In the Texas Republican Party primary this week, voters in one part of the state narrowly rejected pro-teach-the-controversy State Board of Education member Don McLeroy. At the same time, voters in another part of the state (Dallas) dumped anti-teach-the-controversy Board member Geraldine Miller in favor of a candidate who has expressed support for teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.
The most interesting thing about incumbent Geraldine Miller’s remarkable defeat by newcomer George Clayton is the unintentional role the pro-Darwin Dallas Morning News may have played in her downfall.
Continue reading "Did Dallas Morning News Endorsement Backfire and Sink Pro-Darwin Candidate?" »
Nobody but a pedant enjoys being pedantic. But putting Darwinist experts in their place, particularly those who testified before the Texas State Board of Education, requires pointing out in detail their misleading simplifications of the fields in which they are supposed to be expertly qualified. Discovery staff have carefully combed the testimony of Professors David Hillis and Ronald Wetherington, finding numerous significant instances of egregious falsehood. Making this clear puts one in danger of seeming pedantic.
But it’s important, in part because we hereby challenge Hillis and Wetherington to defend their statements, in light of the detailed and devastating analyses that are now available online here and here. Of course, they won’t respond, nor, I guess, will anyone in the Darwin Lobby. Which tells you about all you need to know.
As discussed in Discovery Institute's rebuttal to Wetherington's January 21 testimony before the Texas State Board, his simplifications are as gross and unprofessional as those of Hillis. He reminds me of the Monty Python sketch “How to Do It,” where three smiley-faced presenters explain in under a minute and a half “how to play the flute, how to split an atom, how to construct a box girder bridge, how to irrigate the Sahara Desert and make vast new areas of land cultivatable, but first,” explains John Cleese, “here’s Jackie to tell you all how to rid the world of all known diseases.”
The whole issue before the Board was whether high school students deserve to be made aware of the debates in biology that go to the heart of whether Darwinian theory is remotely plausible anymore. A lot is at stake in those debates — nothing less than what it means to be human — so not skimping on the details would seem to be the appropriate course. This is not about obscure academic infighting. Yet again and again, Wetherington, like Hillis, assured the Texas Board that it was it all very simple and clear, there is no debate, it’s all been settled. Or as Cleese explains flute playing, “Well here we are. You blow there and you move your fingers up and down here.”
Continue reading "My Son the Expert! Part III: A Challenge to Texas Darwinists" »
Everyone knows the scene in Annie Hall. Woody Allen as Alvy Singer is standing in line to see a movie and a pretentious twit of a Columbia professor behind him is going on in a loud voice about Marshall McLuhan. Alvy first berates the guy — “Aren’t you ashamed to pontificate like that? And the funny part of it is, Marshall McLuhan, you don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan!” Then from behind a movie poster he pulls McLuhan himself, who agrees with Alvy: “I heard what you were saying. You know nothing of my work! How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!”
Alvy then turns to the camera and wishes, “Boy, if life were only like this!”
Sometimes it is. This is a brief series about Darwinian “experts” who arouse the admiration of people who don’t know any better, and don't particularly want to know, but who then turn out to have their facts all wrong. The first illustration is Professor David Hillis of the University of Texas. In his testimony to the Texas State Board of Education about teaching evolution, he referred to the research of Ralph Seelke, a University of Wisconsin biologist.
Seelke’s work tests evolution’s power to produce two necessary mutations in a case where the mutations, to produce a beneficial function, need to happen pretty much simultaneously. Realistically, it can’t happen. He finds that this represents an insuperable obstacle to evolution’s getting its job done. In his testimony, Hillis replied to a question from Board member Pat Hardy, with her touching faith in experts: “I was just curious about Dr. Seelke’s research. How does that demonstrate the weakness of evolution?"
Continue reading "My Son the Expert! Part II: More on the Texas Evolution Debate" »
As I was listening online to last week’s Texas State Board of Education hearings, two comments by Board members stuck with me. The TSBE was in its final deliberations on science standards and liberal Republican Pat Hardy delivered an encomium to “experts.”
She went on about how if you get sick and require the medical knowledge of an expert in the field, why then you’d better go to that expert and follow his advice! She pleaded with other Board members to listen to the “experts” on evolution, which would mean voting to accept the “expert” view that there’s no debate on evolution worthy of being shared with high school biology students.
The same day, Board member Don McLeroy, who was on the dissenting side from majority “expert” opinion, delivered a stirring rebuttal. With marked irony, he asked what right he had, as a mere dentist by profession, to doubt the experts? In fact, despite being “only” a dentist, he took the view that as a citizen and an elected school board legislator, he had the right to think for himself. Indeed he had the responsibility. That was the case even if it meant, after study and reflection, rejecting what many experts say.
Then again, you don’t have to look too hard for genuine credentialed experts on the Darwin-doubting side -- quite a number of those testified before the TSBE. Yet it remains true that the skeptics on evolution represent a minority academic view.
As the world now knows, the TSBE ultimately voted with McLeroy and against the majority of experts, adopting science standards that specify the precise headings under which Darwinian theory most urgently needs to be questioned — or, in the Board’s preferred language, “analyzed and evaluated.”
To follow the experts unthinkingly is simply the prestige path for most people. Such docility also explains the resistance of certain constituencies, from whom you’d expert better, to thinking fresh thoughts about Darwinian evolution.
Continue reading "My Son the Expert! Part I: An Introduction to the Debate Over Evolution in Texas" »
In all the excitement of the debate over Texas science standards last week, one thing was made eminently clear: generally speaking, there is one side of this debate that focuses on the science at hand, and another side that keeps bringing up religion.
Contrary to the stereotype (but not the actual experience of those who care to see things as they actually are), it's the Darwinists in this debate who keep wanting to talk about religion. People who question Darwin's theory want to talk about the scientific evidence for and against it, as John West explains in The Washington Post's "On Faith" blog:
Evolutionists typically cast themselves as the champions of secular reason against superstition, but in Texas they tried to inject religion into the debate at every turn.
Indeed, this past week it seemed that they couldn't stop talking about religion. They boasted about their credentials as Sunday School teachers and church elders. They quoted the Bible and appealed to theology. And, of course, they attacked the religious beliefs of their opponents, branding them religious fundamentalists.
By contrast, supporters of teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution focused mostly on science, not religion. They even had a procession of Ph.D. biologists and science teachers testify before the Board of Education about their scientific skepticism of key parts of modern evolutionary theory.
Read the rest here
From my Discovery Blog
The New York Times got the preview story wrong, and the Washington Post editorial writer probably was too rushed to question the charges of "creationism" coming from the National Center for Science Education, the Darwin-only lobby. So this week's important decisions by the Texas State Board of Education (TSBE) on how to teach evolution were predicated in the media by the big question of whether teachers should provide both "strengths and weaknesses" of Darwin's theory. Those words might sound benign, readers were told, but they really are "code words" (take the press' word for it) for creationism and religion.
Continue reading "Darwinists Trick Themselves in Texas" »
Although incorrect at points, the Wall Street Journal's article on the new Texas science standards is more accurate than some of the local reporting. The key thing the Journal gets right is that the Board definitely opened the door to critically analyzing evolution in the classroom. Unfortunately, the article omits or mangles a lot of the details. For one thing, the article doesn't mention the new critical inquiry standard requiring students to "analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations…including examining all sides of scientific evidence… so as to encourage critical thinking by the student." The story also garbles things when it states that "the board voted down curriculum standards questioning the evolutionary principle that all life on Earth is descended from common ancestry." No, the Board rejected one such standard offered by Board chair Don McElroy, but it left untouched another standard that already required students to "analyze and evaluate how evidence of common ancestry among groups is provided by the fossil record, biogeography, and homologies, including anatomical, molecular, and developmental." This standard that was left intact clearly mandates that students "evaluate" the evidence for common ancestry. Moreover, McElroy's original amendment on common ancestry and the fossil record was rewritten and then reinserted. (The rewritten version requires students to "analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.") The Journal article also misrepresents the language in the science standards about the Big Bang, implying that it was designed to allow the teaching of Biblical young-earth creationism. That's absolutely false, as the Board member who proposed the wording made crystal clear during the Board's deliberations.
Unlike the slipshod Dallas Morning News article, the initial Associated Press report on the new Texas science standards acknowledges the "compromise" language requiring scientific critiques adopted by the Board and even quotes some of it:
The curriculum will require that students "in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations ... including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student."
Although the AP story is clearly slanted toward the evolution lobby (and contains the obligatory inaccurate comments about intelligent design), it doesn't suppress the basic facts about what the Board did.
One has to wonder whether the Dallas Morning News reporter even attended today’s meeting of the Texas State Board of Education. It’s hard to tell from the garbled account the paper just published, which pretty much claims that the evolution dogmatists won everything. Of course, the truth is almost exactly the opposite. The article is a classic example of either sloppy or selective reporting. For example, the piece talks about the removal of the “strengths and weaknesses provision” from the Texas science standards, but neglects to mention the adoption of even stronger language that requires students to "critique" and examine “all sides of scientific evidence"! The article likewise talks about the removal of Chairman Don McElroy's extra provisions on common ancestry and natural selection, but garbles the fact that the two "compromise" provisions later adopted about the fossil record and the complexity of the cell were offered as substitutes for McElroy's earlier provisions--and McElroy praised these substitutes for covering much of the same material he had proposed. Most egregiously, the article fails to mention that the final standards preserve amendments added in January requiring students to "analyze and evaluate" the evidence for major evolutionary claims such as natural selection, common ancestry, and mutations. The new "analyze and evaluate" language is a huge change from the one-sided evolution standards in the current Texas science standards and may well be the most significant revision adopted by the Board. The article also fails to report the addition of a new standard dealing with the origin of life in the high school biology standards. It's shoddy reporting like this that helps fuel the distrust many Americans feel toward the traditional newsmedia.
In a huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution, Texas today moved to the head of the class by requiring students to “critique” and examine “all sides of scientific evidence” and specifically requiring students to “analyze and evaluate” the evidence for major evolutionary concepts such as common ancestry, natural selection, and mutations.
"Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," said Dr. John West, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute. “Contrary to the claims of the evolution lobby, absolutely nothing the Board did promotes ‘creationism’ or religion in the classroom. Groups that assert otherwise are lying, plain and simple. Under the new standards, students will be expected to analyze and evaluate the scientific evidence for evolution, not religion. Period.”
The new requirements were contained in revised science standards approved today by the Texas State Board of Education. The science standards include language requiring students to "analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations…including examining all sides of scientific evidence… so as to encourage critical thinking by the student." Equally important, the high school biology standards now require students to “analyze and evaluate” the scientific evidence for key parts of evolutionary theory, including common ancestry, natural selection, and mutations.
Discovery Institute has long endorsed the idea that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, including its unresolved issues.
The Texas Board of Education has finished the tweaking of its revised science standards for today. Unfortunately, an effort to reinstate the “strengths and weaknesses” language again failed on a vote of 7-7. Board member Bob Craig, one of the Republicans who has led opposition to the “strengths and weaknesses” language, offered an ambiguous and watered-down “compromise” that called for teachers to discuss “what is not fully understood so as to encourage critical thinking.” Although rejected by the full Board, Craig’s so-called compromise was supported by fellow Republicans Pat Hardy (Fort Worth) and Geraldine Miller (Dallas), both of whom have also crusaded against the “strengths and weaknesses” language and supported the Darwin-only crowd pretty much down the line. In defense of her views, Mrs. Miller launched into a remarkable speech about how she is a Christian and “a student of the Bible,” as if her personal religious beliefs have any relevance to what should be taught in science classes. Miller also lavished praise on Francis Collins’ book The Language of God for persuading her about the correct theological understanding of evolution. (Too bad Miller hasn’t bothered to read any of the critical reviews of the junk science in Collins’ book.) Once again, a defender of evolution has appealed to religion rather than science to justify his or her views. Mrs. Miller is certainly entitled to her religious views, but she wasn’t elected to serve on a state board of theology. While the government has a legitimate secular interest in teaching the science of evolution, it has no right whatever to try to dictate students’ theological beliefs about evolution, pro or con. The fact that evolution defenders can’t stick to science when justifying their censorship of the science curriculum is telling.
Apparently Texas Board of Education member Rick Agosto isn’t just content to censor science by removing any criticisms of evolution from the science curriculum. The San Antonio Democrat even wants to prevent citizens from expressing their disagreement with that censorship. This morning Agosto demanded that some citizens quietly holding signs stating “Don’t Censor Science” at the Board meeting take down their signs. He even called on security personnel to forcibly remove the signs, but Board chair Don McElroy intervened to stop that abuse of power. Agosto’s over-the-top behavior toward non-disruptive attendees at the meeting followed his earlier denunciation of intelligent design as not being based on science. Agosto doesn’t appear to have actually read anything by intelligent design proponents, and his comments attacking intelligent design were completely gratuitous since the Board isn’t even considering adding intelligent design to the science standards. Interestingly, at yesterday’s Board meeting Agosto used his right of personal privilege to bring back non-Texan Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education to speak before the Board. Because Scott spoke at the January meeting, she was supposed to be near the bottom of the speakers’ list yesterday in order to allow new people to testify. But Agosto seems to have been more interested in hearing from arch-Darwinist Scott than hearing from his own constituents or other Texans patiently waiting to testify.
Dr. Steven Schafersman, self-proclaimed “secular humanist” and head of Texan Citizens for Science, is once again insisting that “language by the anti-evolutionists about doubt or weaknesses or controversy involving evolution is just rhetoric. Doubts or weaknesses don't exist among scientists.” Poor Dr. Schafersman needs to recheck some of his previous public statements, for despite what he says now, during the 2003 biology textbook adoption process in Texas he ultimately conceded that there are plenty of scientific controversies in modern evolutionary theory. As I pointed out in a podcast in January, Schafersman in 2003 did initially assert that there were no scientific controversies over evolution for textbooks to cover. But then he began to…well… evolve. By the time the adoption process was finished, Schafersman was admitting that there are in fact many scientific controversies raised by modern evolutionary theory, only he thought that students were too stupid to study them. Recounting Dr. Schafersman’s evolving statements is a great way to expose the sham claim we've been hearing throughout this week that evolution has no weaknesses.
Below is a step-by-step account Dr. Schafersman’s amazing evolution in 2003:
Continue reading "The Evolving Dr. Schafersman (Again)" »
AUSTIN, Texas—Having watched most of the testimony today before the Texas State Board of Education, the contrast between the pro-strengths-and-weaknesses side and the evolution lobby could not be clearer. The evolution lobby continually focused on religion, trying to distract from the real issue by telling the Board that they should not teach both the evidence for and against evolution because somehow that brings religion into the curriculum. Our side focused overwhelmingly on science.
Ph.D. biologists who testified in favor of the teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” included Ray Bohlin, Don Ewert, Wade Warren, and Sara Kolb Hicks. Warren and Hicks gave striking testimony about the lack of academic freedom for university researchers. Warren testified about how a non-mandatory discussion on the pros and cons of evolution that he wanted to hold while a graduate student in biology was shut down. Specifically, Hicks, who holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Rice University, lamented the fact that "science censorship permeates education and the undergraduate and graduate level." These biologists testified about weaknesses in evolution including the limits to the amount of biological change that can be effected by natural selection, the lack of evidence for evolution in the fossil record, the inability of Darwinian evolution to produce the complexity of cellular processes, and the fact that evolution is not even required to do most biology research.
Additionally, LeTourneau biology professor Karen Rispin testified about scientific weaknesses in evolution pertaining to the presentation of evolution in biology textbooks, and discrepancies between fossil and molecular dates for alleged common ancestors of species. By the end of the day, no one could say with a straight face that there are no scientific weaknesses in evolution, or that no credible scientists doubt neo-Darwinism.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has just posted its list of testifiers for today’s public hearing before the Texas Board of Education on the revised Texas science standards. Testifiers are supposed to alternate between those who support and those who oppose requiring students to examine the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. There are a number of strange things about the list, but the strangest thing of all has to be the listed viewpoints of the two people signed up to testify from the evolution-only National Center for Science Education (NCSE)—Josh Rosenau and Eugenie Scott. Both are listed as favoring the inclusion of “strengths and weaknesses” in the Texas science standards! That’s news to me. While I’d certainly be delighted to see the NCSE support genuine science education on evolution rather than the teaching of one-sided dogma, I very much doubt Scott and Rosenau have suddenly changed their position. Did Rosenau and Scott misrepresent their positions in an attempt to get a better slot to speak? Or did they simply misunderstand what they were being asked? Or were TEA officials so oblivious that they somehow didn’t know that the NCSE is the leading national group opposing the teaching of strengths and weaknesses in Texas? It will be interesting to find out the truth. Another strange thing: We’ve been getting numerous reports from people who really do favor teaching strengths and weaknesses that they’ve been relegated to the bottom of the list despite the fact that they registered just a few minutes after registration opened and were previously told they were high up in the list. It also appears that at least some of the people classified as “other” on the list are in fact speaking against “strengths and weaknesses.” The sum result is to skew the list of testifiers in favor of those who oppose the teaching of strengths and weaknesses.
The op-ed page of today's Dallas Morning News features a revealing exchange on the Texas science standards. Medical professor and evolution supporter Daniel Foster devotes his column to religion, while biology professor Amiel Jarstfer and lawyer Kelly Coghlan focus on science. Foster is completely out-gunned; if I supported his side of the debate, I’d be more than a little embarrassed.
Part of the problem is that Foster doesn’t seem to know anything about what the State Board of Education is actually doing. He starts out with a giant blooper: “This week the Texas State Board of Education will vote, for the third time, on wording in science textbooks.” (emphasis added) No, Dr. Foster, Board members aren’t voting on “wording in science textbooks” this week. They are voting on science standards to govern what students should learn in the science classroom. Those science standards eventually will have an impact on the textbook selection process, but biology textbooks aren’t even up for adoption in Texas this year. The debate right now is over science standards, not textbooks.
It gets worse. Foster next insists that
Continue reading "Dallas Morning News Debate on Evolution: Evolution Defender Preaches Religion, While Evolution Critics Focus on Science" »
An article in the San Antonio Express misstates some facts in its coverage of this week’s upcoming Texas Board of Education vote on evolution. The article isn’t all bad: It allows Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin to offer an opposing view, and Luskin’s views are described accurately. But the article also states that the Texas Board of Education "voted with the science experts in January to remove the 'strengths and weaknesses' standard" from Texas science standards. The Board did indeed vote to do this (to its shame). But in repealing the strengths and weaknesses language, Board members did not vote "with the science experts." The Board appointed six science experts to review the draft standards. Three of the experts opposed the “strengths and weaknesses” provision, but three of the experts supported the “strengths and weaknesses” language! So it would be much more accurate to say that the Board in January sided with some of their experts while ignoring others.
The article also erroneously claims that in 2005 the Kansas Board of Education “approved new science standards allowing the teaching of intelligent design, which posits that a supernatural creator is required to explain life's complexity.”
Continue reading "San Antonio Express Article Misstates Facts on Texas Board of Education and Kansas" »
Later this week the Texas State Board of Education will vote to adopt standards overseeing the state's science education curriculum for the next ten years.
Monday, Stephanie Simon of the Wall Street Journal highlighted the importance of this week's vote and how there's more at stake than just the "strengths and weaknesses" language usually discussed.
Simon stereotypically boils things down to a point that isn't accurate:
The proposed curriculum change would prompt teachers to raise doubts that all life on Earth is descended from common ancestry.
No, actually teachers
Continue reading "More at Stake in Texas Evolution Vote Than Just “Strengths and Weaknesses”" »
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) usually tries to puts forth a religion-friendly image, despite the fact that the NCSE's executive director, Eugenie Scott, is a signer of the Third Humanist Manifesto. Something must have slipped through the cracks, because the NCSE’s talking points for Texas have encouraged activists to testify not just that science doesn't study the supernatural, but to expressly testify that science denies the existence of the supernatural:
Science posits that there are no forces outside of nature. Science cannot be neutral on this issue. The history of science is a long comment denying that forces outside of nature exist, and proving that this is the case again and again. There is simply zero scientific evidence for forces outside of the natural world. Scientific experiments do not rely on “magic” in order to explain their results. Magic—as magicians Penn & Teller and James Randi hasten to point out—does not exist. ... By implying that there exist explanations outside of nature, [a scientist skeptical of Darwinism] posits supernatural, mystical phenomena. The assumption that “the only explanations that count are those that rely on nature” is indeed an important part of science; in fact, this is a foundational axiom for any rational thinking. ... It needs to be said clearly: All educated people understand there are no forces outside of nature.
(Steven Newton, NCSE "Preparatory Materials for Speakers at the 21 January 2009 Texas SBOE Meeting," pp. 32, 44. Note: The NCSE's "Talking Points" document was previously linked at http://skepchick.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/prep_materials_21janmeeting1.pdf, which is where I first found the document online, and which is where I linked to it when I first posted this commentary. Apparently soon after I posted this commentary, the NCSE's talking points were removed from that website.)
Now I don’t think that science should adopt supernatural explanations, but I always thought the evolution-lobby's party line held that science remains silent on questions about the existence of the supernatural. This document is hardly silent on the existence of the supernatural...
Continue reading "NCSE Texas “Talking Points” Expressly Advocate Scientism and Deny the Existence of the Supernatural" »
Kudos to the New York Times for filing a story on the actions of the Texas State Board of Education that actually describes what happened last week. Unlike much of the rest of the newsmedia, the Times doesn’t tell only half of what happened or play up the hysterics. The story’s even-handed title is telling: “Split Outcome in Texas Battle on Teaching of Evolution.”
Of course, being the Times, pro-Darwin bias does creep in at points, most egregiously in the ludicrous “definition” offered of intelligent design (“the notion of a divine hand guiding creation”). It used to be common courtesy for reporters to allow supporters of an idea to explain what they mean by it rather than rely on an opponent’s caricature of the idea. No more. Readers who want to know the real definition of intelligent design can go here.
It was as predictable as soggy weather in Seattle in November. First, reporters insisted that the Texas State Board of Education dealt a body blow to supporters of the critical analysis of evolution by dropping language in their existing science standards that call on students to examine the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. Of course, these same reporters neglected to inform the public that the Board also passed several amendments to the evolution standards requiring students to “analyze and evaluate” the main concepts of evolution such as common ancestry, natural selection, and mutations. Once evolutionists began to complain about some of the changes to the evolution standards, the reporters apparently changed their mind. Now the Texas story is quickly evolving into “The Sky Is Falling!” Alas, the media’s newest spin is just as inaccurate as the first—and just as banal.
According to a reporter who contacted me earlier today, the Darwin-only crowd in Texas is now smearing the State Board of Education for adopting amendments to the proposed science standards on evolution that promote “creationism,” and young earth creationism to boot. So what else is new? In reality, there is nothing in the amendments adopted that promote creationism, yet alone young earth creationism. But the Darwin-only crowd automatically attacks anything they don't like as creationism. It’s a reflex action. They can’t help themselves. Yet in this case they just look plain silly. For example, how does it promote creationism to insist that students "analyze and evaluate" all the major parts of evolutionary theory? “Analyze and evaluate” is language they earlier claimed to love--only, it turns out, not when applied to evolution! The other side is engaging in their usual bait-and-switch tactics. They claim to support critical inquiry in science, but whenever it gets applied to evolution, they suddenly expose themselves for the dogmatists they are.
Earlier today, the Texas State Board of Education unanimously approved the first reading of new science standards for the state. It was one step back, two giant steps forward. Although the Board refused to reinstate language calling on students to examine the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories, the Board added new language requiring students to “analyze and evaluate” all the major parts of evolutionary theory, including common descent, natural selection, and mutation. The additions to the proposed science standards were adopted yesterday in committee, but as we reported last night, most of the newsmedia completely missed the boat on what happened, probably because many reporters didn’t stay to the end of the meeting. Here is a preliminary summary of what the Board did:
Continue reading "Recap: Texas Board of Education's Actions on Evolution" »
Kudos to Austin American Statesman reporter Molly Bloom. She apparently stayed for the entire Texas State Board of Education meeting, unlike some of her colleagues in the press. She’s the first reporter I’ve seen who actually reports the fact that the Texas Board voted to revise proposed standards on evolution to require students to analyze and evaluate the key concepts of the theory such as common ancestry and natural selection. Her story, “Third state education board vote mandates teaching students challenges to evolution” gets the basic point right, even though she is still off on the details. She only describes the new evolution standard added at the behest of state board Chair Don McElroy, failing to mention earlier approval of a series of amendments offered by board member Terri Leo to the evolution standards. Still, Ms. Bloom is to be congratulated for covering something the rest of the press thus far has missed.
UPDATE (6:25 pm Pacific Time): The Associated Press has finally gotten the message that something else happened at the Board meeting, but the piece doesn't seem to be based on independent reporting, because it repeats the same errors as the Statesman piece and only mentions McElroy's amendment, not the others.
Apparently there weren’t many reporters who stayed for the entire Texas Board of Education meeting today. That’s the only conclusion I can draw from the slew of utterly misleading stories this afternoon and evening from the Associated Press, the Dallas Morning, and other media outlets claiming that those of us who favor critical analysis of modern evolutionary theory in the classroom suffered a big “defeat” in Texas today. It’s true that the Board narrowly rejected a motion to preserve the language in the current science standards calling for students to study the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. But that’s only half of the story. Later in the afternoon, the Board amazingly passed a series of amendments to the actual science standards dealing with evolution—both for general biology, and for a new course in earth and space science. These amendments, most of which were enacted by large margins, specifically require students to “analyze and evaluate” the evidence for common ancestry, natural selection, mutation, and a variety of other planks of modern evolutionary theory. The new evolution standards are a huge advance over the previous language, and are a great victory for parents, teachers, and students who want good science education in the state of Texas. Note to reporters: You need to stay to the end of government meetings you cover, and you need to talk with people on both sides of controversial issues before you report about them. It remains to be seen whether reporters will correct the record once they find out what actually happened.
AUSTIN, TX--The Texas State Board of Education today voted to require students to analyze and evaluate common ancestry and natural selection, both key components of modern evolutionary theory. The surprising vote came after the Board failed to reinstate language in the overall science standards explicitly requiring coverage of the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories.
“The Texas Board of Education took one step back and two steps forward today,” said Dr. John West of the Discovery Institute. “While we wish they would have retained the strengths and weaknesses language in the overall standards, they did something truly remarkable today. They voted to require students to analyze and evaluate some of the most important and controversial aspects of modern evolutionary theory such as the fossil record, universal common descent and even natural selection."
According to West these changes to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills means that teachers and students will be able to discuss the scientific evidence that is supportive as well as evidence that is not supportive of all scientific theories.
“Analyzing, evaluating, any additional scrutiny of evolution can only help students to learn more about the theory,” said West, who is associate director of the Institute’s Center for Science & Culture.
Looks like David Hillis, the self-proclaimed "world's leading expert" on tree of life phylogeny didn't get the memo.
Media experts who prepare business leaders, public figures and so on to meet the press always remind their charges to read the newspaper. Never go before the media, or a state board of education, not having at least read the headlines of the day. I've seen very accomplished CEO's literally spill their coffee on themselves at an important press conference when confronted with a late breaking headline they're not prepared for.
It's too bad that yesterday when Hillis stepped arrogantly to the microphone and artlessly asserted his alleged expertise, that no one presented him with just these two headlines:
Charles Darwin's tree of life is 'wrong and misleading', claim scientists (The Guardian)
Evolution: Charles Darwin was wrong about the tree of life (The Telegraph)
The debate before the board of course is whether or not there are any weaknesses with modern Darwinian theory. Hillis, Skoog, and Wetherington, amazingly refused to admit any weakness whatsoever, even when presented with evidence showing that there are weaknesses and that scientists robustly debate them and what they mean for the theory.
Hillis asserted that the traditional Darwinian tree of life is just fine the way it is, and he should know after all ,as he explained, he is the world's expert on the tree of life. Except that he doesn't know, and it looks like he isn't quite the expert he claimed.
Tonight in Texas, Darwinist expert David Hillis testified that the Cambrian explosion took many tens of millions of years, also stating that there are no credible scientific weaknesses in neo-Darwinian evolution. His evolutonary theory of the Cambrian Explosion has a grave weakness. One of the 100+ mainstream scientific papers discussing weaknesses in evolution that Stephen Meyer presented to the Texas State Board of Education today absolutely refuted Hillis's argument:
“Until 530 million years ago, multicellular animals consisted primarily of simple, soft-bodied forms, most of which have been identified from the fossil record as cnidarians and sponges. Then, within less then 10 million years, almost all of the advanced phyla appeared, including echinoderms, chordates, annelids, brachiopods, molluscs and a host of arthropods. The extreme speed of anatomical change and adaptive radiation during this brief time period requires explanations that go beyond those proposed for the evolution of species within the modern biota “
(R. L. Carroll, "Towards a new evolutionary synthesis," Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Vol. 15(1):27-32 (2000) (emphasis added).)
It sounds like David Hillis’s arguments for evolution may have weaknesses after all. Too bad he doesn't want students to learn about any of them.
AUSTIN, TX--One of the more bizarre talking points we’ve been hearing from Texas Darwinists today is the claim that “theories don’t have weaknesses.” According to them, if we call evolution as a “theory,” then by definition it can’t have weaknesses. This isn’t unusual: Darwinists often like to define terms such that they win the argument by definitional fiat. Some scientists who testified today in Texas, however, saw through the Darwinists' rhetorical tactic.
Dr. Charles Garner, who holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from University of Colorado, Boulder and is now a Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Baylor University. He’s been a scientist for a long time and is familiar with the field. How did he respond to the bizarre claim that scientific theories “don’t have weaknesses”? Here’s what Dr. Garner said: “the idea that theories don’t have weaknesses is a recent invention of these TEKS hearing. I had never heard in all my scientific training that theories don’t have weaknesses until November.”
Likewise, Stephen C. Meyer testified “By the way, those who say that theories don’t have weaknesses are forgetting their history of science. Ever heard of phlogiston theory or geocentrism or geosynclinal theory? Or even Newton’s theory of universal gravitation? All these ideas were considered theories in their heyday, and are now known to have serious weaknesses.”
Hopefully the Darwinists will make better arguments than personal attacks on Dr. Meyer and talking-points like “theories don’t have weaknesses.”
AUSTIN, TX--This afternoon at the Texas State Board of Education, microbiologist Ralph Seelke gave a wonderful presentation about his own laboratory research on bacterial evolution which shows that there are clear limits on the ability of bacteria to evolve certain functions. His response to those who charge that teaching scientific weaknesses of evolution would bring religion into the classroom was elegant and irrefutable: “My bacteria have been accused of violating the First Amendment.”
AUSTIN, TX--As I noted in my other blog post on Dr. Stephen C. Meyer’s testimony today before the Texas State Board of Education, you can always tell a strength of a person’s position based upon the arguments they make. In this regard, Texas Darwinists apparently scripted 2 questions for hostile Texas State Board of Education members to ask Dr. Meyer. Both questions were asked by Board Member Bob Craig and dealt with, you guessed it, personal attacks on Dr. Meyer.
The first question the Texas Darwinists asked was whether Dr. Meyer has a Ph.D. in biology. No, Dr. Meyer answered, he merely holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and History of Science from Cambridge University that focused on the history of evolution. As usual, the Darwinists are not being self-reflective, because one of their own experts--Gerald Skoog--doesn't even have a Ph.D.--he has an Ed.D. in Secondary Education. Thankfully, one board member exposed the Darwinist hypocrisy to the crowd, much to the Darwinists’ dismay.
The other hypocritical and unreflective question the Texas Darwinists scripted implied that Dr. Meyer had a conflict of interest because he's co-authored a textbook that could be impacted by this debate. We dealt with this red-herring question here: Somehow Texas Darwinists managed to forget that, again, one of their own experts, Darwinist biologist David Hillis co-authored the 2008 edition of Life: The Science of Biology, a textbook whose previous editions have been approved for use in Texas high schools.
Apparently hypocritical and unreflective personal attacks were all the Darwinists could muster in the Q & A session with Dr. Meyer.
I'm posting the following report for Casey Luskin, who is currently in Texas at the expert hearing before the Texas State Board of Education.
AUSTIN, TX--The NCSE and their friends at the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) are here in Texas and they have one main argument. Or maybe two. The first argument basically says this: Don't listen to any of these guys because they're creationists. Creationists. Creationists. Creationists.
Creationists. Did I mention that they're just creationists?
The logical fallacies and falsehoods in this short sound-byte argument are legion. They include: motive-mongering, false premise, the genetic fallacy, and perhaps most of all hypocrisy.
As Meyer testified, he fully accepts a billions of years old earth. He doesn’t fit Eugenie Scott’s “creationist” mold.
Moreover, as Meyer testified, this motive-mongering distracts from the evidence, and a really fascinating scientific debate. I would add that Eugenie's obsession with her opponents’ alleged religious beliefs is hypocrisy: After all, she's a signer of the Third Humanist Manifesto. But Steve Meyer had more integrity and better arguments to say than to stand up and say "Don't listen to Eugenie Scott because she's a Secular Humanist, Secular Humanist, Secular Humanist." In fact, Meyer's exact words in his written testimony for such persons was, “if some scientists make the theory of evolution into a religion or worldview, I have no problem with that. That is their right.”
Instead of motive-mongering, Dr. Meyer annihilated Eugenie’s and the TFN's other main argument, which could, if it were true, actually hold rhetorical validity: It’s their facade that neo-Darwinian evolution has no scientific weaknesses. It's a pretty easy argument to demolish. Dr. Meyer presented the Texas State Board of Education with four thick binders full of over 100 mainstream scientific articles that express scientific challenges to key aspects of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, especially challenging the arguments used to support it in biology textbooks.
You can always tell the strength of a person's position based upon the kinds of arguments they make. If the NCSE and TFN's obsession with the "creationists" and their predictable bluff that neo-Darwinism has no weaknesses has one purpose: to distract people from the scientific evidence. That's what they want the board to do, so the board will adopt standards that will not inform students about scientific weaknesses in evolution.
Hopefully the Texas State Board of Education will adopt standards that choose truth over distractions, and academic freedom over fear.
If you want to hear it for yourself, the live stream for the hearings is available here.
When asked whether or not she would entertain whether evolution has any weaknesses, Eugenie Scott invited scientists with scientific evidence to show her. "Let them come and talk to people like professor De Lozanne [Ed: who testified earlier] -- let them come and talk at the universities."
Note to Eugenie: You kick people out of universities. It seems to happen a lot in Texas especially, for some reason -- remember the SMU Darwin v. Design conferences, or the controversy over Bob Marks at Baylor? In fact, one of the expert reviewers on your side -- Ron Wetherington -- led the charge against allowing ID scientists to speak at SMU.
What people say is one thing -- what they do is sometimes entirely different.
We're down in Austin, covering the Texas Board of Education hearings today, and this morning's public testimony is... well.. interesting. To say that there is interest in this issue is an understatement -- the room is packed with people standing along the walls and sitting with their laptops on the floor, waiting for their turn to get a word in on this controversy.
It's interesting to hear the testimonies from both sides in the public. We just had a mother speaking in favor of keeping "strengths and weaknesses" in the science standards who shared how her children's AP biology teacher would not allow any questioning of Darwin's theory -- the Board members called it "intimidation," and that doesn't seem far off:
"I'm here saying don't take [the TEKS] out, we have to have them in here," she said.
"I think our kids will completely be denied to have a voice and ask a question regarding the strengths and weaknesses of any theory, particularly evolution. I'm just standing up for our kids."
She was followed by UT-Austin professor Arturo de Lozanne, who rather sweetly told the Board that the strengths and weaknesses language would destroy the scientific supremacy of the great state of Texas.
He opened his testimony by reminding us all of President Obama's inaugural address, then told the Board that it's their "responsibility to adopt the proposed standards without attempting to revert to antiquated language from last century," highlighting the fact that the "strengths and weaknesses" language has been in the TEKS for more than a decade.
Despite this fact, he went on to tell the Board that if they keep this language, they'll endanger their children's futures and invite pseudoscience to "harm us all."
"Even though it sounds reasonable, it can be used to block the adoption of wonderful textbooks or to introduce pseudoscience... like that book from Discovery Institute." Then he raises the point that he's an admissions officer, and he sees students who question evolution "fall behind their peers in admissions" -- fear-mongering is a familiar tactic here.
Board member Terri Leo asked him if he believes "that the last 20 years we've been doing pseudoscience?"
Apparently, after twenty years this is an issue because "no books were available pretending to do science in disguise." He refers the Board to Explore Evolution and says, "Strengths and weaknesses is a toxic term."
Another Texan is testifying and quickly sharing 4 stories of teachers and principals who have been told not to talk about weaknesses of evolution, some of them losing their jobs.
Remind me again why the TEKS aren't necessary to protect students and teachers?
If you live in Texas and would like to let the state's board of education know where you stand on teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution, you can do so here. You can support academic freedom by signing this statement:
I agree that the current wording of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) that specifies teaching both "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution and other theories, having the effect of both interesting students in the subjects and in developing critical thinking skills, and having withstood TWENTY YEARS of good service in Texas without a single lawsuit, should be retained.
In 2002, the Ohio State Board of Education (SBOE) invited in science experts to testify about teaching both evidence for and against Darwinian evolution. In 2005 it was the Kansas SBOE's turn. The New York Times reported that the board's hearing turned into "a forum on one of the most controversial questions in education and politics: How to teach about the origin of life?”
The stunning thing about the Kansas SBOE meeting was that Darwinists refused to defend their theory, instead opting not to attend at all.
Now it is 2009, and next week the Texas SBOE will host its own meeting on the matter of how best to teach evolution. This time the board will hear testimony from six experts, including three scientists who are recommending that students should learn about scientific evidence that challenges Darwin’s theory of evolution.
On Wednesday, January 21st, at least three of six experts invited by the SBOE to review a proposed update of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science will give testimony to the board in support of their recommendation that the board retain controversial language in the TEKS calling on students to examine the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories in order to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills.
The question is: will Texans hear Darwinists defend evolution? Will the experts invited to explain why students should learn about both strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution actually show up? I for one hope they do. Vigorous debate and civil discourse are good for science, good for education, and good for making wise policy decisions. Kudos to the Texas board for hosting an airing of such an important issue.
Austin, TX -- The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has scheduled a hearing of scientific experts, including three scientists who are recommending that students should learn about scientific evidence that challenges Darwin’s theory of evolution.
On Wednesday, January 21st, six experts selected by the SBOE to review a proposed update of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science will give testimony to the board. Three of the scientists will recommend that the board retain long-standing language in the TEKS calling on students to examine the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories in order to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills. The other experts are on record supporting repeal of the language.
“We’re very pleased that in this Darwin bicentennial year Texas has invited scientists on both sides of the evolution debate to testify about the scientific status of Darwin’s theory,” said Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture.
Continue reading "Texas Board of Education Schedules Special Expert Hearing on Strengths and Weaknesses of Evolution" »
Texans for Better Science Education just posted an enlightening analysis of the recent push-poll by Darwinists at the far-left advocacy group Texas Freedom Network and the polls of the public's views on what should be taught in science classes regarding evolution.
In a transparent attempt to support their campaign TFN has conducted and has been promoting a clearly biased and misleading survey. TBSE feels it is critical for the public to see how TFN’s "results" compare to other polls across America, which have been conducted by unbiased and nationally recognized pollsters. (In contrast, TFN not only picked their own pollster but they also supplied the list of people to survey!)
Read it all here
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.
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 ...
Continue reading "Intolerance on Parade in Texas Debate Over Evolution" »
In Texas, the far-left activist organization Texas Freedom Network is working overtime to try to gut the state's science standards. This week the Texas State Board of Education holds their regularly scheduled meeting and it seems the TFN will try and whip up a mob to lobby the board when they discuss the proposed update of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science.
TFN is parading a push-poll survey of scientists they did recently. They emailed over 1,000 scientists and science professors at Texas universities and less than half replied. Still, TFN is trumpeting that of the replies they did get, nearly all were in complete lock step with the Darwin-only lobby.
As Casey Luskin pointed out in an interview with the Star-Telegram:
"It’s a self-selecting survey," Luskin said. "There’s a well-documented culture of intimidation that makes scientists uncomfortable expressing their doubts about Darwinism. This just serves to reinforce that climate of intimidation."
Of course, it really isn't safe in Texas to speak out against Darwin. Just ask Professor Bob Marks at Baylor, whose lab was shut down by Darwinists who didn't like what he was researching. Can you imagine any scientist who doubts Darwin responding honestly to a survey like this in such a climate?
I'm not saying that there are a majority of scientists who doubt Darwin in Texas. But the minority is a silent one for sure, thanks to left-wing advocacy groups like Texas Freedom Network.
The Waco Tribune has an opinion piece today from one of the scientists selected as an expert reviewer of Texas' science standards. Charles Garner, a chemist at Baylor, writes:
As the Texas Education Agency reviews the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, a controversy has developed about language in the current TEKS, which states:
“The student uses critical thinking and scientific problem-solving to make informed decisions. The student is expected to analyze, review and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”
This language promotes critical thinking skills. It has been in the TEKS for years. The TEKS guidelines are working fine and Texas students receive some of the best science education in the country.
Nonetheless, some activist groups are protesting the “strengths and weaknesses” language.
You can read Garner's entire piece here
The liberal Darwin lobby group Texas Freedom Network has just published a push-poll of scientists titled, "Survey of Texas Faculty: Overwhelming Opposition to Watering Down Evolution in School Science Curriculum." You might think this is good news, that there are a majority of scientists and professors who support the current TEKS which require students to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories.
Instead, TFN means exactly the opposite. Let me point out that THEY are the ones who want gut the state's science standards and water down the teaching of evolution. They want to remove the strengths and weaknesses language, language that has been in the TEKS for over a decade.
What is stunning is the TFN's jackbooted thuggery of threatening parents! Parents reading this should be enraged that liberal anti-science censors are now making veiled threats against any student that doesn't toe the Darwin party line.
"Many of these science faculty members almost certainly help determine who gets into our state's colleges and universities," Eve said. "Their responses should send parents a clear message that those who want to play politics with science education are putting our kids at risk."
Sounds ominous, doesn't it?
As for TFN's "findings," there’s nothing new here. As usual it's misleading, misrepresentative and misses the point.
The report highlights five key findings from the survey:
Continue reading "Liberal Darwin Activists Spin Push-Poll in Attempt to Water Down Science Standards" »
Three of the six reviewers of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are recommending that students apply less, rather than more, critical thinking when studying evolution. In Part 1 I discussed the recommendations of David Hills, and in Part 2, I discussed the recommendations of Ronald Wetherington. Like Wetherington and Hillis, TEKS reviewer Gerald Skoog wants the TEKS to include many more standards on evolution which dogmatically only present the evidence for evolution. Here are some of the new standards he wants the TEKS to include:
"EXPLAIN HOW NATURAL SELECTION AND ITS EVOLUTIONARY CONSEQUENCES PROVIDE A SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION FOR THE FOSSIL RECORD OF ANCIENT LIFE FORMS, AS WELL AS FOR THE STRIKING MOLECULAR SIMILARITIES OBSERVED AMONG LIVING ORGANISMS."
"EXPLAIN HOW CERTAIN ANATOMICAL STRUCTURES ON FOSSILIZED VERTEBRATES AND COMPLETE OR NEARLY COMPLETE FOSSILS ARE USED AS EVIDENCE OF THE EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY OF VERTEBRATES."
Continue reading "Darwinist Gerald Skoog Recommends Imposing Dogmatism in Expert Review of Texas Science Standards (Part 3)" »
In Part 1 I discussed how some Darwinist reviewers of the Texas Science Standards are opposing giving students the opportunity to use critical thinking skills when learning the modern Darwinian theory of evolution.
One glaring difference between the reviews submitted by those opposing critical thinking on evolution and the reviews of those supporting it is the lengths of the respective sets of reviews. The TEKS reviews submitted by Stephen Meyer, Ralph Seelke, and Charles Garner in support of students applying critical thinking skills to evolution were each over 25 pages in length. In contrast, two of the three Darwinist reviewers submitted reviews that were 8 pages or less. It seems that some of the Darwinist reviewers didn't take much time to give comprehensive evaluations of Texas science education for the Texas State Board of Education and rather had one primary concern and agenda: to ensure that evolution is taught dogmatically in Texas.
In his short 8-page review, TEKS reviewer Ronald Wetherington predictably uses the same approach. He states that the "strengths and weaknesses" language should be removed from the TEKS entirely: "The 'strengths and weaknesses' phrase was common to the earlier standards and has been changed in the pre-high school grades except for this one. It should also be eliminated here." So according to Wetherington, if some grades and subjects don't implement a strong critical thinking standard, then none should. Is that a logical way to strive for excellence in science education?
Continue reading "Darwinist Ronald Wetherington Recommends Imposing Dogmatism in Expert Review of Texas Science Standards (Part 2)" »
In Origin of Species, Charles Darwin famously wrote, ''A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.'' One might think that modern proponents of Darwin’s ideas would endorse his approach to scientific thinking within evolution education, but it’s not so. The Texas State Board of Education recently received reviews of the proposed Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) from six science reviewers.
Three of those reviewers—who are scientific skeptics of Darwinian evolution—support TEKS that would give students a strong grounding in critical thinking skills by asking them to "analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information."
Three other reviewers, however, are Darwinists who oppose giving students that opportunity to use such critical thinking skills when learning about Darwin’s theory and other scientific theories. One immediately apparent difference between the two sets of reviewers is that the reviews that supported critical thinking skills were each over 25 pages long, but two of the three Darwinist reviewers submitted reviews that were under ten pages.
It seems that these reviewers have one main concern and one main agenda: to ensure that evolution is taught dogmatically in Texas.
Continue reading "Darwinist David Hillis Recommends Imposing Dogmatism in Expert Review of Texas Science Standards (Part 1)" »
Three of six experts selected by the Texas State Board of Education to review a proposed update of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science have recommended that the TEKS retain controversial language calling on students to examine the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories in order to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills.
“Some activist groups are pressuring the State Board to cut that language from the TEKS in order to artificially shield Darwin’s theory from the normal process of scientific inquiry,” said Casey Luskin, an education policy analyst at Discovery Institute. “However, as these three experts point out, examining the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories is a core part of the scientific process, and abandoning such critical analysis merely to satisfy ideological demands of Darwinists harms students by giving them a false view of scientific inquiry.”
Continue reading "Science Education Experts Recommend Strengthening Students’ Critical Thinking Skills by Retaining “Strengths and Weaknesses” Language in Texas Science Standards" »
Texas is currently updating its academic standards, known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), in the area of science. In September 2008, writing committees working for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) proposed revised TEKS that largely eliminated previous language calling on students to examine the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. In the proposed revision, the "strengths and weaknesses" language was retained in a few areas (like high school chemistry), but it was scrapped in the vast majority of subject areas, most notably in high school biology. The clear goal in proposing the removal of the "strengths and weaknesses" language from the TEKS was to shield biological evolution from critical scrutiny by students or teachers.
In October, members of the Texas State Board of Education nominated a review panel of six experts to give critical feedback on the revised TEKS for science. The panel included scientists and scholars with a diversity of views on Darwinian evolution. As a public service, we are posting here all six expert reviews so you can read them for yourself:
What is the science standards issue currently before the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE)?
During 2008-09, the Texas SBOE is reviewing the state's science standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science, which were originally adopted in 1998. The controversial issue before the SBOE is whether the TEKS will retain existing 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.
In September 2008, writing committees working for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) proposed revised TEKS that would largely eliminate the "strengths and weaknesses" language found throughout the existing TEKS, making critical thinking a less important part of the curriculum. The apparent goal is to shield biological evolution from critical scrutiny and to teach it in a one-sided fashion. To help the SBOE decide whether to retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language, board members nominated in October a review panel of six experts to supply critical feedback on the proposed TEKS for science. These expert reviewers submitted their written analysis and recommendations in late October, but the SBOE is not expected to vote to adopt final revisions to the TEKS until sometime in 2009.
What is the problem with the current standards?
The current TEKS appropriately call for students to "analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information." There is nothing wrong with this "strengths and weaknesses" standard, except it is a general provision that is not specifically applied to particular scientific theories and hypotheses. When evolution is covered in the current TEKS, for example, there is no indication that students should engage in any meaningful form of critical analysis of the theory.
Who is proposing to remove the "strengths and weaknesses" language?
Interest groups like the misnamed "21st Century Science Coalition" and "Texas Citizens for Science" are pushing for removal of the language in order to shield Darwinian evolution from scrutiny. Unfortunately, writing committees working with the TEA have acceded to the demands of these pressure groups for the most part. A few sections of their proposed TEKS inconsistently require students to learn about the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, but when it comes to fields like biology (which covers biological evolution) or earth sciences (which covers both biological and chemical evolution), their proposed TEKS do not encourage students to engage in such critical thinking. It is not surprising that the proposed TEKS single out evolution as being beyond scientific critique since the writing committees included dogmatic Darwinists such as Steven Schafersman, head of the activist group Texas Citizens for Science.
What recommendations have the expert reviewers made who favor the "strengths and weaknesses" language?
(See expert reviews here.) Three scientists—biologist Ralph Seelke, philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer, and chemist Charles Garner—have proposed that the TEKS retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language. They have advised the State Board that good science education will encourage students to learn the scientific facts and engage in more critical thinking than they would under the TEA’s proposed TEKS. In this regard, these scientists have made three key recommendations:
- the TEKS should not include pejorative or inaccurate language in their definition of science, but they should encourage students to understand how scientists think skeptically and critically and engage in scientific debate when solving scientific problems.
- the TEKS should encourage students to learn about the impact of science on culture and society, providing both positive and negative examples of such impacts.
- the TEKS should not only retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language, but strengthen critical thinking skills by explicitly applying this approach to the study of specific scientific theories and hypotheses, including biological and chemical evolution.
While some Darwinists claim that teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" will hurt science education, Dr. Stephen Meyer points out that the National Research Council (a sister organization to the National Academy of Sciences) has suggested inquiry-based science education should lead to learning about "both the strengths and weaknesses of [scientific] claims":
At each of the steps involved in inquiry, students and teachers ought to ask ‘what counts?’ What data do we keep? What data do we discard? What patterns exist in the data? Are these patterns appropriate for this inquiry? What explanations account for the patterns? Is one explanation better than another? In justifying their decisions, students ought to draw on evidence and analytical tools to derive a scientific claim. In turn, students should be able to assess both the strengths and weaknesses of their claims. (National Research Council, Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning, pg. 19 (National Academy Press, 2000), emphasis added.)
The National Research Council similarly stresses that "[t]hroughout the process of inquiry" students should "constantly evaluate and reevaluate the nature and strength of evidence and share and then critique their explanations and those of others." (Ibid., pg. 124.) These scientists argue that general requirements for critical thinking in the current TEKS and the lack of scientific inquiry in the proposed TEKS fall short of the high standard of inquiry-based science education that students in Texas deserve to receive.
What recommendations have the other expert reviewers made?
Three Darwinists—Gerald Skoog, David Hillis, and Ronald Wetherington—have reviewed the proposed TEKS and suggested removing or de-emphasizing the "strengths and weaknesses" language from the TEKS. In particular, they suggest students learn about evolution in a one-sided pro-Darwin-only fashion. These reviewers are proposing that the State Board adopt a pro-Darwin-only curriculum for Texas students that would discuss only the evidence that "ha[s] reinforced the scientific strength and validity of the evolutionary concept." They propose either removing the "strengths and weaknesses" language from the standards completely or watering it down such that students will not apply critical thinking when studying controversial scientific theories like neo-Darwinian evolution or chemical evolution. They argue that allowing students to learn about any scientific weaknesses of neo-Darwinism "is well beyond what is possible or reasonable or productive in a high school classroom."
Science standards review processes always seem to send Darwinists into a misinformation flurry. The current review of Texas' standards is no exception. Josh Rosenau has a post up yesterday attacking Casey Luskin that has a number of errors. Josh is in elite company, as these are the very same errors that spread like the flu through the MSM last spring. At that time we reported how the New York Times and Washington Post, among others, were misreporting the facts about "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas science standards.
Now Josh writes:
At issue is a Disco.-inspired standard in the older TEKS which requires teachers to have students "analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information" (my emphasis).
I corrected this back in June:
Continue reading "Texas Science Standards Debate Is About Darwinian Evolution, not Intelligent Design" »
In my first post on TEKS reviewer Ronald Wetherington, professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University (SMU), I discussed his history of trying to stifle free speech on evolution and then denying his intolerant actions. In one of his articles about Discovery Institute’s SMU conference, Wetherington attacked the conference because it was "not … a … balanced discussion, but rather a partisan promotion," elsewhere attacking it as "not a debate, but a one-sided promotion." (Wetherington must have forgotten Discovery Institute invited SMU Darwinists to participate in the conference, but they declined.) When writing about a different issue, he lamented incidents where "dissent is treated as irrelevant."
Continue reading "Predictions About Ronald Wetherington and His Forthcoming Review of the Texas Science Standards" »
One of the expert reviewers of the draft Texas science standards, Southern Methodist University (SMU) professor Ronald Wetherington, has a track record of advocating censorship to restrict the free flow of information on evolution to students. So extreme is Wetherington’s intolerance that last year he attempted to ban a voluntary conference on intelligent design at SMU co-sponsored by a student group and Discovery Institute. That’s right: Not only does Wetherington want to control what goes on inside the classroom, he wants the power to censor speakers outside the classroom co-sponsored by students on their own time!
Continue reading "Science Censor Appointed to Review Texas Science Standards" »
Anyone who is familiar with Alan Leshner will know that he is a dogmatic defender of Darwin-only science education, and so you will be shocked to find out that he now seems to agree with us. You may also be shocked to learn that he favors teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.
They say that students need to hear about the strengths and weaknesses of evolution, which of course is true.
Yes, we do say that, as do many scientists, teachers, educators, and school board members all over the country. Just this past summer the state of Louisiana passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which protects teachers who discuss the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. So far, so good; we're all in agreement.
. . . Until Leshner completely misstates our views and positions in his very next sentence.
Continue reading "In Texas Former CEO of AAAS Agrees With Teaching Strengths and Weaknesses of Evolution" »
Daniel Bolnick, a leader of the pro-Darwin only “Texas 21st Century Science Coalition,” recently published an op-ed in the Waco Tribune which provides some good lessons on how to argue for “evolution” to the public: Be extremely dogmatic and vague about the evidence.
Lesson 1: Vaguely Assert Massive Support for “Evolution” From the Scientific Literature
Bolnick writes that in the past decade, “biologists have published more than 30,000 research articles demonstrating that evolution has occurred and how it works,” further stating that “[m]ore than 100,000 published biological research studies demonstrate the fact of evolutionary change.” So just how does Bolnick define “evolution”? He doesn’t, thus introducing equivocation and vagueness into the discussion.
Continue reading "Darwin Defender Daniel Bolnick Illustrates How to Market Evolution to the Public" »
It looks like the Texas media are already biting on the so-called "controversy" of Explore Evolution authors Meyer and Seelke being included on the state's Science Standards Review Panel.
Yesterday News 8 Austin, a local CNN affiliate, ran a story, "Intelligent design debate brews controversy in Texas," where in the first ten seconds of the video, the anchor introducing the story says that "one human rights organization is up in arms over the inclusion of several intelligent design scientists on the state's curriculum review panel."
Wow, a human rights organization... that's impressive. I'm thinking Amnesty International must be all over this issue.
What, you say, the group the news is referring to is actually the Texas Freedom Network? Oh. That's a bit confusing... I didn't realize that maintaining ignorance on evolution was a human right. My mistake.
The rest of it is interesting, if a little funny. ("Move over science books, another may be on the way." Because our bookshelves are too crowded? Should I tell Ken Miller to stop with his 17th edition of Biology?)
Continue reading "Texas Media Bites on TFN's Bait" »
AUSTIN, TX – The Chicken Littles at the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) are ranting that the sky is falling because two of the six experts selected to review the state's science standards co-authored Explore Evolution, a textbook that examines both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution (www.exploreevolution.com).
What the TFN doesn't reveal is that another of the expert reviewers co-authored a one-sided, Darwin-only textbook! David Hillis, a biology professor at UT Austin co-authored the 2008 edition of Life: The Science of Biology, a textbook whose previous editions have been approved for use in Texas high schools. Hillis also serves as a spokesman for a pro-evolution lobbying group that is trying to remove language in the Texas science standards requiring students to study the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. Gerald Skoog, another expert reviewer, has signed a statement issued by the same pro-evolution group, and he too has been a science textbook author and has a long history as a pro-Darwin activist.
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Texas Darwinists are afraid of language in the Texas Science Standards that requires students to learn about the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution, justifying their fear by claiming that when it comes to neo-Darwinian evolution, “[t]here may be some questions that may yet to be answered, but nothing that's to the level of a weakness.” Nothing that’s to the level of a weakness? That’s a pretty dogmatic and unscientific claim. If this Texas Darwinist is right, then I suppose that these comments by leading scientists must not show that there is anything that rises “to the level of a weakness” in neo-Darwinian evolution:
“We must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” -- Franklin Harold, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Colorado State University, in an Oxford University Press text.
Continue reading "Who in Texas Is Afraid of a Little Critical Analysis of Evolution?" »
The latest from the Associated Press out in Texas (via Houston Chronicle) reports that "Scientists from Texas universities on Tuesday denounced what they called supernatural and religious teaching in public school science classrooms and voiced opposition to attempts to water down evolution instruction."
We covered the Texas science standards last week, noting that Darwinists there oppose teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.
In the AP article, no explanation is given for their opposition to the "strengths and weaknesses" language except the unsupported claim that thoroughly examining Darwin's theory in the classroom is something only creationists do.
Actually, AP reporter Kelley Shannon is pretty sure that the whole thing is a creationist ploy to teach religion in our schools. That's why she makes a point of giving credibility to the several Darwinists in the story before calling McLeroy a creationist, then discrediting the position she assigned him:
Continue reading "AP Texas Spins Story About Scientists Uniting Against Teaching the Controversy" »
Over the coming months, the Texas State Board of Education will be deciding whether to remove or bolster its requirement that students learn the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, "using scientific evidence and information." The pro-Darwin lobby group National Center for Science Education (NCSE) does not want that standard to be applied specifically to evolution. In fact, Texas Darwinists want that language completely removed from the Texas Science Standards. To reasonable people, it is apparent that investigating the “strengths and weaknesses [of scientific theories] using scientific evidence and information” is exactly what scientists do all the time. Discovery Institute believes that if scientists can dispute the core claims of neo-Darwinism (as these scientists do), then students can learn about those views:
Continue reading "Texas Darwinists Reject the Scientific Method of Analyzing “Strengths and Weaknesses” of Scientific Theories" »