The header above is from the subject line of a wild-eyed screed sent circulating around the Internets this past weekend by Donna Garner, a former language arts teacher in Central Texas. Social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education seem to think Ms. Garner is some kind of curriculum guru. (Never mind that most other folks see her as little more than a right-wing gadfly with an e-mail list.)
Last year Ms. Garner helped the board’s far-right faction (led by board chairman Don McLeroy) derail a more than two-year process revising the state’s language arts curriculum standards. (See here and here.) Now she seems to have turned her attention to evolution and proposed science curriculum standards. The e-mail criticizes the state board for giving tentative approval last month to new standards that don’t require students to learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. It mocks three Republican board members, in particular, each of whom voted to keep the “weaknesses” requirement out of the standards. They “all claim to be conservative Republicans,” the e-mail sneeringly states. One of the three, Bob Craig of Lubbock, the e-mail notes, “says he’s a ‘strong Christian.’” And on it goes. (Will any of Ms. Garner’s far-right friends on the board denounce these snide remarks about their fellow board members? We’re not holding our breath.)
Ms. Garner also pretends to know something about science, going on about the difference between “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” and listing “weaknesses” of evolution (the Cambrian explosion, gaps in the fossil record, yadda yadda yadda). It’s all standard pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo that evolution deniers have been using to try to water down science education in our kids’ classrooms.
But the real kicker comes at the end, when the depth of loathing for evolution and science becomes crystal clear:
Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America’s most infamous serial killers who cannibalized more than 17 boys before being captured, gave an [sic] last interview with Dateline NBC nine months before his death, and he said the following about why he acted as he did: “If a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we died, you know, that was it, there was nothing….” (Dateline NBC, The Final Interview, Nov. 29, 1994).
This quote has been making the rounds for years in evangelical circles. In fact, Dahmer seems to have proclaimed himself a born-again Christian after his father sent him evangelical materials in prison.
In any case, the e-mail clearly suggests that people who accept the science of evolution are atheists: “The atheists are winning in Texas.” That’s insulting enough for people of faith who see no conflict with science. But what else is Ms. Garner trying to say here with the story about Dahmer? That we’re responsible for serial murderers like him? Or worse, that we’re all potential cannibalistic murderers ourselves because we accept the science of evolution?
Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.
It’s time for Chairman McLeroy and his fellow board members to come clean. Do they agree with Ms. Garner and approve of the kind of repulsive and shameful rhetoric being used to attack those who don’t share her particular religious views? We really want to know.
UPDATE: Correction. Ms. Garner forwarded the original e-mail referenced above, with her own apparent additions marked in red (including the quote from Dahmer). Who signed and apparently wrote the original? Kelly Coghlan, a Houston attorney who wrote the so-called “Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act” that the Texas Legislature passed in 2007. That legislation, HB 3678, allows students to turn public school events into opportunities to evangelize. Read more about it here and here. Coghlan’s e-mail includes information and links from the creationist Texans for Better Science Education. In any case, whether or not Garner wrote the original e-mail, she amended and forwarded it to her list. Now what do board members have to say?
UPDATE II: Garner’s full email:
From: Donna Garner
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2009 11:59 AM
To: Donna (2) Garner
Subject: JEFFREY DAHMER, SERIAL KILLER, BELIEVED IN EVOLUTION — WHY “WEAKNESSES” NEEDS TO STAY IN TEXAS SCIENCE STANDARDS — 1.31.09
[It is not enough for you to contact your SBOE members; please tell your friends to do the same. -- Donna Garner]
Dear Friends of Students:
This year, 2009, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin (born in 1809), author of Origin of the Species. Atheist groups across America are using this anniversary to move aggressively to force all 50 million public school students to be taught that macro-evolution (life spontaneously springing from a chemical reaction with all life stemming from that common chemical reaction and becoming different species through mutations) is a fact–without allowing the teaching or discussion of the scientific “weaknesses” increasingly being discovered concerning the theory of evolution. Texas, with its 4.7 million students, was selected as the first state to conquer. And, so far, the atheists are winning in Texas.
For more than 20 years, the rule in Texas has been to teach both the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. Last week, by a margin of 1 vote, the Texas State Board of Education voted to remove the word “weaknesses” so that only the strengths of evolution could be “analyzed and evaluated” in all Texas public schools. The final vote is in March, so there is time to make a difference.
Who voted to do this? All the Democrats plus 3 Republicans. The 3 Republicans are (1) Mr. Bob Craig of Lubbock (phone: XXX.XXX.XXXX; fax: XXX.XXX.XXXX), (2) Ms. Tincy Miller of Dallas (phone: XXX.XXX.XXXX; fax: XXX.XXX.XXXX), and (3) Ms. Patricia Hardy of Weatherford (phone: XXX.XXX.XXXX; fax: XXX.XXX.XXXX). All claim to be conservative Republicans. Bob Craig says he is a “strong Christian.” Since many of you are from Houston, I hope you will also call the Houston Representative Democrat Mr. Larry Allen (phone XXX.XXX.XXXX; fax XXX.XXX.XXXX) who is a Muslim, and, if following his faith, should have voted to keep “weaknesses.” But Larry Allen said all the people who had contacted him in Houston said they wanted him to vote to delete “weaknesses.” I also spoke personally to Bob Craig, a lawyer in Lubbock, and he similarly said that the majority of people who had contacted him wanted him to vote to eliminate “weaknesses.” The other Democrats who voted to eliminate “weaknesses” are: Mary Ms. Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi (phone: XXX.XXX.XXXX; fax: XXX.XXX.XXXX); Mr. Rick Agosto of San Antonio (phone: XXX.XXX.XXXX; fax: XXX.XXXX.XXXX); Ms. Mavis Knight of Dallas (phone: XXX-XXX-XXXX; fax: XXX.XXX.XXXX); and Mr. Rene Nunez of El Paso (phone: XXX.XXX.XXXX; fax: XXX.XXX.XXXX). Also, you can email each member at firstname.lastname@example.org. THESE FOLKS NEED TO HEAR FROM EACH OF US.
Charles Darwin, in Origin of the Species said the following concerning the proper evaluation of his theory: “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question.” Too bad Darwin wasn’t on the State Board of Education to vote to keep “weaknesses” in. At least, he was intellectually honest about his theory. He recognized that science advances by constantly probing and questioning, not by censorship, intimidation, or indoctrination. The 3 Republicans don’t seem to get it. They want to water down the current standard to eliminate any airing of “weaknesses” by eliminating the word “weaknesses.” The battle is over that one word. It needs to be there. As a lawyer, I know more than most that words are important. So don’t be fooled, the retention of the word is worth all of us fighting for.
Short primer on evolution: In describing evolution, there are 2 catagories: (1) Micro-evolution, and (2) Macro-evolution. Micro-evolution (small changes over time within the same species) is something we can observe today (bugs become resistant to drugs; birds beaks grow longer, moths change colors). I personally think it makes perfect sense that a good Designer would design each creature with built-in abilities to adapt to survive. But the debate before the Board is not over micro-evolution, but over the teaching of macro-evolution. We have never observed one species becoming a different species (macro-evolution). And we have never observed how life began. This is where we need to examine the scientific strengths and weaknesses. And with respect to macro-evolution there are numerous scientific weaknesses, to name a few: (1) the Cambrian explosion of life; (2) gaps in the fossil record; (3) the intractable origin of life chemistry problems; (4) the origin of information in the DNA molecule; and (5) irreducibly complex features. Honest scientists acknowledge these and other weaknesses—but atheists don’t want these weaknesses highlighted—particularly not to our children. This is the Scopes Monkey Trial in reverse.
Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America’s most infamous serial killers who cannibalized more than 17 boys before being captured, gave an last interview with Dateline NBC nine months before his death, and he said the following about why he acted as he did: “If a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we died, you know, that was it, there was nothing….” (Dateline NBC, The Final Interview, Nov. 29, 1994).
ACTION TO TAKE TODAY: (1) Make this a matter of prayer; (2) Read the below email for information; (3) Sign the Petition below; (4) Call, fax, and email the 3 Republicans named above; (5) Call, fax, and email your own Representative to the Board from your area; (6) Contact the other Democratic members of the Board and ask them to change their vote for the March meeting; (7) forward this email to everyone you know. This issue is worth fighting for. Thank you.