Live Blogging the TX Science Hearing III

Note: Audio from the state board hearing is available here.

4:53 – Lots of conversations among board members between and during the testimony. We haven’t said much yet about the vote coming tomorrow and Friday. Essentially, we’re where we were in January — it will be very close. Chairman McLeroy and other board creationists have been circulating a list of amendments to the standards, nearly all targeting evolution. And they are certain to try again to force “strengths and weaknesses” back into the standards. We also expect efforts by pro-science board members to try to strip out anti-evolution amendments (particularly those challenging the concept of common descent) added in January.

5:18 – Board members are now being allowed to invite specific individuals to testify. It will be interesting to see who board members bring up.

5:25 – Board member Rick Agosto has invited Genie Scott of the National Center for Science Education to speak. That’s encouraging. Genie makes it clear what’s at stake. Putting “strengths and weaknesses” back in the standards will give evolution opponents ammunition to demand pseudoscience in the 2011 biology textbooks. Other states will likely rebel against such nonsense. Says Genie: You will have a Texas edition with junk science in it, and the rest of the country will have a different textbook with real science.

5:31 – Dave Welch of the Texas Pastor Council is now speaking. It’s unclear which board member invited him. Welch wants students to be taught challenges to evolution: “Sound science and academic demand full disclosure of this in order to make a sound decision.” Welch accuses opponents of “strengths and weaknesses” of censorship and claims there are scientifically valid “weaknesses” of evolution.

FYI: In February, WorldNetDaily published a piece from Welch headlined “Making a monkey out of Christians.” Money quote:

I assert that any so-called Christian and most emphatically any member of Christian clergy who embraces the deception of Darwinian evolution is no more a Christian than the chimpanzees from which he or she claims to have evolved.

5:38 – Another testifier (we missed the name) suggests that “fervent dogmatists” who support the science of evolution are “religious fundamentalists” themselves. (Update: We think this is a gentleman named Don Patton.)

5:45 – Patton says the fossil record is really just a bunch of clams: “Clams, clams and more clams.” His point, apparently, is that evolution is supported mostly by the fossil record and that the fossil record is insufficient.

5:50 – Prof. Gerald Skoog of Texas Tech is up. Prof. Skoog, who served as an “expert reviewer” of the curriculum standards, presents a letter supporting sound science (and opposing “strengths and weaknesses”) from the National Academy of Sciences.

5:54 – Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Free Market Foundation Focus on the Family Texas is up. He points to a letter from legislators supporting “strengths and weaknesses” and to polling showing that most American are skeptical of evolution

Well, yes. Most Americans are skeptical of a lot of things, but science isn’t decided by popular vote. Moreover, a lot of money has been poured into anti-evolution propaganda. Are we surprised by its effects on public opinion?

5:58 – Sasser suggests that taking “strengths and weaknesses” out of the standards is tantamount to totalitarianism and would put schools at legal risk for barring teachers and students from questioning evolution. This is rubbish.

6:07 – The Dallas Morning News has posted an editorial in tomorrow’s newspaper. Money quote:

The fact is, evolution is not subject to scientific questioning, as McLeroy suggests. If there are ways to present alternative views in a religion class – or, better yet, church – fine. But science class in a public school isn’t that place.

Even many people of faith accept the theory of evolution. Daniel Foster, a professor at the UT Southwestern Medical Center and an elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, exemplified this on yesterday’s Viewpoints page, urging the board to reject amendments that question evolution.

“No” votes to the anti-evolution parts of the standards are doubly important because what happens in Texas doesn’t stay here. Because the state has so many students, textbook publishers write to Texas standards and then sell their books to districts around the nation.

Doubting evolution shouldn’t be Texas’ legacy. More importantly, our students should not be subject to an erroneous line of teaching.

6:10 – The National Center for Science Education has posted a letter signed by 54 scientific and educational societies opposed to dumbing down instruction on evolution.

6:17 – Good heavens. Some evolution opponents have no problem at all distorting what others have written. The dishonesty is appalling. We just heard someone point to a New Scientist article about Darwin’s tree of life as evidence that evolution has weaknesses. Yet this is what New Scientist has to say in an editorial:

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, we await a third revolution that will see biology changed and strengthened. None of this should give succour to creationists, whose blinkered universe is doubtless already buzzing with the news that “New Scientist has announced Darwin was wrong”. Expect to find excerpts ripped out of context and presented as evidence that biologists are deserting the theory of evolution en masse. They are not.

Nor will the new work do anything to diminish the standing of Darwin himself. When it came to gravitation and the laws of motion, Isaac Newton didn’t see the whole picture either, but he remains one of science’s giants. In the same way, Darwin’s ideas will prove influential for decades to come.

6:47 – We told you earlier that dueling press conferences (for and against dumbing down instruction in evolution) were interrupted by observers, as happened with this woman:

“My grandfather was not a monkey!” one woman shouted at a crowd before the meeting began.

You can read more about today’s science debate in an Associated Press story that just hit the wire.

6:48 – Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science is up. He is taking the board to the woodshed for refusing to hear from science experts when considering amendments to the standards in January.

6:51 – Testimony has just ended. The board will begin debate on the standards tomorrow, likely around mid-morning. TFN Insider will be live-blogging the debate and keeping you updated on events here.

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78 Comments

  1. Posted March 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    That’s why Republicans are behind it, … in the name of their god.

  2. Posted March 26, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the real issue. Intelligent people will take their children out of “intelligently-designed”-to-fail public schools . Only the less empowered will remain, and they will soon be considered too great a strain on our tax base, and then we will finally put an end to this experiment we called public education and the middle class. This is not an intelligent direction, but as anyone can see, it is a larger more directed issue of closing down public services and the middle class, than it is an issue of faith.

  3. Posted March 26, 2009 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    And come on, there are weaknesses with the theory of evolution.

    Like what?

  4. Ben
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Do you think my theory should be taught in school?

  5. ScienceMinded
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    With Ben on your side, no wonder you lose all credibility TFN. Now Jason claims you are NOT mainstream!!

  6. Ben
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    By the way, ScienceMinded, you never gave me your opinion.

    Do you think my theory should be taught in school?

  7. Ben
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    It occurred to me that if ScienceMinded was possessed by Satan, he probably wouldn’t know it, would he? I mean, it is entirely plausible, isn’t it? If a person chooses to believe in supernatural entities, couldn’t Satan be just as real as the others?

  8. Jason
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    ScienceMinded bleated:

    “Hey Charles, Maybe it appears so lopsided because your unsubstantiated, narrow-minded beliefs aren’t all that mainstream!”

    Reality is not decided by consensus. Try it yourself. Try voting that the sky is green, and see what happens.

    Argumentum ad populum is fallacious, has no bearing on reality, and has no business dictating what is taught in the science classroom.

  9. ScienceMinded
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Well I had heard the actual agenda was supposed to be about strengths and weaknesses, not about evolution. I will give you this though, I tried to find the current detailed agenda for this SBOE meeting, and I couldn’t find one. I will talk to all my liberal friends at the SBOE to make sure they publish an accurate detailed agenda from this point on. Has anyone else read/know what the current agenda states??

    And come on, there are weaknesses with the theory of evolution. I know you guys don’t think so, but I know that gaps are weaknesses. Get brave and admit it. It would actually make your side of the debate stronger. You would at least start to appear credible. And, like I also said, just because there are weaknesses in a theory, doesn’t mean the theory isn’t useful. ANd then, following your admission of weaknesses, step up and advocate the teaching of both recognized strengths and weaknesses of ALL theories presented in public classrooms — Theories in every subject area including science, social sciences, history, even religion!!

    To Ben: If you think I’m Satan, you wouldn’t want me in the classroom. I volunteer extensively in the public schools and the kids love me!! Currently, I’m working with middle school science students to build and race fuel-cell-powered model cars. I think we all know who Satan’s prophets are. Maybe TFN is Satan’s website?!?! Is that you Satan? Oh Satan, Satan, you aren’t making it too far with TFN now, are you!?!?

    And Realist: Like I said before, and I say it again, I think the right-wing SBOE damages their credibility to veer off subject. They should be sticking to the strengths and weaknesses agenda, not evolution. Evolution should not even be allowed to be debated on the floor.

    Charles: Sometimes a different path is a better path to take to gain your objective. I think this is actually one time where a win-win situation could actually exist. At least with strengths and weaknesses, it opens the door for determining what criteria should be used to establish strengths and weaknesses that are presented in the classroom. I don’t think the outcome of the vote, either way, has much to do with Satan.

    And Rocket Mike: What you witnessed today may be fallout of what Charles has noted all along — and what I believe is true of both sides here. In regards to both evolution and religion, we have trees trying to talk to trees. Nobody is budging, no one is going to change their minds, no matter how many experts testify. The odds are that if the votes were cast before testimony began, and then again after all testimony has been heard, the outcome would be exactly the same. We’ll just have to wait and see. I just advocate teaching both recognized strengths and weaknesses. I think mainstream scientists do to0!

  10. TheThomas
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    The claims of the creationist always come across stronger because they lie. Their position is extreme, and scientist’s is reasonable, so the middle ground between them is still extreme. This is what skews the public opinion. If we had maniacs screaming about all of our parents coming from lesser apes the middle ground would be right about where we stand.
    A thought: should we pay people to stand in crowds and act like extremist Darwinist or Evolutionists…live up to their stereotype of us?

  11. Charles
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    “One thing’s for sure, no matter how the vote goes. By the weekend, there will still be zero pieces of evidence to refute evolution, there will still be evidence from millions of peer-reviewed scientific research papers supporting evolution (100% supporting and 0% refuting, kinda takes the shine off of “weaknesses”), and creationists will still be misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting science in general.”

    If the world looks like this, it will not matter:

    But it could be like this:

  12. Posted March 25, 2009 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    TFN says,
    –Says Genie: You will have a Texas edition with junk science in it, and the rest of the country will have a different textbook with real science.–

    I’ve got news for Genie — a popular biology textbook, “Biology” by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, California, and Texas editions.

    –6:07 – The Dallas Morning News has posted an editorial in tomorrow’s newspaper. Money quote:
    The fact is, evolution is not subject to scientific questioning, as McLeroy suggests. If there are ways to present alternative views in a religion class – or, better yet, church – fine. But science class in a public school isn’t that place.

    As I have pointed out, many scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution are so technically sophisticated that they should be taught only by qualified science teachers.

    Because the state has so many students, textbook publishers write to Texas standards and then sell their books to districts around the nation.

    As I have also pointed out, no school system anywhere in the world — including Texas — is required to use Texas-approved textbooks.

    –6:10 – The National Center for Science Education has posted a letter signed by 54 scientific and educational societies opposed to dumbing down instruction on evolution.–

    I think that all of these letters from scientific organizations have been nullified by the Texas Republican Party’s recent resolution asking GOP members of the board to support the “strengths and weaknesses” language. To restore the language to the Texas TEKS, only one vote switch is needed from the three GOP board members who voted against the language in January. Will all three of these board members bite the hand that feeds them? We shall see.

    ckelly Says:
    –Why are we going through all this again after the January vote? —

    I too thought that the January vote on the “strengths and weaknesses” language was final. As the saying goes, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

    Also, the adopted amendments that were introduced out-of-the-blue at the January meeting should now be reconsidered because the public did not get a chance to comment on them prior to adoption.

  13. Posted March 25, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Are the Democrats and the rational Republicans just letting the creationist cultists flail about because they know their forces for reason have the eight vote majority?

  14. James F
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    One thing’s for sure, no matter how the vote goes. By the weekend, there will still be zero pieces of evidence to refute evolution, there will still be evidence from millions of peer-reviewed scientific research papers supporting evolution (100% supporting and 0% refuting, kinda takes the shine off of “weaknesses”), and creationists will still be misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting science in general.

  15. Charles
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    ScienceMinded:

    Please grow up. No. That would be asking too much.

    This is not about science, and you know it. This is about getting your foot in the door to teach a particular religious belief system to science students. And by the way, in addition to being a Christian Neo-Fundamentalist, are you also a Dominionist, Christian Reconstructionist, and Theonomist?

    Oh well, I do not know who will win in the voting tomorrow and Friday. You guys might very well win. It certainly does look as if our side tucked tail and ran today.

    It looks as if this is going to be a very long war where both sides may win some battles. However, if evolution is true and factual, it will win ultimately because, as the Bible tells us and as history tells us, the truth will always win in the end. We can be sure of that much. In fact, there is an ultimate possibilty that both of us might win this—that being a situation where evolution really did happen and God was the creative hand in its operation along the way. I believe that this is most likely correct. You see. I am a creationist too—but not the same kind that you are.

    However, I have another concern. Before we ever get to that ultimate truth and resolution that I mentioned above, I fear that the near-term winner is going to be that Evil Force in the world that the Bible refers to as Satan. You think that he has deceived us folks that you refer to as apostate Christians. We think that he has deceived you Christian Neo-Fundamentalist folks. It probably does not matter which side has really been deceived—or perhaps whether both have been deceived. If one person pulls out a knife and takes a swing at another person, the other person is pretty much obligated to defend his own life. All the Satanic force wants is for both sides to rip each other to shreds while it laughs gleely at the mayhem and takes another swig of its beverage. From his perpsective, it is all great sport. In the end, all of us Christians will be saved by grace rather than our works. Even the most stringent of the Separate Baptist fundies buy into the “eternal security” doctrine. I suppose we will all just limp bleeding into the kingdom of Heaven—having left 5 billion dead bodies and a charred Planet Earth behind us.

  16. Posted March 25, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    http://fbisdwatch.blogspot.com/2009/03/chron-district-continues-to-push-for.html
    Ya can’t “buy” or “vote” education into Texas! A little “thinking” might be a step in the right direction.

  17. realist
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    If its not about evolution, why are they attacking it at every corner?? It has nothing to do with “strengths and weaknesses”, its just a way of sneaking a narrow “view” of ones religion in public school classrooms.

  18. Ben
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    This just in:

    My Satan-wrote-the-bible theory remains undisputed. One of the tenets is as follows:

    Satan controls the thoughts of people like ScienceMinded, tricking them into thinking evolution isn’t an accurate theory.

    I want that taught in school!

    After all, shouldn’t all theories by presented? Can’t we let the students make up their own minds? What are you afraid of!!!!! The students would be free to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of my theory, of course.

    ScienceMinded, would you be willing to visit some schools and talk to the students, so they can decide if you’re possessed by Satan? Let me know and we’ll set something up.

  19. jdg
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    # ScienceMinded Says:
    March 25, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Hey Charles, Maybe it appears so lopsided because your unsubstantiated, narrow-minded beliefs aren’t all that mainstream! At least, they didn’t appear to be too mainstream at today’s hearings. As far as the SBOE goes, we will have to wait until the votes have been cast. And remember, it’s about strengths and weaknesses, not evolution. I say, let foundational theories be taught in the appropriate classrooms, along with all the recognized strengths and weaknesses. That is exactly what the right-wing faction of the SBOE advocates! Sounds good to me!!!

    One again, there are NO weaknesses of evolution! How many times do we have to say that in order for it to get into your thick skull?
    btw are you Phillip Johnson?

  20. Ben
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Fafarman finally shook Satan’s grip, so Satan latched onto ScienceMinded.

    Anyone know a good exorcist?

    Fafarman, got any tips for ScienceMinded on how to deal with Satanic possession?

  21. ScienceMinded
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Hey Charles, Maybe it appears so lopsided because your unsubstantiated, narrow-minded beliefs aren’t all that mainstream! At least, they didn’t appear to be too mainstream at today’s hearings. As far as the SBOE goes, we will have to wait until the votes have been cast. And remember, it’s about strengths and weaknesses, not evolution. I say, let foundational theories be taught in the appropriate classrooms, along with all the recognized strengths and weaknesses. That is exactly what the right-wing faction of the SBOE advocates! Sounds good to me!!!

  22. Posted March 25, 2009 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Who is this graduate student from Rice, “Sarah” who when questioned by Dunbar (?) about weaknesses could only bring up moths and Haekel?

    According to these Rice University faculty meeting minutes, Sara Kolb Hicks was recommended for a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Rice University on May 8, 2004. Her dissertation director was Lisa Marie Meffert, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Also on her committee was Dr. Paul A. Harcombe, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

    Her doctoral thesis was entitled “The effects of competition on courtship behavior in the housefly, Musca domestica” and can be found here.

  23. ScienceMinded
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Steve Schafersman! That’s your hero? Your doomed!!!!!!!!! Talk about prophetic liars… Go Stevo!! Thanks for keeping the right-wing SBOE side looking sooooo good!!!!!

  24. Charles
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I bet Nunez doesn’t want to chat with anyone on the phone. It sounds as if he retired to cower in his rabbit hole. Good grief!!!!!!

  25. ScienceMinded
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s obvious TFNer’s don’t understand science!! All you guys think evolution is the holy grail of scientific theories. It isn’t even close!! Hey, and remember, gaps, just like your thought processes, are all weaknesses!!!! Remember, the agenda is not about evolution like you would like to make people believe, it’s about teaching recognized strengths and weaknesses of all theories presented in the classroom. If your afraid of that, then the right-wing board members surely have you squirming. What a bunch of pansies here at TFN. Come on, get a spine! Why don’t you agree to just let religion, creationism, evolution, …, all theories stand up to the strengths and weaknesses agenda? No scientist, NONE, would be afraid of that!!!!

  26. Charles
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I smell a rat here. I think someone behind the scenes in the Texas Republican Party “got to” the Texas SBOE Republicans who are against the “weaknesses” language, and they probably got to “Tincy” Miller too. I can see no other reason why they would have sat there frozen throughout this entire meeting like deer in strong headlights. Lyndon Johnson used to threaten people with things like, “If you don’t vote for my bill boy, the morning newspapers are going to know all about that gal you are fooling around with behind your wife’s back.” I just wonder what they did to intimidate the small number of Democrats on the board—who also sat there like frozen dumb bunnies for hours while platefuls of nonsense were thrown at them. I never saw such a one-sided and unfairly favored round of testimony in my life—on any subject—anywhere. I think the news media will not be doing their job if they do not thoroughly investigate this farce and get to the bottom of it for the public good.

    And yes, why doesn’ one of these “frozen deer” ask the key question that no creationist has ever been able to answer? If all of the evolutionary, molecular biology, and genetic information is so thoroughly wrong, please present us with your fully coherent and detailed explanation of the ALTERNATIVE SCIENCE that explains it all much better?

    This farce today was nothing short of disgusting.

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