It may not surprise you to learn I am no fan of one Don McLeroy. He is a young-Earth creationist, antiscience evangelist, and when he was head of the Texas Board of Education he tried to ram through all sorts of ridiculous education standards that would’ve set Texas schoolchildren back about 200 years.
My own rule of not being a dick makes it difficult for me to express myself clearly about Mr. McLeroy, but happily he does the work for me. He appeared on The Colbert Report, and quite ably demonstrates what kind of person he is. And Colbert is only too happy to comply:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
[You may need to refresh this page to get the video to load.]
I love how Colbert says he chooses his own reality; he is mocking McLeroy to his face and McLeroy doesn’t really see it. But then, there’s a lot of things McLeroy doesn’t see.
By the way, the movie clip shown is from a documentary called The Revisionairies, which is all about the damage McLeroy and his cadre did while he ran the BOE. I wrote about this when the directors set up a Kickstarter account to help fund it — which was successful, obviously. From the trailer the documentary seems to be an unflattering look, to be sure, but that’s because it tells the truth. The reviews so far look good, and I’m hoping to be able to watch the whole thing myself… if I can stomach it.
I’m glad McLeroy’s no longer running the Texas BOE… but then, after he left, Governor Rick Perry (remember him?) appointed another staunch creationist to that role (after trying to appoint two others). I like Texas — I’ve been there many times, and even lived there for a summer a while back — but honestly, you guys really need to rethink your choices for politicians.
Clearly, the whole world is watching.
I’ll be giving my "Death from the Skies!" twice in Texas next week:
1) First, I’ll be speaking at Rice University in Houston on November 14th at 4:00 p.m. in Herzstein Hall’s amphitheater, then
2) I’ll be at the University of Texas – Pan American on November 15th for a 7:00 p.m. talk at the Student Union Theater. The UTPA event requires registration, so sign up! [Update: another page about the UTPA talk is here.]
The talk is about asteroid and comet impacts, and how one could ruin your whole day. I know there are BABloggees in Texas — you guys come out of the wordwork when I write about The Lone Star State — so come on by!
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.
Some great news out of the Lone Star State: the Texas State Board of Education unanimously rejected creationist supplements to textbooks, instead voting to endorse science-based ones.
These supplements are for students to use in classrooms in addition to their textbooks. A passel of creationist ones had been submitted for approval by the BoE back in April by a creationist special interest group, as well as materials based on science submitted by mainstream publishers. Last week, the BoE voted on which to use, and science won.
The links above go to the National Center for Science Education. They are a group that fought valiantly for the science-based materials, which is clearly why they won the day; they greatly outnumbered witnesses for creationism. Clearly, showing up is half the battle. At least. My congratulations to everyone at the NCSE for this victory.
Josh Rosenau, who writes the Thoughts from Kansas blog and was one of the people at the Texas hearings, has written about this debate in detail (including earlier posts here, and here) if you’re looking for more info from an insider’s viewpoint.
So, because of this, I am happy to create this new graphic:
I hope I have many, many more chances to use it in the future.
Let’s get this straight right off the bat: young-Earth creationism is wrong. It’s the wrongiest wrongness in the history of wrongitude. We know for rock-solid fact the Earth and the Universe are billions of years old, not thousands. Also, it’s illegal — unconstitutional, even — to teach creationism as anything other than myth in public schools, since it’s religion.
So you just know that reading an op-ed from Don McLeroy — an evangelistic creationist who was (was, thank heavens) the head of the Texas State Board of Education — trying to defend and spin the BoE’s insertion of religion and far-right rhetoric into the state standards is going to be head-explodey.
And it is.
Mind you, this is the one and the same Texas BoE that has been fighting teaching kids about evolution tooth and nail, which downplayed the Big Bang theory, which took Thomas Jefferson out of the standards, which praised Joseph McCarthy, which screwed up the state standards so massively California issued a warning that it would be looking at what Texas is doing to textbooks very carefully. The very same BoE that had the gall to pass a resolution condemning textbooks they perceived as pro-Muslim while ramming fundamentalist religion into those same textbooks.
Ah, memories. I wrote a synopsis on all the damage this BoE has done, if your brain can stand it.
So anyway, reading McLeroy’s apologetics in the op-ed is astounding. Before he even starts, the nonsense and spin begins; the headline is "McLeroy: The State Board of Education’s standards should make Texans proud". Yeah.
OK, here’s a fun sample of what McLeroy says:
With the elections last week, the Republicans took over the House once again. The list of things this means is long and troubling, but the most troubling to me come in the forms of two Texas far-right Republicans: Congressmen Ralph Hall and Joe Barton.
The former, you may remember, tried to scuttle a science innovation and education bill by adding a rider to it making it illegal to pay the salaries of government employees who watch porn on work computers. When the bill finally passed, he then made incredibly hypocritical statements about the Democrats in order to scapegoat them.
Yeah, so that guy? He’s set to take over the House Committee on Science and Technology. Terrific.
The latter, Joe Barton, is quite simply an embarrassment. He is most famous for apologizing to then BP President Tony Hayward for the government being mean to the oil company, after BP dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The havoc that leak unleashed is only just now coming to light. Congressman Barton also is a climate change denier, and went so far as to write a very misleading editorial in the Washington Post about it.
So yeah, of course he’s angling to be head of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Read More
Some good news from Texas! Yeehaw!
The Institute for Creation Research — one of the biggest nonsense-peddlers in the 6000 year history of the world — was handed a nice defeat this week. That link to the National Center for Science Education (the good guys) has all the info you need, but to summarize: the ICR moved from California to Texas. In the previous state, for reasons beyond understanding, they were able to grant Master’s degrees in their graduate school. But Texas didn’t recognize their accreditation, so they filed to get it approved.
Not so surprisingly, scientists and educators rose in protest, and in 2008 the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board — the organization that grants accreditation — denied the ICR. The creationists appealed. In the meantime, they also tried to extend their ability to grant degrees temporarily while the lawsuit continued. What happened this week is that the extension as denied.
And I mean denied. Check out what the court said:
It appears that although the Court has twice required Plaintiff [the ICR] to re-plead and set forth a short and plain statement of the relief requested, Plaintiff is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information.
That’s not surprising, as that’s the only kind of information the ICR is capable of producing. Not to mention wrong. See the Related Posts links below for lots more on the ICR’s recent follies.
As far as I can tell, this defeat means that the ICR is still seeking accreditation, but until and unless it does, it cannot grant degrees in Texas.
So what can be said about this? Oh, let me quote one of the pithiest and to-the-point minds of our day:
<Nelson Muntz>Haha!</Nelson Muntz>
I know I’ve been picking on Texas a lot lately, but c’mon guys, you keep electing people like this!
Joe Barton (R-TX) is the Representative for a landlocked (i.e., non-Gulf shore) district of Texas in the U.S. Congress, and happens to be the biggest recipient in that august body of money from the oil and gas industry ($1.7 million over the past 20 years). I’m sure that had no impact at all on his wanting to make the cringe-worthingly embarrassing apology to BP exec Tony Hayward when Hayward was getting his head handed to him by every other member of Congress yesterday. Barton said the $20 billion restitution fund was a White House "shakedown" and "a tragedy of the first proportion", and then clearly apologized to Hayward for it.
It’s hard to imagine a political low-point in this entire, vast environmental disaster, but I think Barton pretty much nailed it. In the most brain-asplodey way possible.
But wait! There’s less!
I’m scratching my head over the reactions of some Congresscritters about the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket by SpaceX on Friday. Given that NASA has several billion dollars it will be giving to commercial transport systems over the next few years, you’d think that Congress would be happy that a private company was able to get a medium-lift rocket into orbit on their first try.
But then, you wouldn’t be Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. This Texas Republican — that’s important, hang on — gave a short statement after the launch that was at best tepid, and in reality a slap in the face to SpaceX and all the other private space companies:
This first successful test flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is a belated sign that efforts to develop modest commercial space cargo capabilities are showing some promising signs. While this test flight was important, the program to demonstrate commercial cargo and crew transport capabilities, which I support, was intended to enhance not replace NASA’s own proven abilities to deliver critical cargo and humans to low Earth orbit. Make no mistake, even this modest success is more than a year behind schedule, and the project deadlines of other private space companies continue to slip as well. This test does not change the fact that commercial space programs are not ready to close the gap in human spaceflight if the space shuttle is retired this year with no proven replacement capability and the Constellation program is simultaneously cancelled [sic] as the President proposes.
Senator — with all due respect — that’s baloney. Plain and simple.
Speaking of Texas political goofballery…
I’ve written extensively about the maniacal practices of the Texas State Board of Education: promoting creationism, twisting reality, and most recently engaging in ridiculous historical revisionism. Because, after all, Joseph McCarthy was simply a misunderstood patriot.
<insert rolleyes here>
Well, there’s been an update to this insanity. Two actually: one is that the Texas BoE is now an international embarrassment, since the UK paper The Guardian has picked up on this story. I’d like to think that the more publicity this story gets, the more pressure there will be on Texas citizens to throw those antireality bums out of the BoE. However, I suspect that the people who voted them in in the first place will consider stories like this a badge of honor.