Using the Law to Undermine Science

Creationists are taking their efforts to undermine science education to the Texas Capitol.

In April of last year, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board rejected an application from the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research to offer master’s degrees in science education in Texas. Members of the coordinating board clearly recognized the ICR’s program as simply an attempt to cloak the promotion of biblical creationism in science. A survey by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund also found overwhelming opposition to the application from university science faculty in Texas.

ICR officials, charging that they were the victims of “viewpoint discrimination,” have said they will seek help from the courts to overturn the coordinating board’s decision. Now they are also looking for help in the Texas Legislature.

On Monday state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, filed legislation — House Bill 2800 — that would effectively exempt the ICR from regulation and oversight by the coordinating board. Our friends at the National Center for Science Education have already dug into the bill here.

Supporters of sound science education were alerted to the bill by Texas Freedom Network member John Kingman of Austin. John — who attended TFN’s legislative lobby day on science Tuesday — contacted Rep. Berman’s office to ask about the bill. John reports that a staffer in Rep. Berman’s office said the bill was intended to help “institutions that want to teach creation science or intelligent design” primarily but that he was still looking into it.

John’s actions to unmask this outrageous end-run around the coordinating board are a perfect example of the kind of grassroots activism that is helping defend sound science in Texas. And Rep. Berman’s and ICR’s maneuvering are a perfect example of promoting politics over sound science. Their political games also demonstrate why the religious right’s efforts to dumb down science education will likely continue long after this month’s final vote over public school science curriculum standards at the Texas State Board of Education.

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17 Comments

  1. Cytocop
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Larry, you’re very good at explaining things. I thought you might provide a clear and concise definition of creation science.

    Thanks, jdg. That’s what I thought.

    Larry, the “Darwinists” who pressured the Cincinnati Zoo don’t speak for all “Darwinists.” Sorry to burst your bubble but many “Darwinists” read the Bible and attend church/synagogue.

  2. Ben
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Also, a question: Do you accept the theory of evolution?

  3. Ben
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Okay, ScienceMinded, please show me how it’s done.

    There is a regular commenter on this blog who consistently spreads misinformation and outright lies about evolution. (If you visit his blog, you’ll see that he is also a Holocaust denialist.)

    Please show us how to mitigate the damage he causes with his comments.

    By the way, it doesn’t show a lack of ethics for me to be uncivil or disrespectful to people who are dishonest.

  4. ScienceMinded
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Sorry Ben,

    Civility, respect, and ethics do matter. Believe me, TFN is not helping their cause. If the goal of TFN supporters is to point fingers, pat each others backs and make each other feel better, then keep up with the current tactics. If you want to reach people that aren’t totally in line with your beliefs, then a civil, respectful, ethical approach will take you much further.

  5. Ben
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    ScienceMinded,

    Members of the religious right use deceit, dishonesty, and even perjury to further their cause. They don’t deserve civility.

    I doubt that neutral observers are thinking, “Well, the evidence for evolution sure is overwhelming, but I’m going to side with the religious right because they remain civil.”

    (They don’t remain civil, by the way. Keep reading.)

    PZ Myers is a highly regarded biologist whose opinion I happen to value. I agree with him when he says:

    “There is no virtue in politeness when confronted with ignorance, dishonesty, and delusion. I want them [his regular blog readers] to charge in to the heart of the issue and shred the frauds, without hesitation and without faltering over manners. These demands for a false front of civility are one of the strategies used by charlatans who want to mask their lack of substance — oh, yes, it would be so goddamned rude to point out that a huckster is lying to you. I am quite happy that we have a culture of being rude to frauds here.”

    One unfortunate side effect is that PZ receives death threats from religious extremists via his blog on a regular basis——one or two a week. Here are a couple he received in the last two weeks or so. I cleaned up some language in the second one.

    ————-
    Mr. Meyers,

    If your in the neighborhood and would like to descrate some more Hosts. Please feel free to let me know……..and I will give you a welcome more befitting a man of your stature. Let’s just say that some Catholics are willing to kill to defend the Lord God Almighty.

    I will pray for you and your lost soul.
    Thanatos

    To: pzmyers@gmail.com
    Subject: Comments

    I saw your criticism of Ray Comfort on Worldnetdaily.com. I believe exactly as Ray Comfort believes and when you call him an idiot and stupid, you’re calling me an idiot and stupid.

    I’d like nothing more than to break every tooth out of your head, one by one; then poke your fxxxing eyeballs out and shove them straight-up your tightly-puckered axxhole.

    Go xxx yourself, pinhead jerk.

    James M. Baker
    Indianapolis, Indiana

  6. ScienceMinded
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    The ranting and raving of TFN supporters does much more to undermine science than the religious right. If TFN ever read the comments from their so-called supporters they might actually see they are weakening their cause and giving science a bad name. TFN, you’re only making it easier for the religious right-wing faction to succeed given that you help to set the bar so low. And by doing so, you are actually supporting the cause of the religious right! You make them look good!! I’m sure they are thanking you. If you want to appear the least bit credible, you should seriously consider adopting some use policies in regards to name calling, verbal attacks, and ethical blogging behavior.

  7. Ben
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m beginning to suspect that Satan is controlling Larry’s thoughts. Until Larry can prove otherwise, I think we should take all of his comments with a grain of salt.

  8. Posted March 14, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    The Texas SBOE races are down-ballot and fly mostly under the RADAR. The districts are about twice as big as the districts for US Congress, thus raising enough money to run a proper campaign is problematic. The Bradley and Lowe races were in heavily Republican districts where straight-ballot voting returned the incumbents to office. In Dover and Kansas, the mainstream citizens were finally awakened to the educational destruction brought on by the regressive religionists on the school boards, and they threw them out. It is time for mainstream and conservative Texans to wake up, stand up, and start throwing out these anti-science SBOE members that are doing the handiwork of the regressive Dominionists and Christian Reconstructionists before they turn America into a third-world nation.

  9. jdg
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    “Creation science” is an oxymoron. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKGtcVoBhBQ&feature=related

  10. Posted March 13, 2009 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Charles Says (March 13, 2009 at 3:29 pm) —
    –Aha!!! Ben said the man “…bit into his ice-cream cone and then set down his umbrella,” but Larry knows this is actually not true. The man actually set down his umbrella first and then bit into his ice-cream cone . . . . No one here is impressed by your two-bit engineer nitpicking.–

    It’s not nitpicking — the fact that the election occurred before the decision is very important because the newly-elected board members, by failing to repeal the ID policy prior to the decision, missed a possible opportunity to avoid paying an award of attorney fees to the plaintiffs, as I noted (but you ignored). The Darwinists insisted that in cases of “voluntary cessation” by the defendant, the voluntary cessation cannot have the effect of mooting the case or preventing an award of attorney fees to the plaintiffs, but in the Supreme Court’s decision in Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001), the Supreme Court ruled that voluntary cessation can have such an effect — the court said,

    Numerous federal statutes allow courts to award attorney’s fees and costs to the “prevailing party.” The question presented here is whether this term includes a party that has failed to secure a judgment on the merits or a court-ordered consent decree, but has nonetheless achieved the desired result because the lawsuit brought about a voluntary change in the defendant’s conduct. We hold that it does not. (emphasis added)
    See —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/05/two-timing-new-members-of-dover-school.html

    After being confronted with this decision, the Darwinists continued to claim that such a decision is not possible. Trying to argue with Darwinists is like talking to a brick wall.

    Cytocop Says (March 13, 2009 at 8:12 pm) —
    –I read the Washington Post article about the field trip and, though it points out some deficiencies at the Smithsonian, it fails to make any compelling case for creationism.–

    The article wasn’t supposed to make a case for or against creationism — it was just supposed to be an objective news article about the field trip.

    Cytocop says,
    –And what is “creation science”?–

    Why don’t you do an Internet search for “creation science” instead of asking me to define the term for you.

    Cytocop says,
    –Your assertion, “Creationists – unlike Darwinists – are unafraid of opposing views” is a blanket statement in need of supporting evidence. —

    I provide supporting evidence on my blog — for example, I point out that Darwinists pressured the Cincinnati Zoo into canceling a holiday-season combo-ticket deal with the Creation Museum.

    BTW, no one answered my big question: Why is there state accreditation here instead of national or regional accreditation?

  11. Cytocop
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    To Larry:

    I read the Washington Post article about the field trip and, though it points out some deficiencies at the Smithsonian, it fails to make any compelling case for creationism.

    And what is “creation science”? Sounds like an oxymoron, like “holy war,” “kosher ham,” etc. Maybe it’s a new word for “religious studies.”

    I read your blog. Your assertion, “Creationists – unlike Darwinists – are unafraid of opposing views” is a blanket statement in need of supporting evidence. I read the Bible, and I know other Bible-readers who accept the general principles of Darwin’s theory of evolution (whom you like to call ‘Darwinists’). So, your premise is mistaken.

  12. Charles
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Aha!!! Ben said the man “…bit into his ice-cream cone and then set down his umbrella,” but Larry knows this is actually not true. The man actually set down his umbrella first and then bit into his ice-cream cone. But…Aha again!!! He was not actually biting into his ice-cream cone. Larry notes that he was most likely biting into the ice-cream, which was merely sitting in his cone. Get a life Larry!!! No one here is impressed by your two-bit engineer nitpicking.

  13. Posted March 12, 2009 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Der Rot Baron Says (March 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm) —
    –Without accreditation for the graduate teacher prep program and degree, then no one with that degree would be able to obtain teaching credentials from the SBEC (legacy agency now folded back into TEA) to teach in a Texas secondary school (the target goal for instruction of science students). —

    Now I am really confused — I thought that colleges and universities were accredited by national and regional agencies, not by state agencies. What if someone from out of state wants to teach in Texas schools? Also, is a postgraduate degree required for teachers in Texas secondary schools? I don’t know.

    –If they succeed, then they still have to have teachers to teach the ID “science” curriculum. Virtually all current credentialed science education degree holding teachers are unwilling to teach creationism in their science classes in public education. —

    How is that? A recent national survey of science teachers shows that 25% of respondents spend some time teaching creationism or intelligent design, though they do not necessarily teach it as good science —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/08/state-of-evolution-education-in-usa-and.html

    Anyway, what matters is not what the teachers are willing to teach, but what they are required to teach. In Peloza v. Capistrano School District, the courts ruled that a teacher could be required to teach evolution even if it is against his religion to teach it.

    Also, some scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution are so technically sophisticated that they should be taught only by qualified science teachers and should never be taught by unqualified parents, unqualified Sunday School teachers, unqualified social studies teachers, etc.. That’s just common sense.

    –If HB 2800 Rep Berman passed into law, it will be challenged constitutionally, and thus more grief for ID folks trying to solve the teacher part of this.–

    Challenged constitutionally? On what grounds?

    Anyway, if the purpose or one of the purposes of state accreditation is to control the quality of secondary-school science teachers (as I noted above, I thought that this kind of accreditation was national or regional rather than by state), then it makes no sense to exempt any school from accreditation requirements.

    –Obviously, the best placed efforts, besides containment of these sorts of occurrences, is to replace several of the seated SBOE members, like SBOE districts 5 & 10 in CenTex.–

    That’s a lot easier said than done — two of the SBOE’s supporters of the “strengths and weaknesses” language, Gail Lowe and David Bradley, defeated strong challengers in the last election — see
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/11/fundies-keep-texas-board-of-education.html

    –We need SBOE members who actually know something about education,–

    Of the board’s seven supporters of the “strengths and weaknesses” language, four have backgrounds in science, at least three of them in biology — see
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/12/more-lies-from-stupid-steven.html

    –Our students knowledge and skills in secondary education are so far behind that of the rest of the world’s —

    Overall, American education is OK. American students’ performance at particular grade levels may be mediocre, but that is compensated by the fact that Americans tend to stay longer in school than people in other countries.

    Charles Says (March 12, 2009 at 5:37 pm) —
    –On one of the baron’s points, elected state school boards are rare in the U.S. Texas needs to do away with this process so board members can be appointed by qualified educators who know better than to put creation science/ID people in charge. —

    WHAT “qualified educators”? IMO it is better to have directly elected school board members who are directly accountable to the people. The demagogic Darwinist governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, tried to grab power away from the elected Kansas school board and got hell for it — see
    http://c5.zedo.com//ads2/f/459316/1/172/0/305001722/305001722/0/305/630/zz-V1-A-720x300_05-07-07_CLEAN_BLUE-iiiInteractive.html?a=;l=;p=

    Charles says,
    –After the Kitzmiller verdict in Pennsyslvania, the local folks dumped the creationists from the board in the next election.–

    Wrong — the incumbent board members were “dumped” before the decision, not after. The elections were close and taxpayers’ concern about the potential costs of the lawsuit was considered to be a big factor. And by failing to repeal the ID policy prior to the decision, the new members of the board missed a possible opportunity to avoid paying an award of fees to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

    Anyway, you were so busy reporting these wonderful election results in Pennsylvania and Kansas that you failed to note that Lowe and Bradley won in Texas.

    You folks really need to read my blog “I’m from Missouri” to help you stay better informed.

    BTW, here is an article about a field trip to the Smithsonian natural history museum by a Liberty University creation science class —
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/10/AR2009031003690.html

  14. Charles
    Posted March 12, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Huzzah, Huzzah.

    On one of the baron’s points, elected state school boards are rare in the U.S. Texas needs to do away with this process so board members can be appointed by qualified educators who know better than to put creation science/ID people in charge.

    After the Kitzmiller verdict in Pennsyslvania, the local folks dumped the creationists from the board in the next election. In Kansas, after attempting to introduce nonscience into state classrooms there, the people of Kansas got rid of all but one of its fundie school board members in the next election and prevented the election of some others—including at least one subterfuge candidate. In case you do not know, that is a candidate who lays low in the media and pretends to either be against evolution or noncommital, then when they get elected, they pop out of the jack-in-the-box in a black cape and yell, “Aha!!! I fooled you!!! I am Creation Man—a great super hero here to fight valiantly for…you know.” I am proud to say that I helped out with that election by using my long written tomes to campaign against all the fundies in that election and for the good people. Our efforts succeeded in getting rid of all but one of them. Real science set in again in Kansas.

    The people of Texas need to start thinking about state schoolboard elections early—like now. Qualified nonfundie, noncreationist types need to run rather than sit home on their hands. Reasonable people need to step forward and be vocal. Reasonable Christians need to step forward and be vocal. Because we live in a civil society, the voting booth is the proper venue for “figuratively” tarring and feathering an elected public official and running them out of town on a rail—or at least that is how the founders planned it back in 1787. Not a bad idea. Not bad at all.

  15. Der Rot Baron
    Posted March 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Actually, what the Tx HECB did was prevent the ICR from offering an *accredited* (by the State) MEd in science education that was creationism/ID in nature. Without accreditation for the graduate teacher prep program and degree, then no one with that degree would be able to obtain teaching credentials from the SBEC (legacy agency now folded back into TEA) to teach in a Texas secondary school (the target goal for instruction of science students). So far, we have the votes on the TxHECB to block any further ID/creation science accreditation actions. There were threatened appeals, and court action against the TxHECB, but that would be very expensive for everyone, and, most importantly, time consuming for the ID people, perhaps half a decade unresolved in state courts alone. What writ would you ask for on this? It would end up in the 3rd Appellate Circuit (Travis Co) on its way to the Supreme’s. We’ve got that partially boxed up too.

    So the obvious is to do the end run in the Legislature while it was in session, just before closing of new bill filing this month. The SBOE packing with enough ID votes hopes to be able to create an opening in the science curriculum for ID (the Trojan horse for creationism). If they succeed, then they still have to have teachers to teach the ID “science” curriculum. Virtually all current credentialed science education degree holding teachers are unwilling to teach creationism in their science classes in public education. Nor are those alternative pathway people who have a science degree, like biology, and have decided to teach in secondary public education. We already have a shortage of science teachers anyway. Primary public school science teaching will be another issue. If HB 2800 Rep Berman passed into law, it will be challenged constitutionally, and thus more grief for ID folks trying to solve the teacher part of this. My guess is that’s why they “are looking into it”. How many votes can Rep Berman hold in his district by filing a bill that has a vanishingly small chance of ever becoming functional educational policy in Texas? To preserve freedom, including of religion, we must continue to be vigilant though. Thanks to John, we know what to watch, and can create an action plan. Obviously, the best placed efforts, besides containment of these sorts of occurrences, is to replace several of the seated SBOE members, like SBOE districts 5 & 10 in CenTex. We need SBOE members who actually know something about education, and we do need to de-politicize (de-crony) public education in Texas.

    We all need to look at the broader public educational issue in Texas and the US, and not use all our efforts on these cultural war terrorist actions by the Dunbars of the world. Our students knowledge and skills in secondary education are so far behind that of the rest of the world’s that we must raise the standards for teacher prep, teaching, and students, and not just science, or math, but also basic cultural competencies and literacy. Listen to what Obama and Duncan have been saying over the last two days about public education! They certainly haven’t got it all correct, nor do they have specific definitions of the problems and solutions to those problems, but at least they are openly recognizing the nature, degree, complexity, and impact of the public education problems, and the importance of education to our future.

  16. jdg
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    The creationists will loose so badly at the college level!!! It’s not like high school where they can get their religious trash in.

  17. Charles
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    In the 1970s, they called that, “You’re busted.”

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