At today’s Senate confirmation hearing on Barbara Cargill’s reappointment as State Board of Education chair, Texans got a chance to see two of their elected leaders vandalizing the concept of science education in public schools.
Speaking at a meeting of Senate Education Committee just two weeks ago, Cargill said she wants publishers to “soften” their language and “teach another side” on evolution in new science textbooks they submit to the state this year. As State Board of Education chair, she would oversee the approval of those textbooks. Then at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Nominations Committee today, Cargill said critics had taken her comments out of context. (More on that in an upcoming post.) She then assured the Nominations Committee that she does not support teaching creationism in public schools.
Cargill’s comments on evolution brought about a revealing exchange between her and state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels. Campbell, a Tea Party firebrand first elected to her seat last November, seemed stunned by the idea that public school science classes can’t teach creationism alongside evolution. Cargill, on the other hand, knows the courts would not permit that and fell back on the typical pseudo-scientific arguments we often hear creationists make against evolution — claims about so-called gaps in the fossil record, “stasis,” and the like. She calls those claims “weaknesses” of evolution, even though scientists long ago debunked such arguments as nonsense.
Excerpts from the exchange between Campbell and Cargill:
Sen. Campbell:“Are we saying with this conversation here, which I’m kind of coming in here – that there is opposition, because we do not have the scientific facts to teach creation – that God did create world and man – I mean, are we trying to eliminate that? Or are we just saying we want to include evolution, or where are we there?”
Ms. Cargill: “So what we want teachers to do is to be sure and teach the parts of the fossil record in that, if you look at what has been discovered so far, that science might show that there are links between different species. So that would be one part of the science; what I would consider a strength to the theory of evolution. But then let’s look at some more science. What about stasis, which are periods of time where no new fossils appeared. Or let’s talk about transitional fossils and how some of those are missing from the fossil record, and how less than 1% of all fossils have been discovered. So it’s still all science that they’re discussing….”
Sen. Campbell, talking about teaching creationism in public schools: “But we don’t want to eliminate those things that you still do have to go on faith that are out there. I mean we—you know, science is—there are some things I you know would venture to say we’re not gonna know until we, you know, go on to eternity. Obviously I’m a Christian. I do believe in God as the creator of life, so I’m trying to make, I’m just trying to see and I don’t know if it’s your purview or if I need to check with the TEA, where that falls in line. To make sure we’re not just teaching that evolution is our only—because we can measure. To me, obviously I if I was creating anything and I had a good model like DNA, I’d use it and just tweak it a bit and have a monkey here or fish here or whatever.”
Cargill assured the committee that she wants the state board to avoid “unnecessary” controversies during her tenure as chair of the state board. With the board about to take up consideration of science textbooks, we’re not encouraged.
Stay tuned. We’ll have lots more from the Cargill hearing.