have 200 hours of footage, and they’re looking for funding to get a good editor for it. To do this, they’ve got a Kick Starter campaign set up to raise the money to complete the documentary. They’ve put together a trailer video which you can see on the Kick Starter site, and you can watch here:

I for one would very much like to see it completed. They don’t need a whole lot of money to get to their goal, either; they’re already 75% of the way to their target of $10,000. So please help spread the word, and maybe the educational disaster that McLeroy and the Texas BoE created can have a light shone on it so that it can be seen by people all across this country.


Related posts:

Texas creationist Don McLeroy spins the educational disaster he created
Texas state Board of Education confirms irony is dead
Texas school madness and a potential cure
Texas: doomed


Comments (56)

  1. Zerodash

    This Creationist crap will never end, will it?

  2. Keith Bowden

    Hear, hear! I look forward to seeing the completed project.

  3. OK, I had to set up an account with Kickstarter, which only accepts money via Amazon Payments, which I had an account with but hadn’t used in years and it was sending confirmations to a defunct email address because it didn’t update to my current email address when I updated my Amazon account so I had to figure out how to change it without actually having the old email account and then confirm my email address using my android phone because gmail is blocked by the firewall at work and then I had to guess which Amazon Payments feature I needed to activate for Kickstarter to receive payments and then go back to the Kickstarter site and try donating the money again but, yeah, I think I actually managed to donate to the campaign and now I’m thinking I should probably switch to decaf for the rest of the day.

  4. Other Paul

    Should we – in foreign lands, with competing capitalist economies – not rejoice in the fact that your future workforce will be horribly mis-educated and thus disadvantaged? Texas is _good_ news for us isn’t it?

    Seriously though, do your politicos not understood how they may be shooting themselves in the foot and doing themselves potentially severe economic damage in the future? They’ll be competing with secular states with an educated workforce which can actually understand and apply the scientific and technological principles they wish to hobble. Would they not suddenly see the light if this were pointed out?

    Or are they two-faced hypocrites who will happily benefit from all that science and technology has to offer, regardless of their religious views? Get them to give up their mobiles and automobiles and airconditioned homes and whatever – they aren’t mentioned at all in the bible y’know. I checked.

  5. @1. Zerodash: It will end on Judgment Day. (So yeah, never.)

  6. Tai

    Thanks for pointing this out. It’s a great project and I just pushed them over the $10,000 goal!

  7. Björn

    That looks like an excellent goal for some of my spare money. When I donated they were less than $400 short (slightly less after I donated ;-)) so there shouldn’t be a problem getting this show on the road!

  8. Other Paul, I have often wondered if in the future, someone sees that a job or college applicant is from Texas, and they just put that application in the circular file. Really sad to think that it may come to that. Especially after hearing some in Texas musing if cutting out senior year of high school would help with their budget woes…

    I always beg creationists to go to their church instead of a hospital when they get sick*. All that medical knowledge comes mostly from our understanding of evolution, so they shouldn’t taint themselves with it. Never seems to work though…

    * Not a serious desire. There’s enough suffering without idiots actually ignoring real science. Let them have their dissonance.

  9. mike burkhart

    As I said in a previous comment in a survey in US Catholic magizeen 95% of Catholics accept Evolution and 93% want it taught in Catholic school science class. So not all Christans agree with these fundamentlists. I don’t . We need Christans who oppose these “young Earth Creationsts” to speek up as I have done. Off Topic Phil I just reread your book Bad Astronomy chapter on the big bang (I was studying the big bang theroy to brush up on recent discoverys and curent models of it ) I found your book helpfull and informitive.

  10. CJSF

    @Steve:.. aaand exhale…..

    CJSF

  11. Steve

    As a Texan, I am ashamed that our kids won’t be taught about evolution, the big bang, etc, etc, etc. But god forbid our kids can’t play football every Friday night in the fall!!!!!!! We’re cutting school budgets for nurses, textbooks, libraries & librarians, but our HS football coaches continue to make good money, and the playing fields and stadiums are all updated with modern score boards, turf, etc. And the status quo isn’t gonna change as long as the tea partiers and other neo-cons control elections and school boards.

  12. John

    Gov Hairball(Perry) says that when he took over from Bush we had moved from 37th in education to 49th and now that they are counting DC schools we are 51st. And everybody knows 51 is a bigger number than 37 or 49, right

  13. Mike

    Great project. Was glad to donate.

  14. As of now (2:47PM EST), they have over $12,000 in pledges out of their $10,000 goal.

  15. Larian LeQuella:

    I always beg creationists to go to their church instead of a hospital when they get sick*. All that medical knowledge comes mostly from our understanding of evolution, so they shouldn’t taint themselves with it. Never seems to work though…

    My father was a physician, and he ran into several “strongly opinionated” vegetarians who chastised him about things such as his leather briefcase and the like. He asked them if they were willing to stop taking the medicines which were either done through animal research, or obtained from animals. (As I recall, insulin used to be gotten from animals.) Apparently, none of them ever refused to continue taking their medications.

  16. CaptTu

    Texan.

    Donated.

  17. Number 6

    Don McLeroy gave his negative 2 cents worth of opinion and stumbled around on the NPR show, OnPoint, almost a year ago when he was appeared with some reality-based personages. It’s a good listen…..

    http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/03/the-texas-textbook-debate

  18. Travis L

    How about we mix it up a bit and start debating from a different angle? Something that leaves the word “Evolution” out of our discussion. It’s just too hot of a buzzword.

    The Creationists don’t need an offense against Evolution, they just need a defense. They kind of have that defense in the statement “Cause God said So!”. Perhaps the removal of evolution from our side will screw up their “defense” and allow a few of them to finally listen, instead of plugging their ears and singing La, La, La!

  19. Kevin

    @ #5 J. Major.

    You say Judgment Day is never coming.

    I’ll make sure to point you out to our new machine masters once SkyNet takes over. :)

  20. Taz

    The next time Don McLeroy needs his teeth worked on, he should let me do it with a hammer and chisel. That may not be how dentists think it should be done, but someone has to stand up to the experts.

  21. @19. By that time I will have evolved into something completely different. :D

  22. Joseph G

    @#4 Other Paul: Hey, it’s a competitive global economy out there, I can totally see your point.
    In fact, if I were the really paranoid type, I’d begin to suspect that the Chinese Communist party were secretly funding these guys.

    “You like your religion, huh? We’re just Godless heathens over here, eh? Well, lets just see what happens when we inject a little money in the right places and get your creationist whackos in positions of power! Lets see how you like not having any scientists or engineers 20 years from now. How you like your precious God now, Americans?”
    *cue evil laugh*

  23. Joseph G

    @ Treelobsters: Sheesh! No Gmail at work? Whaaa?
    *hands Steve a virtual beer* Next time, donate at home ;)

  24. Joseph G

    Personally, I’m all for teaching alternative hypotheses to evolution and cosmology, but no being ethnocentric about it! We need to teach ALL creationist ideas. Like the various ancient Egyptian traditions about Atum who ejaculated to kickstart the universe (and later produced two children via autofellatio.) Or the Shinto tradition of the god Izanagi ejaculating the first island into being (there seems to be a whole lot of spooging in non-monotheist creation stories).
    Teach the kids ALL creation theories and let them decide for themselves! That’s the only fair way to do it ;)

  25. Ron1

    @24 Joseph G…
    The following is meant honestly and totally without sarcasm. …

    What does fair have to do with teaching science?

    I’m all for talking about alternative creation stories in a creative writing, religious or philosophical classroom – many creation myths are GREAT stories. However, creation myths are not science and therefore have no place in a science classroom, except perhaps as examples of historical dead-ends.

    Teaching a child that evolution is wrong also means teaching that child that much of modern geology or astronomy is also wrong. It means deliberately teaching a child to deliberately think fallaciously. I consider that child abuse.

    ………………………………

    Phil, thanks for putting links like this on your blog. I opened an account, made a donation and I feel great participating in an attempt to roll back a return to the dark ages.

    Cheers

  26. Other Paul

    @Joseph G: You are quite right. If evolution and big-bangery are ‘just theories’ to these authorities and they demand equal air-time for their theory, then they will agree to having all other competing theories expounded. To resist such a call would merely exhibit hypocrisy, a property of which they are of course devoid.

    I believe they might justifiably sacrifice one school generation to achieve this worthy end. It’ll be a painful education for that unlucky group but somebody has to do it. Perhaps, after the five years or so of extra study required for these competing models of reality, they might settle the matter once and for all by vote. All subsequent generations will be taught the winning story within the normal time allowed for such a curriculum. In the long run it’ll be worth it for all the peace of mind thus engendered.

  27. JSchubert

    here’s an excellent editor:

    http://www.kathygatto.com

    just not sure about 10k…
    best of luck to these guys!

  28. Keith Bowden

    Of course it’s “not about religion”, so Chariots of the Gods should be in every science classroom too… after all, the intelligent space gods were just coming back to check on their design!

  29. Daniel J. Andrews

    Speaking of religion and deities to be discussed in the classroom, be sure to include the first annual GoDS (gathering of Deities and Spirits), and the Valhalla Consensus where the majority of deities say they’ll let humans destroy the earth (although Odin and his fellow gods would rather have someone help them clean out the attic first).

    friendsofginandtonic.org/files/847a43e927e6b611250bbccf274a501b-248.html

  30. Snowshoe the Canuck

    Don should get his car serviced by the kid across the street if the fuel injection or the ignition systme needs work. Experts don’t know nuthing.

    I was once a co-author for a unit of a science textbook. We had to include some beliefs about the formation of the earth from the First Nations (Canuck for Native Americans Canadians) because of cultural sensitivity. So, politically incorrect me asks which one, and I rattle off a few tribes that live in this part of Canada. It seems they all have slightly different views on the matter. So the Powers That Be went with a myth from a group that doesn’t live in this area. Political genius!

  31. QuietDesperation

    This Creationist crap will never end, will it?

    Not really. It’s been going on for 6000 years.

    (rimshot)

    Thank you!

  32. Gary Ansorge

    Robert Heinlien saw this kind of crap coming a Loonggg time ago. I fully expect to be incarcerated in Coventry some day,,,unless I can get my nuc powered spaceship built first.

    God, I really dislike rabid religionists.(no, that’s not an oxymoron).

    Why can’t atheists and agnostics get the same tax benefits as churches? Is it just because we’re not organized??? I hear these same nut jobs describing atheism and agnosticism as a “belief system”, like their favorite religion, so if that’s what they believe about us then we should all get the same tax breaks.

    Oh. Right. We have no dogmatic description of god. I can fix that;

    1) God is me.

    2) but I’m agnostic

    3) therefore god is agnostic

    3b) because I told me so(Prove me a liar)

    There’s your dogma. Now give me tax exemptions.

    Gary 7

  33. Dwight Bartholomew

    Would like to donate but can only do it through PayPal. Nonetheless, I wish them luck.

  34. Snowshoe the Canuck

    We could get organized. We have the Old Time prophets Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, followed by the Great Newton. Then in the New Time we have Darwin, Planck, Einstein, Feynman. I`m at a loss to come up with a good bad guy. I wonder if Ken Hamm or Kent Hovind would be interested?

    We could call it the True Church Of Science of Later in the Day Geniuses (service starts at a decent time on Sunday, say after the football game).

  35. Joseph G

    @25 Ron1: Of course you’re right; “fairness” has nothing to do with it. Indeed, reality isn’t fair. As Stephen Colbert says, it has a well-known Liberal bias :P
    I was being as sarcastic with the “fair” bit as I was being facetious with the splooge-based cosmology curriculum ;)

    @26 Other Paul: Now it’s my turn to not be sure if my sarcasm detector is working. I certainly hope you’re not serious about the “sacrificing one school generation” bit. It sounds quite “A Modest Proposal”-ish. I’m sure that’s what it is, but it’s late and I’m uncaffeinated :)

    But gah, “Standing up to the Experts” indeed. Whose idea was it to put these chuckleheads in charge of educating anyone? Would it be too extreme to ask for a few scientists to hash out the science curriculum? Maybe a couple of historians to decide on how to teach history? These are really off-the-wall concepts, I know…

  36. Joseph G

    @Gary Ansorge: I find your ideas intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    @Snowshoe the Canuck: Ditto to you.
    Might I nominate Ken Cuccinelli? You’re right, though, Ken Hamm is a good one. Hmm, Kent Hovind… I’m making a mental note not to name my kid anything starting with ‘K’.

    Has anyone come up with sort of an anti-Nobel prize in science? For people who’ve done their best to drag us kicking and screaming back into the dark ages? If not, I say we do it. We’ll have no shortage of potential nominees…

  37. truthspeaker

    Other Paul Says:
    January 24th, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Should we – in foreign lands, with competing capitalist economies – not rejoice in the fact that your future workforce will be horribly mis-educated and thus disadvantaged? Texas is _good_ news for us isn’t it?

    Seriously though, do your politicos not understood how they may be shooting themselves in the foot and doing themselves potentially severe economic damage in the future?

    I bolded the source of your confusion. The only future politicians are concerned with is the next election.

  38. Dr J Broam

    8. Larian LeQuella Says:

    ‘…most of that knowledge comes from our understanding of Evolution…’

    It doesn’t though, does it?

    Penicllin – to with Evo.? No.

    Paracetamol – to do with Evo.? No

    Anasthetic – to do with Evo.? No.

    The understanding of human physiology – especially the internal workings – to do with Evo.? No.

    Where most of this knowledge comes from is….wait for it…Christian men experimenting. The further developement of this was often funded by the richest people at the time – the Churches.

    Don’t invent things on which you have no knowledge to suit your argument. Evolution has had almost no bearing on everyday medicine. What you are doing is exactly the same as these Creationists – pushing your own unfounded opinions onto the masses.

    Just so you don’t all come down like a tonne of bricks – I’m a medical Doctor in the UK and an athiest who believes almost completely in the Theory of Evolution.

  39. Nige

    Pretty slick mini documentary already. I wish them the best for getting it edited and distributed to a wider audience

  40. Other Paul

    @Joseph G – your IDD (Irony Detection Device) seems in good working order. Though I hope I’m not quite as conservative as was J Swift.

    @truthspeaker – Thanks. Silly of me. Our incumbents know they have only one parliamentary term so they’re doing as much as they can in the limited time available. By the end, we expect that unemployment will have pretty much doubled and that the number of millionaires in the cabinet shall rise from the current 16 to, umm, all of them. Not that they’re corrupt of course. Like the scorpion, they just can’t help it, bless their cotton socks.

  41. Nigel Depledge

    Truthspeaker (37) speaks truth.

  42. Kai

    @Other Paul #4:
    Being from Europe, I have asked myself the same questions, and found troubling answers:
    a) I see no chance that European economies would not follow the US into the dumps – we are way too closely connected and weak of our own to withstand e.g. chinese domination.
    b) US politicians acting in the MacLeroy manner do so because they think the US can afford it – which shows that they have no idea how endangered the US position has become in the meanwhile. If the reasonable people in the US fail to make this point, they will lose the debate due to lack of interest of a majority of their citizens.

  43. Nigel Depledge

    Dr J Broam (38) said:

    8. Larian LeQuella Says:

    ‘…most of that knowledge comes from our understanding of Evolution…’

    It doesn’t though, does it?

    It depends what you cherry-pick, I guess.

    Penicllin – to with Evo.? No.

    The initial discovery was not, but the fact that we still have antibiotics that are even vaguely reliable is down to out understanding of evolution. And the fact that Penicillium makes and secretes penicillin is purely down to the evolutionary arms race between the mold and bacteria.

    Paracetamol – to do with Evo.? No

    Again, it depends on how deeply you look. I’m not conversant with any of the details of the discovery of paracetamol (acetaminophen in the USA or, to give it its full name para-acetamidoyl phenol), but if it was a natural product (say, a secondary metabolite like acetyl salicylic acid), its existence is due to the evolution of whatever plant produced it.

    Anasthetic – to do with Evo.? No.

    Well, if you consider an anaesthetic to be a chemical cudgel like diethyl ether, then no. But modern anaesthesia is far more sophisticated than that, and our susceptibility to anaesthesia – in fact, that of all mammals – is a result of our evolutionary history. Morphine, for example, is a powerful painkiller because it mimics the action of endorphins (and, yes, I know that morphine is not an anaesthetic per se but it is a tool in the arsenal of the modern anaesthetist). Without an evolutionary advantage to possessing endorphin receptors, we would not be receptive to such forms of analgesia.

    The understanding of human physiology – especially the internal workings – to do with Evo.? No.

    True, from a limited perspective. However, without evolution, none of it makes any sense. And, without evolution, we cannot liken the physiology of one mammal with another except as some weird coincidence (so, for instance, toxicology studies in animals only have applicability to humans because of our shared physiology and biochemistry – and where animals differ from humans, we can only understand these differences through evolution, which is necessary to understanding the limitations of such a study).

    Where most of this knowledge comes from is….wait for it…Christian men experimenting. The further developement of this was often funded by the richest people at the time – the Churches.

    Only initially. And apart from those Islamic men who recorded much wisdom while Europe was still recovering from the collapse of the Roman Empire. After – very roughly – the middle of the 19th century, science was a calling in and of itself.

    Don’t invent things on which you have no knowledge to suit your argument.

    Erm, yes, quite. And don’t cherry-pick to suit your preconceptions.

    Evolution has had almost no bearing on everyday medicine.

    It is true that evolution, in the sense of a grand theory, has little bearing on many of the individual discoveries that have contributed to modern medicine. However, at least some avenues of research that have themselves led to medical discoveries were only opened up by an understanding of evolution and genetics. Without these disciplines, for example, cancer research is mere stamp-collecting and trial-and-error.

    What you are doing is exactly the same as these Creationists – pushing your own unfounded opinions onto the masses.

    Projection much?

    Just so you don’t all come down like a tonne of bricks – I’m a medical Doctor in the UK and an athiest who believes almost completely in the Theory of Evolution.

    But I am not convinced that you understand it. And the “almost” in your last sentence is telling. If you really understood evolution, you would not need to believe it – instead you would find the evidence and reasoning on which it rests compelling.

  44. Nigel said:

    But I am not convinced that you understand it. And the “almost” in your last sentence is telling.

    Indeed. I would ask the good doctor which parts of the Theory of Evolution (caps sic) he does not almost completely believe in….and why not.

  45. The Dude

    … and let us not forget the Flying Spagetti Monster, man. http://www.venganza.org/

  46. Coda

    I’ll just leave this Wall Street Journal article on the recent science assessment of American students here:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704698004576103940087329966.html?mod=wsj_share_twitter

  47. Ron1

    @35. Joseph G said, “I was being … sarcastic … as I was being facetious …”

    I realize that — “What does fair have to do with teaching science?” was simply a good line to lead into my point that deliberately teaching a child to deliberately think fallaciously was child abuse — there is no excuse.

    I realize you’re one of the good guys.

    ……………………………………..

    @11. Steve Says: “but our HS football coaches continue to make good money, and the playing fields and stadiums are all updated with modern score boards, turf, etc.”

    Your politicians are simply following the model put forth by Roman emperers such as Vespasian; keep the plebs entertained within extravagant stadiums (colosseum) and you can pretty much do whatever you want.

  48. Joseph G

    @Ron1: And you make a good point. All things considered, there are only a few worse things you can do to a young human being then deny them critical thinking skills and knowledge of the scientific method.

  49. You see this is what you get when you mix unfettered democracy with public control of education.

  50. Marc

    Thanks for the pointer, Phil! I gave $25 and hopefully it gets this seen so people realize how crazy it is that our national education standards are even partially defined by folks who think cavemen rode dinosaurs down the street.

  51. Johonn

    Evolution is not science

  52. @ Johonn #52

    And pink unicorns use their horns to push up the tulips in the spring.

  53. Nigel Depledge

    @ Johonn (52) –

    OK, I’ll bite.

    Give us a good reason to suppose that you:
    A. Know what (biological) evolution is; and
    B. Know what science is.

    If you can give credible answers to these points, then go on to explain – in detail, with references to the scientific literature where relevant – exactly why you think evolution is not science.

    If you can do this and make a reasonable argument that is supported by positive evidence, I will change my mind about evolution and agree with you. If you cannot, then you have been duped by creationist propaganda. If you choose not to, you are a mere ignorant troll.

  54. Darth Robo

    And Johonn, just to inform you that examples of exactly how and why evolution is in fact scientific and passes the scientific can be provided.

    However since you obviously think it is an inadequate explanation of the diversity of life here on Earth, may I ask then what scientific alternative do you propose?

    Thanks in advance.

  55. Jim Smith

    But, if he is a creationist, and anti-Science, WHY is he a dentist? That is like saying “I am all for peace, even if I have to kill everyone to get it.” Doesn’t dentistry require Science, or is it god guiding his hand to the root of the problem?

    @Dr J Broam. Excellent points, but you also missed the other ones, that it was the Muslims who kept science and medical research going through the Dark Ages. Honestly, I have no faith in Western Dogmatic Propoganda, I mean religion, but at the time, they had the money, and were willing to let people do the research. Mind you, a lot of the human anatomy stuff was funded during the Inqusition to implement more effective torture techniques, but still, you are definitely right.

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