Live Blogging from the Texas Science Hearing

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.”

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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.

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27 Comments

  1. Ben
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    “A real phony.”

    I guess you are artificially authentic.

    If you think you’ve discovered something about coevolution that disproves evolution, keep in mind that it’s much more likely that Satan is controlling your thoughts.

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

    Ben Says (March 25, 2009 at 9:41 pm) –
    –Come to think of it, even though I haven’t read your postings about coevolution, it’s highly likely that Satan is behind it all. –

    Ben, you are a real phony and have no credibility. How can you knock something if you haven’t read it. I linked to a brief summary of my ideas about coevolution.

  3. Ben
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    I agree. My Satan-wrote-the-bible theory is also quite original. That little gem is indisputable.

    Come to think of it, even though I haven’t read your postings about coevolution, it’s highly likely that Satan is behind it all. Can you boil your idea down into one or two sentences, so I can take those sentences and incorporate them into my theory?

  4. Posted March 25, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Ben Says (March 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm) –
    “I have not been able to find them elsewhere on the Internet.”

    Surprise, surprise.–

    That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with my ideas. And it could show that I have great originality.

  5. Ben
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    “I have not been able to find them elsewhere on the Internet.”

    Surprise, surprise.

  6. Posted March 25, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    William Says (March 25, 2009 at 5:02 pm) —
    –Larry, why don’t you ever link to any source supporting your ideas other than your own blog?–

    I do link to other sources supporting my ideas about coevolution — my blog has lots of links to info about buzz pollination, complex parasitic relationships, orchids’ mimicry of female wasps’ sex pheromones, etc.. As for my ideas about coevolution, they stand on their own merits — they are my own original ideas and I have not been able to find them elsewhere on the Internet.

  7. jdg
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Once again larry, head back into the sand!!

  8. William
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Larry, why don’t you ever link to any source supporting your ideas other than your own blog?

  9. Charles
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Myers and Dawkins. Aw, you have people off the deep end on both sides in this argument. I kind of think of it this way. If the creationist nuts are “matter” and PZ Myers and Dawkins are “anti-matter,” maybe they will all collide one day, cancel each other out, and leave the sensible people somewhere in the middle.

  10. Steve
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    –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.–

    “More stereotyping and guilt-by-association. Darwinists PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins have atheist agendas.”

    What agendas are those, Larry? To prevent religious zealots from peddling their wares in a Science classroom?

  11. Steve Bratteng
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I looked up what Bohlin had to say about masturbation and found this statement:

    “… most masturbation takes place with pornography to look at either actually or in your mind through fantasy. Since Jesus condemned not only the act of adultery but lusting in our mind, this is clearly included.
    You must also keep in mind the addictive nature of nearly all sexual sin including pornography. It eventually becomes a form of idolatry. We worship our sensual pleasure over Jesus.”

    So, do you think it would it be okay to fantasize about Jesus?

  12. Posted March 25, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    –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.–

    As I have pointed out many times, local school districts in Texas and school systems outside of Texas are not required to use Texas-approved textbooks. A popular biology textbook, “Biology” by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, California, and Texas editions. And the Texas science standards do not control what is asked on the College Board’s subject tests in science.

    –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–

    The rules are the rules — Leo was complaining about a speaker who signed up as “other” and then spoke against the “strengths and weaknesses” Language. The Discovery Institute has a related complaint –
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/03/according_to_texas_education_a.html

    –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.–

    That doesn’t mean that the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater.

    –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.–

    More stereotyping and guilt-by-association. Darwinists PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins have atheist agendas.

    –1:35 – A pro-science testifier: “Texas can’t afford to be thought of as an educational backwater.”–

    More baseless scaremongering.

    –1:41 – It’s as if scientists have been talking to a brick wall for the past year. –

    Do you think that we critics of evolution don’t feel like we are talking to a brick wall? For example, the Florida Citizens for Science told me that I can’t post my ideas about coevolution on their blog until those ideas are pre-approved by “experts” on the subject —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/04/co-evolution-theory-censored-by-florida.html

    My ideas about coevolution are summarized here –
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/summary-of-thoughts-about-co-evolution.html

    IMO a scientific theory that depends on censorship to sustain it might as well be thrown out the window.

    dui Says (March 25, 2009 at 1:45 pm ) –
    –Does McLeroy hold a PhD or a professional degree in dentistry? Is it common for dentists to refer to themselves as Dr. X?–

    Yes, dentists commonly call themselves “Dr.” The dentistry degree is called “DDS” — Doctor of Dental Science.

    Pineyman Says (March 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm) —
    –Has anyone considered the possibility that other states might look into legal action against Texas for pushing pseudoscience if the SBOE passes this crap and textbook companies try to foist this on other states? Or am I getting a bit esoteric here?–

    You are being more than a “bit” esoteric. Textbook companies cannot “foist” anything on states and local school districts. As I pointed out, a popular biology textbook already comes in regular, California, and Texas editions.

    jdg Says (March 25, 2009 at 2:25 pm) –
    –TFN if you can please tell the SBOE if they pass the “insufficiencies of common descent” part on the TEKS, it will not be taught. Tell them so.–

    I have already pointed out that the 9th circuit federal court of appeals ruled in Peloza v. Capistrano School District that a teacher could be required to teach evolution even if teaching it is against his religion.

  13. jdg
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    TFN if you can please tell the SBOE if they pass the “insufficiencies of common descent” part on the TEKS, it will not be taught. Tell them so.

  14. Ben
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Same here. Kudos to TFN for their tireless efforts.

  15. Pineyman
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    TFN –

    Has anyone considered the possibility that other states might look into legal action against Texas for pushing pseudoscience if the SBOE passes this crap and textbook companies try to foist this on other states? Or am I getting a bit esoteric here?

    BTW – first time commenter, long time lurker. Keep up the good work.

  16. Bob
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to echo eevas’s comments. TFN, we really do appreciate knowing that there is someone looking out for what is right.

    Our kids do matter.

    Keep up the great work.

  17. dui
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Does McLeroy hold a PhD or a professional degree in dentistry? Is it common for dentists to refer to themselves as Dr. X? I would hate for somebody to think that McLeroy’s honorific would give him some credibility.

  18. eevas
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    TFN, Keep up the good work. I trully appreciate knowing that their is someone looking out for the true interests of our state.

  19. Posted March 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    who is the male voice that appears to be control of the hearing? is this Don McLeroy?

    • Posted March 25, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Dr. McLeroy is running the meeting as chair.

  20. kathyscats
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Let ‘em keep talking I say. The more they do, the more they stick their own foot in their mouth.

  21. Ivy Wingo
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Somebody needs to ask the board members which exact “weaknesses” in evolutionary theory need to be presented. If this results in stuttering and stammering, wouldn’t that be a strong message against including these in the standards?

  22. eevas
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I guess my point was that “a testifier…warned the board”. But it is not really a warning. The creationist on the board are interested in ALOT more than just Texas. I would go so far as to say the reason the religous right fight is in Texas is because it would affect alot more than just the one state. A very strategic move on their part.

  23. eevas
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really understand the point of the 12:37 post. Of course what is decided in Texas affects the nation. That is exactly what both sides of the debate want. Which ever side wins – they win more than just this state.

    • Posted March 25, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      The point is that if Texas teaches bad science, it won’t be limited to just Texas.

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