Rick Perry Admits That Texas Schools Teach Creationism

By The Intersection | August 18, 2011 2:44 pm

This is a brief guest post by Jamie Vernon.

In a stunning exchange with a young boy, a video posted by ABC News reveals Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry confirming what many scientists and science educators have suspected for years. According to the Governor, “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution.”

So, there it is. Texas encourages teaching of creationism in public schools.

Perry has consistently appointed creationist leaders to the Texas Board of Education over the years.  Each of them has denied their intent to allow teaching of creationism in science classrooms in Texas schools.  At the same time, the Texas Board of Education has made repeated attempts to weaken science standards to make way for anti-evolution curricula.

I think we’ll be hearing from the Governor on this matter.  The backtracking will be a sight to see.

Follow Jamie Vernon on Twitter, Google+ or read his occasional blog posts at “American SciCo.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Education, Evolution

Comments (48)

  1. Interesting to note how Perry simply walks off when the woman says to the child, “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.” He’s obviously not interested in a meaningful discussion.

  2. Stuart

    @Roger
    It’s probably more of the realization of what just happened, and the resulting damage control.
    That is probably the best decision (walk away) for him in this situation, due to what kind of people he is talking to, and what he just said.

    I am not taking his side, just stating what is going on inside the head of a politician. Sadly too many of them these days don’t like talking to the public without pre-asked questions and pre-written answers.

  3. Incredulous

    #1 Roger Harris

    “He’s obviously not interested in a meaningful discussion.”

    Well, to be fair, the woman isn’t either. She is feeding questions through the child (repeatedly asking “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science”) to get a soundbite.He is there to press flesh and make photo ops, not debate. They are there to make him say something embarrassing. It is just politics on both sides. He didn’t take the bait. Portraying it as “he is not interested in a meaningful discussion” is just taking a second bite of the apple. It’s kind of like the lawyer’s question: “Yes, or no: Do you still beat your wife?” Either way you answer would create a smear opprotunity.

  4. Jon Winsor

    He is there to press flesh and make photo ops, not debate. They are there to make him say something embarrassing.

    Seriously?

    You are running for PRESIDENT. If someone wants you to say something meaningful instead of pose for pictures, and you can’t accept that, then that’s an easy thing to fix. Just don’t run for leader of the free world.

  5. Mike H

    Liberalism in action: get the kids to do your dirty work. What’s wrong mom of the year, too scared to ask Perry yourself and ruin the photo op? Well, too bad because had you been paying attention to that microphone right next to your face, you wouldn’t have made such a fool out of yourself. And contrary to mom of the year thinks, science is not something you “believe” in … it’s a body of theories and hypothesis as well as a methodology to validate them.

    Perry humbled mom of the year pretty handily too explaining that Texas teaches both and assumes students can figure it out for themselves.

    Contrast Perry’s handling of this ambush with Obama’s petulance when Ryan Rhodes asked him about the “new era of civility” and the VP’s labeleing TP’s as terrorists.

  6. Tyler J.

    Wonder what ol’ Mike H. has to say about this.

    The woman instigating the child’s questions was out of line as well. Way to use a babe as a prop for your own agenda. I have no respect for Rick Perry or the Texas BoE, but I especially hate when people use the ignorant and naive as political tools.

  7. Thorn

    It is ridiculous to teach both subjects, but even more so, to suggest that children are capable of understanding the science involved. Creation is a theological issue, not science, and doesn’t belong in the classroom.

  8. Incredulous

    #3 Jon Winsor:

    Hey, guess you don’t follow politics in Texas. Perry managed to evade debating the Democratic candidate throughout the entire campaign and still got elected. Didn’t you notice he didn’t commit until *after* the first debate? That was not coincidence.

    Every candidate picks their debate conditions carefully. You don’t seriously think that all those folksy “town hall” meetings and such don’t have all pre-screened questions and hand selected friendly crowds?

  9. BV

    The Mom prompting the kid was in poor taste.

    But his answer can’t be denied.

    I just hope his driver has enough sense to stop when he reaches the end of the Earth. Wouldn’t want him to fall over the edge.

    Well, not much anyway.

  10. Dennis

    For me, the fact that the obnoxious mother was asking the questions through the child overshadows any of his answers.
    I’m not on Rick Perry’s side of anything, but the mother came out looking far worse than he did.

    Not to mention ABC, whose caption, “Perry Faces Kid’s Evolution Question”, is ridiculously disingenuous once you’ve watched the video.

    She’s got quite the partisan-in-training there.
    Had she had more time, her next prompt probably would’ve been “Ask him why all conservatives are so crazy…”

    There’s nothing good about extremes, no matter which side of the spectrum they’re on.

  11. Bill

    The Governor probably misspoke (the disease of all politicians). It isn’t only liberals who are free to misspeak. What he meant to say was probably that Texas schools teach both Intelligent Design and Evolution. Well, I don’t give a rip for any Supreme Court decision that attempts to overturn the original intent of the Founders and also the age-old traditions in the United States.

    There is no separation of church and state in the Constitution. And the courts went for at least 125 years without ever inktroducing the concept of separation of church and state. At the time our Constitution was adopted, we actually had a couple of states with an established religion. I believe it was our first Congress that approved funds to furnish Bibles to the schools.

    Whatever God may be, we may be sure that Science is NOT God. Nor is the liberal/socialist state God. Even if Evolution were a valid theory (and that’s all it is — theory), it wouldn’t explain why things evolve for the better. It also wouldn’t explain how the earth got here, why it is ideally located with relation to the sun to support life, why it revolves, why it has an atmosphere, why there is so much water on earth, why there is such a great diversity of life forms, why there are physical laws that support life, why there is a universe, why Science has been unable to find another earth, why water is taken up into the sky and comes back pure. I’m no scientist, but I’d like to see anybody explain how ‘unguided” Evolution could explain how water from under the ground, defying gravity, can reach the tallest branches and leaves of the Giant Sequoia. My, my, isn’t Evolution wonderful?

    Science can only discover. It has no creative powers. Clearly, “something” does have creative powers. Creationism or Intelligent Design can explain far more than Evolution, and it is ridiculous that the latter should have exclusivity or any preference in our public schools.

    Worship Science and Evolution all you want. See where it gets you. Neither the Supreme Court nor the State will replace facts and reason with me or with any other person determined to have control over his own mind.

  12. Jon Winsor

    Every candidate picks their debate conditions carefully.

    If they can help it. But if you go out and shake hands, and do it sincerely, people are going to ask you questions. That’s what these early primaries are for.

    By the way, the candidate who avoids all unscripted questions, doesn’t sound like much of a candidate.

  13. Incredulous

    #8 Jon Winsor

    “By the way, the candidate who avoids all unscripted questions, doesn’t sound like much of a candidate.”

    Yeah, be sure to remember that when he is sitting in the Oval Office. You think Reagan was Teflon coated? Wait until you see Perry out there. Sit back and enjoy the show.

    This has been a failing of the Democrats. They spent their time making ‘Dubbya’ jokes and guess what? They got to make fun of him for two terms. They sure showed him, didn’t they?

    You all are going to sit around here and “bash” Perry by repeating his own platform. You don’t think he wants to get the message out about being pro creationism? You don’t think he wants to be known as anti-global warming? You don’t think he wants to be known as a Conservative Christian? That little film clip was better for him than any advertisement he could have bought. I wouldn’t wait too long hoping to see him “backtracking.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see clips of it in his own ads.

  14. Tom Musselman

    “Liberalism” has nothing to do with science. Science is not politics. That’s why science has been so successful for hundreds of years. Atheists, agnostics, Protestants, Catholics, and others can all embrace science. If Perry rejects science he is an ignoramous. Let the Republicans submit a candidate that is part of the modern world, where science determines whether the climate is changing, and how species evolve, not ignorant politicians. Get creationism out of the schools. We have separation of church and state in this country; if he likes religion fine, but let him teach religion in church, not public schools. Creationism is religion not science. Perry is making Texas school kids the laughingstock of the world by allowing them to graduate thinking that evolution is a “theory”. It is a scientific fact just like Newton’s “theory” of gravition, or Einstein’s “theory” of evolution.

  15. Chris Mooney

    This is a classic case of motivated reasoning…if you like Perry, and are looking for a reason to defend him, you say the Mom is obnoxious. Well, so what. He said what he said, and that’s the story, and drawing attention to the Mom is a complete diversion and dodge.

  16. Incredulous

    #16 Chris Mooney

    “if you like Perry, and are looking for a reason to defend him”

    Well, I don’t like him. I see that the ambush failed and did not see him say anything he wouldn’t say again. I have seen Perry for years here in Texas. He is going to appeal to a big percentage of the US population. I don’t expect him to make a single faux pas in the whole campaign. He doesn’t put himself in that kind of position. Perry is going to walk through the Republican Primary as if the other candidates were not there. If the Democrats are going to run their campaign as they have done historically, they might as well start packing.

    The Democrats have not had a track record of putting out strong candidates. I am not saying good or bad or right or wrong. I am talking about weak and strong as in electable.
    Lets look at history:

    Bill Clinton has been the only strong candidate that the Democrats have put out recently.

    G.W. Bush. As weak as he was as a candidate, he still won. Twice.

    Obama. If the Republicans has put out a real candidate instead of the McCain/Palin ticket, Obama would have never made it.

    I could go back further and talk about McGovern, Dukakis, and others but most of the audience here would not be familiar with them. Kennedy and Clinton have been the only strong candidates from the Democratic party in my lifetime.

  17. I think that Incredulous (#14) has it right. Perry does not care what anyone thinks as long as those who will vote for him hear that he is one of them. Backtrack? No bloody likely.

  18. The Texas K-12 public school system dos NOT teach creationism, regardless of what Governor Perry says.

    A member of the Texas State Board of Education, Ken Mercer, recently offered $500 to anyone who could demonstrate that there is any creationism in the state’s science standards. It was a safe bet.

  19. Jon Winsor

    If the Mom was running for office, she’d be part of the story. But brusk manners in a crowd aren’t newsworthy.

    A presidential candidate arguing for teaching creationism in public schools, on the other hand, is newsworthy.

  20. Frito

    @ #12 Bill

    “Things” evolve for the “better” because things that are worse die off, at least in the case of biological organisms. As resources in the environment (food, water, etc.) are finite and since most animals can’t chat it up cross-species, they fail to cooperate and ultimately compete – to the death!

    As for the other “things” you mentioned, they are mostly a result of entropy.

  21. Shane

    Science isn’t a worldview, either. It’s a tool. It’s like a carpenter loving hammers instead of loving building houses.

  22. haversham

    “I’m no scientist, but I’d like to see anybody explain how ‘unguided” Evolution could explain how water from under the ground, defying gravity, can reach the tallest branches and leaves of the Giant Sequoia. ”

    Umm, its capillary
    action for the most part. Water evaporates from the leaves, which results in more water getting sucked up. You could try googling it … Or picking up a high school biology book. Dont be afraid, its only knowledge!

  23. Ribi

    #12: First off, Intelligent Design is Creationism and, to be clear, is a religious teaching, one inadmissible in public school biology curricula. This has been determined in a federal court of law, and those are the facts we work with. It makes no difference legally which term is chosen in any particular instance — under the law, the two are synonymous. Research Kitzmiller v. Dover for more information.

    Now then, the absolute defense against charges of libel and slander is the truth of the statement in question. Was the question politically-motivated? Yes, but Rick Perry accidentally offered an honest answer of sorts — he believes, devoutly, that creationism and evolution are (at least) on equal footing. It doesn’t matter if Kim Jong Il put a choir of schoolchildren at gunpoint in order to ask Rick Perry the question — the questioner’s use of a child is an entirely separate issue, and not relevant to the matter at hand.

    Rick Perry’s statement, however triggered, clearly demonstrates two facts. First, it indicates that he is a creationist. That is his decision, full stop. Creationists do not violate the Constitution, and indeed, they are protected as directly as are atheists by the No Religious Test clause. Perry’s own creationism is not the issue here. Second, and more relevantly, his statement indicates that he intends to push creationism onto children using our country’s taxpayer-funded educational apparatus. That is an explicitly illegitimate use of governmental authority, as outlined in the very first clause of the 1st Amendment, the Establishment Clause. I would suggest that this also indicates an inadequate respect for the rule of law in general: he seems to take his religion more seriously than he does his oath of office. This is simply unacceptable.

    America is a nation that contains many Christians — more Americans are Christian than are not. America, however, is not a “Christian nation.” America also contains more women than men and more two-legged people than amputees, but America is not a “Female nation” or a “Bipedal nation.” All religious faiths, small and large, are welcome here so long as they obey the law, and supposedly all such groups enjoy the protections of our society. The very first right explicitly added to the Constitution is our right to not have a state religion shoved down our throat by proselytic governmental authorities. It wasn’t right for the British to force Anglicanism on us, and it is not right for our governmental officials to do the same thing with ANY religion, however widely-held the creed.

  24. I totally DON’T support teaching creationism as anything but religious mythology but at the same time that video really bugs me. Geez Lady, way to use your kid as your political mouthpiece – pathetic and tacky!

  25. @Julia But politicians use children all the time for their photo ops. That’s tacky too. So why get upset when a mom uses her child to ask a politician a fair question? If the lady herself had asked the question I doubt if Perry would have deigned to even answer her.

  26. Incredulous

    #24 Ribi

    ” Yes, but Rick Perry accidentally offered an honest answer of sorts”

    You sure don’t know Perry yet. There was nothing about his answer that was accidental.

    ” Second, and more relevantly, his statement indicates that he intends to push creationism onto children using our country’s taxpayer-funded educational apparatus”

    Just out of curiosity, what on earth are you talking about? I am certainly not for Perry but that doesn’t even make sense from the context of that statement. Even if he were pushing for it, do you really think that the Congress and Supreme Court would just look the other way? It sounds like the Republicans that were against Kennedy because he was Catholic and would have to be under control of the Pope. Just how much power do you think the President has? Even if elected, he is just President, not dictator for life.

  27. bad Jim

    Perry’s probably toast already, which is why people are already looking for the next flavor of the day. Threatening the very Republican chairman of the Fed with lynching does not sit well with the plutocrats who fund the party.

    He’s Bush without the charm, the family history or the Harvard MBA. Bush knew how to signal that he was one of the evangelical tribe, but Perry, however insincerely, plays the part of the fiery zealot. It’s unlikely to sell to the general public, which at present has a lower opinion of tea partiers and religious extremists than they do of atheists or Muslims.

    If it turns out that extremists constitute a plurality of Republican primary voters, it could be that only a nutcase could win the nomination, which ought to guarantee a Democratic victory. Unfortunately, our electorate is not dependably sane.

  28. Mikio

    Conservatives generally don’t believe in the separation of church and state. ( http://conservapedia.com/Separation_of_church_and_state ) And if you’re against the separation of church and state, then you’re for the unification of church and state. Good luck finding any conservatives who’ll admit that rewording of it, though. Of course, if they were honest or logical, they wouldn’t be bible thumping conservatives in the first place.

  29. Dennis

    @Chris Mooney – motivated reasoning works both ways. LOL
    If you hate Perry, and are looking for a reason to vilify him… etc.

    I can’t stand Rick Perry – the idea that he may have any chance at leading this country scares the crap out of me.
    But, I agree with what others have said – he and his supporters (who agree with his fundie silliness) will use some genuine motivated reasoning to say that this video shows how gracious he is in the face of a “loony lefty” using her kid to try to attack him.

    Yes, objectively, this video shows Perry admitting to some beliefs and values that you and I believe are incompatible with the leadership of this country.
    But subjectively, it shows a politician who is calm and cool under fire from the rabid opposition.

    Not even sure my use of objective/subjective above is appropriate.
    However, I do believe I am stepping back from the influence of motivated reasoning and judging the video, as a whole, objectively.

  30. TerryEmberson

    @Mikio
    I would suggest that the Conservapedia does not represent all, or even a significant majority, of the conservative mind in America. There are certainly the irrational folks, including a large number of conservatives, who wish to see an end to the separation of church and state, but they are not exclusively conservative (though they are mostly Republican) nor do they represent a majority opinion within the conservative movement.

    There are plenty of honest and logical conservatives, and plenty of honest religious people who fulfill the requirement to proselytize to the unbelievers (I wouldn’t call them logical because I’m an atheist and think that logic doesn’t come into it). I believe separation of church and state is a fundamental element of our government which needs to be preserved and I would characterize myself as a conservative. Many of the people I know are conservatives and few would advocate the alignment of church and state (except two who I can think of who I’ve likened to the Taliban in various conversations to tear up their arguments). One of my Democrat friends suggests that the problem with America is that we’ve lost our Christian values and church/temple/mosque attendance should be incentivized by the government, though he reacted badly when I pointed out that would invalidate the separation of church and state.

    In fact, I believe that any truly liberal thinker today should be conservative, to try to protect the freedoms and norms we have created in America over the last two hundred years, including respect for human choice; preservation of life, liberty, and property; and the championing of free trade in the world, all of which are liberal concepts.

  31. TTT

    G.W. Bush. As weak as he was as a candidate, he still won. Twice.

    Once. In four of the last five presidential elections, the popular vote has gone to the more liberal, Democratic candidate.

    Bush was a legacy brat, last-naming his way through life. Perry has all of Bush’s vile personality flaws (not least his regional bigotry) but none of the richer older better-connected toadies who can rig the scales for him. He actually can be hurt by being caught dead-on as a tool for ignorance so severe that it is actually literally unConstitutional.

  32. 12. Bill Says:
    August 18th, 2011 at 4:48 pm
    Worship Science and Evolution all you want. See where it gets you.
    ——
    Good point. Science and evolution have only given us vaccines, the eradication of smallpox, antibiotics, legitimate medicine, water purification, the light bulb, the computer, the telephone, the mobile phone, the internal combustion engine, jet propulsion, rocket propulsion, the Moon landings, the Hubble telescope, and an understanding of the history and composition of the universe over the past 13.7 billion years.

    When have any of those things ever been useful for anybody?

  33. Baramos

    This is probably true (to an extent), but I’m willing to give Texas’ public education system the benefit of the doubt based merely on the fact that Perry has made incorrect statements about so many things he quite possibly made an incorrect statement about Texas state educational curriculum standards as well!

  34. Nullius in Verba

    #38,

    Sean posted this link in an earlier thread. You might find it relevant.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/science/08creationism.html?_r=1

    Apparently, ” a large number [of biology teachers] claim that students are free to choose evolution or creationism based on their own beliefs.”

    But you ought to note that in this case Perry didn’t make any statement about curriculum standards, Jamie only said he did. Students get taught creationism in contravention of the curriculum standards, and Texas doesn’t encourage it. But I’ll give Jamie the benefit of the doubt.

  35. Sean McCorkle

    Baramos@38

    Texas has been one of the hotbeds of creationism in the US and I think its fair to characterize it as a real battleground on this issue. In the early 80s a couple of creationists were in control of science textbook selection for the state, which had a negative impact nationally because publishers were not willing to print two editions, one for Texas, with sections on evolution removed, and the other, with sections on evolution, for the rest of the states. The Institution for Creation Research is now based there. The State Board of Education has been plagued with creationist members. In fact, as governor, Perry appointed a young earth creationist, Don McLeroy, as chair of that state board. The good news is McLeroy is now out and thanks to efforts of concerned citizens and organizations like the NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network, attempts to put creationism into the state education standards were beaten back, for the time being at least. However, creationist beliefs are widespread so quite likely the dust hasn’t settled on this by any means.

  36. As this Salon article says:

    Perry then told the boy: “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution. I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

    Yep, that’s how schools work. You tell kids some things that are true and some things that are made up and you trust that the children will be “smart enough” to figure it out. “America’s first three presidents were George Washington, John Adams and the Green Lantern. Good luck on your AP History test.”

  37. Nullius in Verba

    #43,

    The kids say: “Show me the evidence.”

  38. Sean McCorkle

    @44
    Some kids might say that, others maybe not so much. For those that do, in a case where a teacher is pushing creationism as though it were really science, the teacher can (1) provide quite a large number of so-called “evidences against evolution” which creationists have amassed over the years, and 2) withhold the bulk of evidence for evolution, as well as the rebuttals to to (1). Remember, we’re not talking about people who are interested in presenting controversies in the classroom as didactic participatory exercises in which all arguments/points/pros-and-cons are examined to sharpen students reasoning skills. We’re talking about con artists. Their goal is to convince the students of what they believe , or barring that, instill distrust in the science of evolution, by presenting a one-sided case.

  39. Nullius in Verba

    #45,

    Wouldn’t work. As soon as the kids hear that there’s a controversy (and it’s virtually impossible to avoid knowing in modern society), their next step would be to check the evidence against other sources, as they’d been taught. The moment they found a valid rebuttal, the teacher’s efforts would go out the window. Rather than leading to distrust of the science, it would lead to distrust of claimants to scientific authority.

  40. Are you saying mistrust of claimants to scientific authority is wrong? I thought that’s what science was founded on and that’s what your nom de plume (and the Royal Society’s motto) meant.

  41. Sarcasticus

    Why stop at “teaching creation alongside of evolution”. Why not just ban the teaching
    of evolution altogether and make it a felony crime. And also lets ban the teaching of
    the idea that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old and the Earth 4.5 billion years old
    when every fundie knows that everything was created 6000 years ago in 6-24 hour
    days “with the appearance of age”. And last, but certainly not least, lets ban the teaching
    of the idea that the Earth turns on its axis and revolves around the Sun when every fundie
    knows that the Earth is fixed and stationary at the center of the Universe and all heavenly
    bodies revolve around the Earth.

    P.S. Lets also change the value of Pi from 3.14159… to 3.0; because the Bible mentions
    a circular tank 10 cubits in diameter and 30 cubits in circumference.

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