12:25 – Our press conference ran long, and we were late getting into the hearing. Unfortunately, State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy has rejected a request for a table for us in the board room (as at the last two board meetings). We’re told that’s “too distracting” for board members, although we set up in a far back corner. Frankly, the issue is more likely one of not liking what we’ve been blogging about at past meetings. In any case, we’re here, we’re blogging, get used to it. (We’re so witty.)
12:33 – The board room is overflowing with folks. The creationists are out in force this time, but we still have lots of science supporters (wearing our signature green).
12:37 – A testifier who has worked in the textbook industry is warning the board that what is decided about science in Texas will be taught throughout the country. Indeed.
12:58 – Terri Leo is complaining because two people in a row have testified against “strengths and weaknesses.” She points out witnesses should be alternating, for and against. For Pete’s sake.
1:01 – A scientist is correctly pointing out that “strengths and weaknesses” is being used as a wedge to promote ideological arguments in science classrooms.
1:07 – Now we have a testifier arguing that the board should broaden the definition of science so that it can’t “keep the creationists out.” It really couldn’t be clearer what the agenda is here. Creationism simply science. It’s faith. Public schools have no business deciding whose religious beliefs to teach in science classrooms.
1:10 – Creationist pressure groups are bringing in their big guns. Coming up is Raymond G. Bohlin, president of Richardson (Tex.)-based Probe Ministries. Bohlin is one of the most prominent supporters of “intelligent design”/creationism in the country. Why are the creationists still pretending that their attacks on evolution have nothing to do with trying to promote creationism in science classrooms? The folks testifying for them are revealing that claim to be nothing but a charade.
1:21 – A member of the science curriculum writing teams notes that amendments creationists added to the standards in January are opposed by a team members. Board member Barbara Cargill notes that she got help from the board’s “science experts” in drafting her amendments. Want to guess who? Couldn’t be Stephen Meyer from the anti-evolution Discovery Institute, could it?
1:24 – And now Raymond Bohlin is testifying, arguing about “the limits of biological change.” “You get just so far, and you can’t push it farther.” He argues that “there is no goal in natural selection,” as opposed to “artificial selection,” as when breeders try to eliminate problematic characteristics in something. We have a hard time following him, perhaps because he doesn’t have much time to develop his thought and get to his point. (But we can guess his point.)
1:28 – Terri Leo: Is knowledge of evolution so necessary for scientific research? Bohlin: Not in my research. (He has a doctorate in molecular and cell biology.)
1:32 – Oh, yeah. Bohlin has recently posted a commentary on the Probe Ministries Web site answering the perennial scientific question: “Is Masturbation A Sin?” (Do you really want to know the answer? More to the point, do you doubt what his answer is?) Perhaps he would like the board to add a curriculum standard requiring students to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of masturbation…
1:35 – A pro-science testifier: “Texas can’t afford to be thought of as an educational backwater.”
1:41 – It’s as if scientists have been talking to a brick wall for the past year. We’re still hearing arguments that “weaknesses” of evolution are plentiful in scientific literature. Yet Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists have repeatedly shown that’s simply not the case. Are they all lying?
1:48 – A representative of the Austin Geological Society presents a letter calling on the board to support “honest and credible” science and is strongly supportive of teaching about evolution and in opposition to the “strengths and weaknesses” propaganda.
1:56 – TFN sent out the following press release after our 11:30 press conference before the board hearing.
AUSTIN – As the State Board of Education prepares for a decisive vote on science curriculum standards this week, nearly 60 international, national and state science organizations have signed statements opposed to dumbing down instruction on evolution in Texas public schools.
“What’s happening in Texas is clearly ringing alarm bells across the country,” said Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Institute and a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. “Most parents know that a sound science education will help their kids succeed in college and the jobs of the 21stcentury. The children of Texas deserve that, and the state shouldn’t have to deal with the legal challenges that are likely to result from the board promoting ideology over sound science.”
Among the organizations releasing or signing on to statements in support of sound science standards are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of College and University Biology Educators, the Federation of American Scientists, the Biotechnology Institute and the Science Teachers Association of Texas, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said.
“Some state board members pretend they know more about science than the dedicated educators who last year drafted sound standards and the distinguished scientists who support them,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said. “But this isn’t a television show in which board members get to pretend they’re something they’re not. Maybe that’s great for TV, but it’s bad for education.”
In January, chairman Don McLeroy and other board members offered a series of anti-evolution amendments to the draft standards but refused to allow scientists to review them before the board voted. The newly released statements from science organizations reveal these changes are almost universally rejected by the science community.
Board members must stop playing politics with the education of Texas schoolchildren, said David Hills, a professor integrative biology at the University of Texas who served as an expert reviewer appointed by the board.
“Texas teachers have drafted strong science standards, and scientists support those standards,” said Hillis. “It’s time for state board members to put their personal agendas on pause and ensure that our kids get an education based on honest science, not ideology.”
The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda supporting public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.