Creationists Appointed to Science Review Panels

The Texas Education Agency just released the full list of members serving on the science review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for approval by the State Board of Education (SBOE). As TFN predicted earlier this spring, the review panel for biology includes a number of individuals with a history of promoting intelligent design/creationism or advocating the teaching of phony “weaknesses” of evolution in science classes.

Last month the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education identified proposed materials from one vendor, New Mexico-based International Databases, that promote intelligent design/creationism as real science. Now evolution deniers on the review teams will likely use their positions as a podium to promote the same flawed arguments.

Read TFN’s press release here.

A preliminary analysis by TFN of the biology review panel identified at least three anti-evolution activists:

Ide Trotter (appointed by Terri Leo, R-Spring)
Trotter is a longtime standard-bearer for the creationist movement in Texas, both as a source of funding and as a spokesperson for the leading creationist group in the state, Texans for Better Science Education. Trotter is a veteran of the evolution wars at the SBOE, having testified before the board during the 2003 Biology textbook adoption and again in 2009 during the science curriculum adoption. In both instances, Trotter advocated including scientifically discredited “weaknesses” of evolution in Texas science classrooms. Trotter runs his own investment management company and served as dean of business and professor of finance at Dallas Baptist University. He claims that major scientific discoveries over last century have actually made evolutionary science harder to defend:

“The ball is rolling and it’s going downhill. There are not enough forces on the side of Darwinism to keep pushing it back uphill forever.”

David Shormann (appointed by Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands)
Shormann, who has a doctorate in limnology (the study of inland waters),  is an outspoken evolution denier who believes “creationism, not evolutionism, is the best way to interpret life’s origins…” He is also a young Earth creationist:

“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.”

You can read more of Shormann’s beliefs about creation and evolution — and his poor opinion of the Texas Freedom Network! — on his blog Studying His Word and His Works.

Richard White (appointed by current SBOE chair Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas)
White indicated no relevant teaching experience in this area on his application (noting only that he works for Dell, Inc.). However, he testified before the SBOE on March 25, 2009, when he advocated the inclusion of phony “weaknesses” of evolution in Texas science standards:

“…These are all well-known scientific problems with modern evolutionary theory, and they do not exhaust the list. The entire list is a very long one.”

White went on in his testimony to insist that teaching the mainstream scientific consensus concerning evolution without also presenting its “weaknesses” amounted to forcing religious dogma on students.

Anti-evolution board members also nominated several other individuals for whom we could find no public record of their positions on evolution. (We did discover that another of Terri Leo’s nominees — Colleen Vera — is a prominent conservative activist affiliated with a group called King Street Patriots. Vera is currently organizing conservative groups to call on Gov. Perry to veto the new SBOE redistricting map.)

Fortunately, state board members also appointed many experienced scientists from Texas universities, as well as teachers and curriculum directors from school districts around the state. So the review panel will include a strong voice for sound science.

The review panels will meet in Austin during the week of June 13 – June 17, 2011, and submit their evaluations to the SBOE (and the public) before the July board meeting. Stay tuned to TFN Insider as this debate continues to heat up over the coming months.

This article was posted in these categories: Barbara Cargill, creationism, evolution, Gail Lowe, intelligent design, Science adoption (2011), science and religion, State Board of Education, Terri Leo. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a Comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Mary Branson says:

    Gerald Tucker, right on!

  • Gerald Tucker says:

    Gods angry. Sacrifice child.

  • william swanback says:

    Creationism has about as much business in the science classroom as evolution has in the church classroom. I think it’s time we introduced a course in the history and philosophy of religion, much like a course I took at the University of Connecticut. It covered all major and minor religions and helped the student gain greater insight into and respect for these religions. If the creationists want creationism taught in public schools, this is the only place where it belongs. w. swanback

  • Anonymous says:

    Consider these verses from Scripture about our WISDOM. Most of our science and our circular reasoning about the age of the world and where life began. Doesn’t it take a great deal of faith to believe that our world was created by no one out of nothing?

    Corinthians 2:14
    14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

    1 Corinthians 1:18
    18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    1 Corinthians 1:21
    21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

    1 Corinthians 3:19
    19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”[a];

  • Oh hallelujah…Texas students will grow up as total morons who will not be able to go to colleges and universities because they don’t know the first thing about SCIENCE.

    They are under the influence of being funny-mentalists who think that the entire state is just one great big church where only Christians live. Like a few million other Texans, I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN AND I RESENT THE MENTALLY CHALLENGED PEOPLE ON THE SBOE WHO WISH TO CRAM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE DOWN THE THROATS OF ALL CHILDREN. There is a place for prayer and preaching that this planet is only 6K years old. It is called CHURCH or home. ANYONE who tries to read the bible LITERALLY is simply a weak-minded person who loves stories..

    Many parts of scripture are allegorical starting with the so-called Adam and Eve myth. Human life originated in Africa, not the Middle East. That is simply a scientific FACT. Have you ever noticed some white folks have a gap between their two front teeth? That is a gene carried over from the time when all humans were “black.” I had that gap. So Adam and Eve could not possibly have existed. It is a story, just as the flood story is a story that could start was “once upon a time.” There was no “all the world.” Where did all the fossils of shell fish and other sea life come from? I’ve had some people actually tell me that God created them to fool people…OR it came from the flood. Now hang on, kiddies, we’re going for a logical ride. The “flood’ lasted about 110 days according to some who have taken the time to figure it all out. And Noah & Company didn’t leave the boat for about 200 days more. Now how in the dickens could a flood that lasted 110 days have all of those fishes and shell fish remains in that short a period of time?

    I don’t give a flying hoot what people want to believe, but when it comes to teaching children the facts of science, keep your idiotic Creationist theories to yourself. I happen to believe the factual parts of the bible and I believe in God, but the bible is a RELIGIOUS book, not a text book. What Christians call the “New Testament” could not have been written by the people who were with Jesus. The “apostles” were in their mid 20s when they palled around with Jesus. The first “gospels” were written 70 years after Jesus was executed by the ROMANS. That would have made them close to 100 years of age when they wrote the accounts of what Jesus was supposedly saying. PEOPLE DID NOT LIVE THAT LONG, folks. They had no tape recorders or shorthand…how did they know what anyone said? What did you say to your spouse six MONTHS ago? I mean the exact quote. You can’t do it. You draw your own conclusions. Yes, I know, God dictated those books, word for word, especially where Jesus talks in red. Sigh…

    Bottom line: Do NOT try to use a religious book as a text book. Repeat: Do NOT try to use a religious book as a text book.

  • Mike says:

    I’m from East Texas, and have been finding out, to my utter horror, that a lot of schools around here don’t even teach the theory of evolution to their students. I literally just finished explaining the Big Bang Theory to a confused 20 year old….these people cannot be helped.

  • David says:

    They painted themselves into a corner.
    The positions they take are so absurd they can only support them through coercion. That’s why it’s become a fascist political cult.
    They say the Bible is the infallible word of God, all of which must be taken literally.
    Which Bible?
    Then some of them decide to write a “conservative Bible” which removes any words that sound liberal, socially progressive, or socialistic.
    Anyway. We could go on and on. It’s fascism and it has to be stopped. Has nothing to do with religion, actually.

  • MWC says:

    Why is it so hard to believe that people can believe in both God and Evolution? They are not mutually exclusive. In fact there is no basis in religion to not believe in evolution, and science cannot disprove God. Ben has it right-it has become short hand for an extreme position one way or the other. Intelligent and faithful people can be reasonable

  • Truth says:

    The absolute truth is that one day we will all know.

  • Greg Walljasper says:

    To revert to beliefs rather than rational interpretation of sensory input, is to repudiate the Enlightenment and indeed, to return to the DArk Ages that preceded it.

  • David says:

    What gets me is that they know “intelligent design” is hooey. If they really believe in God, don’t they know he doesn’t want them to lie?
    The best they can do is obstruct progress. Eventually the truth wins out.

  • mr x says:

    Science and ignorance do not belong together, allowing the scientifically ignorant to have an opinion on the science lessons of the impressionable (read, kids) is simply the groundwork for a generation of confused, disillusioned, apathetic students who might otherwise have gone on to be world leaders in science. Instead they will waste years of their lives in circular arguments with peers and academics alike over matters which were essentially cut and dried facts 30 years ago.

    Don’t be mistaken, there is little harm to having beliefs but when those beliefs get in the way of the truth, something has to give.

    So my message to these people who are going to serve (if they ever read it), get a grip and accept the truth or get the hell out of our kids education. If they want the church’s opinion they’ll ask for it but DO NOT shove this nonsense down their throats, they’ll simply rebel and leave you all looking like fools.

  • David says:

    The TFN update has a story about Muslim creationists in France.

  • abb3w says:

    Looking through the others, likely pro-evolution people seem to include Kimberly Bilica (Soto), Arturo De Lozanne (Soto), Kevin Fischer (Hardy), D’Lee Powell (nominator unspecified), Cynthia Tanner (Berlanga), and Ronald Wetherington (Ratliff).

    Those not showing web-obvious signs either way include Shade Badejo (nominator unspecified), Linda Bourland (Hardy), Greg Erb (Lowe), Lucille Gonzales (nominator unspecified), Jim Gooris (David Bradley), Sheryl Hime (Cargill), Hon-Man Lee (Leo), Jennifer Maynard (Soto), Alvaro Ojeda (nominator unspecified), Stanley Ragsdale (nominator unspecified), Dawna Schweitzer (Hardy), Keivon Spencer (Knight), Steven Tipton (Lowe), and Colleen Vera (Leo).

    I’ll note that Colleen Vera was also involved with a campaign to focus cuts on administration rather than teachers, possibly associated with KSP; YouTube has some of those. That said, she definitely seems more concerned with increasing conservatism rather than increasing education quality.

    So, to update my Pythonesque classification, current faction memberships appear as…
    Silly Party: Mercer, Lowe, Cargill, Leo, Bradley, Farney
    Slightly Silly Party: Garza, Clayton, Hardy
    Slightly Sensible Party: Craig, Ratliff
    Sensible Party:Allen, Berlanga, Knight, Soto

    I may be pessimistic in placing Ratliff as only Slightly sensible; on the other hand, I may be optimistic in placing Garza as only Slightly silly. And while I’ve put Clayton under Slightly Silly, he’s a major wild card. (So far, none of the current Silly group have stepped up to the caliber of the departed McLeroy or Dunbar; thus, I consider the Very Silly Party faction to be without any overt member at present. I expect one of the six Silly to step up in short order.)

    • TFN says:

      From what we’ve observed so far, Farney has been thoughtful and serious during board debates and open to listening to others (on and off the board) with whom she might disagree — two characteristics we don’t see in members of the board’s far-right faction. Garza, unfortunately, appears to have aligned himself with that faction.

  • abb3w says:

    Three out of 24 is better than I would have expected, all in all.

  • Charles says:

    Yes, Ben.

    Here is the really weird thing. All the word “evolution” really means is “change.” Somewhere, I guess around the middle of life, it dawned on me that all of life on this Earth, all of our human affairs, and all of the mechanisms of the universe are about “change.” In this dimension of existence, change is a constant—no matter what you may be doing or observing. If the particle physicists are correct, even the act of observing and measuring the behavior of subatomic particles changes them.

    Even in the Bible, one sees various progressions and changes—not to mention the biggest change of all—the Old Testament covenant and the New Testament covenant. The Bible says that God “changes not.” I suppose that refers only to his basic character and personality because He actually changes his mind fairly often on one thing or another in the pages of the Bible.

    Therefore, I fail to understand why the fundies always have their shorts in a knot about evolution—or change. One had might as well be angry at the tides going out.

  • jdg says:

    *****Ridley Says:
    May 14, 2011 at 6:56 am
    Ide, I am so proud to be your friend. Thank you!****

    Just don’t be a hypocrite when you get sick. Don’t go to the doctor, since you deny evolution.

  • Ben says:

    Charles, you give us a good reminder when you say, “You guys of course know that I am a creationist.”

    I think the term has become shorthand in most instances for young-earth creationists who deny evolution.

  • Charles says:

    We are losing on this because we live in a society where business and industry have abandoned the common working person (and nearly everyone else) in the relentless quest for the god they worship—-the lean, mean, green almighty dollar. Their jobs have been sent overseas. They do not have enough education to do other kinds of jobs and they lack the brain cells necessary to get that education. What little money they have will no longer buy as much as it once did. American society is economically polarizing into only two groups, the wealthy and the poor. The middle class is going away. Business is no longer a partner of the people. It views itself as a fanged predator with 300,000,000 prey to hunt every day. We are in the second worst economic crisis in our history. About 17,000,000 people are either still out of a job or severely underemployed.

    With all of that and more bearing down on the common man, people are dying to feel like there most be something more to life than just this mess. They want to feel that they are loved, respected, and somehow special. The idea of being “specially created” by an entity that is infinitely more powerful than “the mess” makes them feel special and gives them hope that some sort of rescue is possible.

    You guys of course know that I am a creationist. All of us Christians are by faith. I just happen to think that God is a whole lot smarter and more complex than the Christian fundamentalist wing of the house gives him credit for. As Dr. Bruce Prescott says, “The primary problem is that their God is NOT BIG ENOUGH.” They need a small, manageable, easily corralled, simplistic, fairy tale, cheap side show magician sort of god that does everything instantly. “By Golly, I have instant coffee, instant music, instant Internet search capability, and I need an instant God.” While no one could deny that God can be instant if He wants to, there is no law that says He has to be instant. Maybe he likes to do some things slowly and thoughtfully—like maybe creation. If He is indeed infinitely old (or infinitely young), the Big Guy has quite a lot of time on his hands. He can afford to go slowly. It is we people that only live here on Earth for about 70 or 80 years that have no time on our hands. Whatever we get done—we need to get done fast because time is always running out—and the more instantly the better. Therefore, it is not particularly surprising that many of us only feel secure with an instant God. Jesus says, “Behold I come quickly!!!” Therefore, 800 people go sit on top of a hill in utter confidence that they are going to be raptured out of here at 4:14 p.m. They never stop to think that God means quickly on his time scale—not ours. For him, 7 billion years is quickly.

    Fundie Guy:

    “Do you mean to tell me that Jesus might not show up here for another 7 billion years? My job was sent to India last week, and I gotta get raptured out of here right now because my utility bill is due.”

  • Ridley says:

    Ide, I am so proud to be your friend. Thank you!

  • David says:

    There’s a certain element that is obsessed with making everyone else believe what they believe. In fact they do it because their own faith is weak. So to compensate for their weak faith, they attempt to force everyone else to live by their belief.
    They will never give up. The more their political cult based on a narrow, superstitious interpretation of the Bible is rejected, the more they feel persecuted, which encourages them to persist. They will just have to be reduced by education and attrition.

  • jdg says:

    Why does it seem like that we’re losing on this?

  • Ben says:

    Ol’ Ide. Still willfully ignorant.

  • Charles says:

    It is education time in Texas:

  • David says:

    I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

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