Is it possible for the radicals who control the Texas State Board of Education at least to try making an honest argument for dumbing down the state’s public school science curriculum? It sure looks doubtful.
Yesterday, board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, trotted out once again the all-too-familiar, tired and insulting talking points creationists are using to attack those who support teaching schoolchildren sound science on evolution. In an opinion piece published online by the far-right Web site Texas Insider, Mercer argues that teaching so-called “weaknesses” of evolution is simply a matter of “academic freedom.” He viciously compares opponents of that argument to slave traders and Nazis who refused to tolerate other points of view.
Did the scientists under Adolph [sic] Hitler allow questions or peer reviews of their belief that a superior race had evolved? Did professors who found weaknesses in the Nazi theories receive research grants, funding, and foundation awards?
History is not kind to Darwinian evolutionists who push their theory as truth; no weaknesses and no questions allowed. In this 21st Century, scientific research that opposes academic freedom will never pass any “smell test.”
Yet evolution deniers like Mercer have failed every test of credibility. Mainstream scientists long ago debunked the “weaknesses” (such as “gaps in the fossil record”) commonly promoted by evolution deniers. Teaching students pseudoscience, no matter how much it’s believed by creationists like Mercer, isn’t academic freedom. It’s academic fraud.
Mercer takes specific aim at the Texas Freedom Network’s support for teaching 21st-century science in public schools.
TFN’s real agenda may be illustrated in this consistent, three-fold testimony to the SBOE: (1) Evolution is a fact; (2) there are no weaknesses to that theory; and (3) students are “unqualified” to ask questions.
He then goes on to make a distinction between “microevolution” (“small changes that are clearly visible,” such as new strains of flu) and “macroevolution,” which he describes as the contention that species “jump” from one to the other.
(H)ave you ever seen a dog-cat, or a cat-rat? The most famous example of macroevolution is the Darwinian “man from an ancestral primate.”
Well, let’s take these one at a time.
Yes, evolution is fact. It is supported by overwhelming mainstream, peer-reviewed scientific research and evidence. Evolution deniers cannot point to a single shred of scientific evidence — certainly not in a peer-reviewed journal — debunking evolution.
Yes, there are no scientific “weaknesses” to the theory, certainly none promoted by creationists like Mercer. Mainstream scientists have repeatedly shown those fabricated attacks to be either outright nonsense or scientifically trivial points that do nothing to undermine the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution. In short, those so-called “weaknesses” are little more than ideological arguments purposely designed to mislead people (especially students) who are not trained scientists.
No, TFN has not argued that students are unqualified to ask questions. Questions are an important part of learning. On the other hand, high school students with only a basic understanding of science are unqualified to challenge established, mainstream scientific concepts supported by more than a century of research from respected, trained and knowledgeable scientists. It would be like a high school mathematics freshman challenging the Pythagorean theorem or a high school science student challenging the fact that the earth revolves around the sun.
Trained scientists certainly should — and do — have the academic freedom to conduct research or challenge any concept they choose (if they can find evidence supporting their positions). Public schools, however, should be tasked with ensuring that their students learn basic, established, mainstream science, not pseudoscience.
Finally, evolution doesn’t suggest that species “jump” from one to the other as if by magic. It explains how small changes over enormous periods of time account for the diversity of life we see in the world around us. Many people of faith, including Roman Catholics and many mainline Protestants, see no conflict between accepting this science and their belief in God.
Mercer and other creationists on the state board, however, do see such a conflict. That’s why they are so determined to dumb down the public school science curriculum.