Friday, August 24, 2007

Texas Education Board Two Step on Intelligent Design

As reported in the Dallas Morning News, the Texas Education Board officially opposes Intelligent Design. However, it is very important to read between the lines whenever creationists talk. Their equivocation is well-established historically (see the Dover Trial), and the Texas crew has learned their lines well.

You see, in Dover, the school board got destroyed trying to sneak creationism into the science curricula under the guise of Intelligent Design. They claimed ID was science, not religion. However, thanks in part to the Wedge Document, which showed ID was nothing more than a replacement word for "creationism" in the proposed textbook "Of Pandas and People", and the statements of the school board themselves, which gave away their religious motivations, the policy was overturned and ID was ruled to not be science.

Apparently the creationists have learned their lesson, and now that they know the phrase "intelligent design" is legal plutonium, they have switched to the next great euphemism for creationism: teach the controversy.

"Creationism and intelligent design don't belong in our science classes," said Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, who described himself as a creationist. "Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community – and intelligent design does not."

Sounds refreshingly reasonable, doesn't it? I give Mr. McLeroy credit for at least saying the right things there. However, it is clear he this is just politics rather than a change in his creationist heart, as the next sections from the article make painfully clear:

"When it comes to evolution, I am totally content with the current standard," he said, adding that his dissatisfaction with current biology textbooks is that they don't cover the weaknesses of the theory of evolution.

Mr. McLeroy and others say they'll push for books to include a more thorough examination of weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

The phrase "weaknesses in the theory of evolution" is code for wanting to introduce long-refuted creationist canards into the curriculum as "scientific differences of opinion", or "critical thinking". Rest assured, Mr. McLeroy and those that support him are not going to the National Academy of Sciences for the latest discussions of evo-devo, punctuated equilibrium, or any of the scientific issues within evolutionary theory. The reason is that there are no scientific weaknesses in evolutionary theory. So despite his claim above, McLeroy and the boys are going to take arguments that are soundly rejected by the scientific consensus and try to wedge them into science class under a facade of science. Board Vice Chairman David Bradley is all-too eager to prove my point, by citing that Law of Science, "If you weren't there, you can't prove it":

"If some of my associates want to believe their ancestors were monkeys, that is their right. I believe God is responsible for our creation," said Mr. Bradley, R-Beaumont. "Given that none of today's scientists were around when the first frog crawled out of the pond, there is no one who can say exactly what happened."

Does this sound like a guy interested in the scientific consensus? Or how about board member Barbara Cargill:

"Where people differ is on the origin of man," she noted, citing similar concerns with other board members about current biology books and their lack of information about the weaknesses of Darwin's theory.

Scientific consensus my ape arse. Then there is Gail Lowe, who shows where her priorities are:

"[She] said the study of evolution is important to the teaching of biology. At the same time, she added, "Kids ought to be able to hold religious beliefs and still study science without any conflict."

In other words, if the science conflicts with the kids' religion, to hell with the science. Then comes board member Pat Hardy:

"I am open to having intelligent design in there because there is a large body of evidence unanswered by the theory of evolution. We first need to hear from science educators and experts about whether this should be done"

Like McLeroy, this apparent respect for science is mere pretense. The scientific establishment has repudiated Intelligent Design thoroughly, in multiple fields. Claiming to support ID and desire to know the opinion of scientists on the matter reveals one is either ignorant or a liar.

So it's clear where these people stand, regardless of their occasional ID talking points to the contrary. Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network pretty much nailed it:

"Don McLeroy and the other ideologues who now control the state board have said repeatedly in the past that they want public school science classes to teach creationism and other religion-based concepts," Ms. Miller said. "So we have no doubt that they'll find a way to try, either by playing politics with the curriculum standards or censoring new science textbooks later on."

Indeed, it does seem inevitable.

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