Board of Education evolves into sideshow
Board of Education evolves into sideshowBy LISA FALKENBERG - Houston Chronicle - 3/23/2009 - originalEver seen a cat-dog? Of course not! That just proves it’s impossible for one species to evolve into another.
The human brain seems not to have changed since homo sapiens first appeared 150,000 years ago. That means evolution is false.
We don’t have every bone, so the fossil record undercuts the theory of evolution.
A few scientists have fudged proof of evolution, so that calls into question all the other evidence.
These are the brilliant observations and insinuations of a particularly dangerous right-wing fringe group: the seven-member social conservative bloc of the State Board of Education. (The cat-dog example, if you must know, is the brainchild of Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, who seems to be incapable of understanding that it takes millions, if not billions of years for so-called macro-evolution to occur.)
If the Legislature is the circus, the Board of Education is the sideshow. And this week, they’re back in town.
The event in Austin would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high.
The 15 board members hold in their hands the future of science curriculum in Texas public schools for the next decade. This week, after what promises to be another intense round of debate, they’ll cast final votes on how to teach evolution.
Their decision has national implications as well since curriculum changes could make it into textbooks tailored for the massive Texas market and sold across the country.
In January, creationists on the board tentatively failed by one vote to keep a requirement that teachers present the strengths and so-called “weaknesses” of Darwin’s 150-year-old theory of evolution. This week, they’ll try to restore the language, which is the latest subtle weapon of creationists and subscribers to the religion-based theory of Intelligent Design.
The effort to retain the “weaknesses” language, which ignored the advice of a board-selected panel of experts, failed last time thanks to four swing voters. They included one Democrat, Rick Agosto of San Antonio, who often votes with social conservatives, and three brave Republicans, Bob Craig of Lubbock, Patricia Hardy of Fort Worth and Geraldine Miller of Dallas.
Apparently, this group actually did their homework, listened to the experts, and sided with science over ideology. But they’ve paid a price. Agosto risks falling out of favor with board officers. And the Republicans have had everything from their party loyalty to their faith in God questioned as a result of their vote.
Doubting fossil record
And just in case there was ever any doubt that this debate was essentially about politics, even the Texas Republican Party has weighed in on the issue. GOP leaders passed a resolution urging the board to overturn its decision to get rid of the “weaknesses” language.
The conservative bloc also will try and keep two amendments hastily presented and approved in January that cast doubt on the fossil record and a basic tenant of Darwin’s theory: common descent.
Board Chairman and ardent Darwin-denier Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, pushed through one of the amendments after reading aloud a long list of quotes attempting to cast doubt on evolution from reputable science publications and authoritative books by revered scientists. McLeroy never directly claimed that he culled the quotes himself. But as he held up the books he was quoting from, and talked about checking out volumes on evolution at his local library, I certainly got the impression he’d done his own research.
But blogger and Kansas biology teacher, Jeremy Mohn, revealed McLeroy’s bad clip job in his extensive blog posting, “Collapse of a Texas Quote Mine.” Mohn also provided the context and authors’ explanations lacking in McLeroy’s quote list.
Mohn discovered McLeroy had lifted much of the research from another creationist blog. McLeroy’s quotes were in virtually the same order, and he repeated a page number error.
McLeroy acknowledged to me that he had copied some of the research from the creationist site because he liked “the format,” although he said he had indeed read one of the books. He added: “A lot of the quotes I did get on my own.”
Yet another fine testament to the level of scholarship that goes on at the State Board of Education.