Another Pro-Science Conservative

A couple of our readers have pointed to an example of how the debate over science education has divided conservative ranks. Joel Walker is a candidate for the local school board in College Station, home of Texas State Board of Education chairman Don McLeroy. While we can’t endorse Mr. Walker’s candicacy, we found his perspective on science education refreshing. If you want to read a self-described conservative Republican’s defense of sound science education, check this out.

Excerpts:

The proponents of ["intelligent design"] are generally careful to avoid explicit religious language, and often cast themselves as the protectors of science, innocuously seeking to probe the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary biology and big-bang cosmology in an open minded manner. Certainly science embraces skepticism, but there is a deep flaw in the vision of science which is being advocated. Skepticism in the face of a preponderance of evidence is only unreasonable doubt.

Admitting some few exceptions, the considered verdict on these matters among active researchers in the relevant fields is settled, with a statistical weight approaching unanimity. It is inappropriate to ask our high school students to sit in their judgment; we must first simply educate them as to what has been learned. Surely the ultimate truths of science are not up for, nor are ever settled by, a vote of men. As a practical matter however, the science standards of our state are up for vote once each decade. An entrenched mindset bordering on reflexive antipathy to the opinions of our most distinguished scholars has no place on our State Board of Education.

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11 Comments

  1. Cytocop
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    A bit off-topic, but picking up on what Arthur Dykes wrote above, I’d like to write about the use of the word ‘day.’ Genesis tells us that the world was created in 6 days and on the 7th day, God rested. However, a later verse in the same Bible says that the Jewish people would be “many days” without a prince, a sacrifice, etc.

    Well, the last Jewish king was King Herod. Yes, THAT King Herod whose death is roughly dated at 4 or 6 BCE. The Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, meaning that the Jewish people have been without a ‘sacrifice’ since 70 CE and have been without a ‘prince’ since 4 BCE.

    Are we catching on here? It’s been quite a few “days” since 4 BCE and 70 CE. We can therefore conclude that the definition of ‘day’ can be very elastic, to put it mildly.

  2. Posted May 6, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I vote for the scientific view. Since none of us was there when it happened we don’t, can’t know for sure, however when the evidence of geology is considered (and it must be) how could we still believe what we were taught in Sunday School. For one thing, how long is a day? That has little meaning except here on earth or related to earth as in space flight. In the universe it is a non started.

  3. Charles
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Paul is right. When all the educated, decent, and respectable Republicans (in the mold of Howard Baker, Jr., Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Dwight Eisenhower, etc. are all gone from the Republican Party, all that will be left is a room full of urban legend proponents (Obamas birth certificate) , conspiracy theorists, John Birch paranoids, religious whackos and fascists, racists, and just about every other kind of reprehensible mindset you can imagine. In a word—“fruitcakes.” Mark my word. Four years from now—on the last night of the Republican National Convention:

    “…and now ladies and gentlemen—the moment you have all been waiting for—I would like to introduce a man made of flour from the great wheat fields of Kansas; a man made of candied pineapple from the Great State of Hawaii; a man made of candied cherries from the tree that George Washington himself chopped down; a man made of candied dates from the Whose Wife Am I Dating Game Now, a man made of nuts from the Discovery Institute, Focus on the Family, and Liberty University; a white-sheeted man still a RAISIN Cain because they drove old Dixie down; a man soaked in the blended Puerto Rican rum of Christian Reconstructionism, Dominion Theology, John Birch, McCarthyism; Wall Street Bankers; and Derivative Fund Gamblers; a real dessert of a man packed securely for sale in the box of lies, greed, selfishness, crookedness, exploitation, and heartlessness; and blessed as clean, kosher, and wholesome by the Southern Baptist Convention. Yes, my friends, here is a real sweet man…the nominee of your party for President of the United States…”

  4. Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    I knew it, I knew it, I knew it… There just had to be conservative, rational, mainstream-Christian Republicans that respect education, science, and the Constitution out there. This guy sure sounds like he fits the bill. I’m not saying that I support him for the office he is seeking, but I sure admire his logic and arguments. He sounds like the type of person that that we need to look for to run against the entrenched BLZ’s in the Republican primaries.

  5. Paul
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    The idea of pro-science conservatives should not be so foreign. To confuse “Texas Republicans” with true conservatives is a fallacy, especially since the TX GOP has done everything it can to push real conservatives out of the party. If TFN is really interested in making changes in Texas, they would recognize that true conservatives are the ones leaving the GOP to let the religious right wing fend for itself. If you focus on such labels and feel it necessary to praise only liberal Democrats, you are missing a huge opportunity.

    • Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Maybe we’re being a little sensitive here, but we have praised conservative Republicans on a variety of issues. Most recently, we thought (and said) that SBOE members Bob Craig, Pat Hardy and Tincy Miller had stood up for sound science and against ideological, anti-science agendas in classrooms. And, of course, the point of this blog post was to show precisely what Paul is saying: that there are conservative Republicans who support sound science. More broadly, they’re tired of seeing their party hijacked by religious extremists who want to use government to promote their own narrow religious views over everyone else’s.

  6. Dr. Donald Masters
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    We all should wish Mr. Walker well in his pursuit for a SB position, particularly with his view of the sanctity of science in its ongoing battle with ID/creationism. Philip Johnson, the “father’ of ID( a necessary entity after the Supreme Court, in 1987 illegalized the teaching of creationism in the public schools) has thrown down the challenge to science and its stand on naturalism: “This never has been a debate about science …..It’s about religion and philosophy” He goes on to outline his strategy of how he plans to bring down naturalism, the basis of science, and replace it with biblically based ID. We cant take this threat lightly as I did for sveral years untill learning that over 50% of adults beleive in creationism/ID and would want it to be given at least egual time with evolution in the science curiculum even though there us not a shred of testable evidence to support it. There are far more creationists on school boards around the country than one might think, and they are well financed and supported in strategy from one of several institutions such as the Discovery Institute. All this to destroy the influence of science and replace it with a primitive allegory. Sounds sick? it is …particularly when SBs are suppose to have our kids education as their first and last reason for being. We just cant assume that everything is going to be allright; we must know our candidates and be more aggressive in both support and opposition. Attendence at meetings, staying in touch with school administration, and with legislators can be of value if needed. I for one am not going to take the issue of quality education for granted again.

  7. Der Rot Baron
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    First, what would be the public reason we cannot endorse Walker’s candidacy, and what would be the real reason TFN leadership wouldn’t?

    Second, what is a preponderance of evidence that constitutes unreasonable doubt? An oft mentioned item, as is here, is the Big Bang theory. Anyone who has been following astrophysics/cosmology and theoretical physics lately will see that the past interpretations of the preponderance of evidence are being challenged, within the “mainstream” scientific & physics community. There is new evidence to be considered, the preexisting evidence can be interpreted in new or different ways, and new theories (through mathematical physics, etc) are being generated in an attempt to produce unified theory, and be put up for empirical test. Previously, and more relevant to the current attempts to prevent the insertion of sectarian religion into public education, it was stated that a human appendix was an “evolutionary” vestige: NOT – its an immune organ, just like tonsils.

    I much appreciate Mr Walker’s position and statement, and know that there are many more “conservatives” who hold similar positions and are concerned about the viability of public education and our future. Whether he recognizes the current challenges in astrophysics and new scientific evidence or not, Walker agrees with most of us who have testified to the SBOE, including science teachers, that you cannot teach the creationists/ID trojan horse of McCleroy, “strenghts and weakness” (aka, “analytical thinking”) until you have taught a content upon which that thinking process is to operate. So, I would agree, as nearly all TFNers would, that we need to teach the basic content, the evidence, of modern science, and probably how the great scientist came to the conclusions they did about that evidence in their time. We don’t need to be teaching non-evidence based pseudoscience and “prove a negative” arguments, absence of evidence = evidence of absence, etc in secondary schools. We’re teaching something about physics and something about method, creating interest, and a general knowledge of what science is. We’re trying to teach beginning science, not train trial lawyers or sectarian religious preachers. We need more Walker’s on TFN’s side, no matter what their party affiliation.

    • Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      To maintain its status as a tax-exempt nonprofit, TFN may not publicly endorse or oppose candidates for elective office. TFN may endorse candidates in communications to dues-paying members, and we did so in 2006 and 2008. The TFN PAC, however, may make public endorsements. That PAC is not associated with this blog and was last active in the 2008 election.

  8. BernieAttorney
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Coincidence but this topic was briefly discussed today, May 5th, on “THE VIEW.” Elizabeth’s comments were not understood by me, Sherri is for the Bible & faith, Whoopi took a sort of ecumenical approach, Barbara obfuscated to preclude strong preference but Joy came through with concept of not teaching faith in science class. I paraphrase what was said but report the essence of what was said.
    Bernard Kaye, Attorney, Frisco, TX

  9. Ben
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Interesting post. His description of ID proponents sounds exactly like that guy known as ScienceMinded. I wonder what happened to him.

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