Barbara Cargill’s Anti-Science Agenda

New Texas State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, made clear at her speech last week to Texas Eagle Forum activists that she is determined to politicize the board’s adoption of science instructional materials on July 20-22. She’ll be walking in the footsteps of former board chairman Don McLeroy and chairwoman Gail Lowe, both of whom failed to win Senate confirmation because they put their political agendas ahead of educating Texas kids.

We’ve already told you about about Cargill questioning the faith of state board colleagues who don’t agree with her. And we reported other troubling comments from Cargill’s Texas Eagle Forum talk. But Cargill also made extended comments about the coming science adoption — and those comments aren’t encouraging for parents who want their children to get an education based on sound science instead of ideology.

Calling the 2009 debate over new science curriculum standards a “spiritual battle,” Cargill essentially revealed why she and her board allies insisted on inserting into those standards arguments about the “complexity of the cell” and “gaps in the fossil record.” Both topics are in the anti-evolution Discovery Institute’s arsenal of junk science arguments promoting “intelligent design”/creationism. Cargill told her listeners :

“If you have students analyzing and evaluating the fossil record, then that gets them really thinking: ‘OK, there are gaps in the fossil record.’ Matter of fact, there are more gaps in the fossil record than there is a continuum in the fossil record. So it gets our high school students really thinking.”

The National Center for Science Education debunks the “gaps in the fossil record” argument against evolution in examining the classic “intelligent design”/creationism textbook Of Pandas and People. In any case, Cargill’s statement reveals a classic and deeply dishonest tactic employed by anti-evolution fanatics. The goal, as made clear in The Wedge strategy crafted by the Discovery Institute, is to raise doubts about well-established, settled science — thus opening the door to junk science arguments. (More about The Wedge strategy here.)

Cargill wants the board to walk right through that door. Later in her talk she noted that she was troubled by passages in the proposed instructional materials that explore the real scientific evidence for evolution:

“I am not quite sure if we are going to have the votes to overturn that. We will work diligently to rectify and correct some of that.”

Of course, this is precisely what TFN and other supporters of science education have been warning about for two years. For Cargill and other creationists on the state board, the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution needs to be “rectified” and “corrected.” For them, science is a question of politics and votes: if Cargill’s faction has a majority, then more than a century of scientific research and the pleas of Nobel laureates and other scientists will make no difference.

Interestingly, Cargill also told her audience about approaching her pastor years ago regarding science and faith. She asked if she could borrow some of the church’s classrooms to offer science classes that “teach children that science and God go together and that God is our creator that we are made in His image.”

We are gratified that Cargill and her church (and all other people of faith) have the freedom to do precisely that. Indeed, religious instruction is absolutely the right and responsibility of parents and congregations. It is wrong, however, to put public schools in the position of choosing whose religious beliefs — including Cargill’s — to teach in science classrooms. The job of public schools is simply to teach mainstream science based on sound scholarship.

Unfortunately, Cargill doesn’t appear to agree. And now Gov. Rick Perry has recklessly given her the authority to preside over the state board’s consideration of science instructional materials for public schools.

This article was posted in these categories: Barbara Cargill, evolution, science, Science adoption (2011), science and religion. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a Comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


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6 Comments

  1. John
    Posted August 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Are we headed to another Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover … ? Hopefully the well thought out opinion of Judge Jones will stand as a legal precedent. Judge Jones mentions one false dichotomy in his opinion, namely “… evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed …”. There is however another false dichotomy; you either believe in God and reject evolution, or you accept evolution and are a godless atheist. While this fits the agenda of the “righteous right” (Thanks, Doc Bill, love that) but would be strongly disputed by the many of my friends who have abiding faith in God, and an intelligent acceptance of modern science. But my two favorite articles pointing out how ridiculous ID is are found in the Onion which you can smile as you read here: http://www.theonion.com/articles/evangelical-scientists-refute-gravity-with-new-int,1778/
    and an article reprinted from The Humanist, Sept/Oct 2006 and found here. http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/p67.htm. Both of these articles refer to “the theory of gravity” which, as even a lay scientist like me knows, has significantly more holes than the theory of evolution, and quite humorously apply the same arguments the ID’ers use to dispute evolution to dispute gravity.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    The real problem is that we have to work very hard to get more scientifically-oriented people on the School Board of Education. It seems that there is so much hostility to Science in many of the people of this state. What’s more is that it seems very few local or non-local news agencies cover the on-goings of the SBOE.

    For example, I never hear anything about what’s going on in San Antonio. I listen to NPR and TPR (KSTX in San Antonio) and it seems that he reporting done is always what Gov. Perry said or John Cornyn. I never hear anything else and it seems rather sad and dismal.

  3. Posted July 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I have just a small correction for Doc Bill. Rick Perry actually did some honest labor for someone other than his father. One summer, long ago and far away, he worked for Cosby Plumbing laying water pipe to the rural folks in the vicinity of Haskell/Jones Counties. I know how hot it gets out there in the country because I have chopped weeds out of cotton fields out there in the 1950’s. (This area is not too far from Seymour where the Texas record for the hottest day was set.) I’ve always wondered if Little Ricky Perry got too much sun that summer. The full damage doesn’t always show up right away, but it may have manifested itself when he switched to the Republican Party.

  4. Charles
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Oh, what the heck. Let’s get started early:

    1) TFN Insider is not an atheist/agnostic/pasta monster/anti-religion/anti-Christian blog. All sorts of people show up here to put in their 2 cents worth. However, they tend to be people that have their heads screwed on straight, which is more than you can say for the conservative faction on the Texas SBOE.

    2) The Earth is not less than 10,000 years old. We have American Indian remains in the United States that are older than this. The American Indians were often hungry, especially during the late winter-early spring when stores from the earlier seasons ran out and before warm weather plant foods were available. We also know that the ancient American Indians have bone lesions that are indicative of malnutrition, and protein deficiency was often a big part of the problem. Dinosaurs came in all sizes from the big, long-necked plant eaters all the way down the scale of a chicken. There were lots of small dinosaurs. The world was covered with them like lice on the head of a red-headed step child. With all of this dinosaur protein running around on millions of feet, why were these expert human hunters not using them for food when “I gotta have some meat, or i’m gonna go crazy!!!” Archaeologically, we do not find dinosaur bones in ancient American Indian refuse middens. You could dig them for decades and never find a single dinosaur bone. Why is that? It is because dinosaurs and human beings never did live together at the same time.

    3) Death was on the Earth for a long time before Eve ate the fruit. Yes, we know about all of the hollow and ridiculous arguments against this that are put up on websites like Answers in Genesis and 1000s of others like it. All of these so-called arguments have been refuted many times by credible science.

    4) There is no credible physical evidence that there was ever a worldwide flood several thousand years ago. You have to go back several hundred millions years to get that—and no people were present on the Earth in those times. Yes, we know about all of the hollow and ridiculous arguments against this that are put up on websites like Answers in Genesis and 1000s of others like it. All of these so-called arguments have been refuted many times by credible science.

    5) We understand that you so-called “Bible-believing” Christians do not believe any of Items 1 through 5 because you think the Bible is a precisely tuned and thoroughly true story of science and history. However, you have to understand that there are millions upon millions of Christians all over the world that do not view the Bible in the same way that you do. Yes, they understand that you do not think they are “true” Christians, and they know all of the reasons why. What you have to understand is that most of them do not care what you think of their views on the Bible or their theology. You also have to understand that they outnumber you by millions, and there is no way that what you believe is going to win out in the long run. Why is it not going to win out? Simple. Many of the things you believe are quite simply not true.

    6) I once has a Christian fundamentalist who claimed to have a degree in physics asked me a key question:

    “Charles, whatever are you going to do when you stand before the judgement seat of God, and he informs you that Bible-Believing Christianity is 100 percent true and that everything you ever believed about evolution is dead wrong. How are you going to defend yourself when you have no defense? What will become of you in the face of the Lord’s righteous and Holy anger?”

    My response:

    “Bill, whatever are you going to do when you stand before the judgement seat of God, and he informs you that so-called Bible-believing Christianity is not 100 percent true, that he is the creator of the evolutionary process, and he gave you a brain for a reason—but you refused to use it. How are you going to defend yourself when he shows you the faces of the many millions of people who were compelled to reject Christ for no other reason than the idiot arguments you and people like you put up against obvious scientific truth that was right beneath your nose—but you were so blind that you refused to see it. All of those lost souls will be the blood dripping from your hands. What will become of you in the face of the Lord’s righteous and Holy anger?”

  5. Anonymous
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    The Righteous Right has two thousand years of experience in dealing with non-believers, the conversion or destruction thereof. They have gone through the lions v Christians persecutions, the burning at the stake, and all sorts of grisly reminders of what is seen as missions for God.

    The more disdain you heap on those who feel the weight of centuries, the more they are reinforced in their self appointed role of martyrdom. The more ridicule they get, the stronger they get.

    Their weakness is that no two agree on what is absolutely God’s Word. save that it is absolute. There is absolutely nothing more divisive than certainty.

  6. Doc Bill
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Correction: Perry didn’t “recklessly” give Cargill authority to preside over the SBOE, he carefully and deliberately chose Cargill to push the conservative religious agenda in order to pander for votes from The Base. Let’s see, what other organization calls itself The Base?

    Perry, who has been on the public payroll his entire working life, aside from a short stint “working” for his daddy is less a governor and more a politician intent on keeping his paycheck.

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