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Intolerance on Parade in Texas Debate Over Evolution

Eric Lane, head of the local San Antonio chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, makes bold -- and bogus -- assertions in the San Antonio Express about the current debate over how to teach evolution, and what he imagines might be the reasons behind it. Not surprisingly, Lane apparently didn't bother to do a shred of research, instead seeming quite satisfied to let his imagination come up with all sorts ridiculous things.

It isn't as if you can't read what Discovery's views are on science education, or even specifically what my own views are (they're all over this blog after all). So there's really no excuse to so blatantly misrepresent our position, and what our motivations are.

Lane writes:

In the upcoming months, the Texas State Board of Education will make a decision on whether public school science classes will teach scientific concepts or religious non-scientific beliefs known as intelligent design/creationism.
Right from the get-go Lane throws up a bogus straw man that he can waste his dozen paragraphs bashing the stuffing out of. The Texas SBOE is not considering religious non-scientific beliefs, nor ...

... creationism, and certainly not intelligent design for inclusion in science classes.

The real issue? The Texas SBOE (SBOE) is currently reviewing their state's science standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which were originally adopted in 1998. The controversial issue before the SBOE is whether the TEKS will retain language calling for students to learn about both the scientific "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. Some have proposed removing that language from the TEKS entirely, while others have suggested that good science education that encourages critical thinking should apply to all aspects of the curriculum, especially to the teaching of controversial scientific theories like neo-Darwinian evolution.

Lane further proves his ignorance by suggesting that the whole debate is a fundamentalist, right-wing plot to usher in "a theistic fundamentalist Christian nation."

Intelligent design advocates, primarily associated with the Discovery Institute based in the state of Washington, assert that life is so complex that it can be explained only by an "intelligent cause or agent." In other words, a God. But not just any God. It has to be the God of Christianity. A Protestant. And a fundamentalist.
If Lane were right, I'd be in a world of trouble. I'm not a fundamentalist right-wing theocrat. I'm a libertarian agnostic. I work at Discovery Institute, so I can talk with some authority about the bogus charges Lane levels at the Institute and myself.

Nowhere do we ever argue or claim that science tells us the designer is God, any god. (I wonder how Lane would propose to scientifically determine that?) Science can't tell you who the designer is, and Discovery Institute and its fellows and staff are in agreement on that point.

For me this issue is, broadly, one of academic freedom and freedom of scientific inquiry, and a battle against intolerance. Specifically, the debate in Texas is about whether or not teachers will be free to discuss the full range of scientific evidence related to evolutionary biology. Will they be free to tell students about weaknesses in Darwinian evolution? Or will they be stifled by governmental regulations limiting them to only, dogmatically, presenting students with evidence that allegedly supports Darwin's theory.

Like Lane, I don't want to see religion taught in public schools. I agree that science is for science classes. Unlike Lane though, I want teachers and students to be free to discuss all the scientific evidence related to modern evolutionary theory, not just evidence purported to support it. Critical thinking is about weighing both the strengths and weaknesses of any argument. Darwin said it best, of course: "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."