Live-Blogging the SBOE Science Hearing II

TFN has taken up its usual post in the board hearing room at the State Board of Education, where we are bringing you up-to-the-minute action from today’s one and only hearing on proposed new science instructional materials. (We’re also live-tweeting at #sboe.) For anyone who wants to watch the proceedings, the meeting is being live-streamed here.

For a primer on what’s at stake today and tomorrow, you can view an archive of TFN Insider posts on the science debate by clicking here.

1:00 p.m. – The SBOE is back from lunch, and the public hearing on proposed science instructional materials is about to begin.

1:10 – The board plans to limit testimony today to four hours, with each speaker permitted two minutes for his or her statement. In the past we’ve seen time for a speaker extended if board members have questions.

1:14 – Clare Wuellner of Austin kicks off testimony by calling on state board members to adopt instructional materials based on sound science.

1:16 – Testifier Tom Davis asks of anti-evolution board members: “Whose story of creation are you going to use?”

1:18 – Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna asks whether Davis can identify anywhere in the proposed instructional materials and curriculum standards where creationism is mentioned. Board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, offers a $500 reward to anyone who can identify where creationism, Jesus or religion is mentioned. Both are being terribly disingenuous. The arguments both have made against evolution come from religion-based “intelligent design”/creationism. And that’s true whether the words “intelligent design”/creationism even show up in the text.

1:25 – And how disingenuous are Bradley and Mercer being, by the way? Here’s a passage from science instructional materials submitted by New Mexico-based International Databases for adoption by the state board:

“Since such materialistic, self organization scenarios now have a history of scientific insufficiency for explaining the Origin of Life on Earth, the Null hypothesis (default) stands. This allows for the testing of the legitimate scientific hypothesis……Life on Earth is the result of intelligent causes.”

You can make out your check to “Texas Freedom Network,” Mr. Mercer.

1:29 – Board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, complains that testifiers are expressing concerns that the board might adopt anti-evolution materials and pretends that there are no such materials. That’s untrue. International Databases is straight-up “intelligent design”/creationism.

1:30 – TFN President Kathy Miller is testifying, calling on the board to adopt only those instructional materials recommended by science review teams and the state’s education commissioner.

1:32 – Jonathan Saenz of Liberty Institute is up. He suggests that the proposed science materials from most of the publishers fail to teach “all sides” about evolution. He says the board needs to identify “factual errors” in the materials and reject those materials.

1:37 – Board member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, asks whether Saenz supports adopting the education commissioner’s list of recommended science instructional materials. Saenz says he’s “seen enough information” to indicate that some of the materials are factually inaccurate. He identifies materials from two publishers, Pearson and Holt McDougal, in particular. Of course, the anti-evolution Discover Institute has sharply criticized the materials from both publishers.

1:43 - Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science is up.

1:48 – A second testifier, Franklin Mayo, claims that the proposed science materials fail to present “all sides” of scientific evidence.

1:57 – SMU Prof. Ron Wetherington is up. Prof. Wetherington served on one of the science instructional review teams in June. He calls for adopting the education commissioner’s recommended list of instructional materials — a list that doesn’t include the “intelligent design”/creationist materials from International Databases.

2:12 - Young-earth creationist David Shormann up to testify now. Shormann served on an official TEA review panel that evaluated some of theses materials. He was appointed to that position by new board Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands. If you are curious about where Shormann stands on scientific concepts like the age of the earth, here he is in his own words:

“Treating Earth history as just that, history, I can find physical and written testimony that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. And just as most of us have no problem believing Jesus Christ was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago, we should have no problem believing there were about 4,000 years from the Beginning to Christ’s birth. Studying natural history can be an interesting, fun, and adventure-filled pursuit, but it is not real science, and shouldn’t be treated like it is. Be wary of the opinions of those who insist otherwise.”

2:13 – Shormann: “Unless you have a time machine or a crystal ball,” you can’t go back and prove events in natural history.

2:15 – Shormann is done. No questions from board members.

2:21 – So far, the overwhelming majority of testifiers oppose the adoption of the International Databases materials (which failed to make the commissioner’s list of recommendations but which the board could add by a simple majority vote). That same majority opposes forcing publishers to make revisions that weaken instruction on evolutionary science in the other materials submitted. Board member Terri Leo and Chairwoman Cargill insist that testifiers stop referring to International Databases because materials from that publisher did not make the commissioner’s list of recommendations. But those two board members in the past have voted to disregard official recommendations to the board on curriculum standards and textbooks. So testifiers today are justified in calling on the board to stick to the commissioner’s recommendations.

2:26 – Mathematics Prof. Lorenzo Sadun from the University of Texas at Austin testifies in support of sound science instruction.

2:27 – Creationist board members seem exasperated by the testimony. They keep complaining, essentially, that testifiers are worried about something that’s not a threat — namely, the insertion of their personal religious beliefs into science instructional materials. But the history of this board demonstrates otherwise. Some of these board members have repeatedly tried to promote their own religious and personal beliefs in curriculum standards in the past.

3:03 – Testimony continues. Still overwhelmingly opposed to revising the legitimate science instructional materials.

3:13 – Prof. Andy Ellington from the University of Texas at Austin is up. Very forceful testimony calling on the board not to dumb down science instruction.

3:27 – Science doctoral student and National Science Foundation Fellow John Woods explains the importance of evolutionary science to biological research.

3:43 – Testimony is proceeding at a rapid pace. One thing seems pretty clear: creationist pressure groups failed to get many of their activists out to testify in favor of including “intelligent design”/creationism arguments in the proposed instructional materials.

4:05 – Testimony done now. Chairwoman Cargill invites representatives from publishers to come respond to testimony, but there are no takers. She announces a short break. Board members will return at 4:30 to begin their discussion of the science materials. Keep in mind, this is where curriculum and textbook adoption processes in the past have gone off course into politically treacherous waters. Stay tuned.

This article was posted in these categories: evolution, live blog, 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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19 Comments

  1. Lorenzo Sadun
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comments, Tony, but in truth I blew the call on McLeroy’s (non)confirmation as chair. I was unaware of the movement being organized to block him, and I wrote a LTE to the Austin American-Statesman saying that, however crazy his views, he wielded the gavel with courtesy and fairness and should be approved. I didn’t see what we would gain by substituting Lowe (or, Lord help us, Dunbar) for McLeroy, and at the level of SBOE procedure I still don’t. (McLeroy is a much better person than many of his former colleagues, who honestly believes in the idiocy he’s peddling and who has a reasonable sense of fair play.)

    But perhaps Ratliff’s victory in the primary last year owes something to his not getting confirmed — I didn’t think about that angle. In other words, I shot from the hip and undercut The Game Plan, which was A Bad Thing To Do.

    (That, and there’s only one “n” in my last name!)

  2. Posted July 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Tony Whitson — where are you sitting?

  3. Posted July 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Will you get video and audio of Andy Ellington?

  4. Jed
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    i assume he brings up gravity because it is commonly referred to as a scientific “law.”

    fact is, there is no such thing, in any practical sense. science is not about proving things (sorry, shormann), it is about disproving them.

    somebody should really just define scientific “theory” for the board, explain that this is the highest designation there is, and how evolution meets that standard but ID does not.

  5. Posted July 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Daniel Boone claims the $1500 prize for finding ID/Creationism in the TEKS under code words like “alternative theories.”

    Bravo!

    This was elaborated by David Burgess, the next speaker, who talked about subtrefuge and euphemisms, and compared the Board with mob dons who say “take care of him,” and can then deny that they meant what they meant.

  6. Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    2:26 – Mathematics Prof. Lorenzo Sadun from the University of Texas at Austin testifies in support of sound science instruction.

    I think Prof. Sandun has been absolutley heroic over these few years. I think he’s testified not only in the SBOE process itself, but in the Leg. hearings on Chairman Mc’s reappointment — most effectively, IMHO.

    However:

    I think he made one mistake in his testimony today, when he said that there is almost as much evidence for evolution as their is for gravity.

    Well, there’s no simple metric for this, but I think by any measure the evidence supporting evolutionary theory is oceanic in comparison with evidence supporting any theory of gravitation. Survey the journals, or look through college textbooks that reference journal articles.

    Theories of gravitation are way more thin and speculative than evolutionary theory. Also, contrary to what anti-evolution people like to say, “gravity” is not something that we can observe. We observe falling, orbits, etc.; but “gravity” as a scientific construct is something we get by inference, not by observation.

  7. Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    “Creationist board members seem exasperated by the testimony. They keep complaining, essentially, that testifiers are worried about something that’s not a threat — namely, the insertion of their personal religious beliefs into science instructional materials. But the history of this board demonstrates otherwise. Some of these board members have repeatedly tried to promote their own religious and personal beliefs in curriculum standards in the past.”

    Selective memory – and they don’t like getting called on past misbehavior.

  8. Quentin Dergan
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    2:37
    There are some major a..holes on this board. :/

  9. Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Tony Whitson
    Do you have an unbroken chain of evidence for your eyewitness testimony. Can two independent sources verify that testimony?
    Darwin’s most convincing evidence for evolution was from living species and their interrelatedness that indicated nested hierarchy. All verifiable by multiple independent investigators with open minds.

  10. Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    “But the evidence for evolution is all circumstantial.”

    Well…, gee, I thought the fossil record was pretty factual.. lol Emphasis on factual.

  11. Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Shormann: “Unless you have a time machine or a crystal ball,” you can’t go back and prove events in natural history.

    Very true! We also can’t see an enzyme catalyze a reaction. Can’t see what hell is going on… Yet our models of enzyme kinematics seem to work, every time. Much of our medical technology relies on these models. But since we really can’t see what is going on, maybe should also hypothesize divine intervention?

  12. Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Charles Taylor

    1:48 – Another testifier claims that the proposed science materials fail to present “all sides” of scientific evidence.

    HA! Absolutely. All evidence should certainly be included. Where is your evidence of creation/ID? Ain’t any!!! Zilch. Big fat 0!

    But the evidence for evolution is all circumstantial.
    The evidence for creation is eyewitness testimony — even a confession by the Perpetrator, actually.

  13. Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    1:48 – Another testifier claims that the proposed science materials fail to present “all sides” of scientific evidence.

    HA! Absolutely. All evidence should certainly be included. Where is your evidence of creation/ID? Ain’t any!!! Zilch. Big fat 0!

  14. Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Ratliff kept pressing Saenz to identify any specific error. Soto followed in this vein. Saenz was flustered. This is a new experience for him — being called by Board members to justify his broad charges.

  15. Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    uh…. Mr. Saenz, there are not many ‘sides’ to evolution. We’re all on the same page concerning general evolutionary theory.

  16. Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    did not realize my first comment posted. Now I know what I am doing…

  17. Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    A rhetorical response to David Bradley and Ken Mercer:

    Can you identify anywhere in the Bible where “Christianity” is mentioned?

  18. Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    So god is the null hypothesis? WTF?

  19. Anonymous
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    So the null hypothesis is a creator? WTF?

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