Update: Reality wins for sure in Texas!

By Phil Plait | August 16, 2011 10:30 am

Last month, I wrote about the Texas State Board of Education debating the adoption of textbook supplements, some of which had creationist material. As I wrote then, those materials, after much argument, were rejected. Yay!

However, the story wasn’t quite done. One of the pro-science supplements was still being held up by a creationist on the Texas BoE, who obviously didn’t care for the way evolution was being portrayed… that is, accurately.

The good news is that as of last week, that final supplement has been approved! The creationist’s complaints about the supplement have been determined to have been "sufficiently addressed" by the publisher. In fact, the supplement now supports evolution even more strongly. I took a look at the complaints made and the publisher’s response (PDF): it’s actually a thing of beauty. Where the complaints were minor wording issues, the changes were made. When the creationists made more substantive complaints, talking about the fossil record or genetic differences between humans and chimps, the publisher either did not make changes to weaken the science, or did change the wording to make an even stronger case for evolution!

Fantastic! And this is an important distinction: it’s not just a win for science, it’s a defeat for those who would try to undermine it.

So, once again, I get to use a graphic I hope I can continue to use in the future:

Still… a gentle reminder of why this battle took so long and had to be fought so hard by scientists, educators, and parents who supported science: the head of the BoE for many years was Don McLeroy, a staunch creationist whose disdain for actual science and evidence-based reality was palpable (read through the links in the Related Posts section below, especially this one). And who appointed him to this position? Texas Governor and now Presidential candidate Rick Perry.

Note that in 2010, when McLeroy’s tenure was up, Perry considered another creationist for the position, eventually appointed a third creationist, and when her appointment was up he appointed a fourth creationist, Barbara Cargill. To head the State Board of Education.

Just sayin’.


Related posts:

A win for reality in Texas
Standing up to the experts
Texas creationist McLeroy spins the educational disaster he created
Texas State Board of Education confirms irony is dead

Comments (41)

Links to this Post

  1. Quora | August 16, 2011
  2. Rick Perry defends his climate change denial : Thoughts from Kansas | August 17, 2011
  1. mike burkhart

    Good news now maybe they will teach the Bible in a place where it belongs : Sunday school and let science class teach science and not Thelogy. Off topic but related : The Vatican is haveing a meeting on the subject of evolution in October in attendce will be Theologins and proment Sciencetists (inculding Stephen Harking) the topic will be how Evolution relates to the Bible . The Pope is expeted to adress the meeting . I wonder if Phil been invited? if so I say attend.

  2. Chris

    Love the mouse with the RPG :-)

  3. Pardot

    Wow Mike, you need a new spell-checker.

  4. Chief

    Um… I see Canada’s population increasing when Rick Perry gets voted in and really kills science in the U.S.

    Now we just have to edit the graphic towards the hope of states north following the same lead.

  5. @Mike, where did you read about this Vatican conference?

  6. Daniel J. Andrews

    Note that in 2010, when McLeroy’s tenure was up, Perry considered another creationist for the position, eventually appointed a third creationist, and when her appointment was up he appointed a fourth creationist, Barbara Cargill. To head the State Board of Education.

    Don’t read too much into Perry appointing creationists. From what I’ve read in the media, it seems that in Texas you can’t swing a dead armadillo without hitting a creationist. Maybe he appoints them because that is all he can find? ;) [/facetiousness]

    mike…I can’t find any meeting of the Vatican for this October. There was one in March 2009 in which Hawking addressed the assembly. I did find museum gatherings, international conference sharing, discussions on the Vatican counsel, but no evolutionary-science type meetings, and no evidence that Hawking is going to be speaking at the Vatican this October. My Google-fu may be weak though. I did find that the Vatican apologizes for torturing and murdering Dr. Hawking though, but that was from the Onion. :)

  7. Valdis

    At least some religious types actually Get It:

    ” If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview. ” — the Dalai Lama

    Now if everybody was just as reasonable and tolerant as the Dalai Lama.. :)

  8. Bob

    Y’know, a tiny part of me wants creationalism to be true so I can find the guy who considered wisdom teeth, an appendix, placing my esophagus and trachea entrances side by side and thinking that babies accidentially strangling to death on their own umbilical cord good design ideas and punch that person in the face.

    Intelligent design? If we were designed, its by the same type of person who writes spagetti code in a first year programming class.

  9. truthspeaker

    Phil, the Media has decreed that Perry is the Republican frontrunner, and soon they will decree that he is a moderate Republican. Who are you to tarnish his carefully crafted image with mere facts?

  10. OtherRob

    Won’t someone think of the crocoducks?!?! /Mrs. Lovejoy

  11. Russell

    I grew up a Republican. Now to ME, science and leaning to science to address our world has always been a conservative approach. Leave all the airy-fairy hooky-pooky religious stuff to the hippies. Its really bothers me that it is now the norm for what everyone calls conservatives to be thumping bibles and pushing their religons onto us and into science. Let it be known that not all of us think the way they do in Texas. I may not even vote this time around if these guys are running…P-U !

  12. CB

    Now if everybody was just as reasonable and tolerant as the Dalai Lama.

    But if we were, then the Dali Lama’s exceptional reasonability and tolerance wouldn’t be so unique and noteworthy! Have you thought of the impact to our role models if we all lived up to the example they set? Huh? They’d be out of jobs!

    That’s why I try to be irrationally intolerant as much as possible, to make the Dalai Lama seem even more awesome in comparison. ;)

  13. truthspeaker

    Russell, just vote for a conservative Democrat. There are lots of them in Texas. The GOP abandoned you long ago, and the Democratic leadership has been courting voters like you since Clinton.

  14. Duane

    Mitt Romney may offshore the entire middle class to China, but at least he doesn’t have a problem with evolution: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/05/11/romney-elaborates-on-evolution/

    But then again, he recently backtracked on human caused climate change.

    The other Mormon candidate, Jon Huntsman, has said this:

    “Public schools are largely secular institutions. I would expect my kids in science class to be instructed in those things that are somewhat quantifiable and based on thorough and rigorous empirical research. If [design] comes up in sociology or philosophy as differing views on creation, I think that’s appropriate,” Huntsman said. “But that doesn’t happen until college or maybe later in high school.”

    Republicans, it appears the only way to save your party is to vote Mormon. Of course, you’ll no longer be able to afford gas for your car….

  15. Chris

    So they won’t be relaying the teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and all his noodley goodness?

  16. lunchstealer

    So which is a worse affront to science – Perry’s persistent appointments of Creationists to the education board, or Perry’s sudden firing and replacing of three members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission days before would’ve issued the report finding that Cameron Todd Willingham was executed over bad science that mistook an accidental fire for arson.

  17. Mawnkey

    I can’t wait for the reestablishment of federally-sponsored religion once Perry is elected president. Not having Bush in the white house has made it entirely too easy to be agnostic in the US. I much prefer a palpable sense of discrimination and ire coming straight from the top.

  18. Evolved

    It seems the Repubs have sunk to a new low with Parry(the A is for America). If you want to be horrified, mortified, and have a good laugh concurrently, take a peek at his transcripts from Texas A&M carried on the Huffington Post. It seemed as though the strongest candidate for the Repub nomination wasn’t very strong on the sciences …or English …or economics(D) …or every class he barely passed with the notable exception of World Military Systems(A). On second thought, there isn’t anything humorous about this.

  19. flip

    #11, OtherRob

    Won’t someone think of the crocoducks?!?! /Mrs. Lovejoy

    You sir, just brightened my day! I may have to borrow that one… :)

  20. Brett

    @12
    Now Russell, just hold on a second. Not all of us here in Texas think the “way they do in Texas.” We are at least 51% non-crazy, despite evidence to the contrary, i e, (Bush followed by THREE terms from Perry) sigh.. who am I kidding? We’re doomed.

  21. Bill

    Oh my.. Reading that (the publishers’ response) was definitely a thing of beauty. A hands-down, no-holds-barred beatdown.

  22. JoW

    For some interesting reading about Gov Goodhair, go to Texas Freedom Network at http://tfninsider.org/ . The first entry there is titled: “Rick Perry’s Problem with Science Education”. Still have to be concerned about the Texas and the US if he gains traction in the presidential race.

  23. Grand Lunar

    Very good news indeed, Phil.
    It ought to send a message to the creationist community; “We want REAL science”.

    I don’t know much about the other canidates for the presidental bid, but so far Rick Perry scares me the most for what he might to do if he wins.

  24. Robin

    Some of the changes that the Texas State Board of Education wanted made were pretty outrageous and were also blatant attempts to introduce religion into science classes. Giant kudos to the publishers for resisting. I wonder what Chad Vader would say of this outcome? “Suck it, Texas State Board of Education”

  25. OtherRob

    @Duane, #15:

    I’m afraid Jon Huntsman doesn’t have a chance of winning the nomination. He actually seems kinda reasonable…

    @Flip, #20:

    Glad to have been of service. :)

  26. QuietDesperation

    the Democratic leadership has been courting voters like you since Clinton.

    They’re not trying very hard. :-

    Then again I am in California, home of the absolutely most corrupt Democrats in history, so biased sample, I suppose. The Republicans here are just a bunch of pusses. I pretty much just vote on the propositions.

  27. @ QD:

    B-but…Dianne! She ran for president under her first name!

    //snark

  28. I can see it all now! President for life Perry appoints McLeroy Education Secretary.
    Dog help us!

  29. DataJack

    I would like to be able to say I don’t have a problem with creationists, per se (but that really wouldn’t be entirely true). My real problem is that every one of them ALSO believes that it is ok to push their nonsense into the public education system. It is not just their sloppy thinking and ignoring evidence I despise, it is that they willfully misinterpret the Constitution’s establishment clause, without in any way realizing why this is a bad idea.

    Adding “Yahweh did it” to the science books is just fine with them, but they would be appalled if someone were to suggest adding “Allah did it”. And the two are identical, in every respect.

  30. jess tauber

    Yahweh n Allah r n e thn butt i denticle: Th spelyg meks ul thi deferens beetwin Hevin or Hale

  31. Darth Robo

    Thanks, Jess.

    That was very informative.

  32. James H. (south of Dallas)

    Go to MSNBC and check out the Republican candidates views on science and global warming (its on there now). Scary people, especially Perry. FSM help us if he gets elected.

  33. And who appointed him to this position? Texas Governor and now Presidential candidate Rick Perry.

    Um, if I understand the US political system right (& as an Aussie who just follows it a bit on the news and in the blogosphere that’s a big ‘if’) isn’t Rick Perry only a candidate to be a possible presdiential candidate? A candidate to be the Republican parties candidate for President.

    Only *if* Perry wins the Republican party nomination (or loses but stands as an independent anyhow) will he qualify to be a presidential candidate, right?

    Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic here but I really don’t think Perry – or fellow “Tea party” rightwingers Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin if she decies to run – will win the republican nomination. I think these people and their like are too extreme and that the majority of Americans think and know better than to vote them into power.

    I’m predicting (from a long way out and a continent away) that the 2012 US Presidential election will be between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and that Obama will win. Not than I’m especially keen on or advocating for either of those flawed and disappointing politicians.

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    PS. Not than I’m especially keen on or advocating for either Obama or Romney both of whoem I view as flawed and disappointing politicians. :-(

    However, out of all the alternatives* they’re probably the least bad options going from what I’ve read and heard so far.

    That said, I guess it is worrying a prominent politican can hold the anti-science veiws Perry publicy proclaims. I very much doubt Rick Perry will become President of the US but, yeah, FSM help us all in the unlikely event that he – or Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin – does. :-o

    ————————————

    * Is the collective noun for a group of political candidates a “despair” of political choices?

  35. TheBlackCat

    @MTU: The problem is that the people who decide on the Republican party candidates are only the card-carrying members of the Republican party. In other words, the candidates for President are chosen by the most extreme Americans. So yes, it is unlikely that the majority of Americans will vote for them, but “the majority of Americans” are not the ones who decide who becomes the candidate.

    It is still not likely that any of them will be chosen…this time. I think calmer heads still have enough power in the part to prevent it. But it is far impossible. And the Republican party has been courting the crazy faction for so long and given them so much power, if their candidate loses this time as well they may not be willing to accept another moderate in 2016. In that case it far from impossible that they will either force an extremist, or split the party. I’m hoping for the latter.

  36. Messier Tidy Upper

    Good to hear this latest news in the continuing defeat of the Creationist ideology. :-)

    I do think (& yeah I’m a long way from the action here but still.) that the Creationist movement has long since passed its zenith and is now sinking ever more rapidly into oblivion.

    I think – & hope – the same thing is true for the whole Tea party movement too. :-)

    @37. TheBlackCat :

    @MTU: The problem is that the people who decide on the Republican party candidates are only the card-carrying members of the Republican party. In other words, the candidates for President are chosen by the most extreme Americans.

    Well, I’m not sure it’s really fair or accurate to say that all or even most of the card-carrying Republican members are the most extreme Americans. I think a lot of them are moderate and we possibly only hera theloudest most extreme voices because they’re the ones that get the most publicity and attention. I hope that’s true.

    Also there are extremists on all sides of politics and even outside of it. Pastor Jeremiah Wright is one good reason why I’d be tempted to describe Obama himself as somewhat of an extremist – or at least someone willing to listen to a left-wing extremist. But that’s another story again.

    I think Americans, heck humans, in general will give the extremists on all sides their attention, often their mocking laughter or imagined nightmares, but only rarely their votes.

    I think the Tea party will end up being embarrassing “baggage” politically and that moderates can and will prevail into the forseeable future as that’s the nature of politics as I see it.

    PS. Great to see you back here posting again. You haven’t been commenting here for a bit & I’ve missed you. :-)

  37. TheBlackCat

    @ MTU: I would say that, on average, someone who considers himself or herself a member of one of the parties has views more in line with that party’s platform than someone who does not consider himself or herself a member of either party. If someone had views very closely in line with one of the parties, I would say they are much more likely to join that party than someone who doesn’t. That means that the people who are more strongly in agreement with the party are the ones who decide the candidate, while those who aren’t are the ones who decide the final President.

    Notice that I said “the candidates for President”, not “the Republican candidate for President” or even “the candidate for President”. This applies equally to any party in the U.S. system, it isn’t even limited to the Republican or Democratic party.

    I should add that when I say “extreme”, I mean in terms of how much their views match that of a party platform (either party), as opposed to moderates who have views in-between those of either party. Certainly there are more or less extreme members of the parties.

    There is a big difference between being on the extreme end of the political spectrum and being an “extremist”. I intentionally never used the latter word.

  38. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ TheBlackCat : Okay, fair enough.

    That’s a rather different idea / definition of “extreme” than I was thinking of or using.

    My idea of “extreme” is someone holding views at the far fringes of conventional left or right wing political philosophies. An extreme Republican frex would then be someone who takes the usual Republican philosophy and takes it to the extreme limit, pushing it from mainstream moderate position of favouring “small govt, few taxes, socially conservative” into “microscopically tiny govt, no taxes at all or just one small tax, very socially conservative indeed” – and also is less willing to compromise or moderate such views.

    I think “extremism” is a question of degrees and how far you “push” ideas in one direction or other plus some of the really kooky ideas eg. paranoid conspiracy fantasies you find at either end of the political spectrum. I don’t think extreme candiates (eg. Perry) are electable and whilst they grab a lot of publicity and attention I think, as a political rule, most people prefer more centrist, moderate, willing to compromise candidates.

    I don’t think someone merely “having views very closely in line with one of the parties” as you put it is in any way necessarily an extremist or extreme.

  39. TheBlackCat

    @ Messier Tidy Upper: It is extreme compared to the average American. And as I pointed out before, the one who started talking about “extremists” was you, I have never said one word about them besides to point out that I intentionally avoided the word.

    It doesn’t matter anyway, I made it clear what I meant.

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